New Delhi: Buoyed by a normal monsoon in 2016 after consecutive years of drought, India’s foodgrain harvest is likely to break past records, show second advance estimates released by the agriculture ministry on Wednesday.
Total foodgrain production is estimated at an all-time high of 272 million tonnes in 2016-17, 8% higher than the 251.6 million tonnes last year, and surpassing the previous record of 265 million tonnes in 2013-14.
Further, the estimates show that production of key crops like rice, wheat and pulses will be at record levels during the year. While wheat production is estimated to rise by 4.7% to 96.6 million tonnes in 2016-17 (compared to 92.3 million tonnes in 2015-16), production of pulses is likely to rise 35% from 16.4 million tonnes last year to 22.1 million tonnes in 2016-17.
Production of rice, the most popular staple, is estimated to increase by over 2 million tonnes, from 104.4 million tonnes last year to 106.7 million tonnes in 2016-17.
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“As a result of very good rainfall during monsoon 2016 and various policy initiatives taken by the government, the country has witnessed record foodgrain production in the current year," the agriculture ministry said in a statement, adding, “the current year’s production is also higher by 14.97 million tonnes than the previous five-year average."
While the record harvest will help keep food inflation in check, it also implies agricultural growth rate may better the 4.1% estimated by the statistics department in January, and consecutive years of dismal performance due to drought—1.2% in 2015-16 and a 0.2% contraction the year before.
Further, the estimates suggest that demonetisation of high-value banknotes in November, during the crucial planting season, did not effect the foodgrain economy. Sowing of winter crops has surpassed the five-year average, the government said earlier this month, and a record harvest will mean farmers managed to purchase seeds and fertilisers despite the cash crunch in rural areas.
Other than foodgrain, the estimates show that production of oil seeds is likely to rise 25% year-on-year, from 25.2 million tonnes last year to 33.6 million tonnes in 2016-17. This too is higher than the previous record production of 32.7 million tonnes in 2013-14.
However, sugarcane production is expected to be lower at 309 million tonnes (2016-17), compared to 348 million tonnes the year before. Production of cotton is set to increase from 30 million bales last year to 32.5 million bales in 2016-17 (one bale equals 170 kg). However, this is lower than the past record of 35.9 million bales produced in 2013-14.
Anticipating a bumper wheat crop, the food ministry on Wednesday said it will procure a record 33 million tonnes from farmers at support prices, considerably higher than the actual procurement of 23 million tonnes from the 2016 harvest. This is to prevent a likely glut affecting farm gate prices. Currently, summer pulses like arhar and moong are selling at lower than government-announced support prices following record production.