December 21, 2011
To meet India's food demand and the requirement of a planned food security programme, the country will have to boost its annual food-grain output by 20-25 million tonnes from the current level by 2016-17, Farm Secretary P.K. Basu said Tuesday (Dec 20).
The South Asian nation of 1.2 billion people is the second-largest producer of both wheat and rice, and it posted a record food-grain output of 241.56 million tons in the crop year ended June 30.
While consumption is rising due to the expanding population, the government will also have to procure more grains because of the food security programme â€“ the cabinet cleared the draft law Sunday â€“ that seeks to extend the reach of the existing public food distribution system that sells rice, wheat and a few other items to low-income families at below-market prices.
"Our focus will be to bring a green revolution in the eastern states and improve productivity of crops in rain-fed areas," Basu said during an interview to Dow Jones Newswires. He said the government is also gearing up to handle higher supplies required for the food-security programme.
India will annually require 60 million to 61 million tonnes of grains for the food security programme, up from about 55 million tonnes it needs for current state-run welfare schemes.
The government is expected to spend an additional INR1.1 trillion (US$20.88 billion) to boost farm production and productivity over the next five years.
Basu said India's wheat output in 2011-12 is expected to exceed last year's 85.93 million tonnes due to higher acreage and better productivity.
Wheat acreage will likely be 200,000-300,000 heaters more from last year's 29 million hectares, despite a slight delay in the start of sowing, he said.
Farmers have planted wheat on 24.4 million hectares until Friday, up from 24 million hectares a year earlier, according to government data.
Basu said India's oilseed output this year will likely fall below the target of 33 million tonnes as some acreage has been shifted to pulses and wheat. "We are trying to achieve at least last year's level," he added.
India produced a record 31.1 million tonnes of oilseeds in the last crop year ended June 30. Lower oilseed production this year may lead to higher imports by the world's top edible oil buyer.
According to industry executives, edible oil imports in 2011-12 are likely to rise to about nine million tonnes from 8.37 million tonnes last year.