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  • Efforts needed to raise farm output to ensure food security: PM

    Published on August 15, 2010

    Concerned over large population still suffering from poverty and hunger, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said more efforts were required to achieve higher productivity and growth in the farm sector that would ensure food security to the people of this country.

    “I am happy that the growth rate of our agriculture has increased substantially in the last few years. But we are still far from achieving our goal. We need to work harder so that we can increase the agricultural growth rate to 4 per cent per annum,” Singh said while addressing the nation on the 64th Independence Day in New Delhi.

    The agriculture sector posted a growth rate of only 0.2 per cent in 2009-10 because of severe drought in almost half of the country resulting in a fall in foodgrains output by 16 million tonnes at 218 million tonnes.

    The Prime Minister stressed on the need to enhance crop productivity for increasing farm production and to ensure food security to the people.

    “Our Government wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would go hungry. This requires enhanced agricultural production which is possible only by increasing productivity,” Singh said.

    The UPA government is in the process of enacting legislation — the National Food Security Act — under which a fixed quantity of foodgrains would be provided every month to families below poverty line (BPL) at Rs 3 per kg.

    Pointing out that the country has not witnessed any big technological breakthrough in agriculture after the Green Revolution, the Prime Minister said: “We need technology which would address the needs of dry land agriculture.”

    The Prime Minister announced that an institute is being set up in India after the name of renowned scientist Norman Borlaug. The Borlaug Institute of South Asia would facilitate availability of new and improved seeds and new technology to Indian farmers and also to the other countries of South Asia.

    “In the history of Indian agriculture, Norman Borlaug commands a special place. About 40 to 50 years back he developed new and more productive seeds of wheat. Under the leadership of Indira Gandhiji, India achieved the Green Revolution by adopting these seeds,” he said.

    Singh also wanted that the Indian agriculture should be able to deal with new challenges like climate change, falling levels of ground water and deteriorating quality of soil.

    To boost farm production, Singh said the UPA government, since it came to power in 2004, has launched new schemes and increased public investment in agriculture sector. It also raised the support price to farmers substantially.

    “We have always taken care to provide remunerative prices to farmers so that they are encouraged to increase production. Support prices have been increased every year in the last six years,” he said.

    The MSP for wheat was enhanced to Rs 1,100 per quintal last year from Rs 630 per quintal in 2003-04. In paddy, this increase was from Rs 550 per quintal to Rs 1,000 per quintal.

    Singh said that high remunerative prices were provided to farmers so that they were encouraged to produce more.

    “Our government wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would go hungry. This requires enhanced agricultural production which is possible only by increasing productivity,” he said.

    He, however, defended hike in prices of petrol and other petroleum products saying “if this had not been done, it would not have been possible for our budget to bear the burden of subsidy and our programmes for education, health and employment of the poor would have been adversely affected.”

    The government has increased prices of petroleum products much less than the rise in crude oil prices in the global markets.

    “It is obvious that any person or institution cannot spend more than his income over a long period of time, even if it is government. It is our responsibility that we manage our economy with prudence so that our development is not affected adversely in the future because of high debt,” he said.

    In June, the Government raised petrol prices by Rs 3.50 per litre while deregulating it. It also hiked the prices of LPG by Rs 35 a cylinder, diesel by Rs 2 a litre and kerosene by Rs 3 a litre.

    Singh said that the government took right decisions at right times which saw the country performing well on the growth front despite drought like situation in many parts of the country and global financial crisis last year.

    “We were also affected by the global economic slowdown. I am happy to say that we have acquitted ourselves well in these difficult circumstances. Despite many problems, the rate of our economic growth has been better than most of other countries in the world. This shows strength of our economy,” he added.

    Indian economy grew by 7.4 per cent last fiscal, after economic expansion slowed down to 6.7 per cent during 2008-09 due to the effect of global financial meltdown. This fiscal, economy is projected to grow by 8.5 per cent.

    “Today, India stands among the fastest growing economies of the world…Our country is viewed with respect all over the world. Our views command attention in international fora,” he said.

    The Prime Minister, however, outlined some areas of concern especially deficit in the physical infrastructure that affected economic development adversely.

    Noting that there is a shortfall in the supply of electricity to industries, Singh said, “Our roads, ports and airports are not of world standards. We have been trying to increase electricity production and improve roads, ports and airports.”

    The resources required to create good infrastructure are difficult for the government alone to mobilise, he said, asking the private sector to involve in its efforts.

    He said that to achieve goals, the government did not need any new scheme or programme to be launched. “However, we do need to implement the schemes we have already started more effectively, minimizing the chances of corruption and misuse of public money.”