Record grain output in 2011 facilitates Bill
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The agriculture sector performed exceedingly well in 2011, with record grain production of over 240 million tonnes giving enough leeway for the government to lift a ban on exports of wheat and non-basmati rice and introduce the food security bill in Parliament. Farmers' long-standing demand for crop loans at a 4% rate of interest was met during the year, although with a rider that the facility would be available to onlythose farmers that pay their crop loans on time.
A sharp rise in the farm credit target by R1,00,000 crore to R4,75,000 crore and the launch of new schemes with a total outlay of R 1,500 crore to raise production of nutri-cereals, fodder, palm oil, vegetables and protein supplements were the other major highlights of the year. These items were the major contributors to food inflation.
The agriculture sector bounced back with a record harvest of 241.56 million tonnes of grains in the 2010-11 crop year, with production of wheat, pulses and coarse cereals touching an all-time high. A noteworthy performance was seen in pulses and oilseeds production.
The country produced 18.09 million tonnes of pulses and 31.1 million tonnes of oilseeds during the year, an all-time high for both these essential items. The development had an immediate and positive impact on imports, which declined 6% in the case of vegetable oils, while inward shipments of pulses fell by over 20%.
Sugarcane output also improved and as a result, sugar production exceeded domestic output after two years. The bumper farm production was reflected in the growth numbers. The agriculture sector grew by a healthy 6.6% in the 2010-11 fiscal, as against 0.4% in the previous year. Record grain production, coupled with overflowing stocks in FCI godowns, prompted the government to allow exports of wheat and non-basmati rice under Open General Licences (OGL) in September this year after a long gap. While wheat exports were banned in early 2007, overseas rice shipments were restricted in April, 2008, as part of the Centre's measures to tame high inflation.
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