Record grain output in 2011 facilitates Bill

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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