New Delhi: India produced record food grain in 2008-09 but the situation could become a cause for concern due to erratic monsoon in several parts of the country, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Monday.
Between July 1 and now, there has been a significant improvement in monsoon rain, with the deficit based on long-term average coming down from 46 percent to 27 percent, the minister said during a debate in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.
"But there are concerns regarding Bihar, western Uttar Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and some parts in Punjab and Haryana - also in some pockets of Tamil Nadu, not the whole state," he said.
"Drought is declared by state governments, not by the central government. So far, four states have declared drought in some districts," he said, naming them as Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Manipur. "But this drought is due to deficient rain last year."
Some 60 percent of Indian agriculture is dependent on monsoon.
According to the minister, while paddy output was a matter of concern, the situation was largely better in the case of coarse cereals like jowar and bajra, as also oilseeds and lentils.
Giving the latest estimate of farm output, Pawar said food grain production during 2008-09 (July-June) was 233.87 million tonnes. "After independence, this is the highest even production."
Even during the year before, the country was able to produce record food grain of 230.78 million, the minister said, adding that state-run agencies in Punjab and Haryana were able to procure 90 percent of the output.
He, however, said the same was not the case with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. "I told the government of Uttar Pradesh, please step up your machinery to procure. I am even willing to give you advance money. But I am sorry to say this was not done."
Pawar said that in view of lower monsoon rains during the current season, the central government will not shy away from giving additional funds to states to help farmers sow for a second time.
He said a conscious decision by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was taken to step up agriculture credit so that the farmers come out of the clutches of unscrupulous moneylenders.
Accordingly, over the past three years, farm credit has gone up manifold from Rs.860 billion ($17 billion) to Rs.3,650 billion ($73 billion).
Pawar said remarks by members that minimum support price to farmers by state-run agencies was inadequate were not true as it was due to remunerative prices that such large quantities of procurement was possible.
He said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself had directed a substantial hike in the minimum support prices. These were stepped up by Rs.205 per quintal for paddy with a bonus of Rs.50, and by Rs.250 per quintal for wheat.
Thus, the minister said, the minimum support price - the money paid to farmers by state-run agencies for their produce - stood at Rs.900 per quintal for paddy, and Rs.1,000 for wheat.