Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen on Monday said the government should have acted with more firmness against hoarders and speculators, to curb price rise.

Dr. Sen said whenever prices start to rise, some people see in it an opportunity to make money. The government should have acted against such a tendency with a firm hand. He was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the Green Revolution II conference organised by the ASSOCHAM.

Attributing the surge in food prices to the drought that hit the kharif crop and to high global prices, Dr. Sen said the global situation restricts the government’s ability to import food items at lower prices.

“If we do not want to import then we must produce more. Last year the government targeted to produce more, but faced the worst drought in 30 years that hit output. Key kharif crops like rice and pulses suffered.”

Earlier, Dr. Sen said farm growth was likely to be negative in the first half of the current fiscal. Whether the rate of growth picks up would depend on the outcome of rabi crops. He felt that a rise in temperatures may not augur well for the standing crops.

On the strategy for the second Green Revolution, Dr. Sen said the need was to enhance production and productivity, decentralise a few farm schemes and amend or scrap the Agriculture Produce Marketing Council (APMC) Act.

On transgenic technology, Dr. Sen said its applications to food items were not well-accepted and there should be a public debate on the issue before the technology is allowed for application.

Earlier, noted agriculture scientist and Rajya Sabha member M.S. Swaminathan emphasised the need for better remunerative prices, good seeds, better infrastructure and technological know-how for growth in the farm sector.

He felt that better implementation of policies would have yielded better results in the agriculture sector.

The vice-president of DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development, William S. Niebur pointed out that with the adoption of modern technologies, India could enhance farm yield and feed its population at reasonably lower prices. “Soil fertility in India has come down and not many praiseworthy steps were taken after the first Green Revolution to increase it .”

Meanwhile, the Wheat Products Promotion Society (WPPS) on Monday said wheat prices may fall after April if the prospects about rabi output turned out to be true.

“We agree with the projection of 80-82 million tonnes of wheat production this year. If that happens, prices will come down from April after the arrival of the new crop,” WPPS Chairman Adi Narayan Gupta told journalists here.