Says country may head towards bumper production of wheat this year

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said here on Sunday that farmers’ suicides in the country had dropped by 50 per cent according to recent statistics.

“The efforts that we have been taking since 2005-06 have been bearing fruits,” he said while addressing the media after announcing ‘Krishi Vasant,’ the largest agricultural exhibition to be held in Nagpur in February.

“The agricultural universities in the area have been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of the families of the deceased farmers. The villages, where suicides have taken place, have been turned into model villages to ensure that farmers do not take such drastic steps again,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said during the press meet.

Mr. Pawar indicated that the country might be heading towards bumper production of wheat this year.

“The overall crop condition of wheat is extremely good this year. Last year, we were the second-highest producers of wheat,” he said.

He refuted media reports that the country had to import sugar last year. He said the Centre and the State government were taking efforts to dissuade additional farmers from taking up sugarcane planting.

“ There has been no import of sugar in the past two years. In fact, today, we are number two in sugar production in the world. But when the production increases more than the demand, steps have to be taken to dissuade farmers from cultivating sugarcane. We have been taking a few steps like introducing excise cost. These will help us come out of the problem,” he said.

‘Only production not marketing’

When asked if he agreed with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s assessment that the government had performed well, but had failed to market itself, he said that his job was production, and not marketing.

“Six years ago, we had to import wheat. Today, India is a major player in the international grain market. This is an achievement of the government. There are incentives for export. We have brought Food Security Act to ensure that 65 per cent of the can buy food grains at cheaper rates,” he said.

On the onion export policy, he said the basis was to attain balance between sufficient domestic supply and giving decent price to the producer. “The prices of onion have stabilised now. While reducing the prices, it is necessary that the producer is not made to bear losses. That is being taken care of,” he said.

‘Krishi Vasant’, the national agriculture fair cum exhibition, has been touted as the ‘Mahakumbh of agriculture’ by Mr. Chavan.

The five-day exhibition to be inaugurated by the President in Nagpur on February 9, is expected to attract footfall of more than five lakh farmers from across the country.

“The Indian agriculture has witnessed turnaround after a decade of slowdown. Exports have tripled in the last four years. This unprecedented exhibition has been organised on that background,” Mr. Pawar said. More than 50 lakh farmers would benefit from it as it would be webcasted in different parts of the country.

‘Most ambitious event’’

“The event will be a watershed in Indian agriculture. It is the most ambitious agricultural exhibition ever attempted in the country. It will allow farmers to witness success stories. The highlights will be live demonstrations of crops. Every aspect of agriculture, rural economy have been showcased. There will be interactive sessions, use of information technology, address by massive number of experts from India and abroad. Arrangements have been made to ensure that the experts will speak to farmers in local language,” Mr. Chavan said.

He also talked about the delisting of fruits and vegetables from the APMC ambit in the State, and said the administration was still in talks with all the stakeholders on the issue.

“Farmers should be given a choice about whether they want to market their fruits and vegetables directly, or get them to APMC. Yes, we will have to create massive storage and logistics infrastructure for that,” Mr. Chavan said.

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