Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has apprehended that rice production this year could be 16 million tonnes below the 2008-09 level due to twin-impact of drought and floods.

Mr. Mukherjee, however, exuded confidence that there would be no supply-side shortage for the foodgrain.

“We could have achieved higher growth but adverse impact of both drought and later floods in some parts has affected the agricultural prospects and particularly the khariff crop would be substantially affected,” he told PTI.

Though the Finance Minister endorsed the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council’s growth projection of 6.75 per cent this fiscal, he provided a more pessimistic outlook on the farm sector. The PMEAC, earlier this week, projected the decline in foodgrain production this season by as much as 11 million tonnes.

India produced record 99.15 million tonnes of rice in the 2008-09 season.

“So the expectations we were having till the last week of September that early rabi crop and the protection of crop by Haryana and Punjab and good rice crop will make up to some extent and we were hoping it would 10-12 million tonnes shortfall in rice but now it appears that it may be 15 to 16 million tonnes of shortfall,” he said.

While drought in about half of the country, including producing regions of north-western India, hampered the sowing process, with areas under the paddy crop declining by about six million hectares, floods in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra damaged the standing crop.

"I will give you just one example. Andhra, which is very important rice producing area, was not affected by drought but it has been affected by the latest flood," he said.

The minister, however, hailed the move of Chief Ministers of some of the affected States, who paid more for electricity to facilitate irrigation and protect crop, and thus, limiting the damage.

"Therefore if you just put Bihar, UP, Haryana and Punjab, thanks to the sagacity and far-sightedness of the Chief Ministers, they even are paying very high rate of electricity (for) utilising the ground water. They protected the crop. So, there was no damage to the extent though it was adversely affected," Mr. Mukherjee pointed out.

Earlier this week, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said that rice output in Punjab and Haryana, which contribute significantly to the central reserves, might stay at last year's level despite drought.

He also pointed out that the country has enough stocks of food grains to meet demand. The huge stocks are the result of an all-time-high procurement of wheat and rice.

FCI, the nodal agency for procurement and distribution of food grains, purchased 33.3 million tonnes of rice in 2008-09 marketing season (October-September).

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