"It will be a challenge for farmers to maintain last year’s performance"

While insisting that there was no drought-like situation in the country yet, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar hinted on Monday that the truant southwest monsoon would have an impact on the kharif crop this year. He said it would be a challenge to maintain the excellent performance of the last two years.

Food grains production was a record 252.56 million tonnes last year and 244.78 million tonnes the previous year.

“This year, monsoon is playing hide and seek. It is a challenge for our farmers to maintain the same performance [in food grains output] as in the last two years,” he said on the sidelines of Indian Council of Agriculture Research Foundation Day function.

“For the first time we have exported five million tonnes of non-basmati rice, 1.5 million tonnes of wheat, 2.5 million tonnes of sugar and 11.5 million tonnes of cotton due to good production last year,” he said.

The Minister, however, asserted that there was no drought-like situation in the country yet. Monsoon is said to be 23-per-cent deficient so far, impacting the sowing of crops like paddy, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds in parts of the country.

Contingency plans

While maintaining that there was concern over the crop situation in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and central Maharashtra, where sowing of coarse cereals was hit, he emphasised that the government was ready with contingency plans.

‘Evolve technology’

Additional quantities of late-sown seeds are kept in readiness for farmers in States facing water stress. The sowing operation goes on till the first week of August, the Minister pointed out, adding that he would watch the situation till the second week of August.

Underscoring the dependence of Indian agriculture on the monsoon, he asked farm scientists to evolve next-generation technologies to meet the challenge of increasing farm productivity, while maintaining the natural resource base.

The former President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, also stressed the need for greater technological intervention to produce 350 million tonnes of food grains by 2020 to feed a rising population. He felt this could be done by setting up research missions that would work on integrated farming.

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