With good monsoon coverage this season, the country expects the foodgrains production to touch the last best level of 2008 in 2010-11 crop year. Foodgrains production in 2008-09 was 234.47 million tonnes.

Barring parts of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, monsoon spread has averaged out to be ``plus three per cent’’ in the country to the ``satisfaction’’ of the government. Rainfall has been deficient in Bihar by 25 per cent, in Jharkhand by 48 per cent and in West Bengal by and average of 16 per cent. It is deficient in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh as well.

For the drought-hit districts in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, the Centre has decided to provide a diesel subsidy of Rs 500 per farmer to enable them to power their pump sets. For this an allocation of Rs 500 crore would be made. The government will seek the permission of the Election Commission to implement the decision, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told journalists here on Friday after inaugurating the Conference on Rabi Campaign. Since Bihar is going to polls from October 21, the model code of conduct, barring announcement of any new scheme, is in place.

“I met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday and it was decided to extend diesel subsidy to farmers in these states so that they can salvage their crops. The government has decided to give Rs 500 crore for this. The entire funding will be borne by the central government.’’

The Minister said that though there was a setback in kharif rice output last year due to drought in 399 districts, foodgrains production is expected to be better than last year and reach the 2008 output next year. “I expect overall foodgrains production to reach between 220 to 230 million tonnes because of good monsoon. The area under pulses, oilseeds, cotton, sugarcane and paddy is more than last year,’’ he said. In 2009-10, foodgrains output is expected to be 218 million tonnes against a target of 239 million tonnes.

Sugar production is expected to be about 23 million tonnes as against 18.8 million tonnes in the current year ending September 30.

“The good southwest monsoon will be favourable for the wheat crop next year. The reservoirs are full. The level of water storage in Bhakra dam, for instance, is not seen in the last 30 years. Our expectation, after talking to the states, is that 2010-11 will be bumper crop year.’’

While reiterating the government’s efforts to enhance foodgrains storage capacity, Mr Pawar ruled out lifting the ban on export of wheat and sugar ``till a final view is taken on the National Food Security Bill’’.

Asked about permitting futures trading in sugar from October 1 as the regulator of the Forward Markets Commission had hinted recently, Mr Pawar said, ``They suspended sugar futures. It is up to them to take a decision on allowing it.’’

His Ministry has moved a proposal for de-control of sugar industry, which, Mr Pawar said, was in the process of consultations with the states, agriculture being a state subject.

Asked to comment on the reported news that floods-ravaged Pakistan might accept food aid from India, rather than financial assistance, Mr Pawar said any decision on this would have to be at the level of the Prime Minister. ``If there is a request from the Ministry of External Affairs we will be happy to process it, be it for Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.’’

On the rising food inflation, Mr Pawar said it was due to the higher cost of fruits, vegetables and milk.