The Agriculture Ministry is likely to announce the minimum support price (MSP) for key crops over the next two weeks, while it has sufficient stocks of pulses and willing to import more to quell prices that have risen nearly 64 per cent since last year.
“The announcement of MSP is not delayed I feel, we will announce it over the next two weeks,” Agriculture Minister, Radha Mohan Singh, said at an event held here on Tuesday to highlight the Ministry’s achievements over the last one year.
For a man tasked with guiding a sector that registered near-flat growth in 2014-15, Singh appeared assured about the Centre’s ability to tackle a ‘deficient’ southwest monsoon’ – predicted at 88 per cent of the 50-year long period average of 89 cm predicted by the Met agency – and keep the prices in check.
The foodgrain bowl across the northwest region – Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – is likely to be hit hardest according to the Indian Meteorological Department’s (IMD) second long range forecast of the four-month monsoon.
“There will be some losses if there is deficient rain but we are confident of our policies in order to ensure minimum damage to the sector and the economy,” Singh said.
The Government has prepared contingency plans for 580 districts and is working with States and agriculture bodies to address the situation. A new crop insurance policy is also being worked on to be brought in by the end of the year.
“We faced a drought when we came to power but worked hard to minimise the damage. Losses in production were not huge and we will use our earlier experience this time…There are alternate seed varieties available if there is deficient rain and the drought management panel is monitoring the situation,” he added.
The monsoon onset over Kerala has been already delayed and will make a landfall only by June 5 and officials have blamed the El Nino weather phenomenon. Timely onset is pivotal for sowing Kharif crops like rice and soyabean across India where 60 per cent of cultivable land is rain-fed.
Poor monsoon over last Kharif season and inclement weather through the harvest period of Rabi season had resulted in decline in foodgrains production to 251.12 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15 from a record 265.04 mt registered in the previous crop year (July-June).
While the Government had ample supply of rice and wheat, Singh said that there are concerns over pulses but the Ministry has been working on ways to supplement domestic supply through imports.
“We imported a record 4.5 mt of pulses last year and are ready to import more when required. We are working on raising pulses and oilseeds production,” he said, adding that data on States’ requirements is collated.
Source : The Hindu Business Line