Good monsoon forecast brings cheer to agriculture sector

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New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) The forecast that India will get six percent more-than-normal monsoon rain this year has brought widespread relief to the overall agriculture sector, and especially for the agriculture and farmers’ welfare ministry.

The government hopes that favourable rains would result in higher agricultural production and right policy decisions could help boost oilseeds production and reduce dependency on imports for various items.

“Agriculture production is expected to be better in financial 2016-17 due to above-normal monsoon,” Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said shortly after Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) director general Laxman Singh Rathore said the monsoon rains would be six percent above normal after two years of deficient precipitation.

Farm production suffered for two consecutive years due to drought as poor monsoon caused a decline in the country’s food grain production from 265.04 million tonnes in 2013-2014 to 252.02 million tonnes in the 2014-15 crop year.

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However, Radha Mohan Singh told IANS that despite rainfall deficiency of 14 percent and 12 percent during the past two years, total food grain production in the country during 2015-16 is estimated to be “marginally higher” at 253.16 million tonnes as against 252.02 million tonnes the previous year.

Agriculture, which contributes about 15 percent to the country’s GDP, is heavily dependent on rainfall. It employs about 60 percent of the population.

Due to deficient rains in the last two years, a number of districts spread over 10 states were declared drought-hit and the central government sanctioned relief package of about Rs.10,000 crore to help farmers across these states.

The government would, however, be abreast with short term and long term plans to deal with any eventuality besides announcing adequate support price for crops, including for pulses.

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“We will be better prepared as always,” the minister said.

Earlier in the day, addressing a kharif campaign function, Radha Mohan Singh said the government’s target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 would not be achievable from crop production alone. The government will need to take a comprehensive strategy of integrated farming, involving all the allied sectors of agriculture, including animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries.

“As water is a critical resource, the present budget has brought creation of water sources and enhancing water use efficiency as core concern of the farm sector,” he said.

“The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna (PMKSY) launched in 2015-16 would not only enhance water resources in the country but also increase water use efficiency,” he added.

The minister pointed out that against the revised estimate of Rs.1,550 crore during 2015-16, the allocation under PMKSY for 2016-17 has been raised significantly to Rs.2,340 crore.

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Sources in the ministry said states will be asked to plan out ways to boost crop production in the kharif season starting June.

Releasing its monsoon forecast for the season, IMD director general Rathore said: “Monsoon will be 106 percent of the long period average. There is 94 percent probability that monsoon will be normal to excess this year.”

Religare Commodity Research said prediction of good monsoon this year was a “highly positive factor” for the agriculture scene.

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