Agriculture continues to be a sore point!
Agri sector needs protection from so many latest invasions!
Protect this sector from so many alien invasions!

Yes, there is now the prospect or the threat of both food inflation and also uncertainty about food production targets. This is nothing new of course.

First, the food production targets. Experts say that the estimates for rice and coarse cereals at 80.16 and 30.56 million tones compare poorly with corresponding target figures of 87 and 32.6 m.t..Total food grains production is 8.14 m.t, short of the target. This, in spite of normal monsoon. Only in the case of pulses that production overshot the target of 5.7 m.t. Haryana and Punjab are the two leading states where flood-like situation, use of hybrid, high yielding varieties, late trans planting, lower yields etc determine the outcome of the output. Another significant factor in the rainfall deficit in the lower and middle Gangnetic Plains and Jharkand also affect the acreage and yield. Jharkand and West Bengal account for about one fourth of the total rice production as well as the acreage in the country. Rainfall, floods hit these states and they did this time also. UP and AP saw floods, in UP the hit was to affect the cane crop, not the rice crop. In AP, it was the cyclone,  Jal, damaged the rice crop and AP being a major rice growing state in the South, even a slight change in production is likely to create a bigger impact in this geography.

It is estimated that the states which suffer either for rain deficiency or excess rain fall and floods affect about 35-40 per cent of total  rice production, the remaining states could compensate for this. Orissa and Assam together contribute 12 per cent of the total rice production. This time these two states received good rainfall and hopefully they might contribute for more production.

So, the experts from the Institute of Economic Growth warn about the Ministry’ excess optimism and the target figures. The experts note that  rice, the major food crop of India, besides wheat, increased by 5.6 per cent over 2009-10 but fell by the same amount over 2008-09 suggesting, the experts say, that the recovery failed to make up to the medium-term trend. Neither coarse grains nor pulses offer much reason to be “jubilant about”. Production of pulses, the same experts note further, rose by 38 per cent over 2008-09 but by some assumptions of the experts, there is need to study many other factors to come to some common man’s conclusion as the whether we have a steady base for growth in the critical India’s major crops.

The experts make one definite and critical remark. That is this:”The uniformly poor performance of all food grains leave little scope for diversion of land or other inputs from rice to competing food grains”.What other competing food grains are available to Indian farmers.
The recent rise in food prices is a shock to the government. The experts say(it is not of much use for actual farmers and yet to give a flavour of how the urban elite think of agriculture)we give below another of their observations:”While price-led upturns in agricultural GDP are possible, such economic prosperity can ironically co-exist with physical scarcity of food”
The experts say that food demand is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future under any positive economic future, thus exerting more pressure on the supply.

To put it in simple journalistic language, it is clear that there will be  more demand for food, quality food, nutritionally rich diet  as rural incomes go up and the rural consumers demand quality food and this is one of the reasons cited by the RBI Governor in his Bhubaneswar lectures as the cause for high food inflation.

But the very many agriculture spokespersons articulate their own particular points of views or if we can put it so, their own narrow constituencies, either a farm lobby of the rich and the powerful as we find in the North, or from certain regions like Maharashtra where Mr.Sharad Pawar himself  is seen widely as a lobbyist for the powerful sugar barons, or Sharad Joshi who has his own particular points of view.

Then ,there are other lobbyists, there is M.S.Swaminathan who has everything for everybody, one for the Sonia Gandhi-led lobby, this is for Food Security Bill and as if there are no other lobbies, there are so many even within the big business lobbies, like demanding the entry of MNCs and FDIs in retail sector and so on.

Ultimately, what matters are how these various proposals and demands and the very many sectoral allocations in the budget/state budgets(like the very interesting one by the Karnataka government which had come out with a separate agriculture budget that had caught the national attention) and  so on.

In our view what matters is ultimately how the average farmers, our own aam aadmi farmer benefits and how he perceives his own future.

Will farming be an attractive profession for the farmers in the days and years to come?
It is a sector which is beset with several factors that had so far worked against the farmers’ own well-being, their own social  and economic security.

To own a piece of agriculture and in the villages is now a liability, not an asset, right?
This trend ,this mindset of the farmer as well as his supposed protector, the politician, is what is disturbing. To own and retain the landed property is very challenging. So many acts come in the way.

Now, with urbanisation and industrialisation and infrastructure  expansion, with highways and other road projects threatening the very livelihoods of age-old  traditions.

The recent UP farmers agitations when their lands were forcibly  acquired for the Delhi-Agra highway and now as in Jitapur in Maharashtra where the large tracts of lands are now threatened for the nuclear power plant, not to speak of the big projects like the Posco and Vedanta coming up in the vast tribal tracts, the  future of normal farming is no more a normal activity.

Agriculture is the whipping boy for many fancy state-level populist politics by such highly corrupt, no-stake whatever by politicians from nowhere like TN DMK/ADMK politicians. These are cine world figures, actors/actresses and dialogue writers-turned politicians. Even the Congress party finds a virtue to play with such short-term, shortsighted politics of immediate convenience. See the Praja Rajyam Chiranjeevi, the actor-turned opportunist politician.

Agriculture sector needs not just protection from invasion from such opportunists and adventurers. But from other more no-stakes holders like Dr.Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi-like aliens!

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