New Delhi, May 13: The Congress-led government is likely to pave the way for a new farm policy tomorrow at a meeting of the Planning Commission chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The focus of the discussions will be a proposal to usher in a ‘second Green Revolution’, this time in eastern India.
Singh is worried over the low growth rates in agriculture and reports of a decline in foodgrain production in the northern states which are India’s bread baskets.
He has, therefore, decided to give priority to farming at the plan panel meet.
Planning Commission officials have made a presentation to Singh on reversing the “negative trend in foodgrain production” by focusing on eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Assam and Chhattisgarh.
Senior officials of the panel said that farmers of Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana were moving away from rice and wheat.
“We need to address this by focusing on states in the east which are rich in water resources and can easily be the launching pad for the second Green Revolution.”
This change in crop pattern in the north is the reason behind the fall in food production since 1996.
Bengal is considered developed in agriculture and according to the planners, needs “less help compared with the other states in the eastern block which will be our new focus area.”
The ‘green revolution package’ will be launched in these states once the Planning Commission agrees to the package. It comprises improved seeds and fertilisers, new technology and support to grain markets through large-scale purchases by the Food Corporation of India.
The meeting will also discuss the need to raise the coverage of the minimum support prices for oilseeds and lentils. The prices of these commodities have been shooting up over the last few months.
Rising demand and the inability of farmers to meet the requirements have not only raised prices but also led to higher imports of these commodities.
The planners said the government wanted to encourage farmers to grow more oilseeds and lentils “as in the long run the only way to check the price rise is to grow more”.
With rising incomes, Indians are buying more cooking oil, meat, lentils and vegetables. “This means we have to take into account the fact not only rising population but also the rising per capita demand for these produce,” the planners said.
The meeting will also take a closer look at farm credit and insurance. The plan is to involve more banks and insurance companies and raise the subsidy on the premiums in farm insurance.
The planners said the meeting would also take stock of the fact that “there is a serious farm technology fatigue in all areas … we need to cross science thresholds and strategically apply quality science to improve farm productivity.”
India is likely to import up to six million tonnes of edible oil and 1 mt of wheat this year.
Sources said 3 mt of palm oil would be imported from Indonesia and 1 mt from Malaysia. There are also plans to import 1.8 mt of soyabean oil. About 75 per cent of the oil would come from Argentina and the rest from Brazil.
India will meet nearly 45 per cent of its edible oils requirements through imports.