As production of rice and wheat shows signs of stagnation, the Economic Survey 2011-12 has underlined the need for more investment in foodgrain research, through active support of the private sector.
In the 1980s, yearly growth in area under wheat was marginal at 0.5 per cent but that in production and yield was about 3 per cent. However, from 2000-01 to 2011-12, while the area under wheat has grown 1.2 per cent yearly, growth rates of annual output and yield have dropped to 2.4 per cent and 1.1 per cent, respectively. In 2011-12, the country achieved a record 250.4 million tonnes of foodgrain output, up 1.65 per cent from last year, but the sown area dropped by 1 per cent, to 125.5 million hectares.
Making a strong pitch for public-private partnership (PPP) in agriculture, the Survey has recommended policies to allow private companies in supply chain management and in developing agricultural infrastructure, like mandis. “PPP models can be of help in ensuring faster development of infrastructure requirements in the sector,” it said.
Investments were also identified as being key in reversing the trend of farm growth falling below the five-year Plan targets. The approach paper to the 12th five-tear-Plan had pegged a target of four per cent average annual farm growth during 2012-17. Growth in the 11th Plan is expected to be around 3.3 per cent against the targeted four per cent.
The fragmented nature of Indian farms being a biggest bottleneck in achieving large-scale output jump, the Survey suggested separate laws for pooling small holdings, for better economies of scale. “Land laws for leasing with sufficient safeguards should be considered,” it said.
It also batted for foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, which could be leveraged for developing post-harvest infrastructure.
To address the availability of farm labour and high-capital investment, the Survey suggested using the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for works like water harvesting, watershed development and contour-bunding.