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Self-sufficiency in foodgrain shows India can reduce imports: PM Modi

Government encourages farmers to diversify crops, but doing away with imported oilseeds and pulses challenging

Topics
agriculture economy | Narendra Modi | oilseeds

Sanjeeb Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 



Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses nation on 76th Independence Day at Red Fort. (PTI Photo)

Indian self-sufficiency in foodgrain shows that it can reduce its dependence on other imports, said Prime Minister on Monday in a speech to mark the 75th anniversary of independence.

“When our country needed food we didn’t outsource it to someone else but instead our countrymen decided that we will grow food for our own people and we have managed to achieve the same,” he said. The success achieved in growing its own food shows that once India decides to do something is no force can stop it.

Modi’s speech called for achieving self-sufficiency but achieving that in all food will need a strong concerted attempt, data shows. India depends on imports for edible oils and pulses and it is largely self-sufficient in the case of foodgrain and several other items such as milk, fruits and vegetables.

India will be surplus in foodgrain, milk, fruits and vegetables but hugely deficit in in the foreseeable future (by 2032-33 roughly), according to the NITI Aayog’s estimates. (see chart)

The country annually imports more than Rs 100,000 crore of edible oils and pulses and the dependency, particularly in edible oils, is rising. The Centre and state governments have made multiple attempts to make farmers in water-stressed states of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh and other places to diversify from growing wheat and rice to more in-demand like pulses, and maize. The efforts have been largely on the margins and any large-scale diversion through higher minimum support price (MSP) in and pulses than cereals has not materialised.

Evidence shows that though the acreage and production of pulses and oilseeds have significantly increased in the last few years, it has not come at the cost of rice and wheat.

Between 2014-15 and 2020-21 (July to June), when of paddy (common) was increased by almost 37 per cent, acreage under the crop dipped by just around 2.5 per cent.

Wheat increased by 36.2 per cent during the same period, but there was a 10 per cent increase in area under cultivation.

In contrast, in case of chana, between 2014-15 and 2020-21, while the increased by almost 61 per cent, the area under the crop rose by almost 36 per cent.

Soybeans' MSP increased by almost 51.5 per cent between 2014-15 to 2020-21, but the area under the crop went up by nearly 10 per cent.

This clearly shows that while the MSP increases might have encouraged farmers to grow more pulses and oilseeds but it has not exactly weaned farmers away from paddy and wheat.

MSPs in isolation unless backed by strong procurement mechanisms or ready markets are not enough to encourage farmers to leave cereal cultivation and opt for pulses and oilseeds.

A case in point is the growth seen in India’s pulses production in the last few years.

Experts have said India’s pulses production increased from 14-15 million tonne to almost 22-23 million tonne in the last few years, lowering import dependency not just due to higher MSP but also because of an assured procurement system by state agencies.

This year, India’s mustard seed production is expected to jump manifold as prices in the open market for oilseeds have been remunerative for farmers.

Overall India’s import dependency for edible oils will continue unless there is a revolution in domestic cultivation.

Even bringing per hectare yield of oilseeds and pulses to global benchmarks will be a great achievement in itself.

India’s per hectare yield of oilseeds is around 10 quintal while the world average is around 16 quintals. Per hectare yield of pulses in India is 6.60 quintals while the world average is over 9 quintals.

A committee of experts and farmers’ groups constituted by the Central government—it was set up as part of an agreement with agitating farmers when three controversial laws were repealed last year--is mandated to look into the vexed issue of crop diversification and lowering import dependency on edible oils and pulses.

In case of edible oils, India imports around 60 per cent of annual domestic demand while the proportion in case of pulses is much less.


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First Published: Mon, August 15 2022. 15:22 IST

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