Despite two consecutive drought years, production of foodgrains in India went up to 252.23 million tonnes (mt) in 2015-16 and the target is to produce a record 270.1 mt in the ongoing crop year (beginning June).
On the pulses front (India imports nearly a quarter of its domestic consumption), some noticeable change is expected of late. India's pulses production is targeted at 20.75 mt in 2016-17, 21.6 per cent higher than the estimated 17.06 mt produced in 2015-16.
Similarly, production target of wheat is 96.5 mt for 2016-17, higher than the estimated 94mt crop size in 2015-16. Target for oilseed production, an area where India is heavily dependent on imports, is set at 35mt, 35 per cent higher than the 25.9 mt estimated for 2015-16. Targets for cotton output is set at 36 million bales (of 170kg each) for 2016-17, compared to 30.5 million bales estimated for 2015-16. Over the last decade, Indian agriculture has become more robust with record production of foodgrains and oilseeds. Increased procurement, consequently, has added huge stocks of foodgrains in the granaries. India is one of the world's top producers of rice, wheat, milk, fruits, and vegetables.
However, given that India is still home to a quarter of all undernourished people in the world and since on an average almost half the total expenditure of about half the households in the country is on food, increasing the efficiency of the farm-to-fork value chain is crucial for eliminating poverty and malnutrition.
So the question of complacency is not at all there rather the time is ripe for looking at the inhibiting factors. Had India been one of the grain bowls of the world, by now it could have reaped large benefits from the rising international prices of the agri-commodities. The most important factor on this score is that demand for such commodities - especially foodgrains - would never come down rather it is all set to go up over time. Population upsurge coupled with growing demand from industrial sectors could keep the demand factor at reasonably high level.
Whatever is, the lead is to come from the two giants - India and China. As a matter of fact, the world has to depend on them in the days to come. China has, of late, been stressing hard on this sector, clearly realising those big industries alone or an export-led growth ultimately hinges heavily on how the food factor extends support. For India, fortunately that sort of negligence has not been there - the missing factor is not properly exploring the resources at a quicker pace.
That is why the urgent need is there to go for overall farm development efforts. For that infrastructure holds the key. The loss incurred during the entire production process, inclusive of the damage done in the unscientific threshing, rat menace, field loss, can be minimised. Without proper training imparted to the farmers as regards post-harvest technology not much can be expected on this score. Connectivity between the producing zone and the selling zones calls for immediate reinforcing. Buy-back arrangement is obviously a good process provided the actual producer receives the legitimate benefit in due course.
Whichever country did not attach enough of importance on this score had to bear the brunt. Overnight success is a wishful thinking. Systematic planning is the way out. And for that matter the tools of regional planning can be readily made use of. Regional peculiarities must be the starting point of any realistic decision making on this score. There is always the gap between the cup and the leap. Initiating change has never been an easy matter and change resisting factors count for.
Dr B K Mukhopadhyay, a Management Economist, is Principal, Eminent College of Management and Technology, Kolkata, India.