“The matter of food production should be placed higher on the policymaking platform,” said Pranab Mukherjee, adding that the country’s agriculture sector is far behind where it should be. As a share of GDP, agriculture has fallen from 23% during the Ninth Five-year Plan (1997-2002) to around 15% today.
“For every one per cent growth in agriculture sector there would be a 2-3 per cent reduction in poverty,” Mukherjee continued, mentioning that the Planning Commission has targeted an annual growth rate of 4% for agriculture sector as part of the current five-year plan.
Citing examples of reform, Mukherjee suggested steps to reduce wastage, streamline credit policies and crop insurance and make better use of fertilisers.
Earlier, Sharad Pawar, the union agriculture minister, had stressed that using scientific methods to reduce harvest loss is vital for food security. “Research and development in the agriculture sector is required to achieve the food security,” he said.
Both Mukherjee and Pawar’s comments came after the governor of the Reserve Bank of India voiced his concerns last week over the rate of food inflation, which moved into double digits in December.
Outlining India’s economic policies for the quarter, the governor, Dr Duvvuri Subbarao, said that even though the headline inflation rate has fallen to 7.2%, high food inflation reveals the critical need for the government to focus on agriculture should it want to follow a growth oriented easy money policy.
However, he indicated that doubled production would not be possible in less than eight years, and if it were to happen, it could only do so under tight conditions.
“In order to double food production in the next eight years we must grow at an annualised compounded rate of 9%,” he said.
“This aim cannot be achieved unless India adopts targeted policies and practices on a war footing. Given the fact that India is still struggling to accommodate the global developments in the food and agricultural sector of the 1970s, a lot of time travel is needed to reach the milestone of doubling food production in less than 10 years.”