Address of Shri Sharad Pawar, Union Minister of Agriculture & Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution for the meeting with the State Agriculture Ministers On 21st August,2009 at NASC, Pusa, New Delhi
August 21 , 2009
My cabinet colleagues, Hon’ble Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Rural Development Minister, Dr. C.P. Joshi, my colleague in the Ministry Minister of State, Prof. Thomas, Hon’ble Agriculture Ministers from the States, senior officers from the Central and the State Governments, Ladies and Gentlemen,
2. I welcome you to this very important meeting convened today to review the current and the emerging situation in various parts of the country as a consequence of delayed, deficient, and erratic monsoon. Secretary Agriculture has given a detailed presentation on the current situation and the steps necessary to overcome the adversity which our agriculture sector is facing today.
3. As we all know, more than half the monsoon season is already over but the rainfall situation is far from satisfactory. Some States have received scanty rainfall with more than 60 % deficiency recorded so far. 246 districts in 10 States have declared drought. Situation is grim not just for crop sowing and crop health but also for sustaining the animal health, providing drinking water, livelihood and food particularly for the small and marginal farmers and the landless labourers.
4. At this critical stage we need to assess the current situation correctly for taking necessary steps in order to protect the standing crops, provide alternate crops in the unsown areas, start relief works and provide food, fodder, drinking water and employment to the affected population as well as plan for the ensuing Rabi, winter and summer cropping seasons.
5. I have had a meeting of the food ministers of the States on the 19th and I must share with you that it is a matter of satisfaction that we have adequate stocks of the food grains due to record procurement operations last year. In fact, production of the total food grains achieved record levels, with rice production touching 100 million tons and wheat production 81 million tons. Food ministers of the State have assured me that the State Food Department and its agencies are geared up to ensure that the adequate quantities of food grains are accessible to everybody. Effective enforcement actions and other steps would be taken to ensure that the prices of the commodities do not rise abnormally. However, to support the procurement and price control initiatives we need to augment our food grain production, and it is here, that your role becomes critical.
6. We have been closely monitoring the crop situation in the ongoing kharif season. There is likelihood of shortfall in paddy sowing to the extent of 57 lakh hectares compared to last kharif which would be about 15 % of the total kharif paddy area in the country. There is shortfall in the area coverage of oilseeds and sugarcane crops as well. Prolonged dry spells at the critical crop growth period could also impact the crop health and consequently the productivity of the crops.
7. In this backdrop it is necessary for us to initiate action to protect the standing crops by supporting the efforts of the farmers in applying supplementary irrigation from any available water source. We have already announced subsidy on diesel to reduce the hardship of the farmers in their desperate attempts to draw water from any available water source to save their crops. We have made available additional power from out of the Central reserve for the farmers to complete their sowing operations in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar. I am sure all of you are aware of these initiatives and are taking necessary steps to reach the benefits to the farming community.
8. For the paddy crop area that could not be sown due to unfavourable climatic condition, there is an urgent need to promote alternate crops like toria, pulses, sunflower, bajra, or fodder & vegetables. I am informed additional seeds needed to support the alternate crops are available in the country. I expect concerned State Agriculture Departments to make necessary arrangements to ensure that the seeds and other inputs reach the farmers immediately. We have already relaxed several criteria relating to age of the seed and also on the promotion of truthfully labelled seeds from public, private or university sources. I take this opportunity to urge the States to take up compensatory seed production programmes where required well in advance for the Rabi and summer seasons. The Government of India agencies – NSC, NAFED etc. have been directed to fully support the State governments in this regard.
9. To further strengthen the efforts, flexibility has been given to the States to source the funds from the ongoing schemes for supporting the alternate crop development programs.
10. Weather based agriculture development plan which is being updated daily is available on the web sites of ICAR. This plan informs the farmers of the correct package of practices in different agro climatic zones as per the changing weather conditions. We have directed the ICAR field organizations, research institutes, State Agriculture Universities and the Krishi Vigyan Kendras to take steps for dissemination of this plan among the farming community. I would like the State Government to gear up the extension machinery to increase their reach up to the farmers with appropriate knowledge inputs for helping the farmer with right advice.
11. I anticipate early and higher coverage of Rabi crops this year. This is a good opportunity to ensure that the wheat is sown in time particularly in Eastern UP, Bihar and West Bengal. There is a need to take up an intensive campaign in the Eastern Region for ensuring that the farmers are able to sow their wheat in time by 15th November. Timely sowing of wheat and support of the Government in arranging needed inputs like seeds, fertilizers, credit to the farmers would help increase the productivity of wheat crop. This would cover up the likely kharif production losses to some extent. Additional area could also come from Boro Rice in Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Eastern UP and Orissa. There is good scope to take up more area under Gram, Pulses and Mustard in the rice fallow lands especially in the States of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand and Orissa.
12. Sugar is another area of concern, with sugarcane sowing and sugar production dipping significantly compared to earlier years. The upward pressure on sugar prices which is a result of falling production needs to be checked. For this, sugarcane growing states will have to pay added attention to ensure increase in sugarcane acreage for enhancing sugar production.
13. We have to plan the requirement of the needed inputs and advance the placement of these inputs and also ensure their timely supply to the farmers. We also have to plan for a judicious use of water in our reservoirs. Even though the rainfall has been deficient overall, storage of water in the major reservoirs monitored by Central Water Commission is reaching near normal levels. We need to ensure that water use efficiency is achieved during irrigation by promoting sprinklers and drip systems to optimize the water available in the reservoirs. It would require your attention in ensuring proper coordination amongst all the agencies.
14. On our part we have advanced the Zonal meetings on input planning and propose to keep the Rabi conference immediately thereafter, to ensure early implementation of decisions at various levels of administration.
15. A very important aspect in the current scenario relates to provisioning of fodder and the taking care of health of the animals. Survival of animals during the crisis period would go a long way in faster rehabilitation of the farmer’s livelihood. All steps need to be taken to ensure availability of the fodder and to provide adequate veterinary support.
16. We have such a diverse agro climatic range that different types of crops in different regions can contribute even if some crop in some region is lost to some extent. There is a need to exploit such diversity to normalize the expected agriculture production particularly for the food crops. Schemes like NREGA and IWDP can help in creating rainwater harvesting, ground water recharge structures for on farm moisture conservation. It is time that agriculture department takes advantage of such schemes for accelerating the agriculture development programs in the States. I may even suggest that you should use your good offices to ensure that maximum funds under NAREGA is used for creation of such farm ponds and other water conservation structures. This would help conserve scarce water in the shortest possible time.
17. There is good potential to exploit ground water particularly in the Eastern Region of the country. States should accord priority to developing such water sources like shallow tube wells, dug wells, farm ponds on farmer' fields. We need to use the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) to dig shallow tube wells in the potential areas on an urgent basis. Chairman NABARD has assured me that such proposals of the State Governments will be cleared on a fast track. Punjab and Haryana farmers have demonstrated the importance of developed ground water sources by completing the sowing in time despite getting scanty rainfall during the current monsoon. Their cost of cultivation could have gone up but the assured harvest would sustain their livelihood. Issues relating to compensating the farmers for additional costs incurred are not as difficult to address and we would resolve that in due course.
18. A brief note bringing out the highlights of crop situation in different States and possible measures for distressed kharif crops and potential for the ensuring Rabi season is included in your agenda notes. I would like you to respond to this document while presenting your review. We need to work harder now and should try to compensate the likely losses in the current season with higher production in the Rabi Season. Flexible schemes and adequate funding support is available for us to reach out to the farmer in full force. Most of these schemes have components of local initiative which empower the Districts to plan and implement locally relevant programs as per the agro climatic and socio economic conditions of the area. I would urge you to ensure that maximum benefit is taken from these schemes to promote aggressively the crop development programs for the farmers.
19. Despite all our efforts, emergency relief measures will need to be taken in many states to mitigate the suffering of the poor. In order to extend the relief measures in the affected area immediately, Calamity Relief Funds are made available to the States in advance. Considering the magnitude of the problem, the Central Government has also released the first instalment of CRF to the States of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, pending submission of the utilisation certificate for the previous allocation. As to the additional fund requirement, on receipt of memoranda from Jharkhand, UP, Manipur, Bihar, MP and Karnataka seeking additional central assistance under NCCF, we immediately constituted Inter Ministerial Central Teams that are currently visiting these states and have assessed the ground situation. On the basis of their recommendations, needed additional amounts would be released at the earliest by the empowered high level committee of ministers. I am sure pending finalization of the additional releases, States are undertaking various relief measures from out of CRF amounts available with them particularly for augmenting drinking water and fodder supplies in the affected areas. I would like to have your feed back in this regard.
20. I would also like to inform you that in order to expedite the decision making process and to provide for unforeseen situation, an empowered Group of Ministers under Union Finance Minister has been set up by the Union Cabinet to decide on all issues relating to drought management. There is also a crisis management group under Cabinet Secretary to ensure a timely response in coordination with different concerned Ministries.
21. There is a need to create similar set up in the affected States also for regular review of the developing situation. To ensure proper coordination and exchange of information, control rooms should be activated at the State capital and district levels and it should be ensured that these control rooms are be in regular touch with our control room in the Ministry here.
22. In the end, I would like to stress once again that Agriculture Departments in the States need to gear up its machinery to ensure that the farmers are fully supported at this critical time. We need to mitigate the effects of the drought by taking immediate steps to protect the standing crops and plan meticulously for the ensuing Rabi season to compensate for the lost production in this season. For the drought affected population we should ensure availability of food, drinking water, fodder, and employment. I am sure with your cooperation we would be able to tide over this crisis and regain the momentum of food grains production in the country. I am keen to hear from you on the issues raised by me and assure you our full support in all your efforts to rehabilitate agriculture sector in as quick time as is possible.