Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Agriculture, a new story

The UPA has managed to deliver easier and more credit to a higher number of farmers at a lower rate of interest than previous governments. The UPA has managed to deliver easier and more credit to a higher number of farmers at a lower rate of interest than previous governments.
Posted: April 21, 2014 12:40 am | Updated: April 21, 2014 12:41 am

Contrary to the popular narrative, the second green revolution is underway.

A dramatic turnaround of agriculture, India’s most important sector, has gone largely unheralded. Contrary to the popular narrative, agriculture has been transformed in the last 10 years. The second green revolution is underway. At the end of the second tenure of the UPA and after a decade of persistent work, we are witnessing record agricultural outputs for every major crop — grains, oil seeds, pulses, cotton, vegetables and sugarcane. And more importantly, we are also seeing record profitability ratios for our farmers.

Today, we are not only self-sufficient but have also made steady progress in becoming a feeder to the world. Our farmers are the unsung heroes of this untold story. Life in a village is no longer a clichéd bundle of miseries, thanks to the inclusive growth policies of successive UPA governments. Emphasis on access to credit, higher farm productivity, road connectivity, debt write-offs and remunerative prices have transformed the face of agrarian India.

In 2014 alone, agriculture is expected to grow at 4.6 per cent. Our agriculture production of foodgrains this year is expected to break the 2011-12 record of 259 million tonnes. More importantly, agricultural profitability has increased over the last decade with record increases in MSPs (minimum support prices for agricultural produce) for all covered crops. MSP increases in the past 10 years, between 2004-05 to 2014-15, vary from about 125 per cent for foodgrains such as wheat and paddy to over 200 per cent for pulses like moong dal. These numbers represent the highest rate of MSP increase for any decadal period in our history. The substantial rise in farmland prices across India is proof that the profession of farming is back in vogue.

The situation was drastically different when the UPA formed the government in June 2004. Agriculture was in crisis. A government drunk on its “India Shining” propaganda had largely ignored the sector. From 1998-2004, agriculture grew by a paltry 2.9 per cent. This low growth adversely affected the livelihoods of farmers and posed a serious threat to national food security. There was the (incorrect) perception that the agricultural sector was crumbling. Farmers were getting uprooted. Unable to service debt, some even took their own lives. For the record, farmer suicides peaked in 2004.

A decade later, a sector once described as terminally sick is now a beacon of hope. The UPA’s inclusive policies have helped the farmer achieve this remarkable success. Such a transformation could only have been achieved by the methodical work and cooperation between the agriculture minister, finance minister, prime minister and the Congress party president, who has taken passionate personal interest continued…

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