Soon after his ministry officials asked rice surplus states to diversify crops from paddy to other crops like pulses and edible oil, Food Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday urged all the states to increase sowing of rice.
Addressing the Conference of State Food Ministers on Food and Nutrition Security in India, Goyal said, “So far, the sowing of rice is 16 per cent lower than the normal level nationally.”
“I request you to talk to your Agriculture Ministers to increase the sowing of rice in comparison to the last year,” Goyal said, addressing the conference, which was attended by Food Ministers of several states and officials of central ministries and states.
“We request all the states to increase the sowing of rice. Currently, it is less than last year. So, I request all the states to please increase the sowing of rice.”
However, Goyal clarified that there is sufficient stock of rice with the government. “There is no problem of stocks but there is a lot of demand internationally. So, the more our farmers produce, they get a good price in the international market also. So, this will help to increase exports. I am also Commerce Minister. So, I have to also keep increasing the exports,” he said.
“So, I would urge everybody to please increase the sowing of rice so we can increase our exports. If required we will increase our procurement also,” Goyal said.
The minister also asked states to increase area under wheat. “Wheat sowing will start by October-November…. Please ensure that extra sowing of wheat is also done. Other day, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister was telling me. UP may also consider, Punjab should also consider.”
“We should increase the sowing of all the crops and look at higher productivity also. Use good quality of seeds, do proper scientific management of whole sowing and the entire maintenance process so that we can get higher productivity both in rice and wheat. Internationally, there is very good demand and farmers will get benefits significantly,” he said.
Goyal also advised Punjab, Haryana and UP to not use the shriveled grain seed. “Please get the seed from other states where the grain had not become shriveled. So, please take this message to your agriculture department,” Goyal said.
His advice to plant more paddy left some state officials perplexed because just a while ago a Union Food Ministry official had asked the rice surplus states to “diversify crop from paddy to other crops (pulses, edible oil etc) for sustainable agriculture development”.
Food Minister Piyush Goyal’s appeal to states to increase sowing of paddy comes at a time when the wheat stock in the central pool has come down to 311.32 LMT as on June 1. Against a target of 195 LMT of wheat during the current rabi marketing season, the government has procured 187.89 LMT wheat till July 3. In view of lower wheat stock, the next paddy crop will be very crucial for food security.
In his power-point presentation, the Food Ministry official said, “Under Decentralized (DCP) mode, states are procuring paddy at MSP from the farmers of the state, to the extent of state’s own requirement in NFSA / MDM / ICDS and surplus quantity is handed over to FCI in central pool for transportation to deficit states.”
“Most of the states are now procuring paddy under DCP mode and many deficit states have become surplus. Thus, the demand from Central Pool stocks is decreasing year by year. Due to less demand from the states, the Central Pool stocks is increasing year after year and it will become difficult to evacuate godowns in surplus states, in coming years. Thus, surplus states are required to diversify crop from paddy to other crops (pulses, edible oil etc) for sustainable agriculture development,” the official said.
UP’s Agriculture Production Commissioner Manoj Kumar Singh, who was speaking while Goyal made intervention to urge the states to plant more paddy this year, wanted to get clarity on the policy regarding paddy sowing.
“The sowing of paddy has just begun but in the policy communicated [to the states], a reduction in area under paddy has been recommended,” Singh said.
At this point, Goyal asked, “By whom?” To which, Singh replied, “By Government of India.” Then Goyal clarified, “It is recommended only if you convert to pulses and oilseeds…”
“If you are converting any [area under] rice or wheat to pulses, oil seeds or millets that is welcome. But otherwise, please make sure that the production and productivity is high.”
As per data available with the Union Food Ministry, 10 states – Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand – were rice surplus (meaning their rice procurement exceeded their allocation under the NFSA, ICDS and Mid-Day-Meal) during 2020-21.
Later, an Agriculture Ministry official also highlighted the common concerns of crop diversification from wheat-rice cropping patterns in Green Revolution states. “Substantial reduction in rice crop area is suggested due to natural resource concerns,” the official said in her presentation.