Observing that the country was facing a “difficult situation” following delayed and deficient rainfall,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday that the Centre has adequate foodgrains and would not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market if the need arose.
“Agricultural operations have been adversely affected in several parts of the country causing distress to farmers. A deficit of more than 6 million hectares has been reported in paddy,which is the worst affected crop,” he said addressing the Conference of Chief Secretaries on the monsoon situation in New Delhi.
The government has enough cushion on account of bumper production in the previous two years,Singh said.
“We are in a position to ensure adequate availability of foodgrains in drought affected areas. We should not hesitate to take strong measures and intervene in the market if the need were to rise,” Singh said in the presence of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
Emphasising the need to act promptly,collectively and effectively,he assured the Centre’s full support regarding any additional assistance that States would require on this front.
“In no case,should we allow citizens to go hungry.” Cautioning that the reduced production of Kharif crop in the current year may have an inflationary impact on prices of food items in the coming months,Singh said the Centre and states will have to work together and activise the public distribution system (PDS).
“We will also have to ensure effective enforcement of stock holding limits and strong action against hoarders and black marketeers,” Singh said,observing that of late,the country has witnessed rising trend in prices of pulses,sugar and some vegetables.
On immediate concerns over monsoon,Singh urged states to commence relief operations wherever there was a need.
“In case the Contingency Relief Fund available with the States is not sufficient,they (States) should quickly prepare a detailed memorandum for assistance under the National Calamity Contingency Fund,” he said.
Singh regretted that no state governments has so far send memorandum seeking assistance for drought affected districts,even though 141 districts of the country have been declared as drought affected.
“In short,the contingency plans for crops,drinking water,human and animal health and fodder should be brought into operation without delay and a close watch kept on availability of foodgrains and prices of essential commodities,” he said.
Singh said the Centre has recently decided to reimburse 50 per cent of the cost that states would incur in providing diesel subsidy to the affected farmers and provided additional power from central pool to few states.
He said the Power Minister has been asked to extend similar support to other states,which should ensure that the additional availability should be used only for agricultural operations.
To mitigate the adverse affect of inadequate rain,Singh suggested that farmers should look for alternate crop in those areas where paddy cannot be sown and maximise production in traditional crop in those areas which had adequate rainfall.
Asking states to meticulously plan for the availability of seeds,fertilisers and other inputs to farmers for coming Rabi season,he said: “Since the country is deficit in pulses and oilseeds production,this may be a good opportunity to utilise available land by diversifying in Rabi pulses and oilseeds”.
Expressing concern over non-utilisation of funds by few states from Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna and National Food Security Mission,the two major schemes for the agriculture sector launched by the Centre,he said the funds meant for the farmers should not be left unutilised due to procedural constraints.
On the food front,Singh said the major challenge was to ensure proper management and distribution of food stocks. He asked states to intervene in procurement process to supplement the efforts of Centre.
While the current food stock position was comfortable,there was a need to ensure that this position continue in next year as well,he said,adding states should meet their target on the paddy and wheat procurement in the coming season.
The Prime Minister also emphasised on building proper storage capacity in the country.