18% drop likely in summer crop production
Tuesday, 19 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
NEW DELHI: Widespread drought in many parts of India due to failure of the main monsoon has severely impacted crop production, which is expected to drop by 18.72 percent compared to last year, Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh said Monday. "As per the first advance estimate, kharif (summer) food grains including rice, coarse grains, cereals and pulses may be 90.64 million tonnes, as compared to 115.51 million tonnes last year, indicating a shortfall of 18.72 percent," Singh said in a statement in the lower house of Parliament, which reconvened Monday for the winter session. Large regions have been declared drought affected by 15 states, which have also sought federal financial assistance. "Jammu and Kashmir has also submitted a memorandum for assistance without declaration of drought, while West Bengal (with three districts affected) has not sought any assistance," Singh said. The federal expert teams have visited all the affected states and submitted their reports on the basis of which assistance will be given under the National Calamity Contingency Fund Scheme. To provide immediate assistance, the federal government had released its share of 11.5 billion to the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) due in November three months in advance in August, said Singh. To generate employment, food grain has been allocated free of cost to states. "To begin with 1.32 million tonnes of food grains have been allocated in addition to advance release of CRF," the minister said. In addition, 30,000 tonnes of cattle grade feed has also been allocated to the affected states. Despite the allocation of food grain, many of the states like Rajasthan have failed to lift sufficient stock or properly implement food-for-work programmes leading to malnutrition and starvation deaths. As part of relief measures, Singh said, the expert panel on price policy for kharif crops has suggested payment of one-time bonus price of 20 per quintal for paddy, groundnut and cotton, and 5 per quintal of coarse grain except bajra. In addition, the panel has urged that the agriculture inputs subsidy currently provided to small and marginal farmers be extended to other farmers in drought affected areas with a maximum of two hectares of farmland. One of the recommendations for waiver of interest on loans taken by farmers this year and special drought relief price have already been approved by the cabinet, Singh said. The other recommendations, including removal of the distinction between below-poverty-line (BPL) families and others in disbursing assistance, are being considered.