The decision on whether or not to impose import duty on wheat is under final stages of consideration of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
“The Ministry though has not proposed any increase in the duty, which is under process. The Ministry is though considering it but no decision has been taken,” said Shobhana K Pattanayak, secretary, Department of Agriculture, Co-operation and Farmers Welfare while speaking in an ASSOCHAM conference on ‘Integrated water resource management for increasing farmers income.’
He also said that Food Corporation of India (FCI) is going to procure wheat on a massive scale. “We have a target under FCI now, so prices are ruling above MSP (minimum support price) and so far nothing has happened.”
He said that when people get access to water they immediately switch over to water-intensive crops which are not a very right practice. “We must try to economise the use of water in the sense that you can share it with others or by growing more number of crops.”
Pattanayak said that the Government was paying special emphasis on water shed approach for agriculture. “For all these years our emphasis has been on irrigation projects and irrigated areas but what is the thrust area for dry land areas.”
He said that dry land areas necessarily had to adopt water-shed approach and they should also be growing climate smart crops. “Time has come not to feel shy of growing paddy or sugarcane because most of the land is dry land and it is more suitable for growing climate smart crops like millets and pulses.”
Terming the increase in pulse production as a ‘revolution,’ he said that between last year and this year pulse production had increased by five million tonnes.
“Last year the pulse production was to the tune of 16.4 million tonnes but in one single year we have caught up by five million tonnes which has been made possible by farmers and host of beneficial factors – high prices raining in the market, MSP declared by the government, availability of seed and others,” said the top bureaucrat in the Agriculture Ministry.
He said that farmers can make a good living by growing millets and pulses by getting linked to markets and some form of processing. “If the supply chain of the farmer can be really linked then I am certain that this will be an economic and viable proposition and we can battle the climate change and make most judicious use of water.”
He said that ‘protected irrigation of 2-3 types is needed to grow millets and pulses of which first is fed by monsoon or residual moisture available in soil. “The second and third is what I need to just give and that is what I need to plan and if I can plan that then we can become self sufficient in pulse production in this country.”
Pattanayak said that oilseed is another crop which can really address the issue of climate change as they are grown on marginalised lands which holds great scope.
“This year also the production has been really good but to reach self sufficiency will take time because 70 percent of our total demand for oils is imported from outside but all these three wide range of crops are still available for farmers and when we speak about doubling of income, this must be kept in mind,” he said.
“The problem is that I do not double if I do not make proper use of my natural resources, if I can do so I can double my income and I must grow for the market,” he added.
Pattanayak further said that apart from the critical input in terms of managing water there is also the need to critically manage inputs like fertilisers, quality seeds and others.
“The government has put up large number of schemes, we do not have to invent and discover something new but there is a question of how efficiently we implement these schemes at field level and this calls for participation by everyone and not just by government functionaries therefore all the stakeholders – government, private, NGOs, agriculturists, scientists and others have to play a significant role (in this behalf),” he said.