India Needs New Methods to Boost Farm Production

India needs to invest in technology to cultivate dry areas and boost farm production lagging at the slowest pace of growth in five years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in his Independence Day speech.

The South Asian nation wants to boost agricultural growth to 4 percent, Singh said today. Farm output in Asia’s third- largest economy grew 0.2 percent in the year ended March 31, according to government data.

Increasing farm output is crucial for Singh’s government to meet its target of 8.5 percent economic growth. Agriculture accounts for about 18 percent of the $1.3 trillion economy and directly employs 235 million people, almost equal to the population of Indonesia.

“Any hopes of achieving higher overall economic growth without a robust farm sector growth are myopic,” said Jay Shankar, chief economist at Religare Capital Markets Ltd. “The prime minister is moving in the right direction with the focus deepening on the sector. The government is probably realizing that crop yield hasn’t reached its potential.”

Technology to farm dry areas and reduce dependence on the annual monsoons will also help the government keep inflation under control, Mumbai-based Shankar said in a telephone interview.

Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao on July 27 raised the forecast for economic growth. India’s economy may accelerate at 8.5 percent in this fiscal year, faster than the previous estimate of 8 percent, the bank said.

Food Inflation

India’s food inflation slowed to 9.53 percent in July, a 13-month low and down from 21 percent in November, as the country last month got more monsoon rains than forecast, aiding sowing of lentils and rice.

“Our government wants a food safety net in which no citizen of ours would go hungry,” Singh said in his speech to mark the nation’s independence from Great Britain in 1947.

“We need technology which would address the needs of dry land agriculture,” Singh said. “Our agriculture should also be able to deal with new challenges like climate change, falling levels of ground water and deteriorating quality of soil.”

The June-September monsoon is the main source of irrigation in the country. It was 16 percent above average last week, the India Meteorological Department said on Aug. 5. Wholesale-price based inflation quickened to 10.4 percent in July.

The World Bank estimates 76 percent of Indians, the world’s second-most-populous nation with 1.2 billion people, live on less than $2 a day, compared with 72 percent in the Sub-Saharan African nations.

The Reserve Bank also last month forecast the inflation rate to reach 6 percent by March 31, higher than the 5.5 percent projected in April.

“In the last few months high inflation has caused you difficulties,” Singh said today. “We are making every possible effort to tackle this problem.”

(Anoop Agrawal – Aug 15, 2010)


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