| NEW DELHI, July 10
NEW DELHI, July 10 India's new government has
targeted higher farm growth of 4 percent this year by giving
farmers a range of incentives and setting up new warehouses to
cut wastage and improve the food-supply chain, Finance Minister
Arun Jaitley said.
Farm output in India, world No. 2 producer and consumer of
an array of agricultural goods, grew at 4.7 percent in the
fiscal year to March 2014 after monsoon rains boosted the
harvest, up from nearly 3 percent a year over the past decade.
Although agriculture's share in India's nearly $2 trillion
dollar economy has steadily fallen to 14 percent, the sector
continues to employ more than half of its 1.2 billion people.
"We are committed to sustaining a growth of 4 percent in
agriculture and for this we will bring technology driven second
Green Revolution with focus on higher productivity...," Jaitley
said as he presented the 2014/15 Budget.
Farming was transformed by the introduction of high-yielding
seeds, fertilisers and irrigation during the Green Revolution
nearly 50 years ago, ending dependence on imports.
The government buys rice and wheat from farmers at a fixed
price to build reserves and supply cheaper food to the poor, to
protect farmers from distress sales and for emergencies. The
agriculture ministry typically raises its grain price yearly.
As a result, India now has massive grain stocks but rising
income and changing food habits in the country of 1.2 billion
people have led to higher demand for protein-rich food.
To cut waste due to lack of storage, the government proposed
spending 50 billion rupees ($830 million) on new warehouses.
"The announcement will allow farmers to store their produce
for long periods, which will ensure that they get the correct
prices for their produce," said Dinesh Shahra, chief of the
biggest edible oil importer Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd
For this fiscal year, the government has increased its farm
credit target at 8 trillion rupees against 7 trillion last year.
Expressing concern over deteriorating soil health, Jaitley
said his government would set up 100 mobile soil testing
laboratories and give soil health cards to India's 263 million
farmers, a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"There have also been growing concerns about the imbalance
in the utilisation of different types of fertilisers resulting
in deterioration of the soil," Jaitley said.
The government also proposed to dedicate 5 billion rupees to
help curb price volatility which hurts farmers and consumers.
Addressing concern over monsoon rains, Jaitley said higher
stocks at government warehouses would help meet any exigency.
On July 1, rice and wheat stocks at government warehouses
were 21.2 million tonnes and 39.8 million tonnes respectively,
substantially higher than government-set targets.
Annual monsoon rains, that water crops grown on half of
India's total arable land, were 43 percent below average since
June 1 when the rainy season began. [ID:ID:nL4N0PE39L]
To cool prices, the government could free up extra stocks in
the open market, Jaitley said.
(Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by