Four-mn tonne shortfall in food grains production likely

New Delhi: Food grains production in just-concluded fiscal (2014-15) is likely to be 257 million tonnes against the target of 261 million tonnes, resulting in a shortfall of four million tonnes, according to the agriculture ministry's second advanced estimates released here on Tuesday.

The country's food grains production was 266 million tonnes in fiscal 2013-14.

The Indian agriculture season is from July 1 to June 30 in the next year.

"Though rainfall deficit was 12 percent in the monsoon period last year (June-September 2014), overall production decline was not much, as decrease in the sowing area was only two percent," Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said at a national conference on agriculture for kharif campaign here.

To provide relief to thousands of farmers affected by recent unseasonal rains in some state across the country, the central government is considering more norms for the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).

"We are considering to increase norms for the NDRF to compensate farmers affected by unseasonal rains," Singh said.

Earlier in the day, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in Mumbai that the contraction in food gains production in 2014-15 may turn out to be less than earlier anticipated.

"The adverse impact of unseasonal rains and hailstorms in March is still unfolding. Initial estimates indicate that 17 percent of the sown area under the rabi crop may have been affected though the precise extent of the damage remains to be determined," the central bank said in its first bi-monthly monetary policy statement.

At the same time, Singh urged the concerned state governments to first compensate the affected farmers from their respective State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

"State governments are authorised to notify disaster and expenditure for relief can be met from their response fund (SDRF) up to 10 percent of it (fund)," Singh said.

The minister also advised the concerned states to send a report on the area affected by the unseasonal rain to his ministry for assessment.

Unseasonal rains and hailstorms have affected Bihar, Gujarat Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The day-long conference was organised at the National Agriculture Science Centre in the capital to review rabi crop production and assess preparedness of states for ensuing kharif crop.

Kharif season starts in June with sowing when monsoon begins and its crop is harvested in November, while the rabi season begins with sowing in November and the crop, especially wheat, is harvested in April-May.

In a related development, the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution decided to relax quality norms for wheat procurement.

"We have asked Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to test samples of wheat jointly with FCI (Food Corporation of India) on arrival to relaxing quality norms for procurement," the ministry said in a statement.

Quality norms for wheat procurement have been relaxed up to 10 percent in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh for the rabi season, as the shrunk and broken grain had lost shine.

As per Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 relaxation in norms is allowed in the case of broken and shrunk grains and if grains lost shine.

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