Lockdown has not affected backbone of Indian economy, says Agriculture Minister; 60 pc of India’s economy is closed, but things in agricultural sector are moving.
Presenting a very positive outlook for the sector, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, today, said despite the lockdown in the country, the sowing of summer crops had increased to 57.07 lakh hectare, which is more than 38 per cent over the area sown last year.
“Even in such trying circumstances and conditions, sowing has not decreased. In other related activities, the sector is making good progress due to the good practices adopted by the government and hard work by farmers,” Tomar said while speaking on issues related to harvesting and sowing in the country amid the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Minister said despite the lockdown and adverse conditions, harvesting had also not been affected. “In GDP, the contribution of agriculture remains 3.7 per cent, and I am sure it will not be affected much in the coming days as well,” he added.
Echoing the sentiments, Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand said agriculture might, in fact, come to the rescue of the economy in these gloomy times. “Even at a time when 60 per cent of India’s economy is closed, in the case of agriculture, things are happening. Our estimate is that the sector will see a growth rate of 3 per cent despite all prevailing adverse circumstances. The share of agriculture sector in the economy is 17 per cent. I am sure that during these distressing times, agriculture will rise and give support to the economy,” he added.
Notably, the contribution of agriculture to the GVA decreased from 18.2 per cent in 2014-15 to 16.5 per cent in 2019-20. The decline was mainly due to a decrease in share of GVA of crops from 11.2 per cent in 2014-15 to 10 per cent in 2017-18, according to the economic survey. The share has been declining on account of relatively higher growth performance of non-agricultural sectors.
However, according to Chand, prices of major commodities and vegetables were higher in mandis this year than last year. “When prices are favourable and terms of trade are better, farmers invest more. As much as 60 per cent of India’s economy is closed, but in the case of agriculture, things are moving. It will register a 0.5 per cent growth rate and the fear that the Indian economy will shrink will be negated,” said Chand.
According to the Niti Ayog member, the positive outlook is based on two factors, a good monsoon and water availability of 40 to 60 percent higher levels in reservoirs over last year and average of last 10 years. “There will be plenty of water available for sowing,” he said.
According to Tomar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains committed to doubling the income of farmers by 2022. “The agriculture sector has remained unaffected due to the Covid-19 lockdown, but there have been other problems. As soon as the situation improves, we will start working towards the goal,” he said.
Tomar said his confidence was based on the fact that despite the lockdown, off take of fertilisers had increased by five per cent. The sale of fertilisers in April is expected to be eight per cent higher than last year, he said.
Regarding the damage to the crops due to recent weather conditions, the minister said there were provisions available between the states and the Centre to tackle the issue.
Recounting the measures taken by the government to aid the sector, like the PM Kisan and increasing coverage of the KCC, he said the Modi government increased the MSP of various crops by 50 to 109.
“These measures are helping farmers, agriculture sector, economy and the GDP of the country. Despite the lockdown, the harvesting is in place and what is remaining will be over in the next one week. Everywhere there is good news in the sector. Procurement is in place and people are not facing any problem anywhere,” Tomar said, recounting the steps taken to ensure smooth functioning including transportation trucks.
“Agriculture has an important place in the Indian economy and the government is also supporting it well. This is one reason why we produce more than we consume. If our agriculture gets affected, the economy will also be affected. Our systems are in place even in these difficult times. Agriculture has always been the priority of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Today, what we are seeing is a result of that. There is enough grain, vegetables and milk in the country. The prices have also not increased. The government has always ensured that there is money for agriculture related activities,” he added.