Context- Policies designed for an India on the edge of starvation don’t fit the India of today.
What is the history of supply and demand of wheat crop in India?
The genesis of the current state of affairs stems from policies initiated over half a century ago-
- Starvation period– It dates from the 1960s, when India that did not grow enough to feed itself and had to rely upon imports under PL-480 as aid from the US.
- New PDS and government policy-Then, Indian policymakers shifted to setting a minimum support price.
- Wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in food grain production.
- The system guarantees farmers a set price for their output, while their inputs – water, power, fertilizer, seeds – are free or subsidized.
- Wheat is then stored in the warehouses of the state-controlled Food Corporation of India and distributed at a subsidized price to the population.
- Policy result was a resounding success for the production and procurement of rice and wheat, which was the focus of the PDS and government policy
- However, India produces too much grain, which is now rotting in government granaries.
- In today’s time, the subsidies for rice and wheat caused too few farmers to plant vegetables, which are subject to major price fluctuations.
How crop rotations can be beneficial for farmers and the challenges associated with that?
Rice wheat cycle- In Punjab and Haryana region
- Rice-wheat rotation by far the most value creating crop cycle.
- Better varieties of rice – superior basmati rice in the kharif season that have
lower yield, lower water and nutrient requirement but are exportable and highly priced, could possibly be better crop options in the region.
- In the Rabi season wherein the only superior alternatives to wheat in the rice-wheat rotation are vegetables and higher qualities of wheat.
- However, the chances of success in wheat are lower.
What are the issues in current procurement policy?
- High incurred cost by the FCI– Cost of procurement and distribution of food grain has increased manifold.
- The quality of grains has been ignored.
- There was no initiative for identifying high-quality wheat strains for increasing their production for local and foreign markets.
What is the way forward?
- Shift production from normal rice to basmati and other exportable varieties and to give a boost to wheat for substituting rice via sooji, rava and noodles.
- A boost for infrastructure to increase the production of vegetables in the wheat belt and its transport for the healthy growth of agriculture.
- The government needs to reduce the institutional costs and move towards a more remunerative cropping pattern.
- And must make transparent efforts to push exports consistently.