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Key changes to back more crops likely

Key changes to back more crops likely
NEW DELHI: In a big shift in the food security policy, the government is set to include crops other than wheat and rice that are now more in demand due to higher incomes and changing nutritional requirements. This will mean greater production of crops such as pulses, subsidy for fertilisers for other crops and incentivising farmers to diversify the crop basket.

The Niti Aayog could drive the change in food security policies, in line with the government’s longterm vision for the sector, a senior government official told ET.

“We need to look at the food security policy in a more robust manner as the vision of doubling farmers’ income is not possible unless we address the long-term challenges to the sector,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to the official, the biggest challenge in the agriculture sector is how to improve food and nutrition security in a way that caters to the changing requirements and preferences of the people. “We have distorted the market by protecting wheat and rice over the last several years.

However, now Indians are no longer interested in consuming just wheat and rice and instead looking out for a more nutritional diet, including pulses. This would require changes in existing policies, which have so far focused on subsidising just wheat and rice, so as to be able to increase the production of other crops, besides incentivising farmers to diversify into other crop production,” the official added.

The National Food Security Act has been implemented in all states and Union Territories, entitling 81.34 crore people to get wheat at Rs 2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg. India’s produced 104.3 million tonnes of rice and 93.5 million tonnes of wheat in the year ended March 2016, according to agriculture ministry’s estimates in August.

Production of pulses was estimated at 16.5 million tonnes. Niti Aayog, the government’s think-tank, is preparing a 15-year vision document that would replace the five-year plans of the erstwhile Planning Commission. The first draft of the vision document, which will kick in from the next financial year when the 12th five-year plan ends in March 2017, is expected to be out shortly.

“Agriculture policies and practices needs to be changed to ensure sustainable use of natural resources, addressing the issue of climate change and aligning our policy objectives to the promotion, growth and welfare of farmers,” the official said.

Besides the 15-year vision document that would outline the approach towards defence and internal security for the first time, Niti Aayog would also come out with a seven-year strategy paper to guide the government’s development work till 2030 and a three-year action plan for better monitoring.






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