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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Government Committed to Provide Food Security to the People

The Government is committed to provide food security to the people. With the introduction of the historic legislation, “The National Food Security Bill” in the Lok Sabha, the nation has redeemed its pledge made to the people of this country. Delivering the key note address at the Food and Agri Business Conclave here today, this was stated by Prof. K.V. Thomas, Minister of Consumer Affairs, and Food & Public Distribution. He said that the proposed Bill, endowing a legal right up to 75 per cent of rural population and 50 per cent of urban population, provides for mandatory supply of foodgrains at subsidized rates. Every person belonging to ‘priority` household shall be entitled to receive seven kilogram of foodgrains per month and every ‘general` category person shall be entitled to not less than three kilograms of grains. The Bill provides for supply of rice at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kilogram and coarse cereals at Re. 1 per kg to ‘priority` households. Prof Thomas added that Finance Minister, in his Budget Speech had assured that “from 2012-13, subsidies related to food and for administering the Food Security Act will be fully provided for.”
Advocating for more measures to give the necessary boost for increase in agricultural production, the Food Minister said that an agricultural revolution, an ever-green one, can only be an all-encompassing one. India is a very big country. Our Eastern part, comprising States like Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha are home to a vast majority of the poor, and, therefore, needs to get attention of our policies and programmes. Our recent initiative of bringing green revolution to the Eastern part of India has been a successful one with an excellent output of paddy production in 2011. The budget 2012-13 has sought to increase the allocation for this scheme from the last year’s Rs.400 crore to Rs.1,000 crore this year. Another project called “Pulses Villages Project” that aimed at raising pulses production will continue this year too as it had succeeded in high yield of pulses. In addition, the budget has provided for additional allocation to irrigation and agricultural research, he added.
Prof. Thomas said that there is need for the youth getting into the business of agriculture. When young and educated youth come forward to become agriculturists, this will definitely result in a sea-change on how agriculture is viewed any more. He said that agriculture must become a coveted profession of the educated lot We need to disseminate best farm technology practices and governance assistance available for the small farmers through media as in the end, it is the involvement and enthusiasm of the people at the grass root level that counts.
The minister said that to meet a long standing demand of farming community and of the agri-business sector, as part of broader agri-reforms, the Government has enacted the Warehousing Development and Regulation Act. The Act makes warehouse receipts negotiable and thereby empowers farmers to hedge their produce against market volatility and depressed prices during harvesting time by keeping their produce in warehouses registered under the Act and obtain a Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (NWR). The NWR can also be used to raise credit from banks at favorable terms. A Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) has been set up under the Act to register warehouses and facilitate issue of NWRs. A large number of warehouses in both public and private sectors have got themselves registered under the Warehousing Development & Regulatory Act.
Highlighting the initiatives taken by his ministry to create more storage, the Food Minister said that to tackle the situation arising out of sudden spurt in procurement levels which was a result of increase in MSP during last three years, Government formulated a scheme for Construction of Godowns through private entrepreneurs under PPP mode in 2008. A capacity of about 150 lakh tonnes is being created under the scheme through private entrepreneurs and Central and State Warehousing Corporations, out of which 2 million tonnes will be in the form of modern silos. The PEG scheme is one of the most successful examples of Public-Private Partnership wherein such a huge infrastructure is being created by the Private Sector for government use in the form of storage facilities. The country will have an additional storage capacity of 8 million tonnes by March 2013, of which, 3 million tonnes will be ready for utilization by March this year. The minister said that the Government would expect banking institutions to come forward to extend credit facilities to entrepreneurs who may wish to create the storage infrastructure at places where they are not available but where they are needed the most.
Emphasizing need for second white revolution Prof. Thomas said that India scripted history fourteen years back by achieving the number one position in global milk production. But the momentum of milk production has slowed over the last decade with growth stagnating at about 5 percent per annum; which are signs that India may become a net importer of milk in years to come. He said that shortage of milk, dairy products and eggs is a principal contributor to food inflation. Hence it is crucial that dairying framework undergoes a paradigm shift of from being a “subsidiary” occupation to “mainstream” activity. This would mean high-tech dairying, better mechanization and automation of dairy farms and increased corporate participation in the production sector, he stressed.
Source : PIB Release, March 21, 2012

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