Source: The Hitavada      Date: 10 Nov 2017 11:15:00

BY DOUBLING the import duty on wheat from ten to 20 pc, the Central Government has taken a timely, preemptive action in the interest of the country’s wheat growers. Since the farmers are in the process of preparing for Rabi sowing of wheat crop the announcement of doubling of import duty on wheat comes as an assurance to them that they would get assured minimum support price. Besides they will also feel assured that there will be no flooding of imported wheat leading to crashing down of prices in domestic market. The Government obviously has learnt a lesson from last year’s experience about pulses when prices of pulses had crashed even below the minimum support price (MSP) it had announced as there was a bumper crop and also as a result of imports being allowed from countries like Canada. With pulses prices still ruling on the lower side, the farmers have switched over to other crops this year. Hence such timely decision by the Government to put curbs on import of farm produce to protect domestic farmers is welcome. 

Monsoon has been erratic this year in several parts of the country, especially in some regions of Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra and some parts of Uttar Pradesh, which is going to affect crop yields considerably. As result of erratic and scanty rains not only Kharif but Rabi crop too is going to be hit substantially. This is bound to affect rural economy as rural incomes and employment heavily depend on agricultural activities. A bad monsoon deals a crippling blow to the rural economy. This year, therefore, would be a very testing one for farmers in some parts of the country and for the Government as well. For it is not just the rural economy that would bear the brunt of the unsatisfactory monsoon, it will also affect the larger national economy as well as agriculture contributes a big share to the growth of national GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Thus like the curbs on import of agriculture products, the Government will be required to respond to the needs of the rural population in general and the agriculture sector in particular this year. While welfare measures like the MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and direct benefit transfer to accounts of rural people and farmers will provide some relief and assured employment for some days in the year, that will not be enough to address rural distress.

It has been proved time and again that monsoon has become quite unpredictable in recent decades, putting the agriculture economy always on the tenterhooks, drastically affecting farm production and productivity. With tale-tell signs of global warming, there is a discernible change in the monsoon cycle which is having great impact on agricultural operations throughout the year. The Government and agriculture experts have to find an answer to this wayward behaviour of monsoon to protect the interest of the farmers, on the one hand, and ensure food security to the entire nation, on the other, as the nation’s food security is so heavily dependent on the welfare of the farmer.

The Maharashtra Government has undertaken an ambitious ‘Jalyukta shivar’ programme for storing rain water and thereby recharging groundwater. Success stories abound under the mission and need to be studied for replication nationwide. Measures and methods for conservation of rain water should be innovated countrywide for storing every drop of rain water. Water management should assume greater importance and impetus for not only for sustaining agriculture but also for various purposes like drinking, industrial use, power generation etc. It is important that various occupational options are made available to the rural population locally to reduce distress in case of crop failure.