Revised farm growth does not impress experts

May 30th, 2008 - 7:27 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram
By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, May 30 (IANS) India’s farm growth of 4.5 percent in 2007-08 against 3.8 percent in the previous fiscal has not impressed experts, who claimed that the benefits of growth did not percolate down to farmers. “The growth has nothing to do with the well-being of farmers. There has been no change in their status in the past few years,” said P. Chengal Reddy, secretary general, Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA).

“One cannot question the authenticity of government data. But where is the feel good factor for farmers? The government should find out why farmers are in a bad shape when agriculture growth is showing an upward trend,” Reddy told IANS.

Releasing the fresh data Friday, the government said the upward revision in the economic growth rate was due to the changes in the estimated production of farm crops.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who during a press conference here termed the growth rate of nine percent as “a matter of satisfaction”, said that growth in agriculture was good for the country.

As per the revised estimates of national income for the previous fiscal released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the GDP growth was nine percent against 8.7 percent reported earlier.

While the agriculture sector logged a 4.5 percent growth, it was 8.8 percent for manufacturing, 12 percent for hospitality and communications, and 11.8 percent for financial services.

“This growth rate in agriculture comes as a big surprise,” said Devinder Sharma, an agro-policy expert and the chairperson of the New Delhi-based think tank, the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security.

“Only about two months back, the government’s estimated projection for foodgrain was 218 million tonnes, which has now been revised at 227 million tonnes. What is the basis of such projections?” he queried.

He said this was all the more surprising when actual post-harvest estimates were still awaited - a view shared by Sharad Joshi, member of the government’s expert committee on futures trade.

“Such a jump in agricultural growth is surprising. The figures about 4.5 percent growth rate need a close verification,” Joshi, also a member of the Rajaya Sabha, the upper house, told IANS.

The share of agriculture in India’s GDP has been steadily decelerating from 36.4 percent in 1982-83 to 18.5 percent in 2006-07. It grew at 1.2 percent between 1990-2007 against annual growth of population of 1.9 percent.

Officials in the ministry of agriculture, however, disagreed with experts view and said they were intended at giving a negative perception on a vital sector for the Indian economy.

“Availability of good seeds and fertilisers and increasing irrigation facilities along with better credit policy for farmers are driving a higher growth pace in agriculture,” said a senior official of the agriculture ministry.

“It will further go up as the country is expecting better monsoon this time,” the official said, adding there was already a record procurement of wheat of 20.71 million tonnes as on May 22.

The previous record of wheat procurement was of 20.63 million tonne in 2001-02.

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