Amid rising global food prices, PM asks states to step up farm output

NEW DELHI: Amid heightened geopolitical tension and elevated food prices globally, PM Narendra Modi on Sunday urged states at the Niti Aayog governing council meeting to step up domestic production by accelerating the process for modernisation of agriculture, animal husbandry and food processing to help India become self-sufficient and a global leader in the farm sector.
The PM sought to impress upon states to focus on reducing imports, increasing exports and identifying opportunities for shipping goods out of India. “We should encourage people to use local goods,” he said.
Meet focussed on crop diversification: Niti
New Delhi: Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020 and heightened tensions with China, the government has sought to push domestic manufacturing, a theme that has become a key element of the farm policy too given the recent supply shocks for wheat, sunflower oil seeds and palm oil in the wake of the war in Ukraine and restrictions imposed by Indonesia, which sent global prices soaring.
Edible oil imports, larging comprising palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, is one of the largest items in India’s import basket. Besides, the country also depends on overseas suppliers for several pulses such as arhar and masur. Prime Minister Narendra Modi estimated the import of edible oil at about Rs 1 lakh crore annually, with Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand adding that nearly half of India’s requirement for the cooking medium was met from foreign supplies.
After the meeting, the Niti brass told reporters that there was extensive discussion on crop diversification, particularly to increase production of oilseeds and pulses.
Chand said states shared their experience on crop diversification, including issues such as groundwater problems in Punjab and Haryana. “Some states made suggestions that if they are helped in a particular way they can go for diversification in a much faster manner. Overall, states are quite cooperative and are working in these directions,” he said.
The agriculture economist added that two sought more attractive minimum support price for pulses and oilseeds to wean away farmers from paddy and wheat, the mainstay of India’s procurement programme.
At the meeting, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot spoke about how they can take up mustard cultivation in a big way in 13 districts if they have better irrigation. North-eastern states also spoke about the steps they are taking to increase palm oil cultivation.
Apart from crop diversification, the New Education Policy, response to urbanisation and India’s presidency of G-20 in 2023 were on the agenda for the seventh meeting of the governing council.
In his address, Modi also urged the states to look at rapid urbanisation as India’s strength instead of weakness by leveraging technology to ensure ease of living, transparent service delivery, and improvement in the quality of life for every citizen. Niti officials told reporters that all states fully endorsed the need to focus on these two areas, which are crucial for the country’s growth.
The government thinktank’s vice-chairman, Suman Bery, said the PM spoke about how collective effort and cooperative federalism helped India emerge from the pandemic as a role model for the world, and also about the year ahead and expectations from states. “Every state played a crucial role according to its strength and contributed to India’s fight against Covid. This led to India emerging as an example for the developing nations to look up to as a global leader,” the PM was quoted as saying in a statement.
The PM pointed to the recent rise in GST collections, while adding that there was scope to bolster it further. “Increasing GST collection requires collective action by the Centre and states. It is crucial for strengthening our economic position and becoming a $5 trillion economy,” he said.

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