New Delhi, Oct 19 (PTI)
Faced with labour shortage after the rural employment guarantee scheme, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today announced that the government plans to launch a mega programme in the 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17) for mechanisation of the farming sector.
He expressed the confidence that the country’s foodgrains production in the 2011-12 crop year would surpass the previous year’s record of 241.56 million tonnes and said four per cent targeted growth in the farm sector will be achieved.
Addressing the Economic Editors’ Conference, Pawar said, “With successful implementation of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) and other anti- poverty programmes of the government, there is now pressure on availability of farm labour.
“While we are attempting to innovatively utilise MGNREGA for augmenting activities that directly add to farm productivity, for compensating scarcity of labour, I am proposing a large programme for agricultural mechanisation during the 12th Plan,” he said.
Pawar said there is “nothing wrong” if rural population was getting better wages under the MGNREGA, but underlined that the farm sector would have to find some alternative to deal with the labour problem.
“Whenever I go to any state and discuss with Chief Ministers, one general complaint I keep hearing about is non- availability of labour, particularly, at the time of sowing and harvesting. “So, in that period, we have to see there is availability of labour and if it is not there…We have to find some alternative mechanism,” he said.
Citing the example of farming of sugarcane wherein a large number of labourers are required at the time of harvesting, Pawar said many states had requested for introduction of sugarcane harvester.
On production outlook for 2011-12 crop year (July-June), Pawar said the monsoon had been very encouraging this year and the country is estimated to have produced a record production in the kharif season.
“We hope to see a substantial expansion in crop area and to achieving record production in the coming Rabi season, too. We are confident that we will be able to surpass our own production record set last year,” he said. Pawar noted that the government’s strategies to rejuvenate the agriculture sector “have been working well and will now be able to achieve targeted four per cent growth”.
He said the agriculture sector posted a 6.6 per cent growth rate during the last fiscal and an average 3.2 per cent in the current plan so far. The minister, however, said that the country needs to produce more to meet the rising domestic demand and this could be achieved through raising the yield from existing area.