1. Agriculture World

Niti Aayog: Indian Agri Sector will be not be Affected by Second Wave of COVID-19

Chintu Das
Chintu Das
NITI Aayog

Agriculture activities are at the peak in March or until the middle of Apriland then drops dramatically before peaking again with the coming of monsoon, according to Niti Aayog Member Ramesh Chand. 

Chand in an interview said that India's policies on subsidy, pricing, and technology have favored rice, wheat, and sugarcane too much, and that the procurement and minimum support price policies should favor pulses. 

“In the month of May, COVID-19 instances began to spread in rural areas at the beginning of the month, and agriculture activity in the month of May is bare minimum, particularly land-based activities,” he noted. "May is the height of summer, and no crops are planted or harvested save for a few vegetables and certain off-season crops," Chand continued. 

Agri activity, according to Chand, peaks in the month of March or until the middle of April, then drops dramatically before peaking again with the advent of the monsoon. “So even if there is fewer labor availability in the month of May till mid-June, I don't think it will have any influence on agriculture,” Chand added. 

He noted that the labor force is migrating to rural regions because to a rise in COVID-19 instances in urban regions, and that these workers are willing to work in agriculture for a living. 

“You look at agriculture market data from the output side. “Everywhere, the agricultural market is just running normally,” he claimed. Agriculture, which is a major source of income for rural people, remains unaffected, according to the Niti Aayog member. “So that significant part of rural income is intact, and rural demand on that count will not be affected,” he predicted. 

Only in the case of some services not working in rural areas, according to Chand, is there a problem. “I believe the government should maintain its focus on MGNREGA,” Chand advised. However, the Niti Aayog member agreed that remittances from metropolitan areas to rural regions, which have aided rural demand, will decrease.

When questioned why India is not self-sufficient in pulses production, he responded that increasing the area under irrigation for pulses will make a significant impact in production and price stability. 

“In India, our subsidy policy, price policy, and technology policy have remained excessively in favor of rice, wheat, and sugarcane,” he continued. So, along with the technological advance, I am convinced that we must make our procurement, our MSP, more favorable for pulses.” 

Pulses, unlike edible oil, which may be imported in large amounts from outside the country, are only available in modest quantities on international markets, according to Chand.

When asked if the government was considering lowering the import duty on edible oils, he stated the main cause for the rise in edible oil costs is the rise in worldwide rates, not India's poor supply. 

“I believe that if prices of edible oils do not stabilize, the government has a lot of leeway, and that leeway is that the import tariff rate should be reduced,” Chand added. 

The member of the Niti Aayog pointed out that when the price of a commodity rises, the government lowers import duty, and when the price falls, the government raises import duty. 

The government has included a large surcharge in this year's budget, raising the duty on oilseeds to an extremely high level, he said, adding that many people just consider import duty and ignore effective duty. 

“However, you will find that the import duty on edible oils is modest; in some situations, it is 10%, and in others, it is 15%. However, there is a 15% surcharge that increased the effective duty, which I believe is excessive given the current circumstances,” Chand remarked.

Retail costs of edible oils have climbed by more than 60% in over a year, according to official data, adding to the difficulties of customers who are already suffering from the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. Imports account for 60% of India's edible oil requirement. 

In response to a query about farm sector growth, Chand predicted that the sector will increase by more than 3% in 2021-22. In the previous fiscal year, the agricultural sector rose at a rate of 3.6 percent. After picking up in the fourth quarter, just before the world's largest outbreak of coronavirus infections hit the country, India's economy shrunk by less-than-expected 7.3 percent in the fiscal year ending March 2021.  

The global COVID-19 pandemic is currently centered at India, and the number of new COVID-19 cases is fast declining from a daily case count of over 4 million. According to data published on Sunday by the Union Health Ministry, India reported 1,14,460 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 60 days, with the daily positive rate dropping to 5.62 percent. 

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