Nearly half of India is drought affected: Sharad Pawar

Speaking at the sonference of state food and civil supplies ministers, union food minister Sharad Pawar described nearly half of India as drought affected. The conference was called to consider an action plan to tackle the situation.

"Ten states have declared 246 districts as drought-affected. This comes to about 46-47 per cent of the total districts in the country," Pawar said.
As part of the action plan, the government is considering increasing the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy to Rs1,000 per quintal. The current rate for paddy is Rs850. Similarly, the MSP for arhar (tur) pulse may be increased from existing Rs2,000 to Rs2,300, and that of moong pulse from Rs2,520 to Rs2,760.

Paddy crops have been severely affected by low rainfalls. "The shortfall in monsoon may result in shortfall in area coverage of paddy by about 5.7 million hectares as compared to last year and production of rice may reduce by 10 million tonnes. Some shortfall in production of oilseeds and sugar cane is also expected," Pawar said.

A higher support price would motivate farmers to increase investments in crops.

Pawar also indicated that the centre was ready to release reserve wheat and rice to open markets in case prices increased. The same could be done with sugar supplies to ration shops.

According to him, the centre will provide food grains to states for families above poverty line at the minimum support price. The allocation for these families for all the states has been hiked from 11 million tonnes last year to more than 17 million tonnes this year.