India's Agricultural Sector in 2020 - from record grain production to Farmers' protests
The Indian agricultural sector has achieved record production of food grains and registered positive growth despite the coronavirus pandemic, but mass protests by farmers on the borders of the national capital against new agricultural laws overshadowed its remarkable performance last year.
Despite the cold weather and fears of a pandemic, protests by thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab and Haryana, began at the end of November and continue, even though the government and about 40 farmers' unions have already held six rounds of official discussions.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who is negotiating with the unions, is still hoping to find a solution, although the government has categorically refused to repeal the agriculture bills. Tomar said he expects new solutions to overcome the crisis in the new year. Farmers are equally adamant about the repeal of three agricultural bills.
At the last meeting between the government and the unions, both sides reached a consensus on concerns about the proposed electricity amendment bill and the air pollution ordinance, which penalizes farmers for burning stubble.
The government promised to abolish criminal liability for stubble burning by farmers, and also ensured the continuation of electricity subsidies. But negotiations on controversial issues and two main requirements - the repeal of three news laws adopted in September, and the legal guarantee of the MSP procurement system (minimum support price) - remained fruitless. Now both sides hope for a solution in the next round of negotiations scheduled for January 15.
In the agricultural sector of the country, which accounts for about 15 percent of GDP and employs more than half of the population, good, bad and wrong moments were equally noted this year. Nevertheless, this sector remained the only bright spot in the Indian economy affected by the pandemic. While almost all industries were severely affected, agriculture and related sectors grew by 3.4% in both the first and second quarters of this fiscal year, while the economy contracted by 23.9% and 7.5% respectively over the same period.
The country produced a record harvest of food grain in the amount of 296.65 million tons in the 2019-20 harvest year (July-June), and in the current 2020-2021 the harvest may exceed 300 million tons with a good monsoon, which led to higher sowing of harif and rabi crops. Immediately before the outbreak of the pandemic in the country, the Union Government in February increased the allocation for agriculture and related sector by 30 percent to Rs 1.42 761 crore for this financial budget.
While many farmers, especially those who grow perishable goods, suffered during the first days of quarantine and were forced to dump their crops, rice and wheat producers were able to sell their crops. The government has purchased a record 39 million tons of wheat at the NSR.
In addition, thanks to the good southwest monsoon and relaxed isolation standards, which ensured the timely supply of agricultural resources, farmers sowed kharif crops such as rice on time and harvested. Like wheat, the government has already purchased a record 45 million tons of rice in this marketing season of kharif.
The Government, which had huge buffer stocks of food grains due to the huge production and procurement volumes in the last few years, provided free rations to a whopping 80 crores to the poor from April to November, which was a great relief for people seriously affected by the pandemic.