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FM stresses urgent need for reliable farm output estimates


Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday made a strong pitch for generating real-time assessments of likely yields for all essential crops, starting with pulses and oilseeds that India often needs to import, stressing that the “country suffers for want of” such reliable farm output estimates. 

“We can estimate the extent of land which is getting covered under wheat, but do we know what will be the output? Do we have a real time assessment estimate of the crop?” Ms. Sitharaman noted in the context of a new automated real-time yield estimation system called Yes-Tech put in place from this kharif season for the wheat and rice crop. 

The system, created with assistance from ISRO and ICAR, must be ramped up to cover other crops as soon as possible, particularly pulses and oils, she said. “That would help the economy much better so that we can plan our imports if we still need, ensure that the farmer doesn’t suffer because of our policy to import or export. I want it to help in policymaking, to know how much will we have to give for the farmer’s toil in terms of minimum support price or in terms of procurement or how much quantity we need for buffer,” the minister emphasised. 

“This country has been importing pulses and we scramble sometimes when the shortages come before us late in the day. If only we have a real time assessment of what is the extent getting sowed, even at that time and estimate of likely output, we will be much better placed to plan in advance that if there’s going to be a shortfall, we know where to get” pulses from, she said, noting that different countries such as Canada, Myanmar and African nations needed to be tapped for different varieties of pulses. 

“We are one of the largest importers of edible oil, we need to become self-sufficient,” she said, adding that relying on imports every year was not ideal as farmers needed to get a clear indication when they sowed their crop. 

“We cannot bring [down] the price of the farmer for his produce in the last minute, after he sows his crop and is about to harvest, just because at that time we get an assessment of a shortfall and we need to get it imported. The moment the word ‘import’ comes in, the first thing which happens is the price that the farmer has to sell his produce crashes,” Ms. Sitharaman explained, saying real-time estimates would help avoid such an “unpleasant inevitability”. 

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