S&T, agriculture ministries hold the key to exploiting a good monsoon to augment food production

The Punjab government has asked the Centre to include the state in the National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Rice to ensure higher contribution to the Central pool of foodgrains.

With the Congress often seeking to blame the Agriculture Ministry for inflation, the Nationalist Congress Party, headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, on Sunday sought to turn the table demanding "more stringent' measures from the Finance Ministry, headed by P Chidambaram, to control price rise. Expressing deep concern over the soaring prices of essential commodities and unbridled inflationary trends, a resolution adopted by the NCP National Committee here on Sunday appealed to the Government to "have a thorough review of the fiscal management policy'.

The M.S. Swaminathan Commission, appointed by the Central government to study the distressed farm sector in Idukki district, has submitted its report to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, team leader S. Balaravi has said.

The creditable performance of the Indian agricultural sector in three successive seasons ending 2007-08 has taken the output of food crops to 227.3 million tonnes from 208.6 million tonnes in 2005-06. The yield of fine cereals, particularly wheat, has improved dramatically as out of the increase of 18.7 million tonnes in total food output, fine cereals alone account for 11.3 million tonnes

The Centre, as per its announcement in the Union Budget, will relieve debt-ridden farmers from their loans within three weeks by issuing final orders, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said here on Saturday. Pawar, who was here to participate in the golden jubilee celebration of Ahmednagar District Central Co-operative Bank, said the Congress and NCP have decided to jointly contest the forthcoming Parliament and Assembly elections.

Suicides continue in the land of white gold. It has been 8 two months since Finance Minister P. Chidambaram announced a Rs 60,000-crore loan waiver for farmers. It was meant to prevent debt-ridden ryots from committing suicide. But in Vidarbha, where a large number of cotton farmers have committed suicide, the script has not changed.

The issue of reduction in foodgrain allocation to Kerala rocked both the Houses of Parliament. While the Left members staged a walkout in the Rajya Sabha, their counterparts in the Lok Sabha also registered their protest asking the government to raise the allocation to the State.

Giving a rosy picture of things to come that should quell doubts about food security of the country, the agriculture ministry today said the country would have a record all-time production in wheat, rice, oilseeds, pulses, cotton, soya bean and even coarse cereals during 2007-08. The Third Advance Estimates of production of major crops grown in the country, released by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, suggested that food grain production in the current fiscal had touched a record 227.32 MT.

The government on Monday said it was not in a position to undertake any new responsibility by way of another loan waiver scheme for farmers as the priority before it was to implement the Rs. 60,000-crore scheme announced during the budget. Replying to supplementaries during the question hour in the Lok Sabha, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the immediate task was to fulfil the commitment made to small and marginal farmers. "Let us implement the loan waiver scheme first and see the results before initiating any new scheme.'