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Second COVID-19 wave not to impact India's agri sector in any way: Niti Aayog
Niti Aayog Member (Agriculture) Ramesh Chand on Sunday said the second COVID-19 wave will not impact the Indian agriculture sector in any way as rural areas saw the spread of infections in May when agriculture activities remained at a bare minimum.
In an interview with PTI, Chand said that India's policies on subsidy, price, and technology have remained too much in favor of rice, wheat, and sugarcane, and there is a need to make the procurement and minimum support price policy favorable to pulses.
''COVID-19 cases started spreading in the rural areas in May, with the beginning of May, and agriculture activity in May is bare minimal particularly land-based activities,'' he added. ''...it (May) is a peak summer month and no crop is sown, no crop is harvested except little bit vegetables and some off-season crops,'' Chand further explained.
Agriculture activity, Chand said, peaks in March or till the middle of April, after that it comes down significantly and again peaks with the arrival of monsoon.
''So even if less availability of labor is there in May till mid-June, I don't think that will impact agriculture in any way,'' Chand said.
On being asked why India is not self-sufficient in pulses production, he said there is a need to increase pulses area under irrigation and that will make a lot of difference in production and stability in prices.
He added that ''in India, our subsidy policy, our price policy, technology policy, have remained too much in favor of rice and wheat and sugarcane. So I strongly believe that along with the technological breakthrough, we need to make our procurement, our MSP favorable for pulses''.
To a question on farm sector growth, Chand said the agriculture sector will grow more than 3 percent in 2021-22.
The farm sector grew by 3.6 percent in the last fiscal. India's economy contracted by less-than-expected 7.3 percent in the fiscal year ended March 2021 after the growth rate picked up in the fourth quarter, just before the world's worst outbreak of coronavirus infections hit the country.
India is currently at the center of the global COVID-19 pandemic and from a daily case count of over 4 lakh, the number of new COVID-19 cases is rapidly dropping.
India reported 1,14,460 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 60 days, while the daily positivity rate further dropped to 5.62 percent, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday.