The Indian prime minister says the country has sufficient food stocks,
despite a drought in nearly half the country. But there are concerns
the drought will intensify poverty in the countryside.
driest monsoon season in seven years raises the specter of failed
harvests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says bumper food grain
production in the past two years will help India overcome any shortfall
in food production this year.
Mr. Singh was addressing a conference of state leaders Wednesday.
had record production and procurement of food grains in both 2007-2008
and 2008-2009," he said. "We thus have adequate food stocks, and there
is no cause of concern or fear of shortages of food grains in the
country as a whole."
The government has sufficient stockpiles of
staples such as wheat and rice. The government has also said it will
step up imports of items such as edible oils and lentils if needed.
But officials say India will not publicly announce its plans to import
food because this tends to drive up world market prices.
the country may be able to stave off shortages, food prices are
surging, hitting poor people especially hard. The drought is also
expected to reduce incomes of farmers, many of whom have not been able
to sow crops due to lack of rains in the monsoon season. Nearly 700
million people depend on agriculture for their livelihood in India.
prime minister is stressing the need for measures to help farmers. He
has called on all states to quickly implement a rural job scheme that
provides poor families with 100 days of work a year. He says this will
act as a "safety net" for farmers whose crops have failed.
"We have to redouble our efforts to mitigate rural distress rising from the after effects of drought," he said.
rains usually come from June to September, and are critical because
more than half the country's farmland is not irrigated. This year a
long dry spell lasted until August, but rain began to fall this month
raising hopes that farmers will be able to plant winter crops such as
wheat. India is among the world's leading producers of crops such as
wheat, rice and sugar.