"It's a challenging job to increase production of foodgrains and other crops for the growing population of the country, especially, because agriculture is still dependent on monsoon in large parts of the country," he said, addressing a gathering of farmers, who arrived here as part of a nationwide tour from Banaskantha in Gujarat.
The Prime Minister's comments come a day after the landmark Food Security Bill, aimed at giving a legal right on subsidised foodgrains to 67 per cent of population, got the President's nod. Singh said, "Farmers are facing problems like availability of land, water and labour due to the increased demand in other fields of the economy".
Listing out the measures taken by the Centre to improve the condition of farmers, he said there has been "continuous growth" in production of foodgrains, fruits and vegetables in last five years due to the efforts of the UPA government. Hailing the farmers for achieving record increase in production and export despite tough conditions, he said, "Our Parliament has given its nod for the Food Security Bill recently" on the basis of their hard work and commitment.
He said government's efforts have been to ensure that farmers get electricity, loan, water and fertilisers more easily while the purchase price (maximum support price) of various produces in the last five to six years has "almost doubled".
"I am fully confident that if required facilities are provided to our farmer brothers and sisters, we can face any other country as far as agriculture development is concerned. We have fixed a target of achieving four per cent agriculture growth in the 12th five year plan. The primary responsibility for it lies with state governments, but we will keep providing full assistance to them," Singh said.
Singh said the government will focus on diversification of agriculture and take efforts for developing agriculture as per agro-ecological regions. "We are firmly resolved to provide our farmers the benefits of good techniques and other facilities," he said. The Prime Minister also referred to the passage of Land Acquisition Bill in Monsoon Session of Parliament as "a very big step forward for the benefit of farmers".
He said the government began paying special attention to agriculture since the 11th five year plan and has launched a number of new programmes to increase production and productivity. He highlighted that a record production of 259 million tonne of foodgrains was achieved in 2011-12 with that of rice and wheat also touching a record level.
The Prime Minister said that despite drought scenario in some parts of the country, the foodgrain production in 2012-13 is expected to be 255 million tonnes while the production of pulses, which was stagnant at one level for last few years, has also increased. "We have increased production of foodgrains under the National Food Security Mission. Efforts are on to increase the production of fruits and vegetables under National Horticulture Mission. Government investment is being promoted in agriculture and related fields under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. A new scheme has been launched to bring about green revolution in Eastern India. Facilities for loan (to farmers) have been bettered," the Prime Minister said.
Speaking on the occasion, Congress MP Alka Balram Khsatriya said the passage of Food Security Bill and Land Acquisition Bill will help the farmers and drew the Prime Minister's attention towards some of the problems faced by farmers in Banaskantha. Singh assured them that that the central government will look into them.