Cereal crops: India
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Cereal yield, 1961-2013
See graphic for 1961-2013
Cereal yield (kg per hectare), 1961- 2017
Famines occurred frequently in British India as farm yields were low. Before the Green Revolution in the 1960s, the country averaged less than a ton of cereal per hectare. The introduction of high-yielding varieties of crops and pesticides helped reduce food imports, which were draining India’s small foreign reserve. Sixty years on, the average cereal yield has grown to more than 3 tonnes per hectare
2016: record production in India, globally
But Famine, Hunger Stalk Millions
Humanity harvested the largest ever cereal crop in its history in 2016-17 -a staggering 2.6 billion metric tonnes, according to the estimates of the UN-affiliated Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The year is ending with the largest ever global stock of foodgrains in history, some 682 million tonnes.
India too is heading for a record cereal crop as the previous year's final wheat is harvested and counted in. As reported by TOI earlier, the second advance estimate of the government put cereal production for 2016-17 at nearly 250 million tonnes, crossing the record of about 246 million tonnes set in 2013-14.
While the world celebrates this plentiful harvest, over 20 million people are facing starvation in Africa and Yemen in the worst drought in 60 years. Globally, some 795 million people go to bed hungry every day , according to the World Food Programme. This includes about 15% of India's population, some 20 million people.
The global output was fuelled by increased wheat output in North America -by more than 10 million tonnes year on year -and increases in the Russian Federation and India.
All these offset the European Union decline by 16.5 million tonnes caused by bad weather. Rice output increased in China, India, and Southeast Asia. Coarse cereal production jumped by 22.7 million tonnes, led by US, EU, India and Ukraine, offsetting El Nino-caused declines in Brazil and policy-driven dip in China.
FAO is now forecasting a slight dip in world cereal production in 2017, mainly due to a fall in wheat output in Australia, Canada and the US after farmers planted less seeing lower prices. Coarse grains and rice production is forecast to continue rising in 2017. All this is subject to climatic conditions. This plentiful production has naturally caused prices to fall, especially in the past one year. US wheat is down 4.2%, Thailand rice by 2% and US rice by 12.7%. Maize, the main coarse grain, is down 0.4%.
But there is something wrong somewhere in this happy story because, shock ingly , over 20 million people in Africa and Yemen are facing starvation, or at least high risk, due to what Stephen O'Brien described as the largest crisis since World War II in 1945.
According to aid agencies and the UN, the food crisis in East Africa and Northern Nigeria is mostly because of continued war and consequent disruption of economy and connectivity .