"Doubling food production like making necklace"

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 04, 2013 11:45 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 4 (IBNS) Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj said doubling food production is like making a necklace and it can be done in less than 5 years.

Speaking at the "Doubling Food Production in Five Years' organized by Crop Care Federation of India [CCFI], the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha said that this is possible and will be done in a shorter time frame, with focus from the entire polity.

"The process is a like a building a necklace, where every point has to be carefully given attention and then threaded in a strong string for the necklace to deliver the desired results," said Swaraj.

She clearly laid out the required agenda for doubling food production in less than five years with explicit examples where it has been more than achieved in National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ruled states over the last 5 years.

"Madhya Pradesh had an agriculture growth rate of 2.50% in 2006-07 and in 2011-12 it has an agriculture growth rate of 18.96%, a nine times increase in growth in five years. Gujarat has an agriculture growth rate of 7.06% today a seven times increase over 1.10% in 06-07," said Swaraj.

"Bihar has increased its rice yield per hectare by 1000kg to 2089 kg per hectare today. Wheat yield in MP has gone up by 800kg per hectare in the same period," she said.

Swaraj laid out an eight point agenda for agriculture reforms to not just meet the target of doubling food production in five years but to make it happen in a shorter time frame.

Details of the agenda:

1. Availability of cultivable land.

a) Saving the existing cultivable land from competing developments; SEZ, while an important part of economic growth should be discouraged from coming up on cultivable and productive land.

b) Increasing the quantity of cultivable land with irrigation and other solutions

c) Increasing yields in the land under cultivation by soil health care. Soil should be treated like the human body, its problems diagnosed and specific solutions (not mass) proposed.

Madhya Pradesh in last 5 years increased cultivable land from 7 lakh hectares to 22 lakh hectares. Gujarat introduced drip irrigation and micro (sprinkler) irrigation in 4,73,000 hectares of land from the earlier 43,000 hectare in a period of 5 years. These are many fold increases.

2. Availability of quality seeds will become a reality with the seed bill in the parliament. Karnataka has created seed and nutrient banks for its farmers to ensure that they get the highest possible yield for their efforts.

3. Fertilizers have to be made available to farmers in required quantity and at the right time as per the requirements of local crop and conditions. In Karnataka the government is ensuring fertilizer availability as per the need of each taluka.

4. Pesticides need to be made available according to local needs in the right dosage and in a timely manner. Here solutions like narrowcasting, introduced under Swaraj's tenure as Information & Broadcasting minister, can play a critical role with agriculture programming specific to the needs of the nearby areas.

5. Fair procurement price has to be provided to farmers for their crops to make agriculture a profitable venture. Minimum support price has to be adjusted to take in to account the increase in input prices. We cannot have situations of crop holiday as in Andhra Pradesh.

Buying agencies should procure in time and in systematic manner with farmer centricity in mind.

6. Storage is woefully short and outdated in the country. Nearly 66 million tonnes worth Rs 90,000 cr of the record 235 million tonne food grain production got destroyed. In addition our storage operates on a last in first out principal leading to the older stock rotting inside.

For fruits we require cold chains; these in turn need infrastructure and power, which is chronically short in our country.

7. New technology usage, R&D needs to be encouraged. Institutions like ICAR are playing a key role.

It was a single man's innovation that brought the apple revolution to Himachal Pradesh. Similarly anaar is being grown in Gujarat, helping raise the average income from Rs 18,000 per acre to Rs 92,000 per acre for the farmers.

8. Replication of global best practices post adjustment for Indian realities. We need to examine why some countries are doing better than us and what can we learn from them. Can we at least close the gap in the yields if not better them?

R.D. Shroff, Chairman, CCFI, said, "Indian agriculture needs government attention to achieve target growth and social justice. No amount of investment in industries and cities will remove hunger from Indian villages. Last two years we have witnessed very good growth in agriculture."

"Post this conference we now have the confidence that the target of doubling food production in five years is achievable.

"India can truly be the food basket of the world. Private sector is also playing an important role in all sectors of agriculture. In the states and locations where modern methodologies have been adopted, farmer incomes have gone up more than 10 times."

"Today one of the biggest impediments to agriculture sector growth is the self proclaimed environmentalists. We plan to move forward with facts based education and taking legal action against self centred NGOs. This conference and Smt Swaraj's support gives us the complete confidence of achieving the food targets of India," Shroff said.

With the world population expected to reach nearly 9 billion by 2050, food security at a global and national level needs to be a key priority, he said.

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