Asserting that the government's decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail was strongly supported by farmer organisations in Punjab, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on Saturday said that it will benefit the farmers, consumers and the country.
In his address at the Golden Jubilee Convocation of Punjab Agricultural University here, Dr. Singh said: "Our decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment in retail, which was approved by Parliament recently, was strongly supported by farmer organisations in Punjab. It will introduce new technology and investment in marketing agricultural produce."
"India must take full advantage of modern technology and the operational and management experience of big supply chains in the food retail business to make this happen. I am confident that it will benefit the farmers, and the consumers and our country," he added.
The Prime Minister said the Punjab Agricultural University must look to finding research solutions for dealing with new marketing challenges.
"Research can play a major role in developing varieties more suitable to different market tastes and with longer shelf life. As we move beyond staple foods, there is need for our research effort to link up more effectively with the private sector, which will be responsible for market arrangements so that market demands can guide the direction of research," he added.
Dr. Singh asked the agricultural universities to gear up to face the potential threat to agriculture from climate change.
"Climate change can have serious implications for our food security and the livelihood security of our farmers, especially the small and marginal farmers. Greater frequency of drought and deficient precipitation significantly reduces agricultural production in un-irrigated areas by reducing the area under crops and also lowering productivity. Rising temperatures will also have negative effects on the agricultural productivity including especially the productivity of current varieties of wheat," said Dr. Singh.
"We must deploy our research capability to help in mitigating these adverse impacts by developing varieties resistant to adverse climatic conditions. Considering the long time lag between initiating research and being able to release tested varieties, we must act now to deal with expected threats. The Punjab Agricultural University should be a leader in this field," he added.
The Prime Minister pointed out that modern biotechnology, which enables identification and implantation of genes imparting resistance and tolerance to moisture and temperature extremes, can play a very important role in future.
"Safety concerns are often raised in the context of Bt technology, and these need to be addressed in a scientifically defensible manner. However, I am confident that all legitimate health security concerns can be met and we are working to put in place an improved regulatory framework that will allow our research scientists to push ahead in their endeavour to develop technologies that can deliver positive results for farmers," said Dr. Singh.
"The role of agricultural research has special significance for the country as a whole and for Punjab in particular. We aim to increase our expenditure on agriculture research to 1 percent of agricultural GDP in the 12th Plan from the level of 0.65 percent in the 11th Plan," he added.
The Prime Minister further said Punjab, which leads in agriculture, should not neglect the development of the non-agricultural sector, including especially manufacturing.
"The youth of Punjab will increasingly look for productive employment opportunities outside agriculture and it is necessary to ensure that there are enough employment opportunities for them. One way of doing this is for Punjab's agriculture to develop post farm agro-processing linkages," he added.
Asserting that Punjab has a well-established reputation in small-scale industry, a hard working labour force and a reputation for evolving innovative solutions adapting existing technologies to our local circumstances, Dr. Singh said: " The Central Government has taken many steps to liberalise investment decisions, opening the way for state governments to compete with each other to attract investments from the rest of the country and from abroad. I hope the Punjab Government will rise to the occasion and show that Punjab is second to none in this endeavour." (ANI)