Two per cent farm growth rate necessary to ensure food security, Prime Minister tells scientists

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday the priority of the 12th Five-Year Plan would be to accelerate agricultural growth rate by at least two per cent to ensure food and nutritional security and eliminate hunger.

Addressing the 83rd Foundation Day of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research here, the Prime Minister underlined the necessity to have a consistent growth rate of two per cent per annum in food production through the current decade to meet the projected need of 280 million tonnes by 2020-21 and ensure food security.

Dr. Singh regarded the task as enormous, looking back at the fact that farm production grew by just 1 per cent each year over the 10-year period from 1997 to 2007. Though it regained momentum in the 11th Plan period, registering a 3 per cent growth, it was below the targeted 4 per cent.

The failure to meet the target in recent years resulted in the “unacceptable levels of food price inflation,” he said, congratulating the scientists on ensuring self-sufficiency in foodgrains through a record production of 241 million tonnes in 2010-11.

The Prime Minister thanked the States for the record output of food grains and major crops like wheat, maize, pulses and oilseeds.

He gave away seven Krishi Karman awards to the 10 best performing States in various categories.

Chief Ministers Prakash Singh Badal (Punjab), Tarun Gogoi (Assam), Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) and Bhupinder Singh Hooda (Haryana) received the awards from the Prime Minister.

Expressing concern that productivity in agriculture had plateaued over the years as also over the country's dependence on imports for pulses and edible oils and prevalence of under-nutrition among women and children, Dr. Singh said the country needed a second green revolution that was more broad-based, more inclusive and more sustainable.

The need is to produce more without depleting our resources any further, he told the agricultural scientists. To meet demand, Dr. Singh suggested increasing the expenditure on agricultural research and development from the current 0.67 per cent of the agricultural GDP to at least 2 to 3 per cent by 2020, to usher in new technologies and knowledge in the production process.

He suggested re-examining the architecture of agricultural extension services so that scientists, administrators and private entrepreneurs could together help farmers achieve the desirable yields.

Dr. Singh said that besides managing the agricultural economy, the success of the second green revolution would be the outcome of management of water and climate changes. Underlining the critical role of rainfed agriculture, he said it was important to explicitly embrace dryland farming and integrate watershed development projects with new technologies.

“Our scientists must therefore work intensively to accurately assess the needs of our country, and develop new methods, new technologies and new knowledge for better soil and water management practices, improved cropping systems and better crop management.”

Dr. Singh laid stress on increasing irrigation efficiency from 30 to 50 per cent, resource conservation technologies and exploring more systematically organic alternatives such as algae.

The Prime Minister focussed on two more areas — protection of crops, animal and farm produce from new and emerging diseases and pathogens and, secondly, careful application of biotechnology to improve productivity, enable better resilience to stress and enhance the incomes of farmers.

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who presided over the function, declared that the target of additional production of 20 million tonnes of foodgrains had been achieved a year in advance through collective efforts of the State governments and the Centre. He said the total foodgrains production during 2010-11 was a record 241 million tonnes.

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