In a candid observation, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has said on Friday that India's food production growth will diminish unless the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) stands up to be counted amongst solution providers for the farming community.

“But for the successful roll-out of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, I am yet to see technological breakthrough that break the productivity barrier in most crops. With such illustrious minds at work and despite huge financial outlays, the answer still eludes the nation,” he said inaugurating the annual conference of Agriculture University Vice-Chancellors and ICAR Directors.

“India has been upgrading its agri-research resources to meet the challenges of food security and rising prices, but the question is how successful such efforts been?” he asked.

Pressing the need to develop synergy between researchers and the end-users, the Minister urged the Vice-Chancellors to promote demand-driven research and judicious use of resources among students.

At the same time, he stressed the need for higher investment in the agriculture sector to sustain the high level of farm output that was required to meet the foodgrains requirements under the proposed National Food Security Bill.

Reiterating that the country's foodgrains production was expected to touch a record 250 million tonnes in the 2011-12 crop year (July-June), he said wheat output could touch an all-time high of 88.31 million tonnes. The yellow rust disease in wheat-producing States of Punjab and Haryana would be controlled, he added.

The Minister, however expressed concern about the lagging domestic production of pulses and said much work was required to be done to bridge the gap between supply and demand.

“Whether it is foodgrains or horticulture produce, we are doing quite well. Only in pulses production, we have to work more,” he told journalists later.

Pulses output this year is expected to reach 16.5 to 17 million tonnes. “But still there is a small gap that will be met through exports,” Mr. Pawar said.

Separately inaugurating a national conference on Horticulture Production and Productivity, Mr. Pawar announced 2012 to be the ‘Year of Horticulture.'

He said the country had achieved a record production of 240 million tonnes of horticulture produce from 22 million hectares of land resulting in higher per capita availability of fruits and vegetables. There has been a substantial increase in export of horticulture produce which has helped the country earn foreign exchange to the tune of Rs. 14,000 crore.

Referring to the gaps in cold chain infrastructure, he said the government had taken a decision recently to set up a National Centre for Cold Chain Development. “While the government will infuse funds to the tune of Rs. 25 crore, much of the investment will have to come from the industry.”

Agriculture Secretary P.K. Basu asked State governments to ensure the availability of quality planting material and seeds to farmers.

On the occasion, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Sikkim and Mizoram were awarded for their good performance in the horticulture sector.