A Dutch expert on agriculture has warned India of a food crisis unless the country makes new investments in the sector and induces young individuals to take up farming. India will have to speed up its food production otherwise it will not remain self sufficient in food in a few years' time, he has said.
“Agriculture is a neglected sector in India,” says Hans Wolf of the Netherlands Embassy in Delhi, who is Counsellor for Agriculture, Nature and food Quality for India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “The Government here should invest more in agriculture, in irrigation, in imparting farmers knowledge and to help them with access to markets,” he points out. The Government should also provide funds in making investments in agricultural infrastructure and in land reforms,” he suggests.
Mr. Hans was in the Rajasthan capital in connection with the launch of an eight-week advanced training in horticulture to trainers from Afghanistan. The training, being imparted by the Jaipur-based International Horticulture Innovation and Training Centre (IHITC), is part of the Dutch- funded,” Support to agriculture education in Afghanistan”. IHITC is a collaborative venture in PPP model among Department of Horticulture, Rajasthan; Practical Training Centre (PTC+) of the Netherlands and DCM Sriram Consolidated Ltd (DSCL) .
“India remains a closed country as far as agriculture is concerned,” says Mr. Hans and adds: “The country does not allow others to enter this sector or even share their experience. In my view India should allow the western countries to help it out with innovative farming practices. They have much to offer other than hybrid seeds, in the form of training and products,” he notes.
The Dutch warns that in the next decade food security is going to be the main strategic area for the Indian Government. “The growing population needs food. The country's farmers would have to diversify the crops and make use of the climatic variety and land variations in India to their advantage,” he points out. “There is a food crisis ahead and one can see it by the rising food prices in the country.”
The farm sector in India is beset with problems. The availability of both arable land and irrigation water is a big issue. As most of the cropped area is under rain-fed irrigation decline in rainfall too has an impact. The ground water levels are going down but the wasteful use of water continues. “India needs plans for more sustainable use of available water. Pumping out ground water should stop. It should also promote drip irrigation,” he stresses.
Mr. Hans finds the small size of the land holdings and the ever continuing process of bifurcation of plots a threat to viable agriculture.