Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Monday stressed the need for narrowing the yield gaps.

Presiding over the first meeting of the Working Group on Agriculture Production here, he said: “Our food grain production has to be doubled by 2040 with consistent 2.5 per cent annual growth to feed the ever increasing population''.

The meeting was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, West Bengal Finance and Excise Minister Asim Kumar Dasgupta, Bihar Agriculture Minister Renu Kumari Kushwaha, Union Agriculture Secretary P.K. Basu and agricultural experts from West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana.

Mr.Hooda said that even today agriculture continued to be the mainstay of the Indian economy and accounts for about 18 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It was the main source of livelihood for nearly 60 per cent of the population.

As growth in foodgrain production had either declined or stagnated during the current decade, there was a dire need for ushering in second green revolution to meet the additional demand of foodgrain which could be achieved through dynamic approach, focused strategy and application of new tools of science and technology in agriculture to address second generation problems.

He further said that unless farmers adopted environmentally sound technologies like integrated nutrient supply, integrated pest management and scientific water management, problems would continue to plague long-term sustainability of production.

He suggested that the States harvesting average productivity should try to reach the national level. If this was followed the country could produce an estimated additional 83.56 million tonnes of foodgrain and additional 5.35 million tonnes of oil seeds.

Mr. Hooda said that he had written to the members of the Working Group inviting their suggestions and some valuable suggestions had been received. He added that the opinion of farmers, general public and experts should also be sought on ways to increase production and productivity before finalising the draft recommendations.

He announced that the next meeting of the Working Group would be held in Patna where the recommendations would be finalised.

Mr.Badal sought liberal financial assistance from the Centre for renovation and strengthening of network of canals and channels. He said that the farmers in Punjab were under debt of Rs 36,000 crore and this was forcing them to commit suicides. He urged the Central Government to waive off all agricultural loans as a one-time measure.

He also urged the Centre to give special package for those farmers who were cultivating their lands along the international border.

The compensation being given to the farmers should be linked to deficiency in rainfall and not with reduction in productivity, he added.

Mr.Dasgupta pointed out that the demand-supply gap in specific food items like pulses and other items such as oil seeds and sugar should be systematically and significantly reduced in the next five years.

The entire exercise of enhancement of agricultural production should be socially sustainable, he added while urging the Centre to give a subsidy of 50 per cent on power for agricultural sector.

Special emphasis should be laid on implementation of minor irrigation projects and minimum support price should be fixed for all crops.

Dr. Kushwaha urged the Centre to expedite the sanction of Central Agricultural University for Bihar. She said that the agriculture sector in Bihar has been adversely affected because of drought, floods and indifferent attitude of banks. Subsidy on diesel for irrigation should be a part of regular schemes. Funds for the same should be made available out of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

Mr. Basu said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had constituted the Working Group to suggest measures to increase agricultural production in the country. The Centre had also prepared a set of draft recommendations which had been circulated among States, he added.