“Measures to bring cultivable land under cultivation must be taken”
“The green revolution that made the nation self-sufficient in foodgrains has run its course. Its outcomes need to be boosted; a second green revolution that maximises productivity and generates income and employment opportunities for the rural population is needed,” President Pratibha Patil said on Friday at a national conference on “Rural Prosperity through Better Agriculture.”
Ms. Patil said low farm productivity levels, weak extension machinery, neglect of dry land farming, post-harvest losses, and limitations of small-sized farming were the major challenges of the agriculture sector today.
“We hear that these days, particularly in rain-fed areas, due to the vagaries of weather, high cost of inputs and non-availability of labour for agriculture in some areas, farmers are not cultivating their land. This is certainly not good, and measures to bring all cultivable land under cultivation must be taken.”
The President urged the private sector to seriously look at investing in agriculture and food processing sector for a “win-win” situation for them and the farmers.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar took a dig at the Opposition for stalling Parliament.
“The Seeds Bill and the Pesticides Management Bills have been introduced in Parliament. I am not getting the time to discuss the Bills. My friends in Parliament are busy with something else... I hope the situation will change,” he said amid laughter.
The Minister said that with good monsoon during kharif, this year the agriculture growth rate had touched 4.5 per cent.
“Last year, despite the severest drought in the past four decades, the production of foodgrains stood at about 218 million tonnes. This year, overall rainfall has been good and record production in kharif pulses, sugarcane and cotton is expected.
“The substantial hike in the minimum support price of kharif pulses is showing positive results. Only, due to deficit rainfall in Bihar, Jharkhand and parts of West Bengal there is likelihood of some loss in paddy production.
“On the positive side, due to the good southwest monsoon, reservoir levels are very comfortable and soil moisture levels are high, promising a robust rabi production this year.”
Mr. Pawar, however, emphasised the need for the private sector to play a greater role in the ‘second green revolution' in the country.
“New technologies which help develop affordable farming equipments suited to Indian conditions and farm sizes is the need of the hour and the private sector will have to take a leading role in this.”
Impact of climate change
At the same time, the challenges of the impact of climate change on agriculture had to be met head-on.
“We are all witness to the severe drought of last year and the untimely rains this year which have brought down our production and productivity. To counter these ill-effects, a National Initiative on Climate Resilient Agriculture has been launched. We are also coordinating with all the renowned research institutions worldwide on this front and are hopeful of a breakthrough in developing heat-resistant seed varieties to successfully meet the challenge ahead.”