Advising farmers to scale up their agricultural activity from subsistence level to that of a commercial venture, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the sector needs to be given priority access to power, credit, water and fertilizers.

Awarding the “Krishi Karman” awards to 18 States for excellence in production of foodgrains, the President said the country could achieve the 12 Plan growth target of four cent through crop diversification, developing high-yield disease-resistant seeds, improvement in water management practices and promotion of balanced use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Among the new States to be recognised this year for “exemplary performance” were Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Nagaland and Manipur.

States awarded for enhancing production/productivity of a particular commodity included Uttar Pradesh (coarse cereals), Bihar (rice), Jharkhand (pulses) and Haryana (wheat). Punjab, Uttarakhand, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh received commendation awards.

Noting that agriculture was a “challenging” sector heavily dependent on climate and natural resources, Mr. Mukherjee said the government would have to focus on creation of employment opportunities in other sectors to provide income diversification to rural families dependent on “unviable land holdings” for their livelihood.

Mr. Mukherjee said a large number of small and marginal farmers who were at the bottom of the prosperity pyramid would need adequate support from the government.

Congratulating the award-winning States, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said a significant development this year was that, with as many as 18 States qualifying for the award, there was a broadening of the food production basket.

“There is a definite shift in the production base with the inclusion of the hitherto low productivity States like Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Nagaland ahead of the better known names. The Krishi Karman awards are serving their purpose in letter and spirit by highlighting good work in unsung places,” Mr. Pawar said.

The Minister, nevertheless, added that there was scope to further enhance production levels as huge “yield gaps” and “regional imbalances” needed to be corrected with innovative approaches and reformed policy measures.

States awarded for enhancing total foodgrains production are given a trophy, citation and Rs. 2 crore each, while those recognised in individual crops are given a trophy, citation and Rs. 1 crore each. The rest are given Rs. 25 lakh each, while individual farmers are given Rs. 1 lakh, a citation and a trophy.

More In: National | News