Agriculture has registered a phenomenal growth during the last four decades, but food security remains a major concern, Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar said here on Friday.

Past achievements were very impressive by any yardstick. But, the per capita consumption of most of the food items in the country was quite low compared to the requirement of nutritious food, Mr. Pawar said after inaugurating the Fourth National Conference on Krishi Vigyan Kendras, organised by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and the Tamil Nadu University.

“More than one-fifth of our population is still under-nourished in terms of simple energy and protein intake,” he said. Various factors such as climate change, soil erosion, desertification, degradation of soil and water resources had their impact on agricultural production and threatened food security.

The National Food Security Mission was launched with an outlay of Rs.5,000 crore to increase the production of rice by 18 million tonnes, wheat by eight million tonnes and pulses by two million tonnes by the end of the XI Five Year Plan.

Apart from this, the contribution of researchers, educationists and extension personnel was vital to increasing food production. The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana programme was launched at an outlay of Rs.25,000 crore for the holistic development of agriculture in the XI Plan. The aim of the Central government was to take up scientific and technological interventions for higher agricultural growth.

The goal of attaining four per cent agriculture growth rate during the XI Plan needed concerted efforts such as improving water management, focus on soil quality, diversifying to high value agriculture, promoting animal husbandry and fishery, improving marketing systems and strengthening the agriculture extension system.

Regional disparity

Regional disparity was another important issue that required serious attention. Promoting the use of improved technology and strengthening the marketing system in the rain-fed and ecologically marginal areas would help in reducing the disparities, Mr. Pawar said.

The Minister pointed at the need to step up production as the requirement would rise over the next decade. “Last year has been phenomenal in terms of producing highest [amount of] food grains – 234 million tonnes. However, the projections indicated a requirement of 281.1 million tonnes of food grains in 2020-2021,” he said.

The production of milk, vegetables, fruits and sugar had to be stepped up as the demand for these products was increasing.

Krishi Vigyan Kendras played a vital role in reaching important inputs to farmers in improving agriculture production. From 273 kendras in the IX Five Year Plan, their number had been increased to 569 in the XI Plan, Mr. Pawar said.

E-connectivity facilities established in 192 kendras and eight zonal project directorates across the country would be operationalised soon for the speedy dissemination of knowledge to farmers and other stakeholders.