Despite demands from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, there is no proposal with the Centre to revise the Minimum Support Price (MSP) or announce any bonus for wheat, paddy and sugarcane crops. However, it is working towards a system of ensuring remunerative prices under which farmers do not require any concessions in future, according to Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

He was talking to journalists on Saturday at the fair grounds here after visiting various stalls of the 9th edition of the “Agro Tech” organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Mr. Pawar emphasised the need to increase farm production and productivity if the National Food Security Act was to be implemented. To provide food at subsidised rates to the BPL (below poverty line) and APL (above party line) families, at least 65 million tonnes of foodgrains were required for the buffer stocks.

Mr. Pawar elaborated on the various zones being promoted for different crops to meet the future requirements of the country. While Punjab would continue to be the main producer of wheat, deliberations with the State government, experts, research organisations and farmers' groups would be initiated to find a replacement for paddy. This would be done to ease pressure on the groundwater requirement. The government would ensure that the replacement crop provided better returns to farmers.

To a query on recent agitations, Mr. Pawar said the Food Corporation of India was making direct payment to farmers in all States, except Punjab, where it was routed through the commission agents, the ‘Arhtiyas'. On the suggestions from the State government and some organisations, the Union government had deferred its decision to make direct payment to farmers for just one year.

Earlier, addressing the ‘Agro Tech 2010' conference, Mr. Pawar said the private sector had a major role in customising the farm mechanisation process that would increase the productivity and efficiency of the farm sector, which was faced with labour shortage after the successful implementation of the NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme). Farm mechanisation should be low-cost, user-friendly and environmentally sustainable.

Listing the steps initiated by the UPA government, Mr. Pawar said crop loan advances had increased from Rs. 86,000 crore to over Rs. 3.6 lakh crore. The rate of interest on these loans had been reduced from 11 to five per cent. He appealed to the States to contribute their bit in further reducing the interest as well as promoting resource conservation techniques such as zero tillage and drip irrigation.

The Chairperson of the U.K. India Business Council, Patricia Hewitt, shared India's concern for food security, transforming living standards in the rural communities and increasing the volume of exports. She said the U.K., which had recently increased its own production by a half, was keen for a partnership in this venture.

Specific solutions

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda underlined the need for the second green revolution based on modern technologies and sought specific solutions to various problems faced by the farm sector. Though agriculture contributed to just 17 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product, it was the biggest security net of the common man.

Punjab Agriculture Minister Sucha Singh Langah sought immediate attention of the Union government to the plight of the farmers of the State, who had borne the cost of ensuring food security by never betraying any target set for them.

Afghanistan Minister for Agriculture Mohammed Asif Rahimi reiterated the possibilities and promises his country held out for Indian farmers, entrepreneurs and traders.

Chairman of the CII's National Council on Agriculture Rakesh Bharti Mittal favoured uncapping of subsidies on drip irrigation and greenhouse cultivation. He suggested a “Mission” mode at the Union government level to provide the much required “push” to agriculture.

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