Demanding attention to farmers, agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan on Tuesday said increasing income per hectare was as much of a concern as improving yield per hectare.

“The National Farmer’s Policy is unique because it shifts focus from the land to its tiller.”

Dr. Swaminathan was speaking at a conference here on implementing the Farmer’s Policy, drafted in 2007 by a National Commission with him as chairman.

Revisit syllabi

Revisit syllabi, he told the faculty of agricultural universities from across the country. “Make every scholar an entrepreneur. That is, don’t just teach students technology, but train them in the business of farming. “Working in the field is the best way to implement research.”

Commenting on the sector’s negative growth rate in the last quarter, Dr. Swaminathan called for more public investment in modern storage facilities and processing plants.

He said there was a huge gap between demand and supply, but problems differed from region to region. For instance, rain-fed areas produced far below their potential yield, whereas well irrigated States like Punjab now faced depleting water tables. Hence, the need for “climate-resilient” agriculture. “If temperature drops by even one degree centigrade, we will be short of seven million tonnes of wheat.”

The most challenging part, however, comes last — delivering the policy to the farmer.

“We can feed our people, but not without better delivery systems,” he said.

“All the government schemes need to be coordinated in a unified effort. Our greatest task will be in making the technology accessible to farmers.”

Speaking in a similar vein, Andhra Pradesh Governor E.S.L. Narasimhan said: “The next conference should take stock of what has been done and what is left to do,” adding technology alone would not address the farmer’s crisis because the country was still in need of sweeping land reforms.

“We have to treat the land and the farmer as a whole. Absentee landlordism continues to be a problem. It is part of the reason for the real tiller not benefiting from his labour.”

Mr. Narasimhan suggested listing priority areas which needed immediate attention.

The conference was organised by the Indian Agricultural Universities Association (IAUA) and the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU).

Earlier, ANGRAU students gathered outside the conference auditorium raising slogans in favour of a separate State of Telangana. Some were arrested when they tried to obstruct the Governor’s convoy.

Correction

TIn the sixth paragraph of the above report it was stated “If temperature drops by even one degree centigrade, we will be short of seven million tonnes of wheat.” What Dr. Swaminathan said was that a rise in temperature (and not drop) by one degree Celsius could lead to a fall in wheat production by seven million tonnes.