Special Correspondent

Bangalore: Developed countries increasingly turning to bio-fuels and the resulting pressure on farmland is the real reason for food prices going up globally, Anil K. Rajvanshi, Director of Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute in Maharashtra, said here on Saturday.

“The consumptive lifestyle of the West is to blame and not Indians or Chinese eating more food,” he said at the concluding day of the CII India Innovation Summit.

Bio-fuels were actually very necessary in rural India where power grids could not always reach. The institute had experimented with sweet jowar, rich in sugar content. While parts of it could be eaten, and the residue used as fodder, the rest could be converted to ethanol. This was found effective as a cooking fuel and for lighting, he said.

“Planning Commission estimates say we produce 600 million tonnes of agricultural residues each year; if most of it can be used, we can produce 156 million tonnes of ethanol annually and meet rural energy needs,” Mr. Rajvanshi said. Corporates could be stakeholders in the rural energy industry.

Anil Gupta, Executive Vice-Chairman, National Innovation Foundation said, “Less than one per cent of the savings of rural micro-finance groups is spent on local products. We need not verticals but horizontal markets so that some rural products find their way to cities.” There were innovative ideas from rural students that could be used, such as using certain plants as pesticides and Internet portal for creative folk arts with pay-to-view access.

Gopichand Katragadda, General Manager, GE Global Research, who chaired the session, said inclusive innovations were needed to make rural areas economic hubs and arrest migration to cities.