Staff Reporter

CHENNAI: The benefits of globalisation can be directed to reduce rural poverty if national and international economic policies take into account its effect on agriculture, according to Joachim von Braun, director-general, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

“Globalisation offers a mix of opportunities and risks to India,” said Dr. von Braun, who was speaking at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) here on Wednesday. “Despite massive expansion of opportunities as a result of globalisation, there has only been a slow reduction in income poverty, stagnation in nutrition improvements and increasing inequities.”

He said trade, capital flows and information technology — the three “main drivers” of agricultural globalisation — must have a greater focus on rural areas and a “pro-poor” approach. “For small farmers to participate in high-value global trade, they need infrastructure and financial support.”

In India, the agricultural sector’s contribution to net exports had declined from 34 per cent in 1980 to 11 per cent in 2003. Dr. von Braun said agricultural economic policy should target the hitherto untapped sectors of bio-fuels and carbon trading. “Projections show that the Indian market for ethanol will grow by 15 per cent over the next five years.” “Carbon markets and clean development mechanisms can also give small farmers new sources of income.” National agro-industrial policies should enhance research and development in agriculture, besides focussing on education, greater public investment in rural areas, social protection and health improvement, he said.

While domestic policy should better take into account the impact of global markets, it should protect those who were without the capacity to compete, said M.S. Swaminathan, chairman, MSSRF.

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