Agriculture and Food Minister, Shri Sharad Pawar exhorted agricultural scientists to work for doubling agricultural productivity to meet the growing demand for food and feed. This would require reducing post-harvesting losses, tackling environmental issues, enhancing production of foodgrains, specially pulses oilseeds, and harnessing potential in dairy and fisheries sectors, he said.
Addressing scientists at the foundation day of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) here, Shri Pawar said: ‘There is an unprecedented degradation of land and groundwater resources, further compounded by deteriorating soil health in most parts of the country. There is also a deceleration in the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This trend needs to be reversed and agricultural productivity must be almost doubled to meet the growing demand for food and feed. It is a matter of concern that losses due to inadequate post-harvesting handling are enormous. The storage, transportation, processing, value addition and marketing of farm produce need to be improved to enhance household food, nutritional and livelihood security.
‘Immediate attention is required to be paid on enhancing and sustaining the foodgrain production in the context of competitive demand for resources, specifically agricultural land and water and enhancing production of pulses and oilseeds, which are central to an average Indian diet. With the objective of increasing the production of pulses and oilseeds, we had a detailed discussion with the states last year and a strategy session is contemplated on 9th and 10th of this month. I see a great potential in dairy and fisheries that are upcoming sectors, with demonstrated annual average growth rates of 3.4% and 5.4% respectively, the latter particularly in inland aquaculture. A characteristic feature of the produce from these, along with horticulture is the perishability, for which extensive cold chain and warehousing infrastructure is essential. We need to augment warehousing facilities for additional foodgrains as well.'
The Minister also highlighted the need to bring the benefits of economic reforms to the agriculture sector and to increase the income of farm workers. ‘Economic reforms initiated in the country in early 1990s have put our economy on a higher growth trajectory. This happened mainly due to rapid growth in non-agriculture sector. However, faster growth in non-agriculture sector did not help in shifting work force from agriculture to non-agriculture sector. The work force engaged in agriculture between 1980-81 and 2006-07 witnessed a very small decline, from about 60% to 52%. This has created a serious disparity between agriculture and non-agriculture, and urban and rural India. The per worker income in non agriculture sector more than doubled in the last 25 years, whereas in agriculture the increase has been marginal. With the result, a non-agricultural worker earns five times more income than the agricultural worker,' he said.
He appreciated the efforts of the academy and said that the academy has emerged as a vibrant national level body devoted to agricultural sciences. Fellowship of the academy includes globally recognized scientists. The Fellowship has become a think tank for the agricultural sector.
Shri Pawar also released the publication, State of Indian Agriculture at the Opening Ceremony of the Foundation Day of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, New Delhi. This publication documents the state of different sectors within agriculture and key/critical areas that need urgent attention. He praised the State of Indian Agriculture as a timely publication, and felt sure that analysis of the issues and recommendations would guide the policy makers, ensuring national and household nutritional security.
Dr Mangala Rai, President NAAS and Secretary, DARE and Director-General, ICAR gave a brief introduction of the publication, State of Indian Agriculture. He stated that it is an attempt to provide critical analysis of the overarching issues in Indian agriculture today. This is the first publication in this annual series by the academy. The publication is the outcome of a series of brainstorming sessions spread over 14 months and active involvement of more than 130 contributors. Agricultural scenario, factors responsible for deceleration in total productivity, state of availability of farm inputs and their management, agricultural biosecurity, agricultural price policy, investment and subsidies in agriculture, emerging challenges for science and technology generation and element of research preparedness are the main issues covered in the publication.
Dr M S Swaminathan, MP, Rajya Sabha, and immediate past President NAAS, congratulated the academy for its achievements. Two important aspects of the development are science and technology and social engineering. Science and technology has to defend the gains of green revolutions and spread to the North East and the rainfed areas social engineering is to be done to empower the small and marginal farmers to acquire the national food security, said Dr Swaminathan.
Dr H K Jain, Vice-President, NAAS in his introductory remarks about the Academy said that National Agricultural Research System is perhaps the largest research system in the world. It provides a forum to the scientists to meet and discuss the future research vision beyond the discipline and commodity boundaries. In present scenario precision farming and conservation of natural resources are the areas in which agriculturists have to work.