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2010: a do-or-die year for agriculture, thanks to food inflation

This decade may mark the beginning of uncertain monsoon behaviour, extreme weather events, and serious threats to food, water and rural livelihood security.

business Updated: Feb 20, 2010 02:17 IST

This decade may mark the beginning of uncertain monsoon behaviour, extreme weather events, and serious threats to food, water and rural livelihood security. The prevailing food inflation is a wake up call.

We will have to build our food and nutrition security system on the foundation of home grown food. Such an approach will confer double benefits – enhanced small farm productivity and profitability, and sustainable rural employment and income. Recent trends in international stocks and prices of foodgrains clearly indicate that the future belongs to nations with grains, and not guns.

It is in this background that Pranab Mukherji’s budget provisions for the farm sector will be judged. The following are the urgent steps needed to stimulate farmers’ enthusiasm for farming, and rebuild the rural economy.

Defending the gains already made in the green resolution areas through Conservation Farming, involving concurrent attention to soil health enhancement, water conservation and effective use, biodiversity protection and launching of a Climate Resilient Agriculture Movement, is an urgent task. These are the areas, which feed the public distribution system.

The National Commision on Farmers (NCF) had recommended the allocation of Rs.1,000 crore for this purpose. Expenditure in this area will also come under the Green Box provision of WTO. Climate resilient agriculture will involve shifting attention to per day rather than per crop productivity.

Extending the gains to eastern India, the sleeping giant of Indian Agriculture: Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, eastern UP, West Bengal, Assam and Orissa have immense untapped production potential.

A large number of government schemes with a substantial financial outlay, such as the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, Food Security Mission, and National Horticulture Mission exist, but are not making the desired impact on the productivity and production of small land holdings.

A well planned “Bridge the Yield Gap Movement” needs to be initiated with the active involvement of farming families, Gram Sabhas need to be involved in finalizing the components of the “Bridge the Yield Gap Movement.”

The gap between potential and actual yields with the technologies on the shelf ranges from 200 to 300 per cent in these areas. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi initiated a dry land farming revolution in these areas through the Pulses and Oilseeds Missions, but the end-to-end approach he had designed was soon given up and there was a reversion to the business as usual approach.

I suggest that during 2010-11, 60,000 pulses and oilseed villages may be organised in rainfed areas, to mark the 60th anniversary of our Republic. In each of these villages, there should be a “Lab-to-Land” programme organised by the ICAR and Agricultural Universities.