President Pranab Mukherjee said in Ludhiana on Tuesday that it was time for public-private partnership (PPP) in the food processing industry as investors were coming forward and state governments should explore the opportunity.
Despite being the second largest producer (after China) of fruits and vegetables in the world, India lags behind in food processing as post-harvesting operations are not up to the mark, the President observed.
Mukherjee was in Ludhiana to inaugurate the international conference on 'Sustainable Agriculture for Food and Livelihood Security' at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). The three-day conference is being organised as part of PAU's golden jubilee celebrations.
This was his first visit to Punjab as the President. "I was looking forward to my visit to PAU, an institute that helped the country become self-reliant in terms of foodgrain production. PAU played a pivotal role in the dissemination of knowledge to farmers when the country needed it the most to come out of the foodgrain crisis," Mukherjee said.
He emphasised upon collaboration between the union and state governments so as to formulate a coherent and comprehensive agricultural policy aimed at facing the challenges of sustainable agriculture.
The President said a large number of policies were susceptible to failure, so it was vital to identify the areas of prioritisation, followed by immediate action.
"Agriculture is the lifeline of the people in our country. That's why it is given due priority in every union budget, wherein the interests of small farmers as well as investors are taken care of," he added.
The President termed the Committee for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and the National Horticulture Mission (NHM) as the initiatives taken by the central government to give a boost to the agricultural sector.
Sharing his experience as the union finance minister, Mukherjee said several steps had been taken to reduce storage wastage of foodgrains and improve the availability of credit to farmers.
The President called upon scientists present at the conference to deliberate upon the failure and desperation of a section of the farming community as prosperity had eluded a large chunk of it.
Speaking on diversification, Mukherjee said farmers should be kept away from the cost of diversification, which should go hand in hand with marketing reforms, enhancement in productivity, farm mechanisation and entrepreneur development.