President for out-of-box solutions to deal with farming issues

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published Published on Feb 16, 2012   modified Modified on Feb 16, 2012
Reflecting the utmost priority to address farm sector woes, a first-of-its-kind workshop was held on Wednesday at the initiative of President Pratibha Patil where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pitched for raising agriculture output to provide food security to citizens. 

At the workshop attended by eight Union ministers, 20 governors, five chief ministers and 37 vice chancellors of agricultural universities, Patil underlined the need for "out-of-the-box" solutions to enhance productivity in rainfed and dryland farming (RFDF) areas. In her speech Patil said: "A willingness to look at out-of-the-box solutions is necessary to usher in noticeable change in handling the subject." 

The Prime Minister, while hailing farmers for producing an estimated record 250 million tonnes foodgrains this year, cautioned that the nation cannot remain complacent as demand for agriculture products has been increasing rapidly. 

He said "although food production has regained the momentum in the recent years, we cannot afford to be complacent since the demand of horticulture and animal products is increasing very rapidly". 

"...A strong agriculture sector is necessary for our food and nutritional security," he said, adding, the country's foodgrains production is expected to be a record 250 million tonnes in 2011-12, exceeding the target for the year by five million tonnes. 

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asked the states to encourage organised sector in supply management pending a decision on allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. 

The workshop is a part of the initiative of Patil for enhancing farm productivity, especially in rainfed areas. A Committee of Governors constituted by the President has already met twice. 

Calling for greater thrust on development of rainfed and dryland farming (RFDF), President Patil said 60% of India's cultivated area come under RFDF which provides 44% of food production in the country. 

It also includes 87% of coarse cereals and pulses, 80% seeds and 65% cotton. 

These areas support about 40% of the population, mostly belonging to the poorer sections of the society. Besides, it also helps nearly 60% of the livestock population. 

The President also expressed concern over "very low investment" in RFDF areas as compared to integrated areas and called for paying urgent attention towards it. 

"In the 12th Five-Year Plan, it is necessary to give a thrust to RFDF areas that will generate a sense of urgency at the government level to promote partnership between various stakeholders to revitalise Indian agriculture," she added. 

Prime Minister Singh stressed "...productivity in foodgrains has to go up handsomely". 

Singh also expressed concern over volatility in prices of farm products. "There is a big gap between farm gate and retail prices that the consumers pay. There is also volatility with prices being low after harvest. We need to address all this by reforming agricultural marketing systems and investing in supply chains," he added. 

Referring to the issue of inflation, Finance Minister Mukherjee said, "even as we build a consensus on FDI in multi-brand retail, it is important for the State governments to encourage the presence of organised sector in strengthening the food supply chain. There is ample space for the organised sector to co-exist with the family retail shops".

The Economic Times, 16 February, 2012,

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