Thursday, 15 September 2011

Seed is critical input for long-term sustained growth of agriculture.

The foodgrain production in 2010-11 reached a record level of 241.6 million tonnes. Among crops, record production was achieved in the case of wheat, pulses, oil seeds and cotton. 

Elaborating the farm growth further, that during the quarter ending March 31 this year, farm output achieved an impressive growth rate of 7.5 per cent. On a yearly basis, Agriculture and Allied Sector grew at 6.6% in the last fiscal.

There will be more competitive demand on land and water, progressive fragmentation of land holdings, degrading natural resource base and emerging concerns of climate change. We also have to look for sustaining agricultural growth against the backdrop of limited availability of natural resources especially cultivable land. Thus, increase in agricultural production would have to emanate only by enhancement in farm productivity from existing cultivated area. 

Low productivity still remains a major concern for Indian agriculture. While our yields compare poorly to global average, we also have significant yield gap between the ‘optimal’ yield and actual field productivity. There is also large difference in crop yields across states and regions. Low farm productivity often results in cascading effect on the farmers both in terms of increasing cost of production and less farm remuneration. 

Enhancement of agricultural productivity can come from deploying location-specific high yielding crop varieties, balanced fertiliser doses, effective transfer of technology, increasing water use efficiency, timely supply of quality inputs, and capacity building through extensive agricultural extension. Towards this direction, this Ministry is implementing various developmental schemes to cater to the needs of farming community. Flagship schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), National Horticulture Mission (NHM) etc. have already been instrumental in enhancing farm productivity and increasing crop production. 

Seed is critical input for long-term sustained growth of agriculture. In India, more than four-fifths of farmers rely on farm-saved seeds, resulting in low production and seed replacement rate and Government is seized of this issue and addressing the same, through various programmes/schemes. The focus has to be on increasing the Seed Replacement Rate, introducing better high yielding varieties, strengthening of infrastructure facilities for production and distribution of quality seeds and taking up more and more villages under the Seed Villages Programme. 

Bringing green Revolution to the eastern region scheme aims at improving productivity of rice based cropping system in selected states, ‘Integrated development of 60,000 pulse villages in rainfed areas’ is focussing at attaining self sufficiency in production of pulses. Five more initiatives have been launched pursuant to Union Budget-2011-12 for enhancing availability of fodder, vegetables, nutria-cereals, oil palm and protein supplements. 

However, we have to be more vigilant in ensuring that advantages gained so far are sustained in future too. During this kharif season, although higher area coverage is being witnessed in Rice, Oilseeds and Cotton crops, there is a decreasing trend in both Pulses and Coarse Cereals. I would like to urge upon the States to take a note of this situation. 

Soil health is crucial for ensuring farm productivity. However, over the years marginal productivity of soil has been witnessing a declining trend. Thus, high priority needs to be accorded to soil health and nutrient management. While nutrient management primarily focus on bringing back soil fertility, ecological sustainability and overall cost effectiveness also needs equal attention. Adoption of multi-nutrient carriers that are soil and crops specific and customised on the basis of soil testing is emerging as a viable alternative to conventional approach. Besides, organic nutrient sources like farm yard manure, crop residue, vermi compost, bio fertilisers, green manure etc. can also play a key role in adopting eco-friendly agriculture. 

Minimum Support Prices (MSP) is an effective instrument for ensuring remunerative prices to farmers. Besides, to protect growers from distress sale in event of bumper crop of agricultural and horticultural commodities, which are generally perishable, Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) is also being implemented in some States.
Sustaining agricultural growth through mobilization of higher investment in agriculture, augmenting and bridging yield gaps, enhancing farm income, ensuring livelihoods and providing safety net to the farmers. However, one size fits all policy may not be of much help.

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