Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Doubling Food Production in Five Years Becomes Imperative Food security required to feed the most populous nation by 2020


New Delhi, 30 January 2013: RBI Governor while unveiling the quarterly monetary policy expressed concern over the contrarian behaviour of food inflation which moved into double digits in December 2012, ‘reflecting both cyclical and structural factors’. During the period even though headline inflation rate fell to 7.2 per cent, food inflation remained high, revealing the critical need to focus on agriculture should the nation want to follow a growth oriented easy money policy. In fact the experience of the last two Five Year Plans reveals that for the Indian economy to grow at 9 per cent, it is important that agriculture should grow at least by 4 per cent per annum, all of which will not be volume growth. This will take more than 17 years to double the production. In order to double food production in the next 8 years we must grow at an annualised compounded rate of 9 per cent. This aim cannot be achieved unless India adopts targeted policies and practices on war footing. Given the fact that India is still struggling to accommodate the global developments in the food and agricultural sector of 1970s, a lot of time travel is needed to reach the milestone of doubling food production in less than 10 years.

The nation will have to work at farm system-based solutions including use of advanced technologies from improved seeds through breeding and with beneficial biotechnologies, to irrigation technologies, to agrochemistries for soil nutrition, insect protection and weed management, mechanization, improved agronomic practices, effective post harvest management tools, amongst others in the future. The global markets are evolving. Farmers are already combining conventional practices with modern technologies and improved practices. Rising consumer demand and a changing climate need us to leverage knowledge-based research and development capability to develop new choices. With food, feed, the farm and farmer at the core. Tomorrow is for those who are determined to survive. The future belongs to new products, new processes with the goal to customize and personalize the products. Focus will be on improving crop productivity, functionality, enhanced shelf-life, safety and quality of food. For example, globally the seed and technology industry alone invest more than US$ 3 billion annually in R&D to develop new solutions. Similar amounts are invested by other agriculture inputs industries to develop products that are immensely beneficial to the farmers.

Where will India stand? The agriculture sector today still supports more than 50% of the Indian population, while contributing only 14% of the national output. With increase in population and also in per capita food consumption the country is already in the midst of very high food price inflation; taking a severe toll on India’s masses. Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) to address these critical issues of food security, agricultural sustainability and policies for food crisis alleviation is hosting the conference on ‘Doubling food production in five years’. The underlying premise of this three day conclusive convention focuses on reviewing current state of Indian agriculture, innovations, sustainable food policies and the effectual balance required for protection of ecology and environment while ensuring profitable agriculture for the farmer and a hunger free India and world. The conference is scheduled from February 1st to February 3rd 2013 at the Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

Today a number of government initiatives exist for the benefit of the sector including Centrally Sponsored Scheme on National Food Security Mission to enhance production, National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) focuses on problems of the rainfed areas, schemes of debt waiver for small and marginal farmers and debt relief for other farmers and Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMAs) set up in 565 districts. Nevertheless there exists a clear need for coordinated action to even meet the food grain requirement of the proposed National Security bill.

Commenting on importance of food security, Mr. R.D. Shroff, Chairman, CCFI, said, “With the world population expected to reach nearly 9 billion by 2050, food security at a global and national level needs to be a key priority. Not only is the numbers required to be fed increasing, climate change is also leading to a reduction in available arable land and water resources. This double impact needs proactive and urgent measures in collaborative brainstorming, policy and action across national and state governments, producers, technologists, environmentalists and the consumers. The goal of this conference is to source the best platforms for encompassing suitable resolutions for food crisis, self dependency and public policy.”
The conference will be inaugurated by the honourable President of India, Shri. Pranab Mukherjee. Honourable Union Minister for Agriculture, Shri.Sharad Pawar and honourable Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Shri Shrikant Kumar Jena will grace the occasion among other industry stalwarts, scientists and policy makers. Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Shri. Montek Singh Ahluwalia will deliver the key note address at a banquet in the evening.  The proceedings of the first day will include a panel discussion on the role of key stakeholders in increasing food production, innovation in agriculture and extension work.

The second day’s sessions include panel discussions on cooperation between government and regulatory authorities, role of seeds and GM crops in doubling food production, government policies & post harvest management, Agrochemicals and international experiences in agricultural productivity improvement. Some key panelists for the day comprise of  Dr RB Singh, Dr Patrick Moore,  Dr Ayyappan (DG ICAR), Dr. Mauricio Antonio Lopes (President, EMBRAPA, Brazil) and renowned economist and professor, Dr. Bibek Debroy (Center for Policy Research), to name a few.

The final day’s events include the valedictory function which will be led by Smt. Sushma Swaraj, MP. This will be followed by felicitations and remarks by renowned speakers from various institutions, thus culminating the conference. 

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