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Agriculture growth single major factor in food security: President

Posted on Feb 04 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Feb 4 : Agricultural growth was a singular contributory factor for food security and plays a pivotal role in creating employment opportunities and promoting socio-economic development, President Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday.

"By 2030, global food production has to increase by 40 percent to keep pace with the world demand," Mukherjee said at the inaugural session of the Asia-Africa Agri-Business Forum organised by industry chamber FICCI.

"One billion people, representing 14 percent of the global population, are still afflicted by hunger. Asia and Africa account for most of them. This cannot continue any further. Food production has to proceed in a business-unusual manner; on a war footing," he said.

The president also said enhanced crop production and productivity were key priorities in Asia and Africa.

Studies have projected agriculture and agri-business to be a USD 3 trillion business in Africa and almost USD 4.5 trillion business in Asia by 2030.

He pointed out that the development of agri-business in these continents has remained stunted due to inefficient utilisation of capacity and resources and for want of a more favourable policy environment.

"The sector is plagued by serious constraints in production, demand and supply, export potential and processing capabilities," he said.

The president said that in Africa, weak agricultural performance was a major barrier in the development of the agri-business sector.

The continent is endowed with 733 million hectares of arable land of which only 183 million hectares are currently under cultivation.

Similarly, in Asia land availability for agriculture is continuously decreasing due to rising population, he said.

"The shrinking and deteriorating land resources have to be judiciously used in order to sustain the needs of the future. Adequate policies, strategies, technologies and human resources have to be in place," the president said.

He said the challenge was to translate the woes into business opportunities.

"There is a need for both the continents to overcome the challenges through symbiotic associations. Partnerships must aim at developing the agri-business sector into an efficient business enterprise capable of competing in other international markets."

On the importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for agriculture, he said: "The Accelerating Green Revolution programme in Africa seeks to achieve a quantum jump in productivity and production levels.

"India, which witnessed a Green Revolution in the sixties, is now moving towards an 'Evergreen Revolution', recognising the positive role that information technology can play as powerful catalyst for sustainable agricultural development," he said.

Mentioning that the future of agriculture depends on the adoption of scale-neutral technologies, he said: "Increased mechanization of the farm sector in India has led to improvement in productivity.

"India is today a potential source of high-tech agricultural machinery. Our country can provide agricultural equipment like harvester, thresher and bailer machinery, earth moving equipment, tractors and sowing machinery to African nations."

The president said a shift in focus towards the development of horticultural crops and food processing industry can provide the impetus necessary for the overall growth of the agricultural sector.

"Africa has tremendous scope for benefiting from the development of the food processing industry. India can provide training in post harvest management of different crops and provide assistance in developing packaging technology in line with world standards.

"India has requisite expertise for each level of the value chain and can assist African countries in developing the same."

Mukherjee underlined the fact that access to agriculture markets and finance as well as greater public private partnership in agri-business and food processing sectors in Asia and Africa were essential to unleash their potential.

"Major investment in infrastructure like irrigation, water conservation, roads, markets and cold chains is also necessary. I strongly recommend that the investing firms and banks forge a strategic partnership to address the credit requirements of both Asian and African countries.

"This would help the agri-business and food processing sectors to meet their requirement for finance," the president added.

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