Inclusive growth, food security key goals for India's agri-sector: Mukherjee
Stating that India's agriculture sector continues to be the lifeline of its people and a key factor in the economy's overall productivity, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday that it has rightly been accorded due priority in every budget and Plan for achieving India's developmental goals.
Addressing an august gathering here on the 5oth anniversay of the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) here, Mukherjee highlighted the efforts of the central government in the agriculture sector over the decades, including the fact that it had introduced a variety of schemes and measures to give support to the entire agriculture sector from small farmers to large investors.
He said: "Institutions and banks have been created to focus on supporting agriculture development, fixing remunerative prices and improve agricultural marketing."
He added: "The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and the Food Corporation of India have been set up to recommend Minimum Support Prices and procure grains for public stocks respectively, the NABARD and Regional Rural Banks to ensure easy and adequate credit availability, and programmes such as the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna, National Food Security Mission and National Horticulture Mission have taken the Government's outreach to the farthest and remotest regions."
"Promoting inclusive growth, sustaining food security and boosting rural incomes in the country is intrinsically linked to growth in the agriculture sector," Mukherjee said, adding that as the country's finance minister, he had outlined a four-pronged strategy to drive growth in this area.
"The first component of the strategy was to extend the Green Revolution to the eastern region of the country comprising Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa. The second component of the strategy was to reduce the significant wastage in storage as well as in the operations of the existing food supply chains in the country. The third component was to improve credit availability to the farmers, while the fourth component was to aim at providing a further impetus to the development of the food processing sector by providing state-of-the-art infrastructure and substantial fiscal incentives," he said.
He claimed that the initiative of bringing the Green Revolution to eastern India has resulted in a significant increase in production of paddy.
He said that the total food grains production in the country had increased from 244.78 million metric tonnes in 2010-11 to 257.44 million metric tonnes in 2011-12.
He also said that concrete steps have been taken to reduce wastage in storage, to create additional food grain storage capacity in the country.
"Two million tonnes of storage capacity in the form of modern silos have already been approved for creation. Further, nearly 15 million tonnes of storage capacity is being created through private entrepreneurs and warehousing corporations. To enable the timely availability of affordable agriculture credit to the farmers, the target for flow of agriculture credit has been enhanced in the Union Budgets from time to time, from Rs.3,75,000 crore in 2010-11 to Rs.5,75,000 crore in 2012-13. The Mega Food Park scheme, which was introduced in the Eleventh Plan, aims at developing farm proximate state of the art infrastructure with strong backward and forward linkage in a demand driven manner. 30 Mega Food Parks are being planned for creation in this financial year," Mukherjee said.
"At the present juncture, we have come a long way. The growth rate of GDP in agriculture and allied activities in 2011-12 is 2.8 per cent which is, of course, lower than the growth rate of 7 per cent in 2010-11, but higher than the growth rates of 0.4 per cent in 2008-09 and 1.7 per cent in 2009-10," he added.
He called upon all present to reflect on why, despite all these successes and efforts, and despite India's overall improved economic performance, the economic viability of th e agricultural sector is still a challenge.
He said there is a compelling reason for the Indian farmer to be provided the wherewithal that he urgently needs - the financial, technological, infrastructural, transportation and other requirements for a sustainable approach for the increased productivity that we seek.
"We need to do a re-think on agriculture in India urgently to ensure food security. We must have in place a coherent and comprehensive policy that has synergy among its various elements. Government initiatives are of little use without efficient systems for their implementation. Equally important is the necessity for collaboration between the state and central governments on the monitoring and appraisal of various schemes," Mukherjee said.
"A co-ordinated and integrated approach should start at the grassroots, taking into account all the factors," he concluded.