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India needs to cultivate food security: Study

Posted on Dec 26, 06:51PM | IBNS

Having done very well in raising foodgrains production in the last decade, India will have to do 'out-of-box' and adopt a fresh strategy to ensure food security for its growing population in the next 10 years, an ASSOCHAM study has pointed out.

The country's food grain production, comprising mainly rice, wheat, coarse grains and pulses, increased from 197 million tones in 2000-01 to 257 million tones in 2011-12.

However, to raise the production in the same proportion to something like 320 million tones in the next eight to 10 years to feed our growing population will be a big challenge, given the fact that land resource is limited and the country needs to go in for urbanization at an increased pace, the chamber said.

"It goes to the credit of the 'Green Revolution' and efforts of our farmers that the country harvested rich crop of foodgrains without much increase in the acreage. For instance, the acreage under foodgrains cultivation in 2000-01 was 122 million hectares while the total production was 197 million tones," said the study.

The area under cultivation went up by four million hectares to 126 million hectares but the production jumped upto 257 million tones.

It said: "India needs to constantly raise its foodgrains production and food security, first because our population in 2020 would be about 140-145 crore and secondly, most of our population is young. It goes without saying that youngsters are better eaters.

"And then, as a country we also need to improve on the nutrition scale as we strive to reduce the ratio of people below the present poverty level of about 30 per cent."

"In fact, finishing the poverty level should be the first priority," the study emphasized, fully supporting the UPA Government's flagship programme 'Food Security Bill' under which rice and wheat would be sold to the BPL families at Rs three and Rs two per kg respectively.

The study pointed out that while the next level of revolution in pushing up food production is a challenging task, it is not impossible.

However, it would require huge investment in raising the facilities for irrigation. As per World Bank report, only 35 per cent of India's agricultural land has irrigation facilities and the rest depends totally on Monsoon rains.

As much as 60 per cent of India's land of 2973190 square kilometer comprises agricultural land (1797090 Sq km) and only 35 per cent of it is under irrigation.

"The productivity of irrigated land is almost double than the dry land. Besides, we can have at least double crop in a year on irrigated land whereas harvesting even a single crop would depend on the Rain God," revealed the ASSOCHAM study on "The Next Food Security Challenge".

Unfortunately, even though thousands of crores of rupees are earmarked for development of irrigation facilities, not much attention is paid and neither the sector receives any media attention, it said.

"For instance, we should monitor the progress of the Rs 14,000 crore 'Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme', Rs 2,500 crore 'Flood Management programme' and Rs 550 crore water bodies development programme."

"It is only when some scam takes place, like the one in Maharashtra that the media glare is seen on the sector," the study observed regretfully.

While the Green Revolution gave us the handsome dividend in terms of raising production, it depended too much on the use of fertilizers and ground water.

"However, given the land degradation and imbalance in soil nutrient, such scope is limited in future", the ASSOCHAM study said emphasizing the need for repairing the soil nutrient balance.

Secondly to boost productivity and improve flood management the ambitious programme of inter-linking of rivers should be scientifically examined by a high level of committee of experts, without any political colour or bias, the chamber said.