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Posted on Sep 12, 04:52PM | IBNS
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Wednesday said that one cannot hope to increase farm production and productivity if the challenge to provide adequate and timely water to farmers is not addressed.
Addressing a National Conclave on Micro Irrigation here, the Minister said that he has recently toured the drought affected states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana and felt the urgency of developing plans and missions for preserving every drop of water available.
He said this year country's agriculture produce exports touched a record level of US 37 billion dollars.
"This year our agriculture produce exports touched a record level of US 37 billion dollars with a fairly diverse basket of agriculture commodities," said Pawar.
"However in the process, water tables have touched critical levels, and the ecological sustainability of these production systems is being questioned. Then there is the aspect of climate change, global warming and disruption in the rainfall patterns which again compels us to think critically about each drop of water, and the need to use it optimally," he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Ashish Bahuguna, Secretary Agriculture and Cooperation said, water is increasingly becoming a scarce commodity and there is a need for adopting water conservation technologies in a more comprehensive fashion.
Dwelling on the Micro Irrigation systems, he, however lamented that large parts of the country are still untouched by it.
Following is the text of Pawar's speech:
Shri Rajiv Mundhra, President of Indian Chamber of Commerce and his team members, Shri Ashish Bahuguna, Secretary Agriculture and senior officials of the Ministry.
I am delighted to be here in this august gathering for the second edition of the National Conclave on Micro Irrigation. I recall that we had met last year and dwelt on some of the pertinent issues in this sector like dissemination and spread of the technology to the North East, greater transparency in the selection of beneficiaries, better co-ordination with the state governments, Precision Farming Development Centres, rationalization of subsidy norms, and better interface between equipment suppliers, research institutions and actual users. I am told that many of these issues have been addressed during the course of the year.
This year you have included a discussion on micro irrigation in command areas in a PPP mode from the Planning Commission and the Water Resources Ministry. This is indeed laudable because 'water' will continue to be the most critical input in agriculture. Recently I have toured the drought affected states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana and felt the urgency of developing plans and missions for preserving every drop of water available with us. We cannot hope to increase our production and productivity if we do not address the challenge of being able to provide adequate and timely water to our farmers.
Friends, it is true that unless a resource becomes scarce, it is not given its true value. Till a few decades ago our agriculture production strategy had a single focus: that of making India self-sufficient in food grains. This mandate has been more than achieved, and the success story in wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane and horticulture crops is well known. This year our agriculture produce exports touched a record level of US 37 billion dollars with a fairly diverse basket of agriculture commodities.
However in the process, water tables have touched critical levels, and the ecological sustainability of these production systems is being questioned. Then there is the aspect of climate change, global warming and disruption in the rainfall patterns which again compels us to think critically about each drop of water, and the need to use it optimally.
This conference has to be seen in this context: making each drop of water count. Fortunately, every single factor that can contribute to the success of micro irrigation is favourable for us: we have the technology, the institutional strength and ready acceptance from the farmer for its adoption. The challenge is to leverage this opportunity for an exponential growth in this sector.
Let me first talk of technology. It is true that in the initial years, Indian firms were dependent on strategic partnerships with firms from Israel, Europe and USA, but now many of them are doing their own adaptation and R and D and bringing down the costs per hectare. Thanks to the development of Micro Irrigation in the country, Indian firms are now offering their products and services globally, and on several occasions have won contracts in Africa and West Asia. The domestic market which is currently estimated at Rs 3500 crores per year is showing a double digit growth over the last few years. Over two hundred equipment suppliers are registered with the Micro Irrigation authorities in the country, and the number is growing. Global firms as well as small and medium enterprises are entering the fray as the outlook is very positive. In fact the time has come for the Micro Irrigation services and equipment suppliers to form consortia and offer these services to third countries.
The second driver of success is the growing institutional strength to implement the programme. With the introduction of NMMI as a centrally sponsored scheme in 2010-11, the government has signalled its commitment to this sector. The establishment of state and district micro irrigation committees, involvement of Zilla Panchayats and support being provided under the National Horticulture Mission to Precision Farming Development Centres in SAUs, IIT s and engineering colleges has helped the mainstreaming of this programme, besides ensuring involvement of key stakeholders. Some state governments have offered additional support for Micro Irrigation, others have ensured convergence with other programmes, especially irrigation, and still others have introduced systems for on-line monitoring, review and evaluation.
Last but not the least: farmers have been more than willing to accept this technology. Almost every other Chief Minister is writing to me to increase the Micro Irrigation allocation for his or her state. Micro irrigation stared with horticulture and High Value crops but own there is a demand that is should be introduced in other crops as well, and experiments have shown that it does have the ability to raise yields, reduce water and fertilizer costs and improve profitability. This augurs well for the Micro Irrigation industry - but the challenge for the industry is to rise to the occasion by offering better value and improved services for the farmer, besides extending the network to hitherto serviced areas. I am sure the industry will rise to the occasion, besides actively participating in the proposed PPP for Micro Irrigation in command areas.
With these words, I declare the conclave open, and wish the deliberations all success. I am sure all these deliberations will finally help the farmers to produce more with lesser input.