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Monsoon isn't a big factor anymore
BS corporate bureau in New Delhi | December 08, 2004 11:48 IST
Even though 60 per cent of the country's cultivable land was rain-fed, factors like increased rabi crop, better food security and increased productivity had reduced the impact of the monsoon on the economy, said Radha Singh, secretary, ministry of agriculture.
She was addressing a session on agriculture at the India Economic Summit 2004. "Even in the worst drought of the century in 2002, GDP and prices had both remained stable," she added.
But to mitigate the risks of a bad monsoon, the government is working along with the Indian Institutes of Technology to develop a better monsoon prediction model.
Singh emphasised that although the green revolution of the 1970s had brought food grain self sufficiency in the country, India now had to look at areas like horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry to augment farm income.
According to her, the government was taking measures to promote such agricultural activities in 21 agri-zones, which had been identified as untapped.
"A model Agricultural Produce Marketing Commodities Act had been suggested to the states and more than half the states were committed to passing it within the next year. While 146 million tonnes of horticulture was currently being produced, the target was to achieve 300 million tonnes by the end of the Tenth Plan," said Singh.
She invited the private sector to consider ways to provide risk management coverage for farmers and to extensively use biotech applications in agriculture.
"Food processing and value addition were essential to remove anomalies. The lack of cold chains and cold transport infrastructure was leading to 25-40 per cent wastage of food produce. This was driving up prices of products to end-users, while farm-gate prices were low," said Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman and managing director, Bharti Enterprises.
He added the $3 billion agriculture adjustment fund was a welcome step or promoting diversification of agricultural produce.
ITC chairman YC Deveshwar said India could be the food bowl of the world if market forces on both the supply and demand sides were put in place.
Other speakers at the session, Chengal Reddy, co-chairman, Indian Farmers and Industry Alliance, and S Shandilya, chairman and CEO, Eicher group, emphasised that Indian farmers were capable of competing with the best if they had access to resources.
"In Bihar, large-scale organic crop production takes place despite recurring floods and animal husbandry is very productive in water scarce Rajasthan," Reddy said.
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