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'Contract farming and PPP can rev agricultural economy'

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Date:Sep 15, 2011

Industry, experts say investments and policy changes are needed

Agriculture experts, industry representatives and the Union minister of state for food and consumer affairs on Thursday called for reforms in the agriculture sector to improve rural economy. They had gathered for an agriculture leadership summit on the theme 'policy reforms for farm growth'.

The reforms suggested at the conference ranged from attracting capital investment in agriculture through public-private partnerships in non-Green Revolution states (particularly in eastern and north-eastern parts of India) and shifting agriculture from the list of state subjects to the concurrent list.

Besides minister K V Thomas, the speakers included agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan, chairperson of Confederation of Indian Industries, Salil Singhal, Axis Bank vice-president Raul Rebello and deputy director of Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Swapan Dutta. The speakers identified roadblocks, which according to them, are not allowing farmers to grow economically—small land holdings, environment, social activism and late introduction of technology to Indian farmers.

In favour of endosulfan
 
  Industry speaker Singhal used the opportunity to pitch for pesticides. He said that 54 per cent of the 1.4 million calls made to the Kisan Call Centre, set up by the Agriculture ministry, pertain to diseases and pests. “Farmers are really suffering because of pests and diseases and they need a solution for it.” The Supreme Court banned endosulfan, taking stock of the crisis in Kerala, but nobody, including Government of India, tried to study the workers who are working in manufacturing units of endosulfan. “These workers are not suffering from any health problems. So how can you say that a particular pesticide is playing havoc?”  
 
 

It’s time to shift orientation of agricultural development from increasing production to raising farm income, said Thomas. The widening rural-urban disparity is growing and to keep a check on it we need to diversify rural livelihood options, covering crops, livestock, fisheries and horticultural activities. This can be achieved only if farmers are linked to market and public-private partnership could be a key, said Thomas.

The minister said declining productivity, degrading natural resources and stagnating farm income have become a major concern. There is urgent need for agricultural diversification by identifying crop and commodities that can help raise income of small farmers like maize and cotton. During the past one decade, production of maize and cotton has doubled, which is really impressive, he said.

The minister suggested that a mission-mode programme to bridge the productivity gap and effective monitoring is required as a matter of priority. He said that rainfed areas have good potential and that technologies, policies and infrastructure can help realise this potential.

Industry representative Singhal said there is a need now to shift agriculture from state list to concurrent list because a lot of policies are being framed by Centre and they need to take a call on agriculture laws too.

His suggestions were supported by Rebello who said that lending agriculture credit was not possible in case of small land holdings and contract farming should be promoted to get better economic benefits from the agricultural economy.

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