One Day Workshop on Agriculture at Rashtrapati Bhavan

Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi: 15.02.2012

A day long Workshop on "Policy Initiatives for Promoting Partnership between Stakeholders in Agriculture with particular reference to Rainfed/Dryland Farming" began at Rashtrapati Bhavan today. The President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressed the Workshop, which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. The inaugural session was also addressed by the Union Minister of Finance, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the Union Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, Shri Sharad Pawar and the Governor of Punjab and Rajasthan and the Chairman of the Committee of Governors, Shri Shivraj Patil.

In her address the President said, "This workshop is an attempt to bring all stakeholders on one platform so that they can put their heads together for a sort of convergence of various important aspects to make agriculture prosperous and productive. I keenly look forward to the discussions through the day." She highlighted the various issues that could be discussed, such as policy initiatives to remove factors impeding rapid development in Rainfed/Dryland Farming and to suggest measures to expedite growth. The President said, "One of the most important factors in Rainfed/Dryland Farming is reaching water to the farmer and ensuring its optimal use. Maintaining soil health was another critical area, she said. Another issue is how to coordinate the allied sectors in Rainfed/Dryland Farming. Knowledge and technology is another activity in which the Workshop could suggest how institutions, scientists, agricultural universities can propagate and take initiatives to the doorsteps of farmers", the President said. The President also said, "agricultural development must be accompanied by measures to remove the debilities of the farmers and empower them through marketing, finances and organisations of farmers. Another point is how to empower farmers through financial inclusion and access to credit. Indeed, financial exclusion has been a bane for Indian agriculturists", the President said.

"In terms of an approach, I have been advocating a move away from an isolationist attitude whereby agriculture is considered as an activity that happens in distant rural areas. Without integrating agriculture with other sectors it will not benefit the farmers or nation. Industry can have a mutually beneficial symbiosis with agriculture. I have been speaking about industry-agriculture interface over the last two years. I am glad that some formats are emerging where the farmer is also a stakeholder and can also keep his land in his possession. We need to draw lessons from these and see how to further strengthen these models. Indian corporate houses have emerged as major investors in agriculture in other countries. Why then the hesitation to engage with the agriculture sector and rural areas within the country, which has huge potential? Finally, agriculture has to continue as an important activity in our country. To address the specific problems and to empower small farmers in RFDF, institutional changes are required", the President emphasized.

In his inaugural address the Prime Minister said, "I believe that our government has given considerable attention to agriculture in the last seven and a half years or so. We have been able to channel nearly 4.75 lakh crore rupees of bank credit into agriculture and allied sectors. Minimum support prices for key agricultural commodities have been significantly enhanced. Indeed they have been enhanced as never before. We have increased Public investment in agriculture and with the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana given States a strong incentive to increase their involvement and their investment in agriculture. Consequently, allocation for agriculture & allied sectors as a proportion of State Plan expenditure has gone up from 4.88% in 2006-07 to 6.04% in 2010-11." Expressing happiness at progress in this sector, he said, "I am very happy that our agricultural policies have yielded positive result. Gross Capital Formation in agriculture and allied sectors has increased from 13.1% of GDP in agriculture in 2004-05 to 20.1% in 2010-11. Agriculture and allied sectors have grown at an estimated rate of 3.5% during the Eleventh Plan compared to the growth rates of 2.4% and 2.5% during Tenth and Ninth Plans respectively. Our farmers have done us proud again this year. The 2nd Advance Estimates for 2011-12 indicate that the production of food grains is expected to reach the record level of over 250 million tonnes, exceeding the target for the year by 5 million tonnes. The production of cotton in 2011-12 estimated at 34 million bales is also a new record."

Highlighting the challenges ahead, the Prime Minister said, "But we still have a long way to go. I would like to repeat here what I had stated on the occasion of the Foundation Day celebrations of the Indian Council of Agricultural research on July 16 last year- the challenges that India`s agriculture faces in the coming years remain enormous. As an illustration, to meet the total demand of foodgrains in the year 2020-2021, we need a growth rate of at least 2 percent per annum in food production. This has to be contrasted with the average annual rate of only 1 percent that we achieved in the ten year period 1995-96 to 2004-05."

The Minister of Finance, Shri Pranab Mukherjee said "increasing the yield levels holds the key. Lower yield and productivity of many crops and increasing input costs, especially of fertilizers, hinders progress. Indian agriculture is dominated by small and marginal farmers. The small land holding and weaker economic status of these farmers prevents them from taking up farm mechanization practices to a satisfactory level. So, agriculture sector in India needs to develop means that will help enhance incomes of farmers particularly the small and marginal farmers." He also drew attention to challenges arising out of increasing purchasing power of the people, by saying "Another emerging challenge for Indian agriculture is to meet the growing demand for certain food items like pulses, edible oils, and high value agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, fish and meat due to rising incomes and changes in tastes and preferences of the people." Shri Mukherjee also said, "I strongly believe that sustained agricultural growth is a necessary condition for inclusive development. As a nation we have to invest much more in agriculture to meet our objectives. This requires cooperation of both Central and State Governments. It also requires the creative use of available public resources to leverage private sector investment in strengthening of the agriculture supply chain."

In his speech, the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, Shri Sharad Pawar said "While designing agricultural strategy for the country, appropriate technologies, which are relevant for rainfed areas, have been developed by vigorous scientific efforts. Challenge lies in their effective extension, adoption and absorption at grass root level." Speaking about technology inputs, Shri Pawar said, "Research, development and agricultural production systems to meet growing need for new products and innovative technologies are being streamlined and stimulated. Synergy will have to be derived from agriculture education, applied research, management study and extension activities. Frontier technologies like biotechnology, Information & Communication Technology, renewable energy, space application and nano-technology offer enormous scope to address agricultural issues and enhance productivity on sustainable basis." Looking to the future, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing emphasized that, "Previous decade has been momentous for agriculture policy in the country. Among various other initiatives & interventions, adoption of National Policy for Farmers and introduction of innovative flagship schemes namely Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and National Food Security Mission have been instrumental in providing definitive thrust to agriculture sector. Moreover, Rainfed Area Development Programme, Accelerated Fodder Development Programme etc. have been launched to address emergent concerns. There is demonstrable improvement in agricultural output. It is necessary that our efforts fructify at micro level and outcome is visible in field, home and hearth of every cultivator."

This release issued at 1400 hrs.