The Centre today made a strong appeal to the States to make the best use of the initiatives taken in the recent years not only to ensure food security but also to turn India into an exporter of food and agricultural produce.Inaugurating the Conference of State Agriculture and Agricultural Marketing Ministers here today, Agriculture and Food Minister, Shri Sharad Pawar called upon the State Ministers to give high priority to better water use efficiency, ensuring availability of quality seed and fertilizers, improving marketing infrastructure, introducing market reforms and disseminating new technology through the extension network.
The Minister informed that the foodgrain production in 2007-08 has reached a record 227.32 million tonnes and record production has been achieved in a number of crops. He expressed the hope that given a normal monsoon as forecast by the IMD, the production of foodgrains would see further rise in the coming Kharif seasonThe National Food Security Mission has shown encouraging trend in the use of quality inputs. ‘Initial reports from a few States indicate an increase of wheat seed distribution from about 43% in Rajasthan to as high as about 10 times in Bihar. In pulses also the increase in use of improved seed range from 29% in Rajasthan to more than 400% in Chhattisgarh’, Shri Pawar informed.
On enhancing water use efficiency, the Minister emphasized that conservation farming is required especially in Punjab, Hayana and Western U.P. where deceleration in productivity growth in foodgrains has been observed in post green revolution period, mainly due to unsustainable use of soil and water resources. He also suggested that the NREGP should focus on rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge and watershed management and synergise with the priorities of the agriculture sector.
Referring to the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna, the Minister expressed satisfaction that the State Governments have undertaken projects in the field of micro/minor irrigation, watershed development, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, research, etc., depending on the local needs. The State Governments need to focus on preparation of District and State agriculture plans and monitor the implementation of the scheme in an effective manner so as to maximize the benefits from investments, he stated. The Minister informed that for the year 2008-09, an outlay of about Rs. 3166 crore has been approved for the scheme.
Calling upon the States to expedite market reforms, the Minister said: ‘We need investments in post-harvest and cold-chain infrastructure for which entry of the private sector is necessary to bring latest technology and expertise in marketing. Therefore, an appropriate regulatory and policy environment is necessary.’ He further said that State Governments were earlier requested by the Ministry of Agriculture to suitably amend their Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Acts for de-regulation of the agricultural marketing system. Twenty-two States have amended their APMC Acts, but have not yet notified the APMC Rules thereunder or the amendment is partial. A draft of model APMC Rules has been circulated to States. The Minister said that his Ministry is putting before the States a proposal to constitute an Empowered Committee of State Agriculture Marketing Ministers to facilitate faster implementation of marketing reforms.
Shri Pawar also expressed the confidence that wheat procurement in the current season would cross the target of 150 lakh tonnes. He informed that in the last 10 days of procurement, 86.25 lakh tonne wheat has been procured. He appreciated Punjab and Haryana governments for procuring about 99% of total market arrivals of wheat so far. He also appreciated the steps taken by Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments in taking steps to improve wheat procurement in their States. The Minister called upon the other wheat growing States to take necessary steps so that enough wheat is procured by government agencies. This will ensure food security and stabilise prices, and the country would not need to import wheat this year.
The Minister asked the States to take necessary steps for procurement of rice in the Kharif season. The rice producing States that do not procure adequate quantities of rice will have to give special attention to procurement, he said.
Earlier, Secretary (Agriculture and Cooperation) Dr. P.K. Mishra gave the details of the approach being adopted for maximizing crop production in the coming kharif season.
Secretary (DARE) and DG (ICAR) Dr. Mangala Rai stressed the need to fill the gap between realisable potential of available technologies and the present low productivity of crops.
Secretary (Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries) Dr. Pradeep Kumar requested the States to include more animal husbandry schemes under the Rastriya Krishi Vikas Yojna and include fodder crops in their cropping systems so that animal productivity does not suffer due to shortage of feed and fodder.
Besides the State Ministers for Agriculture and Agricultural Marketing, senior officers from the concerned Central and State ministries, scientific organizations and PSUs are participating in the conference.