The Ministry of Agriculture recently organized a three-day Global Agro-Industrial Forum (GAIF-2008) in collaboration with Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It was the first global gathering of senior level policy makers from national and local governments, leaders of food industries, UN technical agencies, civil society organizations and agro-industry specialists involved in fostering the development of competitive agro-partnership for future action. During the three-day meet, GAIF discussed actions for improving agro-industrial competitiveness in ways that can contribute to broad based economic development and poverty alleviation. About 500 delegates and senior level Government officials from 100 countries participated in the GAIF – 2008.Shri Sharad Pawar Union Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution while inaugurating the Global Agro Industrial Forum urged the agricultural scientists to work for suitable use of harvested biomass. Expressing concern over impact of climate change on agricultural production, the Minister said there is a concern worldwide about rising food prices and food security in the coming years on account of declining production due to climate changes, rising demand because of economic growth and pressure on account of bio fuels. He expressed the hope that scientists would overcome technological barriers to agricultural production even under the new threat of climate change. The Government is launching a pilot project with a budget of Rs. 40 crore to promote agro-industries in rural areas and production catchments for sustainable agricultural growth.
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, addressing the Global Agro Industries Forum thanked it for conferring the prestigious Agricola Award on him.
Referring to the cooperation and support of international organizations in achieving India’s food security in the past he said, “India has had a long association with each of the international organizations present here. India’s Green Revolution would not have been possible without the active cooperation and support of several international organizations as well as some major developed countries, such as the United States of America”.
He further said, “today we are once again faced with a situation where rising demand for foodgrains and other food items is running into supply constraints – both domestically as well as internationally… there is a persistent feeling that the first Green Revolution has run its course. Modern technology has certainly widened the options available to our farmers and planners. Yet, the world seems to be facing the prospect of food shortages and rising food prices. I believe that in the near future, this is going to be one of the most urgent challenges of our times. Therefore, it is important that the world community tackles this problem head-on. We need a Second Green Revolution. We need new technologies, new organizational structures, new institutional responses and, above all, a new compact between farmers, technologists, scientists, administrators, businessmen, bankers and consumers. The global community and global agencies must fashion a collective response that leads to a quantum leap in agricultural productivity and output so that the specter of food shortages is banished from the horizon once again”.
Speaking on the issue of farming increasingly becoming an unviable business proposition for many rural households, he said, “Collectivisation, corporatisation and land consolidation through land alienation are neither possible, nor socially desirable. We cannot therefore wish away the existence of economically unviable farms. On the other hand, we must find ways in which farmers can benefit from economies of scale in certain farm operations such as provision of farm inputs, credit and marketing support while retaining family-based small holders. Advances in technical and related progress can have a major impact on the productivity and well-being of small and marginal farmers.”
He emphasized that Institution building, capacity building, empowering farmers through investment in their capabilities, were the kind of interventions we must seek and emphasized that “we in India wish to promote agro-industries and offer people living in rural areas new avenues of employment close to the place they work and live… In a labour surplus economy like ours, we need solutions that increase producers’ incomes but also generate new employment opportunities. The food processing sector must have these objectives in mind.”
Giving voice to his conviction that our farmers and workers sought incomes, not subsidies, he stated, “They seek markets and employment, not hand-outs. While some subsidies are useful and helpful, especially when targeted to those in distress, what our rural households seek is higher investment in land development, in water management, in seed technology, in output storage and in marketing. They also seek investment in rural infrastructure. Investment therefore is the key to development. We need much greater global and national effort to increase investment in rural areas in developing world, in agriculture and agricultural technologies, in farm and off-farm economic activities.”