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Agriculture suffering from technology fatigue: Manmohan

Tuesday 29 May 2007

New Delhi, May 29 (PTI): Worried over slowdown of agriculture sector due to "technology fatigue," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured the Chief Ministers that the Centre was willing to support their plans for enhancing productivity in the segment.

Stating that small and marginal farming had become an unviable proposition, the Prime Minister told the 53rd meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) that until farming was made viable at this scale, it would be virtually "impossible" to reduce rural poverty and distress.

He said the public and private investment in agriculture sector should be seen in the context of a larger trend, whereby subsidies have been increasing and investments declining.

"One feature that stands out is the lack of any breakthroughs in agricultural production technology in recent years. There is a technology fatigue which we need to address," he said.

The Prime Minister said reversing the prolonged slowdown in the agriculture sector is essential for "our goal of inclusive growth, for ensuring that growth benefits all sections of society and all regions of the country."

He said the NDC could also consider launching a food security mission for raising production of wheat, pulses and edible oil to contain the rising prices.

Focus on yield-gap reduction

The Prime Minister said there was also a need to focus on yield-gap reduction, saying the yield increase potentials varies from 40 to 100 per cent in various states and regions.

He said increased production in the next three or four years can only come from bridging this yield gap or expanding area.

Singh, however, observed that the scope for area expansion is extremely limited and hence there was a need to bridge the yield gap.

"Bridging these gaps requires localised and state specific strategies based on local agro-climatic conditions and constraints," he said.

"I believe that working together with the states, it is possible to evolve such plans and the Central government would be willing to support such plans on a reasonably large scale... on a scale large enough to make a visible impact," he said.

Support to States

Among various steps taken by the government, the Prime Minister said the plan allocation in agriculture has been increased substantially and steps had been taken to deal with the problem of suicide prone districts.

On the various initiatives in agriculture sector, the Prime Minister said besides launching the National Horticulture Mission, the government had also established the National Rainfed Area Authority and the National Fisheries Development Board.

He said subject to agreement, the Planning Commission could be directed to prepare the outline of a major programme for providing central support to states which prepare such localised plans.

"I believe a programme of this nature can provide the critical breakthrough we have so far been looking for and enable states to integrate the various disciplines in farming — including irrigation — into a common umbrella with a focus on specific outcomes targeted at bridging the yield gap," the Prime Minister said.

Singh said at less than two per cent per annum, the growth of the agriculture sector since the mid-1990s has been a cause for concern and in view of the seriousness of the situation, he had proposed to call the NDC meeting to deal exclusively with issues related to food and agriculture.

See online : The Hindu

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