Ludhiana, 27 Nov 2012 (Bharatsandesh news):– The President of India, Sh. Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the three-day International Conference on “Sustainable Agriculture for Food and Livelihood Security,” at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) today. The Governor of Punjab and Chancellor of the University, Sh. Shivraj V. Patil was the Guest of Honour while the Chief Minister of Punjab, S. Prakash Singh Badal presided over the conference, organized as a part of Golden Jubilee Celebrations of PAU.
Sh. Mukherjee stated that agriculture sector in India is a crucial lifeline of the people. Although the food production of India has increased from 50 million tonnes in 1960s to 257.44 million tonnes in 2011-12, yet the economic viability of farm sector is still a challenge, he pointed out. “There are so many regions in our country where heart-rending tragedy regularly hits subsistence farmers, and that the small farmers remain susceptible to failure, risk and desperation,” he remarked. The Indian farmer urgently needs financial, technological, infrastructural, transportation and other requirements for a sustainable approach to the increased productivity.
Divulging that India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, Sh. Mukherjee told that value addition to this produce is just seven per cent and processing only around three per cent. There is hardly any value addition at the farm level and that 98 per cent of farm produce is sold as it is harvested, he said, while revealing “due to tropical/sub-tropical conditions, more than 25 per cent of production is lost during harvest and post-harvest operations.” Sh. Mukherjee emphasized, “We need to re-think on agriculture in India. Equally important is the necessity for collaboration between the State and Central Governments on monitoring and appraisal of the schemes.” He laid thrust on training and entrepreneurship development, technology evolvement and making it reachable to the farmers, agri-marketing reforms, studying the present yield gaps and methods to harvest wastelands, addressing the wastage of fertilizer during its application, and developing simple IT tools for farmers for timely information on weather forecasts. Stressing that the innovation of new varieties, technologies and methods for post-harvest process should be prioritized, Sh. Mukherjee said that the percentage of agriculture GDP, spent on research, must be increased in XII Five Year Plan. He disclosed that 2 million tonnes of storage capacity has been approved for the food grain storage. Congratulating PAU for its 50th anniversary and for the splendid contribution in the service of the nation, he said that this institution has transformed the Indian agriculture, thus, making the country self-reliant in feeding its population.
The Guest of Honour, Sh. Shivraj V. Patil said that erudite scientists and technologists should pay attention to the emerging, mid-term and distant challenges in agriculture. To have sustainable agriculture and to meet food requirements of people, it is vital for the governments, state agricultural universities, farmers and those working in agri-fields to deal with the agrarian issues and find solutions for the same, he emphasized. Laying stress on the efficient use of water, he said that there is a need for technology that can utilize the ocean water reservoirs for irrigation, producing food grains, and for livelihood. He suggested, “Why can’t we have technology that allows the crops to grow in desert lands? We can transfer the genes of desert plants to rice, sugarcane or any other crops for cultivation with less water.” He stated that potentiality of agri-research, extension and education is essential for farm development and all round development of human race. About PAU, he said that it is one of the oldest and reputed universities in India, which has contributed towards the ushering in of green revolution. The scientists of this institution have done best and deserve all congratulations and gratitude, he added.
In his presidential remarks, the Chief Minister of Punjab, S. Prakash Singh Badal highlighted that the Punjab state is “Granary of India” and that its farmers have made remarkable contribution to the central food grain bowl. Keeping in view the shrinking land holdings, dwindling natural resources and over-exploitation of groundwater resources, he called upon the Government of India to give assured minimum support price (MSP) for alternative crops. He described PAU as a “Mother of Green Revolution” and congratulated it for its 50 years of glorious service.
The Director General of International Rice Research Institute, Philippines; Dr R.A. Zeigler, said that the PAU has served very well in the past five decades. But the problems and challenges in farm sector for coming fifty years can be addressed only through research. Calling upon the PAU to produce next generation of scientists, he underlined the need for developing policies and programmes that can pave way for the global food security.
Dr Thomas Lumpkin, Director General, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Mexico; said that currently the biggest challenge is producing more food with less land and less water. New science and technology involving invention, is the need of the hour to feed the ever-increasing population, he stressed, adding that sustainability of water, land and fertilizers, is also essential. “The first green revolution has been in wheat and rice, but presently, the green revolution is going on in maize,” divulged Dr Lumpkin, adding that India is lagging behind in maize cultivation.
Dr S. Ayyappan, Director General, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR); said that with the efforts of PAU, the Punjab state has been designated as the “Food Basket and Food Bowl of India.” Telling that about 40 per cent of global population in dependent on agriculture for livelihood, he remarked that food security, food accessibility, and food absorption are vital to feed the growing population. Keeping human beings in the forefront, food security must look into sustainability in farm production and livelihood security issues, added Dr Ayyappan.
Earlier, welcoming the dignitaries and the delegates, Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, said, “Today is the “red-letter day” in the history of PAU as the President of India is amongst us, to express his views and guide us on sustainable agriculture.” Dr Dhillon revealed that quantum jump in wheat and rice production is attributed to high-yielding varieties, matching production and protection technologies and technology transfer to the farmers. He added that the frontier technologies like nanotechnology and biotechnology provide an opportunity for improving productivity and natural resource management.
Dr Dhillon felicitated the President of India and Governor and Chief Minister of Punjab with a shawl and a memento.
Dr Allah Rang, Organizing Secretary of the conference, proposed the vote of thanks.