New agri strategy at Plan Panel meet: Montek

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New Delhi, May 12: Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia today said he will propose to the full Planning Commission meeting on Monday a new agricultural strategy to step up growth of the sector to the targeted level of four per cent per annum.

In an informal chat with newspersons, Dr Ahluwalia said the new strategy would in some ways be a departure from the existing plan strategy. The meeting would be a precursor to the NDC meeting on May 29, 2007, on the subject of stepping up growth in agricuture.

He said an NDC sub-committee had gone into the issue and had set up several sub-groups, headed by various Chief Ministers. The NDC Sub-Committee was headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

In reply to a question, Dr Ahluwalia said the report of the NDC sub-committee would serve as a political endorsement of a new staregy underway, rather than an academic exercise aimed at gathering knowledge and information on the subject.

The full Plan Panel meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to be held in Yojna Bhavan on May 14, 2007.

Dr Ahluwalia recalled that the NDC's had appoved the Approach Paper to the Eleventh Plan(2007-11) which had stressed on higher growth, which was inclusive.

He said during the last two to three years agricultural growth rate had improved, but was still far less then the four per cent targetted growth rate. It was crucial to raise this to the level of four per cent.

Saying that a four per cent growth rate of agriculture was essential to improve the lot of the common man in the rural areas, Dr Ahluwalia said in the Indian context it was unpalatable to have a GDP growth rate of nine per cent per annum but a low growth rate in agriculture. To make growth inclusive, it was necesssary to have a high growth rate of the agricultural sector.

If the growth rate were to be of the magnitude of four per cent, then some of the ciriticism of a nine per cent growth not being inclusive would die down, he said.

Dr Ahluwalia said the ongoing marketing reforms need to be encouraged, as also taking the Agrcutlural Produce Marketing Act amendment to their logical conclusion.

While most states have drafted the new APMC Acts, many states are yet to frame the necesssary rules. Changes in these rules brook no further delay, he said.

Talking about restructuring agriculture planning in States, Dr Ahluwalia said the state governments must commit a reasonable proportion of their plans and allocations for agriculture and irrigation.

Dr Ahluwalia said long term issues are at least as important as medium term growth, and converge on some points. These are namely, getting technology moving and ensuring access of farmers to this, concentrating on investment, efficiency and systems support rather than subsidy; while diversification was important for income growth, it was equally important not to forget food security and social sector issues need to be addressed for reasons of equity.


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