Pawar calls for coperation in R and D among SAARC nations

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New Delhi, Mar 5 (UNI) Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today called for sharing farm technology and experience among the SAARC countries to reduce poverty in the region.

"Cooperation in the agriculture sector is of special significance for this region as about 60 per cent of the people in South Asia are still dependent directly on agriculture for their livelihood and also because agriculture has been growing at mere 2 per cent per year", Mr Pawar said.

Mr Pawar was addressing a Conference on Science based Agricultural Transformation Towards Alleviation of Hunger and Poverty in SAARC Countries. Ministers, officials, scientists and farmers from SAARC countries will deliberate upon the issues relating to use of science in agriculture over the next three days.

Sharing information about the vast network of research institutions and agriculture universities in India, the Agriculture Minister offered cooperation in agriculture R and D to other SAARC nations.

Mr Pawar also highlighted the need for intra-region trade in South Asia, which is only 0.8 per cent of GDP as compared to nearly 27 per cent in the East Asia. He expressed the need to strengthen the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).

The Agriculture Minister stressed that investments and regional cooperation in R and D must be at the top of policy agenda of SAARC countries. The Minister said, ''With agriculture becoming complex today, we need science and technology interventions at a much larger scale at all stages of agricultural chain. The urgency of enhancing agricultural productivity, bridging yield gaps and strengthening regional agricultural research, extension and farmer linkages can hardly be overemphasised.'' It is well accepted that investments in R and D pay off handsomely with appreciable high internal rate of return. Given the agro-climatic advantages and availability of man power, there is potential to turn agriculture in the SAARC region into a dynamic sector with rapid technological innovation accelerating growth and reducing poverty.' The Conference has been organised jointly by the Agriculture Ministry, ICAR and IFFCO Foundation. Besides country representatives, Dr M S Swaminathan, Mr Suresh Prabhu, MP, and Dr Mangala Rai, DG, ICAR also addressdc the conference.

UNI JSS RC ND/HS2006

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