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Indo-US agriculture tie-up: focus on agri-business alone

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 5 (UNI) Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on agricultural research and education revolves mainly around agri-business with America stressing upon India opening its agricultural markets for US exports and creating conducive environment for its companies to enter the food processing sector.

The Indo-US joint statement on President George W Bush's arrival in New Delhi with special reference to the opening of US market to Indian mangoes notwithstanding, the agreed work plan on bilateral trade pertains to allowing entry of Indian agricultural produce in exchange for an American one.

Though the Indo-US agreement on agriculture is yet to become public, official sources say that US allowed import of Indian mangoes only in return for India permitting California almond and cashew nuts under 'special differential treatment' for a reduced prescribed bond rate tariff for these items at 150 per cent.

With this understanding, both countries will export one million dollar worth of these agri-produce to each other. However, the Indian exports are required to meet American agency USDA's organic standards.

In persuance of the July joint agreement between President Bush and Dr Manmohan Singh in Washington, US agricultural universities and institutes and Indian scientists from Indian Council of Agricultral Research (ICAR) had visited each others' country in November-December last year.

Subsequently, Cornell University and ICAR identified the areas for proposed technology collaboration in the fields of drought and salinity toleranat rice, late Blight (fungus) resistant potatoes, fruit and shoot borer resistant eggplant (brinjal), ring spot virus resistant Papaya and virus resistant sunflower and groundnut.

But this time, the US collaboration in agri-technology would not be free for India unlike by the US Land Grant Universities during 1960s which transformed India's agricultural research and education systems and helped bring about the Green Revolution.

Mr W. Ronnie Coffman, Cornell University's Director of International Programmes who led a US team to India in December, made it clear that Indian partners, ''will require about Rs three crore per product to develop regulatory profile for each crop, carry out confined and large-scale open field trials .... The investment of around Rs 3 crore per project will require Rs 15 crore for the ICAR institutions and another Rs 15 crore for Indian Agricultural Universities to bring about four transgenic varieties of rice, five of brinjal, two of groundnut, three of papaya, two of potatoes and two of sunflowers...'' Similarly, for training the Indian scientific faculty in cutting edge technology, in US universities, an annual outlay quoted by the US scietific delegation is 600,000 US dollars for 150 members. The fee quoted for training of 25 bright students, selected from 4-5 Indian universities will require 100,000 US dollars.

On the same lines, the US agricultural universities, all private enterprises, quoted a fee of 5000 US dollars for short courses in agri-business and food processing.

On the other hand, during the exchange exercise prior to President Bush's visit to India, the ICAR took as many as 25 propposals to the US counterparts for acquiring ''new knowledge and frontier technologies in agriculture that are cost and time effective''.

For this, the ICAR quoted the budgetary requirements at Rs 200 crore for remaining period of 10th Plan and Rs 730 crore for 11th Plan (2007-2012).

The area identified by the ICAR for acquiring know-how include agricultural education, natural resources management (in five sub-areas), biotechnology (in five sub-areas), Livestock and Poultry (in five sub-areas), value-addition, quality assurance and safety of agri and food product (in five sub-areas) and agri-business strategies (in three sub areas).

According to ICAR sources, during the discussions with Indian scientists, US scientific teams exhibited more interest in agro-business and joint ventures in the value addition and fortification of broken rice, hitherto, used as feed for poultry and animals.

On the other hand, most of experts here feel that Rs 1000-crore allocated for Indo-US Knowledge Initiative, formally launched by President Bush at Hyderabad on March 3, will be spent by India only for acquiring consultancy from US universities in addition to the expenses on education and training of Indian faculty.

In this context, eminent agricultural policy analyst Devinder Sharma said ''the Indo-US agreement will bring Indian agriculture under the direct control of US corporate houses. If the first Green Revolution was facilitated by the introduction of Land Grant system of agriculture research and education into India, the second Green Revolution is being tailored to the needs of the American agri-business interests.'' UNI JSS JN BD1701

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