'Population rise may result in risk of food security'
New Delhi, Mar 24: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today (Mar 24, 2006) warned food security of the country may be at risk once again due to continuing increase in population and stagnation in crop yields and stressed the average yield of most crops needs to be increased by at least 50 per cent in the next 20 years.
Inaugurating a convention on Knowledge-driven Agricultural Development: Management of Change here, he said ''This is a tremendous challenge, our approach has to ensure that food production is enhanced and poverty reduced while conserving the environment. Developmental policies are needed that can have a major bearing on addressing the food security of the region and its people for all times to come.'' The country's agricultural research institutions have an enormous responsibility of developing cost-effective, gender-sensitive, small-farmer friendly, and environmentally sound production, protection and processing technologies in all sectors of agriculture. The recent advances in various sciences such as molecular biology, Information Communication Technology (ICT), biotechnology, precision farming and space sciences could have profound implications on economic development.
Mr Pawar said since most of the cutting-edge technologies were knowledge-intensive, new mechanisms of partnership were needed for their development, management and use.
''In particular, the participation of private sector, farmer groups, basic science universities and other governmental laboratories in agricultural R&D and the protection of intellectual property, including plant varieties is considered vital,'' Mr Pawar said.
He recalled that India had recently launched a major Indo-US Knowledge Initiative, in which there was considerable focus on biotechnology.
Processing and agricultural exports of fruits, vegetables, flowers, meat and fish is promising source of enhancing farm income.
This is possible after ensuring that all products meet some standards with respect to food safety, quality and packaging considering the sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures as per the Codex.
To tap the promised potential of these knolwedge intensive initiatives, technically qualified human resource is needed. The focus of change in agriucltural education should be to inculcate entrepreneurship and professionalism, he added.
Mr Pawar said the concept of establishing agri-clinics in the rural areas and run by agricultural/veterinary graduates needs to be encouraged so that the farmers are able to access desired information, services, advice and remedies to their problems in the shortest possible time, be it soil testing, identifying plant diseases, providing prophlactic cover to livestock and birds or treatment of sick animals.
Mr Pawar stressed on the urgent need to stimulate the direction of institutional reforms in Indian agriculture. Appropriate policies and institutions must be put in place to promote and harness these scientific advancements for developing a knowledge-based society.