Doubling food production in 5 years possible: Swaraj

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Mumbai, Feb 4: Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said that doubling the food production in five years was possible and would be done in a shorter frame of time and it would involve focus of the entire community.

Speaking on the concluding day of the three-day conference on 'Doubling food production in five years' hosted by Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), Swaraj said the process of increasing the food production was like making a necklace, where every point has to be carefully looked after and then threaded in a strong string for the necklace. The senior political leader laid out the required agenda for doubling of the food production in less than five years and also gave examples of the NDA-ruled states where it has been achieved over the last five years.

"Madhya Pradesh had an agriculture growth rate of 2.50% in 2006-07 and in 2011-12 it has an agriculture growth rate of 18.96%, a nine times increase in growth in five years. Gujarat has an agriculture growth rate of 7.06% today a seven times increase over 1.10% in 06-07. Bihar has increased its rice yield per hectare by 1,000kg to 2,089 kg per hectare today. Wheat yield in MP has gone up by 800kg per hectare in the same period," she said.

Swaraj also gave an eight-point agenda for the agricultural reforms to not only double food production in five years, but also to make it happen within a short time frame. She stressed availability of land, which includes protecting the existing cultivable land from competing developments. She said no special economic zones should be set up on arable land.

She laid emphasis on increasing the quantity of cultivable land and increasing yields in the land under cultivation with help of soil health care. She said soil should be treated like the human body, with its problems diagnosed and specific solutions proposed.

She said Madhya Pradesh increased cultivable land from 7 lakh hectare to 22 lakh hectare in the last five years while Gujarat introduced drip irrigation and micro (sprinkler) irrigation in 4,73,000 hectare from the earlier 43,000 hectare in the same period.

Swaraj also said quality seeds will be available once the seed bill is passed in the parliament. Karnataka has created seed an nutrient banks for its farmers to ensure that they get the highest possible yield, she added.

She added that fertilizers have to be made available to the farmers in adequate quantity and at the right time as per the requirement of local conditions. She again referred to Karnataka, where the BJP government ensured that fertilizer was made available to each taluka as per the need.

The BJP leader also said that pesticides should be made available as per the local needs and in right amounts and in a proper way. Solutions like narrowcasting, which weas introduced when Swaraj was the communication and broadcasting minister in 1998, could play an important role in agricultural programming specific to the local needs.

She said the farmers must be provided with fair procurement price for their crops to make agriculture profitable. Minimum support price has to be adjusted to take into account the increase in input prices. She said crop holiday, as practised in Andhra Pradesh, was not profitable.

Swaraj also laid emphasis on storage facility, which she said was extremely short and outdated in the country. She said around 66 million tonnes worth Rs 90,000 crore of the record 235 million tonnes of foodgrain got destroyed. She spoke on cold chains, infrastructure and power, adding that these were inadequate in our country. She also encouraged use of new technology, research and development and advised to learn from some of the best practices from around the globe.

She said how institutions like ICAR are playing a key role and spoke about revolutionary change in apple or anaar cultivation in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, respectively.

RD Shroff, Chairman, CCFI, said, "Indian agriculture needs government attention to achieve target growth and social justice. No amount of investment in industries and cities will remove hunger from Indian villages. In the last two years, we have witnessed very good growth in agriculture. Post this conference, we now have the confidence that the target of doubling food production in five years is achievable. India can truly be the food basket of the world. Private sector is also playing an important role in all sectors of agriculture."

He added: "In the states and locations where modern methodologies have been adopted, farmer incomes have gone up more than 10 times. Today, one of the biggest impediments to agriculture sector growth is the self-proclaimed environmentalists. We plan to move forward with facts based education and taking legal action against self-centred NGOs. This conference and Smt Swaraj's support gives us the complete confidence of achieving the food targets of India."

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