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The 12th Plan Aims at Ensuring Food Security and Improving the Lot of Farmers – Sharad Pawar

Agriculture Minister’s Address at the 57th Meeting of the National Development Council

New Delhi: December 27,2012

A number of new initiatives have been proposed in the 12th Five Year Plan for retaining youth in Agriculture Sector and funding for research and innovations in the sector. The twin objectives of the plan are ensuring food security and improving the lot of farmers through higher investments in agriculture and allied sectors. To address the challenges in live stock sector, National Livestock Mission and National Programme for Bovine Breeding & Dairying has also been proposed in the Plan. This was stated by Shri Sharad Pawar, Union Minister for Agriculture and Food Processing Industries in the 57th Meeting of the National Development Council here today.

Agriculture Minister said that 12th Plan will be focusing on strategies for stable and remunerative prices to farmers; greater role for the private sector in agriculture, diversification and R&D efforts; distribution of more institutional credit equitably; providing greater focus on small and marginal farmers, improving productivity in rainfed areas; and creating a more competitive environment for agricultural marketing.

Full text of the Agriculture Minister’s address is as follows;

India’s growth story during the last decade is a matter of pride for all of us and I take this opportunity to congratulate and thank all the persons who made this happen especially our Prime Minister who is mainly responsible for laying the foundation for the reforms process in India. This growth has naturally led to decreasing share of agricultural sector’s contribution to the GDP, which now stands at around 14%.

However, agriculture sector remains vital and critical because nearly 58% of the population still depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Thus, growth of the agriculture sector is imperative for not only ensuring food security of the nation but more importantly to achieve inclusive growth.

In this endeavor, both Central and State Governments have played their respective proactive roles, such as mobilizing resources, creating infrastructure, facilitating easy availability of inputs, encouraging research and technology, providing institutional support services and putting in place contingency measures to safeguard livelihoods from natural calamities. Our farmers responded splendidly and not only ensured the country’s self sufficiency in food but also achieved a record food grain production of 257.44 million tons in 2011-12.

The average annual growth rate achieved in the agriculture and allied sector during 11th Plan improved to 3.3% as against 2.5% and 2.4% in the Ninth and Tenth Plan periods, respectively. It is heartening that this was achieved in spite of a drought year in 2009-10 and drought like conditions in some parts of the country during 2010-11. This momentum needs to be sustained in the 12th Plan to achieve an average annual growth rate of 4% as envisaged in the 12th Plan Document.

The oilseed sector continues to be an area of concern where our dependence on imports is rising. Drought proofing of the agriculture sector still remains elusive. More than 55% of the cropped area is rainfed and thus production in these areas is dependent on the vagaries of nature. Therefore, issues of improving water use efficiency, micro irrigation and coordinated efforts of various agencies of Government towards rainfed agriculture have to be addressed in the coming years.

Rural livelihood in our country is mainly dependent on farming. Therefore, inclusive growth can only be ensured if we improve the economic viability of farming and ensure a minimum net income for our farmers. Though the declining trend of farmers’ suicides is a matter of some satisfaction, we cannot remain complacent. We have to redouble our efforts to address the problem of agrarian distress in certain parts of the country.

The twin objectives of ensuring food security and improving the lot of our farmers can be achieved through higher investments in agriculture and allied sectors, including irrigation. It is extremely important that ongoing irrigation projects are completed on time, without cost and time overruns. We have to also concentrate on the development of drylands, rainfed areas and water harvesting. With about 55% area still dependent on rains for agriculture, productivity improvements cannot be achieved without added emphasis on efficient water management and full utilization of our irrigation potential.

States are major stakeholders in the development of our agriculture. We noted that the deceleration in agricultural growth coincided with the falling share of agriculture, irrigation and rural development in the State Plan outlays. Therefore, during the last Plan, based on the decision taken in the National Development Council, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) was launched which not only incentivized the states to step up their investment in to agriculture sector but also gave them flexibility to formulate State specific and location specific plans, taking into account their agro climatic conditions and natural resources. I am happy that states have responded positively as witnessed in the increased allocations for agriculture sector in the state plan.

Another important aspect is the development of horticulture, which provides immense opportunity for diversified growth of agriculture, employment generation and enhanced farm incomes. In this regard, the National Horticulture Mission envisages a holistic growth of the horticulture sector by adopting an area specific cluster approach, to deal with issues relating to production and productivity improvement, post-harvest management, processing and marketing. I am happy to inform you that Horticulture has made great strides during the last Plan as seen in production in this sector which increased from 192 million tons in 2006-07 to over 250 million tons in 2011-12, an increase of over 30%.

We need to make all efforts to realize the 12th Plan’s broad vision of ‘Faster, Sustainable, and More Inclusive Growth’, leading to broad-based improvement in the economic and social conditions of our people and achieve inclusiveness by both delivering benefits directly to the poor and the excluded groups and increasing their ability to access employment and income opportunities.

The higher GDP growth of 8.2% envisages 4% growth in agriculture and allied sector and calls for continuing 11th Plan’s initiatives with added vigour. While addressing the issue of food security, we must also take care of the nutritional needs of the population. This requires greater attention to improving the productivity of oilseeds and pulses and development of Animal Husbandry and Fisheries sub-sectors. Crop diversification has to be encouraged in extant green revolution belts where the yields have reached a plateau and soil degradation and depleting ground water have become problems. Simultaneously, efforts already underway for bridging yield gaps in low productivity but high potential areas of the eastern region and rainfed areas will have to be escalated. To overcome technology fatigue, the need of the hour is to give impetus to research efforts in agriculture and intensify extension activities. Therefore, during the 12th Five Year Plan, we will be taking a number of new initiatives such as Consortia research Platforms, Farmer FIRST, Student READY, Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture, National Agricultural Education Project, Extramural funding for research, Creation of funds for Agri-Innovations and Agri-Incubation and setting up of an Agriculture Technology Forecast Centre (ATFC), E-courses, Modernization of AU farms, etc.

States need to integrate efforts under various schemes in the agriculture sector and programmes of other departments such as Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF), Backward Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), minor irrigation projects and other rural development works and prepare State Plans on agriculture depending on agro-climatic and natural resource endowments.

This would need to be backed up with effective agricultural extension, providing assistance to farmers on both crop related activities and animal resources development. I would urge all the states to ensure that all vacant posts as well as posts that created after modification of guidelines of ‘Support to State Extension Programmes for Extension Reforms’ scheme (popularly known as ATMA scheme) are filled up on priority basis.

Extension must go hand in hand with expansion of soil testing capacity and facility to test input quality. The private public partnership (PPP) model should be explored on a larger and wider scale. Finally, the produce has to reach the market and hence market development attains paramount importance. An enabling legal framework, by amendment of the APMC Acts, would need to be put in place, to encourage setting up of private markets, contract farming and so on. Doubts on APMCs becoming redundant on entry of FDI in retail are misplaced. On the contrary, role of APMC will increase from a regulatory focus to promotion of grading, branding, packaging and development of markets for local produce.

The major challenges before us in livestock sector are well known, namely genetic improvement in bovines, effective control of animal diseases, shortage of feed and fodder, breed improvement, inadequate infrastructure and inadequate dissemination of technology, skills and quality services to farmers.

To address these challenges, we are launching National Livestock Mission during the 12th Plan with the main objective of achieving sustainable development and growth of livestock sector by providing greater flexibility to the states. Another initiative will be the National Programme for Bovine Breeding & Dairying by merging 3 existing major programmes. All the programmes in the inland and marine fisheries excluding the scheme relating to welfare of fishers will be transferred to National Fisheries Development Board to facilitate expansion of fisheries through integration of a wide array of activities.

Summing up, our strategy for Agriculture for 12th Plan would inter-alia comprise assuring stable and remunerative prices to farmers; facilitating a greater role for the private sector in agriculture; ensuring supply of quality seeds and planting materials at reasonable prices; making other inputs available on a timely basis; pushing diversification and R&D efforts; distribution of more institutional credit equitably; providing greater focus on small and marginal farmers through promotion of farmer interest groups, commodity interest groups, farmers producer companies, self-help groups; making concerted efforts to improve productivity in rainfed areas in general and central and eastern/north-eastern regions of the country in particular; and creating a more competitive environment for agricultural marketing.

PIB Release/DL/1354

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