PM concerned over system failure in farm yields

New Delhi: Concerned over the gap between the agricultural yield in the field and research laboratories, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said "it represents failure of the system" and asked the administrative machinery to address the problem.

While the country`s farm sector has shown a "commendable achievement" growing by 3.5 per cent annually in the last five years, the Prime Minister expressed concern over inability of the administrative system to exploit potential of the scientific feats.

"… there is a gap between the yield per hectare that is observed in the field and the yields that can be achieved under the ideal farm practices. That difference is quite substantial at present and it represents the failure of the system to exploit the yield potential which our scientists have given us," Singh said at the Golden Jubilee Convocation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute here.

He said it is the job of the administration to close this gap and the country`s agricultural strategy must give high priority towards this effort.

Singh said various policy initiatives to improve terms of trade in favour of the farm sector have paid off as the country`s foodgrain production is set to exceed 250 million tonnes, an all-time record this year.

In the 12th Plan (2012-17), the goal must be to scale up the growth in the sector to four per cent or more, he said adding this would require a determined effort by the Centre and States.

With limited natural resources and rising food demand, it is vital to make progress in farm technology to raise land productivity with less use of water, he said.

It is estimated that the country would need an additional 50 million tonnes of foodgrains in the next 10 years to meet domestic demand, the Prime Minister said.

To provide balanced diet with proper nutrition to each citizen, Singh said the country needs to produce more fruits and vegetables and protein-rich products such as milk, eggs, fish and meat.

"The demand for these products is expected to grow substantially with rising incomes and changing dietary habits and preferences. Therefore, we have to pursue a multi-pronged strategy which seeks to boost productivity and production through product-specific interventions," he noted.

The Prime Minister also talked about problems in extension services and the need to improve the same. "One of our major concerns has been the worry that our extension services system is no longer sufficiently robust …we need to revitalise this infrastructure of support at the district level," he observed.

The Krishi Vigyan Kendras and Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMA) would have to play a major role in the revitalisation process, he added.

Singh also felt the need to review whether recommendations made by the two committees, headed by R A Mashelkar and M S Swaminathan, on agriculture sector were implemented in letter and spirit.

Stressing the need to deal with the threat of climate change, he said that the climate change and rising demand for commercial energy could have an adverse impact on farm sector.

"Rise in energy demand and continued dependence on fossil -fuel based energy will lead to higher costs of cultivation and also lead to increased carbon emissions," he said.