12th Plan must emphasize on agriculture

Bhubaneswar: Advocating a separate budget for agriculture in Odisha during the 12th five-year plan, a noted agricultural economist has said it would enable the state to achieve more than four per cent growth in the farm sector by giving special thrust and removing hurdles.

"Since states economic growth is over 9 per cent, higher than national average, there should be a separate budget for agriculture during 12th plan period to transfer the benefits of high growth to rural poor," said Dr Dibakar Naik, Professor in Agriculture Economics in Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) here.

"It will give a special thrust for higher agricultural growth in the state. Finally the growth can be inclusive and can remove the barriers on the way to achieve more than 4 per cent growth in agriculture," he said in a special study.

Seeking special emphasis on agriculture, Dr Naik said 12th plan should focus on areas like development of stress tolerant rice varieties for rainfed areas, development of pulse varieties suitable to Odisha, particularly for sowing in rainfed areas after paddy crop is harvested.

Importance should also be accorded to technology for fertilizer use in pulses sown in rainfed situation, said Dr Naik, also Dean, College of Agriculture, OUAT.

Favouring use of Foreign Direct Investment for developing dependable rural market for farm produce on pilot basis with suitable regulation and price policy at producers level, he said credit should be available to rainfed farmers.

Steps should also be taken for increasing seed replacement and strengthening quality seed supply including its storage facilities at panchayat level and development of farm implements suitable to small and marginal farmers which can reduce cost of production, the farm economist said.

Voicing concern over fall in India`s growth rate, he said due to high inflation including food inflation for last two and half years, high interest rate, low agricultural growth, decline in industrial growth and impact of Euro crisis, the economic growth may be within 7 per cent in the current financial year.

Stating that the slowdown shows sign of weak fundamentals, Dr Naik said though more than 70 per cent people depend upon agriculture, its growth is not impressive, less than 4 per cent.

Inspite of increase in investment in agriculture and expansion of agricultural credit, total foodgrains production in India has increased from 213 million tonnes to 241 million tonnes during last ten years. The gap between economic growth and agriculture growth has become more wide, he said.

Such disparity is much more in Odisha, where the state is having a higher economic growth with low agricultural productivity, he said adding foodgrains production in the state has increased from 82 lakh tonnes to 87 lakh tonnes during last ten years, recording a rise of 5 lakh tonnes.

This included pulses with two lakh tones and maize with three lakh tonnes. Rice, being the major food crop in the state, its production has stagnated at 70 lakh tonnes during 2001-02 to 2009-10 against additional requirement of one lakh tonne of rice every year to meet the need of the growing population, Dr Naik said.

Even the productivity of rice has remained at a level of 16 quintals per hectare during the period. The yield of rice in Odisha is only 60 to 70 per cent of yield of rice of its neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal and less than 50 per cent of the yield of Punjab and Haryana, he pointed out adding there is potential to raise rice yield.

To deal with the situation, thrust should be given not only to increase yield in rainfed areas but also to develop stress tolerant high yielding rice varieties suitable to rainfed areas by using biotechnological tools and conventional method of breeding, he said.

During 12th plan emphasis should be given to increase productivity of pulses and on crop diversification, he said.