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India's farm yield at all-time high: Manmohan Singh

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said India's farm yield has touched a new high with food production expected to exceed 250 million tonnes, "an all-time record", at the end of the Eleventh Five Year Plan ending March 31.

Addressing the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi, the prime minister emphasized that a prosperous, productive and sustainable farm economy is the cornerstone of equitable and inclusive growth of India.

He said the government was pursuing comprehensive reform and revitalisation of agrarian economy and has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve returns to farming and step up investment in rural infrastructure .

He said the government's flagship agricultural plans like Bharat Nirman, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the Rainfed Areas Development Programme and other agrarian policies have begun to pay off and the country has "reached new plateaus in foodgrain production".

"Food production at the end of the Eleventh Plan will exceed 250 million tonnes, an all time record. Our pulse production, at 18 million tonnes, is well above the previous barrier of 15 million tonnes.

"We are producing today more milk, more fruits, more vegetables, more sugarcane, more oilseeds and more cotton than ever before. Last year production of vegetables went up by 9.57 per cent and nearly two million tonnes of cold storage capacity was created."

He said the agricultural growth was "likely to be about 3.5 per cent per annum during the Eleventh Five Year Plan which is much better than in the 10th".

He said the achievement was "commendable" but "we must improve upon it in the Twelfth Plan to reach four per cent growth or even higher".

"This will call for very determined effort on the part of both the central government and the state governments ranging over many areas including investment in irrigation, investment in watershed management, provision of credit, provision of marketing support."

He said the key element in that effort must be the contribution of agricultural research.

"Our farm economy needs much greater injection of science and a knowledge-based approach to increasing incomes and productivity. Both land and water are limited and it is vital that we make progress in agricultural technology, which raises land productivity while also allowing a significant reduction in water use per unit of agricultural output."


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India could show the way in organic farming in 30 years

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NUREMBERG (GERMANY), FEB. 15

The world's largest annual organic products event, BioFach 2012, began here with a sharp focus on India and its products.

“Millions of small and marginal farmers practise organic farming by default.

This is because they do farming in rain-fed areas and cannot afford modern agriculture that encompasses using fertilisers and pesticides,” said Mr Asit Tripathy, Joint Secretary in the Union Ministry of Commerce.

Changes were happening in Indian agriculture with mechanisation, corporatisation and contract farming, but in the last 10 years, the Indian Government has woken up to the potential of organic farming, he said.

Indian organic products exports currently are valued at $400 million and the target was to top $1 billion by 2015, he said.

“The $400 million makes up just 16 per cent of organic products produced in India,” Mr Tripathy said, adding that the domestic organic market was growing.

“Domestic organic products are competing against mainstream products in supermarkets in India,” he said.

With the setting up of National Project for Organic Farming, the Government was trying to launch organic certification programme for the domestic market. Default forums have been asked to set up a group of 500 farmers and encourage them to take up certification of their products, he said.

India is the ‘Country of the Year' at BioFach 2012 and there is a strong presence of 51 manufacturers, including in textiles, at the fair.

Besides Agricultural and Processed Food Products Development Authority, the Tea Board and Spices Board are also participating.

Earlier in his address, Dr Ulrich Maly, Mayor of Nuremberg, said that a meeting of network of organic cities in Germany would be held during BioFach.

Dr Gerd Mueller, German Secretary for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, said that Germany was attempting to expand organic cultivation to another 10,000 farms to meet the increasing demand.

Dr Felic Prinz zu Lowenstein, Chairman of Federation of Organic Enterprises in Germany, said organic farming can provide food security and feed the world.

He said that India could show the way in organic products in 30 years, especially in sustainable agriculture and food safety.

Mr Andrew Leu, President of UN's IFOAM, said the current focus was on food security and poverty reduction. “If this has to be achieved, logically the focus should be small growers who make 70 per cent of farming in the world,” he said.

(The trip for the event has been sponsored by Nuremberg Messe with the collaboration of Apeda.)


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Panel to finalise report on agriculture before Budget

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A Committee of Governors, constituted by President Pratibha Patil, will finalise a report on revamping the agriculture sector before the forthcoming Budget, Christy Fernandes, secretary to the President, said today.

The report will help both the Finance Minister and the Planning Commission to come up with right policies and programmes for the agriculture sector, he said.

"We are keen to finalise the report before Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presents the Budget and much before the Planning Commission finalises the 12th Five-Year Plan strategy," Fernandes told reporters here.

Punjab and Rajasthan Governor Shivraj V Patil-led committee will consider all suggestions that have emerged at the day-long high-level workshop on agriculture held yesterday, he added.

The Budget for the 2012-13 fiscal is scheduled to be presented on March 16. Fernandes said the report will have recommendations for improving the agricultural sector - from farm to market level - to ensure that the rising food demand is met with the implementation of the National Food Security Bill.

"With the (enactment) of Food Security Bill, demand for food is certainly going to be much more... We cannot depend on imports. To overcome that we have to enhance domestic production, with special focus on rain-fed areas," he said.

To ensure the panel's suggestions are implemented by the government, Fernandes said: "We hope to propose formation of a group of ministers or the cabinet secretary to follow up."

On the workshop, which was initiated by the President, Fernandes said several suggestions were made.

They included putting emphasise on market-led agriculture strategy, reforming agri-markets, financial incentives for boosting private investment and converging various programmes.

The committee has representation of 15 governors from states such as Punjab, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.


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12th Five-Year Plan to set 4% agricultural growth target

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PUNE: The twelfth five-year plan (2012-17) which is scheduled to be submitted in April 2012, will set a target of 4 per cent for agricultural growth, as announced by Mr Abhijit Sen, Member (Agriculture), Planning Commission.

While addressing the third Indian Seed Congress started here today, Mr Sen said that there was around 2.5 per cent agricultural growth in the 9th and 10th Plans, while the 11th Plan which will end this March is expected to show growth of 3.3-3.5 per cent.

The 11th Plan has made basic architectural shift in the way the Central Government interprets agriculture. The government's role in decision to spend has been deteriorated to the states to the tune of over 60 per cent, and this will further fall downwards, in order to make more players understand the functioning of the industry.

Mr KV Subbarao, President, National Seed Association of India, said that the food production had to be doubled by 2015 to meet demand.

He also called for refinery steps like a seed regulation regime and uniform implementation across states aiming to promote the Rs 9,000-crore seed industry.


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National Food Security Bill to introduce during next session of Parliament

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GUWAHATI: The National Food Security Bill will be unveiled in the next session of Parliament, said Prof KV Thomas, Union Food and Civil Supplies Minister. The government has approached the state governments for their inputs by today since it is the last date, said Prof Thomas after chairing a meeting of food ministers of the north eastern states here yesterday.

The draft Bill would be developed after bagging the inputs for ensuring the implementation of the Act, which is aimed at ensuring availability of foodgrains at reasonable rate mainly to the weaker sections of the society.

Moreover, the Centre has shown its commitment to offer all round development of the remote and landlocked states, especially in the north east and it will be ensuring proper distribution of the food items.

Furthermore, the minister has said that the Public Distribution System (PDS) would be modernised and the records computerised, also the bio-metric and the unique identification cards will be unveiled. He has further elaborated that although it was a difficult job to control the PDS but adequate measures have been taken so far.

Gujurat and Andhra Pradesh had also opted for steps with the aim to ensure that the pilferage of food items in PDS has been checked and it have been able to bag reasonable success.


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