We have destroyed our traditional agriculture: Indian Minister

May 17, 2013

The inaugural session of the farmer's conference, 'Partnering for Rural Prosperity: Farmers as owners' saw many experts from the field of agriculture, the government and farmers come together to discuss how to get more ownership and profits to the farmers.

India’s Minister for Water Resources, Harish Rawat,said that there is a need to encourage professional management of resources to bring prosperity to the farmers. He was speaking at a conference, ‘Partnering for Rural Prosperity: Farmers as owners’ organised by Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS) in New Delhi.

The minister also congratulated Shri Jagdamba Samiti for its innovative apple project, a business model which has freed small apple farmers from the clutches of middlemen and is leading the farming community towards the path of entrepreneurship.

Rawat said that from times immemorial farmers in India have been the focal point of the economic growth and added that even today 52 per cent of the country’s population is completely dependent on agriculture for their survival. “We have in fact destroyed our traditional agriculture. We have an option of orienting our agriculture in a market driven way, so that it can compete globally. It is unfortunate that we could not make much difference towards upgrading our agriculture,” the minister rued.

Rawat lamented that the nature of rains has also undergone a major change and most of the sources of water in the hilly areas of Uttarakhand have dried up giving rise to a serious challenge of water insecurity.

Rawat said that soil testing facilities should be encouraged so that the right kind of crops can be grown in the fields which could result in more profit for the farmers.“Government should initiate efforts to strengthen such models like the apple project which are aimed at the empowerment of the small and marginal farmers,” he said.

L P Semwal, Director, Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS), said that this experiment of the apple project should be taken to as many farmers of the country as possible as most of the marginalised farmers of the country share common challenges.

Wim Van Den Berg, Director, Van Amerongen CA Technology, an affiliate of  Fresh Food Technology (FFT), a Dutch company, said that he was particularly attracted by the traditional apple supply chain which presented itself as a good business proposition where improving the economic lot of the farmers was an additional advantage. FFT was instrumental in providing modern technical equipment and technical know-how for setting up the cold storage facilities.

Sanjeev Chopra, Mission Director and Joint Secretary (NHM & NMMI), Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, said that it is a tragedy that despite huge agricultural production the share of agriculture is coming down in the Gross Domestic Product.

Apart from other challenges, the land holdings are getting smaller, and the number of small farmers is rising in the Indian agricultural scenario.

“There is a huge gap between the price which a farmer gets for his produce and the cost at which the consumer has to purchase a farm commodity. Out of the 12 cold storages in the country, only 10 are functional and the cold storage run by SJS in Uttarakhandbeing one among them is a big achievement,” Chopra said.

Alok Jain, Chairman,Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited and Chief Investment Commissioner, Uttarakhand, said that setting up a cold storage facility with modern facilities in a backward area is a commendable project.

Jain said while the public sector model failed in India because of corruption and other challenges, the cooperative model failed because of lack of professionalism and too much political interference. “This initiative by the SJS gives us some hope, as through this model farmers will not just become the owners of the supply chain and the cold storage but the companies running them will be managed by the professionals with the active involvement of the farmers,” Jain said.

Pramod Singh, Director, Image Makers, said that this conference will pave the way for searching solutions to the problems of farmers. Post liberalisation, which happened 22 years back, India has successfully marched towards growth and economic prosperity. “But, despite the marvellous growth there have been several cases where farmers across the country have committed suicide because of financial burden,” Singh said.

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India’s Minister for Water Resources, Harish Rawat, lauds the innovative apple project of Uttarakhand, a model that has freed small apple farmers from the clutches of middlemen besides introducing business acumen in them.
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