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The ‘doles’ society The growing fad on organic farming Get more from less land ... Wanted Green Revolution 2.0 Can organic agriculture provide food security to India? Creating seeds of distress They don’t have to die The brown revolution… Nothing sustainable unless economically viable... Double food output in ten years... it’s feasible! More from less works well at TNAU Precision farming comes of age? Promote farming by the joint sector New seed of technology… The rice revolution They don’t have to die South should focus on horticulture, high value crops... Potentials and impediments Doubling food output in ten years Need for structural reforms Organic farming derails agriculture development The dogma within!
Need for structural reforms
Athi vrushti, anaa vrushti. Problems of plenty and of scarcity is an old saying. With long years of shortfalls in production to meet demand, our administrators gained expertise in handling shortages. However, they have not yet perfected the art of managing surpluses and are afraid to plan quantum growth in production.

A few years ago, I met the Member, Planning, in-charge of agriculture, Dr Abhijit Sen. I was fresh after looking at high productivity farms in the mid-west USA and California where productivity of corn and tomato were over ten times that of India’s. I found the advantages enjoyed by India in terms of its tropical climate that permitted farming round the year, multiple cropping and average rainfall higher than that in California.  I also pointed to the scope for achieving quantum jumps in productivity due to the low base. I suggested targeting a double digit growth in agriculture ending years of low growth.  


‘Shouldn’t grow higher than four per cent’

Sen was shocked. With production then of around 230 mn tonnes of foodgrains, he pointed to India’s food surplus to huge buffer stocks of around 60 million tonnes and to the difficulty of handling higher production. He was emphatic that India should not attempt more than a four per cent annual growth. 

I pointed to the enormous potential of India to emerge a strong exporter of foodgrains and to the scope for diversification of agri products. No, Sen was firm. And through the next ten years food production chugged along to reach the level of 260 million tonnes. 

Fortifying Sen’s fears, the recent farming crisis in Madhya Pradesh is the result of plenty. Over the last decade MP has been recording handsome increases in production of agriculture. There was also a shift to horticulture with production more than doubling in a short time. 

While developed countries were ready with solutions to handle huge jumps in production, India has not been addressing this issue. When corn farmers in the mid-west US suffered due to abundant production and falling demand, the state paid the farmers for cutting down production; simultaneously, research was stepped up in the US on the uses of corn. The most profitable was in the production of ethanol to power automobiles. In a country that moves on wheels, this brought twin benefits - ensuring remunerative farm prices and ensuring energy security. Corn production boomed.

Sadly, agriculture production in different states is still dependent on monsoons. Tamil Nadu’s production was registering increases in the last three years. There was jubilation over agri production exceeding over 130 lakh tonnes last year. But widespread drought has caused production falling to just around 70 lakh tonnes this year. Similar has been the experience in Karnataka and Kerala that also suffered failure of monsoons. 


Agriculture a state subject…

Over the years administration of agriculture has moved drastically away from the Centre. This has led to uncoordinated implementation policies.

From the early decades of independence right up to the 1970s, the country had brilliant policymakers of stature and vision. C Subramaniam, the Father of Green Revolution, made remarkable use of civil servants, scientists and visionaries like Verghese Kurien. Knowledgeable leaders like Jagjivan Ram and civil servants like  B Shivaraman,  M S Swaminathan, P V Shenoy and 

M S Gill introduced sound policies that were effectively adopted by the states. Disappointingly, from 1990s such coordinated development efforts have been missing. 

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