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Sunday, Apr 21, 2002

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Contract farming fine but not corporate: Ajit

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MUMBAI, April 20

THE Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Ajit Singh, has ruled out introducing corporate farming but exhorted the need for contract farming.

"We cannot allow corporate farming because it will lead to displacement of millions of farmers in our country," Mr Singh said at the national business seminar on `Agricultural reforms - The next phase'.

According to him, as opposed to corporate farming, contract farming does not take any ownership of land from the farmer. It also provides the farmer a direct access to the market. However, contract-farming laws are to be put in place.

According to him, there were inequities in resource allocation. On the issue of subsidy, the attention is largely centred on agriculture. Subsidies given to other sectors far exceed those given to the agricultural sector, Mr Singh said.

A substantial portion of food subsidy does not go to the farmers but is provided for storage.

He said the biggest challenge facing agriculture today is providing technology to the farmer. "We are not equipped to take technology to the farms," Mr Singh said.

The increasing trend of agricultural production has brought new challenges in terms of finding market for the agricultural surplus. "High investment and entrepreneurial skills are required for creation and managing the agricultural marketing infrastructure," Mr. Singh said.

On the issue of biotechnology in agriculture, Mr Singh said the environmental concerns are real and have to be addressed.

Mr Singh said private sector initiative was essential for driving growth in agriculture. "Currently, 80 per cent of land holding is less than two hectares. Therefore, schemes have to involve farmers at these levels.

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