Agri Business

Chart a strategy to balance productivity, sustainability in farming, say experts

Rutam Vora New Delhi | Updated on February 28, 2020

(from left) John Mathews, President - Marketing,T Stanes; GV Ramanujaneulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture; Vishwanath Kulkarni, Deputy Editor, BusinessLine ; Nasim Ali, CEO, Oil Palm Plantations Business, Godrej Agrovet; Ram Kaundinya, Director-General, Federation of Seed Industry of India; and Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, COO, Bayer India, at the panel discussion   -  Kamal Narang

Amid newer challenges of resource management and achieving sustainability in agriculture, India needs to chart an agriculture strategy to help transforming farming practices in the country so as to strike a balance between sustainability and productivity.

On the second day of The BusinessLine Agri Summit in New Delhi on Friday, a panel of experts deliberated upon the possibilities to adopt multiple technologies for production, seed and markets.

Ram Kaundinya, Director General, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), expressed that in a vast country like India, a single technology can’t be a uniform solution for the country. India would need a basket of tools and technology solutions to achieve the goal of sustainability and productivity.

Kaundinya, while pitching for the Genetically Modified (GM) crops to meet the growing need of grains, stated that the government should have policies to encourage use of these technologies, which may be coming from the users. There is no reason for an argument of GM versus organic, because GM is applicable in some cases, organic is applicable in other cases. They serve different purposes and cater to different market segments. So there is an opportunity to coexist and they must coexist. But which technology will be used where and what technology to use, for that selection we need to have an expert group in the government, which needs to arrive at a plan and put policies behind it.

He also stated that there is already a next level of available, which is gene-editing. It has an advantage, as it will not have the extent of regulatory intervention, which is needed in GM.

Giving a perspective on sustainability and productivity, Simon-Thorsten Wiebusch, COO, Bayer India, stated that one can’t exclude each other, but sustainability is more important. If you don’t have profit, you don’t have sustainability. He laid thrust on the agriculture input data and how technology can drive the change. The better we act on data, the more we can also drive towards sustainability.

Sharing a farmer experience and whether the current government intervention towards sustainability is on track or not, GV Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, said that farmers have realised the economic and ecological crisis they face and started responding to it. While there have been number of experiments where farmers adopt sustainable means to achieve better farm practices, there is no organised effort being undertaken. The policy approach towards subsidising power and water usage has led to encouraging more usage of these resources. “Is there a possibility that we can make a shift from this approach? Because even today, we are adding areas for those crops, which are high water intensive. Agro chemicals use will also be crucial aspect to keep a check on sustainability,” he added.

Now, Yellow Revolution

On the lines of sustainability in areas of White Revolution for milk production, and Green Revolution for wheat production, India can now look to achieve yellow revolution - achieving sustainability and self-sufficiency in edible oil production.

Stressing on the point, Nasim Ali, CEO, Oil Palm Plantations Business, Godrej Agrovet, stated that India imported 15 million tonnes of edible oil last year, of which 8 million tonnes was palm oil and its derivatives amounting to about ₹45-50,000 crore. “Here is the question of forex drainage as well as the sustainability of farmers and ecosystem. We can make it sustainable taking into consideration demand driven factors. We have achieved white revolution, green revolution, this is the time to make yellow revolution,” he said.

BusinessLine’s Deputy Editor Vishwanath Kulkarni moderated the session, where John Mathews, President — marketing, T-Stanes, as a manufacturer of bio-fertiliser he stated that overall there is a need for integrated pest management and chemical management suitable to crop. Especially, when government is planning doubling of farm income. Organic cultivation alone can’t sustain the agri practices. For sustainability, there should be a balance.

Published on February 28, 2020

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