Instead of focussing on the old mandate of just providing food and fodder, a shift towards employment and better income is important as agriculture has new and emphatic demands now, said Ashok Dalwai, chairman of the committee on doubling farmers’ income.

Addressing an event at industry chamber PHDCCI on Tuesday, Dalwai said: “A new technological revolution comprising of AI, IOT, WOT, Geo-spatial technology, is empowering the agricultural sector like never before. Today agriculture has new and emphatic demands and therefore instead of focussing on the old mandate of just providing food and fodder, a shift towards a new mandate that is focused on employment and better income is important.” However, this must go hand-in-hand with the moral duty of providing food and nutrition security, he added.

Stressing that emerging technology will give new shape to all sectors, including agriculture, he said deployment of emerging technologies is important to predict risks at production and post-production stages, apart from connecting farm-gate with markets.

Secondary agriculture

Dalwai was of the view that primary agriculture alone cannot generate adequate incomes for farmers. Secondary agriculture that includes food and non-food processing should be promoted for generating jobs and supplementary incomes, he said. Incidentally, Karnataka became first State to set up a separate directorate of secondary agriculture on January 18.

While mentioning that horticulture growth is higher than agriculture in past few years, the focus has been largely on fruits and vegetables whereas there is tremendous potential for plantation crops and medicinal plants as well.

Former horticulture commissioner H P Singh said that unless contract farming happens farmers are not inclined for shifting to medicinal plants as there were many instances of bitter experiences. Singh, however, said that the government has made a lot of efforts in coconut plantation’s promotion.

India’s horticulture production has increased to 331.05 million tonnes (mt) in 2020-21 from 166.94 mt in 2004-05, up by 98.3 per cent, whereas foodgrains output in the same period has gone up by 55.6 per cent to 308.65 mt from 198.36 mt.