Agricultural economists have called for protection of country’s food self-sufficiency and price support system for farmers.

Addressing a conference on the theme ‘National Agricultural Policy under Changing Global Relations and Climate’ here on Tuesday, economist Prabhat Patnaik cited the example of some African countries where food self-sufficiency was abandoned.

“Once this happens, the maintenance of a public distribution system becomes difficult. In India, the government tried to give up the system of price support for foodgrains,” he said.

This would have made the peasants move away from growing foodgrains towards growing cash crops that appear immediately lucrative until their prices crash. This, in turn, would have undermined the country’s food self-sufficiency. “It would also have made the maintenance of a public distribution system impossible. But the massive resistance of the farmers prevented this from happening,” he said.

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The fifth Aribandi Laxminarayana Memorial Lecture was organised by Telangana Rythu Sangham and Aribandi Foundation.

No policy push

Agricultural economist Aldas Janaiah (Prof. Jaishankar Telangana State Agricultural University) said that there was no major policy push to agricultural sector after 1990. “The country made good policy interventions for the first 30-40 years after the Independence and helped the country achieve food self-sufficiency. But after that there is no major policy push in this sector,” he said.

“We have a lot of surplus in food production but there is no strategy to capitalise on it. We are exporting paddy but since there’s no prior planning, we are not able to reap good returns,” he said.

Stating that the country couldn’t afford to compromise on food self-sufficiency, he said food security was part of national sovereignty.