Opinion

Start a campaign to boost food yields

ARPITA SHARMA | Updated on June 17, 2011 Published on June 16, 2011

Ms ARPITA SHARMA

With better systems in place, India can increase wheat output by 30 million tonnes and double paddy output at current levels of technology.

Food prices in India have skyrocketed, causing misery o the lives of tens of millions and threatening food security.

To enhance farm output and make food accessible to all includingthose under the proposed Food Security Bill, India needs to launch a ‘Grow More Food' campaign right from this kharif season with focus on better coordination and effective communication system.

Campaign potential

Despite having the largest irrigated land and ranking second in terms of arable land, the yield of most crops in India is 20-40 per cent of the world's best levels.

India can increase wheat production by 30 million tonnes or around 40 per cent and double paddy production at the current levels of technology.

The multiplication and cultivation of outstanding varieties of chickpea, pigeon pea, moong, urad, and other pulses under the Pulses and Oilseeds Villages Programme can significantly bridge the gap of about four million tonnes between demand and supply.

Not only do these crops require less water, they also fix nitrogen in the soil. Cereal-legume rotation can build, replenish and maintain soil fertility.

The gap between the actual yield and the vast untapped yield reservoir in the farming systems needs to be bridged by launching a campaign to remove technological, economic and environmental constraints, efficiently use the Rs 25,000 crore available under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana both in irrigated and rain-fed areas, implement 50,000 Pulses and Oilseeds Villages programme in rain-fed areas on a system-approach, linking the production, plant protection, procurement and consumption chain.

Need for Coordination

Effective coordination is essentially called for among panchayati raj institutions, agricultural universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, commercial banks, cooperatives, regional rural banks, lead bank, Nabard and input agencies.

The Department of Agriculture in each district must take the lead to formulate, implement and monitor strategic action plan envisaging targeted food output and to ensure that farm extension staff guide farmers, based on soil and water analysis, for adopting the best diversified cropping system.

Scientific techniques involving integrated nutrient supply, water and pest management among farmers through mass scale field demonstrations need to be disseminated. Farmers must be assured of inputs, farm equipment and machinery of standard quality, on time and at reasonable prices, besides hassle-free production and investment credit and Government subsidies on time.

A significant number of marginal farmers, tenant farmers, share croppers and oral lessees must have access to production loans without having to offer any collateral as mandated by the Government while reasonable proportion of bank credit should also flow for informal debt swapping. Contingency plans in the event of seasonal aberration need to be implemented.

The Central and State agencies should procure pulses and crops such as jowar, maize, bajra, ragi, and hill millets in order to diversify the food basket. Relationship between tenant farmers and land owners need to be legally established to facilitate them access to bank credit and insurance cover.

All these in due course would reflect on improved productivity of crops and resources, reduction in costs and higher rate of return on farm investments.

Role of Communication

Cost-efficient communication between farmers and extension staff once in 10 days at the village level should be established and seminars and workshops conducted to share knowledge and resolve problems. Mass media should frequently disseminate authentic information and organise discussions between farmers and experts on efficient use of technology, seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, farm equipment, credit, subsidies under Government programmes to make farmers.

Community radio concept should be progressively promoted at each block/tehsil level, involving farmers as participants and listeners.

(The author is a Ph.D scholar at the Department of Agricultural Communication, G. B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand.)

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Published on June 16, 2011
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