Home / Industry / Agriculture /  Modi says farmers’ income should rise with increasing output

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi led top scientists on Tuesday in giving the Indian farmer a standing ovation for helping feed the country but said the nation too needs to provide them income security.

Addressing the 86th foundation day ceremony of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Modi suggested low-cost solutions to bridge what he called the “lab-to-land" gap and referred to the “changing agro climate" but did not mention the current threat of deficit monsoon rain.

The monsoon deficit was as high as 43% of the long-period average in June, triggering fears of a drought. As of 28 July, the deficit had narrowed to 25% but the spread remains uneven with 22 of the 36 meteorological divisions in the country facing a rainfall deficit of 20-59%.

The main challenges of Indian agriculture, Modi said, was increasing productivity and ensuring better incomes for farmers. “Our land resources are limited while our population and demand for food is rising. We need a mix of scientific and traditional knowledge to improve soil fertility. We need more crop in less time." Referring to the clash between the “weather cycle" and “water cycle", the prime minister stressed the need for better management of water resources through conservation and harvesting practices and proposed that “per drop more crop" could be the country’s agricultural mission statement. Modi suggested low-cost solutions to address the “lab-to land" challenge.

“Normally a farmer is doubtful about a new technology. But progressive farmers are ready to take the risk. Agricultural universities in the country should prepare a list of young and educated progressive farmers in their area and use this network to disseminate scientific knowledge. Agriculture colleges can start their own radio stations. Farmers are keen listeners of radio and students can give localized solutions to problems like less rainfall and pest attacks."

He called for digital compilation of all the agricultural research conducted in the country. “We may have produced numerous PhDs on wheat in the last 50 years. We need to compile all research in a digital platform."

These solutions do not require more budgetary allocations, he added.

Modi called for a blue revolution that would extend the benefits of agricultural research to fisheries. Suggesting newer ways of harnessing the wealth of India’s long coastline, the prime minister said the global market could be tapped by promotion of sea weeds. “Learning from China, we should produce herbal medicines using the wealth of the Himalayas," he added.

Speaking before Modi, ICAR director general S. Ayyappan said, “The journey of ICAR is also the saga of Indian agriculture, addressing monsoons, markets and mindsets. The monsoon of 2014 is a testing time for us. We have prepared contingency plans for 520 districts. I can assure that at this point of time our workers are standing with farmers in their fields."

Referring to genetically modified (GM) crops, Ayyappan said that India’s experience with Bt Cotton, a GM crop, had demonstrated the power of technology. “We think GM crops are the way forward in this country under your leadership," he added.

“ICAR should rethink its systems to reach the farmer. Presently a farmer has to run from pillar to post to get a soil test done. Bringing new technology to farmers will require more funds," said Himanshu, assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and visiting fellow at Centre de Sciences Humaines. “The main problem for the farmer is the rising costs of cultivation—for fertilizer, diesel and labour. There is no blueprint in the prime minister’s speech to address this."

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