India may record agriculture growth of 6% in 2016-17 if monsoon remains normal: Niti Aayog Member

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The sectoral growth rate of agriculture in India may rise to six per cent in 2016-17, if the monsoon remains normal this year, Niti Aayog member, Prof. Ramesh Chand said at an event held in New Delhi.

“Since last two years have not been good, we have a very low base, so we can expect about six per cent growth agriculture growth in 2016-17, if monsoon turns out to be normal,” said Prof. Chand while inaugurating a conference on ‘Addressing Challenges of Food Security,’ organised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).

“In 2014-15, it was a negative growth of -0.25 per cent while in 2015-16 it was 1.2 per cent,” he added.

He also informed that on technology front, this Kharif season, Niti Aayog will undertake a pilot project in about five villages in Bihar along with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to identify that if a favourable external environment is ensured, whether that will help in increasing the productivity of pulses or not.

In his address at the ASSOCHAM conference, Prof. Chand informed that Niti Aayog was developing a multi-dimensional food security index thereby terming the methodology used by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations to measure the extent of food security in India is wrong.

He said that in order to show the achievements, the UN and FAO, rather than expanding the norm of food security, they have been narrowing the norm of food security from 2,400 kilo calories and 2,100 kilo calories as minimum dietary energy norm for urban and rural areas to 1,800 calories and they have not included many other factors like – what is happening to proteins, minerals and micro-nutrients.

“I have already started working on multi-dimensional food security indicator as is enshrined in definition of food security of FAO which is totally different from their practice to estimate food security,” said Prof Chand.

“Their definition is all encompassing, it is a very ideal definition, it talks about adequate and nutritious food at all time for all people but when it comes to measurement they just use only dietary energy that too norm at 1,800 kilo calories,” he added.

He further said that India needs to have its own estimate to measure the extent of hunger like in case of other indicators like education, poverty and others to ensure that food security related norms are used in proper way for human development.

Earlier while addressing the ASSOCHAM conference, Mr Bipin Solanki, Territory Head, Syngenta South Asia said, “In order to achieve food security we need to deal with the twin issues of affordability and availability. This means we need to have the right solutions for resource efficiency and the right production strategy for key crops. Though the Good Growth Plan we want to contribute to India’s food security and help farmers meet agricultural challenges in a sustainable way. In order to make a measurable contribution by 2020 we have set ourselves specific targets related to improving resource efficiency, rejuvenating ecosystems and revitalizing rural communities.”

“The Good Growth Plan is particularly relevant to India as agriculture is the mainstay of the country’s economy and provides employment to more 50 per cent of its population. With India estimated to add half a billion people by 2050, farmers will have to grow crops more efficiently, conserve existing land, improve biodiversity and most importantly integrate the vast multitude of smallholders currently holding less than two hectares into the mainstream of the developmental process.”

“Agriculture in India is dominated by small farmers. Landholdings have declined from 2.3 ha in the ‘70s to 1.32 ha in 2000-01 and if this continues, the average size would be a mere 0.68 ha in 2020 and 0.32 ha in 2030. Thus research focus in the future should be to evolve technologies to suit the needs for smallholder agriculture and also to involve them in the agri-supply chain through institutional innovations.”

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