Ludhiana: Stressing upon the need for a re-think on agriculture, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said that economic viability of the farm sector is still a challenge.

Inaugurating the 'International conference on sustainable agriculture for food and livelihood security' at the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) campus in Ludhiana, Mukherjee said that a re-think on agriculture is needed urgently to ensure food security in the country.

The conference was organised to mark the golden jubilee of the PAU. Mukherjee said that though food production had increased from 50 million tonnes in 1960s to 257.44 million tonnes in 2011-12, more needs to be done."Despite all these successes and efforts and despite India's overall improved economic performance, the economic viability of this sector is still a challenge. There are, even today, so many regions in our country where subsistence farmers and small farmers remain susceptible to failure, risk and desperation," he observed.

"Despite various programmes and schemes of government - complemented by the efforts of the scientific and corporate community - why is it that prosperity has eluded a large part of this sector?" asked Mukherjee."It is ironical that although India is the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world, value addition to this produce is just seven percent and processing limited to only around three percent of production.

"There is hardly any value addition at the farm level and 98 percent of farm produce is sold as it is harvested. Due to our tropical/subtropical conditions, more than 25 percent of production is lost during harvest and post harvest operations," he said. Stressing the need to help farmers through use of technology in farming, Mukherjee said that funding for research in agriculture should be increased in the 12th Five Year Plan. The president complimented the PAU on its 50th anniversary, saying that the institution, being a pioneer of the Green Revolution, had transformed Indian agriculture, making the country self-reliant in feeding its population.

"Today, we produce enough to spare for export and assistance to other developing countries. It is the Punjab Agricultural University that pioneered agricultural research and technology dissemination in our country at a time in the 1960s when this was a crucial need. Its scientists engaged with a sense of urgency in research, innovation and foreign collaborations," he pointed out.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, addressing the conference, said the central government should ensure proper price support mechanism for the farm sector.


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