Optimistic picture

A joint report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a UN agency, on the agricultural outlook for the world in the coming 10 years, presents an optimistic picture for India.

The report has a special section on India, which has the largest number of farmers and rural population among all countries but which also has the largest number of food insecure people. The report takes a comprehensive view of the present state of agriculture including production, trade and other aspects and their role in the economy, and also makes projections for the next decade. This will help countries, including India, to plan their strategies for the coming years on increasing output, diversification of crops and how to feed an increasing population.  

The report notes that India has done well in agriculture, and production and consumption of agricultural commodities have seen a steady rise. There has been increasing investment and farmers have better access to facilities, including credit while infrastructure has improved. India is also a major exporter of agricultural products and the trend is likely to continue. One positive projection is that Indian diets will diversify in the coming years with more consumption of pulses, milk and dairy products, fruit and vegetables. But India will have to do much more to increase productivity and to reduce the number of people dependent on agriculture. This can be done only by improving irrigation facilities, modernising agriculture and shifting work force to other sectors of the economy. There has to be prioritised encouragement of production of commodities so that the increasing demand for bio-fuels or animal feeds does not affect the availability of food grains for common consumption. 

The report makes a reference to India’s ambitious Food Security Act which aims to ensure access to a minimum quantity of foodgrains to the vulnerable sections of people at cheap rates. It is a major challenge for the country to procure and distribute huge amounts of foodgrains to the needy people every year, and the logistical problems are immense. While commending the programme, the report also warns against slippages in policy and execution. While there is awareness of the challenge within the country, the report should serve as a reminder of that. The report underlines the fact that agricultural growth is the best means to eliminate poverty and  therefore its importance should not be lost sight of. 

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