Nearly 50 years ago, a panel of experts in the agriculture field met in Italy (called the club of Rome) and predicted massive food shortages and death due to hunger. In India their predictions were supported by the then data which indicated that after 1947 (since Independence) the agriculture output fell a way short of the demand for food. Indian resilience proved them wrong.
To-day, India is the largest product of milk (128 million tonnes) second largest producer of rice (over 100 million metric tonnes), wheat over 90 million tonnes, sugar 25 million tonnes, cotton 34 million bales and fruits and vegetables, over 200 million metric tonnes. Besides, it is a significant producer of a variety of spices, plantation crops, poultry and fishery products.
How did all this come about? The government support was there but not enough. Green Revolution, a process which improved the food production significantly and developed with the support of the Indian Scientists likes of the caliber of Dr. M. S. Swaminathan and Dr. Kurien played a very big role in achieving this near Self Sufficiency. Currently agriculture accounts for 15 percent of India’s GDP, employs about 55 percent of the work force and contributes to around 10 percent of exports.
Unfortunately once we reached a certain level of output our government had become complacent. Funding all activities of agriculture like the subsidies have become a political issue. It is myopic and hurting. Our last year agriculture growth is less than 2 percent. The question to debate is not what has gone wrong, what needs to be done to make our country free of poverty and hunger. Several challenges exist like land constraints, water shortage, climate change, low productivity. To handle this we need to encourage the research and development in agriculture in a big way. If Israel can use their scanty rain filled desert land to produce oranges and tomatoes, why can’t we do it? Yes we can if we put our minds to it.
FY 14 is a blessed year as far as agriculture is concerned. With copious flow of rains bumper harvest is possible with all time high food production exceeding 260 tonnes are all reasons to celebrate. But we can’t forever count on our luck. We need to take advantage of all our blessings.
There are several advantages in favor of India like abundant sunshine for 270 days, nearly 90 cm of monsoon rain during June-Sept every year, 8000 km of coast line, hundreds of crisis crossing rivers, extraordinary bio diversity, availability of adequate labor force and a resilient spirit.
It is time we wake up to this reality, put our heart and soul together and support every effort, to achieve this dreamed food self sufficiency. Will it happen?
Let us hope.