Agriculture has been one of the pillars on which the Gujarat model of development has been designed. This is just the result of the consistent impetus given by the government of Gujarat under the leadership of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The state has achieved a phenomenal 10% growth in agriculture in the last 10 years.
By hosting the 1st Vibrant Gujarat Agro-tech Global Summit, Gujarat has sent out a firm message that it not only cares for the farmer community but is also cognizant to the needs of the farmers in order to increase productivity by keeping their interests as paramount.
The aim of the summit as outlined by Mr. Modi is to bring the latest available technology to the reach of the Indian farmers and help them understand its usage. This he opined was born out of the fact that many farmers travel all the way to Israel to understand the know-how of integrating technology into the field of agriculture.
Questions are often raised as to what Mr. Modi would offer as a solution, and one of the areas which the country looks forward to hear from him about, is the field of agriculture. The inaugural ceremony of the Vibrant Gujarat Agro-tech summit saw the world getting a glimpse of his vision in transforming agriculture.
Farmer Suicides are the most extreme manifestation of the agrarian distress in India today. Debt is one of the most important reasons for a farmer to commit suicide. In his inaugural talk, the Gujarat Chief Minister pointed out that it is essential to find a solution towards solving the menace of debt. Towards this he said that it is essential that banks improve their facilities in lending money to farmers and decrease the role of private money lenders. He added that private money lenders are causing havoc to the farmers in the event of them not being able to re pay their loan. Mr. Modi also went on to elaborate that the banks must incorporate a way by which they lend money owing to two aspects; it should be farmer centric and crop centric. These two aspects he said should always be kept in mind while lending money to the farmers.
Research to improve productivity per hectare, ways to increase protein in pulses and land mapping emerged as key areas of focus as per Mr. Modi. Citing dearth of research, he explained that agricultural universities must be given the task of doing the requisite research in the subject matter. By improving the protein content in pulses, the Gujarat Chief Minister strongly opined that this could be the solution to fight malnutrition. The comparative study brought out by Mr. Modi showed how India stands behind even amongst the developing countries, he said that production of wheat per hectare in India stood at 2.8 tonne and in Netherlands it was 8.9 tonne per hectare. As far as sugar cane is concerned, India produces 66 tonne per hectare but Peru produces 125 tonne per hectare. Bananas were being produced at 38 tonne per hectare but Indonesia produced bananas at 60 tonne per hectare. And onions were produced at 17 tonne per hectare but Ireland produced 67 tonne per hectare
Gujarat sends its tribal farmers for training to Philippines and this he said has reaped rewards in the tribal farmers increasing their productivity. Using this as the tool, Mr. Modi said focus should be to offer required training to the farmer to adapt to technology and thereby increase productivity.
There was a time when agriculture contributed to 51% to the country’s GDP but today it is just 14%, rued the Gujarat Chief Minister. With the increasing agrarian distress, it is a known fact that farmers are beginning to leave the field of agriculture. Close to 2500 farmers are leaving agriculture every day. Mr. Modi emphasized that this exodus has to be arrested and farmers must earn a living.
On his part Mr. Modi offered a simple and effective solution. He elaborated that if we could add 5 % natural fruit juice to the aerated soft drinks available in the market today, the farmer community would immensely benefit by this. But to this suggestion he said, MNC’s pose a great challenge and there is immense pressure from their end.
Mr. Modi added that he had suggested to the Prime Minister that 500 towns in India be chosen for the process of solid waste management, waste water treatment and production of fertilizer. This he felt could be useful to produce vegetables. But to this he did not get any response from the Prime Minister.
Gujarat has chosen 50 towns as a pilot to implement the model and observe the returns, he said.
The demand for organic farming is increasing and there is immense potential to tap into this market. Through this he said, India can begin to export in the field of agriculture and this can lead to states having an agriculture export promotion policy which can be globally accepted and which is scientific in nature.
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