India needs to increase farm output: Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday urged agricultural scientists to work towards the twin objective of increasing food productivity and enabling farmers to earn a good livelihood.

“Agricultural scientists should work towards a two-fold objective of enabling the Indian farmer to feed India and the world and earn a good income in the process,” Modi said in his address to farm scientists on the 86th Foundation Day of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

“The land area in the country is not going to increase… So we need to increase per hectare productivity… Similarly, we must find out how the crop which matures in 45 days can mature in 35 days without compromising with its quality,” he said here.

“We need to ensure scientific management of water cycle keeping in mind the (changing) weather cycle.”

Modi’s speech covered a range of subjects including fisheries, milk productivity, use of radios for farming, water conservation, irrigation as well as Himalayan herbal medicinal plants.

India has the second largest arable land after the US at 159.7 million hectares (394.6 million acres). It is also among the top three producers of many crops globally.

But although it has achieved self-sufficiency in food staple, the output of Indian farms is lower than Brazil, the US, France and other countries.

In 2011-12, there was record production of foodgrain at 259.32 million tonnes. According to official estimates, about 259 million tonne food grain was produced in 2013.

Modi, who gave away 10 awards for excellence in agricultural research, asked scientists to elaborate upon their research in simple terms so that farmers could be convinced to try out new products and initiatives.

He asked ICAR to set goals for their centenary, which is 14 years away.

“The work of ICAR should have two mantras — ‘Kum zameen, kum samay, zyaada upaj’ (Less land, less time, more crop) and ‘Per drop, more crop’. The challenge is how to get what is done in the lab to the land, to the farmer.”

To meet the challenge of “lab to land” – taking scientific research to successful interventions – the prime minister urged agricultural colleges to start radio stations.

Modi, who was greeted with a standing ovation, said the applause must be given to the millions of Indian farmers who have played a huge role in changing India’s fortunes.

Noting that farmers listen to radio a lot, he said, radio programmes run by college students would prove extremely beneficial.

Modi also called for a digitized database of all agricultural research in the country.

“Young educated and progressive farmers, and agricultural research scholars can together form a talent pool in all districts,” he added.

Talking about animal husbandry, Modi said special efforts need to be made to raise the level of milk productivity.

He called for a blue revolution that would extend the benefits of scientific research to the fisheries sector.

Modi urged ICAR to set its sights on achieving self-sufficiency in edible oil, and improving protein content and availability of pulses.

He asked ICAR to work for more efficient ways of water conservation and irrigation.

The prime minister called for greater research and promotion of coastal seaweed, and Himalayan herbal medicinal plants.

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