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Shift to high-value crops, farmers told

By Our Staff Reporter



The Governor, P. S. Ramamohan Rao, conferring the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on the Director of Development Strategy and Governance Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute, Peter B. R. Hazell (second from left), at a Tamil Nadu Agricultural University convocation in Coimbatore on Saturday. Looking on (from left) are the Vice-Chancellor, C. Ramasamy, and the Agriculture Minister, P. Annavi. — Photo: K. Ananthan

COIMBATORE, JUNE 5. Farmers should take up cultivation of high-value crops instead of the staple variety to cater for the export market, said the Director of the Development Strategy and Governance Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute at Washington, Peter B. R. Hazell, here today.

In his convocation address at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Hazell said there ought to be improvements in the marketing and distribution of food. Public policy support for promotion of agricultural diversification was essential with some of the investment support coming from the private sector.

He said the Green Revolution had transformed the country. "For the first time in India's history, the country has food reserves even during severe drought years," he said.

India's annual growth rate is at six to seven per cent and it was poised to soon become one of the larger economies of the world. Despite growing affluence, there were 300 million poor people who did not have money to buy food that was in abundance.

Small farmers should have access to educational opportunities, infrastructure and the latest in farming technology. Many new crops used less water and were thus environment-friendly. He advised the graduates to choose a career that they would enjoy pursuing, put in their best, and keep in mind less fortunate people and environmental needs.

The Governor and University Chancellor, P. S. Ramamohan Rao, conferred the degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) on Peter Hazell.

The Vice-Chancellor, C. Ramasamy, who read out the citation, said the degree was being conferred for Hazell's pioneering work on using mathematical programming to solve farm and agriculture sector planning problems under risk. Indian scholars had written over 80 graduate theses based on just one of his risk programming methods.

Mr. Ramasamy said that research work at the University would focus on developing rice, cotton, maize and sunflower hybrids that would thrive despite drought and resist pests and diseases.

He said that in horticulture and forestry, the accent would be on identifying and multiplying fruit, timber and non-timber species suitable for wasteland. Also, there would be special attention on medicinal plants, especially with regard to identifying and extracting alkaloids and secondary metabolites.

The Agriculture Minister and Pro-Chancellor, P. Annavi, instituted an endowment of Rs. 1.50 lakhs contributed by K. Balaraman of the Indian Horticulture Advisory Centre at Bangalore. The interest on the deposit would be given as awards to outstanding students in plant protection, biotechnology, agriculture and horticulture.

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