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Manmohan: aim at 4% farm growth rate

Gargi Parsai

Country poised for higher growth

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the country was poised to achieve a growth rate "in excess of seven per cent" this year. This was based on a growth in agriculture of less than two per cent.

If the farm growth rate increased to over four per cent, the country would achieve a rapid growth of over eight per cent per annum.

Addressing the first-ever national conference on Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Farm Extension Services) here, Dr. Singh asked agriculture scientists to aim at an annual growth rate of four per cent in agriculture, up from an average growth of 1.5 per cent in the first three years of the 10th Plan. For this, they would have to work towards new breakthroughs. They would have to look at providing crop-specific, region specific, resource-specific and farm-specific solutions.

Calling for a second green revolution, the Prime Minister said it was possible to double food production by the end of the 11th Plan period with available technologies.

The extension system would have to ensure that solutions reached farmers in a short time. Planners would have to make the policy framework appropriate so that it resulted in higher income.

While KVKs could be an effective mechanism for technology assessment, refinement and demonstration, farmers' requirements were not limited to technology. They needed information about agriculture as a business, about good farm practices, policy initiatives and market intelligence. "Timely information was a critical component in the development of agriculture and a KVK in each district could function as a knowledge bank fulfilling this need."

Soil erosion

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said extension workers should address soil erosion, micronutrient deficiency, fertilizer use imbalance, lack of a watershed approach and declining productivity.

On an average soil erosion occurred at 16 tonnes a hectare annually, more than three times the acceptable norms. It went up to 80 tonnes in the Himalayas. This resulted not only in a reduction of storage in dams due to siltation but also a loss of eight-nine million tonnes of nutrients.

Inadequate and imbalanced fertilizer use led to widespread secondary and micronutrient deficiency in parts of the country, he said.

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