Food policy and Globalization

Linked with Devinder Sharma – India;

Published on Marsh InfoZys, by Devinder Sharma, article not dated.

(Excerpt): … Sustainable farming:

Indian agriculture faces an unprecedented crisis in sustainability. Foodgrain productivity in the food bowl, comprising Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, is on the decline. The green revolution areas are encountering serious bottlenecks to growth and productivity. The dryland areas (comprising nearly 70 per cent of the cultivable lands) continue to drown in misery and apathy. Excessive mining of soil nutrients and groundwater have already brought in soil sickness. Indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides has done serious harm to environment, human health and ecology.

There is therefore a need to immediately

  • Draw a balance sheet of the collapse of Green Revolution. We need to know what went wrong with agriculture, so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. A post mortem of Green Revolution is absolutely necessary.
  • Investments and increased outlays for agricultural research that is based on external chemical inputs like fertiliser and pesticides need to be phased out. Instead, financial allocation should be made for reviving low-input agriculture, which uses cheap and locally available technology and in turn improves production, reduces cost of production and protects environment.
  • Draw a map of the soil health of India. In future, all crop introductions should be based on soil health. If a crop (including cash crops) has the possibility of destroying the soil fertility and thereby accentuating the sustainability crisis, that cropping system should not be allowed.
  • Role of technology too needs to be ascertained. Pesticides were promoted blindly on rice, for instance. The International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines now says that pesticides on rice were a waste of time and effort in Asia. But meanwhile, pesticides usage has already taken a huge toll, and pushed farmers in a debt trap.
  • Agricultural research must reorient itself to learn from the existing sustainable farming models. The focus of genetically modified crops must immediately stop as it is risky and expensive for the farmer. This has been amply demonstrated in several parts of the world.
  • Water productivity and efficiency has to be the hallmark of agricultural research based on the local conditions.

Dryland farming:

Despite the former Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi’s emphasis on dryland farming, agricultural scientists as well as the policy makers, have failed the “resource poor” farmers. This is essentially because, the entire thrust of dryland research, was to bring in, an external model of Green Revolution, in which the dryland farmer, who manages to survive against all odds, would be made to fit in. No effort was made to improve, the existing technology base, under numerous location-technology specifications.

The increased emphasis on water harvesting notwithstanding, the reduced availability of water, is emerging as a major social and economic crisis and barrier. In addition, the cropping pattern, has to be evolved keeping in mind, the water availability. At present, more the water requirement for hybrid crop varieties, more is its cultivation in the water-scarce regions. This is scandalous – and unless the cropping pattern is rectified, no measures to protect and preserve, water resources, will be effective. There is no justification for Rajasthan, for instance, to grow sugarcane:

  • Investments in rainwater harvesting, need to be immediately shifted to the revival, of the traditional forms of water conservation – ponds and tanks.
  • Fodder cultivation, crop planning according to the water needs and availability and the emphasis on the local breed of cattle (and improving its productivity, rather than importing exotic breeds) need to be encouraged.
  • Dryland crops like coarse cereal, pulses and oilseeds require adequate policy measures that bring shine to these forgotten grains. Imports under bilateral trade agreements must protect the dryland crops.
  • Farmers in the rainfed areas need to be insured against drought. This can be ensured by making it mandatory for the foreign insurance companies to invest at least 40 per cent of their funds for farm insurance. Pulses are a part of the average diet. Yet, pulse production has remained in the range of 14 million tonnes. Pulses are also a crop of the marginal lands, requiring less water and replenishing soil nutrients. Strange that the country imports pulses and export sugar, whose production needs to brought down. Why can’t we launch a nationwide programme to increase pulse production by re-launching a Technology Mission on Pulses and by providing farmers with small processing units to turn it into ‘daal’.

Farm Incomes: … (full long text).

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