| MS Swaminathan
Calcutta, May 6: Investment in agriculture in the state has gone down in the past eight years because of poor infrastructure in rural Bengal, the father of the Green Revolution said today.
M.S. Swaminathan, whose expertise was generously tapped by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government in framing the new agriculture policy, said the rural infrastructure in Bengal needed an urgent revamp. Otherwise, imported fruits and vegetables will flood the market.
Addressing a meeting organised by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce, Swaminathan added that the sorry state of rural infrastructure was common across India.
He had a long meeting with Bhattacharjee yesterday on the imperatives of agriculture in Bengal. “The need of the hour is to improve the infrastructure like roads and communications in the rural sector. You see that over the past decade we are feeling the impact of global economy. Our market is now being flooded with imported fruits like apples though we produce plenty in (Jammu and) Kashmir and Himachal (Pradesh),” he said.
Swaminathan, who has gone through the state’s new farm policy and thinks the government has provided enough safeguards to farmers, explained Bhattacharjee the importance of precision farming, the need to prevent glut in potato production year after year and strengthen the agro-processing industry.
The agriculture policy, formulated with recommendations of global consultants McKinsey in mind, aims at a shift of focus from agriculture to agri-business. In an earlier set of recommendations to the state on how to effect the shift, McKinsey had said Bengal had an immense potential in the fields of fruit processing and horticulture in Asia.
Swaminathan said the potential has to be translated into productivity to suit the market. He added that the chief minister was enthusiastic about the six agro-export zones coming up in the state.
The agro-scientist also had a few good words on what has been achieved. Bengal has done well in land and agriculture reforms and has helped the farmers with a stable panchayati raj and social infrastructure, he said.
A draft farm policy framed following McKinsey guidelines faced equal flak from the Opposition and the minor Left Front partners because it encouraged contract farming. Today, Swaminathan spoke of its importance.
“What Bengal lacks is investment. But, the role of private investors is to help the farmers and any kind of contract cultivation should be mutually beneficial and not exploitative. There is no question of a farmer losing his land to private companies. So, we should look for partnerships that will help farmers.”
“There is no use producing a huge quantity of potato or any other crop without provisions of marketing or storage,” he said.