The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singh sows seeds of hope for farmers

New Delhi, April 9: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the UPA government would deliver soon on its promised 'New Deal' for the agriculture sector in an effort to ratchet up economic growth to 7-8 per cent.

Expressing concern over the 'neglect' of agriculture in the past decade, Singh said the 'New Deal' proposed by the government would include investments in irrigation and waste land development.

The plan for rural India also aims to reverse the declining trend of investment in agriculture and step up credit flow to farmers.

'Unfortunately, there has been a deceleration in the past decade,' Singh said in his inaugural address at the Agriculture Summit 2005, which is being organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He urged business leaders to bring modern management practices to rural development.

'We believe that the task of managing agriculture in the future cannot be adequately addressed by the public sector alone,' he said, adding it would require cohesive efforts from various players, including farmer organisations and cooperatives.

Discussing the benefits of public-private partnership, he said, 'We will require the combined strengths of the multi agency system in which the private sector, farmers' organisation, cooperatives, NGOs, para-professionals, small agri-business, self-help groups, input dealers and suppliers, media and information technology can contribute.'

The government wants a second green revolution to be based on application of new technologies and modern business practices. This will enable farmers to make informed choices and undertake product planning in a demand-driven, rather than supply-driven, mode.

Singh also hinted at a speedy revamp of the credit delivery system for farmers.

'I am concerned that the institutional framework for providing long-term capital for investment in agriculture is weak and perhaps, non-existent,' he said and asked the summit participants to come forward with ideas to create the required financial windows for the purpose.

He attributed domestic policies relating to production, procurement, pricing and distribution as factors hampering growth in the sector.

Policies regarding agricultural marketing system, inadequate pre- and post-harvesting infrastructure, poor quality standards, fragmented land holdings and ad hoc export policies were also affecting farm growth.

He said post-harvest technology programmes had been approved to strengthen the marketing infrastructure like cold chains and godowns. A new seed bill is under consideration in Parliament to increase public investment in seed production.

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