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Policy palsy blamed for farm woes

Jorhat, Aug. 31: Assam Agricultural University vice-chancellor K.M. Bujarbaruah today said lack of proper policy was responsible for the poor performance of agriculture in the region.

He was attending a programme at Jorhat Press Club as the guest of the month.

Bujarbaruah said whatever work was taken up in this sector till now was either ad hoc or stop-gap and not enough had been done in land management, water management and seed policy.

“The university in collaboration with the state agriculture department has now worked out a multi-pronged strategy, which will address most of the problems. Also, a Rs 7,000-crore project proposal has been prepared, which will be submitted to the government on Monday,” he said.

“It is not just paddy production, which has to be increased but other factors like lack of labour, technology requirements, research competitiveness, natural resource conservation and building up capacity also need to be looked into,” he added.

Bujarbaruah said the university was working to transfer genes from one crop to another. Two varieties of rice seeds had been produced, which can withstand floods for 15 days at the seedling stage. Now, work was on to develop varieties that can withstand water at the mature stage, he said.

Bujarbaruah explained that it wouldn’t be possible to implement massive mechanized farming in Assam like Punjab because the land holdings here are small, so the stress here was on producing smaller equipment.

Research was also on to reduce incidence of rotting, which destroys 30 per cent of produce annually. Processing can prevent rotting. A scientist has been sent to London for training on ways to improve food quality and reduce post harvest loss, he said.

Of the six cold storage facilities in the state, a couple are located in places where there is hardly any produce that require the facility. Another problem is the shortage of power in the state, which means that these facilities don’t have power for seven to eight hours a day, Bujarbaruah said.

“However, in this regard the government has submitted a proposal of Rs $250 million to the Asian Development Bank, Manila, the Philippines, and once this is sanctioned, the agriculture sector will have enough for agricultural business development,” Bujarbaruah said.

An inventory of the state’s bio-resources — medicinal plants, soil microbes and bacteria has also been created.

“We have rich bio-resources that can be exploited commercially. But in order to do so we have to know what is of value and what is not. A gene pick-up project is on and a genome sequencer has been bought. This will help us to know, which genes can be transferred from which bacteria to which plant and vice versa for an improved quality of products,” Bujarbaruah said.

Molecular diseases in crops and plants can also be tackled beforehand once this sector becomes competitive. The university is also working on fishery and animal husbandry.


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