India, since its independence has made rapid strides in agriculture sector. From a state of food shortage in the mid 60s, the country has now come to a stage where it is able to meet its demand.
However, with increased population and a technology fatigue, there are increased challenges to make the country a food secured nation.
Analysis of figures on the food grains production as well as on other parameters of agricultural development makes all the countrymen proud. The food grains production which was about 45 million tonnes in 1951-52 has now increased to 216 million tonnes last year.
This significant achievement on the food grains production has obviously been due to adoption of improved farm technologies by the farmers with required policy support from successive Governments.
Productivity of major cereals has increased from 700 kilogram per hectare in 1961-62 to over 1700 kilogram per hectare now. The annual milk production has gone up to 100 million tonnes last year from about 20 million tonnes in 1950-51.
Significant increase in productivity and production has been achieved in other cash crops like sugarcane, cotton as well as other plantation crops, besides notable achievement through green and white revolution.
The achievements in the field of agriculture has given a fillip to the policy makers to take our country in the comity of developed nations by 2020 AD. However, even with increased production of food grains and other crops, food security continues to be a big concern before the nation.
The World Food Summit held in Rome (1996) in its action plan used the following definition for food security:
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
The above definition emphasized on the purchasing capacity of an individual/ household. In the context of India, food security not only means ensuring adequate supplies of food materials at the aggregate level but also the citizens should have the capacity to demand adequate levels of food.
It is often seen that people from lower income groups face difficulties during period of food shortages.
Therefore, Government interventions in the shape of subsidized distribution programmes and employment generation programmes should improve the access to food by such vulnerable sections of the society. Targeting of the targeted groups in such a scenario would be very meaningful to avoid any leakage in the governmental system.
The Green Revolution through a varied farm technologies has increased the food production but it has threatened the sustainability of growth in agriculture.
The use of high yielding varieties with increased dosages of fertilizers, pesticides and other inputs have degraded the environment to a considerable extent.
The intensification of agriculture on irrigated lands has led to problematic soils including water logging, salinity and the like. In such a situation, sustainable management of soil and water is the need of the hour.
Environmentally desirable technologies such as integrated pest management, integrated nutrient management, organic farming and other green agriculture technologies should be promoted to avoid any ecological harm.
We may have had a bumper crop harvest, but such food availability at the aggregate level may not necessarily ensure food security at the house hold level.
This is due to the fact that the consumer may have lack of economic access to food. Identification of such vulnerable groups based on their socio-economic status along with location characteristics may help in devising appropriate policies for them.
The measure of nutrition security to ensure the required calorie consumption would certainly be a good indicator. However, the nutritional status of such individual household again would depend on their access to health care services and also to hygienic water, sanitation and housing conditions.
Even though the role of agriculture in reducing food insecurity is well established, policies should be designed or structured to suit to the livelihood problems of the poor.
Farm technologies should be designed so that resource less poor as well as farmers in less endowed areas should be in a position to adopt the suggested practices. At the same time, the growth in agriculture productivity should match with the demand projections based on population growth.
The stagnation in the food grains production coupled with a fatigue in crop technologies and their transfer has made an impasse in the agriculture sector.
The National Development Council met for the first time in the history of this country to deliberate “exclusively” on issues in agriculture sector in May this year and as a result of such discussions, two schemes have recently been launched to address the issue relating to agricultural development and food security.
Whereas the National Food Security Mission has been launched as a centrally sponsored scheme to increase the production and productivity of major food crops such as rice, wheat and pulses on a sustainable basis to ensure food security of the country, the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana has been launched to incentivise States investing additional funds in the agriculture sector. Both these schemes may enhance the productivity of major food crops and revitalize the agriculture sector in the entire country.
In a poor State like Orissa, the growth in agriculture to sustain the economy needs no emphasis. The productivity of major food crops is pretty low in comparison to those in better producing States as well as the national average.
The growth rate in agriculture in Orissa during 1995-96 was (-) 1.18 percentage. However, during the 10th Plan period, the State has achieved an average annual growth rate of 3 percentage in the sector.
The total food grains production in the State is now about 8.30 million tonnes (2006-07). An appreciable growth in the sector can certainly be achieved with better technology transfer and a good policy support from the Government.
In addition to the existing plans and programmes, the State Government has already drawn up a road map to enhance the food production of the State and to ensure food security to all sections of people.
It is only possible through use of appropriate technologies for both progressive and resource-poor farmers with availability of inputs at their doorsteps at affordable prices.
Enhancement of irrigation coverage and provision of critical inputs such as agricultural credit as well as marketing support also would help in boosting the sector.
All this is possible through involvement of all stakeholders so that Orissa, which has the potential to be the grain basket of the country, can translate the achievable dreams into realities.
Director, Agriculture & Food Production,