Experts call for reorientation of agriculture, including enhancing R&D to 1% of GDP

Experts call for reorientation of agriculture, including enhancing R&D to 1% of GDP

New Delhi: As India braces for 100 years of independence and towards achieving the goal of Viksit Bharat by 2047, experts say agriculture will hold the key to this transformation. They recommend an urgent need for a reorientation of the agriculture sector to transform India’s agri-food systems in the coming years.

Dr RS Paroda, Founder Chairman of the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS), emphasised India’s need to become ‘Viksit’, aiming for atmanirbharta (self-reliance) and adopting a local-to-global perspective as the country approaches its 100th year of independence in 2047. “New India should focus on capturing global markets, enhancing agricultural research for innovations, reducing imports of pulses, oilseeds, and fertilisers, and achieving a 5 trillion-dollar economy by 2027,” Dr Paroda highlighted. He was speaking at a webinar by Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) titled, “Innovations for Transformation of Agri-Food Systems: An Agenda for Amrit Kaal.”

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To achieve this vision, Dr Paroda and other experts outlined an agenda that includes increased investment in agricultural R&D, advocating for a doubling of allocations, establishing a robust export-import policy, strengthening public-private partnerships, adopting a farmer-first approach, converting subsidies into incentives for efficient input use, promoting youth as agri-entrepreneurs and input providers, and supporting market reforms.

Dr Paroda emphasised that reorienting Indian agriculture requires leveraging ‘new science for new gains’. This includes embracing agricultural biotechnology, utilising information and communication technology for knowledge management, actively applying bioinformatics, and progressively guiding farmers towards adopting climate-smart agriculture with precision farming techniques. He added, “India must galvanise political will, mobilise institutional and human resources, and foster effective public-private partnerships to revolutionise our agri-food systems. Additionally, we need to equip our youth with the necessary skills to offer private extension services to farmers, play pivotal role as input providers and agri-entrepreneurs, and consider the agricultural sector as a promising and rewarding career path.”

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Currently, India is the largest producer of milk, pulses, jute, and bananas, and the second-largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, and sugarcane. Beyond production, the industry also aims to be among the top five exporters by 2030. To this end, the sector advocates for a robust EXIM policy to increase India’s agricultural contribution from 2.5 per cent to 5 per cent of the global total by 2047.

Ajai Rana, Chairman of FSII and Asia-Pacific Head & CEO of Savannah Seeds said, “The new government has a crucial role in steering the sector towards self-reliance, farmers’ prosperity, sustainability, and robust innovation through R&D. This includes introducing modern technologies in seeds, crop protection chemicals, crop nutrition products, and biological products, as well as redirecting agricultural subsidies as incentives for crop diversification and cultivating climate-resilient varieties.”

As the sector looks forward to a future marked by unprecedented growth opportunities, Ram Kaundinya, Advisor to FSII, highlighted the critical need for increased investment in agricultural research and the establishment of strategic frameworks to support this vision.

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He said, “To spur innovation, it is vital to increase agricultural research investment from the current 0.61 per cent of agri-GDP to 1 per cent. Identifying and funding high-priority research projects over the next 3-5 years with active participation from both the public and private sectors can yield significant advancements. Formulating a National Agricultural Development Council (NADC), modelled after the GST council, can also be highly effective.”

Dr Kaundinya also advocated for enhancing digital infrastructure to improve operational efficiency, reduce drudgery, and enable digital business operations in agriculture, along with progressive and science-based regulations for biotechnology.

As the agriculture sector anticipates transformative innovations, the collective efforts of the government, industry leaders, and researchers will be crucial in achieving sustainable growth and prosperity.

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