I am delighted to participate in the Golden Jubilee convocation of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. I congratulate all those students who are receiving their degrees today, particularly those who are being recognized for their outstanding achievements. I wish them all the very best in their future pursuits.
Our government has always recognized that a prosperous, productive and sustainable farm economy is the corner stone of equitable and inclusive growth of our country. We have therefore pursued policies to bring about a comprehensive reform and revitalization of our agrarian economy. We have adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve returns to farming and step up investment in rural infrastructure.
Our flagship program Bharat Nirman has focused on increasing investment in rural roads, rural electrification, irrigation, rural housing and rural communications. Over the past seven years we have engineered a shift in the terms of trade in favour of agriculture by raising significantly support and procurement prices. We financed a massive debt write off for indebted farmers of our country. We launched the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program which is both a safety net for the poor and also a powerful instrument for undertaking works that will enhance land productivity. We launched the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the Rainfed Areas Development Program.
These policies have begun to pay off. We have reached new plateaus in food grain production. Food production at the end of the 11th Plan will exceed 250 million tonnes, an all time record. Our pulse production, at 18 million tones, is well about the previous barrier of 15 million tones. We are producing today more milk, more fruits, more vegetables, more sugarcane, more oilseeds and more cotton than ever before. Last year production of vegetables went up by 9.57% and nearly 2 million tones of cold storage capacity was created.
It now looks as if agricultural growth is likely to be about 3.5% per annum during the 11th Five Year Plan which is much better than in the 10th Five Year Plan. This is a commendable achievement but we must improve upon it in the Twelfth Plan to reach 4 percent growth or even higher. This will call for very determined effort on the part of both the central government and the state governments ranging over many areas including investment in irrigation, investment in watershed management, provision of credit, provision of marketing support etc. One of the key elements in that effort must be the contribution of agricultural research and I would like to use this opportunity to focus on this area. I am aware that at any given time there is a gap between the yield per hectare that is observed in the field and the yields that can be achieved under ideal farming conditions.
That difference is quite substantial at present and it represents the failure of the system to exploit the yield potential which our scientists have given us. In the short run it is the job of the administration to close this gap and our agricultural strategy must give high priority to this effort.
This is not the job of research scientists but it does involve close collaboration between our scientific and technical manpower and the administration on the ground. We must do better in this area than we have done thus far. One of our major concerns has been the worry that our extension services system is no longer sufficiently robust. The First Green Revolution was carried out on the back of an effective rural extension and research infrastructure. The joining of hands between panchayats, rural agricultural staff, agricultural scientists and district level officials created the foundation of a robust extension services system. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute and state level institutions were very much a part of this system.
We need now to revitalize this infrastructure of support at the district level. The Krishi Vigyan Kendras which now cover virtually the entire length and breadth of the country and Agricultural Technology Management Agencies (ATMA) have to play a major role in this process of revitalization and transformation of extension network.
Looking beyond the application of known technology, our farm economy needs much greater injection of science and a knowledge-based approach to increasing incomes and productivity. Both land and water are limited and it is vital that we make progress in agricultural technology which raises land productivity while also allowing a significant reduction in water use per unit of agricultural output. We need to develop varieties which can ensure high yield while economizing on water and are also capable of withstanding water stress. This is as true of crop production as for livestock. We need to develop improved breeds which can flourish in our agro climatic conditions and do not require high value inputs which our farmers cannot afford.
This depends critically upon the health and vitality of our agricultural research system, centering on the ICAR system and state agricultural universities. We owe a great deal to our scientists for what we have achieved in the past. It is due to the dedicated work of our agricultural scientists that we were able to overcome those constraints. I am very happy that Dr. M.S. Swaminathan the father of the Green Revolution in our country is very much present here. But we should not rest on our laurels. We have a long way to go down this road if we want to assure our farmers of prosperity from the fruits of the land they till.
The National Agricultural Research System needs to be further strengthened to meet the challenges of the years ahead. One requirement of this is the adequacy of financial resources. Our Government is committed to raising R&D spending as a whole to at least 2% of the GDP by the end of the XII Plan from the current level of about 1%. Given the importance that agriculture has in achieving our national goals, we have to ensure that a significant proportion of increased R&D spending is directed to agriculture and related activities.
Resources are only one part of the solution. I also feel our agricultural research system needs to look inward to see whether it is keeping up with developments globally. We had established two Committees to examine the system and make recommendations on how to strengthen it. One of these Committees was headed by Dr Mashelkar and the other by Dr Swaminathan. We need to review the implementation of the recommendations of these committees to see whether all the recommendations they made have been implemented in letter and spirit.
I am particularly keen to ensure that research funding is based on clearly defined research goals which are linked to achieving productivity increases in the field. This calls for a system which focuses on basic research at one end but also encourages a spectrum of activity translating basic research to the development of varieties that meet the needs of our farmers given the circumstances in which they have to operate and their resource constraints.
While the public sector needs to take the lead we also need much greater private sector investment and involvement in agriculture, particularly in R&D. Indeed, it is unlikely that the goal of 2% of GDP in research can be achieved unless a significant part of this is financed by the private sector. Further, greater integration of the agricultural, industrial and Science and Technology sectors of our economy alone can yield large productivity gains based on new innovations and technologies.
We need to promote structured public private partnerships, to foster better synergy among institutions and disciplines. However, for this to happen on an adequate scale, we need to expand the mode of scientific research by funding not just institutions but also research platforms that cut across institutions. Individual researchers and research groups, whether in the National Agricultural Research System, universities, CSIR, scientific establishments or the private sector, should be enabled to form platforms for joint research in key priority areas. These should be funded subject to quality peer review. I am therefore happy that the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has proposed some extra mural funding along these lines in the XIIth Plan.
The institutionalization of an intellectual property rights regime is important for this to happen. Not only must our scientists be rewarded for their innovative work, but an effective IPR regime will also facilitate research partnerships on the basis of sharing of costs and benefits in the larger interest of our economy and society at large. For example, the public sector has invested in a very large collection of genetic material which is of value to private seed producers. Commercial arrangements could be worked out for use of such knowledge, whose proceeds could be ploughed back into scientific research for public good. In this context, we must never forget that linkage with farming communities is vital to enhance the efficiency and productivity of our agricultural research system. This would help to blend modern science with traditional knowledge and make the system more responsive to the felt needs of our farmers. Special attention needs to be paid to the role of women in the farm sector. Women have historically been the source of much traditional knowledge. Thus special efforts have to be made to make the entire R&D chain more gender sensitive and give priority to technological options that reduce the drudgery of women working on the farm.
As we go forward, we have to keep in mind not only the increase in demand for food but the changing composition of that demand. It is estimated that we would need an addition of nearly 50 million tones of food grains in the next 10 years to meet domestic demand. Increased production of food grains is certainly an important plank of food security and our efforts to rid the country of the scourge of malnutrition.
But proper nutrition also requires a balanced diet. We would need to produce more fruits & vegetables and protein rich products such as milk, eggs, fish and meat. The demand for these products is expected to grow substantially with rising incomes and changing dietary habits and preferences. Therefore we have to pursue a multi-pronged strategy which seeks to boost productivity and production through product-specific interventions.
I have already mentioned the need to deal with the threat of climate change. Climate change and rising demand for commercial energy are expected to have a significant impact on agriculture in India. Rise in energy demand and continued dependence on fossil-fuel based energy will lead to higher costs of cultivation and also lead to increased carbon emissions.
I am happy to learn that IARI has recently set up a new Centre for Environment Science and Climate Resilient Agriculture to address these issues.
I was a student, like many of you here, in the difficult years of the 1940s and 1950s. Times have changed and we have overcome the fears that plagued our nation at that time. But your generation faces even bigger challenges. We achieved higher agricultural productivity through means that used water very intensively and relied heavily on chemical inputs. And we did not have a looming concern on climate change. Your generation has to tackle all these tasks. Fortunately our economy is now much stronger and we are in a position to support research much more than was the case earlier. I assure you that we will do our bit. The glorious history of institutions such as the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, and the quality of the young minds being trained in it today shows that we have the intellectual and institutional capacity to overcome all challenges. I wish each one of you well in your chosen careers and I have no doubt that you will make a major contribution to creating the new green revolution in the years that lie ahead. May your path be blessed.