Crop productivity in India is low compared to its neighbours as it has not kept pace with world-class innovative technologies, said a US official, seeking adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops to ensure more production and profitability to farmers.
“It is important how the United States and other countries raise farm productivity through constant innovations and recognition that farm revenue is dependent on functioning markets,” he told reporters here on Monday.
The official highlighted the facts that production of wheat in India was just three tonnes per hectare when the figure for China was five tonnes per hectare.
“In coarse cereals, India grows 1.7 tonnes per hectares while China is six tonnes per hectare, Indonesia and Philippines three tonnes per hectare and the US about 10 tonnes per hectare,” he said.
About opposition to GM technology by environmentalists, he said: “There is a feeling among people that biotechnology is not proven. Dozens of countries with 25 years of experience show otherwise.”
GM crop which was developed by Indian scientists was not permitted in India but grew in neighbouring countries, he added.
“India’s neighbours like Bangladesh are taking up this technology. Bt brinjal was developed by Indian scientists in Indian universities for Indian farmers but is being used by Bangladeshi farmers. They are benefiting.
“Now there would be another case, GM mustard. These are not even most advanced technologies. It is not just biotechnology, we need to look beyond.”
The official said it was not a case that India was not taking steps in adopting GM technology.
“But they should take a pledge. India needs to have a regulator that is transparent, that recognizes what the sciences is,” he said.
Calling for boosting bilateral agricultural trade between India and the US, the official said there were enough opportunities for India to increase productivity and profitability to farmers by accepting a private sector-driven market.
“Farm revenue is generated from many ways – by how much you can sell and what practices (you adopt). You need to look at the cost of production. If you try to increase farm profitability, what (would) farmers have at the end of the day. Farmers can get richer.”
According to the government data provided by the official, imports from India to the US had gone down from $6.05 billion in 2012 to $3.76 billion in 2016, but were set to cross $4 billion this year.
He added India’s cost of production was relatively high, providing “room for improvement in efficiency gains, productivity gains”.
“One of the challenges in India is that much of polices on production side are supply driven. How do we get more supply? We need to shift to what is market demand and then adjust your production,” he said.
The official also expressed disapproved of the frequent changes in import duties for various agricultural commodities by India.
“Tariff is a crude tool to manage supply. We have seen big changes in last few years. It changed from zero to 15 per cent to zero again. How do farmers and businesses respond?” the official wondered.
-Published in Business Standard. See original article link here.