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Centre to promote farming of oilseeds, pulses in region
Pawar says move will check water table depletion
Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 4
Concerned over the depleting groundwater table in Punjab and Haryana, the Centre is planning to increase the procurement of oilseeds and pulses, both less water consuming, from the two states. The aim is to make farmers prefer these crops over paddy, in what may be seen as a shift in the Union government’s food policy.

And instead of Punjab and Haryana, the government would promote paddy cultivation in the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, said Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

Pawar, however, said that a formal decision in this regard would only be taken after taking into confidence the state governments of Punjab and Haryana and farmers. “The government proposes to procure horticulture produce, pulses and oil seeds from the two states, and farmers will get higher price (MSP) for these crops than what they get for paddy. We will, however, continue to procure wheat from here,” he said.

In the city to inaugurate the Agro Tech 2010 organised by CII, the Union minister said the need of the hour was to increase food production and productivity. Advocating the need to go in for genetically modified crops so as to meet the additional food grain requirement under the proposed National Food Security Bill, he said this was the ultimate solution to increase production and productivity. “This will require a lot of quality seeds — whether they are hybrid or genetically modified.”

Reiterating the need to change the cropping pattern in the two states, Pawar said the continuous wheat- paddy rotation in this region had led to the depletion of the groundwater level. “Farmers can earn more by shifting to pulses, oilseeds and horticulture crops.”

Refusing that the government was considering any bonus on the MSP for wheat and paddy, Pawar said bonus, however, had been announced on oilseeds and pulses in order to encourage farmers to increase their production.

About the need to introduce GM crops, the Agriculture Minister said increasing farm production was imperative to growth in agriculture, especially as the Food Security Bill would require additional procurement from the open market. “The government will require over 65 million tonne of foodgrains to implement this bill. Though there are people who will oppose new technologies, they must realise that with the introduction on Bt cotton, the cotton production in India has gone up by leaps and bounds, and farmers are getting very good remuneration,” he said. Pawar also said that the government would soon start consultation process with sugar producing states on the issue of decontrolling the sugar sector. This will be done after the current session of Parliament, and Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana will be involved in these discussions, he added.





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