With the intention of reducing dependence of labour on agriculture, the Maharashtra government has invited agriculture processing industry to the state. “I invite people to open shops, industries in not just cities like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Nashik, but in Vidarbha, Marathwada, north Maharashtra. We will provide everything — land, power, manpower. The government is willing to support the agriculture industry completely,” said Subhash Desai, Industries Minister of Maharashtra.
He was speaking at the inauguration of the fifth Global Economic Summit in Mumbai. The theme of this year’s summit is “enabling food for all”. The three-day summit saw participation of over 90 international delegates from 28 countries including USA, Sweden, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Malaysia. Nearly 300 Indian industries including many agro industries participated in the summit which was jointly organised by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the All India Association of Industries.
“My farmer gets Rs 10 to Rs 20 per kilo for his potatoes. But the same potatoes, when processed into foods, fetch a much higher price. A pack of Pringles costs Rs 240 for 162 grams. The farmers here are willing to experiment. I appeal to the experts to show us ways of reducing wastage and increasing productivity. If uneducated farmers can experiment and increase their yield, the experts’ guidance will help them go ahead further,” he said.
Officials from the state government said that the Maharashtra government’s main aim was to reduce dependence of labour on agriculture sector. “While the share of agriculture in GDP has reduced to nearly 13%, more than 40% of our population is still dependent on agriculture. We have to reduce that. We want to give more jobs in industries. We have to divert our population from agriculture to agri-industry and other sectors. Only then will agriculture become affordable,” Desai said.
“The productivity of Indian agriculture is far less compared to other countries. We have to think, for whom we are growing foods. 43% of our children under the age of five are underweight,” Dr Ashok K. Vishandass, chairperson of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said. He talked about the need for development in agriculture to address the challenges of hunger and malnutrition in the country.
Various experts from different fields discussed challenges for food security and mulled on cohesive action by government and non-government agencies to make the food systems more inclusive and sustainable.
Samir Shah, Managing Director of National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited (NCDEX) said the need of the hour was to find a sustainable solution for post-harvest losses. “There are three key avenues that call for immediate attention — development of primary market, strategic buffer stock management and need for scientific and accessible storage of agricultural produce by farmers; where significant progress can be made especially in the Indian context to move towards the country’s food security mission,” he said.
On this occasion, a handbook and a research-based strategy paper were released. In one of the special publications dedicated to “enabling food for all”, Professor M. S. Swaminathan has warned against the problems of protein hunger, hidden hunger and undernutrition. He said that India should pay more attention towards providing clean drinking water and sanitation, so that the micronutrient deficiencies are overcome by increasing the absorption capacity of the body.
Talking against the excessive use of pesticides, he said the way to move from green revolution to “evergreen revolution” is by using ecotechnologies like integrated pest management, integrated nutrient supply, scientific water management and improved post-harvest technology.
Various small and medium sector industries from Maharashtra participated in the exhibition organised for the participants at the summit. These included GI-marked Waigaon turmeric which has curcumin content of over 5.5%, the jaggery clusters of Kolhapur and Gondia, kokum clusters of coastal Maharashtra.