Crop Diversification is the need of the hour – Rajat Aggarwal

 

Chandigarh: Mr. Rajat Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer, Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion & Commissioner – Excise & Taxation, Government of Punjab, while addressing at the CII Agro & Food Tech Conference on Ushering Green Revolution 2.0 in Punjab, lauded the state’s farmers for their diversification efforts, even amid the COVID pandemic. The conference is being organized by CII to mark the week-long India International Agri & Food Week 2020.

R&D and Academia must come together to devise best practices in agriculture

“Farmers should be motivated to go for crop diversification in a big way by opting for crops like sugarcane, basmati, pulses, fruits & vegetables, he said, adding that this would make the state’s agrarian economy more financially sustainable and economically viable.” The state government’s concerted push to use the direct seeding of rice technology is expected to save both groundwater and power consumption, along with the natural resources of Punjab. He said that R&D and Academia must come together to devise best practices in agriculture which assure results and farmers must be convinced to adopt them.

Intensifying its endeavor towards crop diversification for the promotion of horticulture, fruit estates are being established in the state. The Centre of Excellence for Vegetables at Kartarpur, Punjab has been established in association with Israel to make the Punjab farmers aware of the latest technological and scientific advancements in the cultivation of vegetables.

Punjab is looking towards solarisation of tube wells, organic farming, increase in agri exports. Dedicated research centers have been established at PAU, Ludhiana. Mr. Agarwal stated that agro-processing is the future of Punjab. In its latest policy, RDF and mandi fees are exempted for Agro-processing, a whole lot of incentives are being given, including GST incentives and employment subsidy.

Speaking on the Ecosystem for Food Management and Wastage Reduction to Boost Farm Income in Punjab, Mr. Manjit Singh Brar, Managing Director, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation Limited, said,  that marketing is the real solution for food management, whereas storage is just a temporary solution. Farmers connect with consumers is the need of the hour. We have a web-based solution that facilitates a buyer-seller interface for farmers from the state. We are working on this project and are looking forward to launching it as a pilot in Mohali, District.

Mr. Rajnikant Rai, Chief Executive – Agri-Business Division, ITC Limited, said, “Delhi NCR region alone is using 15% of India’s vegetable and fruit consumption. ITC is the producer of high-quality potato seed in Punjab. It is targeting to diversify and cater to other crops as well. He believes that a holistic approach in cost structure, government policies, farmer practices, value addition, linking farmer to production, option to try something new, investment in Food Park, and Cluster-based approach is highly required for diversification.”

Mr. Anand Vijay Jha, Chief Public Policy Officer, Walmart India, said that Walmart has adopted an integrated approach by its Indian indigenous firms such as Flipkart and Ninjakart and trying to reduce farm waste. As customer preferences are changing, with the help of other marketplaces it is now possible to cater to the needs of the customer very easily.

Mr. Siraj A Chaudhry, Managing Director & CEO, National Collateral Management Services Limited, said, “The cost of doing business is very high in Punjab with taxes and commissions. The new Bill will help reduce that cost and produce more competitiveness. National Collateral Management Services Limited is deeply engrossed in reducing the cost of the supply chain, to help improve the value chain. Also, the farmer’s interest is most important for the government and industry to ensure a better future.

Mr. Priuz Khambatta, Chairman, CII Taskforce on Ease of Doing Business & Chairman & Managing Director, Rasna Private Limited, said, “We intend to contribute in doubling farmers’ income and with the current Farm bill it is possible. Health, pharmaceutical, nutrition is all becoming one. Emotional messaging is back, socially responsible brands are getting the limelight. There is an increased requirement for organic, chemical-free products. Covid has taught us the use of B2B with retailers. By research, 30% product is being purchased by #vocalforlocal.

Mr. Akshay Bector, Past Chairman, CII Punjab State, and Chairman& Managing Director, Cremica Food Industries Ltd, said, “ Post-harvest infrastructure is not getting utilized efficiently by local farmers. For starters, we need a support mechanism for the crop. Need to invest in FPO and other associations who help in bringing down the cost of harvesting in Punjab. The effort to augment price support mechanism, harvesting technology, and a 360-degree approach to help to farm in Punjab is required.

Mr. Bhavdeep Sardana, Vice Chairman, CII Punjab State, and Senior Vice President & CEO, Sukhjit Starch & Chemicals Limited, said, “Any plans on intensifying income knowledge dissemination on all levels is required. People have to get out of the vicious circle of their traditional ways of working. New crops that yield better remuneration are required.