Challenges Ahead

Despite these favorable trends and set up, both poverty and malnutrition still remain serious problems. The average figures hide severe inequalities that prevent the poor from taking advantage of the increased supplies of food. These include lack of productive employment, particularly in rural areas, as well as lack of access to both food and non-food goods and also to services, due to insufficient infrastructure. It is estimated that one out of every five persons still does not have the means to buy two square meals a day, and around 100 million children below 5 years of age are protein energy malnourished. Further, the increase in population and agricultural intensification has brought the natural resources under considerable stress. How to protect them? How to increase their income and access to food and provide nutritional security are the key issues.

Apart from the role of foodsupplier, there is an increasing awareness of the role of agricultural development as a driving force for overall economic growth, agriculture-based industrialization, employment generation, poverty alleviation, food and nutritional security and sustainability. For India, overall economic growth is inconceivable without growth in the agricultural sector. Therefore, an agriculture-based development strategy relying on increase in productivity and profitability, especially that of small holders, the availability of food at affordable cost for both poor and rich, and the provision of employment opportunities in the farm and rural non-farm sectors would be intrinsically poverty-reducing and food security- promoting. In this endeavor, some of the concerns are:

1. Recent slow pace of food grain production and plateauing of yields of major food crops like rice and wheat;

2. Practically no significant yield improvement in pulses;

3. Still limited choice of high yielding varieties and production package for highly risk prone and diverse rainfed ecologies, which account for two-thirds of the cropped area;

4. Serious pest problems, which at times cause over 25% yield losses;

Fig. 3.1. National Agricultural Research System

5. Appearance of new virulent strains, pest resurgence and pesticide resistance;

6. Environmental safety;

7. Declining productivity factor;

8. Sharp decline in area under coarse cereals, and likely high demands on the feed front;

9. Erosion in genetic variability, soil degradation, soil erosion, waterlogging and water quality deterioration;

10. Inadequate seed production and limited quality seed availability;

11. Inadequate basic and strategic research support.;

12. Limited systems approach;

13. Limited dissemination of farm-worthy agroproduction and protection technologies;

14. Limited processing, product development, value addition, marketing and trade facilities.

15. Inadequate investment in agriculture, i.e., about 0.46 percent of AGDP against its about 28 percent contribution to GDP;

in India.

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