Make agriculture climate-resilient, profitable & sustainable: Vice president

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New Delhi, Dec 17 (PTI) Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday called for making agriculture “climate-resilient”, “profitable” and “sustainable”, while ensuring remunerative prices to farmers as well as food and nutritional security to millions of people.

He also said that farmers must be allowed to sell their produce anywhere in the country, and the principle of a common market for the entire country was behind the conception of e-NAM and it must be expanded.

Delivering the 41st convocation address of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Naidu reiterated the importance of creating adequate infrastructure like cold storages, godowns as well as providing affordable credit to farmers, an official statement said.

Observing that the need of the hour is to provide a helping hand to farmers, he appreciated the central and state governments for taking many initiatives for the welfare of farmers, given the vagaries of monsoon and uncertainties in agriculture.

The vice president said the Centre has taken a number of steps to revitalise agriculture in the recent years, adding that there has been a paradigm shift and the focus has been on doubling the farmers' income, Citing the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), he said it is a boon and will benefit more than 72 per cent of India's farmers.

Naidu also stressed on the need for developing climate-resilient crops and varieties which can withstand a broad spectrum of stresses such as drought, flood, heat, salinity, insects, pests and diseases, it said.

He emphasised that developing stress-resistant varieties along with climate adaptation strategies is the key to increase the resilience of Indian agriculture and make it sustainable.

Cautioning against the negative impact of climate change on agriculture and food systems in the coming decades, the vice president called for development of technologies and methods which can lessen the vulnerability of small and marginal farmers.

Expressing concern over the challenges posed by receding water tables and increasingly polluted irrigation sources, he underlined the importance of developing climate-resilient, drought-tolerant genotypes and water saving technologies, the statement said.

The vice president described agriculture as a profession that is not just important but sacrosanct.

Referring to agriculture as the backbone of rural economy, Naidu said agriculture has always been an integral part of Indian culture and civilisation.

“More than 50 per cent of our population is still dependent on agriculture for their livelihood,” he noted.

“To augment farmers income, we must strive to improve productivity, efficiently use resources, increase cropping intensity and diversify to highly value crops,” he added.

Naidu said every effort must be made by all the stakeholders to ensure that the farmers receive remunerative prices. This could be done through better storage and processing, provisioning of farm inputs, financing and efficient marketing mechanisms for sale of output, he suggested.

Praising the farmers for displaying indomitable spirit and dedication during the coronavirus pandemic, he noted that agriculture is one sector that has performed well despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

In fact, the area under kharif cultivation has increased by around 59 lakh hectares as compared to last year, he said and attributed this larger coverage to timely inputs by the government like seeds, fertilisers and credit even during the lockdown.

Enumerating the benefits of emerging technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool, the vice president said these hold immense potential to transform agriculture by making plants tolerant to biotic and abiotic stresses and improving their nutritional value and yield.