Industry Must Join Government in Lifting Agricultural Research - The New Indian Express

Industry Must Join Government in Lifting Agricultural Research

Published: 11th January 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 11th January 2014 01:25 AM

Renowned farm scientist M S Swaminathan has said there is no field where the benefit-cost ratio is as high as in agricultural research and development (R&D). This statement is borne out by the success of harnessing agricultural research to boost productivity in basmati rice, cotton and maize. The common factor in the success stories is not just one of technological intervention translating into higher crop yield and farm incomes, but also the role of the private sector—be it seed companies, millers, processors or exporters—in ensuring effective transfer of research knowhow in labs to farmers’ fields.

What these examples point to is the need for a totally new public-private-partnership (PPP) framework for agricultural R&D. It could involve the likes of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute partnering with private seed companies for large-scale production and multiplication of publicly-bred material to reach farmers. The PPP approach could further extend to sponsored or joint research collaboration with industry—say, breeding of barley varieties yielding more malt for brewing purposes. All this requires huge investments, making the case for collaboration further compelling.

While the population growth continues, the quantum of land not only remains static, but its availability for agriculture is showing a declining trend with industrial, infrastructural and residential needs. Also, global warming can cause erratic weather patterns, thereby augmenting the already existing problems of flooding and drought and affecting crop production. Research is of vital necessity, therefore, to guard against both the vagaries of nature and the impact of industrial and urban development. The responsibility of feeding a growing population is not the government’s alone, but also of the private sector that has to curb its instinctive focus on profits to allocate more funds to laboratories and field experiments.

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