NEW DELHI: If the projected decline in wheat production is anything to go by, wheat-based products are going to be not only costly but also rarely available.
The Parliamentary Panel on Agriculture has revealed that despite the disturbing decline in the wheat production and investment to boost its production, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had not been sanctioned adequate funds as per the outlays approved for the 12th Five-year Plan.
The committee noted that the allocation during the first three years (of the plan period) to the Directorate of Agricultural Research and Education(DARE)/ICAR was only 0.59 per cent as against the approved outlay of 0.70 per cent.
No separate grants were provided to the DARE for implementation of the schemes announced in the Budget 2012-13 and 2013-14. The cut in the fund allocations has affected the progress of some important research programmes such as genomics works in horticultural plants, markers for desirable traits and stem cell research. Besides, it has also hit the preparedness to address the impact of impending climate change, strengthening of existing KVKs with diagnostic facilities, soil and water testing labs, and farm mechanisation, the committee observed.
The Parliamentary panel expressed unhappiness over not commencing initiatives such as the Rural Entrepreneurship Awareness Development Yojana (READY), Farmers First, Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture (ARYA), and establishment of Central Agricultural Universities in Bihar, Bundelkhand and Barapani that were to be implemented during the 12th Five-year Plan.
According to the ICAR data, climate change was likely to bring down the number of wheat fields by six to 17 per cent by 2020 and 29 per cent in 2050. This was concluded after monitoring the terminal heat stress conditions across all the districts of wheat growing states of Haryana, Punjab, UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. As per the district-level vulnerability atlas of climate change, as many as 115 districts fall under the highly vulnerable category, the committee said.
The panel also informed that the activities planned to address the impact of impending climate change were hit by the cut in the fund allocation and subsequent deduction at the revised estimated stage. The department is of the view that the R&D for development of new crop varieties and practical strategies, including introducing relevant technology through satellite village programme, would help the sector face challenges associated with the climate change.
The committee has recommended the Centre to allocate adequate funds so that the planned research and development (R&D) in the area of preparedness for facing challenges that the climate change would pose to agriculture was not hampered. The panel said the ICAR has been making efforts to develop nutrient fortified crop varieties and fast food varieties based on barly, sorghum. However, it was of view that there was need for an awareness campaign to spread the benefit of these products.