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'Our Aim Is To Bring More Investment For Agri Sector'

Businessworld’s Brij Pahwa speaks to Neelkamal Darbari, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Horticulture, Government of Rajasthan, on the sidelines of a roadshow held by the Government of Rajasthan on Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet (GRAM)

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Businessworld’s Brij Pahwa speaks to Neelkamal Darbari, Principal Secretary, Agriculture and Horticulture, Government of Rajasthan, on the sidelines of a roadshow held by the Government of Rajasthan on Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet (GRAM) in New Delhi on Friday (05 August).

Where does Rajasthan stand today in terms of economic output of Agriculture when compared to other states?
We have a fairly good track record of certain crops. The state is performing well in terms of oil seeds, pulses, fruits and plantations crops. The cotton plantations are among the finest in India and this can be proved by the fact that the productivity of cotton per hectare in Rajasthan is the highest in the country. We recently won the Krishi Karman award in ‘productivity of wheat’ as well. So putting it all together, Rajasthan is doing fairly good in terms of agriculture when compared to different states in India.

How successful have the road shows on ‘Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet (GRAM)’ been for you?
Very successful! We have done four already. One each at Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata and this one is the fifth in New Delhi. We have two more to go which will be held in Bengaluru and Chennai and we have had a really good response from all of these cities. We are already getting good investments and people have been highly enthusiastic. The attendance has been fantastic and we have been getting a lot of queries and responses adhering to the same. It is worth mentioning that the inquisitiveness about Rajasthan has been phenomenal. All of this motivates us.

Where does the Chief Minister Mrs. Vasundhara Raje pitch in?
It is her leadership which is behind the designing of the whole concept and she has been telling us to look at it from the perspective of the farmers and to ensure that their incomes double in a stipulated time. This concept primarily has a socio economic impact in terms of employment potential interwoven in it. The fact is that seventy percent of Rajasthan’s population is dependent on agriculture and their contribution to the state GDP is only twenty percent which tells us certainly that there is a miss-match somewhere. This initiative in in tandem with our efforts to correct that mismatch gradually. It would not happen over-night and will take time but this initiative has been taken up to make farm incomes more remunerative and ensure that more jobs are created from the agriculture sector and that the agri- business provides the farmer with an opportunity to move up on the value chain.

Are you thinking to venture into newer areas of agriculture like organic farming and GM crop?

Organic- Yes. We have a very conscious and focused effort to convert large areas of land into organic because we have all seen the effects of indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Increasingly, people want good and healthy food on their table and thus the demand for organic good is rising by the day. Rajasthan can certainly reap up the advantage it has in terms of the organic produce. Recently we have declared Dungarpur as an organic district and we are trying to achieve that in a natural time frame. To adhere to the same, we are working on the soil and promoting the use of vermicompost and other green manures in that district while we are also trying to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers in the nearby areas. The modus operandi is that we are planning to convert block by block and shall gradually convert the entirety into organic. Talking about GM, we are genetically hybridizing cotton already and we have large tracts of land under BT cotton in Ganganagar and Hanumangar and in other parts of south Rajasthan but the focus mainly is on organic since the world now is moving in its direction.

Can you enlighten us on your potential partners in this initiative?

We are looking at partner countries and are expecting large delegations for the Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet-2016 or “GRAM 2016” in November from Israel, Canada, Netherlands and Australia. Also large scale participations from some of the other countries including Japan and China are expected wherein we have been talking to the ambassadors and secretaries. As of now we are in the process of evolving.

What is your immediate aim in respect to the Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet-2016 or “GRAM 2016”?
So our goal is that during this event in November, we will bring 50,000 farmers from Rajasthan on board to witness the innovative world of agriculture. When I say agriculture, it automatically means the allied sectors as well which include animal husbandry, dairy and poultry and sectors which include agricultural implements. A farmer now is educated enough while his next generation is enlightened on all parameters of work; though unfortunately they are running away from agriculture due to what I feel is lack of excitement. What I think is that we need to provide them with the motivation that agriculture is not only remunerative but is also an exciting and innovative activity. So one of our aims is to win this generation back which is going out of agriculture. The other aim is to bring more investment in the agricultural business, to promote agri business industry because the farmer will benefit only when his produce is processed in the state. If he continues to be a supplier of raw material, he is not going to get a good value for his material. Value is only good when the material is processed as well.

For the same, we are trying to link up villages for the webcast of the grand event in November and we hope to create a buzz about innovative farming techniques and the diversification of cropping patterns, and we hope that intellectuals from across the world will come together and guide us as to where we are and where we have to go from here, and to see that the focus is on real growth.