FDI in favour of farmers, says Manmohan

Ludhiana, Dec 8 (IANS) Strongly backing the decision to allow FDI in retail, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said that it would benefit thousands of farmers in India by facilitating the introduction of latest technology and sophisticated equipment in the agriculture sector.

Speaking at the golden jubilee convocation of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) campus here, the prime minister said that the decision was supported by the farmers of Punjab, the state that is also known as food bowl of the country.

"Our decision to allow FDI in retail, which was approved by parliament only yesterday (Friday), was strongly supported by farmer's organisations in Punjab. It will, I suggest, introduce new technology and investment in marketing agricultural produce," he said.

"India, I sincerely feel, must take full advantage of modern technology and the operational and management experience of big supply chains in the food retail business to make this happen. I am confident that it will benefit our farmers, and the consumers of our country."

In his address, Manmohan Singh urged the agricultural universities and other institutions to start working to meet the existing and future challenges in the agriculture sector.

"The future is rarely a linear extrapolation of the past. Circumstances change and new challenges arise. It is therefore important to identify the challenges of the emerging future and start working right now to meet those challenges. It is evident that several stress points have emerged in Punjab's agriculture which need to be addressed," he said.

"The sustainability of water use in agriculture has emerged as a major problem in Punjab. Exploitation of ground water far exceeds the rate of recharge and that is leading to a steady decline in the water table. This is clearly not sustainable.

"Similar problems exist in other parts of the country, but they are most severe in Punjab, where 80 percent of the development blocks are now categorised as over-exploited," he said.

The prime minister also praised the results of the government's National Food Security Mission.

"The National Food Security Mission that our government launched in the year 2007 aimed at increasing production of wheat, rice and pulses by providing better access to high quality seeds and other inputs at subsidized prices as well as creating awareness about improved production practices. These efforts are yielding positive results," he said.

During the convocation, PAU Chancellor and Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil conferred the degrees of doctor of science (honoris causa) on Manmohan Singh.

Ludhiana is some 100 km from Chandigarh.

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