About the Conference

India is the seventh largest country in the world in terms of its geographical with a population of 1.1 billion that is burgeoning at the rate of 1.5% per annum. The country has seen impressive economic growth in recent decades and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The agricultural sector continues to occupy a key position in India’s development planning and economic policies owing to its critical contributions in achieving food and nutrition security, providing livelihood and employment to a significant proportion of the rural population, and reducing poverty. An estimated 70% of India’s 1.1 billion people living in rural areas and approximately 58% of the labor force are engaged in agriculture. Historically, it has been a cornerstone in India’s economic, social and political fabric.However, agriculture’s share of GDP has decreased from 51% in 1947 to about 15.7 % in 2009-10. Agricultural growth has not kept pace with other sectors of the economy and a disproportionate percentage of the rural poor rely on agriculture for their livelihood security.

Achievement of ‘food security for all’ has been the central focus of India’s agricultural development strategy. In the last four decades, India made remarkable progress in increasing agricultural productivity. The Green Revolution of the 1970s and 1980s substantially increased food grain output and improved food security. After achieving near self-sufficiency in staple food, India launched a targeted public distribution system (PDS) to improve food security at the household and individual levels. A well-functioning PDS virtually guarantees that subsidized food is made available to people living below the poverty line. This is an enormous relief for people who live on the margin of subsistence, and a welcome support for everyone. Right to Food is yet another food security measure which relies heavily on the public distribution system and therefore, the National Food Security Bill must be comprehensive and should incorporate supply of essential food items of good quality, means to improve the distribution system, investment in agriculture and rural development and healthcare. It must also concentrate on ‘food security’ in the country in terms of ensuring adequate agricultural production and better facilities for farmers.

As of now, Indian Agriculture is facing many challenges. Productivity of principal food crops has reached a plateau. Water tables are dropping and water resource management is of increasing concern. Agricultural education is failing to adequately train students and public subsidies that discourage crop diversification and innovation. The lack of knowledge on breaking the yield barriers in principal crops, increasing agricultural productivity coupled with minimal increases in crop values and also poor management of post harvest losses hampers any real increase in farmer income. India’s challenges in the agricultural sector can be grouped into three broad categories: 1) challenges in food and nutritional security; 2) challenges in environmental sustainability of agriculture; and 3) challenges in generating economic growth and value-addition. These challenges require the same sort of resolute attention, creativity and international expertise & leadership that India exhibited during the Green Revolution Era. Some of the challenges are inherited and some are newly emerging like the changing climate scenario.

The future of India and Indian agriculture on the world market will largely depend on its ability to cope with these challenges, which cannot be addressed simply by applying trends of the past. These changes are bringing pressure on a range of complex and interlinked challenges within the Indian economy, and particularly upon Indian agriculture, they range from climate change, globalization and increasing competition, to new demands for bio-energy, environmental impacts and pressures on our natural resources, demographic changes, and advances in science and technology, amongst others.

India has already taken steps to build the necessary research capacity to address the emerging and longer term challenges. The conventional agriculture has been successful in increasing productivity but this has been with a significant environmental cost that has not been sufficiently recognized and addressed. In the light of expected climate change in combination with the pressures on natural and other resources (such as oil and N-fertilizers, phosphate, land, water, soil, biodiversity) we need to rethink the way we produce, process, retail and purchase food. Innovative research is essential to meet the challenge of growing more food for a growing world population on limited land, with less energy and other scarce inputs, while at the same time improving soil fertility and ecosystems resilience capacity as well as exploring all possibilities for mitigating climate change effects.

So, India is at cross-roads again. It's time for a second massive agricultural development effort. CII as a business association has drawn up an ambitious plan of creating a think tank to drive a second breakthrough in agriculture and agro-product industries. This initiative is driven both by the private sector which sees potential in the booming retail market and also, to some extent, by government programs investing in infrastructure and the removal of market barriers. It is hence that we have conceived the idea of organizing this specialized conference with the theme of agricultural R & D system and focus on addressing the challenges, research direction, technological gaps and constraints and develop delivery mechanism for improvements in farm productivity are matched by post-harvest and preservation technologies.

The conference is the building block of an Evergreen Revolution, which in turn seeks to bring together the extension and research, regulation and crop management under the one platform of “Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development of Agriculture”.

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