From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Agri-GDP
Mains level : Paper 3- Self reliance in food
For the Amrit Kaal (next 25 years) that the government has announced, we need to be self-reliant not just in missiles (defence equipment) but also in meals (food).
What does self-reliance in food mean?
- Its true meaning lies in specialising in commodities in which we have a comparative advantage, export them, and import those in which we don’t have a significant comparative advantage.
- Self-reliance in food does not mean that we have to produce everything ourselves at home, irrespective of the cost.
- If some protection is needed for new areas to develop (infant industry argument), that may be okay.
- But one should not aspire to be self-sufficient behind high tariff walls.
Importance of agri-R&D
- What is it that gives a country an edge over others in attaining comparative advantage?
- There is ample literature to show that agri-R&D raises total factor productivity and makes agriculture more competitive globally.
- If India wants to be fully self-reliant in food, it is generally agreed that it must invest at least 1 per cent of its agri-GDP in agri-R&D.
- The Economic Survey (2021-22) explicitly highlighted the correlation between spending on agri-R&D and agricultural growth.
- Low expenditure on agri-R&D: But the budgets of both the Union government and the states put together reveal that this expenditure on agri-R&D and education hovers around 0.6 per cent of agri-GDP.
- This is way below the minimum cut off point of 1 per cent and government policy must urgently work towards raising this substantially.
- There are some global and local companies like Bayer, Syngenta, MAHYCO, Jain Irrigation, and Mahindra and Mahindra that spend a considerable amount of their turnover on R&D programmes and developing high-tech inputs.
- The USP of these companies is that they develop technology that increases productivity while addressing the current challenges of limited net sown area, depleting water resources, vulnerability to climate change, and the need to produce nutrient-rich food.
- Role of private sector: The private sector need to come forward and help India attain supremacy in agri-R&D and innovation systems and a hub for exports and agri-technology.
- Increase expenditure on Agri-R&D and education: The need of the hour is to focus on increasing expenditure on ARE and other development projects, which can aid in the sustainable growth of the agriculture sector.
- India’s budget allocations in the agri-food space should thrive on creating “more from less”.
- There is a need to work on building long-term sustainable solutions that have an aggressive approach to implementing relevant policies and developing new ones.
- India’s current budgetary allocation strategy and trends need to be reoriented to ensure that there is more room for R&D expenditure by the government.
- Incentivise private companies for R&D: In addition to this, the government should come out with policies that incentivise private companies to expand their R&D programmes and invest more financial resources on development projects, which have the potential to overcome the challenges of the current agrarian setup of India.
If India wants to be fully self-reliant in food, it must focus on agri-R&D and increase allocation in the Budget.