The country needed to rethink the kind of crops that should be grown, Union Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said on Tuesday.
“Paddy and rice production in the country today not only exceeds domestic consumption requirements, but is also above export requirements. Serious thought needs to be given for whom these crops are being produced,” he said.
Addressing the 9th Agrochemicals Conference organised by FICCI, the minister lamented that sugarcane is also being overproduced, resulting in overproduction of sugar. “Several subsidies are being handed out for payment of water and electricity bills, then sugar mills are helped out with viability gap funding and subsidies are offered to convert sugar into ethanol. We need to come out of this vicious trap,” he said, adding that the industry also needs to take a stand on crop requirements of the country.
In the last six years, the government has implemented 102 recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee, but the Opposition leaders have politicised issues, he said. Shekhawat said the government has worked on total reform of agriculture, and water has been an integral part of it. Corporate investments are required in agriculture and water, especially in areas of post-harvest management, food processing and supply chain management, he said.
According to the minister, India is said to have the least productive water usage in the world. Around 5,600 litres of water is required to grow 1 kg of paddy or rice, while the rest of the world achieves the same in 350 litres, he said, underlining the need for efficient irrigation systems. This can be achieved by linking various entities, including Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs), in the effort, he said. The average landholding has been squeezed to one acre and, therefore, FPCs were conceptualised to scale up agriculture, he said.
The minister said India’s underground water resources were stressed. India draws up 25% of the world’s water, which is 1.5 times more than the water drawn by USA and China, he said. “The country’s underground water resources are not infinite, and awareness among people is low. Therefore, the country needs to diversify to crops that guzzle less water, to minimise water needs that may have grown due to pesticide use, and a complete revision of thinking of what crops to produce and for which markets to produce,” he said.
The ministry is currently working on water mapping. It has identified the six most stressed places for a pilot programme under the Atal Bhujal Yojana, being run with the World Bank for an estimated Rs 6,000 crore, he said.