NEW DELHI, Feb 20 (IANS): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said India's farm yield has touched a new high with food production expected to exceed 250 million tonnes, "an all time record", at the end of the Eleventh Five Year Plan ending March 31.
Addressing the golden jubilee celebrations of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) here, the prime minister emphasized that a prosperous, productive and sustainable farm economy is the cornerstone of equitable and inclusive growth of India.
He said the government was pursuing comprehensive reform and revitalisation of agrarian economy and has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to improve returns to farming and step up investment in rural infrastructure.
He said the government's flagship agricultural plans like Bharat Nirman, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and the Rainfed Areas Development Programme and other agrarian policies have begun to pay off and the country has "reached new plateaus in foodgrain production".
"Food production at the end of the Eleventh Plan will exceed 250 million tonnes, an all time record. Our pulse production, at 18 million tonnes, is well above the previous barrier of 15 million tonnes.
"We are producing today more milk, more fruits, more vegetables, more sugarcane, more oilseeds and more cotton than ever before. Last year production of vegetables went up by 9.57 percent and nearly two million tonnes of cold storage capacity was created."
He said the agricultural growth was "likely to be about 3.5 percent per annum during the Eleventh Five Year Plan which is much better than in the 10th".
He said the achievement was "commendable" but "we must improve upon it in the Twelfth Plan to reach four percent growth or even higher".
"This will call for very determined effort on the part of both the central government and the state governments ranging over many areas including investment in irrigation, investment in watershed management, provision of credit, provision of marketing support.
He said the key element in that effort must be the contribution of agricultural research.
"Our farm economy needs much greater injection of science and a knowledge-based approach to increasing incomes and productivity. Both land and water are limited and it is vital that we make progress in agricultural technology, which raises land productivity while also allowing a significant reduction in water use per unit of agricultural output."