India's public spend on agriculture research not far behind China's

India's public spending on agriculture research and development is not far behind neighbouring China, Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand said on Tuesday. 

He, however, expressed concerns that the private sector was investing in other places than in India's agriculture research and development (R&D) and this needed to be changed. 

Chand said the food demand was set to rise with increase in population and the technology innovation would be a key driver to achieve the desired production.  He was participating in a panel discussion on the report 'Fixing Asia's Food System' commissioned by Cargill India. The report shows that income growth in Asia will continue to drive transition away from direct consumption of cereals and towards more diverse diet. 

Dairy products and eggs account for a larger proportion of calories consumed in India (6 per cent) and China (4 per cent) than in Indonesia (1 per cent). 

India has a strong vegetarian culture, but projections estimate that India's meat consumption (mainly chicken and fish at 63 per cent) will rise to 9 kg by 2050, from a base of 3 kg. 

Private investment in agri R&D is not much in India. However, of late in China, private investment in farm research is on the rise. It is rising rapidly as compared to the public funding in China, Chand said.

"Globally, more intellectual property rights in farm technologies are being created by private sector. So, I do not say private sector is avoiding investment in agriculture," Chand said. 

Emphasising the need to use technology in a more balanced way, Chand said technology used in the Green Revolution period had some adverse effects as it promoted the use of fertilisers and pesticides. 

However, any shift from this would be a "dangerous trend" for the country. 

He also talked about creating awareness on nutritious foods and absence of science in food manufacturing in the country. 

Talking about food wastage, Walmart India CEO And President Krish Iyer said it is a serious problem and needs to be curbed given constrains of natural resources to grow food to meet the needs of the rising population.

Iyer enumerated four steps that retailers could take to check food wastage at supplier and retail levels - upgradation of inventory system, partnering with farmers and supply chain, modification/elimination of some standard store operation and consumer awareness.

Nestle India Managing Director and Chairman Suresh Narayanan said the challenge in the country is not only about quality nutrition but also about awareness on what constitutes good nutrition and healthy habits.

Food safety regulator FSSAI's chief management services officer Madhavi Das and Cargill India Chairman Siraj Chaudhry were also present at the event.

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