Tuesday, July 13, 2010


It is the current trend for politicians in India to eulogize China because of its economic achievements and exhort the country to emulate them in practically every realm of economic activity. The Exhortation becomes shriller after a visit is made to China on government expenses. The recent visit to China by a large group of farmers led by some politicians and bureaucrats in Karnataka was also supposed to be to "expose" them to Chinese feats in agriculture. It is another matter that most of the time they spent there was used up for sight seeing! In a repeat of the same "jaunt" politics, a junior minister "handling" food in the federal government, went to China recently accompanied by some bureaucrats to study the food production with the express purpose of benefiting from their new knowledge of Chinese agriculture. The result is same, more exhortation to country men to emulate Chinese!.

"Minister of state for agriculture K V Thomas has already been to China with a team and has submitted a report favouring adoption of the model followed in that country. Presenting the Chinese success story, Asia International Food Policy Research Institute director Ashok Gulati, who had accompanied Thomas during the China trip, pointed out that use of hybrid and biologically modified seeds had allowed China to achieve a per hectare yield of 6.6 tonne against 3.3 tonne in India". "China has set a yield target of 13.5 tonne per hectare through intensive use of hybrid and GM seeds. At present, hybrids comprise 63% of seeds used in China against only 3% in India. If we don't adopt the Chinese model, we will not be able to meet the demand. But there is a need to match political will with commitment," Gulati said. "China had started extensive research on hybrid seeds between 1964 and 1979 following a famine between 1958 and 1961 that claimed 38 million lives. "We need a father figure like Yuan Longping who drove the hybrid revolution in China, coupled with institutional innovation, reward and recognition," he added. But both Gulati and Pawar did not explain how India would control the price of hybrid seeds that China effectively does despite the presence of nearly 3,000 private sector seed companies. Also, unlike amalgamation of farmlands and setting up of cooperatives that allow use of mechanised farming in China, farmland in the eastern India is extremely fragmented".

The uncomfortable questions posed by some incisive journalists probably may not be of any concern to such globe trotting politicians and bureaucrats as they are immune to "inconvenient" realities. Is it not a shame for a country like India which ushered in the Green Revolution earlier to "cringe" in the first decade of this century that Chinese have better yielding hybrid seeds that produce 100% more grains in the field than the ones currently available to Indian farmers? The tragedy is that some of the scientists involved in the Green Revolution have become political "philosophers" with no clue or say on the food policy of the country. The current fragmented land holding pattern and unreliable seed supply market do not lend themselves to any dramatic improvements in productivity in the foreseeable future. Till then Indian policy makers can only "salivate" at the achievements of Chinese farmers.


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