1. About 5-6 millions tons of foodgrains has to be produced additionally every year over the next decade and beyond. This must happen without damaging or degrading the ecosystem. This challenge, induced by population growth, has to be met by science-led productivity growth in agriculture. Efficient management of agricultural technology is a crucial pre-requisite for the strategy to address this problem. Enhanced funding for public supported agricultural research is critical.
2. Equally important is the needed paradigm shift in R&D (Research and Development) from component (say input-based) to system focus in agriculture. There is also a need to underscore proper technology assessment, refinement, efficient transfers and to move from supply-driven to demand-driven mode by integrating market signals with client needs and constraints. This calls for changes in management and organization of agricultural research in the country.
3. Wide variation in estimates of future demand and supply of foodgrains makes it difficult to plan for increased agricultural production. A systematic study of various projections in agriculture is an urgent need and it was recommended that a task force be constituted for this purpose. The group should examine alternative estimates critically, attempt its own analysis, if necessary and submit its report as soon as possible. In fact, the short-term agricultural outlook reports should be attempted.
4. It was recommended to systematically examine all policy and institutional instruments, which have a bearing on food security and environment. While technology was a very important factor, other elements like population management, industrialization, social sector, decentralization, regulatory policies and programmes, were often necessary to make the system more effective.
5. The need for a whole new set of institutional arrangements, including legal and regulatory processes, was emphasized. These must be non-bureaucratic, democratic and most importantly, participatory. Public systems must be reoriented along these lines if the twin challenges of productivity growth and sustainable use of natural resources are to be effectively achieved. All productivity enhancing research must be integrated to manage natural-resources in order to achieve sustainable improvement of the performance of production system within the eco-system.
6. The new trade regime offers challenges and opportunities which need to be analyzed properly, particularly with regard to poverty, food security, natural resources management and IPR (Intellectual property rights). Unfortunately, even after a decade of GATT and WTO discussions, the debates still centre round populist arguments. In order to improve the global competitiveness of Indian agriculture, the ICAR needs to undertake careful study to guide its future strategy.
7. Problems of natural resources degradation and environmental hazards need specific targeting in R&D as well as developmental programmes transcending agriculture. Despite wide recognition of these problems, at present hardly a few systematic efforts or programmes are in place to monitor the indicators at the national level. Such information must now be routinely generated by the statistical reporting system. Need for data on soil and nutrient loss, erosion of bio-diversity, chemicalisation of soil, water and atmosphere, harmful residues, etc. are some of the examples in this case.
8. Stagnation or decline of total factor productivity of major foodgrains are signals of impending crisis that threatens food security even in the medium term. Apart from greater thrust on agricultural R&D, infrastructure development in areas hitherto neglected, has to be given higher priority. Human resource development programmes aimed at improving technical and entrepreneurial skills of farmers also play an important role in this context.
9. Agricultural policy must pay equal attention to food and nutritional security, environmental sustainability and improvement in quality of rural population. Past efforts have concentrated on the first, the other two have been largely peripheral. This must change and an inter-ministerial approach to agricultural development must replace the current departmental mode.
10. Such comprehensive policy framework must integrate productivity, resource conservation, poverty alleviation, employment and gender education. The strategies like R&D, rural education, infrastructure development, rural industrialisation and social sector initiatives etc. must enmesh with this framework.
11. Peoples' participation and traditional knowledge are to be accorded prominence in all agricultural development programmes. Effective involvement of stakeholders has to be ensured and this will need installation of new organization and implementation process. Reorientation of research and extension in partnership mode (with private sector, NGO, farmers' organizations and panchayats) must form an essential part of the aforesaid initiative.