Physical road connectivity between urban consumption markets to farmlands

Storage infrastructure and setting up processing facilities for our farm products are major issues and need immediate attention of policymakers to accelerate agricultural growth, says former power minister and MP, Suresh P Prabhu LACK of adequate infrastructure in the hinterland and poor connectivity are major reasons behind slow agricultural growth. Better communication infrastructure is urgently required to maximise benefits of scientific innovation in enhancing farm produce. Since there is a limit to expanding the farm land, I strongly believe that there is no alternative but to put together a credible agriculture infrastructure to meet the rising demand in India for foodgrains and other agri-products and also make decisive inroads into the external markets. Access to markets Beginning with physical road connectivity between the urban consumption markets to farmlands, setting up storage facilities to processing facilities for our farm products is one big issue that needs to be tackled by the policymakers in the country. Very often, I have witnessed heated debates in the Parliament on farmers' issues. Inadequate or lack of farm infrastructure is not limited to just India. It is a phenomenon in the entire South Asian region. Massive investments in building this infrastructure in agriculture and related farm-based industries are the only answer as we make efforts to maximise our productivity from the farmlands. Scientific research and technological innovations would make our investments more productive. Billions of dollars need to be set aside for laying rural roads, setting up cold storage, post-harvest processing units, quality and affordable inputs like seeds, fertilisers and water apart from undertaking massive diversification into horticulture, floriculture and allied areas like livestock, poultry development. Insulating Indian agriculture from vagaries of weather is another big challenge as the infrastructure for water storage, smooth flow up to farm-gate apart from ensuring judicious use needs emphatic focus. Only then the double-digit GDP growth envisaged during next five years would be possible. Common concern Farm infrastructure development assumes a lot of significance as the South Asian region led by India is home to 35% of the world's hungry and 40% of the world's poor. About 70% of these people belong to India. The country's borders with other South Asian countries are often porous for flow of agricultural inputs, products and human resources, but its formal trade, particularly its import with its neighbours, is not as intense. Authentic estimates corroborated by FAO figures project that the country's food production will exceed human food demand and sizeable surpluses of cereals, fruits and vegetables, potatoes and milk will be available, which will help strengthen the proposed South Asian Food Bank once the infrastructure bottlenecks are sorted out. As stated earlier, agricultural growth in recent years has thrown new sectors and regions into prominence. Livestock, fisheries, horticulture, specialty enterprises (spices, medicinal, aromatic, organic) and value-added products illustrate this trend. Market-driven diversification, emphasising the role of the private sector, in a global perspective, has become the new paradigm driving future agricultural growth. Alternative instruments and approaches are evolving to transform agriculture and a very important part of this