Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Food: Merger of Agriculture and Food ministries extolled, but a long way to go

Article from Business Line

The above article by Harish Damodaran praises the decision to merge Agriculture, Food, Civil supplies, Consumer affairs and Public distribution under one cabinet minister - Sharad Pawar of NCP - as a good move and a step in the right direction. However also points out that crucial issues related to agriculture and food production are still outside the ambit of this ministry. For example:
  • Chemicals and fertiliser has a separate ministry, managed now by Ram Vilas Paswan, with Cabinet rank.
  • Irrigation is under Ministry of Water Resources, under Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, another Cabinet Minister
  • Apparently, till recently there was a department of Sugar and Edible oils, headed by a secretary, but has been merged now with the department of Food and Public Distribution.
  • There is a separate ministry for Food Processing Industries, handled by Subodh Kant Sahay, a Minister of State with independent charge. But Dairies, sugar plants and edible oil industry will come under Sharad Pawar.
  • Plantation crops such as rubber, tea, coffee, spices and tobacco and the commodity boards are however under the Ministry of Commerce, headed by Kamal Nath, another Cabinet Minister.
  • The job of framing food safety standards are under Health Ministry, headed by Anbumani Ramadoss, a tyro to this area.
  • There is a separate Ministry for Rural Development administering employment generation and poverty alleviation schemes (which seems okay to me, though predominantly these jobs may be in agricultural sector).

The author shows a comparison to USDA - US Department of Agriculture - where
The USDA's role today is not limited to just agriculture per se or crop research.

It also "helps ensure open markets for US agricultural products and provides food aid to needy people overseas", is "responsible for the safety of meat, poultry and egg products", "brings housing, modern telecommunications and safe drinking water to rural America" and operates Federal anti-hunger programmes including food stamps and school lunch.

Moreover, the USDA is the country's largest conservation agency and "steward of our nation's 192 million acres of national forests and rangelands".
I think there is a clear need to bring the concerned departments together, to ensure that agriculture and food production is developed considerably, agricultural income including export income is increased manifold and rural poverty is alleviated to a great extent.

1 comment:

  1. I think food preservation is the key to poverty alleviation. Millions of tons of grains go waste every season, because the stack of sacks lie in open fields, and there are not enough godowns to preserve them.
    Primitive methods used in godowns should be replaced by better technology.
    Whenever I pass thru' a local TNPCC, I'm saddened by the sorry state of rice stacks.