Saarc policymakers pitch for composite food policy

March 11th, 2008 - 11:05 am ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Facing the common challenge of feeding the poor in this region of over 1.2 billion people, policymakers from Saarc nations favour a composite policy for ensuring food security in the region. “It is time for us to initiate collective measures to provide food security to our people. The Saarc members must have a comprehensive food policy, and we must work towards that,” Pakistan’s former agriculture minister Amir Mohammad told IANS.

“Let’s move forward fast. Agriculture is the mainstay of our people. In Pakistan, 65 percent of people living in villages are engaged in varied agriculture activities. India faces a similar situation. How to augment farmers’ income by enhancing productivity is a challenge before us.”

Mohammad was among the 100 delegates from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and India who took part in a three-day conference on “Science-based Agricultural Transformation Towards Alleviation of Hunger and Poverty in Saarc countries”.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is made up of these eight countries. The delegates were unanimous on the need to respond to the foodgrain crunch in the Saarc nations on a priority basis.

“We should supply foodgrains first to the neighbouring countries if there is a need,” said M.K.A. Chowdhury, member director (crops) of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC).

“Sixty percent people out of Bangladesh’s 140 million population is engaged in agriculture, and still nearly 50 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line. Identical problems dog other Saarc nations too.”

According to India’s Planning Commission, over 22 percent people in the country live below the poverty line.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), record world prices for most staple foods have led to an 18 percent food price inflation in China, 13 percent in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10 percent or more in Latin America, Russia and India.

“We will not be able to ensure food security without a fine-tuned food policy. I hope to have some solution in the near future. Each of us will impress upon our respective governments to do the needful,” Afghanistan’s Agriculture Minister Obaidullah Ramin told IANS.

Suresh Prabhu, chairman of the steering committee of the first Saarc meet on agriculture and a former Indian minister, said: “The Saarc region needs a policy that not only ensures food security but also makes agriculture a profitable enterprise. We must join hands to improve agricultural productivity and respond to one another’s needs in enhancing livelihoods for food security.”

Mohammad suggested the member nations “adopt a policy which guarantees quality seeds and investments in technological upgradation in agriculture. A common strategy is needed to meet multifarious challenges”.

Scientists also advocated better use of technology to meet the rising demand.

“The global warming and deceleration in agro productivity call for a policy that makes agriculture economically sound. A synergy between agriculture and technology has become the need of the hour,” India’s noted agri-scientist M.S. Swaminathan told IANS.

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