For Food Security, Jammu and Kashmir needs a Technological Revolution in Agriculture

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By Owais Shah

Contemporarily, 49% of the world’s population is directly engaged in agricultural activities. The story of Jammu & Kashmir is no different as most of the state’s economically vulnerable population (70%) is directly or indirectly involved in agricultural and allied activities. Contrary to expectations, the state’s agricultural produce is too low to feed the bellies of its own people which makes it largely dependent on imports. According to an estimate made by Directorate of Agriculture Jammu, the state’s annual food grain requirement is 25 Lac MT, while the tentative production is only 20 Lac MT resulting in a deficit of roughly 5 Lac MT which is provided by CAPD through the rationing system.
Every year, thousands of trucks loaded with grain are imported from neighboring states. Horticulture, an allied sector and one of the core determinants of state economy, performs better than agriculture but is unable to perform to its fullest potential and fails to boost the state’s economy. The state seems habituated to importing grains from other states as no efficient policy is in place to reverse the situation. With increasing water crisis, population explosion and climate change , the import of grains is going to be an uphill task in future and will further widen the already stressed fiscal deficit.
The low performance of agricultural produce in the state can be attributed to many factors like unfavorable topography, inadequate marketing infrastructure, marginal land holdings, climate change, irrigation related problems, lack of farmer friendly credit facilities (14% against national average of 18%) and, last but not the least the non-introduction of scientific methods and technology.
The state continues to rely on unscientific and obsolete approaches and methods to increase agricultural produce which is bound to fail. There is no denying to how the agricultural industry has been mechanized in the developed countries and most of developing ones. Deserts have been cultivated with the use of modern techniques and technologies. Most of the states in India have also adopted the trend and have been successful in achieving their targets in agriculture sector.
But, alas our state lags behind by every indicator: technology is yet to penetrate the sector in here. Comparing Jammu and Kashmir’s inputs with that of Punjab will give a snapshot of our incompetence. Our state’s farm mechanization penetration is meagre 2% as opposed to Punjab’s 70%. Its net irrigated area is only 52% as opposed to 95% of Punjab. Schemes are bound to fail in Jammu and Kashmir due to lack of expert manpower to implement these schemes which are largely based on new scientific methods and technologies.
Jammu and Kashmir has no dearth of expertise as the its agricultural institutions produce engineering graduates in field of agriculture having expertise in modern practices like Micro irrigation system, precision farming system, sustainable, remunerative and climate resilient farming, decision support systems, food processing technology and so on . It is only archaic policies and plans which act as hindrance in introduction of technology in agriculture sector of the state. Most of our professional graduates are unable to deliver their services as state continues to dodge their recruitment on one or the other pretext. This is the reason that the technologies and techniques remain confined to the walls of research institutions and never reach the fields where they are needed the most.
The need of the hour is that the state takes recourse to a policy revision and renovate the field of agriculture at the earliest in order to meet the nutritional requirements of its rapidly growing (at 23.71%), 1.25 crore population. Recruitment of the professional graduates and introduction of scientific approaches and technologies will beyond doubt result in a surplus agricultural produce and give a boon to the state economy. Otherwise , the day is not far when Jammu and Kashmir will face a severe food crisis and become home to an emaciated and a malnourished population.

The holds a B.tech in Agricultural Engineering from SKUAST, Kashmir. He can be reached at: shahowais78@gmail.com