An overhaul of Agro-R&D is imperative for fulfilling of India’s obligations of doubling farmer’s income. Comment.

The Agriculture sector requires robust R&D to improve livelihoods, by raising yields and quality. Therefore, there is a need for the following measures:

  1. Liberalising salary structures and promotion criteria of research institutions like Indian Council for Agricultural Research.
  2. Performance based promotion and competitive pay packages will help reverse brain drain of agricultural scientists.
  3. Increasing funding for agro R&D.
  4. Involving private sector in agricultural research through collaborations and joint projects.
  5. Agricultural universities have mushroomed recently, but quality has declined. So instead of approving new institutions, infrastructure and pedagogy in existing colleges should be improved.
  6. Two agricultural universities should be given sufficient funding to become world class, with high research output.
  7. Focus of agro R&D needs to shift –
    • From cereals to fruits, vegetables, pulses and oilseeds.
    • From purely increasing yields to improving shelf life, texture and taste.
    • Ensuring drought, heat and salinity resistance to address the impact of climate change.
  8. India has comparatively few agri R&D startups. Thus more incubators, mentoring and handholding are needed to reverse this trend.

Sustainable Development Goal 2 mandates doubling income of smallholder farmers by 2030. Agri R&D is a viable tool to achieve the same. Thus reforming R&D in this sector should be taken up on priority basis.

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