India is not keeping pace with its peers like China in adopting innovative farm technologies, especially biotechnology, a US embassy official said today, cautioning that the country’s agri import may rise if crop yields are not raised. The comments come against the backdrop of US biotech major Monsanto Indian arm’s legal battle with the government and domestic seed companies over the royalty issue and logjam over allowing genetically modified food crops such as mustard and brinjal for commercial cultivation. Speaking to the media about India’s unrealised agriculture potential, the official here said: “We have a perspective that India is not keeping pace with its peers — China, Vietnam and others when it comes to ensuring farmers have access to world-class innovative technologies.”
Innovative technologies, including biotechnology, are required to boost crop yields, which in India at present are much lower than neighbouring countries, he said. Wheat yields are at 3 tonnes per hectare in India as against 5 tonnes in China. Rice yields are at 4 tonnes per hectare here while it is 7 tonnes in China and 6 tonnes in Vietnam, he added.
Without referring to the Monsanto’s ongoing legal dispute specifically, the official said there is a feeling among many people here that biotechnology is not good though dozens of countries around the globe have experienced great success.
Citing some examples, he said the neighbouring Bangladesh is growing Bt brinjal, which has been developed by Indian scientists. GM mustard has also been developed here, but not yet been cleared. “These are not even most-advanced technology when it comes to biotechnology,” he said, adding that the country needs to look at not just biotechnology but all other farm technologies that can boost crop yields and better revenue for farmers.
Lack of clarity on policy towards adopting world-class agri-technologies to boost crop yields, trade curbs and not so well-functioning domestic market and less private sector participation are key impediments to India not realising the full potential in the farm sector, the official added. If these hurdles are not addressed, he cautioned that “India will import more agri-commodities from the global market”.
The official also made a case for India maintaining a stable and long-term open trade policy.
High tariffs, sudden ban on commodities and stringent technical requirements are challenges being faced by the US, which is keen to export commodities like soyabean and poultry meat to India, he said.
The agri trade between India and the US reached USD 3,214.5 million in the first half of 2017.