Dr Gurdev Singh Khush, a professor at plant breeding department of University of California and known for his extensive work in global paddy research, said this on the sidelines of the international conference on ‘Sustainable Agriculture for Food and Livelihood Security’ at Punjab Agricultural University.
“As the misconception goes, fields are not the only place for agricultural graduates now as the world has opened its arms for them with abundance of jobs available in banks, food processing industries, universities and educational institutes and thousands other places for agricultural technology and research,” he said.
On FDI in multi-brand retail, he said, “I am in complete favour of FDI for betterment of farmers. I want FDI to enter India as soon as possible because it will change the fate of farmers who have been waiting for so long for such an economic reform.”
Khush, known as ‘Daddy Paddy’, does not favour further growth in the area under paddy cultivation. “It is a challenge in front of us today to find an alternative to wheat-paddy cycle and unfortunately, except maize, I do not see any other crop in Punjab which can replace it,” he said. “Maize can not only give provide same income if not more, as compared to paddy but also demand for maize is rising which is a good sign.”
Demanding good minimum support price for maize, he added that ‘’problem with horticulture is lack of marketing and thus excess produce when not consumed discourages farmers’’.
Quoting an example of sunflower cultivation, Dr Khush, a PAU alumnus from 1955 batch and recipient of World Food Prize in 1996 for his contribution to global rice production at the time of population explosion, said, “Around 15 years ago, Punjab farmers started sunflower cultivation and we saw a ray of hope when 1,000 hectares came under it but in the end they left it because no one came forward to buy their produce.”
Grape cultivation faced the similar fate in Punjab, he added.
On shortage of cold storages and wastage of food in India, Dr Khush said, “We have immense potential to export fruits and veggies to the Middle East but due to lack of storage facilities, around 35% of the produce is wasted which is a shame. I believe the entry of foreign retailers will reduce the storage problem.”