How do you assess the co-operation between India and Israel in the area of agriculture and allied activities?
We know it for sure that several projects are underway in a collaborative mode.
Firstly, we need to understand the agricultural strength of both these countries. India is in the second phase of the Green Revolution now. Second phase means India has food security now. Agricultural practices in India exist since the ancient whereas we are a young nation and what defines our agricultural practices is the high degree of modern technology applications. In my country, agriculture as a profession has mainly been taken up by an educated class.
Now, Israel and India decided to collaborate in the field of agriculture about five years ago by formally signing an agreement.
When it comes to agriculture, there are distinctive common strings between both the countries. For instance, the climatic conditions are somewhat similar. But we have developed some distinguished expertise. We suffer from water scarcity and over the decades have developed the capability of making the most of the limited resources. In actual terms, we follow the philosophy – the plant is working for us unlike in other countries where the farmers are working for the plant. We are used to looking at agricultural growth in terms of the growth per plant which is quite unique.
Can you give me a sense of the production differential if the similar plot size is used in both the countries?
Of course, it entails modern technique being used in Israel while traditional methods being in play for production in India. From the same area, we will be producing 10 times more than what India is doing. Here you need to closely look at our over all approach. Our basic philosophy is to create sustainable projects in the field of agriculture.The Centre of Excellence which we started in Karnal would probably give you a sense of what I am talking about. Here you will find scientists consistently working to find solutions for farmers and help them in improving their productivity in 1-3 years time frame. For instance, if you are growing vegetables like tomato you have to select the best variety which will give you in the specific given condition the best yield. So, you have to conduct a trial. We have several varieties and the farmers have the leeway to choose the best one for the area. This methodology is called applied technology.
If farmers fraternity in India have to understand and embrace your agro-centric technological applications, what should they do?
Its not difficult. They can approach our Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Haryana. Within two years, they have more established glasshouses and pollyhouses on a land parcel spread across 1400 hectare. But while we are demonstrating cultivation in pollyhouses which are relatively expensive, we are also demonstrating less expensive structures like nethouses. On a selective basis, these applications are helping the farmers of Haryana to grow vegetables for almost 9 months now as against standard 3 months earlier. Currently, we are dealing in five crops which are: pomegranate, vegetables, mango, citrus and dates. We have in fact, ten states which are participating in our joint collaboration and there are several projects in each state. We combined those states in a cluster like vegetable cluster, citrus cluster, pomegranate, cluster etc. If you take the citrus cluster, we have projects in Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab.
On a broader basis, how do you intend to take forward your collaboration with India in the field of agriculture?
Presently, we have seven active “Centre of Excellence.” By the end of the next year, this number will go up to 15-16. The most important thing is that these projects are sustainable because they not only consist of foreign knowledge and experts, but also comprise Indian experts and local knowledge base. We are in discussion with 10 states to further our joint-efforts. The states are: Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka, TamilNadu, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.