Australia is keen on playing role in India’s dairy sector. Apart from this, what kind of cooperation can India and Australia do in agriculture sector?
Anirban Dev: India is facing shortage of around 20 million tonnes of grains storage capacity. The demand can only be met through increasing warehousing facilities, traditional open air print covered storage and the modern silo systems. So, we are working on steel silo bins technologies which are more adaptive to the Indian conditions due to its low cost. Silo Bags are very huge polythene cover which allow to store grain in the middle of the field about two tonnes of grain and it can block all infestation, protect from the exposure to rain and other harm prone issues. These are simple technologies but effective to the Indian conditions. We are looking at the options where we can identify Australian capabilities which are efficient and relevant to the Indian requirement. Australian steel manufactures have partnerships with Tata Blue Scope to make still silo bags.
Does Australia have any programme to develop storage capacity here?
Nicola Watkinson: Food Corporation of India has an ambitious silo grain storage programme and at the same time we are looking and talking to private partners, have specific limited requirement. Currently, we are running awareness programmes on Australian silo bag storage capacity. It has been very successful in Australia and in the state of Rajasthan in India. We are talking to different stakeholders like FCI and private players to try and position silo bag storage capacities.
India with one of the largest arable land what technology should be applied to increase production?
Anirban: We cannot pick a technology from Australia and implement in India. The farming activity in India is very different from Australia. The message we are trying to put across in India and also back in Australia is to identify the technology required in India and then to be able to adapt that technology to the Indian conditions.
Nicola: In some regions in India, the soil health has been degraded, so in Australia. So, micro nutrients will improve the productivity of the farms. It isn’t relatively that expensive, but it makes the sheet different: the ability to grow high value crops in that particular area. So that’s one area where Australia has an expertise and ability to change the micro nutrients for the soil. And the other area is irrigation; Australia has some good irrigation systems that are a little bit different from the Israel’s irrigation system.
In Murray-Darling basin, we have just one river in this drought and hot region. But, we have developed canal irrigation. As India has enough number of rivers and gets good monsoon, this irrigation system can be well-developed across the country.
Following the path of Israel, does Australia have similar plan for India?
Nicola: We have very strong connections with research to help customise and develop solutions for India. Punjab Agricultural University is one of them, we have poultry agricultural association which have partnership here with Indian Council for Agricultural Research and many other programmes are running in this field. We have Australia India Treaty Research Fund, designed to allow people from India and Australia to come together to undertake research projects to develop solution for the Indian market. Our view is that it has to be long term relationship.
GM crops have become very controversial issue. We seek your views on this.
Nicola: Yes, it is the controversial issue across the globe. Australia has very limited GM crops with the exception of things like some common crops. There is no one solution for everybody, but for Australia, I guess at the moment, the sentiment that we have seen has been to try and look at good plant breeding without necessarily doing GM crops.