With Israeli help, agriculture to be Goa’s next Make in India story

Panaji, June 18 (IANS) After defence, Goa’s next Make in India footprint could be in the agriculture sector even as industry captains and politicians in the state look to learn lessons from Israel’s agriculture success story.

Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) president Narayan Bandekar said that the state would do well to tap crop, post-harvest technologies and water management from a nation known for world class agri-technology.

“Of course, agriculture is an area which we are looking to start a Make in India project with Israel’s help,” Bandekar told IANS after a meeting here with Israeli consul general in Mumbai David Akov.

He also said that GCCI was discussing a few agriculture-oriented projects with the state government and that a final decision would be taken soon.

While former chief minister Manohar Parrikar’s elevation to New Delhi as defence minister has already yielded a Make in India contract to a central government-operated shipyard in Goa to manufacture eight minesweepers, Goa Speaker Rajendra Arlekar said that Israeli help should be sought to infuse life in the state’s stagnant agriculture sector.

“There should not be any room for any questions. We wanted to work together. That is the reason he (Akov) is here,” Arlekar said of the diplomat’s visit to the state.

Agriculture in Goa comprises cultivation of crops like paddy, cashew, coconut and seasonal vegetables and pulses, and provides livelihood support to nearly 12 per cent of the state’s 1.5 million population.

Escalating real estate prices, high labour costs and farm share-holdings shrinking with every generation has however made agriculture a less attractive proposition as compared to mining, tourism and employment in the service sector.

Investment in agriculture and water technology, according to Akov, could help make farming in Goa competitive.

“We could have ties with either the government or research organisations here in Goa… there are other private institutions (in Israel) which could be relevant for the specific kind of agriculture here. Some of them involve technology which could change and improve the crops here,” Akov said.

The consul general also said that Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, whose state incidentally sees the highest percentage of farmers’ suicides, had travelled to Israel in April to seek out technology which deals with water and agriculture management.

Despite a desert accounting for nearly half of Israel, the country is known for its cutting-edge agriculture technology which has helped it to produce as much as 95 per cent of its domestic food requirements.

“Eighty-five percent of Israeli waste water is recycled and used for agriculture,” Akov said.

He also said that by first starting to work together in the agriculture sector, both Goa and Israel could also start looking at other areas of cooperation, dropping hints at increasing cooperation in the tourism, dairy and water management sectors.

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government came to power in 2012, Goa has been actively wooing Israel to resurrect its agriculture story.

In 2013, a state government delegation had travelled to Israel to interact with the country’s agro-industry and dairy experts.

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