India's PM calls for 2nd 'green revolution' amid drought


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM EDT

India's premier called Saturday for a second "green revolution" to boost agricultural output as the country celebrated its national independence day in the grip of its worst drought in years.

The country "needs another Green Revolution and we will try our best to make it possible," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in an Independence Day speech marking the end of British colonial rule in 1947.

Singh was referring to the country's "Green Revolution" of the 1960s, which quadrupled food production through planting of high-yield grains and made India self-sufficient, transforming it from a starving nation into a food exporter

But India's agriculture has been in decline in recent years and growing at a far slower pace than the overall economy.

Economists say the country needs to boost agricultural growth sharply to achieve the double-digit expansion needed to lift millions out of deep poverty.

Singh appealed to India's scientific community to develop new techniques to increase farm productivity.

"We will have to adopt modern means to be successful in agriculture," he said from the ramparts of the Mughal-era Red Fort in Delhi.

Singh's words came as the country faced its worst drought since at least 2002 with the annual monsoon rains that sweep the country from June to September running at 29 percent below average.

Having recorded a growth rate of 4.9 percent in the financial year 2007-08, farm sector output growth slowed to 1.6 percent in the last fiscal year to March.

Economists say agricultural output could tumble further this year owing to the drought in the country of nearly 1.2 billion people.

"Our goal is four percent annual growth in agriculture and I am confident that we will be able to achieve (it) in the next five years."

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