Mr Ram Kaundinya, chairman, ABLE-AG
In an interview with BioSpectrum's Rahul Koul, Mr Ram Kaundinya, chairman, ABLE-AG gave detailed responses to specific questions on the upcoming budget expectations. Read on for details:
Q: Which are the key points that the previous budgets have failed to cover and need to be given attention now?
There were lot of initiatives announced for the agri sector such as establishment of mobile soil testing laboratories, agricultural research institute, National Adaptation Fund for climate change and a Price Stabilization Fund among others that will benefit the agri-biotech sector. The statement about ushering in a second green revolution was very positively received by the entire ecosystem of farmers, scientists, research-organisations, agri-universities and seed companies that together contribute to the sector as it will boost R&D in agri-biotech sector and open up a host of associated opportunities. However, policy makers need to understand that budgetary allocation by itself is not enough - the regulatory ecosystem must be improved and strengthened to allow the scientific community to go the last mile and create new strains of agri-biotechnology crops that sustainably address the issue of food security and farmer incomes. To sum this up, I would say that the Indian agri biotech sector needs more incentives for investment in research and for biotech seed production in India.
Q: Do you expect it to be different from ones presented earlier?
I believe the government recognizes this and also believe that its ‘Make-In-India' mission integrates well with the priorities of the Indian biotechnology sector. The Indian agri biotech industry has clearly demonstrated through Bt cotton that technology helps in making the 'Make in India' campaign stronger. Bt cotton seeds are today produced in India and helping Indian farmers generate high incomes and also enabling rural employment. Additionally many countries are looking forward to invest in the Indian biotechnology sector. However, regulatory hurdles especially in the agri-biotech sector remains an issue that needs urgent redressal. The inability or reluctance to address these regulatory hurdles will not just undo the benefits accrued by India's farmers so far but also prevent India reaping the benefits of an ever-green revolution in agriculture. The PM's interim budget, where the finance minister announced a very modest increase in financial outlay for the agri-biotechnology sector needs to be re-looked at. There needs to be more stimulus provided to the agri-biotech industry to enable more productive and long-term gains for the sector.
Q: How do you look at the recent speech of PM Modi at Indian Science Congress where he advised the industry to increase its own investments to research?