The 2nd Indian Rice Congress-2023 was inaugurated in Cuttack on 11 Feb 2023 by President Draupadi Murmu in the presence of Odisha Governor Prof. Ganeshi Lal, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar and Odisha Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Empowerment, Fisheries, and Animal Resource Development, Ranendra Pratap Swain. Speaking on occasion, the President said that rice is the basis of food security in India and also a major factor in our economy.
Addressing the grand ceremony at the National Rice Research Institute, President Murmu said that today India is the leading consumer and exporter of rice, for which a lot of credit goes to this institute. Still, when the country became independent, the situation was different. In those days, we could not meet our food requirements and were dependent upon imports to fulfill our needs.
The President said that as irrigation facilities expanded in the last century, rice was grown in new places and found new consumers. Paddy crop requires large amounts of water, but many parts of the world face severe water scarcity due to climate change. Droughts, floods, and cyclones are more frequent now, making rice cultivation more vulnerable. She said that even though rice is being grown on new land, there are places where traditional varieties are facing challenges.
Today we have to find a middle way, on the one hand, we have to preserve the traditional varieties and on the other, maintain the ecological balance. There is also the challenge of saving the soil from excessive use of chemical fertilizers. We need to reduce the dependence on such fertilizers to keep the soil healthy. He expressed confidence that scientists are working to develop ecofriendly rice production systems.
The President said that rice is the basis of our food security, so its nutritional aspects should also be considered. Many low-income groups depend on rice, which is often their only source of daily nutrition, so providing protein, vitamins, and essential micronutrients through rice can help combat malnutrition. On the development of the country’s first high-protein rice by NRRI, she said that the development of such bio-fortified varieties is ideal and expressed confidence that the scientific community of the country will be able to meet the challenge.
Speaking on occasion, Union Minister Tomar said that India is an agricultural country, so the government tries to prioritize agriculture. The agriculture sector has made a lot of progress as the hard work of our farmers is supplemented by scientific research. We are not only self-sufficient in terms of food grains but also among one of the countries which help the world, which is a matter of pride for us. To solve the problem of malnutrition, biofortified rice varieties should be produced to increase nutritional value; taking steps in this direction, the institute has developed varieties, namely CR 310, 311, and 315. This institute has developed 160 varieties of rice.
Tomar said that while starting a pilot project, provision has been made in the budget for biofortified rice to be supplied in the PDS. He said that the rice production in the country was only 89 million tonnes in 2010, which has increased by 46 percent to 130MT in 2022, with the efforts of farmers and scientists. India is the second largest producer of rice, and we are at Number One in exports.
Odisha Governor Prof. Ganeshi Lal said that rice is the staple food of the people of our country, and it is deeply embedded in our culture and tradition. Referring to the story of Lord Krishna and Sudama from mythology, he said that rice could solve the issue of food security. He underlined the importance of rice as the staple food of many people. Odisha’s Agriculture Minister Swain said that Odisha is not only self-sufficient in rice production but also supplies rice to 6 other states. There is a lot of scope for increasing rice production in eastern states like Odisha.
In the inauguration ceremony, Dr. Himanshu Pathak, Secretary DARE and Director General of ICAR, Dr. P.K. Aggarwal, President of the Association of Rice Research Workers, Dr. A.K. Nayak, Director of the Institute and Organizing Secretary Dr. S. Saha were present. Farmers, scientists from India and abroad, central and state agriculture officers and other departments are participating in the four-day Congress. Books were also released on this occasion.