Australia’s Pratt and Israeli statesman Peres team together for India’s next food and water revolution

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th November 2014
Australia's Pratt and Israeli statesman Peres team together for India's next food and water revolution
Australia’s Pratt and Israeli statesman Peres team together for India’s next food and water revolution

Australian billionaire paper, packaging and recycling magnate Anthony Pratt has partnered with former Israeli President Shimon Peres and major Indian not-for-profit organisation the Ananta Centre to help transform food and water security in India.

The venture, known as the India-Australia-Israel Track II Trilateral Dialogue, is seeking the backing of global corporations, governments and not-for-profit organisations to help bankroll a major agricultural project in India that will be launched in 2015. The Pratt Foundation, the Ananta Centre and Tel Aviv University will work together to increase co-operation between India, Israel and Australia on addressing water and food security issues.

The venture was launched at a discussion in India, organised by the Ananta Centre, the Pratt Foundation and Tel Aviv University, called “Challenges and Opportunities of Creating a Second Green Revolution in India”. The program launch featured H.E. Shimon Peres, former Israeli President; Mr Jamshyd Godrej, Chairman of the Ananta Centre and Chairman of the Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Company, an Indian conglomerate with 15 diverse business divisions; and Mr Pratt who heads the Pratt Foundation and is Chairman of Visy Industries. Mr. T.N. Ninan, Chairman of the Ananta Aspen Centre and Chairman, Business Standard steered the discussion. Mr Pratt, Mr Peres and Mr Godrej will be patrons of the venture.

Australian philanthropic backing

The Pratt Foundation was established in 1978 by Richard and Jeanne Pratt with the shared vision of supporting charitable enterprises and adding value to philanthropy. The Foundation is now one of the largest private sources of philanthropy in Australia. The Pratt Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Pratt/Visy Industries, the world’s largest, privately-owned recycled paper and packaging company, with more than 5,000 employees in Australia and 4,000 employees in the US.

The Ananta Aspen Centre is an independent and not-for-profit organisation that seeks to foster positive change in society through dissemination of knowledge. The Centre facilitates discussions on issues of international significance, values-based leadership and cross-sector outreach by engaging the civil society, government, private sector, and other key stakeholders. Some of key initiatives undertaken by the Ananta Centre have been Strategic Dialogues with US, Japan, Singapore, Israel, China and Turkey; the annual flagship Growth Net conclave; Ideas India Summit; and The India Leadership Initiative. The Centre is based in New Delhi and Kolkata and has an international network of partners.

Need for ‘Second Green Revolution’ in India

The initiative coincides with the recent announcement of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s vision of India’s growth targets for a Second Green Revolution, which will include focus on increased agro-productivity, value addition and agro-technology; decentralisation of warehousing; white revolution to focus on increasing milk productivity and developing a system for ensuring cattle health, and increased focus on water conservation.

The original ‘Green Revolution’ in India was the name given to a major boost to India’s food supply that began in the late 1960s with the introduction of high-yield crop varieties and applications of modern agricultural techniques. The success of the initiative was attributed to a mixture of investment in crop research, use of appropriate technology, market development and government provisions. The expansion in food production created self-sufficiency in food grains and significantly cut India’s reliance on imports. According to estimates, food-grain production improved from 51 million tonnes (MT) in 1950-1951 to 234 MT in 2008-2009.

Indian PM’s vision to ‘scale up’ agriculture in India

Addressing the gathering at the launch of the India-Australia-Israel venture, Mr Pratt extended support to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to scale up the agriculture sector.

“I am honoured and delighted to be the Australian Patron of the Trilateral Track II Food and Water Security Dialogue between India, Israel and Australia,” Mr Pratt said. We are dedicated to serving Prime Minister Modi’s vision of creating India’s second green revolution across the full agricultural, food processing, distribution supply chain, to improve the livelihoods and productivity of India’s smallholder farmers,” he said.

Mr Peres lauded the steps taken by India in the last few decades to strengthen its agriculture sector and enhance food production.

“While India needed to rely on foreign aid in the 1960s to avert disaster, India is a net exporter of food, and any threat of malnutrition is a question more of distribution, than of production,” Mr Peres said.  “The world can learn a lot from your experience. Your commitment to basic scientific agricultural research, is the only way that India today is more food secure than it was 50 years ago,” he said.

“And amazingly, you have done this while still relying primarily on small-scale farmers,” Mr Peres said. “The green revolution has brought new challenges that must be dealt with,” he said.

“We must maintain the increased yields, but with more environmentally sustainable practices,” Mr Peres said. “I’m convinced that the answer lies in science and technology. India and Israel have a common agenda. We both realise the importance of food security for both our national security and regional stability,” he said.

Underscoring the potential for expansion in the Indian agriculture landscape, Mr Godrej said the agriculture was at the basis of India’s economy, providing 52 per cent of the country’s total workforce.

“With the projected levels of population growth, food security remains high on the development agenda,” Mr Godrej said. “Farmer aggregation and improved water irrigation systems can be the foundation for the expansion of Indian agriculture. Israel’s agro-technologies and Australia’s efficient production, processing systems and R&D can also play a vital role in India’s Second Green Revolution,” he said.