Israel and Indian must continue to bolster an already strong relationship by expanding economic and agricultural collaborations, ministers from both countries said on Monday.
Israeli Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Indian Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh met on Monday morning in Beit Dagan, where they discussed a variety of existing and future cooperative opportunities. During the visit, Israeli officials presented Singh with an array of technologies relevant to India’s major crops, as well as methods for food preservation and post-harvest storage.
Prior to the meeting, Singh visited the Agriculture Research Organization’s Volcani Center, the research arm of the Agriculture Ministry, where he met with 20 postdoctoral exchange students from India.
“I welcome Mr. Radha Mohan Singh and thank him for his desire to strengthen the agricultural link between the countries,” Ariel said. “The good relations between Israel and India take place by means of diplomatic ties between the countries, and simultaneously, through business and agricultural connections of private companies. We are working together to strengthen the relationship in these two fields, and to bolster even further the agricultural relationship between the two countries.”
Singh likewise indicated his country’s willingness to increase the already strong relations between the two countries in the agricultural sector.
“We are interested in expanding economic and agricultural ties with Israel, with an emphasis on advanced technologies in the field of water and in the fishing industry,” he said. “I am grateful for the cooperation so far and hope to continue the relationship between us in the future.”
While India and Israel only formally established relations in 1992, the two countries have already built up a wealth of collaborative activity, particularly in the agricultural sector. Front and center is the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project, launched in 2008, which has led to the establishment of “Centers of Excellence” for agricultural demonstration, training and production throughout India.
The Indo-Israel Agriculture Project is the joint effort of a number of bodies from both governments. On the Israeli side is the Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation), the Agriculture Ministry’s CINADCO (The Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation) and the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi.
From the Indian side is the Agriculture Ministry’s Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, as well as many Indian state and federal government agencies.
The project has been unfolding in three stages, beginning in 2009 and projected to run through 2018.
Thus far, there are 26 Centers of Excellence across India, 15 of which are fully active, according to Dan Alluf, counselor for international cooperation for the embassy and MASHAV. The 26 centers span many categories, including vegetables, mango, citrus, pomegranate, floriculture, dates and beekeeping. The centers will eventually be operational in nine states: Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
The hope is to see all 26 centers fully functioning by the end of 2017, Alluf told The Jerusalem Post, last week. The partners would like to open 10 to 14 centers in seven new states: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Chhattisgarh, he said.
A key element to the project’s third phase will be the introduction of new technologies and expertise into the centers, such as water recycling mechanisms.
“The Indian partner is actually leading me. He is guiding me on what the key crops are, and what he would like to see as the scope of activity,” Alluf said, noting that the dialogue is always equal. “I tell him what the technologies are that I would like to implement, together with the Israeli experts. It’s a very nice dialogue in which we are implementing and tailoring the solutions and planning in a very delicate way – and the end result is to the measurement of the local farmer. We always think if the farmer would come to the center, would it be relevant for him? Can he implement it in his farm?”
Singh’s visit to Israel this week follow Ariel’s trip to India in April, during which the Israeli minister attended India Water Week and inaugurated a new Center of Excellence for subtropical fruits in the state of Harayana. The Center of Excellence there has been so popular that the state government announced in January it would launch 14 facilities of its own – to focus on micro-irrigation and agricultural operations based on the Israeli model.
“We are thankful for, and welcome the cooperation that exists between us,” Singh said on Monday. “In technology and knowledge, the Israelis have a significant role in the development of agriculture in India, with an emphasis on the Centers of Excellence and training that Israel has established over the years. These Centers of Excellence greatly help in training local farmers, and I can update, that at the training center established in April, there have been significant and positive results.”
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