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IRRI South Asia Regional Centre holds 4th Coordination Committee Meeting

13 March 2021 ~ Established in 2018 by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) as a hub for key research and capacity building activities for South Asia and Africa, the IRRI South Asia Regional Centre (IRRI-SARC) held its 4th Coordination Committee Meeting last 12 March 2021 at the IRRI-SARC complex at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. 

Visiting the centre for the meeting was Mr. Sanjay Agarwal, the Co-Chair of the Coordination Committee and the Secretary of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. Also present was Dr. Devesh Chaturvedi, the Additional Chief Secretary for Agriculture Education and Research, Agriculture Marketing, Agriculture Foreign Business and Export Promotion, Government of Uttar Pradesh, and Dr. Sudhanshu Singh, Director of IRRI-ISARC. Dr. Jean Balié, the Director General of IRRI and Chairman of the Coordination Committee, as well as other members of the committee from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal attended the meeting virtually.

In his inaugural remarks, Mr. Sanjay Agarwal said, “I am delighted to see that IRRI-SARC has made considerable progress in 2020 despite the disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am highly convinced with its top-class research on grain quality, speed breeding, climate resilience agriculture, profiling of grain and nutritional quality, DSR, dynamic agro advisory, digital agriculture, online learning models, and a robust outreach programme. IRRI-SARC is moving steadily and strongly towards becoming a globally recognized centre.”

While  assuring full support to IRRI-SARC, Mr. Agarwal also provided future thrust areas for the centre, where it can focus on development and wide scaling of biofortified varieties, use of remote sensing-based technology in crop estimation, focusing on crop insurance and convergence with Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna, to work in the domain of rice bran oil, and postharvest management. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Chaturvedi mentioned that IRRI-SARC has made great progress on capacity building as well as innovative extension of improved technologies by expanding outreach in the region. He said ”In a new evolving environment, e-learning modules of training can further be strengthened for dissemination of knowledge and creating awareness. I expect IRRI-SARC should engage with vibrant FPOs of the region in various value chains, market linkages, and enterprise initiatives.” 

Dr. Chaturvedialso highlighted that ISARC can strengthen its research around hybrid rice and improve its milling quality. “IRRI-SARC should be a critical stakeholder in flagship initiatives like UPCAR, RKVY etc., and extend its reach and developed technologies to other regions like Africa.”

In his chairman remarks, Dr. Balié stressed on “further expanding collaboration and partnership with national partners and cross-cutting innovations, with critical research and technology out-scaling in the region the priority in the years to come. We are committed to establish ISARC as a vehicle of change in the region and globally.”

Other committee members also gave their remarks. Dr. T.R. Sharma, Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences), ICAR was highly impressed with the breeding programme and its progress at the centre and suggested that IRRI-SARC should keep focusing on landraces, work on development of standard chemical profiling, expand research around bio-fortified varieties, and tracing important genes for micronutrients. He also advised for inclusion of red rice in research programmes and work in the domain of  entire value chain development, and linkages with industry for such speciality rice.

Dr. Md. Shahjahan Kabir, Director General of the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), expressed his appreciation for IRRI-SARC’s grain quality laboratory which is a unique one-of-its-kind infrastructure, and he said the work done by the lab on germplasm analysis is highly useful. 

Dr. Md. Baktear Hossain, Director of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Agriculture Centre emphasized the strong collaboration between IRRI-SARC and SAARC for its capacity-building programmes, strengthening germplasm exchange, and seed cooperation.

Dr. Shree Ram Ghimire, Joint Secretary, Agriculture and Livestock Business Promotion Division, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), mentioned that rice remains a very important crop and IRRI-SARC’s contribution towards this is commendable. “We strongly believe that IRRI-SARC collaboration with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) on rice research and development initiatives will be further strengthened and expanded in the near future.”

Dr. Ajay Kohli, Deputy Director General of IRRI, who was a critical observer of the meeting, thanked the committee members for their valuable insights, support, and direction for the way forward. He also highlighted some commendable progress made globally by IRRI on research and development of micronutrient-rich as well as Vitamin A fortified rice varieties. He assured the participants of IRRI’s high quality research and impact around various domains suggested by the member experts. 

At the start of the meeting, Dr. Sudhanshu Singh and his team of scientists presented the overall progress of the centre’s activities for the last year, under various verticals. Dr. Singh also projected IRRI-SARC’s plans for the year 2021-22 and vision for next five years.

Dr. Nafees Meah, IRRI Regional Representative for South Asia, delivered the vote of thanks. The other scientists who participated, delivered thematic progress, and contributed to this meeting include Drs. Sheetal Sharma, Regina Ahmed, Gopesh Tiwari, Vikas Kumar, Swati Nayak, and Amit Srivastava.

Reporting by TC Dhoundiyal