Jerusalem: Taking Indo-Israel cooperation in the field of agriculture to the “next level”, 75 villages of excellence will be shaped with Israeli cooperation in India to mark the country’s 75th anniversary of Independence, Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar, said on Wednesday.

In Israel on a four-day visit, Tomar expressed hope that as India and Israel celebrate 30 years of establishment of diplomatic relations the ongoing partnership between the two countries would be further strengthened through “mutual visits and sharing of experiences”.

Following a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Oded Forer, at the Knesset (Israeli parliament), the minister said as India celebrates its 75th anniversary of Independence “it has been decided that we will shape up 75 villages of excellence with Israeli collaboration and another 75 to follow thereafter”.

Forer expressed Israel’s desire to take the Centres of Excellence (CoE) established by his country in different parts of India to the “next level”.

There are currently 29 fully-operational Centres of Excellence in India providing vital information on emerging technologies in the agriculture sector to boost farmers’ yield.

Trade relations between the two countries would also get a boost in the near future, the Israeli agriculture minister said.

India and Israel have agreed to complete the process of finalising a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the end of June this year. This was agreed upon during a meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, in October last year during the EAM’s visit to Israel.

A delegation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare led by Tomar arrived in Israel on May 8 on a four-day visit during which it held extensive discussions with premier institutes and technology companies in the field of agriculture and horticulture.

The delegation visited facilities of Green 2000 – Agricultural Equipment and Know How Ltd. and NETAFIM Ltd. which are engaged in planning, set-up, consultation and on-going management of various projects in micro and smart Irrigation across the globe.

“Learning about application of technology and innovative procedures in farming with focus on high value crops, vegetables and fruits were the highlights of the visit”, the delegation said.

Tomar also had a roundtable discussion with more than half a dozen Israeli Agritech Startups at Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute. He extended an invite to the companies to work in India.

The delegation visited the Volcani Institute known for its expertise in agriculture under arid conditions, on lacklustre soils, irrigation through effluent and saline water and minimisation of post harvest losses by using latest pest control and storage methods.

Tomar also held a long interaction with the institute’s Post-doctoral fellows from India.

Use of drone technology with the combination of advanced mapping and photography was demonstrated at Ganei Khna’an, near Kibbutz Naan, for the Indian delegation during the visit.

The minister also visited a farm owned by an Indian-origin farmer, Sharon Cherry, growing Indian vegetables in the Negev desert area.

“Cherry exhibited excellence in growing Indian vegetables in extremely harsh terrain and climatic conditions with the technical support of Ramat Negev Agro Research Centre in the desert area”, the delegation told PTI.

The delegation also held discussions with a team from MASHAV, the agency for International Development Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel.

MASHAV is responsible for the design, coordination and implementation of the State of Israel’s worldwide development and cooperation programmes in developing countries.

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