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Tell us what according to you has been the state of affairs in Indian agriculture of late?
India with 142 million hectares, produced a meager 257 million tonnes of food grain during the current harvesting season while China with less arable land (128 million hectares) harvested 500 million tonnes. It points out that we are not doing the right thing so far agriculture is concerned. We have to address issues like small landholding, illiteracy and least mechanisation of agriculture, etc. in order to be able to feed our ever growing population. About 65 per cent of workforce depends on agriculture, while USA produce more with only 3 per cent of its people engaged in it with equal arable land. We lag behind in adopting modern technology in farming, and we need to alter this state of affairs for sustainable development.
Could India match with the Chinese in agricultural output?
We have to graduate to co-operative farming with use of heavy machines and every individual farmer is made the stake holder, it is not possible with fragmented landholding. But I doubt that it would happen in India so soon. More than 60 per cent of our arable land is rain fed, we have to create irrigational infrastructure in place. We have to inculcate the habit of water conservation all across and about rain water harvesting. We at Dhanuka run awareness programme everywhere, distribute literature, leaflets and disseminate information.
How technology could help in bringing second green revolution in India?
Firstly, soil texture needs to be tested before the use of fertilizer in India. What we usually do, we put Urea or some other product randomly, this is not the scientific way of doing things. We lead by example, as we adopted Hoshangaband district In Madhya Pradesh, in the year 2001. The MP government handed over their soil testing laboratory to us. The field promotion activities are done jointly by Dhanuka with government machinery. In three years, the productivity was enhanced by 30 per cent in this district. This project got the first award from the National Productivity Council, Government of India. So, such kind of initiatives should be taken everywhere in the country. Lot of state governments are also approaching us that we should start this kind of projects in their respective states. The PPP model should be replicated across the country. Our dealers do collect soi l samples in the district.
We analyse soil texture and then recommend the composition of fertilisers. The whole process takes approximately 15 days. We just charge a nominal cost of Rs. 5 per sample from the farmers. We help farmers in differentiating between the grain and seeds. Using grain as seeds is also a reason for low productivity. Third thing, as per a data, annually, the grains are damaged to the tune of Rs. 100,000 Crore because of the diseases.
Moreover, the pesticide industry is of worth Rs 10,000 Crore only. As per the information, hardly 35 per cent of farmers are using pesticides. That is a major reason of such heavy loses of crops. If farmers use pesticides judiciously, we could save crops of around Rs. 50,000 Cr. That will be a big achievement.
If 65 per cent of farmers are not using pesticides, do you see lack of awareness programmes for pesticide usage as a reason for it?
Although the government is trying hard and spending money and releasing budget, give training and education to the farmers, but it has just a little impact on ground level. The implementation is a major problem. It should actually be a PPP programme. A company has its own limitation, we are having around 1500 B.Sc, M.Sc graduates, they are called Dhanuka Doctors and their job is not to sell the products. Their job is to give training to the farmers. They are doing yield demonstration in the villages. They are involving themselves from sowing to harvesting. That kind of promotional activities we are doing. India is having more than 600,000 vi llages; a single company cannot do that, it should be a public private partnership, and the entire industry should chip in.
What are the stumbling blocks do you see in this sector?
The major problems we discussed about the irrigation facilities, less usage of pesticides. According to a university data, India is the least pesticide consuming country in the world as the consumption is hardly 500 gm per hectare. And highest is Taiwan, around 70 kg, Japan 11 Kg, US and all developed European countries are consuming 10 times that of India. Basically, these are the roadblocks and from the government’s point of view, the Public-Private-Partnership should be adopted. At the grassroots level, the training of the farmers needs to be done.
As other agri- inputs , pesticides should also be exempted from the excise and sale tax. That would lower the input cost to the farmers and they would be inclined to use of pesticides.
What are the basic reason that inhibits pulses and oilseeds production and we still depend largely on imports?
The cost of the production of the farmer is not viable for the farmers. Because, sometimes when he goes to sell the crops in the market, the middlemen take away the major profit share. Farmers should get the input on reasonable price and consumer can get the product at right price. It can only be possible by minimising the middlemen’s role. You will be shocked, when you see, sometimes farmers throw away the crop because he is not able to bear the cost of even bringing it to the market.
What are the way outs do you see to tackle these kinds of situations?
We have to fix the logistics. Cold storage and road transport and others need to be at place. Few good companies are playing good role and procuring the materials from the farmers. ITC Chaupal is doing good job, Reliance is also active in this field. Haryali Kisan Bazar is also doing good job. So the farmers are able to sell his crop on right price and they will remain with agriculture.