Kindly shed some light on your India operations and product portfolio.
Dr. Jens Oeding: CLAAS has been in India for the past 24 years. We have primarily been focusing on grain harvesting with Crop Tiger. It has been very successful in India. I believe, there is going to be a couple of developments next year in the market. Today, customers ask for more convenient machines for harvesting, and there will be additional requirements for these convenient operating machines.
Shortage of agricultural labour has pushed the demand for machinery. This increasing demand comes with people’s desire for more comfortable machines. And therefore, we provide Crop Tiger with air-conditioner, music system and innovative driving system, making the whole harvesting operation much more convenient.
Mrityunjaya Singh: After Crop Tiger with four models, now we have introduced a rice transplanter called Paddy Panther. Traditionally, rice transplantation is done by manual labour, especially women. Now that labour is very expensive, and also there is a shortage of their availability, a rice transplanter can do the same job in two hours what a bunch of labourers can do in a full day. The idea is not to replace labourers, but to provide the solution to farmers.
Earlier, straw, that was produced from harvesting, was burnt illegally. With the Government of Punjab promoting biomass plants, the demand for straw has shot up. It was just the waste which has been turned a source of revenue.
So, we have brought in Liner. This machine lines up the whole straw, and then square baler comes and makes straw balers. It becomes easy for transportation, and their sale and purchase.
If you see the dairy farming in Punjab, they are done in large scale. A single farm has 3000 to 4000 cattle. No one can manage good grass manually for these thousands of cattle. To solve this, we have automated machines for grass to feed cows. It definitely helps in productivity. As India is the largest producer of milk in the world, there is huge potential to increase productivity per animal by adopting the feed process.
How do you see the Indian market as the majority of farmers are small landholders?
Dr. Jens Oeding: This is the fact. At the same time, big corporations are coming into farming. Small farmers are not going to be a key driver for our machinery market. But food security will always be a key driver for India, and it starts from the field. Another driver is definitely the shortage of labour in many areas.
Mrityunjaya Singh: What will drive the market is not only the food security, it is also food safety. It means how we handle food right from the point it is harvested up to point of delivery. Last one is the shortage of labour that so many programmes like MNREGS and others are pulling agricultural manpower away. Migration is another reason of labour shortage. They are the key drivers for the agri machinery market in India.
Custom hiring of agri machinery is a very important segment, how does your company operate in this?
Dr. Jens Oeding: Our business model is based on custom hiring. Our customers are mostly the contractors, they understand our business model and the requirements of farmers. They have grown from the farmers, started owning machines, then started providing machines on hiring.
Mrityunjaya Singh: The Government is supporting the custom hiring centres. Our customers are already into this business. The Government is providing safety and subsidy to the custom hiring centres so that customers can buy bunch of machines together rather than individual ones. We are trying to create opportunity for the farmers by creating custom hiring centres.
As a farm machinery company, what relaxation, in terms of regulation and policies, do you seek from the government?
Dr. Jens Oeding: India is going to be the largest populated country very soon, it brings additional challenges in front of food security. So, I am glad that the Indian Government has taken the initiative for mechanisation in agriculture. It is farm mechanisation which would drive food security for the growing population. China is the biggest example which initiated big mechanisation programme in 2004. The Government there put massive subsidy into the agriculture sector. That was the key driver for food security of the Chinese population. It is crucial to see how the Government drives the sector. Mechanisation cannot be driven by itself, the Government can help drive the sector.
As you have big harvesters, and farmers are not well aware about the know-how of the machines, do you run any farmers training programme? If yes, please describe.
Mrityunjaya Singh: We actually bring all the know-how of the value chain. Most of the people who are coming are unskilled. We do operator training for them at very nominal cost. The idea is to create employment opportunity for them. We also pass on this message to our customers that these people are trained in operating our machines. Apart from that, CLAAS drives a concept of academy. In India, we have chosen to do it through universities. Many of the agricultural universities have allotted space where we come in as visiting faculties, and we provide them reading materials. In many places we have given cut sections of motors, pumps and engines so that students come and get training. They learn all know-how of our machines there. Moreover, farmers are registered here for training and they are being trained with our machines.