Indian agriculture is facing challenges such as credit delivery, labour availability, frequent adverse weather, post-harvest losses and low crop price realisation among various other bumpy rides, MOHD MUSTAQUIM highlights measures to make the sector remunerative.
There is no doubt that Indian Agriculture has come a long way. At the time of getting independence from British rule, India was dependent on imports to feed its 35 crore population. Today, after feeding 125 crore people, the country is exporting major foodgrains such as rice and wheat, diary products and many more. The political will power, hard works of scientists and farmers played crucial role in achieving the feat.
However, there are certain implications that have to be addressed for food and nutritional security. India’s population is expected to be 1.7 billion by 2050. The increasing population, coupled with growing income will generate increased demand for foodgrains and non-foodgrain crops. Therefore, Indian agriculture has to achieve a higher growth rate targeted at 4 percent per annum on a sustainable basis. Acceleration of growth of this sector will not only push the overall GDP growth upwards, it would also make the growth more inclusive.
While public investment in agriculture may not have kept pace with the requirements, food and fertilizer subsidies have supported the agriculture sector. Increasing farm incomes is necessary for an equitable growth. Further, with uncertainties in global markets and hardening of the international prices of food, fuels and edible oils, domestic price stability and food security critically depend on growth in this sector. This necessitates working out the forward and backward linkages that enhance productivity through balanced allocation and better utilization of available resources at all levels of implementation and quantifying output per unit of resource used.
Key challenges facing Indian agriculture such as credit delivery, labour availability, post-harvest losses and remunerative prices should be addressed.
Measures to make agriculture remunerative
1- Food Sector
Agriculture per se needs to be viewed as food sector, a basic requirement for all living beings, with greater focus on quality and food safety, convenient food etc, the scope for agriculture and agribusiness expansion is enormous.
2- Market competitiveness
Indian agriculture needs to embrace modern methods of farming with focus on cost-reduction technologies so that the products could become affordable to low-income food consumers in domestic market and competitive in international markets. Food processing infrastructure and storage facilities have to be developed in a decentralized fashion to cover the entire country.
Special programmes need to be drawn up to provide credit, insurance cover and marketing facilities in a single window system by facilitating tie-up among banks, insurance companies, buyers and processors of agricultural produces. Contract farming is an appropriate institutional arrangement to achieve this goal.
4- Pushing for private sector investment
Decentralized private investments in developing storage and processing units in rural areas and also cold chains for perishable commodities should be facilitated by government investment in basic infrastructure, tax concessions and / or subsidies for capital investments in these ventures.
5- Wasteland Development
Comprehensive Wasteland Development Programme needs focus on promoting perennial and horticulture crops and pastures and silvi-pasture in large scale. This would also help in establishing appropriate agro-based industries and supporting animal husbandry and dairy. Emphasis should be placed in promoting greater participation of private sector and on organizing farmers as groups for farm operations. These lands can be irrigated with micro-irrigation or supplemental irrigation facilities.
6- Hi-tech horticulture
Intensifying hi-tech horticulture with precision farming techniques on a larger scale to obtain better productivity and quality of the produce, especially for export market.
7- Crop diversification
The farmers, especially the small landholding groups will have to be encouraged for moving towards high income crops such as fruits and vegetables. They need to be supported with better post harvest management system, food processing at micro level and market access.
8- Pushing irrigation
As per World Bank estimates, 65 percent agricultural land in India still do not have irrigation. Though Prime Minister Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) pushes for completing stuck irrigation projects initiated under Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP), if it goes as per the set target, the country will need 50 more years to translate its benefits to the remaining rainfed areas. In the absence of irrigation facilities, brining alternative irrigation through diesel pumps, increasese input cost.
Indian agriculture has to diversify into high-value crops, raise productivity, restore soil health and enhance the application of modern technologies including biotechnology and nano-technology. There is need to focus on potential areas, regionally-differentiated strategies, crop diversification and the scientific management of natural resources. The long-term policy framework at broad sectoral level needs to be strengthened and focused on improving inter- and intra-sectoral linkages.
In addition, there is a need to build an outcome oriented perspective in the implementation of public programmes in the areas of irrigation, fertilizers, use of high-yielding seeds, extension support for adoption of improved practices, and market access.