(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Doubling Farmers’ income
Doubling Farmers’ income
- India today is not only self-sufficient in respect of demand for food, but is also a net exporter of agri-products occupying seventh position globally.
- It is one of the top producers of cereals (wheat and rice), pulses, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and marine fish. The impressive agricultural growth and gains, since 1S47, are an outcome of the farmers’ resilience to multiple challenges and to their grit and determination to serve and secure the nation’s demand for food and raw material for its agro-industries.
Need for Doubling of Income:
- India has been an agriculture-based economy. Though the percentage of population dependent on agriculture declined to 48 percent in 2011, from 85 percent in 1951, yet if seen in terms of absolute numbers, a sizable population is still dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.
- Past strategy for development of the agriculture sector in the country has focused primarily on raising agricultural output and improving food security. The strategy paid dividends as the country was able to address the severe food shortage that emerged during the mid-1960s.
Strategies Towards Doubling of Income:
- Doubling real income of farmers till 2022-23 over the base year of 2015-16, requires annual growth of 10.41 percent in farmers’ income5. This implies that the on-going and previously achieved rate of growth in farm income has to be sharply accelerated.
- Therefore, pragmatic measures will be needed to harness all possible sources of growth in farmers’ income within as well as outside the agriculture sector. The strategies to boost income of farmers can be divided under the following heads:
- Reducing the cost of inputs
- Increasing the sale value of the crops
- Crop Diversification
- Increasing the productivity
- Sustainable agricultural intensification
- Augmenting agriculture income with allied activities
- Decreasing the per-capita dependence on agriculture
A. Reducing the Cost of Inputs in Agriculture:
- Irrigation, seeds, labour, fertilisers, pesticides, machinery and extension services constitute the factors of production in agriculture. The most basic strategies to double farmers’ income are going to be those which decrease the cost of production.
- Micro-irrigation along with the nutrients application can be highly efficient and priority should be given to empower farmers with micro irrigation.
B. Increasing the Sale Value of the Crops:
- Sale value of crops can be improved by shifting to high value varieties, reducing post-harvest losses, improving post-harvest management and marketing reforms. One way to increase the sale value of the farm produce is to expand the area under High Value Crops (HVC), as it has been found that expanding HVC by one hectare at the expense of staple crops, yields an additional “gross returns up to Rs. 1,01,608 per hectare.
- There is also a need for strengthening of Organic Food Programme in India to contribute to the global 60 billion US dollar market for organic products10. Many parts of India such as North-Eastern Region, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, which are organic by default, must be made organic by process for the producers to get advantage of market value.
C. Crop Diversification:
- Crop diversification refers to the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value added crops with complementary marketing opportunities. Private and public investments should be prioritised to facilitate crop diversification towards horticulture, infrastructure development viz. storage houses, greenhouses and micro-irrigation, and promotion of new culture for fruits and vegetables.
- Diversification of agriculture in the First Green Revolution areas such as Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh seems need of the hour. Crops like maize, soybean, pulses, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables have the potential to replace rice and wheat in this area. Upward push in MSP in favour of proposed diversification crops will be a practical option to achieve this objective.
D. Increasing the Productivity of Agriculture:
- The productivity of several crops is low in the country, and there is a huge scope to raise the productivity to enable doubling the farmers’ income. India’s farm yields are much lower as compared to other advanced countries.
- Average per hectare
- rice production in India is 2.6 tonne compared to 7 tonne in China, 5.1tonne in Indonesia and 5.6tonne in Vietnam13. Even within the country, there is huge yield variation of different crops among the states e.g. the gap between Punjab and Chhattisgarh in rice yields still exists almost 3 times14. Variation in productivity, with the same level of irrigation and low income level of the farmers is due to the lower levels of advance technology being adopted and lack of modernisation of farms.
E. Sustainable Agricultural Intensification:
- Crop intensification may be achieved by using shorter season varieties, improving on-farm water and soil fertility management (e.g. water harvesting practices, minimum tillage, supplementary irrigation), and introducing rotation crops. Boost to yields can be given by improving the efficiency of water and nutrient use.
- Water productivity gains will need to be underpinned by sustainable soil fertility. This will necessitate targeted research to develop site specific nutrient management systems, including more efficient use of fertilizers, soil ameliorants and green manures. Tailoring agronomic practices (e.g. weed management, planting methods) to local conditions will further enhance water and nutrient efficiency.
F. Augmenting Agriculture Income with Allied Activities
- Promotion of integrated farming system approach aims at synergic blending of crops, horticulture, dairy, fisheries, poultry etc. to provide regular income, decrease cultivation cost through multiple use of resources and provide much needed resilience for predicted climate change scenario.
- Under the National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP), supported by the World Bank and implemented by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (2006-14), an effort was made to enhance income of the rural people through technology led innovation systems17.
- Under this initiative, interventions in Integrated Farming Systems mode (crop-livestock-aquaculture) were planned and demonstrated, keeping in view the overall need of the area, available technological options, market accessibility both for input and produce etc. Some of these systems such as Integrated rice-fish-poultry farming system, Integrated rice-fish farming model, Integrated pig/ poultry fish-vegetable farming system model and others have demonstrated significant increase in the income of the test farmer groups. There is a need to translate these successful models into farm practices on a wide scale.
G. Decreasing the Per-capita Dependence on Agriculture Income:
- Income of farmers can be improved substantially by shifting extra workforce away from agriculture. Some farmers have started moving away from the agriculture sector and many are looking for suitable opportunities to leave farming. According to NSSO, workforce in agriculture sector in rural areas declined by about 34 million between 2004-05 and 2011-12, showing an annual decline at the rate of 2.04 percent.
- Despite the trend of movement of workforce away from agriculture, the employment diversification towards non-farm sector is slow due to requirement of skill and certain education level in manufacturing sectors, the concentration of industrial units at a distance from rural habitation and the limited capacity of the non-farm sector to ensure productive employment to incoming workers. The government’s recent initiative on Skill Development can play a big role in improving skills of farming community, which can fetch them better employment opportunities in non-farm sectors.
- It has been found that agrarian distress increased when growth in farm income was low and it went down when farmers’ income experienced high growth rate.
- Thus, the level of farm income is crucial to address agrarian distress. The income enhancement of farmer would come mainly from seven sources like increase in productivity of crops, increase in production of livestock, improvement in efficiency of input use that would save cost, increase in cropping intensity at farmers’ field, diversification towards high value commodities, better remunerative price realised by farmers and shifting way surplus labour (unproductive) from agriculture to non-farm activities.
- The Government’s development initiatives, impetus on technology integration besides policies and reforms in the agriculture sector, are the right steps in this direction.
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