(The Gist of Kurukshetra) NEW PRIORITIES FOR AGRICULTURE [JUNE-2018]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) NEW PRIORITIES FOR AGRICULTURE

[JUNE-2018]


NEW PRIORITIES FOR AGRICULTURE

Accelerating growth in agriculture is the most desirable option for sustaining a high rate of growth of 8 10% in GDP, as is being aimed at. In the context of the current production levels, doubling food production in the next five years will be a great challenge and test of our capacity to successfully employ all possible growth-inducing measures. Doubling the country’s food production as well as farmers' income is an imperative that we cannot ignore.

Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Nearly 55 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities contributing 17.4 per cent to the country’s Gross Value added. Therefore, the growth of agriculture and allied sectors is a critical factor in improving the performance of Indian economy. The growth of the agriculture and allied sectors decreased from 7.0 per cent in 2010-11 to 2.8 per cent in 2011-12, and to 2.1 per cent in the first half of the current financial year. This deceleration is perhaps reflective of the challenging economic scenario, but this situation can be reversed quickly through improved farm technologies. We have envisaged the agriculture sector to grow at 4 per cent and above per annum. As demand for major crops are projected to slow down, we will have to rely primarily on productivity gains to attain the targeted growth. Agriculture ought to be an effective agent of change in rural economy in India.

1. Soil Health Card Scheme: To address the issue of poor soil health, “Soil Health Card” (SHC) scheme was launched with an outlay of Rs. 568.54 crore to provide information on soil fertility status to each one of the 140 million farmers of the country once in a cycle of 3 years on a continuous basis.

2. Promotion of Organic manure: Ten lakh compost pits for production of organic manure will be taken up by making productive use of the allocations under MGNREGA.

Promotion of City Compost: The government initiated a scheme to produce city compost and made it mandatory to ensure its sale through fertilizer industry along with fertilizers to improve soil health. In the first phase, fertilizer companies will co-market city compost for increasing the efficacy of chemical fertilizers. This scheme has been connected with ‘Swochh Bharat Abhiyan’. The fertilizer industry will get incentive @ Rs. 1500/ per ton for the sale of city compost.

Incentives to Fertilizer Industry for Soil and Seed Testing: Two thousand model retail outlets of fertilizer companies will be provided with soil and seed testing facilities during the next three years.

Rationalizing NPK Pricing to Minimize Subsidy Burden: Government is making available fertilizers (Urea and 21 grades of P&K fertilizers)to farmers at subsidized prices through fertilizer manufacturers and importers. Fertilizer subsidy and rationalizing the NPK pricing for optimizing NPK ratio and better application technologies to improve efficiency and reduce fertilizer subsidy by Rs.25,000-30,000 crores annually is essentially important.

3. Enhancement of Pulses Production: Incentives are being given for enhancement of pulses production. Rs. 500 crores under National Food Security Mission has been assigned to pulses. The number of districts covered has been increased to 622.

4. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana: Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana" is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). Under PKVY, Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic village by cluster approach and P65 certification. The Scheme envisages promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.

5. Farmers Inter-State Exposure Visits and Training: Budget on Farmers Inter-State Exposure Visits and Training Scheme of Ministry of Agriculture will prove as a powerful tool towards helping Farmer Bridge the yield gap. Crop productivity can be significantly increased by managing soil health and adopting the best management practices.

6. Development of Rainfed Agriculture: The production problems and risks associated with rainfed farming have been articulated since the IV Five year Plan. It is known that rainfed agriculture produces more than half of India’s food grains. Rainfed farming communities ensure food security. They cultivate a significant share of area devoted to crops like pulses (77 per cent), oilseeds (66 per cent), and coarse cereals (85 per cent). They rear 78 per cent of the goats in the country. According to the National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), these farmers produce over 34 predominant crops (compared to the 3 or 4 crops in irrigated tracts), handle diverse crop livestock combinations and inland fisheries thereby maintaining India’s rich bio-diversity. Today, it is acknowledged that even with full coverage of the irrigation potential, about 50 per cent of arable land will continue to depend on rainfall. Farmers need decentralized location specific natural resource based knowledge and inputs for their farming systems. They are wary of the centralized supply driven input intensive commodity production technologies. Many of these technologies (though subsidized) were expensive and also depleting and deteriorating their land water and biological resources and driving them to penury.

7. Irrigation: Irrigation is a critical input for increasing agriculture production and productivity. Out of 141 million hectares of net cultivated area in the country, only 46 per cent is covered with irrigation. The government is serious not only to increase irrigated area, but also to enhance water use efficiency. A brief description of various initiatives taken by the Government for irrigation development is given below.

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY): The major objectives of the PMKSY is to achieve convergence of investment in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of irrigation, and adoption of water saving technologies (More Crop Per Drop), enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices by exploring the feasibility of reusing treated municipal based water for peri-urban agriculture and attract greater private investment in precision irrigation system. The ’Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojano’ has been strengthened and will be implemented in mission mode. 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation under this Scheme.

Long Term Irrigation Fund: A dedicated Long Term irrigation Fund will be created in NABARD with an initial corpus of about Rs 20,000 crore. To achieve all these, a total provision of Rs.12,517 crore has been made through budgetary support and market borrowings in 2016-17.

Sustainable Management of Ground Water Resources: Simultaneously, a major programme for sustainable management of ground water resources has been prepared with an estimated cost of Rs. 6,000 crore and proposed for multilateral funding.

Promoting Scientific Agriculture through Micro-Irrigation: Promoting micro-irrigation (drip and sprinkler system) and fertigation, on a very large scale, can be highly efficient towards increasing water and nutrient use efficiency. Priority should, therefore, be given to empower farmers with micro-irrigation. Advanced concept of Precision Agriculture need to be promoted on a large scale, emulating the success of Tamil Nadu Precision Farming Project (TNPFP). A National Project on Precision Agriculture on the pattern of TNPFP should be launched with an integrated approach from advance production technologies to formation of FPOs and linking them with the markets. Studies done by LSE, Harvard, IIM-A and other premier global institutions show an increase of 80% to 600% extra yields in different crops under Tamil Nadu Precision farming Project.

8. Reducing Crop Losses from Pests: Crop losses in India are huge and estimates range from Rs. 90,000 to Rs. 1.50 lac crores annually, Pesticides play an important role not only in crop productivity, cost reduction and quality improvement, but also in protecting crops from pests and diseases. The cost benefit ratio in using pesticides is heavily in favour of farmers. The Government however, needs to check flood of spurious pesticides in market by fly-by-night operators by regulating registrations, strengthening quality enforcement and tackling corruption through provisions of joint testing of samples.

9. Biotechnology: Biotechnology has the potential to increase productivity in crop sand facilitate incorporation of genes for resistance to pests, diseases and abiotic stresses and is set to play a critical role in crop and livestock production by enhancing yields, nutritional profile, stress tolerance and crop protection. India must have a clear vision of the GM crops. As per studies, BT cotton alone has contributed more than Rs. 80,000 crores of additional output value to farmers. Similar potential many other crops may have for Indian agriculture and towards enhancing farmers profitability.

10. Farm Mechanization: Farm Mechanization in India has been a story of tractorization. Time has come for promoting efficient equipments and tools and small engine driven tractors to address small farm requirements adequately. Through a mix of specialized CHCs and with State Agros, Cooperatives and input dealers developing and custom hiring facility in farm mechanization should be given high focus. Through MANAGE network of ACABCs, Custom Hiring Centres can be promoted effectively by enhanced incentivization and by provisioning to hire agribusiness consulting companies by MANAGE/States for Promoting CHCs among ACABCs.

11. Agricultural Credit: Suicide by the farmers after having failed in breaking the credit net of local financers is very often heard of. To improve credit support, government has increased the target of agricultural funding Rs. 50,000 cr. to 8.5 lakh crore (cr). For 2015-16, the NABARD had projected an annual credit potential of Rs. 47,756.43 cr. pre for some of the priority sectors including water resources, land development, farm mechanization, dairy, poultry, fishery, construction of storage go-downs and market yards and promoting renewable sources of energy and waste management.

12. Farm Insurance: The government has initiated new insurance scheme wherein, the farmer would be able to at least recover the basic inputs that he puts in, in the event of uncertainties created by more than one reasons.

Towards Doubling Farmers' Income By 2022:

It is to be noted that at this point of economic history, "Doubling Farmers income" is imperative rather than being an option and it has been one of the most important activities of the present day government. The budgetary allocation of the Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Ministry for 2018-19 has been kept at Rs. 58,080 crore as against Rs. 51,576 crore for 2017-18, for the emancipation of the sector this year, but there are many wings of this sole bird called Agriculture.

To double the income of farmers by 2022, in nominal (numerical) terms, which do not take inflation into account, would require a 15% compounded income growth rate, which is a marginal increase over the achieved increase from 2003 to 2013. However, to increase the income real terms would imply restructuring agriculture processes and policy interventions. There is, however, almost unanimity that the net income of farmers can surely be doubled well within the period of four years. A total of 40 recommendations for increasing incomes of farmers, have been divided into five parts, as under:

1. Increasing incomes by improving crop productivity.
2. Water and agriculture input policies.
3. Integrated Farming System.
4. Better market price realization.
5. Special Policy Measures.

Based on the recommendations of National Commission on Farmers, Government announced measuring agricultural progress by real income of farmers and not by gross production of agricultural commodities. The Finance Minister in his Budget 2016 Speech mentioned about doubling farm incomes. Later, the Prime Minister gave a clarion call to the nation of doubling farmers' by 2022 by spelling out 5-point strategy. Accordingly a Task Group has been formed by the Ministry of Agriculture to come out with a detailed plan and it’s Operationalization. ln this context, Indian Council of Food and Agriculture organized a national consultation on 30 April, 2016 in New Delhi, involving top experts from the Government, industry, research and academic bodies, farmers organizations, parliamentarians and NGOs. The meet was chaired by Prof. MS Swaminathan. Let us explore the various fronts as summarized below:

1. Diversification of Agriculture:

Diversification of agriculture in the First Green Revolution areas such as Punjab, Haryana and Western U.P. seems to be the need of the hour. To promote diversification on ecological principles, will require making monetary equivalence (profit margin) between the replaced crop/commodity and enterprise with the ones planned to be introduced. Farmer is mainly concerned with the profit he gets from a particular crop or commodity. 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.

2. Promotion of Intensive Vegetable Production:

Promotion of intensive vegetable production using improved varieties, organic manure and drip irrigation, can provide five times higher annual income, to the tune of Rs. 2 lakhs per acre (BAIF’s experience in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra). Farmers in semiarid areas with 2-3 cows or 8-10 goats and cultivating dual purpose food grain crops on 0.4 ha land, have been earning Rs. 60,000-75,000 per annum. With efficient watershed development, land use planning and selecting of suitable crops, the income of the farmers can go up by 80-100% to generate an annual income of Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 60,000.

3. Integrated Farming System:

The promotion of Integrated farming System Approach involving synergic blending of crops, horticulture, dairy, fisheries, poultry, apiculture, sericulture, goatary, piggery, mushroom cultivation etc. seems viable option to provide regular income and at site employment to small land holder, decreasing cultivation cost through multiple use of resources and providing much needed resilience for predicted climate change scenario. Model Farms @ Rs. 200 lacs each need to be established in each district with 100% Gol funds for farmers to learn and adopt.

4. Dairy Husbandry and Fisheries:

To meet the working capital needs of small and marginal farmers in fisheries and animal husbandry sector, the government has extended the facility of Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) to the sector. This would give benefit of crop loan and interest subvention, so far available to agriculture sector only under Kisan Credit Cards (KCC), for rearing of cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, poultry and fisheries. For Setting up of Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund in fisheries sector and an Animal Husbandry, Infrastructure Development Fund for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector has been allocated. Total Corpus of these two new Funds would be Rs.10,000 crore.

5. Better Market Price Realization (MSP):

Taking into cognizance the recommendations of the “National Commission on Farmers”, Indian Council of Food and Agriculture involving top experts from the Government, industry, research and academic bodies, farmers organizations, parliamentarians and NGOs, several recommendations were made including pricing of agricultural produce. One of the most welcomed and appreciated points in this year’s budget are the announcement of 1.5 times the expenses borne by farmers. The support price of the kharif crops has been increased aiming to increase the incomes from farm.

6. Operation Greens

This addresses price volatility of perishable commodities such as potatoes, tomatoes and onions at an outlay of 500 crore. This shall promote FPO, agri logistics and processing facilities and professional management in the sector. A 100% deduction in respect of profits to farmer producer companies having a turn over upto 100 crore for a period of 5 years from the Financial Year 201849 has been announced in order to encourage professionalism in post-harvest value addition in agriculture.

7. Development of Warehouses for Reducing Post Harvest Losses:

Reducing post-harvest losses by strengthening grain storage infrastructure, cool chain systems for perishables, post-harvest processing and value addition, transport, marketing, commerce and trade is essentially important. It was recommended to strengthen Agri infrastructure, storage systems and market yards. More multipurpose market yard complexes, comprised of godowns, cold storage, farmers service center etc. needs to be set up for farmers to directly participate, especially online in NAM. Enabling policy provisions can be done for large scale play of corporate in agricultural marketing and storage operations. The NABARD aims to create scientific storage space of 9.23 lakh ton by construction of godowns and warehouses by PG.

8. Revision of the APMC Act:

It was recommended to amend APMC act by all the states to encourage competitive marketing environment and participation in NAM. Direct marketing and contract farming should be made easy for the farmers. Also to encourage the States for contract farming under which the buyer can provide the farmer access to modern technology, quality inputs, other support and a guaranteed price. A few experiments of direct procurement backed with technical support have shown to benefit the farmers in some States. Reforms to the APMC Acts to permit pan-indie trades. Electronic auctions and trading in warehousing receipts assume importance. Enactment of policies that enforce the standardization of agricultural produce such that graded product would have a form of a logo or label mandatorily attached to it to signify that the product meets all the standardization and grading requirement for packing, sealing etc., and only traders who are willing to follow the regulation are given “Certificate of Authorization”.

9. Launch of e-Nam :

The government would strengthen e-NAM, the e-trading platform for the National Agriculture Market and would expand cover age of e-NAM to 585 Agriculture Produce Marketing Companies (APMCs). Out of that, 470 APMCs have already been connected to the e-NAM network and the rest were proposed to be connected by March 2018. Also, an agri-infrastructure fund with a corpus of $2,000 crore will be set up for developing and upgrading agricultural marketing infrastructure in the 22,000 grameen (rural)agricultural markets and 585 APMCs”. Upgradation of 22,000 rural haats into grain agricultural markets is another appreciable attempt. Indian Council of Food and Agriculture recommended that launch of NAM requires easing of norms of licensing to enable seamless participation of buyers from across the country, movements of goods without restriction, harmonization of tax laws(including a uniform GST), standardization of grades and recognition of electronic trades. Exchanges would also have to widen the participation by facilitating farmers to take positions through cooperative or other aggregators such FPOs.

Conclusion:

The agriculture centric rural development is the key to transforming rural lives. To achieve this, all out efforts are needed to enhance crop productivity through adoption of improved farm technologies in a holistic way and ensuring reasonable price of the farm produce. Diversification of agriculture on the principle of Integrated Farming involving agriculture and allied sector (dairy, fisheries, bee keeping, sericulture, goatery, piggery, mushrooms, food processing, fruit preservation)etc. would be essential and inevitable.

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