Measures to Boost the Farm Economy

Measures to Boost the Farm Economy

25 Mar 2019

The farm economy occupies an important place in the overall Indian economy as a significant proportion of the population is still dependent on agricultural produce income for their daily livelihood and sustenance. It is therefore imperative that policy-makers ensure that our farmers get competitive and remunerative prices for their produce. The supply and demand side constraints have to be removed to raise growth prospects. The support systems have to be fine-tuned to improve the productivity and incomes of farmers with particular emphasis on small and marginal farmers and dry-land areas.

The agricultural sector has its own share of problems. Its growth rate was less than 2% in the last decade. Yield growth has also declined. Farming is becoming a non-viable activity. Further scope for increase in net sown area is limited. Land degradation in the form of depletion of soil fertility, erosion and water logging has increased. There has been a decline in the surface irrigation expansion rate and a fall in the groundwater table. Disparities in productivity across regions and crops have persisted.

For the continued success of our farm economy, farmers should endeavour at optimizing productivity from the available piece of land at reduced costs while minimizing risks. This will help them remain well connected with the markets and get a higher realization for their produce.

The agricultural sector was a specific area of focus and attention in the Union Budget 2018-19 and this has continued in the Interim Budget, which was presented on February 1, 2019. One of the measures initiated by the government is the Prime Minister’s (PM) Kisan Plan that will directly transfer an additional income of Rs. 6,000 per year to small and marginal farmers holding under 2 hectares of land. The Direct Benefit Transfers (DBT) scheme can work towards the betterment of farmers and is aimed to supplement the government's efforts of doubling farmer's income by easing the farmer's financial burden.

There are several other key areas wherein a lot can be done for the farmers and this has been discussed in greater detail below:-

1. Farm Productivity – This is possible by investing in seed and biotechnology, leveraging technology at the farm level and focusing on farm mechanization. Farmers can expect improvements in farm and labor efficiency with the help of deploying new-age pioneering technologies in the farm sector.

2. Biotechnology – This is quite essential for countries like India where poverty and malnutrition continue to exist as serious concerns even today.

3. Connecting Farmers to Market – Initiatives for the improvement of the Indian farm economy includes better integration, with a dedicated focus on agri-exports, a National Agriculture Market or fast-tracking eNAM. The demand and remuneration will automatically scale up if the focus is on producing what the market needs.

4. Risk Mitigation – Uncertain weather conditions affecting crops and insecure land ownership are major concerns for a large number of farmers in India. Investments in robust and better sustainable production tools will help farmers mitigate climatic risks.

5. Rural Manufacturing based on agricultural products –

  • a. Cattle rearing- Collection of Cow and Goat milk from households and distribution through the milk co-operatives will create a large, broad-based collection, processing and storage infrastructure. Even goat rearing may turn out to be more beneficial for farmers. Goat leather garments, footwear, bags and wallets could be produced and marketed through organized retail both within and outside the country.
  • b. Honey production- A milk collection type system needs to be developed for honey producers as well, which will ensure that the collected honey is processed, packaged and branded to international standards and made available to domestic retail outlets and also for exports. Again, the mid-day meal scheme is an excellent outlet for providing this nutritional food to our children.
  • c. Value addition to crops- Some crops have great potential for value addition. Potato can be absorbed for use in the mid-day meals as processed potato flake-based products, a massive new food industrial segment, would emerge. Wheat flour sold in the country can add 5 percent potato flour, and thus the problem of the glut in potato production can be overcome. Turmeric is of pharmaceutical grade. If pharma companies are incentivized to set up solvent-based extraction facilities in this district, it will increase the farm gate price for tribal farmers as they move from selling to spice traders to a value-added use of the turmeric.
  • d. Bio-fuel market- Biofuel crops like Jatropha should be permitted for genetic modification for increased oil yields. Oil companies should help village entrepreneurs to set up collection and processing units for absorbing every kilogram of seed produced and the output blended with hydrocarbon fuels as is done in Brazil.

If India is to continue growing at 7% plus every year and retain its tag as the fastest growing economy in the world, the government would certainly have to continue giving impetus to the farm economy on a regular basis by implementing some of the measures discussed here.

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