It’s expensive to buy farm equipment, and small holdings make machinery use inefficient
It is cheaper today to buy cars than farm equipment,” says Siraj Hussain. “Short-term credit like crop loans are subsidised at 4 per cent interest by banks but for long-term key inputs such as borewells, farm equipment, tractors, etc., banks charge 12 per cent interest.” Of the Rs 6.25 lakh crore target for loans to be disbursed by public sector banks, only Rs 4.63 lakh crore was disbursed up to December 2016, according to Nabard data.
The percentage share of agricultural workers in total farm power (this includes draught animals, tractors, power tillers, diesel engines, electric motors) reduced from 15.4 to 5 per cent over the years from 1971-72 to 201213. On the other hand, the share of tractor and electric motor in farm power increased from 6.8 to 45.8 per cent, that of tractor by 39 per cent in the same period.
The easiest way to double farmers’ incomes, according to Dr Dalwai, is “by reducing the post-production costs principally through farm mechanisation, thus substituting manual labour with machines”. The labour component of agriculture makes up as much as 40 per cent of the total cost. Farm mechanisation costs are usually one-time unlike recurring manual labour costs. The idea is to shift farm labour to non-farming activities.
The status of mechanisation in agriculture varies for different activities, although the overall level of mechanisation in India is still less than 50 per cent in contrast to 90 per cent in developed countries. The highest level of mechanisation—about 60 to 70 per cent—is in harvesting and threshing activities and 37 per cent in irrigation. The lowest level of mechanisation is found in seeding and planting. The small and scattered size of land holdings also leads to inefficient use of machinery.
Apart from mechanisation, new crop technologies
too need to be implemented. The erstwhile Green Revolution states of Punjab and Haryana are now suffering from soil fatigue, given their continued preoccupation with traditional crops. Climate change too has become an unchangeable aspect of our lives, affecting crop cycles and production.
HOW TO FIX IT
Make easy credit available for purchase of expensive farm equipment; encourage cooperative management of farm machinery as well as financing of second-hand tractors to small farmers.
Reskill farmers displaced due to mechanisation. Unless alternative avenues of employment are provided, removing rural poverty will only end in massive urban poverty.
Diversify cropping patterns in states where soil fatigue has set in. Ensure quality seeds, crucial to enhancing agricultural productivity.
The government has also launched the Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India programme, where it aims to address low productivity in the seven rice-producing states of eastern India and also plans to include pulses as part of its extension programme.
Promote climate-resilient farming as well as shortduration crops.