TECH­NOL­OGY

It’s ex­pen­sive to buy farm equip­ment, and small hold­ings make ma­chin­ery use in­ef­fi­cient

India Today - - COVER STORY -

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.

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