10 REFORMS THAT WILL REVOLUTIONISE AGRICULTURE SECTOR
The agriculture sector has seen tremendous growth since Indian independence. However, the sector still faces many challenges which needs to be tackled by bringing in reforms
The focus on agriculture in India since independence resulted into Green Revolution, helped the country to be self sufficient in food production. Today, India is among the largest producers of various cereals such as rice, wheat and maize as well as horticulture crops. However, the sector is still facing big challenges such as lack of water availability, low yield, indiscriminate use of fertilisers and pesticides, inappropriate postharvest management facilities, out dated MSP regime among various other issues. These all issues collectively increase the cost of cultivation and decrease the incomes of farmers, leading to make farming non-remunerative. The situation can be tackled by brining in a number of reforms at the grassroot level.
1. Soil Health Mapping
The Government of India gives approximately Rs 50,000 crore for fertilisers subsidy, which goes to preferably for Urea, which attracts farmers to use this nitrogen fertiliser in large quantum while ignoring other potassium and phosphorous fertilisers due to its lack of
availability and higher cost. The non-judicious or over application of Urea has degraded soil fertility in India. To put a check, there is a need of soil health mapping in micro level in the country. Though the Centre is running Soil Health Card scheme, but it is yet to show the results.
2. Stronger irrigation channels
Irrigation is the key requirement in agriculture. Two third of agricultural land in India is rainfed. Thus during the monsoon, there is a need to develop water harvesting methods in the rural areas. Watershed development programmes need to run on mission mode. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) can be integrated with water management programmes. It will help the Indian agriculture sector.
The Eastern region of the country which gets abundant of rainfall, have sufficient groundwater. However, the majority of farmers in this region grow rice, irrigated by high cost of diesel, which increases their cost and making farming unviable. A good power supply and widespread network of irrigation canals can change the fate of farmers.
3. Farm Mechanisation
MGNREGA has increased rural wages, further increasing agricultural cost. Despite increase in population, rural India has registered a big drop in farm labour, posing a challenge in front of India’s food security. Mechanisation can be an alternate to the labour demand.
Sometimes it is not viable for small and marginal farmers, constitute 83 percent of the community to buy high cost machines for farming. Custom hiring of farm machinery by way of providing financial assistance to individual self-help groups or farmers’ cooperatives can be a possible wayout.
4. Tax Reforms for Agri Machinery
One of the biggest problems faced by farmers when moving with agri machineries from one state to another state. “If a Harvester hirer wants to cross a state border in India, he has to go through a lot of issues like permits, sales tax, octroi and other things. If you travel in Europe, you don’t realise that you have crossed a border between two countries. Whereas in India, you face problems in crossing the state borders,” says a senior official from the farm machinery company.
To provide seamless movement, the farm machinery sector has been provided some relief by reducing taxation under the GST regime, being rolled out from July 1, 2017. This will help agribusiness and make investments in agricultural sector in India more viable.
5. Managing farming risk
Erratic Monsoon, leads to floods and droughts pose higher risk in the agriculture production. In case, there is crop failure, how can the farmers rebound if there are no opportunities to support them? And thus, the crop insurance scheme is highly scientific. If it is properly formed, will spell the difference in making it possible to sustain higher levels of productivity, especially in the dryland areas. Meanwhile, the Government has launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, but it reaches to a negligible number of farmers only. Thus, the need is to connect maximum number of farmers with the scheme. There should be farmers’ awareness campaigns for crop insurance in place so that they can manage the
6. Spreading Banking Network
Reserve Bank of India’s mandatory 18 percent credit to agriculture sector has paved the way for financing the sector. However, a weak banking network in the rural areas still posing a turbulence in front of farmers’ access to that credit. Thus, first there is a need to fulfill the apex banks mandate of operating at least 25 percent branches in the rural areas. It will make easier the credit facilities to the agriculture sector. To fulfil the requisite 25 percent mark, majority of banks are reaching to rural areas through banking correspondents which function maliciously and take commission from consumers o every transaction. It is discouraging the people to come into the banking network.
Banks are not financing agriculture on their own, they are doing it because of RBI’s guidelines, under which they are bound to finance at least 18 percent to agriculture. Banks think it as a bad debt or a loss making effort. They do not have expertise to evaluate the risk and expertise to monitor that portfolio.
7. Strengthening KVKs
About 665 Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs) are now functioning across India, more or less one in each district. KVKs are starving for agriculture scientists. KVKs need to have agri scientists, connected with agri universities and other KVKs, and should do applied research. It should not be their job to just broadcast what others have discovered in a research station like Pusa or in other places. They should be solving the issue of farmers with scientific support in each and every districts. If the problem is not solved there, then they should use the network with universities and other KVKs. They have big potential to bring revolution in agriculture sector.
8. Price Policy
There is a need to review the price policy of agricultural produce. We need to provide remunerative prices to farmers while it should not also affect the consumers. Thus, there is a need to maintain a balance in pricing policy. Years Ago, father of India’s Green Revolution, Prof. MS Swaminathan had in, Farmers’ Commission report, recommended to keep minimum support price (MSP) 50 percent higher of the cost of production. In the current scenario, it is just 10-15 percent higher of the cost of production. In some agro-climatic zones where cost of production gets increased, the MSP is even below of the production cost. It is encouraging farmers to give up farming. Prof Swaminathan also gives an example of healthcare sector where the return is 300 percent higher than the cost of development .
9. Market Linkage
Sometime we see that farm produce get rotten in the fields as they don’t find takers. There is a need to build up strong market linkage for farmers across the country. It would made farmers’ job easier to bring their produce to the mandis to get good prices. The National Agriculture Market (NAM) is expected to play crucial role in providing good market linkage. It is yet be implemented nationwide. The lack of logistic support is drawing roadblocks in the supply goods through NAM.
10. Access to warehousing and cold chain
According to the ministry of food processing industry’s figures, India loses fruits and vegetables of Rs 44,000 Crore every year in the lack of cold chain. Thus, the sector needs special focus from the policy makers. Rotting of large quantum of foodgrains in the warehouses of Food Corporation of India in the monsoon is not a new news today. It has been happening for year due to lack of their capacity. Thus, the warehousing capacity has to be increased.