The Right Manifesto For Agriculture: Green Solution(s)
How Indian agriculture can become an arena of thriving innovation with farmer and consumer-centric solutions.
You can also read this article in Hindi- कृषि के लिए उचित घोषणापत्र- किसान और उपभोक्ता केंद्रित समाधान
Our policy architecture will make agriculture a remunerative enterprise for the farmers by:
1) Capturing the value offered by the changing patterns of food consumption and other end uses of farm produce through demand-driven production
(2) By mitigating the inherent production risk arising out of changing climate and rapidly depleting natural resources, through climate-resilient farming, and
(3) By designing farmer-centric interventions, with the conviction that one scheme or solution does not serve the purpose of all farmers across the country.
The evolving consumer needs such as quality, health, nutrition, safety, variety and convenience offer a great opportunity to diversify farm production to more remunerative crops like vegetables, fruits, nutri-cereals (millets), pulses, and the derived products like milk and meat. To gain from this opportunity, farmers need access to new knowledge in crop management and efficient linkages to input and output markets. To accelerate this, we will:
- Promote development of inclusive plate-to-farm value chains through public-private-producer partnerships by combining the strengths of all the stakeholders to support India’s resource-poor but resourceful farmer.
- Facilitate delivery of real-time information and personalised knowledge to the farmers by village level agri services entrepreneurs. At an estimated requirement of 3 million such entrepreneurs to serve the 120 million farmers across the country, this would be the single largest skill-based-job creation launched by any government.
- Support these new-age agri services entrepreneurs with digital platforms (both public and private) that use smart technologies to enable high-yielding, early-warning, waste-mitigating (through Internet of Things, image recognition, predictive analytics etc) agriculture, and transform agri extension from the conventional paradigm of ‘last mile of the scientist’ to one of the ‘first mile of the farmer’.
- Create vegetable production zones in the vicinity of the top-100 towns of the country by setting up climate-controlled cultivation facilities and offering them on lease to trained rural youth.
- Encourage food processing and crop-specific storage and handling systems for minimising post-harvest wastage.
- Provide thrust to value-added exports of agri produce, through World Trade Organization-compliant incentives to offset the high-cost infrastructure.
- Reform APMC Act to offer freedom to farmers in selling their produce, as also to transform mandis into post-harvest-services organisations.
- Deepen the commodity derivative markets to enable farmers discover prices before planting the crops.
- Set up national agri market intelligence system to monitor variables that impact crop prices and use data analytics to guide the planting decisions of the farmer.
- Set aside the customs duties collected on import of agricultural products towards the corpus of price stabilisation fund to support farmers in times of significant drop in domestic prices.
As it is, Indian agriculture is largely rain dependent, with only a part of the cropped area having access to reliable irrigation. Increasingly, extreme weather episodes have become more frequent, adversely impacting production. Moreover, natural resources like ground-water and top-soil are fast depleting. To make our farming more resilient and sustainable, we will:
- Set up a national irrigation authority with a mandate to reach water to every farm on a mission mode. Prepare a blueprint covering both the supply side (appropriate method of water harvesting in different regions) and the consumption side (conservation through efficient pumps and micro irrigation) aspects and a roadmap for revitalisation of natural water bodies.
- Develop an ‘atlas of natural resources’, mapping the current status and future scenarios of top soil and water resources across the country, for kicking off time-bound rejuvenation work, as also for sensitising the farmers on resource-use intensity of their cropping decisions.
- Strengthen crop insurance system for expeditious settlement of farmers’ claims by making use of remote sensing and drone surveillance for loss assessments.
- Promote integrated farming system consisting of poly culture, permaculture, bee-keeping, animal husbandry, agro-forestry, and renewable energy as a naturally-resilient method of farming.
- Step up research and development work on indigenous varieties of seeds and breeds that are naturally tolerant to weather variations and moisture stress.
- Set up community-owned-and-operated seed banks for multiplying high-quality seeds of open pollinated varieties of crops to improve seed replacement rates for raising farm productivity.
Indian farmers are as diverse as the country — large and small, land-owning and tenant, men and women, old and young, risk-taking and risk-averse, and so on. While we have to nurture the large and medium to be globally competitive, we also need to protect the small and marginal in their subsistence farming. To enable every farmer to prosper, we will:
- Encourage farmer producer organisations (FPOs) as an aggregation mechanism to bring the power of scale to the small farmers.
- Strengthen producer organisation promoting institutions (POPIs) to build and incubate robust FPOs by developing their self-governance capacity and business management competence.
- Provide financial support to FPOs for creation of farm level infrastructure for cleaning, grading, sorting, assaying, as also for establishment of farm equipment custom hiring centres.
- Encourage innovative formats of organisation for consolidation of land holdings — with individual farmers continuing to be the owners of their land — to enable economic scale in farming and capital investments.
- Help augmentation of farm incomes through additional sources, such as dairy, poultry, honey-making, solar power generation, agro tourism, etc.
- Set up a national centre of excellence to develop women-friendly farm equipment to minimise their physical drudgery in farming activities.
- Make krishi vigyan kendras responsible for reducing cost of cultivation in their catchments through adaptive research.
- Convert input subsidies into direct pre-season financial support to both land-owning and tenant farmers for buying inputs through pre-paid cards valid at accredited dealers.
This three-pronged strategy will (1) raise farmer incomes substantially and sustainably, (2) kick off an entirely new sector in the form of agri services, and (3) make India food and nutrition secure.
Sivakumar Surampudi is Divisional Chief Executive of the Agri Business Division at ITC.
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