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Agriculture, the backbone of Indian rural economy, contributes to the overall economic growth of the country and determines the standard of life for more than 50% of the Indian population. Agriculture contributes only about 14% to the overall GDP but its impact is felt in the manufacturing sector as well as the services sector as the rural population has become a significant consumer of goods and services in the last couple of decades. But during the same time, growing industrial sector has created its own set of problems to agriculture. (Note: Some problems are inter – related and have common solutions. Hence I have listed the solutions separately)
The ‘Intra – Sector’ Problems
1. Fragmented land holding Nearly 80% of the 140 million farming families hold less than 2 acres of land1. Large land holdings enable the farmer to implement modern agricultural techniques and boost productivity. Besides, the number of people dependent on agriculture is also less in a large farmland as is the case in the Western economies. Small land holdings restrict the farmer to use traditional methods of farming and limit productivity. As land holdings are small, more people invariably work on the farms in the rural areas and coupled with the obsolete technology, farm incomes come down. 2. Irrigation problems Most of the farming in India is monsoon dependent – if monsoons are good, the entire economy (and not just the agricultural sector) is upbeat and when the monsoon fails, everyone everywhere takes a hit to some extent. For a country that receives the second highest rainfall in the world and a country with a well extended river system lack of water can hardly be an excuse. The problem here is of proper management of water or the lack of it. Irrigation which consumes more than 80% of the total water use in the country needs a proper overhaul if the country has to improve agricultural output and boost the overall economy. 3. Seed problems In the olden days, farmers had their own seed repositories from the previous crop. They used to select the best seeds from the previous generation and use them to improve the crop quality in the succeeding generations. But now, most of the farmers – especially the poor and marginal ones – are dependent on seeds sold in the market. Moreover, the HYV seeds as well as the GM seeds which promise higher yields force the farmers to buy seeds for every crop. With spurious seeds hitting the market, the farmers’ woes have exceeded all limits. Sometimes seeds do not give the stated/claimed yields and farmers run into economic troubles. In many cases of GM and HYV seeds, farmers are forced to use high amounts of fertilisers and pesticides, provide large amounts of water (irrigation) and abide to all the
http://www. Sustainability in agriculture is of utmost importance as many problems faced by farmers are related to this. Heavy dependence on traditional rice and wheat points to the lack of a proper national plan on agriculture. pollutes the nearby water bodies. storage and shortage of other essential farm output. exceed the prescribed limits of fertiliser use. Excess fertiliser usage not only makes the plants dependent on artificial fertilisers but also erodes the land quality. Supply channel bottlenecks and lack of market understanding Supply channel bottlenecks and lack of a proper marketing channel are serious problems for a farmer who is already burdened with a host of troubles.com/news/2013-08-20/india-seen-defying-rupee-plunge-to-import-recordcooking-oils. Moreover. lack of understanding of the need for sustainability in the poor farming community has made things worse. A proper regulation/legislation to hold seed companies accountable for false claims is the need of the hour as companies use legal loopholes to push the blame on to the farmers in the case of failed crops. which leads to a host of other problems. Water usage is also unplanned with some arid areas misusing the irrigation facilities provided by planting water intensive crops. Excess stocks in a few crops lead to problems in the selling of the produce. India is importing cooking oil from abroad though we have the necessary conditions to grow more oilseeds here2. Lack of a proper marketing channel forces the farmers to distress sale. state and national levels. Companies promise higher yields by usage of their fertilisers and farmers. heavy use of fertilisers. 4. if the farm output is skewed towards crops like rice. certain areas can readily switch to other crops to get better productivity. 5. water mismanagement. Over dependence on traditional crops like rice and wheat Every crop requires certain climatic conditions to give the best yields. low productivity and thus more debts for the next cycle. irrigation and ground water facilities are misused by farmers. makes them victims in the hands of greedy middlemen and ultimately restricts their income. polluted ground water and in case of a surface runoff. Sustainability problems Indian agricultural productivity is very less compared to world standards due to use of obsolete farming technology. Similarly. Though rice and wheat are produced in a large area in India. planting crops which require more water like rice on the basis of irrigation facilities extended to areas which are water deficient uses up more water than required. ground water resources are heavily exploited.bloomberg. Coupled with this. most of the time. 6.other farming requirements that the companies mandate to get the proper yields. the excessive evaporation cause salts to accumulate on the fields making them lose their fertility quickly. These are issues which need to be tackled at the regional. In areas where irrigation in the form of rivers and canals is not sufficiently available. Besides. Lack of proper understanding of the need to grow crops sustainably will push farmers into a vicious circle – of debts.html 2 .
warehouses. Banks too will be willing to lend money to a village consortium which can be utilised to boost farm productivity. the aggregate land can be farmed by using the latest technology. The overall risk of a crop failure is less in this case and small farmers have a higher chance of earning a decent income at the end of the harvest season.thehindubusinessline. Some Solutions to ‘Intra – Sector’ Problems 1. PDS.ece 3 . leads to poor agricultural exports due to problems in maintaining quality and in many cases leads to gross wastage of valuable food grains and other farm output.An improper marketing and storage channel also leads to storage problems in the years where productivity is good. Government handling of the issue MSP. Agricultural credit and farm mechanisation for small and marginal farmers will continue to be difficult unless pooling of farm resources and/or a joint usage of farm technology are employed5.com/article/2012/07/02/india-wheat-food-malnutrition-cropsidINDEE86101620120702 4 http://articles.com/2013-01-10/india/36257227_1_wastage-india-wastestonnes 5 http://www. cold storage etc) which negates the advantage of having a bumper crop in years of good monsoon. Agricultural intensity also rises when a planned strategy adopted at the village level is implemented. employ sustainable farming methods. for a country where more than 50% of population is dependent on agriculture. When the farmers form a consortium at the village level. Lack of proper storage facilities and lack of a proper international market linkage leads to lower exports and in many cases leads to huge amount of wastage.reuters. The problem is more acute in case of perishable agri output like vegetables and fruits where estimates of wastage are around 40%4.com/opinion/root-causes-of-farm-distress/article4746830. lack of export market creation India lacks the required number of storage facilities (granaries. reduce over – dependence on fertilisers and thus solve many problems. 7. 2. Irrigation problems can be addressed by Government – preferably at the State and National levels. overall agricultural strategy of the country. Government runs the risk of an unnecessary fiscal deficit by buying the excess produce. Lack of a national strategy in terms of agricultural production leads to production of some crops exceeding the requirement and to some crops well below the minimum limits. Food wastage3 running into thousands of crores of rupees every year is nothing short of a crime in a country where more than 20% is below poverty line and where millions go hungry day after day. Pooling of village lands and cooperative farming will ease the burden of fragmented land holdings. The Minimum Support Prices (MSP) offered by the Government is a double edged sword – MSPs protect farmers from being exploited by middlemen but during times of excess crop. storage/granaries. Exports in agricultural sector are also not very encouraging with a share of just 10% of the total exports. Though the Government cannot force farmers to produce only the http://in.timesofindia.indiatimes.
designated crops in particular areas. switching over to organic farming (village pools will reduce costs). Storage facilities can be boosted by small cold storage or granaries at village level which can be established from Panchayat funds and loans to the village society (this eliminates dumping of excess crops in the market yard). Terminator seeds should not be encouraged as a matter of principle as they force farmers to buy seeds for every crop. reduces costs in the long run and also with the creation of a proper market in the towns and cities establishes a virtuous cycle between consumers and farmers. state and national levels as well as a crop plan of what to produce and where to produce) are employed.indianspices.of the companies. This can be achieved only by making farmers aware of the future problems and showing them alternative economic channels. District agricultural officers must make it a habit to encourage such ideas and also take part in knowledge sharing to implement the ideas at a regional level. A 700 ton cold storage cum warehouse will cost around Rs. 1.5 crores6 which is very reasonable cost for a group of villages or a large Panchayat. Seed problems can be overcome by creating in house seed banks at the village level for traditional crops (thereby reducing farmer dependence on external seed banks). Sometimes small innovations at the grass root levels can solve a host of problems specific to a particular region. Irrigation and water mismanagement is an issue that can reach crisis proportions in the years to come if proper steps are not taken to avert it today. 6 http://www. thrust on allied activities. Organic farming reduces the unnecessary usage of artificial fertilisers. it will be a win – win situation for both the farmers as well as the country. deploying modern agricultural practices to boost productivity. For organic farming. When proper techniques (in water management at the regional. provided the State or Union Government funds the cost. reduces water consumption. EMandis will also help the farmers to correctly predict the prices and thus market them profitably. first of all. crop rotation. Government can encourage farmers to shift to cash crops (oil seeds etc) instead of food crops in areas where food crops are not at an advantage to reduce imports and also to boost exports. Irrigation problems as well as problems due to single/traditional crop dependence can be solved by a national level plan for agricultural production. it can surely educate them about the alternatives. selling Government approved seeds through proper channels (to eradicate spurious seeds) and strict penalties on seed marketing companies in case the seeds do not match the claims – germination and yield . 5. Some sustainability solutions are proper crop management on the basis of water availability.htm . strikes a good balance between the local environment and the farm output. 3. Farmers also will shift from the traditional crops and look for alternative crops provided Government gives them the confidence that alternative crops too are economically profitable.com/html/wp_wcs. helps the land retain its fertility for a long time. a proper awareness has to be built – among both the farmers as well as consumers. 4. Scientific research in this subject is to be encouraged to promote seeds which are mild on resource requirements but help the farmers in boosting the yields.
Other serious issues plaguing Agriculture Sector Rampant urbanisation. Industrial encroachment can be stopped by proper handling of land acquisition. giving appropriate compensation and making sure some share of the profits of the industry go towards development – social and economic – of the area and the displaced people. As the land available in the country is limited. the ever increasing demand is satisfied by the already strained agricultural land. At the National level an agricultural strategy or policy to improve information exchange. due to favourable economic policies in the aftermath of liberalisation. But for establishing an industry or for building and expanding a city. industrial growth has been phenomenal in India. then Government of India can also do!) is the need of the hour. national level cold storage chains and logistic network (If Walmart can do. Growth and development in the secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy is essential if India wants to become a super power but that development should not be at the cost of agriculture. In the past couple of decades. Even in that case. Coupled with this. Industries and SEZs do not need fertile agricultural land to set shop. having a proper rehabilitation and resettlement program. Solar farms can be set up over large canals which provides a double benefit – less wastage of water (evaporation) and producing solar power. should all industrialisation and development be halted to save agriculture? There is never a yes or no answer for many problems that India faces. Renewable energy farms (wind and solar) must be set in agricultural lands if and only if there is absolutely no alternative. This can done by way of reserving some jobs (on the basis of the skill set of the local population) in the industry that is to come up. a general lack of empathy towards farmers by the administrators as well as legislators has exacerbated the situation. Urbanisation too has seen an unprecedented increase in the same time. Farmers. industrialisation and infrastructural development have created their own set of problems to a sector which is already under much strain. double usage of land can be thought of for both agriculture and the wind farm. Cities too can be built on agricultural waste land. The SEZs which are the future growth engines for industrial output have become a menace to these poor farmers as far as land acquisition is concerned. Food wastage can thus be cut down and agricultural trade balance can be improved if there is a national level plan.6. So. A balance is essential. in many cases the poor and marginal ones. much land is required. In the extreme cases where an industry or an infrastructural requirement (like a power plant) has to come up at an area where agricultural land has to be shifted to an industrial purpose. The excess (after keeping reserves for a potential draught year) can be exported provided the quality is maintained by means of proper storage. proper compensation has to be provided to the local farmers who are dependent on the land. . Agricultural lands must not be used for industries unless there is absolutely no alternative. Proper management of PDS has to done to cut down wastes so that a reliable estimate of the food grain needs will be made. are forced to part with their land to boost industrialisation.
timesofindia. Venkateswara Prasad . http://articles. http://www. http://paepard. has a considerable influence on the whole economy and in a country like India well being of the agricultural sector as a whole brings a psychological advantage to a multitude of other sectors.indiatimes. Other References 1.blogspot.foodnavigator-asia. A careful balance of industrialisation and agriculture is crucial for the overall prosperity of the nation.in/2013/07/utilization-of-fruit-and-vegetable. http://www.com/2013-07-27/indiabusiness/40832327_1_bumper-harvest-panel-discussion-madan-sabnavis 3.html 4.com/html/wp_wcs.htm 2.com/Policy/India-damned-by-food-wastage-report by S.indianspices.Conclusion Agriculture is a sector that feeds millions directly. India cannot develop in the actual sense if its farmers lead a life of dire poverty and helplessness. Millions depend on the farm lands for their sustenance and thus it makes it all the more important to eradicate the problems in this field.
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