Agriculture is one of the most important drivers of the Indian economy. As per the World Bank’s ‘World Development Indicators’ survey released in Dec 2019, the agriculture sector employs around 43% of India’s population and as per the ‘Economic Survey 2019-20’ presented by the Hon. Finance Minister, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman in Jan 2020, agriculture contributes 16.5% to the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA).
Reasserting the importance of agriculture in India’s growth story, the Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi recently said that the agricultural sector has a very important role to play in making India a five trillion dollar economy.
Having closely worked with hundreds of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) across the country for more than a decade, at NeML we are confident that with the right interventions, the agricultural sector can indeed play a linchpin role to achieve the Hon. PM’s vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 and make India a $5 trillion powerhouse by 2025.
For the agricultural sector to grow rapidly, more needs to be done to enhance – cost efficiencies, farm productivity, and realizations in the form of farmers’ incomes.
Through this two-part series, we will elaborate on five key measures that can rejuvenate agricultural growth in the country. In this first part, we will cover two key measures and in the second part, we will talk more about the other three key measures.
1. Enhanced Cost Efficiencies
From a plethora of challenges that farmers face, sustainably reducing input costs remain a major challenge that most farmers find difficult to overcome.
When it comes to farm-sustenance, a farmer has to battle across multiple cost-fronts – right from preparation of the soil, sowing and/or transplantation, intercultural operations, plant-protection interventions, irrigation through drip/sprinklers, buying water in the absence of his own irrigation sources, crop-nutrition, pre-harvest support to the crop, timely harvest of the crop, post-harvest on-field and off-field activities till the crop is ready to be transported to a market or a storage destination, finding affordable capital for input-intensive crops, Crop Insurance and sustaining credit sales.
On each of the above-mentioned cost-fronts, sustainable cost efficiencies can only be enhanced when conscious efforts are undertaken to relook at each cost head and sustainable ways are found to reduce the spend. A farmer must find his own best solution from varied alternatives provided through government support and corporate offerings for agriculture.
Avenues like the use of drip irrigation, sprinklers, reusing wastewater, calibrated use of fertilizers and pesticides, harnessing solar energy to reduce power bills, etc. should be explored to their utmost potential. Zero-budget farming is yet another alternative available to farmers to reduce their farm costs.
2. Enhanced Productivity
As climate change becomes a grim reality, its effects are seen on the erratic monsoon patterns that India has witnessed over the last few years in general and in the 2019-20 Crop Year in particular.
With the predictability of crop-size and timely and even distribution of monsoons becoming increasingly difficult, farmers are left with limited options to enhance crop productivity.
As the seed potential of traditional seeds becomes limited, the invention of research-led seeds like hybrid seeds and genetically modified crops (GMC) becomes inevitable. Globally, the adoption of hybrid seeds and GMC has helped enhance farm productivity multifold. Perhaps, adopting such seeds are the answer to mitigate the risks of low crop productivity.
With high input costs, farming becomes increasingly riskier and may lead to significant losses in the event of a failure of input-intensive crops like Cotton. For growing high-risk crops like Cotton, Crop Insurance is highly recommended as at a nominal cost, it insulates farmers from heavy losses on account of crop failure.
Effective irrigation methods like drips, sprinklers, timely intercultural operations, effective and timely crop-nutrition and crop-protection methods, mechanized seeding, sowing, transplantations and harvesting are some of the other measures to enhance crop productivity.
Farming must continuously evolve to meet the challenge of the fast-changing climate. Leveraging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), precision-farming techniques that hold significant potential to enhance farm productivity should be adopted.
In the next part, we will highlight three additional measures to jump-start agricultural growth in India. In the meantime, please feel free to share your views on how NeML can help in doubling farmers’ income.