Editorial

Empower Every Farmer in Every Corner for Doubling Farmers’ Income


“Together, we will build such an India where farmers can sleep without worry. By 2022, they will earn double of what they are earning today.”

~Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India.

National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has recommended the Government of India to strive for doubling farmers’ income, shortened as DFI, by the year 2022-23. Government’s aim is clear to double the real income of farmers, as spelled out in recent reports of the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income (CDFI). A rising agriculture sector will upgrade the livelihoods of 70 crore people in India, most of whom live on the margins. It may transform the entire fabric of nation building.The Prime Minister of India has set a definite target to double the farmers’ income by 2022. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare is working towards achieving the goal. And to achieve this target, the Prime Minister has advocated a seven-point strategy: i) Special focus on irrigation with sufficient budget, with the aim of “Per Drop More Crop”; ii) Provision of quality seeds and nutrients based on soil health of each field; iii) Large investments in Warehousing and Cold Chains to prevent post-harvest crop losses; iv) Promotion of value addition through food processing; v) Creation of a National Farm Market, removing distortions and e-platform across 585 Stations; vi) Introduction of a New Crop Insurance Scheme to mitigate risks at an affordable cost; and vii) Promotion of ancillary activities like poultry, beekeeping, and fisheries. Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Union Agriculture Minister stated chairing the Inter-Session of the Consultative Committee meeting of the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare that the Government has launched a number of schemes and programs to Double Farmers’ Income. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana,Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, Soil Health Card, Neem-Coated Urea and e-NAM Schemes are few of our flagship programs that aim to improve the productivity and earnings of our farmers. He also said that RKVY guidelines are being changed to include entrepreneur development. DAC&FW has prepared a roadmap for production of pulses to the tune of 24 million tonnes by 2017-18. A dedicated micro-irrigation fund with an initial corpus of Rs 5,000 crore has been set up by NABARD to achieve “Per Drop More Crop”. An additional investment of Rs 6,399 billion at 2011-12 prices is required from both public and private sectors to enable doubling of farmers’ real income by 2022-23,the Committee on DFI said in its latest report. And this does not include investments in agri-logistics, cold chains, etc. Eighty percent of this investment has to come from the government. The investments in, and for agriculture, need to rise by 22% per annum in real terms if the dream of DFI is to be realised. At present, public investment is below national average in states like Assam,Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan,the Punjab and Odisha. Less developed states in the eastern region continue to lag behind in private investment, suggesting an urgent need to develop financial and other infrastructure, it added. Some of the suggestions made by the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income are:The estimated increase in weighted public investment (together in agriculture, irrigation, rural roads and transport and rural energy) is pegged at 14.17 per cent per year. “The investment rates vary considerably across the states, ranging from 1- 24 per cent.The less developed states would require higher rate of public investment owing to initial low capital base in rural areas,” it said. With government continuing to play key role in farm sector development, the panel said: “By 2022-23, the private investment should increase by nearly two times while public investment should increase four times from the base year 2015 -16.” “Policy should focus on creating a favourable investment climate for increasing investment ‘in agriculture’, opines Ashok Dalwai, CEO, National Rainfed Area Authority and Chairman, CDFI.
The DFI will work on three areas: productivity gains, reduction in cost of cultivation, and remunerative prices. The strategic framework has four concerns: sustainable agri-production, monetisation of farmers’ produce, re-strengthening extension services, and recognising agriculture as an enterprise. The report also uses an econometric model to work out how much investment is needed in agriculture, irrigation, rural roads, rural energy and rural development to attain 10.41% annual growth in real incomes for DFI by 2022-23 over base of 2015-16. The point of note is that farmers’ real incomes have increased by only 3.5% per annum between 2002-03 and 2012-13. According to Ashok Gulati & Siraj Hussain, “In order to take this dream nearer to reality, one may look at Chinese experience during 1978-84, when it doubled farmers’ real incomes in six years and reduced poverty by half! (India took 18 years,from 1993 to 2011, to cut poverty by half). China focused primarily on incentives for farmers by moving from the commune system to household responsibility system inland, and ensured higher prices for farmers. Chinese prices for farmers have remained way above what India gives to its farmers. Just to cite one example, China’s MSP for wheat in 2014-15 was $385/tonne against India’s $226/tonne. Similar differences exist for other crops. This was on top of $22 billion of input subsidies.The upshot of this example is that India needs to focus on incentives for farmers, and much else will follow. Unfortunately, our policy is biased in favour of consumers and that inadvertently makes it anti-farmer. If the Modi government can reform that by using income policy to protect the poor, and free up prices for farmers,allow private trade to stock and operate freely and have unhindered exports, India can raise farmers’ incomes significantly, if not double by 2022.”
Ajay Srivastava suggests that the following four initiatives will transform the sector and make it profitable to farmers and other participants:
One: Encourage contract farming. Much of India’s exports and supermarket supplies originate from Contract/Corporate Farming Ventures (CFVs). A CFV takes land on lease from a group of farmers and pays an agreed amount and a share of profits to them. Or it may supply inputs and expertise to farmers, supervise production and buy the products.
CFVs apply knowledge and latest techniques and oversee an integrated supply chain. No wonder most CFVs have reported higher yields for wheat, rice, sugar,cotton, potato, gherkin, tomato, groundnut, safflower, marigold, poultry and milk. CFVs benefit farmers and increase quality and productivity, hence are welcome.But it is not easy to start a CFV and despite many decades of operation, they cover less than 3% of arable area. Simplification of land pooling laws, online verification of land records, standard contract format, and streamlined contract registration and dispute settlement process will make the CFV process transparent and nudge many to venture into this area. CFVs will ultimately lead to collaborative farming where a group of farmers who benefited from the CFV experience will pool land to start their own venture.
Two: Convert the top 10 agriculture universities into centres for excellence.They will make region-specific strategies to raise crop yields, advise on the creation of integrated supply chains, and prepare a plan to promote exports and cut imports. The centre will also publish product reports after extensive field and market trials for use by farmers.
Three: Create 2,000 farmer centres, one in each sub-district. These should be the go-to places for all farmers’ needs. Here he can meet representatives from banks,insurance companies, seed and equipment suppliers and buyers. Farmer centres would integrate with the electronic National Agriculture Markets (e-NAM) to help farmers sell direct to the consumer. Each centre will also have free water, soil and nutrient testing labs.
Four: Ensure active monitoring of government schemes. For example, many of the 35 million farmers who opted for the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna in the last kharif season got their compensation late, as more than half the states did not pay the premium on time. The e-NAM, another useful initiative, needs to check wrong reporting. Many mandis show normal sales as e-NAM sales.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has compiled a Report of New India Manthan–Sankalp Se Sidhi programme organised by Krishi Vigyan Kendras in all the districts of the States in India during 19 August to 11 September, 2017 to create awareness about Doubling Farmers’ Income among the mass people, specially farmers; the data for the eight Northeastern States are reported to be a footfall of 30,924 farmers, which is encouraging. But it has been observed that the most of the Authorities concerned have not used the media sufficiently to percolate the DFI message down to every farmer in the the nook and corner of this part of the Country.In this connection, it was found that the Director of Extension Education, AAU was shy in focussing the programme of its seminar on DFI held at AAU Campus,Khanapara, both before and after the programme. And the DFI programmes of taking pledge at events organized by the KVKs, though reported to the Ministry, were not much publicised so as to reach every farmer. As such, the creation of awareness as to doubling farmers’ income (DFI) and delivery of appropriate working messages through agricultural extension, knowledge diffusion, skill and ICT will remain a dream. However, we hope for the best in view of recent exposure of a successful seminar “North East Agribusiness Conclave” organised by the SFAC, GoI, New Delhi in Khanapara, Guwahati where all the stakeholders assembled in an convenient atmosphere of learning and sharing with participation of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO) of the whole of Northeast India. Farmers organised into FPOs/FPCs have more competitive chance of doubling farmers’ income with cluster-based farming activities and marketing activities in a corporate way.

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~Manik CS Bordoloi, Editor-in-Chief.

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