Insights into Editorial: Agricultural policy needs to shift to a pro-farmer focus
Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy. Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Over 58 per cent of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood.
Agricultural development in post-independence India started as a response to food shortages and the green revolution was designed to meet this challenge.
Even after India became a net exporter of food grains, the mindset continued and food security remained central to agricultural planning.
Agriculture and its Allied Activities in GDP:
Agriculture, along with fisheries and forestry, is one of the largest contributors to the Gross Domestic Product.
Gross Value Added by agriculture, forestry and fishing is estimated at Rs 17.67 trillion (US$ 274.23 billion) in FY18.
As per estimates by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the share of agriculture and allied sectors (including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery) was 15.35 per cent of the Gross Value Added (GVA) during 2015-16.
India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices and spice products.
Agricultural export constitutes 10 per cent of the country’s exports and is the fourth-largest exported principal commodity.
India, the second-largest producer of sugar, accounts for 14 per cent of the global output. It is the sixth-largest exporter of sugar, accounting for 2.76 per cent of the global exports. India is the leading producer of wheat, rice, cotton, sugarcane & vegetables.
The expansion of the public distribution system, price controls, export bans and the pernicious use of the Essential Commodities Act dominated the scene.
Most of these interventions had an unapologetic consumer bias driven mostly by political considerations.
Some Major problems we are facing in Water Usage:
Managing the Water–Energy Nexus in Agriculture:
Energy and water are key inputs in agricultural production. It is essential to manage their use efficiently, and policymakers, researchers, academia, farmers, and social activists continually discuss how to formulate policies that will help.
Highly subsidised electricity pricing has led to several negative externalities, such as over-pumping, higher energy use by crops, and the cultivation of more water-intensive crops, which have reduced water supplies in agriculture
Drip subsidy is hindering the adoption and expansion of micro-irrigation in several states. Subsidy norms need to be simplified and made available to all farmers eligible for micro-irrigation.
Most studies highlighted that issues and policy interventions that indirectly, through electricity pricing policies help reduce the over-exploitation of groundwater.
Groundwater acts and rules, and spacing norms, are ineffective. Power pricing policies—such as metering of agricultural pump set connections and pricing of electricity (flat tariff, pro rata system)—are socially and politically sensitive.
Measures need to be taken for paradigm shift in Agriculture:
- The subsidy regime needs to undergo major structural changes. Investments for sustainable agriculture have to take precedence over natural resource depleting subsidies.
- Restructuring of ICAR: Changing the main objective of ICAR to focus on best returns for farmers. ICAR has done well to increase productivity and get India out of food insecurity.
- R&D for a new India needs to be focussed on the future. This might involve a major restructuring of ICAR and creating space for private R&D.
- However, Agri-education and Krishi Vigyan Kendras eat up most of ICAR’s budget, leaving little for futuristic research.
- Unemployed graduates in villages can be trained to provide such services at a nominal rate.
- Designing the agricultural policy to focus on the best returns a farmer can get from his land.
- Reforming the market and removing almost all restrictions: EC Act, APMC Act, movement across states, most of the export restrictions, etc.
- There is need to make e-NAM and the village markets deliver for the farmers. If there is an occasional shortage, we can resort to ‘calibrated’ imports.
- Shift from a strategy of production-chasing demand and work on a decentralised model where farmers can produce to the market, not only in terms of aggregate demand, but also in terms of the various segments, time and geographies.
- Creating reliable information systems on market demands.
- In order to tackle challenges posed by weather and climate variability, efforts should focus on micro-climate-based strategies and crop diversification.
India is expected to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022.
The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years due to increased investments in agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, warehousing and cold storage.
Furthermore, the growing use of genetically modified crops will likely improve the yield for Indian farmers.
India is expected to be self-sufficient in pulses in the coming few years due to concerted efforts of scientists to get early-maturing varieties of pulses and the increase in minimum support price.
To boost adoption, the government should promote cost-effective micro-irrigation system designs, simplify subsidy norms, and strengthen capacity-building programmes for farmers.