How the government is working to double farmers’ income by 2022
Historically, India has been an agrarian country. But it was only after we attained independence that the future of the sector brightened. One of the brightest spots in the history of Indian agriculture was between the 1950 and the late 1960s – the Green Revolution resulted in incremental increase in production of food grains, especially wheat and paddy.
However, we must have taken that improvement for granted, and did not make enough efforts to help that growth sustain longer than it did. The crisis we see today was building for decades, and skipped our notice – farming has lost the joy and has become a source of income for those who cannot opt for any other means to earn.
A whopping 76 percent of farmers surveyed during a recent study said they would prefer to do some other work than farming. The government wants to double their income in the next three years and identifying the right steps are crucial to their effort.
Selecting the right farm input
Easier said than done, this step involves a lot of unseen efforts. Most importantly, we need to educate farmers about the required input materials. Apart from seeds and water for irrigation, most farmers in different parts of the country till date think they can omit everything else. As a result, many of these farmers face huge losses as their crop falls prey to insects and pests.
According to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, India loses crop worth Rs 50,000 crore due to pests and diseases. Most people depend heavily on chickpeas, pigeon peas, moong beans, and lentils for their daily protein requirements. However, without proper crop protection, the crop yield can fall by an estimated 30 percent.
In this scenario, adopting Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a modern approach to increase farmer income while protecting the environment, can prove to be gamechanger.
The programme provides a framework to undertake a step-by-step method in ensuring good crop health and higher productivity. Besides, it provides for reliable crop quality, reduced severity of pest infestations, and potential for problems of pest resistance or resurgence as well as increased consumer confidence leading to fair price of the yield.
Contract farming can fetch better prices
Given that the minimum support price (MSP) offered by the government often falls short of the farmers’ need and expectations, a well-regulated environment for contract farming may ease the price woes.
Contract farming mandates that the farmers will be given a contract by a corporate to grow differentiated crops. The relation between the two is that of the sole buyer and sellers.
While some fear that this may prompt the company lower prices than average, with the Model Contract Act 2018, the government has made a wholehearted attempt to make this area foolproof. It aims to create a regulatory body to enforce contracts as well as to increase competition and create market-related incentives for both contractors and farmers.
Opening direct access to retailers may also help farmers avoid the corrupt intermediaries and get better price for their produce.
Digital literacy to improve access
India has a good literacy rate and access to the Internet has ensured smartphone penetration to the hinterlands. However, many of our farmers are still out of the digital coverage. As a result, they still depend on traditional practices bereft of scientific basis and may often prove unproductive, worse counterproductive.
Accessing mandis physically is a difficult task for many farmers, especially the small and marginal ones who are in perennial debt. The government’s move to introduce e-NAMs (National Agricultural Markets) bore limited fruit because digital literacy rate among farmers is not up to the mark yet.
Around 600 mandis are enrolled in the e-NAM system, but there is a need to improve their performance to encourage sponsors to raise their bids. Besides, they also need to become competitive to enroll farmers to secure input supplies, who may lack interest now as many of them are not digitally adept.
We have already lost precious time in redeeming those who feed us, and the need to act was never as pressing.