One of the bedrocks of a nation headed in the right direction is the attainment of food security for its people. On the flip side, this entails that crops produced are sufficient and those who produce them get appropriate returns for their effort. As India marks the Kisan Diwas celebration, it is important to take stock of not just how important the roles of farmers are, but to also evaluate their welfare and whether or not they are earning the right income. 

With estimates reaching 308.65 million tonnes in 2021-22, India is currently the world’s largest producer of food grains, only after China. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture employed at least 59 per cent of the nation’s workforce and contributed as much as 23 per cent to its GDP in 2016. Today, contribution to GDP hovers between 17 and 18 per cent, a pointer to the importance of the sector to the nation even in this era of the digital economy.

However, both nations are far behind the US as far as export indices are concerned due largely to higher yields achieved in the Western nation. What this means is it is not really about how much land one has, but how much they are able to produce on that land. For increased yield, crop protection and nutritional products have been identified as the twin ingredients that farmers must apply.

Boosting output for higher incomes

As the largest producer of pulses and jute, milk and the second-largest producer of wheat, sugarcane, rice, cotton, groundnut, fruits, and vegetables, according to global industry stats. However, there are indications that by leveraging the right methods, crop protection practices, and applying the proper nutritional products, the nation can do much more on yield per hectare. India still produces a little shy of 3 tonnes per hectare of rice, compared to the global average, whereas countries like Australia and Egypt have varieties that can produce as much as 10 tonnes per hectare.

The secret lies with crop protection. This same trend has been seen in other crops like wheat as well. According to a top official of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Indian farmers lose as much as 30-35 per cent of their annual crop yield to pests and insects. That is a third of all produce wasted.

Do the math; if a farmer was supposed to get 100 tonnes of wheat, for instance, he ends up getting only about 66 tonnes. This eats deep into their income and is one of the major factors responsible for the frustrations and economic hardships of many farmers. On the other hand, not many farmers apply the right type and number of fertilizers and other nutrients that their crops need to grow well. Compared to the global average, plant nutrient use in India is also relatively low. The FAO estimates that the plant nutrition gap in India is almost 10 million tonnes.

Farmers deserve their income too

India’s vision to achieve a $5 trillion economy by 2025 is well documented. Much of this can be achieved by a thriving agricultural sector. The importance of agriculture in India cannot be overemphasised, as it is the major source of livelihood for most Indians, approximately 58 per cent of the population, according to a 2020 FICCI and PwC report. This stresses the need to boost the sector for higher productivity. Agrochemicals like crop protection products and nutrients are an important component in ensuring yields are better in quantity a quality. Providing nutrients like potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus etc is extremely important for the growth and health of crops is also vital. Nitrogen is an especially important nutrient for all forms of life on earth, which is a good thing it makes up 78 per cent of atmospheric air. With fertilizers, crops get all the goodness they need, coupled with water, sunlight, and other factors. Crop protection industry experts, which includes manufacturers of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, have of late come up with innovative crop protection products so that farmers can get better yields with the minimum possible dosage. 

As the rabi cropping season continues until March, it is hoped that this year’s Kisan Diwas will mark a turnaround for farmers in India as they embrace better practices like the latest technology insecticides and nutrients that the crops need to perform better. This will certainly go a long way for the nation, as farmers will become richer and will be better able to support their families. On the other hand, an increase in yield per hectare is more likely to lead to a drop in food prices, ensuring that millions across the country are better able to afford it.