As India loses over ₹1 lakh crore annually due to post harvest losses, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has suggested creation of separate directorate of agriculture engineering at least at block level in every State as it could help substantially reduce the losses and boost farmers’ income.

“Agriculture engineers are not available even at district levels in most of the States. Even if they are available their services have been utilised in other areas like seeds distribution in those States where there is no separate directorate,” said S N Jha, Deputy Director General (engineering) at ICAR. He has suggested the agriculture ministry to impress upon States to create separate directorate of agriculture engineering.

He said every State should appoint an agriculture engineer at block level and if that is not possible at least at district level to help farmers running the agriculture machinery at farm level smoothly, not only at production even for processing and value-addition of crops.

Expressing concern that the talent of agriculture engineers are not tapped to their potential, Jha said there will be triple benefits - employment generation, reduction in post-harvest losses and increase in farmers’ income.

Post-harvest losses

The range of average post-harvest losses for foodgrains, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables have been estimated at 4.65-15.88 per cent valued at ₹92,651 crore at 2014 prices, according to a study by Ludhiana-based Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET).

It had found that overall losses have gone down by two per cent between 2005-06 and 2013-14 mainly due to improvement in infrastructure and transport facilities.

Paddy, wheat, chana, soyabean, tomato, onion, potato, banana, mango, coconut, sugarcane, fish, poultry meat and milk together have 78 per cent share in the total post-harvest losses, the study found. Out of this, horticulture produce has highest 34 per cent share due to perishable nature of these crops.

Citing the examples of Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, where separate directorate of agriculture engineering has been created, Jha said such step will aid in the growth of agriculture sector.

As mechanisation is the way forward in farming, he said it is an agriculture engineer who understands both engineering and agriculture can do justice even in case of application of pesticides through drone.

He has urged the Karnataka government, which is the first State in the country to set up a separate directorate of secondary agriculture, to include agricultural engineering also within the new set up.

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