Reimagining agriculture

| Updated on February 27, 2020 Published on February 27, 2020

Doubling farm incomes in quick time requires a multi-pronged policy response

It was at a kisan rally in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, exactly four years ago (February 28, 2016) that the Prime Minister said he wished to see farm incomes double by 2022-23, when the country completes 75 years of Independence. This was followed up by a NITI Aayog study released in March 2017 which went into the roots of this ambition. The study points out that it took 22 years, from 1993-94 to 2015-16, to double the farm income per cultivator from ₹21,110 to ₹44,027. It points out that doubling the real income of farmers between 2015-16 and 2022-23 would require a 10.41 per cent annual growth in farmers’ income. The sources of this growth would include, it observes, improvement in productivity, savings in input costs through efficient resource use, increased cropping intensity, diversification towards high value crops, improving terms of trade for agriculture and shifting cultivators into non-farm occupations, such as dairying and fisheries. Today, many tend to believe that the goal is elusive. However, amidst low agriculture growth, efforts to de-risk farming from vagaries of the weather and the markets have been a focus of recent policies — in the form of PM KIsan SAmman Nidhi (an income support programme), Fasal Bima Yojana (for crop insurance) and PM Annadaata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan, or PM AASHA (assured price support). This month also marks the completion of five years of the Soil Health Card scheme, an effort to make farming ecologically sustainable. The push to Zero Budget Natural Farming and a Bill that may be tabled next month to curb crop damage arising out of harmful pesticide use by penalising the producers heavily, are notable. The challenge is to make agriculture economically and ecologically sustainable in a time of climate change, while meeting the food security needs of a populous nation.

To take stock of these complex and seemingly conflicting objectives, BusinessLine has organised a summit on February 27-28, on ‘Reimagining agriculture — doubling farmers’ income’. It brings to a single platform thought leaders and key stakeholders in the field, from policymakers to input providers and independent experts. The event also coincides with the release of Business Line Handbook of Agriculture 2020 which examines de-risking options — crop planning, market infrastructure, credit solutions, technologies and innovations (including GM), alternative streams of income, and export prospects. It brings together field reports and policy insights from senior scientists, policymakers and industry chiefs.

The paradox of a nutritional crisis amidst overflowing granaries and persisting farm suicides, tells a tale. Marketing solutions such as e-NAM have improved price discovery, but these are early days. The debate over adoption of GM technologies, amidst rising input costs, will intensify as India deals with demands to open its farm markets. Four years after Bareilly we are at an inflexion point.

Published on February 27, 2020
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