Agricultural Innovation : Need of the era [ The pioneer reviews ]

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The Indian economy had been dependent upon agriculture for a long time until the secondary and tertiary sectors particularly the manufacturing and service sector took over. Despite this, more than 60 per cent of the Indian labour force is still dependent on agriculture, even though its contribution towards the gross domestic product has gone down to around 15 to 16 per cent

A good monsoon this year has ensured an increase in the sowing area of Kharif crops which was over 60 per cent, compared to last year the monsoon has brought smile on the food producers of the country .Agriculture depends upon two factors :-

  1. A good monsoon 
  2. Farmer centric Government policy

Out of the total 143 million hectare of cultivated land, only 85 million hectare is rain-fed. Rain-fed land is important to ensure food security and its diversity as most of the lentils, spices and oil seeds and other coarse grains are produced in rain-fed agriculture. India had so far recorded the highest productivity of 247 million tonne of food grains, two years ago.The Indian agriculture suffers from many problems and ultimately become the cause of Food insecurity. Food security  is maily affected due to  four reasons :-

  1.  Poor and stagnating productivity of the farm lands due to poor technology and investments
  2.  Fragmentation of land holdings
  3.  Deteriorating quality of farm land due to excessive use of fertilisers
  4.  Dependency of Indian agriculture on monsoon and the severe depletion of groundwater

Poor and stagnating productivity of the farm lands due to poor technology and investments

If make a comparitive analysis we will find that the states with good technology and investment have better productivity. What can me better example than Punjab. The farmers in Punjab are considered to be prosperous than rest of the parts in the country. Per unit area production is more in Punjab and that too with minimum workforce while if we consider the areas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh they have good piece of cultivable land but they lack in agricultural production because they are not technically well equipped.

 Fragmentation of land holdings

85 per cent of the farmers in the country are small and marginal farmers and as the day passes, their number is increasing and returns from the farm land are getting depleted.The situation get more intense when there is further more divison in the farmland for development purpose. Most of the small and marginal farmers do not get credit in formal manner as only 27 per cent get credit from formal sources and around 22 per cent of the farmers depend on the exploitative informal credit system.

 Deteriorating quality of farm land due to excessive use of fertilisers

Deteriorating quality of farm land due to excessive use of fertilisers, pesticides and ground water and consequent reduction in the income of farmers. It has been proved experimentally that excessive use of fertilisers makes the land barren and detoriates it's fertility.This is the very reason that most of the farmers are moving toward organic fertilisers which can be prepared from their own farming waste materials.

Dependency of Indian agriculture on monsoon and the severe depletion of groundwater

Most of the farmers are having their own tubewell for irrigation which give them advantage over traditional dependency on monsoon but consecutively lowers the ground water level in States like Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana  which in turn affects the agricultural productivity.If the water table continues to go down as it is happening presently, there will be a time in the next decade or so when food grain production will go down rather drastically and Indian food security scenario will stare at us as it did before the green revolution. It is not a distant reality but a fact which will be true if the policymakers do not take suitable step

The Government takes 14 to 15 months to pay compensation for natural calamities. According to a report prepared by the Confederation of Indian Farmers Association, only 10 per cent of the farmers are benefitted by the minimum support price.

While comparing the agricultural productivity in India with other countries it was found that from the same net sown area of 143 million hectare, while China produced 500 million tonne of food grain, India produced about 230 to 240 million tonne of food grain. The best productivity of paddy is 9,421 kg per hectare in Egypt which is highest in the world. Compared to this, it is 6,548 kg per hectare in China and 3,264 kg per hectare in India

Steps that can bring agriculture on track 

  • The first thing that needs to be done is to invite technological investments in the farm sector both by the Government and the private sector. For this, a regime of fair play and equity is the need of the hour. For increasing productivity, scientific innovations specially a well designed foolproof mechanism for implementation of genetically modified crops will have to be established in the country
  • The credit system needs to be revamped and the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana should be utilised. The private sector agro-processing players should be given incentive to provide credit to the farmers. The experience of this writer as the principle  secretary, agriculture and its allied sectors is such that the Government of India needs to re-think on the way in which guidelines are framed and issued for the implementation of various schemes both with regards to the cost norms as well as the manner of implementation.
  • State-specific problems and innovations be allowed and flexibility and new approach should be rewarded. For example the cost norm for Manipur, Tripura and Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh cannot be the same. 
  • There should be a separate Budget for agriculture considering the situation of farming sector in the country and its potential
  • One of the key sector to boost the off-farm income is to promote productivity and marketing of the minor forest produce. More than 17 lakh hectare of the forest land has been vested under the Forest Rights Act 2006 among the tribal people and this land is available for proper investment for enhancing livelihood of the tribal farmers


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