Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Reviving Indian Agriculture

The text books that we study during the preparation about Indian Agriculture usually leave us clueless as to what we can do to improve the lot of our country’s agriculture. Take a look at today’s article in ET on this here. It is very easy to dismiss some of the suggestions and assumptions; but did you get these ideas in the first place, is the question.

India’s agriculture has grown at only 2% in the last decade. It is beset with a number of problems. They include:

  1. Yield growth has declined.
  2. Farmers’ suicides have continued or increased in some states.
  3. Scope for increasing net sown area is limited.
  4. Land degradation in the form of depletion of soil fertility, erosion and water logging has increased.
  5. There has been a decline in the surface irrigation expansion rate and a fall in the ground water table.
  6. Disparities in productivity across regions and crops have persisted.
  7. Farming is becoming a non-viable activity.

In the light of these many problems facing the sector, how can you achieve 4% growth? Crop sector may not be able to grow at 4% per annum. But horticulture and allied activities like dairying, poultry and fisheries have to grow at the rate of 6 to 7% to achieve 4% growth in agriculture.

There are six factors which need attention in the short and medium term:

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Land and water management
  3. Research and extension
  4. Inputs including credit
  5. Marketing including price policy
  6. Diversification and development of rural non-farm sector

Some suggestions which can help the farm sector include:

  1. Changes in subsidy administration mechanism for fertilizers. Direct delivery of fertilizers to farmers that is being experimented with, may offer a better alternative to the existing fertilizer subsidy regime.
  2. Dry land farming can get a fillip with some location specific research.
  3. Tackling output price fluctuations through SHG models, cooperative models, small producer cooperatives and contract farming etc., can help the small and marginal farmers.

At present, there is a disjuncture in the interests between farmers and political representatives. The role played by agriculture as a source of supply for political funding is dwindling and other sources have started funding political activities. So that leaves only rhetoric in place of concrete action when it comes to improving the lot of the farmer.