[Analysis]- Need Of The Hour: Grow More Food

Posted on March 31, 2012 in Research, Society

By Dr. Amrit Patel:

Already food prices in India have skyrocketed making lives of tens of millions miserable and threatening our food security. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization & OECD countries have warned stating that ‘with the pressure on world prices of most commodities not abating the international community must remain vigilant against further supply shocks’. Dr. Man Mohan Singh, our Prime Minister, once emphatically said, “Inflation hurts the weakest sections of the society the most and there can be no better anti-poverty program than developing agriculture, which has potential to arrest rising food prices and contain inflation”. Growth in agriculture has a maximum cascading impact on other sectors leading to the spread of benefits over the entire economy and the largest segment of population. According to the World Development Report “the GDP growth arising from agriculture is almost four times as effective in reducing poverty as GDP originating outside the sector”.

Minimum 4% annual agricultural growth in India is a pre-requisite for inclusive growth, poverty reduction, development of the rural economy and enhancing farm incomes. Ninth and Tenth Five Year Plans witnessed average annual agricultural growth rate of 2.44% and 2.30% respectively compared to 4.72% during Eighth Five Year Plan. In 2011-12, agricultural growth rate is estimated at 2.5% and during Eleventh plan period at 3.28% against a target of 4%. The Approach Paper to the Twelfth Plan emphasizes the need to “redouble our efforts to ensure that 4% average growth” is achieved, if not more. To achieve 4% minimum growth rate in agriculture per annum and enhance substantially farm productivity during the Twelfth Five Year Plan [2012-17] and make food accessible to all, more particularly those guaranteed under proposed Food Security Bill, country needs to productively and optimally utilize budgetary allocations for the year 2012-13 and launch Nationwide Grow More Food campaign right from this kharif season with sharp focus on better coordination and effective communication system. This paper attempts to briefly highlight important components of the budget that intend to enhance agricultural growth, need for achieving specific targeted goals that can significantly influence agricultural growth during the Twelfth Plan, critical areas for launching grow more food campaign, effective coordination among institutions and better communication system.

Budget: Budget for the year 2012-13, incidentally coinciding with the first year of the Twelfth Five Year Plan, incorporates following critical components to impact agricultural growth and provision of value chain services that can integrate agricultural research, extension, education, input supply, production, storage, processing, marketing system etc.

Financial allocations: Budget in a modest way provides, inter alia, Rs.20,208 crore under agriculture and Rs.9,217 crore under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana indicating 18% and 17.26% respectively increase over the previous year. Dairy sector is provided Rs.2,242 crore under World Bank assisted project. Five agricultural universities will receive Rs.350 crore to intensify agricultural research and Rs.200 crore allocated to incentivize research with rewards to institutions and research team responsible for scientific breakthrough. . Food storage capacity is being augmented.

Bank credit: Bank credit targets have been raised by 21% to Rs.5,75,000 crore. Farmers will continue to receive crop loan up to Rs.300,000 at 7% interest rate per annum and further 3% interest rebate for timely loan repayment making 4% effective interest rate per annum. The said facility is extended for storage of farm produce under Warehouse receipt system.

Programs: Important programs ,among others, include National Food Security Mission, National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture including Micro-irrigation, National Mission for Protein Supplement, National Mission on Oilseeds and Palm, National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology, National Horticulture Mission, National Mission on Seeds and Planting Material, Accelerated Fodder Development Program, Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Program, National Mission on Food Processing, National Mission on Agricultural Mechanization, Integrated Scheme for Farmers’ Income Security, Central Agriculture Infrastructure and Establishment Scheme, National Center for Crop Statistics. Effective planning and implementation of programs with appropriate mechanism to monitor the progress will substantially improve farm productivity, output and profitability at farmer’s level.

Need for: In order to achieve minimum 4% agricultural growth and farm productivity there is need to achieve following targets specific to policy and programs by the end of Twelfth Plan.

[i] As proportion of the value added by agriculture to GDP, Gross Capital Formation in agriculture and allied sectors rose to 20.1% in 2010-11 from 13.5% in 2004-05 [at 2004-05 prices] which now should rise to 30%
[ii] Expenditure on agricultural research and development should be stepped up from the current 0.67% of agricultural GDP to 3%
[iii] States have increased allocation to agriculture and allied sectors from 4.88% of total State Plan expenditure in 2006-07 to 6.04% in 2010-11 which should increase to 8.5%
[iv] About 40% of farm produce is wasted, due to inappropriate, inadequate and inefficient transport, storage, processing and procurement facilities, that need to be reduced to less than 5% and processing of fruits and vegetables raised from current 2.2% to 20%
[v] Agricultural exports which accounted for 1.7% share of world trade in agriculture in 2010 as per International Trade Statistics published by the WTO should rise to 3.5%.
[vi] During 2000-01 to 2011-12, growth in yield of rice, wheat, coarse cereals, pulses, and oilseeds per hectare was 1.68%, 1.14 %, 4.39%,1.91% and 3.39% respectively, which should now improve to 2.5%, 3.0%, 6.0%,3.5% and 5.0% respectively. Growth in yield of total foodgrains was 2.91% which should improve to 4.0%.
[vii] Currently only about 62 million hectares [44%] of the cropped area is irrigated as against net sown area of about 140 million hectares out of total cultivable area of 182 million hectares. Net sown area under irrigation can be expanded to 100 million hectares and additional area of 25 million hectares brought under cultivation. By March 2010, utilization of irrigation has been 85% of 108.2 million hectares of potential created which should increase to 100%. Further, water use efficiency of the Government and private irrigation projects is 40% and 65% respectively that should improve to 70% and 80% respectively. The return on irrigation projects undertaken by the Government is around 30% of their maintenance costs which must increase to 65%.
[viii] Currently more than 80% farmers still rely on farm-saved seeds leading to a low rate of seed replacement which should increase to 80%
[ix] Current farm power availability which hovers around 1.7 kw/ha being significantly lower than that in South Korea [7+kw/ha] and Japan[14+kw/ha] must increase 2.5 kw/ha
[x] Fertilizer use efficiency has to be significantly improved using organic and inorganic sources in appropriate proportion matching the needs of crops, soil and water based on soil and water analysis.
[xi] Micro-level, block-specific agro-meteorological advisory services need to be provided through establishing automatic weather stations in all districts vulnerable to climate change.

Village Panchayats must necessarily, in close participation of farmers, be involved in planning and implementation of agricultural development programs and their monitoring of progress. In these efforts they can be trained for capacity building. Most programs can be implemented in a public-private-partnership mode. Experts can identify gaps in the planning, service delivery and implementation process of programs and endeavor to bridge them to yield expected results. Farm produce should be procured under public procurement system from marginal and small farmers on priority basis who should be paid 50% extra over the minimum procurement prices and most of the produce stored in villages or block headquarters. Financial inclusion as is being pursued in rural areas will have significant meaningful impact if it is simultaneously accompanied by agricultural inclusion which can have four core production dimensions, viz. [i] What is provided: A full range of services that include production inputs[ seeds, fertilizers, pesticides], irrigation, farm power, credit, production technology, transport, storage, marketing services in particular [ii] How it is provided: With quality i.e. convenience, affordability, safety, dignity of treatment and grievance redressal [iii] Who receives: Every farmer with prioritizing marginal and small farmers, tenant farmers, share croppers, oral lessees, women [iv] Who provides it: A range of providers led by mainstream department of agriculture and private organizations

Regulatory & Development Authority: [1].Since resources, viz. land, water and energy are limited, scarce, costly and having competing demand for urbanization, industrialization and meeting farming needs, there is greater need now than before to consider appointing an independent Regulatory and Development Authority manned by professional to look these resources in totality and evolve appropriate legal framework, mechanism and procedure to deal with existing and emerging issues.[2]. Farm productivity improvement depends significantly upon the use of inputs, viz. seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water, farm equipment and machinery etc. which have necessarily to be of standard quality, available on time and at reasonable price protecting consumers’ rights. This, therefore, calls for putting in place Regulatory and Development Authority to consider legal framework, mechanism and procedure to ensure that farmers as users invariably are guaranteed to receive farm inputs of these characteristics.

Grievance redressal cell: At Block level cell to redress farmers’ grievances should be established with full accountability.

Campaign: Despite India has the largest irrigated land and ranks second in terms of arable land the yield of most of crops is 20-40% of the world’s best levels. India can increase wheat production by 30 million tones or around 40% and double paddy production at current levels of technology. The multiplication and cultivation of outstanding varieties of chickpea, pigeon pea, moong, urad, and other pulses under the Pulses & Oilseeds Villages Program can significantly bridge the gap of about four million tons of pulses between the demand and supply Not only these crops require less water but pulses also fix nitrogen in the soil. Cereal-legume rotation can build, replenish and maintain soil fertility. The yield gap between the actual yield and the vast untapped yield reservoir existing in the farming systems needs to be bridged by launching campaign to remove technological, economic and environmental constraints, efficiently use Rs.25,000 crore available under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana both in irrigated and rain-fed areas, implement 50,000 Pulses and Oilseeds Villages program in rain-fed areas on a system approach linking the production, plant protection, procurement and consumption chain. This calls for launching a systematic, planned and result oriented “Grow More Food Campaign” in every village right from this kharif season during the Twelfth Plan to create awareness among farmers and ensure that farmers secure inputs, technical guidance, credit and post-harvest services.

Coordination: Over a period of time Government has created a vast institutional infrastructure investing huge amount. It is now high time that this infrastructure should be optimally and profitably utilized to deliver services to farmers in a transparent manner that must result into expected goals and be accountable. Effective horizontal coordination is essentially called for among Panchayati Raj Institutions, agricultural universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, commercial banks, cooperatives, RRBs, lead bank, NABARD, input agencies under the leadership of Department of Agriculture in each district to formulate, implement and monitor strategic action plan envisaging targeted food output and to ensure that at village level [i]farm extension staff guide farmers, based on soil & water analysis, for adopting the best diversified cropping system, meticulous adoption of technology [how & when] and judicious use [no more, no less] of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, water, labor [ii] scientific techniques are disseminated involving integrated nutrient supply, water & pest management among farmers through mass scale field demonstrations [iii] farmers receive inputs, farm equipment & machinery of standard quality, on time and at reasonable prices [iv] farmers receive hassle-free production and investment credit and Government subsidies on time [v] significant number of marginal farmers, tenant farmers, share croppers and oral lessees account for production loans without offering any collateral as mandated by the Government[vi] reasonable proportion of bank credit should also flow for informal debt swapping [vii] contingency plans/mid-season correction plans in the event of seasonal aberration are implemented [viii] farmers’ skill to formulate Farm Plans & Budgets needs to be developed through capacity building training. [ix] role, responsibilities and accountability of each coordinating agency/institution need to be spelt out clearly[x]panchayati raj institution at village level should be provided capacity building training. The Central and State agencies should procure pulses and crops like jowar, maize, bajra, ragi,and hill millets in order to diversify food basket. Relationship between tenant farmers and land owners need to be legally established to facilitate them access to bank credit and insurance cover. All these in the process would reflect on improving productivity of crops & resources, reduction on costs and enhancing rate of return on farm investments.

Communication: Cost efficient communication between farmers and extension staff once in 10 days at village level should be established and need based seminars & workshops to share knowledge and resolve problems be organized. Mass communication media viz., All India Radio, Televisions and local newspapers should frequently disseminate full authentic information and also organize discussions between farmers and experts on the efficient use of technology, seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, farm equipment, credit, subsidies under Government programs and to make farmers fully aware of what facilities & assistance are available and where from.

Image courtesy: http://traveltrance.com/?p=7512 and http://www.inex.org/tag/india/

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