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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s target of doubling farmers’ income in six years is achievable, provided farm policies and practices are modified, according to senior government officials and agriculture experts.
Speaking at the Business Standard Agriculture Round Table, 2017, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said on Tuesday that 55 per cent of farmland was dependent on the monsoon and that the strategy to double the farmers’ income had to be different here compared to the land that was irrigated well.
Quoting a study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), he said irrigation alone could improve farm productivity by 2.5 times. In this respect, he said about 30 projects of the total 99 under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana would be completed soon. The remaining ones will be completed in the next two-three years, he said. “This will add 7.6 million hectare of land under irrigation,” he said.
Pattanayak said farmers’ income could increase 30 per cent by facilitating market access, for which amendments to the APMC Act were must.
While the Centre had brought in the model Act, it was up to states to follow that, he said, adding that while Punjab had amended the Act, Uttar Pradesh would soon do that. Similarly, Maharashtra has removed fruits and vegetables from the Act.
He said margins were not as high in agriculture as in other sectors of the economy. However, as the supply chain moved to the urban centres, it made sense to make investments here. “Investments are soon going to flow in agriculture,” he added.
Talking about the huge difference in the prices that farmers get and what the customers pay, the secretary said the government was laying focus on farmers producers organisations (FPOs). Pawanexh Kohli, chief advisor and CEO of NCCD, said while farmers had been clubbed under FPOs, land was still fragmented. “We should have clubbed land too,” he suggested.
Tajmul Haque, chairman of the social cell at NITI Aayog, said one should be clear about doubling of farmers’ income. For instance, he said average monthly income of a farmer’s family stood at Rs 6,427 in India. On the other hand, Bihar, Odisha, and Jharkhand had average monthly farmer’s family income of less than Rs 5,000. Punjab, on the other hand, has Rs 18,000.
He said coordination was needed between price policy and technology policies to double the farmers’ income. Whatever minimum support prices were announced should be implemented on the ground, he suggested. Pattanayak said the country now had decentralised procurement. Procurement was now improving beyond Punjab and Haryana, he said. “Uttar Pradesh procured a lot of wheat and potatoes,” he said.
Besides, the government had built two million tonnes of pulses buffer stocks. He said pulses production rose from 17 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 22 mt in 2016-17.
Pattanayak said the goods and services tax (GST) and digitalisation had helped in knowing the flow of agriculture income.
His comments came after the Union Cabinet earlier in the day cleared raising of minimum support price for the rabi crop that would be harvested in the winter. The MSP of wheat was raised by Rs 110 to Rs 1,735 a quintal and of pulses by Rs 200 a quintal to help boost the output of these crops and check prices.
Pattanayak emphasised the need to diversify not just in agriculture but also animal husbandry to supplement income. “Farmers have a choice to move from traditional crops to high value crops and animal husbandry.”
Interestingly, the agriculture secretary also pitched for animal protein to tackle the issue of malnutrition in India.
J S Sandhu, former DDG, Crop Science, said while there was little scope of area expansion, quality seeds can increase farmers’ income. He said traditional crops such as cereals, oilseeds and pulses were grown on 77 per cent land, but these contributed to 40 per cent of farmers’ income. However, high value crops were cultivated on 19 per cent land and they contributed as much as traditional ones. Sandhu said, “We have not exploited hybrid technology. There is a scope in exploiting it.”
R G Agarwal, chairman, Dhanuka Agritech, said farmers got less income but consumers had to pay higher prices due to the middlemen. He also ridiculed the farm policies whereby export of onions was banned when prices were increased.