The government is working on ways to enable farmers to sell at remunerative prices and go for less costlier agriculture.
At the Business Standard Agriculture Round Table here, P K Swain, joint secretary, marketing and agriculture market intelligence, agriculture ministry, said they had states to integrate the eNAM, the in-the-works online trading platform with rural 'haats' (traditional marketplaces).
However, quality is an issue, affecting the prices traders will pay. So, the Union government has asked states to set up laboratories for this. It was also, he said, working with states to develop rural markets. Provisions under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme could be used for this.
He noted the Centre's model law for contract farming and asking states to promote such agriculture.
Neeraja Adidam, joint secretary, integrated nutrient management (INM), agriculture ministry, noted the problem of high cost of cultivation. It was essential to combine cultivators into clusters or farmer producer organisations. Around 200,000 clusters had been set up so far, she said.
Many called for long-lasting measures. T Haque, former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said if the 'Rythu Bandhu' scheme of Telangana was expanded all-India, the annual cost to the exchequer would be Rs 2 trillion. Where was such money to come from? Also, such support schemes should not work as disincentive for farm work.
Rather, infrastructure in agriculture, including cold storages, should be improved. Also, crop insurance schemes were not being implemented well. Though there is a provision to fast-track payment after loss is identified, this is not done. He pointed to other issues in this regard.
Siraj Chaudhry, former chairman at Cargill India, said while Minimum Support Prices could provide short-term solutions, growers need to be integrated with markets for a long-term solution. How long, he asked, could the government store produce in godowns?
China had progressed in agriculture by using technology and creating a food processing industry. India need to do likewise. Also: "We need seed technology. Not much work has been done here. We require drought-resistant seeds."
Youth will have to be brought back to agriculture. In a transition to transformation through technology, short-term measures such as income support schemes would become essential, he said.