Government should initiate steps to make Agriculture remunerative

Synopsis: Government should avoid handing over India’s agriculture to agribusiness companies. Instead, it should take steps to make agriculture remunerative.

Development of Agriculture during the green revolution period
  • During the mid-1960s, the green revolution resulted in increased productivity in India and, especially, Punjab.
  • Further, the growth in agriculture was aided by public investment in irrigation and market infrastructure. Also, the guaranteed minimum support price incentivized the cultivation of wheat and rice.
  • Consequently, the area under paddy cultivation in Punjab jumped from 4.8 percent of the total cropped area in 1960-61 to 39.19 percent in 2018-19. Similarly, the wheat area shares too increased from 27 percent to 45 percent.
What are the reasons for India’s deep agrarian crisis?
  1. First, the adverse consequence of the Green revolution.
      • Monocropping: Though the production of wheat and rice increased, the cultivation of other crops started to decline. For example, Punjab had a total of 21 crops in 1960-61, which fell to nine in 1991.
      • Long-term economic and ecological effects: Wheat-rice cropping monoculture led to the depletion of groundwater levels. Excessive use of chemical pesticides reduced land productivity. For example, currently, the growth rate of yield has reduced to 2 percent per year due to water scarcity.
  2. Second, the absence of land reforms has increased inequalities among farmer communities. For example, According to the 10th agriculture census of 2015-16,
      • Small and marginal farmers (< 2 hectares of land): account for 86.2 percent of all farmers in India. But own just 47.3 percent of the crop area.
      • Whereas, semi-medium and medium land holding farmers (2-10 hectares of land) : account for 13.2 percent of all farmers, but own 43.6 percent of the crop area.
  3. Third, the widening rural-urban divide also contributed to the rural distress.
    • For example, according to the NSO household consumer expenditure survey for 2017-2018, Consumer expenditure by rural residents in 2017-18 decreased by 8.8 percent compared to 2012 statistics. Whereas, urban consumer expenditure for the same period increased by 2 percent.
Will the new farm laws address these problems?

The three contentious farm bills seek to deregulate and dismantle the APMC network. However, dismantling APMCs will not address the above-said issues. The Bihar experiment of scrapping APMC markets in 2006 can illustrate it better,

  • The scrapping of APMC markets in Bihar (2006) did not improve its agricultural performance. According to the study by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER),
  • Even after the scrapping of APMC markets, farm growth in the state averaged 2.04 percent, lower than the all-India average of 3.12 percent.
  • Also, the scrapping of APMC markets has not led to any private investment in new marketplaces according to the study by the National Institute of Agriculture Marketing (CCSNIAM).
What needs to be done?
  1. First, since market accessibility is a major issue, the state should help smallholder farmers to have access to the market.
      • The role of the private sector will be limited as evident from the Bihar example. Hence, Public investment in infrastructure and MSPs needs to increase.
      • Worryingly, the Public sector investment in agriculture is inadequate. As per the RBI, India has spent only 0.4 percent of the GDP between 2011-12 and 2017-18.
  2. Second, shifting towards agroecological farming that includes crop diversification, will ensure sustainability for Indian agriculture.
      • Agroecology emphasizes using locally available resources thereby minimizing external and artificial inputs.
      • Recently, in 2018, the Andhra Pradesh government announced to bring all 80 lakh hectares of its cultivable land under agroecological farming by 2024.
      • A study by Azim Premji University has shown that following sustainable agroecological principles has resulted in increased yields. For example, 79 percent increase in brinjal.

Source: Indian Express

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