Understanding NITI Ayog’s vision of Doubling Farmer’s Income :
In conversation with Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Ayog
The ministries of agriculture and finance and the NITI Aayog has pitched in time and again emphasizing at doubling income of the sector which holds the majority of population of the nation : AGRICULTURE. The vision was dreamt in the elementary months of the year 2016. Now approaching the climax of another year i.e. 2018, Krishi Jagran is keen to understand the plans, developments and look at the progress and problems from the eyes of the government at the much talked about slogan of the NDA government “ DOUBLING FARMERS’ INCOME”. Prof Ramesh Chand, an eminent agri-economist is a member of NITI AYOG, who made himself available to get in conversation with Krishi Jagran on few subjects.
# How much of doubling farmers’ income is synonymous with doubling farm output?
@ Doubling farmers’ income and doubling farm output are two different things. Doubling farm output in the span of 6-7 year is an impossible task considering the vast size of our country. One third of increase in the income of farmers has to be brought by introducing improvements in the policies. Farmers should receive remunerative prices for their produce. An increase of 4-4.5 % growth in the productivity would be considered victorious and the target of doubling farmers income would be achievable for that matter. India produces crops on less than 45% of its land area and 60% of the land is left idle for the 7-8 months due to no crop coverage. The overall crop density falls short which has to be increased. The demand pattern of the population is also varying. The population growth is less than 1.5 %. The intake of cereals per person has stood at the constant level, thereby increasing the demand of fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk etc.
# We often talk of increasing farmers income by increasing their remunerative prices. Would it have any reflection on the overall food inflation?
@ By increasing the remunerative prices of the income, the govt. is focusing majorly on increasing the farmers’ access to market. At present there are some 6-7 intermediaries which control the price factor. Once the number of intermediaries will be reduced, farmers will get fair prices and thereby the scope of better income will be enhanced. The price spread has to be downsized for an effective conclusion. This will not only help the farmers but also the consumers. Since the profit margins of chain of intermediary will be brought down and farmers and consumers both will enjoy better prices.
Across the chain if price jacks up, and unnecessary intermediaries are removed there shall be no hike in inflation.
# What is the Government’s current Action plan on Doubling farmer’s income ?
@ The government looks towards increasing the productivity which can be achieved by efficient use of agri-inputs. Diversification on the field with horticultural and high valued crops would fetch better incomes for the farmers. Efficient use of natural resources like land and water and shift to non-farm activities will build up high potential towards achieving the goal.
The central government has come up with a comprehensive agenda where central govt. has its policies to run, but the states have to have implement them in an efficient manner, Otherwise the whole purpose of the plan will be defeated.
The demand pattern of the population is also varying. The population growth is less than 1.5 %. The cereal intake per person has stood at the constant level, thereby increasing the demand of fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk etc. Diversity in the food production increases the remuneration up to 4 times. High valued crops have to be focused to earn better prices of the produce. Otherwise, increased production would also lead to price depression.
In the current scenario, it has been evaluated that the people involved with agriculture are moving away from the agriculture sector and taking up new jobs and looking forward to other sectors. This trend of deviation is supposed to attract better prices for the few involved in this sector.
Post harvest value addition is another important sector which is to be focused by the farmers. Farmers avoid proper grading of the produce which according to them saves labor but it instead decreases the price and value of the commodity since sellers has a tendency to be biased towards the inferior quality goods. Emphasis should be on better processing. Markets has to be properly developed and its linkage with the farmers has to be strengthened.
4 major initiative namely Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana(PMFBY) , Electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) and Soil Health Card has been doing good to serve the purpose.
# Agriculture being a state subject, how much consensus among the states and center on this subject are there ?
@ It was long before, that states used to produce and sell most of its produce in its vicinity. Most of the states are selling their produce to the other states now. Flexible state laws and trade policies should be focused the most. All the states and center have to have work together progressively for that. Niti Ayog has asked for some secondary guidelines from the states so that the center and the state can be brought at consensus to work parallelly.
Whenever bumper production is announced, states well in time ask the NAFED and FCI to procure the produce from the farmers. There are various targets set for the state in terms of irrigation, seed accessibility, fertilizer consumption, soil health cards etc. which are met by the state government.
The scheme like Pradham Mantri Krishi Sichayi Yojana, PMKSY shares a 60-40 ratio from centre and state respectively. Center can only provide model and finance to the states, Implementation has to be firm by the states.
ICAR - DAC has taken a lead to form state coordination committee for every state, which have their own action plans and models.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is an example of state –center coordination, where 2000 cr. premium was submitted by the farmers and 10,000 cr. of claims has been disbursed to the farmers. We have to create environment wherein farmer can attain their goals and they could dream big for themselves.
# Is there any roadmap for perishable goods?
@ There are multiple strategies / approaches in this direction, one of which is Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana by Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI). Amendments are done in the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority Act, WDRA, so that farmers can keep their produce in WDRA affiliated godowns. The WDRA warehouse receipt is negotiable, and farmers can avail themselves of loan reproducing the receipt to the banks. Processing capacity has to be increased and integration of one state with another for marketing has to take flight. Good storage facility and infrastructure can bring a boon in perishable goods prices. Farmers should store their produce in the warehouses to make an exponential growth in their incomes.
# Govt. has keen interest on encouraging private sector participation in seed production and distribution. How to keep check on seed quality and prices?
@ Competition assures quality and prices equally. If sufficient number of players will be involved in the business, there will be no need to keep a check on it. WE have examples of Cotton and Maize which are private sector initiatives. North Bihar where corn is being produced abundantly is exporting the surplus to South –Eastern countries. If the Private and Public sector would go hand in hand , a lot and better can be achieved.
# NITI Ayog presented India’s VNR ( Voluntary National Review) on implementation of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda. What are the aims and framework of the same considering our poor performance of Rank 100 in the Hunger Index?
@ Good Health and Zero hunger are the two stressed points of SDGs. Though India is a net exporter in agricultural produce, who exports double than that of what she imports and is the leader in rice export, faces extreme hunger. The purchasing power capacity of the population is low. Also there is no awareness of nutrition amongst the people, there should be diversity in diet/ food intake. NITI AYOG has a new member Dr. Paul who is an eminent neonatologist, would focus on the health and nutritional sector.
Adequate nutritious food along with cleanliness is the integrated approach, to fight this problem. Many approaches like increasing crops’ nutrition density in wheat by introducing high zinc content has been brought to fields. It has been planned to introduce millets in the PDS system, which has better nutritional quality. Bajra, Ragi, Sorghum etc should be included in the diet for diversified diet. Nutrition is a complex issue. Rate of improvement in nutrition is worse than the rate of improvement in poverty.