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Precision Farming using Innovation and Technologies for Doubling Agri Income

The Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, former Director of Entrepreneurship Shri Sethumadhavan, is of the opinion that precision farming uses sensors, satellite images, drones, internet of things for soil analysis, monitoring, irrigation, etc with innovative farm management and appropriate extension network

Chander Mohan
Shri Sethumadhavan

The Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, former Director of Entrepreneurship Shri Sethumadhavan, is of the opinion that precision farming uses sensors, satellite images, drones, internet of things for soil analysis, monitoring, irrigation, etc with innovative farm management and appropriate extension network.

Doubling farmers income is today’s catch word even though there are constraints to achieve the goal. TP Sethumadhavan, a visiting research fellow of University of Reading, UK, said that the emergence of agriculture start-ups, promotion of agri entrepreneurship model, etc would definitely enhance production. The access to credit, water and market would also propel production growth. But it requires better storage and post-harvest technologies.

Farmers can come out of the vicious cycle of high costs and low income if they adopt market-led value-addition programmes and use appropriate technologies to cut costs and enhance production, said an agri expert.

However, he emphasised the need to make substantial changes in the farming practices by adopting precision farming using innovation and technologies.

The goal set to double farmers' income by 2022-23 is central to promote farmers welfare, reduce agrarian distress and bring parity between income of farmers and those working in non-agricultural professions.

Clarity on the following points is important to assess the possibility of doubling the income of the farmers. The substantive points are:

1. What is the period and targeted year for doubling the farm income;

2. What is to be doubled, is it output, value added or income earned by farmers from agricultural activities;

3. Whether nominal income is to be doubled or real income is to be doubled; and

4. Whether the targeted income includes only income derived from agricultural activities or would it also include income of farmers from other sources.

It is obvious that the targeted year to double the current income of the farmers or income for the agricultural year 2015-16 is by agricultural year 2022-23, which is seven years away from the base year 2015-16. And, if anything is to be doubled by the year 2022-23, it will require an annual growth rate of 10.4 percent.

Again, it is important to clarify what is sought to be doubled. Is it the income of farmers, or the output or the income of the sector or the value added or GDP of agriculture sector? If technology, input prices, wages and labour use could result in per unit cost savings then famers' income would rise at a much higher rate than the output. In nominal terms, the output became 2.65 times while farmers' income tripled in the seven years period. Therefore, doubling of farmers' income should not be viewed as same as doubling of farm output.

It is obvious that if inflation in agricultural prices is high, farmers income in nominal terms will double in a much shorter period. In a situation where non-agricultural prices do not rise, or, rise at a very small rate, the growth in farmers' income at real prices tends to be almost the same as in nominal prices. The government's intention seems to be to double the income of farmers from farming in real terms.

It is pertinent to mention that the latest data on number of cultivators is available only up to the year 2011-12. Therefore, while calculating per cultivator income, it is assumed that farm workers would continue their withdrawal from agriculture at the rate observed during 2004-05 to 2011-12. Presently, per cultivator income has been estimated as Rs 1,20,193 at current market prices.

Doubling real income of farmers till 2022-23 over the base year of 2015-16, requires annual growth of 10.41 per cent in farmers income. This implies that the on-going and previously achieved rate of growth in farm income has to be sharply accelerated. Therefore, strong measures will be needed to harness all possible sources of growth in farmers' income within as well as outside agriculture sector.

The major sources of growth operating within agriculture sector are:

1. Improvement in productivity

2. Resource use efficiency or saving in cost of production

3. Increase in cropping intensity

4. Diversification towards high value crops

The sources outside agriculture include:

1. shifting cultivators from farm to non-farm occupations, and

2. improvement in terms of trade for farmers or real prices received by farmers.

The sources of growth in output and income can be put in four categories.

1. Development initiatives including infrastructure

2. Technology

3. Policies and

4. Institutional mechanisms

The quantitative framework for doubling farmers income has identified seven sources of growth. These are:

1. Increase in productivity of crops

2. Increase in production of livestock

3. Improvement in efficiency of input use (cost saving)

4. Increase in crop intensity

5. Diversification towards high value crops

6. Improved price realization by farmers

7. Shift of cultivators to non-farm jobs

The low level of farmers income and year to year fluctuations in it are a major source of agrarian distress. This distress is spreading and getting severe over time impacting almost half of the population of the country that is dependent on farming for livelihood. Persistent low level of farmers income can also cause serious adverse effect on the future of agriculture in the country. To secure future of agriculture and to improve livelihood of half of India's population, adequate attention needs to be given to improve the welfare of farmers and raise agricultural income. Achieving this goal will reduce persistent disparity between farm and non-farm income, alleviate agrarian distress, promote inclusive growth and infuse dynamism in the agriculture sector. Respectable income in farm sector will also attract youth towards farming profession and ease the pressure on non-farm jobs, Which are not growing as per the expectations.

Doubling farmers income by 2022 is quite challenging but it is needed and is attainable. Three pronged strategy focused on (i) development initiatives, (ii) technology and (iii) policy reforms in agriculture is needed to double farmers income.

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