Indian Economy & Policy
| December 20
Emphasis on Post-Harvest in Government’s 7 point agenda for
Einstein once said insanity is doing the same thing over
and over again and expecting different results. The obvious corollary would be
to try something new to make a difference. And that’s exactly what the
government seems to be doing to achieve progress in the agriculture sector.
begin with, the very focus of the agriculture ministry has shifted from mere improvement
in agricultural output to improvement in farmer incomes too. The government now
aims to double farmer incomes by 2022, i.e. within five years from now, through
a seven point strategy. By simply redefining the goal, the government is, in fact,
targeting a much larger canvas of benefit. Enhancing incomes is more likely to
have a greater effect on overall demand-led growth in the economy than merely
augmenting supply, which at present faces several structural bottlenecks on its
journey from the farm to the plate.
another level, while sowing and harvesting issues, such asmore reliable irrigation,
lower input costs, better quality seeds, nutrients and soil, etc., cannot be
neglected, this time around, the government seems to be seeking solutions to a
more distressing issue – that of post-harvest losses.
envisages large investments, both public and private, in warehousing and integrated
cold chains in rural areas to prevent post-harvest crop losses. It is
encouraging farmers to use these warehouses and avail loans against negotiable
warehouse receipts, with interest subvention benefits. This
will also ensure that farm output translates into tangible returns, as opposed
to the current trend of distress sales.
mission for the government has been reforms in agriculture marketing towards ensuring
more transparent pricing. For a large part of the
profits to reach the farmers and to minimise the role of intermediaries, the
government has initiated an online agriculture marketing platform ‘e-NAM’. So
far, 455 mandis have been linked to this platform and while teething troubles
have yet to be sorted out, the government is forging ahead with its mission to
enhance real time inter-mandi connectivity.
At the same time, it is
making an effort to promote value addition through food processing. Towards
promoting the processing industry, the government plans to create and reinforce
forward and backward linkages of agro processing clusters, through its INR
6,000 crore SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of
Agro-processing Clusters). The target for this scheme is to not only benefit 20
lakh farmers but create employment opportunities for about 5.3 lakh additional
people as well by 2020.
Lastly, both the
government and the private sector have begun to emphasise the importance of crop
insurance to compensate for losses. With the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
(PMFBY) (which has been increased by 1.5 times from last year) and various
private sector insurance products, farmers who opt for insurance could at least
receive baseline support in bad times.
At the end of the day,
it has become abundantly clear that increasing agricultural productivity should
be a major goal in order to ensure self-sufficiency. However, there is a more
important realisation that at present, a large part of post-harvest agricultural
produce is lost due to lack of or poor storage and transportation facilities,
amongst other things. Tackling these issues will raise farmer income and benefit
the economy at large by both enhancing demand augmenting supply.