Indian agriculture needs serious attention as majority of population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, says Dr Pramod Joshi, Director-South Asia at International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the interim Budget on 1 February.
This will be the Narendra Modi government’s final budget, ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A majority of farmers, Joshi points out, have tiny and fragmented land holdings and that their size is declining over the years.
“Growing aspirations and widening inequalities are leading agrarian distress. Agriculture is facing three broad challenges: high price volatility, climate risk, and indebtedness. These require remunerative markets, risk mitigating strategies and off-farm employment opportunities.”Dr Pramod Joshi, Director-South Asia, IFPRI
Focus on Need-Based Institutional Reforms
India has now achieved food self-sufficiency, therefore, it needs a different strategy to manage the surplus and stabilise food prices at farm as well as retail level. This can be done through promoting warehouse receipts, agro-processing and export, he reasons.
“It will require need-based institutional reforms, infrastructure development and policy support. Warehouse receipt will help farmers defer their sale immediately after harvest, when prices are at lowest level. This will require consolidation of farm produce, which can be successfully done through farmer producer organisations. Agro-processing and trade will require investment in developing infrastructure. Existing agri-export zones need to be revisited and strengthened in a changing scenario.”
In the upcoming Budget, Joshi underlines that agriculture sector needs massive investment, especially in developing agri-infrastructure. It can be started by developing agricultural markets, and warehouses and cold storages for non-perishable and perishable commodities.
“At the back end, agricultural research and technology delivery also need higher resource allocation if Indian agriculture is to be more competitive, resilient and sustainable. New challenges and advances in research are emerging at global and regional level. These are more capital-intensive to develop capital-saving technologies. Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) are emerging important channel for technology delivery. These need to be strengthened through more financial allocation and human resource.”Dr Pramod Joshi, Director-South Asia, IFPRI
Maximise Public-Private Partnership
There is a need to engage private sector in developing infrastructure in agri-business. Due to low commercial viability, private sector is not investing in agriculture. Therefore, public-private partnership may be developed to bridge the viability gap in developing agri-markets, warehouses, and cold storages. Models of public-private partnership can also be developed in irrigation sector as well as technology transfer.
“A comprehensive agricultural scheme needs to be developed for lagging states, on the similar pattern of promoting aspirational districts. It can be done by amalgamating numerous schemes as one package for agriculture sector,” he adds.