India. For a better harvest

25.07.2016

Is it possible for the farmer in India who on an average owns less than two acres, to compete with the Latin American farmer who owns more than 50 hectares of land and exports soyabean meal?

We may have to take some innovative measures, apart from several meaningful actions already initiated by the Government, to correct such imbalances.

Enhance value addition

With respect to rice, India may have to take steps to improve the earning capacity of the farmer. A capacity of as low as 500 kg of paddy/hour, can serve as a custom milling unit. There is a vast potential for installing mini rice mills in paddy growing areas, as a rural small scale activity. Farmers are required to be encouraged to be appointed as aggregators as well as for setting up of mini rice plants for better realisation.

They can be encouraged by providing subsidy/loan at concessional rate of interest for huller/ mini rice mills, where the investment requirement is ₹1-4 lakh excluding the cost of land. The pure bran can be supplied to the solvent extraction industry for production of edible rice bran oil. There are any number of opportunities for the use of rice bran oil, which includes an export market in the US.

Similarly, an effort should be made to add value at the village level near the farm gate for wheat, soyabean and other horticultural products. It is important that along with other stakeholders, the Government improve market infrastructure.

Turkey amended its inheritance laws in 2014 to prevent further fragmentation of agricultural land and established a minimum size requirement for agricultural produce. The Turkish government has so far been able to consolidate more than 3 million hectares ,as a result the average land holding of the farmer has gone above five hectares.

We need to move in this direction as consolidation of land is essential to improve the productivity of the farmers and compete in the international market. We need proper implementation of the model tenancy Act.

Irrigation and innovation

Huge investment particularly in minor irrigation plays a significant role in recharging of well, drought mitigation and flood control. Such investment has been relatively low compared to large scale irrigation where results have not been encouraging.

Sugarcane should not be allowed to be grown in drought affected areas of Maharashtra , as it requires 2,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of sugar, whereas barley requires only 11 litres of water. The climatic conditions in this country support stevia, a possible substitute for sugarcane, which is endowed with several medicinal properties and can be grown in many northern States.

One acre of stevia cultivation can produce sugar equivalent to 36 acres of sugarcane, requiring much less water and providing double the income compared to wheat and paddy.

We need accredited agencies for supplying planting materials of stevia in India.

While several corporates have implemented successfully enterprise risk management systems, we have so far not been able to provide holistic solutions to farmers to mitigate risk. We need proper execution of the same to mitigate the stress level of farmers.

 


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