Does India’s Agriculture Policy need a Relook?
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
According to latest release by central statistics office, about 4,96,000 crore rupees worth of milk was produced by farmers in 2014-15. This is for the first time that the value of milk has exceeded the total value of food grains. The data was part of CSO’s gross value of output of agriculture and allied sectors for 2011-12 to 2014-15. The value of food grains which includes cereals and pulses produced stood at 4,87,000 crore rupees.
This is due to White Revolution’s contribution to farm incomes which surpasses Green Revolution, but every fifth rupee generated in the farm sector — which includes the total output value of crops livestock produce and fisheries — comes from milk.
Earlier, milk production was not even close to value of food grains and wheat production. In 1999-2000, the value of milk production, at Rs 88,000 crore, was not even two-thirds of cereals at Rs 1,34,000 crore.
Relooking the farm priorities
The government policy is still fixated in the 20th century with focus on cereals. Whereas, the agriculture is far more diversified than it was before. It is no longer just cereals.
People today don’t just want calories and carbs, but want more in diet. The government policy has been slow to respond to this. In union budget 2017-18, the total allocation for department for agriculture and cooperation is 41000 crore whereas for department of dairying and animal husbandry is 2000 crore. All over, in the state budgets, there is hardly 10% that could be for livestock what it is for agriculture.
In research priorities also, there is very little research going on fodder development. Only Tamil Nadu University is doing work in developing high protein fodder but hardly such effort is in rest of country is seen.
Milk is an integral part of society but still its rise is going unnoticed. Milk is not only thing in livestock sector. It includes meat, leather. It has to be an integrated thing. India is losing the opportunity to garner best from its huge livestock population of bovine, cattle, etc. With increasing population, the demand for milk is going to increase.
There are some commodities which need different kind of support. One of the factor for faster growth of dairy sector in India is that it is more liberalised than the kind of intervention is there in foodgrain and other categories. So sometimes instead of government support, such kind of report can give a fact check on growth of sectors. In milk sector, there is no restriction on marketing, FDI, entry of private sector etc. but in food grains there are APMC rules, MSP and many state specific rules. If the horticulture is also liberalised like the dairy sector, it can also bloom, the vegetables and fruits can be promoted in villages.
Need to give more importance to livestock
The contribution of dairy sector of 20% of agriculture is restricted to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar and UP. Traditional agriculture has longer gestation period when inputs are more and risk is also there. Hence the farmers turned to milk production. Government also supported it.
Here, the money circulation with the farmer is less and investment is also not huge. One of contributory factors to this growth has been cooperative sector. Livestock sector has got more favourable environment because in 2003 government decided to change rules for milk and milk product. Since then it has played a major role in reforming this sector. Institutions of cooperatives, role of AMUL, role of NDDB are public sector initiatives.
- However, infrastructure in livestock sector is poorer than crop sector in terms of extension, public support and institutional credit.
- Infrastructure of veterinary care is lacking in almost all states.
- Feed and fodder quality is poor
- In fruits and vegetables, only hilly and north eastern regions have done well in the sector.
Giving boost to dairy sector
The farmer responds to the market demand. The government policy should be to support him to respond to market. Farmers should go for commercial dairying. There can be 30 animals, fodder can be grown in 5 acres of land and sell milk round the year and have daily income unlike putting all money in cotton and groundnut and crop failure. Hence, the issue of farmer suicides can be curtailed because of agriculture diversification.
Growth of livestock has been higher than crop sector. Government has launched National Gokul Mission and New National Dairy Plan. India should acknowledge that one of the factor for high growth of milk is increase in livestock. In crop sector, there cannot be increase in area, rather it is shrinking. But, the livestock increasing is not a sustainable way of having increase in production because increase in livestock puts all kind of pressure on natural sources.
Direct agriculture and allied sector should be strengthened further. Many farmers are converting their cultivable land to fisheries. The policy should see what the specific need is and providing an environment of security to farmers that in case of failure, there is a backup plan too.
The dietary preferences are increasing. Globally, the per capita consumption tends to shift away from cereal and go to horticulture and livestock product with rise in per capita income. If farmers are producing more of milk, fruits and vegetables, egg, fish and meat, they are only responding to signals from consumers who are increasingly demanding food richer in proteins and nutrients.
For better accessibility, there should be roads from villages to urban connectivity, good transportation and good storage system. The price fluctuation in fruits and vegetables is so much in market that farmers find it risky to cope with it. Hence, the investment has to come in infrastructure too to ensure proper storage, accessibility and transportation of agricultural produce. Thus, there is a need for holistic approach in agriculture. The government policy has to now come out of 20th century, and progress beyond cereals and calories.
Connecting the dots:
- Time is ripe for agricultural diversification in Indian economy for a sustainable livelihood for population. Comment.