A 1991 moment for agriculture

  • IASbaba
  • May 18, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in agriculture sector
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

A 1991 moment for agriculture

Context: In the wake of COVID-19 induced crisis, Union government announced set of reforms aimed at farm sector.

Did you know?

  • 45 per cent of India’s labour force (agricultural) generates only 14 per cent of GDP
  • India is the largest exporter of rice in the world and the second-largest producer of both wheat and rice, after China
  • The project to double farmers’ incomes by 2022 and the programme to complete 99 irrigation projects by 2019, have had a success rate of less than 50 per cent.

What were the major components of agricultural package announced?

1. Agri-Infrastructure: ₹1-lakh crore fund to finance agriculture infrastructure projects at the farm gate and produce aggregation points

  • It will ensure creation of adequate cold-storage facilities
  • This would prevent wastage of agri-produce, especially in perishables

2. Effective Fund delivery: These funds are channelled through agricultural cooperatives, farmer producer organisations, rural entrepreneurs and start-ups

  • This ensures that benefit & responsibility of fund utilization lies with principal beneficiaries (farmers)

3. Formalisation: A ₹10,000 crore scheme to promote the formalisation of micro food enterprises

  • It will assist unorganised enterprises in scaling up food safety standards to earn the products certification and build brand value

4.Amending the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) of 1955

  • The legislation helped government cracks down on hoarders and black-marketeers of such commodities (by putting stock limits) to ensure normal supply of goods.
  • It is a scarcity era legislation enacted when India was facing famines and droughts, however India is a surplus producer today.
  • This law has been abused multiple times which has stifled private investment in agriculture and stunted agri-exports
  • The amendments proposed allows for deregulating cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potato, encouraging greater participation by private players in the agricultural sector.

5. Agri-Market reforms: Bringing a Central legislation to allow farmers to sell their produce to anyone, outside the APMC mandi yard and having barrier-free inter-state trade.

  • It will bring greater competition amongst buyers, lower the mandi fee and commission fee, benefitting both farmers and consumers
  • This would provide enhanced marketing freedom for farmers and enable better price realisation.
  • Allowing for free inter-state trade could lead to better spatial integration of prices.
  • Finally, India will have one common market for agri-produce.

6.Creating a legal framework for contract farming

  • It will help farmers take cropping decisions based on forward prices
  • This will enable farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers thus reducing the dependency on APMC monopolies

Challenges ahead

  • The package may be more beneficial in the longer term than providing any immediate relief from the lockdown-caused distress in the rural areas.
  • Total deregulation for foodgrains has the risk of future inflationary food price spikes
  • Agri-market reforms means privileging market forces without necessarily safeguarding food security.
  • Building farmer producer organisations (FPOs), based on local commodity interests, is a necessity for empowerment of farmers

Connecting the dots:

  • Critically analyse the 1991 economic reforms
  • Second Green revolution

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