India can learn agri-policy lessons from China Editorial 25th Oct’19 FinancialExpress

Headline : India can learn agri-policy lessons from China Editorial 25th Oct’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

India and China have similar challenges in agriculture:
  • India and China are the most populous countries in the world, having a population size of 1.35 billion and 1.39 billion, respectively, in 2018.
  • With limited arable land [about 120 million hectare (m ha) in China, and 156 m ha in India], both face the challenge of producing enough food, fodder, and fibre for their population.
Followed many similar methods to increase output:
  • Both have adopted similiar methods to get more food from limited land, including:
    • Modern technologies in agriculture, starting with High Yielding Variety (HYV) seeds in the mid-1960s
    • Use of more chemical fertilisers
    • Increased irrigation cover
      • China’s irrigation cover is 41% of cultivated area, and India’s is 48%.
      • As a result of this irrigation, China’s total sown area is 166 m ha compared to India’s gross cropped area of 198 m ha.
But China produces more output than India:
  • Even with much lesser land under cultivation, China produces agricultural output valued at $1,367 billion—more than three times that of India’s $407 billion.
Lessons for India from China in agriculture:
  • There are three important lessons for India, if it is to catch up to the levels achieved in China.
 
I) Increased spending on Agriculture Knowledge and Innovation Systems
  • Agriculture studies have revealed that the highest impact is from investments in agriculture Research and Education (R&E).
  • China spends more:
    • China spends a lot more on agriculture knowledge and innovation system (AKIS), which includes agri R&D, and extension.
    • China invested $7.8 billion on AKIS in 2018-19, amounting to 5.6 times the amount spent by India ($1.4 billion).
    • Presently, India invests just about 0.35% of its agri-Gross Value Added (GVA) whereas China spends 0.8%.
  • India needs to spend more:
    • For increasing total factor productivity, India needs to increase expenditure on agri-R&Dwhile making the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) accountable for targeted deliveries.
  • Note: Better seeds that result from higher R&D expenditures generally demand more fertiliser. China’s fertiliser consumption in 2016 was 503 kg/ha of arable area compared to just 166 kg/ha for India, as per World Bank estimates. Consequently, China’s productivity in most crops is 50 to 100% higher than India’s.
II) Better incentive structure to farmers through agri-marketing reforms
  • The incentive structure, as measured by Producer Support Estimates (PSEs), is much better for Chinese farmers than Indian ones.
  • The PSE concept measures the output prices that farmers get in relation to free trade scenario, as well as input subsidies received by them.
    • The PSE concept is adopted by 52 countries that produce more than three-fourths of global agri-output.
  • China’s PSE much higher to India:
    • For Chinese farmers, PSE was 15.3% of gross farm receipts during the triennium average ending (TE) 2018-19.
    • For the same period, Indian farmers had a PSE of -5.7%.
    • In a way, this reflects that Indian farmers had been net taxed, not subsidised, despite high amounts of input subsidies.
  • Due to restrictive trade and marketing practices in India:
    • This negative PSE (support) comes due to restrictive marketing, and trade policies that do not allow Indian farmers to get free trade prices for their outputs.
    • This negative market price support is so strong that it exceeds even the positive input subsidy support the government gives to farmers through low prices of fertilisers, power, irrigation, agri-credit, crop insurance, etc.
  • China’s experience that high MSPs do not work:
    • India can take a leaf out of Chinese bad experience from high MSPs.
    • China, in fact, used to give procurement prices to farmers that were much higher than even international prices.
    • The result was massive accumulation of stocks of wheat, rice, and corn that touched almost 300 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2016-17 (see graphic).
    • As a result, they had to incur large expenditure for withholding these stocks without much purpose.
    • Having learnt lesson, China dropped the price support scheme for corn, and in fact, have been gradually reducing support prices of wheat, and rice.
  • India should learn from China and move away from high MSPs:
    • Indian government has been trying to jack up minimum support prices (MSPs) for 23 crops.
    • As a result, India’s stock situation in July 2019 was 81 MMT as against a buffer stock norm of 41 MMT.
    • India needs to reduce the gamut of commodities under the MSP system, and keep MSPs below international prices.
    • Else, India will also suffer from the same problems of overflowing granaries as China did.
  • Marketing reforms are necessary in India:
    • To improve this situation, large-scale agri-marketing reforms (APMC and Essential Commodities Act) need to be carried out.
III) Implementation of single direct income support scheme:
Single input subsidy scheme in China:
  • China has combined its major input subsidies in a single scheme that allows direct payment to farmers on a per hectare basis, and has spent $20.7 billion in 2018-19.
  • This gives farmers freedom to produce anything, rather than incentivising them to produce specific crops.
  • Inputs are priced at market prices, encouraging farmers to use resources optimally.
India offers heavy input subsidies apart from direct benefits:
  • India spent only $3 billion under its direct income scheme, PM-KISAN, in 2018-19.
  • On the other hand, it spent $27 billion on heavily subsidising fertilisers, power, irrigation, insurance, and credit.
  • This leads to large inefficiencies in their use, and has also created environmental problems.
India needs to consolidate subsidies into a single scheme:
  • It may be better for India to also consolidate all its input subsidies and give them directly to farmers on a per hectare basis, and free up their prices from all controls.
  • This would go a long way to spur efficiency, and productivity in Indian agriculture.
Conclusion:
  • If India needs to learn these three lessons from China, i.e., to invest more in agri-R&D and innovations, improve incentives for farmers by carrying out agri-marketing reforms, and collapse input subsidies into direct income support on a per hectare basis.
  • Through this, India can benefit its farmers and put agriculture on a high growth trajectory.
Importance:
GS Paper III: Indian Economy
Section : Editorial Analysis

Smart farming: Agriculture data can reap a bumper harvest Editorial 25th Apr’19 FinancialExpress

Headline : Smart farming: Agriculture data can reap a bumper harvest Editorial 25th Apr’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

Dependence on government for agriculture data:

  • Agricultural statistics is not easy to collect and compile, hence the dependence on the government.
  • But this data suffers from the issues of timeliness, reliability and integrity.
  • Yet, since it is only source, there is no option but to use government data.

Huge data in various silos:

  • Data available with the government in various silos, not correlated, and often not inter-operable. .
  • This includes data on land, ownership of lands, weather and rainfall, irrigation, electrification, crop-wise sowing, production and yield, fertiliser consumption, market arrivals and prices from APMCs,wholesale and consumer prices, procurement, etc.
  • Then there are the new ‘data-driven’ schemes like soil health, PM crop insurance, PM KISAN etc, which have important data.

Issues with data:

  • Data collection:
    • The elaborate exercise of collection of primary data (collected by a researcher from first-hand sources) on even those crops (rice, wheat, etc) that have established systems still has design errors and implementation gaps.
    • Crops like sugarcane and cotton are more difficult.
  • Compilation:
    • Even the compilation and publishing of data needs to be improved.
  • Delays:
    • For example, it is is well known that data related to sowing or crop-cutting always comes late.

 

Agriculture data has been used by policymakers:

  • A large volume of data related to agriculture exists, but in a number of segregated silos. They are collected at different intervals of time for different purposes. This data is collated, summarised and published by various government agencies.
  • Historical data sets have been used extensively for analysis, understanding trends, estimating impacts of weather and policy on crops and prices, etc.
  • These have helped policymakers and researchers to suggest changes in policy prescriptions, and design, implement and monitor schemes.

But has not helped the farmers much:

  • But the policy prescriptions and scheme have not helped farmers take timely decisions to increase their income or even reduce losses in the event of a change in the situation.

Due to focus on macro indicators:

  • Rather than providing micro level data to help the farmers, what is happening currently is that modern technology is being used to give ‘unsolicited’, often irrelevant, advice based on macro indicators.
  • Most advice, though scientifically correct, is not farmer-specific, and is of limited use.

 

Need micro-level data for farmers to benefit:

  • The farmer will be better off if provided with specific crop, soil ,weather and market information advisories.
  • This requires micro-climate details like rainfall, moisture levels, soil fertility, etc, are mapped along with his crops as also advisories on fertilisation and irrigation schedules, pest control measures and market trends are given on time.
  • Today’s technology is capable of doing this in real time.

This information can be provided by tech entrepreneurs:

  • Modern technology enables using of data in the agriculture sector to help farmers take more informed decisions and further the prosperity and income of farmers.
  • Young technology entrepreneurs today can offer farmers specific solutions using data from the sky, the soil and the market.

But they need help:

  • These new start-ups can help the farmers if two core issues are addressed:
    1. Access to existing data
    2. The revenue model

 

Way forward:

  • Give open, but ‘limited’ (limited on account of privacy and national security issues) access to primary data in the government.
  • Provide technical backing to agri start-ups and enable a revenue model to enable them to participate in the extension space.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

 

Section : Editorial Analysis

Editorial : Agriculture sector

Headline : Time for India to relook the agricultural sector Editorial 30th Mar’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

India’s progress in agriculture:

  • India has made significant strides in agriculture and food security since independence.
  • It has transformed from a food deficit nation to ensuring its food security despite an almost four-fold increase in population.

But time has come to relook at agriculture in India:

  • India needs to shift from subsistence agriculture to robust agricultural systems that do all of the following:
    • Provide food security for all its citizens
    • Ensure income security for its farmers
    • More diversified and better nutrition for its citizens
    • Globally competitive farm productivity levels

 

Measuring productivity:

Productivity in agriculture can be looked at in two ways:

  1. On a per hectare basis – India lags but is doing ok
  • Over the past few decades, India has increased its productivity on a per hectare basis.
  • However, India still lags behind many emerging market peers and most developed nations on this metric.
  1. On a per farm worker basis – India is doing very poorly
  • India is one of the least productive in agriculture on a per farm worker basis amongst major economies.
  • Due to small size of farm holdings:
    • About 45% of India’s workforce is involved in agriculture compared to national best practices of less than 1%.
    • The disproportionately large labour force in agriculture is related to the size of India’s landholdings.
    • From an average of 2.7 hectares in 1970, India’s farms have become progressively more fragmented, with the latest Agriculture Census 2015-16 showing that India’s average farm size is now 1 hectare.
      • Compare this to say, Canada (~300 hectares), Argentina (~500 hectares) and Ukraine (~1,000 hectares).
    • Small landholdings have constrained mechanisation, technology adoption, and economies of scale do not accrue at such levels of landholding.

 

Ways to improve per-farm productivity

  1. Farms need to get bigger:
  • Land is a state subject, and so states must take the lead in reforms in this regard to allow farm sizes to grow.
  • Land Leasing:
    • One way to achieve bigger land sizes is land leasing.
    • States can come up with their own laws with suitable modifications to NITI Aayog’s Model Land Leasing Act, 2016, as per their needs.
    • Digitisation of land records critical for this:
      • Accelerating the digitisation of land records is critical for smooth implementation of this game-changing reform.
      • Telangana has made significant progress in this regard and other states must follow their example.
  • Farmers’ collectives:
    • A stronger push is needed to collectivise farmers through various farmer producer companies (FPCs), farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and cooperatives, for bringing collective benefits from scale.
  1. Reducing wastage by strengthening supply chains:
  • The benefits of rising productivity will not accrue to farmers unless the supply and value chain is strengthened, especially in the case of horticulture products.
  • NITI Aayog’s Strategy Document points out that the annual cost of post-harvest losses can be nearly Rs. 1 lakh crore.
  • The study by the Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET) indicated that the largest amount of losses accrue at the harvesting stage, then at the sorting/grading stage, followed by the transport one.
  • Markets and packaging closer to farms:
    • We need to target the creation of packhouses much closer to the farm gate.
    • Gramin Rural Agricultural Markets (GrAMs):
      • The GrAMs scheme is targeting the transformation of 22,000 rural periodic markets close to the farm gate.
      • An important component of this scheme is that these GrAMs be kept out of the purview of the State APMC Acts.
      • Promoting FPC and FPO ownership of these GrAMs should be considered.
      • Similarly, private sector enterprises willing to establish backward linkages should partner with state governments in organising their sourcing through GrAMs.
  1. Taking farmers out of farming:
  • Larger farms with a strengthened supply chains, marketing reforms etc. are incremental solutions to agrarian distress which could collectively serve to double the final output of the overall food supply chain in the country.
  • However, even with these reforms, the problem of dismally low productivity per farm worker is not yet suitably addressed.
  • Pulling cultivators into non-farm or off-farm activities is also required.
  • Remunerative jobs outside agriculture:
    • This requires more remunerative jobs being created outside agriculture.
    • Creating blue collar jobs in and around agriculture is an attractive option.
    • The food processing industry has the potential to generate substantial employment.
    • The ‘Make in India’ initiative could be a driver of absorbing some of the labour from rising farm productivity. For speedier progress, labour intensive sectors like the construction sector can absorb labour rapidly.
  • Farming as a Service (FaaS):
    • FaaS – delivering farm mechanisation solutions, transport solutions or extension services etc. – offers employment generation capacity as well.
    • It has the potential to reduce costs for farmers besides generating rural employment.
    • For example, Madhya Pradesh has had success in promoting the custom hiring centre (CHC) model.
  • PPPs in extension services:
    • Partnering with the private sector in delivering extension services is another avenue towards generating rural employment.
    • NITI’s Strategy for New India @ 75 pitches for public-private partnership in extension delivery through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK).

 

Conclusion:

  • As productivity increases, systems need to be in place for farmers to benefit from the produce, and avoid distressed sales and depressed prices (especially in the case of horticulture products).
  • We have to focus more on efficient evacuation with marketing facilities and processing facilities closer to the farm gate.
  • Improving productivity should be accompanied by developing an efficient value chain, with adequate grading/sorting and assaying facilities, marketing reforms, encouraging contract farming, and boosting investment in the food processing industry.
  • It should also be accompanied by boosting construction and manufacturing in rural areas to absorb the labour generated by higher farm productivity.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

 

Section : Editorial Analysis

Do forest surveys separately

Headline : Do forest surveys separately

Details :

The news

• highpower committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recommended the government to separate the forest surveys for estimating trees grown in forest and outside  forest.

About India State of Forest Report

• Forest Survey of India (FSI) an organization under the Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change Government of India has been assessing the forest and tree resources of our country on a biennial basis since 1987.
• The results of the assessment are published in its biennial report titled “India State of Forest Report (ISFR)”.
• The report contains information on forest cover, tree cover, mangrove cover, growing stock inside and outside the forest areas, carbon stock in India’s forests and forest cover in different patch size classes.
• Special thematic information on forest cover such as hill, tribal districts, and north eastern region are also includedseparately in the report.
• Currently in the ISFR, the government includes both trees grown in forest and outside forest towards estimating the portion of India’s geographical area covered by forest.

Highlights of the Indian state of Forest reports

• India has targeted since 1988 to have at least 33% of its area under forest cover but it is not able to achieve this goal.
• According to the recent India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017India has about 7,08,273 sq.kmof forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32,87,569 sq. km.).
• India achieved a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest from 7,01,673 Sq. km. to 7,08,273 sq.km between 2015 and 2017.
• The total tree cover, according to this assessment, was 93,815 sq. km. or a 2% rise from the approximately 92,500 sq. km. in 2015.

Background

• The information given in the report serves as an important tool to monitor the country’s forest resources and plan suitable scientific and policy interventions for its management.
• It also serves as a useful source of information for the policy makers and others interested in natural resource conservation and management.
• Various editions of the ISFR over the years highlights that the reported the area under forests has remained around 21% only.
• So the government started including substantial patches of trees such as plantations or greenlands outside areas designated as forests, in its estimation of total forest cover.
• Critics considered this move of including both inestimating the India’s geographical forest cover area an ecologically unsound principle.
• They have for long recommended to separate estimate tree cover inside the forest and outside it for reflecting a true picture of forest cover of the country.
• Now, this is the first time that a government constituted committee has recommended for a separate survey of designated forest area.

Highlights of the news

• highpower committee was constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
• The committee has recommended that forest surveys to estimate forest cover should separately estimate trees grown in forests from those grown outside, that is, in plantations and private lands.
• Significance
This will give a true picture of geographical area covered under forest in our country.
Efforts made to achieve the 33% forest cover target can be monitored and evaluated.
Effective planning can be done in order to achieve the 33% forest cover target.
It will also serve as a useful source of information for all those involved in natural resource conservation and management.

Section : Environment & Ecology

What  do you understand by the term ‘sustainable agriculture’? Suggest strategies to make agriculture in India sustainable. (10 marks)

What  do you understand by the term ‘sustainable agriculture’? Suggest strategies to make agriculture in India sustainable. (10 marks)

Approach:

  • Introduce explaining about sustainable agriculture
  • Suggest various strategies like appropriate production systems, ZBNF etc.
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

Sustainable agriculture is that form of agriculture which attempts to produce sufficient food to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, say by exhausting soil fertility or irreversibly damaging the environment. It integrates three main goals – environmental health, economic profitability, and social equity.

Strategies that can be used to make agriculture sustainable:

  • Appropriate production systems: A shift in policy for agricultural production system to match the agro-ecological resources is critical for sustainability. For example, promotion of dry land agriculture rather than input-intensive farming in arid and semi-arid areas and promoting less water-intensive crops like pulses and millets. Similarly, crops like rice needing large amount of water can be shifted to other regions that are relatively more endowed with water.
  • Poly-cultures and Crop Rotation:  Moving farmers from mono-cultures to poly-cropping and the rotation of crops can lead to reductions in the need to apply fertilizers and pesticides. Such diverse systems are likely to be more productive, labour intensive and provide enhanced ecosystem services and, therefore, much more sustainable.
  • Emphasis on nurturing the soil: Greater emphasis on nurturing the soils rather than plants will provide higher benefits on sustaining yields, improving ecosystem health and sequestering carbon.
  • Promotion of Zero Budget Natural Farming: Initiatives such as Zero Budget Natural Farming, with low external input and production costs, could help restore ecosystem health and diversified livelihoods of smallholder farmers.
  • Reducing Food waste and promoting sustainable consumption patterns: To reduce food wastage, greater investments are needed in improving post-production infrastructure, including storage space in rural areas, and improved harvesting techniques and transportation.

With growing population, depleting resources and the increasing threat of climate change, it will be impossible to fulfill the needs of the future unless we transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems that would ensure world food security, provide economic and social opportunities, and protect the ecosystem services on which our future depends.

Subjects : Ecology and Environment

Why are farmers all over India on the streets?

Headline : Why are farmers all over India on the streets?

Details :

Why in news?

  • Mass farmer protests have erupted across the country over the past few months from Maharashtra to Bengal, with the October march in Delhi leading to violent clashes with the police.
  • Farm distress has been on top of the agenda for political parties in the Assembly elections.

 

Distressed farmers

  • National Crime Records Bureau statistics show more than 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in the last two decades.
  • Indebtedness was cited as the reason for more than 55% of farmers’ suicides in 2015.
  • Maharashtra, which saw the highest number of farmers’ suicides, has 57% of its farm families in debt.
  • NSSO data show more than half of all farmers are in debt, with each household owing an average of ₹47,000.
  • In States like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where levels of indebtedness are around 90%, the average debt of a household hovers around ₹1 lakh.
  • Almost 70% of agricultural households spend more than they earn and almost a quarter of all farmers live below the poverty line.
  • Census data for 2011 show the number of cultivators who own land have been overtaken by landless agricultural workers for the first time.
  • Many of these 144 million workers earn less than ₹150 a day working in the fields, and the failure to generate jobs in other parts of the economy gives them few options.

 

What are the reasons for this?

  • Long-term issues include the increasing fragmentation of land leading to average plot sizes are barely more than one hectare, a lack of post-production infrastructure, marketing mechanisms and supply chains.
  • The last two years have actually seen record farm output in most major crops, but the resultant glut has led to crashing prices.
  • At the same time, input costs have spiked, with diesel prices surging 26% this year and fertilizer costs shooting up more than 15%.
  • Demonetisation was a blow to many in the rural cash economy.
    • The move affected farmers’ ability to buy seeds and fertilizers, pay off loans and hire farm labour, according to an initial Agriculture Ministry report to a parliamentary panel last month.
    • The Ministry later rescinded its report, but farmers groups say the long-term impact of the note ban lingers.

 

Why are the government’s actions insufficient?

  • The M.S. Swaminathan Commission had recommended that the minimum support prices for 23 major crops be set at 1.5 times the cost of production, and the government claims it has fulfilled its promises to do so.
  • However, the government’s calculation of the cost of production only includes actual paid-out costs and the imputed cost of family labour, while the Commission’s formula also included the imputed cost of capital and the rent on the land.
  • Moreover, the government only procures wheat, rice and a limited amount of pulses and oilseeds at MSP rates, benefiting only a fraction of farmers.
  • Most summer crops have been selling at below MSP rates in the marketplace this year.
  • While loan waivers are a popular poll promise and have been implemented in some States, small farmers without access to institutional credit are often left out.
  • The cap on waivers and poor implementation has led to absurd situations such as farmers receiving cheques for just ₹1.

 

What policy solutions lie ahead?

  • A government panel aiming to double farmers’ income by 2022 has come up with a 13-volume report, but its final set of policy recommendations is still pending with the Agriculture Ministry.
    • It is expected to focus on ways to ensure sustainability of production, monetisation of farmers’ produce, re-strengthening of extension services and recognising agriculture as an enterprise and enabling it to operate as such by addressing structural weaknesses.
  • The Cabinet also has approved an agriculture export policy, lifting restrictions on organic and processed food, which it hopes will double farm exports by 2022 and widen the market for domestic produce.
  • Farmers groups are urging political parties to support two private member Bills introduced in the last session of Parliament for guaranteed implementation of MSP and a comprehensive loan waiver and debt reduction scheme.
  • However, they have also come out with a wider charter of demands, which deals with input costs, social security, farm workers employment, land rights, irrigation, agro-ecology, crop insurance and contract farming.
Section : Economics

Brief about Bio-fortification

Consider the following statements

1.     Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.

2.     Conventional fortification differs from Biofortification in that conventional fortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a     1 only

b     2 only

c      Both

d     None

Explanation:

Solution (a)

Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.

Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology. Biofortification differs from conventional fortification in that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops. Biofortification may therefore present a way to reach populations where supplementation and conventional fortification activities may be difficult to implement and/or limited.

Examples of biofortification projects include:

·      iron-biofortification of rice, beans, sweet potato, cassava and legumes;

·      zinc-biofortification of wheat, rice, beans, sweet potato and maize;

·      provitamin A carotenoid-biofortification of sweet potato, maize and cassava;

·      amino acid and protein-biofortification of sourghum and cassava.

Discuss the applications of biotechnology in the agriculture and allied sectors.

Approach

Introduce by mentioning the need for biotechnology in agriculture and allied sectors

Explain how biotechnology can be used in agriculture and allied sectors.

Conclude appropriately.

Model Answer :

Agriculture along with its allied sectors is the largest source of livelihood in India. Biotechnology can be instrumental in improving productivity and modernising these sectors. The National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020 has a special focus on the agriculture and the allied sectors.

The applications of biotechnology are manifold in this regard:

Crop farming:

oProductivity of the crops is enhanced using genomics information and interfaces with wide hybridisation, molecular mapping, etc.

oCrops can be made less input intensive and less prone to biotic and abiotic stresses.

oNutritional value of the crops can also be enhanced.

Animal Rearing:

oThe health and productivity of Livestock and Poultry can be enhanced.

oBiotechnology can ensure good breeding and reproductive technologies.

oDisease resistance in indigenous stocks e.g. cattle, chicken, buffalo, sheep pigs etc. is being enhanced.

oFeed and fodder enrichment can be done by enhancing its nutritional value.

Aquaculture:

oMicro-diets being developed for larviculture, which is used as food for fish stock.

oEnrichment of aqua-feed with microbial enzymes which is cost effective at the same time.

oEnsuring the health of the aquaculture environment and of the aquatic animals

oDNA marker technology is being used in various species for trait characterisation related to growth, disease resistance and salinity tolerance and could be exploited for enhancing productivity

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants:

oBiotechnology helps in understanding the mechanism of action of medicinal plant based drugs, understanding the biosynthesis pathways for commercial application, botanical pesticides & insecticides and studies on genetic diversity.

oGenomic resources on medicinal and aromatic plants can be generated to enhance the content of the therapeutically important products.

oMedicinal and aromatic plants based products can be developed for human and animal healthcare.

There are a number of more applications of the biotechnology in the agriculture and the allied sectors which can significantly contribute towards the goal of doubling the farmers’ income in near future. The need to the hour is efficiently leveraging the present technology and adequately investing for innovative research in this area.

Everything about Agricultural Crisis

The main reasons for farm crises are:

  1. Slow agriculture growth:
  • Agriculture shrank to just 18 percent of the GDP in 2013-14; and further shrinking is projected given agriculture’s lower growth rate compared to other sectors.
  • The agriculture growth rates have been unsteady in the recent past.
    • 2012-13: 1.5%
    • 2013-14: 5.6%
    • 2014-15: (-) 0.2%
    • 2015-16: 0.7%.
    • The provisional estimate puts it at 4.9% in 2016-17.
  • The trend reflects the distress in the agriculture sector.

  1. Land assets:
  • As per Agriculture census 2010-11, the average farm size in India is small, at 1.15 hectare, and since 1970-71, there has been a steady declining trend in land holdings.
  • The small, marginal and semi-medium land holdings (less than 4 hectares) account for around 70% of land holdings in term of area and around 95% of total numbers.
  • As per the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 around 30 percent of rural households are landless.
  • This predominance of small operational holdings is a major limitation to reaping the benefits of economies of scale.
  • Since small and marginal farmers have little marketable surplus, they are left with low bargaining power and no say over prices.
  1. Population on farming
  • While share of agriculture in GDP is declining, the percentage of population dependent on agriculture observe very slow decline.
  • Still around 70 percent of its rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood.
  • This huge population dependency is one the main reason for farm crisis.
  1. Risk involved
  • The agriculture sector is characterised by instability in incomes because of various types of risks involved in production, market and prices.
  • Crop production is always at risk because of pests, diseases, shortage of inputs like seeds and irrigation, which could result in low productivity and declining yield.
  • Agriculture still remains largely rain fed (around 52%) and vulnerable to the vagaries of the monsoon. And so are the fates of millions of Indian farmers.
  • Because of the perishable nature of produce and inability to hold it due to poor storage infrastructure, produced have very low resilience.
  • Hence, these issues lead to absence of mechanism in which farmers can protect themselves against adverse circumstances like surplus-shortage scenarios or insure against losses.
  1. Increase in input cost
  • Along with the slowdown in agricultural growth, the costs of farm inputs such as fertilisers, seeds, mechnisation, electricity etc., have increased faster than farm produce prices.
  • The cost of capital too has increased manifold over the years.
  1. Remunerative Price
  • The government’s economic survey for 2016-17 points out that the price risks emanating from an inefficient APMC market are severe for farmers in India.
  • Farmers face price uncertainties due to fluctuations in demand and supply owing to bumper or poor crop production and speculation and hoarding by traders.
  • The lower than remunerative price in the absence of marketing infrastructure and profiteering by middlemen adds to the financial distress of farmers.
  1. Credit system
  • The predominance of informal sources of credit, mainly through moneylenders, and lack of capital for short term and long term loans have resulted in the absence of stable incomes and profits.
  • Further, it leads to defaults and indebtedness which turned agriculture into an unprofitable occupation and deepened the crises.
  1. Uncertain policies and regulations
  • Uncertain policies and regulations such as those of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC Act), besides low irrigation coverage, drought, flooding and unseasonal rains, are some other factors that hit farmers hard.

Way forwards

  • While the farming sector has its own set of risks, like any other economic activity, to increase and ensure stable flow of income to farmers it is vital to manage and reduce the risks by analysing, categorising and addressing them.

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Unnat Krishi Shiksha Scheme

It was launched to promote agricultural education.
Under the scheme 100 centres are opened with a fund of Rs.5.35 crore.
“Attracting and retaining youth in Agriculture (ARYA)” is a project sanctioned by the Indian Council of Agriculture (ICAR) and is being implemented at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs).
The main objective of the project was to provide complete knowledge and skill on processing, value addition and marketing of coconut and banana products through capacity building programmes involving research and development organizations.