View from India: Bountiful measures unfold for farming community
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Excessive rain has damaged crops and hindered seed sowing across agricultural lands. A spate of recent initiatives are likely to offer succour to the desperate situation faced by farmers in many parts of the country.
The government has recently launched One Nation One Fertiliser (ONOF) scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Pariyojana (PMBJP). ONOF is a fertiliser subsidy scheme towards benchmarking fertiliser-urea companies. Under this scheme, all fertilisers, urea and soil nutrients will be standardised and marketed under the single brand of Bharat. This uniformity could be a move towards lowering high freight subsidy, as well as cross movement of fertilisers. Coming to the product retail, all fertiliser-urea bags will feature the Bharat logo and PMBJP as well as details about the fertiliser-urea company.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also launched 600 PM Kisan Samruddhi Kendras (PM-KSKs). The country is home to more than 330,000 fertiliser retail shops. The government has indicated that these retail shops will morph into PM-KSKs in a phased manner. Again it’s not just for the sake of uniformity but that PM-KSKs could be a one-stop-shop for farmers to procure products and access services to improve their produce.
In an effort to raise the income level of farmers, the Union Cabinet has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all Rabi Crops for the marketing season 2023-24. Rabi crops such as wheat, barley, oats, gram, mustard, linseed and pulses are sown in winter and harvested in spring in India. This move is a reminder of what the Union Budget 2018-19 had envisioned: the Budget had announced that MSP level should be at least 1.5 times of the All-India weight average Cost of Production. This could help in a fair remuneration for farmers.
Considering we are a country with a population of over 1.3 billion, our food supply chain needs efficient measures to minimise wastage. Then, the farm produce needs to be safeguarded for numerous reasons, including a fragile ecology, climate change and vagaries of nature. In short, whatever the reasons may be, the common concern is to reduce any kind of agricultural wastage and enhance harvest quality. Naturally, the government’s efforts towards the farming community includes initiatives like irrigation and housing in rural areas. This may emerge as a binding factor to improve the economy.
Accurate measures could be rolled out to lower depletion of stocks caused by climatic disturbances. Farms can transform through technology; a case in point is the cultivation of water-guzzling crops in semi-arid areas. Another aspect is that precision agriculture may be possible through a mechanised approach. This can lead to a better output. Drones or whirring machines with rotors may pave the way for improving the situation; perhaps drone-led agriculture will help alleviate some of the challenges faced by farmers. For instance, drones can help perform tasks such as spraying and crop monitoring, along with yield prediction and maintaining farm land records. The Reserve Bank of India has communicated to the banks that they should begin financing the purchase of Kisan Drones.
An indirect benefit is that the production of drones and its components could become a thriving industry, considering there are around 600,000 villages in the country. At this point, it’s worthwhile to mention that the government has opened up the drone policy with a Production Linked Incentive scheme. There is also an import ban due to which the domestic drone industry is expected to become visible and accessible to the farming community.
India, Asia’s third largest economy, has taken a holistic approach towards scaling up the agricultural sector. A case in point is the government-led Mission Palm Oil. The initiative is to lower the import of palm oil and enhance the production of oil seeds, something which could use AI-ML tools to monitor the production.
Urea, integral to farming, is being purchased from overseas. The government buys it at 75-80 rupees (80-86 pence) per kg and supplies it to farmers at 5-6 rupees (less than a penny) per kg. To bridge this gap, the government is in the process of reviving six large urea factories that have been closed. This is an effort towards the domestic production of urea.
Let’s hope in the coming months these measures help improve the farming situation and lead to greener pastures ahead.
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