Nothing that global commodities markets are behaving in an abnormal way, Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand today warned that the country’s farm sector crisis is expected to deepen further in 2016-17 if the current trend of falling global commodities prices is not reversed.
He also pitched for more private sector involvement, reforms in land lease policy and easy market access, while emphasizing the need to train farmers with additional skills to get jobs outside farming to tide over the agricultural crisis.
“At present, the market is not behaving in a normal manner. As a result, the crisis (in agriculture sector) is deepening,” Chand said while delivering the keynote address at a national conference on sustainable agriculture here.
He said Indian farmers benefited from rising global food prices from 2005 till 2012, but the situation has worsened in the last two years.
“In the last two years, agriculture is facing very serious problem. We have seen drought and unseasonal rains. Surprisingly, despite lower production, we are seeing that prices are very low,” he said, adding that lower output should ideally push up prices, but that is not happening now.
Suggesting key reforms to sustain farm growth and farmers’ welfare, Chand said there is a need to provide some income to farmers outside agricultural sector.
For that, farmers need to be trained to get jobs outside farming and existing programmes like Start Up India should focus on these issues as well.
Since farmers are leaving farming and not land holdings, a reform in land lease policy is required to ensure that land is put in use and facilitate tenant farmers to take up farming with adequate credit access, he added.
On credit, Chand said that 50 per cent of the farmers still depend on private lenders. To bring them into formal banking credit system, he suggested launch of a ‘kisan dhan yojana’ to be blend with the existing ‘Jhan Dhan Yojana’.
He also emphasized on shedding the socialist mindset and involving the private sector in all aspects of agriculture.
“We need to involve private sector as in many areas public sector is not delivering,” he said.
Observing that it was difficult to assess farmers’ welfare in the absence of data on farmers income and other related issues, Chand suggested that NSSO should publish data on farmers’ income annually.