Q. The key challenges for Indian agriculture, such as low productivity, rising input costs, inadequate mechanisation and labour shortages, remain. How can we overcome these obstacles
A. Investments in agriculture are concentrated in a few sectors. There is no large, organised player in the farm equipment sector, which needs investments given there are small farmers with small land holdings. The entry of a player will reduce wastage, which is a big burden on small farmers. We need to invest a lot more in soil-testing as excessive usage of fertiliser over the years has led to soil degradation. Organised players in soil-testing services can help guide farmers on the right usage of nutrients. This will ensure intact soil quality and a decline in input costs.
Besides, it will also boost productivity.
Q. Crop protection is a major challenge for small farmers. How has your company contributed towards addressing the issue
A. The government must focus on farmer education programmes, something that has remained an area of concern for Indian agriculture. More private-public programmes should be adopted with the collaboration of agriculture bodies and private entrepreneurs. These programmes should focus on educating farmers on good agriculture practices, recent crop loss challenges and micro-nutrient management.
Q. What are the other areas of concern
A. One of the biggest challenges in the agriculture sector is rising input costs with a simultaneous reduction in output. Farmers are not getting the right price for their produce and dont have access to the right channels to sell it. Many small farmers are moving away from agriculture due to non-viability. Private players and government agencies can encourage contract farming by consolidating small farm holdings and procuring the produce from farmers at the right price. Also, consolidation of farm holdings will help in reducing wastage of land and increasing the actual cropped area.
Q: The recent Union Budget has increased provisioning for the agriculture sector. Whats your outlook for the sectors growth
A. It will definitely give agriculture a boost, but we need to invest in harvesting and post-harvesting infrastructure as well. The government should invest in storage and safety of agriculture produce. Many issues can be sorted out if proper safety and storage infrastructure is constructed. The proper utilisation of funds should also be a focus area. We should also invest and encourage entrepreneurs in food processing so that we reduce wastage of perishable commodities and add value through exports. Investment in micro-nutrient management is also a must.
Q. There are many universities and institutions offering agriculture education in the country. How do you see the future of agriculture professionals
A. We need to motivate more people to take up agriculture-related studies as there is a lack of such professionals in the country. The government should focus on providing financial aid and scholarships.
Also, investment can be made in agri-related services, such as agri-polyclinics, and the government shoudl extend aid. These polyclinics will help in educating farmers and in conducting quality tests, soil analysis etc, providing a lot of opportunities to agri-scientists, entomologists, pathologists and agronomists. Also, the government should aid universities in making good research commercially viable.