The focus of budget 2018 revolved around three key areas of economy – agricultural, rural sector and infrastructure. However, agriculture can be said to have received the foremost focus. In his budget speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced doubling income of farmers by 2022 – the 75th year of the Indian independence – reiterating what Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for time and again on different platforms. The budget 2018 clearly narrows down that the focus, this time, is on ‘profitability’ aspect of farming rather than ‘productivity’, writes Arabinda K Padhee, Director, Country Relations at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, in The Indian Express. However, the road ahead is not easy, considering various existent roadblocks. Hence, the writer lists down a few broad actionable strategies that the government and state governments can adopt to make this dream a reality.
Arabinda K Padhee stresses upon institutional and governance reforms relating to agricultural marketing, warehousing, land leasing, contract farming and others. The government must ensure that an efficient direct benefit transfer system of fertilisers and seeds is established as such a mechanism promotes judicious application of these inputs. He also says, “Agriculture in India is a state subject. Past experience shows that no agricultural development on the ground is possible without meaningful interventions by state governments. To bring them on board on the above institutional and governance reforms, which will align their policies to a broad framework and yet allow for adoption of state/region-specific strategies, there is need to convene a meeting of the NITI Aayog or the National Development Council.” He also talks about adaptation to climate smart agri-technologies which help to address climate change challenges that are at the forefront of any agricultural policy agenda today i.e. productivity and incomes.
There can’t be any inclusive growth in the country in absence of food and nutrition security, says he. So, there should be a shift in focus from calorie intake towards delivering nutrition, he advises. Stable farm export policy is a foremost for any country. Although India is second only to China in terms of gross agricultural production, it’s export basket doesn’t reflect much about its huge crop diversity and potential to generate a significant farm trade surplus. So, an open and stable farm export policy is need of the hour. Other than that an integrated value-chain approach that can help raise incomes of farmers and cut down on risks arising from middlemen and markets should be mulled over.
Since it’s a digital era, digital agriculture automatically becomes the backbone of any modern farming economy. However, these digital initiatives need strong data infrastructure backing All these digital agriculture initiatives require a robust data infrastructure, which, when integrated with Aadhaar, will also make for a monitoring and evaluation system to track farmer incomes and implementation of various government programmes and subsidy-linked schemes. The central and state government have an uphill task, but proper planning surely helps minimising the risks and roadblocks ahead.