Making every inch of land count
An ever increasing population has resulted in fragmentation of land holdings, with the result that the average farm size has more than halved in the last 40 years, posing a challenge in the farm mechanisation efforts. Minister of State for Agriculture Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya tells Smart AgriPost that the government has come up with a slew of measures to overcome this challenge with some innovative steps, such as renting out farm equipment, which can enable small and marginal farmers increase their productivity without being burdened with capital costs.
- What steps is the government taking to increase farm mechanisation?
The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation launched Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM) in 2014-15 under the aegis of National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET). SMAM aims at increasing the reach of farm mechanisation to small and marginal famers and to the regions where availability of farm power is low. It will also promote ‘Custom Hiring Centres’ to offset the adverse economies of scale arising due to small landholding and high cost of individual ownership. In addition, SMAM will enable creation of hubs for hi-tech & high value farm equipments and create awareness among stakeholders through demonstration and capacity building activities, besides ensuring performance testing and certification at designated testing centers located all over the country.
- How do you intend to tackle the issue of uneven farm power distribution across states?
Farm power available per hectare of land is one of the important indices of progress in agricultural mechanisation. Farm power availability in Indian agriculture at present is 1.84 kW/ha. However, its spread across the country is uneven. While in Haryana it is 2.81 kW/ha, in Punjab it is 3.5 kW/ha. However, it is much lower in the Eastern and North Eastern States where the average is 0.58 kW/ha. We are trying to address this anomaly through SMAM by promoting ‘Custom Hiring Centres’ of location and specific farm machinery and implements so that farm machinery and equipment are available to the small and marginal on rental basis. We are also providing financial assistance for procurement of agriculture machinery and equipment for individual ownership, apart from promoting farm mechanisation in selected villages by way of providing financial assistance to promote appropriate technologies and to set up Farm Machinery banks in identified villages of low mechanised states. SMAM will also provide financial assistance to small and marginal farmers for hiring machinery and implements in low mechanised regions. We will also conduct demonstration workshops of agricultural machines at farmers field, testing of agricultural machinery and training of farmers in the field of farm mechanisation.
- What additional measures are you taking for promoting farm mechanisation?
Agricultural mechanisation is also promoted by way of providing financial incentives, grants, and subsidies under other schemes of the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation such as National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) and National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP).
- How is the government planning to tackle the issue of small landholdings, which are an impediment to farm mechanisation?
The average farm size in India is small, about 1.16 ha. 63% of the landholdings are below 1 ha, accounting for 19% of the operation area. Over 86% of landholdings are less than 2 ha, accounting for nearly 40% of the area. Fragmentation of operational farm holdings is major concern as the average size of holdings has shrunk from 2.82 ha in 1970-71 to 1.16 ha in 2010-11. With continued shrinkage in average farm size, more farms will fall into the adverse category thereby making individual ownership of agricultural machinery progressively more uneconomical. Hence a challenge would lie in development and ensuring availability of quality machines suitable for operating on small farms.
The Government has been actively advocating to the States/Union Territories to reform their agri marketing laws to promote private participation through contract farming and land leasing arrangements, to allow accelerated technology transfer.
The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation is also promoting custom Hiring Centres in a big way and during the last 5 years, financial assistance has been provided for setting up of over 19000 custom centres.
Q.Small and marginalised farmers are not able to use farm machines due to their economic conditions. Is there any Government mechanism or system to promote machine Banks or Hiring centres in rural areas?
The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation is promoting Custom Hiring Centres in the rural areas and in the regions where availability of farm power is low, so as to increase the reach of farm mechanisation to small and marginal farmers at an affordable rent. During the last 5 years, financial assistance has been provided to Various State Government for setting up of over 19000 custom hiring centres.
What is the total amount of subsidy provided by Government to farmers or institutions in this regard? Is there any system in place to ensure the subsidies are reaching to the intended beneficiaries?
In 2014-15, an amount of Rs. 1345 crore has been allocated for promotion of farm mechanisation under the various schemes of Department to establish 1832 farm machinery banks and distribution of 6,79,442 agricultural machinery and tools to farmers. Guidelines to the State Governments and implementing agencies have been issued to ensure that cash component under this Sub –Mission is transferred electronically into the beneficiaries’ accounts directly (individual or institution).
How much is the Government spending on R&D activities for technological innovations in the country?
The Research and Development activities in the field of farm mechanisation are undertaken by the institutions under the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR). As per the information received from the Agricultural Engineering Division of ICAR, the budgetary allocation for R&D and other activities for the year 2015-16 is Rs. 90 crore.