“We want to make farming profitable for farmers”
India needs a massive overhaul of its agricultural infrastructure and practices if it wishes to achieve double digit growth and to provide two square meals a day to every single constituent of its billion plus populace, and Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh admits as much, saying the government is implementing a multi-pronged strategy to boost crop production and reduce post-harvest losses due to poor storage. Excerpts from a special interview to Pravash Pradhan, Editor, Smart AgriPost:
How do you plan to revive agricultural growth which is less than 2 per cent now?
Ans:- Growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) depends upon the output of agriculture and allied sector which include field crops, horticulture crops, animal husbandry, forestry & logging and fisheries. Out of these, field crops and horticulture crops are highly dependent upon weather, rainfall situation etc. As 52.4 % of area under cultivation is still rain-fed, monsoon rainfall has significant role in production of crops and also on the output of other allied sectors to certain extent. Climate change has also emerged as an important factor causing serious impact on output of crop sector.
We have taken various initiatives under different crop development schemes to increase output of agriculture and allied sector. The ICAR has been fully engaged in development of high yielding, pest resistant, short duration varieties suitable for different agro-climatic conditions. In order to minimize the impact of delayed or deficient rainfall, the ICAR has prepared contingency plans for more than 600 districts of the country. To minimize the adverse impact of climate change, the government has taken important initiative in the form of National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). Through above initiatives, our Ministry is trying to minimize the impact of adverse conditions on the production and maintain growth of agriculture & allied sector on sustainable basis.
How do you propose to make farming more attractive and profitable?
Ans:- In order to make farming more attractive and profitable, we are implementing schemes such as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP) and Grameen Bhandaran Yojana, for raising investments in agriculture. In addition, Government has issued a framework for Public Private Partnership for Integrated Agriculture Development (PPPIAD) for using RKVY allocation for greater association of private sector in agricultural development projects in the States.
Agriculture sector has been identified by Government as priority lending sector, which constitutes at least 18% of the total loan portfolio of the banks. Crop loans are provided to farmers at a concessional rate of 7% per annum with 3% interest subvention for timely repayment. Post harvest loan is also available to farmers on the basis of negotiable warehouse receipts for a period of six months on the same terms so as to prevent distress sales.
How do you plan to encourage organic farming?
Ans:- As you know, our government is committed to promote Organic Farming which improves soil health and leads to better quality crops. From 2015-16, ‘ Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana’, a new scheme to develop organic clusters and make available chemical free inputs to farmers will be implemented with an outlay of Rs. 300 crore.
Groups of 50 or more farmers having 50 acre land would be motivated to take up organic farming under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
PKVY scheme envisages promotion of commercial organic production through certified (self certification by producers) organic farming and adoption of organic village by cluster approach. In PKVY, the farmers in one cluster of 50 acres land will get financial assistance.
A special scheme with allocation of Rs. 125 crore has been launched in North-Eastern Region for promotion of organic farming and export of organic produce.
Apart form PKVY, government has enhanced subsidy amount for individual farmers to promote the use of bio-fertilizers from Rs. 100 to Rs. 300 per hectare w.e.f. 2014-15 under National Food Security Mission.
What’s the progress of “Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana”?
Ans:- The objective of ‘Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna’ is to create sources of assured irrigation- per drop, more crop-and harnessing rain water at micro level through ‘Jal Sanchay’ and ‘Jal-Sinchan’. It will lay stress on end- to-end solution in irrigation supply chain.
In 2014-15 budget, ₹1000 crore was allocated to start the scheme. A total of ₹5300 crore has been allocated for the year 2105-16 to roll out the scheme. To make it successful, our department along with other related departments reviews the progress and implementation of the scheme.
What is your government’s plan to check Post-harvest losses?
Ans:- As per the Millennium Study-State of the Indian Farmers Report (2004), annual losses of food grains in India were estimated to be 9.33% of production while for fruits and vegetables; it was 25-40%. It is important to note that reduction in post-harvest losses over the period has been noticed due to development and adoption of better post-harvest management practices. Losses in selected cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, bajra and sorghum) are observed to be in the range 3.87% to 5.96%. while in case of selected pulses (pigeon pea, chick pea, black gram, green gram), it is 4.28 to 6.06%. In case of oilseeds, it is in the range of 5.77 to 18%. Presently, storage capacity with different agencies (FCI, CWC, SWC, Cooperative) including private sector is 135 million tonne in the country, which is, of course, insufficient for storing marketable surplus of existing production (265.04 MMT of Food Grain, 19.25 MMT of pulses and 32.75 MMT of Oilseeds). We are trying to improve storage facilities through improvement of post-harvest infrastructure through schemes like Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Venture Capital Scheme of Small Farmers Agri. Business Consortium (SFAC) and schemes of Ministry of Food Processing. We are also working on reducing the supply chain of Agricultural produce and multiple handling through advocacy of marketing reforms. Additionally, the government is conducting training and awareness programmes for farmers’ skill development.
What is your strategy for food procurement from emerging areas such as Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha?
Ans:- The Shantakumar Committee recommended that FCI should hand over all procurement operations of wheat, paddy & rice to states that have gained sufficient experience in this regard and have created reasonable infrastructure for procurement. These States are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Punjab.
All States excluding Punjab and Haryana are decentralized procuring (DCP) States where FCI is not involved in procurement. In Non-DCP States, procurement plan will be prepared in consultation with the State Governments. The FCI, as far as possible, will open its procurement centres in larger numbers, and where they can’t open their centres, the private agencies will be roped in. Apart from this, training would be imparted to State Governments on quality and storage from time to time.
What are the steps being taken to encourage indigenous breed of cattle?
Ans:- As per 19th Livestock Census the country has 10.87 crore buffaloes,19.09 crore cattle, 30 lakh Mithuns and 77 thousand Yak. Of 19 crore cattle, 20% are exotic and crossbreds (3.9 crore) and about 80% are indigenous breeds (15.12 crore). The cattle genetic resource of India is represented by 39 registered indigenous breeds and 13 registered buffalo breeds. They are endowed with qualities of heat tolerance, resistance to diseases and the ability to thrive under extreme climatic stress and less than optimal nutrition. The government has launched a Rashtriya Gokul Mission, a project under the National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development with the objective of conserving and developing indigenous Breeds in a focused and scientific manner with an allocation of Rs 500 crore during remaining three years of 12th Plan. The Government is also establishing two National Kamdhenu Breeding Centres as Centre of Excellence (CoE) for development and conservation of indigenous breeds. For this purpose Rs 25 crore each has been released to Madhya Pradesh (NKBC for northern region) and Andhra Pradesh (NKBC for southern region). The National Dairy Plan with World Bank assistance targets the conservation of 6 breeds of cattle (Hariana; Rathi; Tharparkar; Gir; Kankrej and Sahiwal) and 6 breeds of buffaloes (Murrah; Mehsani; Pandharpuri; Jaffarabadi; Nili Ravi and Banni). Under the scheme funds have been released to end implementing agencies for implementation of progeny testing and pedigree selection for indigenous breeds. We have also implemented Central Herd Registration Scheme (CHRS) for identification and propagation of elite germplasm of indigenous breeds of cattle and buffaloes in the country and also established seven Central Cattle Breeding Farms located in the different parts of the country to produce elite quality disease free bull calves.
What is your government’s plan on crop insurance schemes to protect farmers from vagaries of weather?
Ans:- At present, two Crop Insurance Schemes namely, National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and National Crop Insurance Schemes (NCIP) with three component schemes namely, Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS), Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) & Coconut Palm Insurance Scheme (CPIS) are under implementation in the country.
About 25% gross capped area is insured under aforesaid schemes. To provide awareness and to increase the outreach of the schemes, an insurance portal has been developed wherein all stakeholders including farmers, states, insurance companies and banks can get all requisite information.
As regards benefit of the Crop Insurance Schemes are concerned, from Rabi 1999-2000 to Rabi 2014-15 cumulatively, 31.97 crore farmers have been covered over an area of 45.91 crore hectares insuring a sum amounting to Rs. 5,29,594 crore. Total premium of Rs. 2559 crore has been collected against the claims of ₹45645 crore benefitting 10.94 crore farmers under aforesaid all schemes.
Improvement in crop insurance schemes to make them more scientific and to better serve the interests of the farmers is a continuous process. In view of this, Government is desirous to introduce a new comprehensive crop insurance instrument to protect the income of the farmers. Government is also contemplating to implement a unified package insurance to cover activities like machinery, life, accident, health, livestock, house, student, children, crops etc. Government is also reviewing the financial burden of premium on farmer’ under existing schemes alongwith several improvements required for better administration of the schemes. The Consultation with various stakeholders including State Governments is going on for the purpose.
What are the specific measures the government has taken to transform the fisheries sector?
Ans:- India has made great strides in the area of Fisheries and is the second highest producer of fish in the world with the production over 10 million tonnes (2014-15).
The Blue Revolution visualizes the creation of an enabling environment focused towards an integrated and holistic development & management approach for the growth of the fisheries and aquaculture sector in the country, keeping in view the bio-security and environmental concerns.
The main objectives of the Blue Revolution are to increase the overall fish production in a sustainable manner for economic prosperity from the available water resources, introduce new technologies in the sector for responsible and sustainable utilization of resources in an eco-friendly manner, ensure food and nutritional security, generate employment and export earnings and ensure inclusive development and empower fishers and aquaculture farmers. The initial results of this restructured programmes led to an increase in fish production by 5.2% during 2014-15.
How is the government prepared to manage drought like situation in the country, if any?
Ans:- Central Research Institute of Dry land Agriculture (CRIDA), in collaboration with State Agricultural Universities has prepared contingency plans for 580 districts for implementing location specific interventions to sustain agriculture production in the eventuality of weak monsoon/deficient rainfall.
States are advised to ensure availability of short duration and drought tolerant varieties of seeds so as to be in a position to supply them to farmers in case such a need arises. States have also been advised to keep asides 10% of funds available under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and other schemes for undertaking appropriate interventions to mitigate any situation arising out of deficient rainfall.
States have also been requested to construct water harvesting structures, restore irrigation infrastructure by de-silting canals, energizing tube wells, replacing/repairing faulty pumps and arranging power to meet irrigation needs.
Field functionaries and extension workers under Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) and other schemes are educating, training and making the farmers aware of various techniques to overcome deficient rainfall. Farmers are also being advised through Farmers’ SMS portal, Kisan call centres, Kisanvani Programme of All India Radio (AIR) and Krishi Darshan Programme of Doordarshan.
We are also advising farmers to adopt techniques such as in-situ moisture conservation, on farm water conservation, ridge furrow sowing, promoting suitable agronomic practices including mulching, inter cropping, mixed cropping andsowing of less water consuming crops.