In this article we will discuss about the strategies to improve Agricultural Productivity in India. The strategies are: 1. Sustainable Agriculture 2. Food and Nutritional Security 3. Generation and Transfer of Technology 4. Inputs Management 5. Incentives for Agriculture 6. Investments in Agriculture 7. Institutional Structure 8. Risk Management 9. Management Reforms.
Strategies To Improve Agricultural Productivity in India
Strategy # 1. Sustainable Agriculture:
The policy will seek to promote technically sound, economically viable, environmentally non- degrading, and socially acceptable use of country’s natural resources – land, water and genetic endowment to promote sustainable development of agriculture.
(i) Measures will be taken to contain biotic pressures on land and to control indiscriminate diversion of agricultural lands for non-agricultural purposes. The unutilized wastelands will be put to use for agriculture and afforestation. Particular attention will be given for increasing cropping intensity through multiple-cropping and inter-cropping.
(ii) Rational utilization and conservation of the country’s abundant water resources will be promoted. Conjunctive use of surface and ground water will receive highest priority. Special attention will be focused on water quality and the problem of receding groundwater levels in certain areas as a result of over-exploitation of underground aquifers.
(iii) Erosion and narrowing of the base of India’s plant and animal genetic resources in the last few decades has been affecting the food security of the country. Survey and evaluation of genetic resources and safe conservation of both indigenous and exogenously introduced genetic variability in crop plants, animals and their wild relatives will receive particular attention.
(iv) Agro-forestry and social forestry are prime requisites for maintenance of ecological balance and augmentation of bio-mass production in agricultural systems. Agro-forestry will receive a major thrust for efficient nutrient cycling, nitrogen fixation, organic matter addition and for improving drainage. Farmers will be encouraged to take up farm/agro- forestry for higher income generation by evolving technology, extension and credit support packages and removing constraints to development of agro and farm forestry.
Strategy # 2. Food and Nutritional Security:
Special efforts will be made to raise the productivity and production of crops to meet the increasing demand for food generated by unabated demographic pressures and raw materials for expanding agro-based industries.
A regionally differentiated strategy will be pursued, taking into account the agronomic, climatic and environmental conditions to realize the full growth potential of every region. Special attention will be given to development of new crop varieties, particularly of food crops, with higher nutritional value through adoption of bio-technology particularly genetic modification, while addressing bio-safety concerns.
(i) A major thrust will be given to development of rainfed and irrigated horticulture, floriculture, roots and tubers, plantation crops, aromatic and medicinal plants, beekeeping and sericulture, for augmenting food supply, exports and generating employment in rural areas.
(ii) Animal husbandry and fisheries also generate wealth and employment in agriculture sector. Development of animal husbandry, poultry, dairying and aquaculture will receive a high priority in the efforts for diversifying agriculture, increasing animal protein availability in the food basket and for generating exportable surpluses.
(iii) Generation and dissemination of appropriate technologies in the field of animal production as also healthcare to enhance production and productivity levels will be given greater attention. Cultivation of fodder crops and fodder trees will be encouraged to meet the feed and fodder requirements and to improve animal nutrition and welfare. Priority will also be given to improve the processing, marketing and transport facilities, with emphasis on modernization of abattoirs, carcass utilization and value addition thereon.
(iv) An integrated approach to marine and inland fisheries, designed to promote sustainable aquaculture practices, will be adopted. Biotechnological application in the field of genetics and breeding, hormonal applications, immunology and disease control will receive particular attention for increased aquaculture production.
Strategy # 3. Generation and Transfer of Technology:
A very high priority will be accorded to evolving new location-specific and economically viable improved varieties of agricultural and horticultural crops, livestock species and aquaculture as also conservation and judicious use of germplasm and other bio-diversity resources.
(i) The regionalization of agricultural research, based on identified agro-climatic zones, will be accorded high priority. Application of frontier sciences like bio-technology, remote sensing technologies, pre and post-harvest technologies, energy saving technologies, technology for environmental protection through national research system as well as proprietary research will be encouraged.
(ii) The research and extension linkages will be strengthened to improve quality and effectiveness of research and extension system. The extension system will be broad-based and revitalized. Innovative and decentralized institutional changes will be introduced to make the extension system farmer-responsible and farmer-accountable.
Role of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Farmers Organizations, Cooperatives, corporate sector and para-technicians in agricultural extension will be encouraged for organizing demand-driven production systems.
(iii) Mainstreaming gender concerns in agriculture will receive particular attention. Appropriate structural, functional and institutional measures will be initiated to empower women and build their capabilities and improve their access to inputs, technology and other farming resources.
Strategy # 4. Inputs Management:
Adequate and timely supply of quality inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, plant protection chemicals, bio-pesticides, agricultural machinery and credit at reasonable rates to farmers will be the endeavour of the Government –
(i) Soil testing and quality testing of fertilisers and seeds will be ensured and supply of spurious inputs will be checked. Balanced and optimum use of fertilizers will be promoted together with use of organic manures and bio-fertilizers to optimize the efficiency of nutrient use.
(ii) Development, production and distribution of improved varieties of seeds and planting materials and strengthening and expansion of seed and plant certification system with private sector participation will receive a high priority. A National Seed Grid will be established to ensure supply of seeds especially to areas affected by natural calamities.
(iii) Protection to plant varieties through a sui generis legislation will be granted to encourage research and breeding of new varieties particularly in the private sector in line with India’s obligations under TRIPS Agreement.
(iv) Integrated pest management and use of biotic agents in order to minimize the indiscriminate and injudicious use of chemical pesticides will be the cardinal principle covering plant protection.
Strategy # 5. Incentives for Agriculture:
The Government will endeavour to create a favourable economic environment for increasing capital formation and farmer’s own investments by removal of distortions in the incentive regime for agriculture, improving the terms of trade with manufacturing sectors and bringing about external and domestic market reforms backed by rationalization of domestic tax structure –
(i) It will seek to bestow on the agriculture sector in as many respects as possible benefits similar to those obtaining in the manufacturing sector, such as easy availability of credit and other inputs, and infrastructure facilities for development of agri-business industries and development of effective delivery systems and freed movement of agro produce.
(ii) Consequent upon dismantling of Quantitative Restrictions on imports as per WTO Agreement on Agriculture, commodity-wise strategies and arrangements for protecting the grower from adverse impact of undue price fluctuations in world markets and for promoting exports will be formulated. Apart from price competition, other aspects of marketing such as quality, choice, health and bio-safety will be promoted. Exports of horticultural produce and marine products will receive particular emphasis.
(iii) In order to protect the interest of farmers in context of removal of Quantitative Restrictions, continuous monitoring of international prices will be undertaken and appropriate tariffs protection will be provided. Import duties on manufactured commodities used in agriculture will be rationalized.
(iv) The structure of taxes on foodgrains and other commercial crops will be reviewed and rationalized. Similarly, the excise duty on materials such as farm machinery and implements, fertilizers, etc., used as inputs in agricultural production, post-harvest storage and processing will be reviewed.
Strategy # 6. Investments in Agriculture:
The agriculture sector has been starved of capital. There has been a decline in the public sector investment in the agriculture sector. Public investment for narrowing regional imbalances, accelerating development of supportive infrastructure for agriculture and rural development particularly rural connectivity will be stepped up –
(i) A time-bound strategy for rationalisation and transparent pricing of inputs will be formulated to encourage judicious input use and to generate resources for agriculture. Input subsidy reforms will be pursued as a combination of price and institutional reforms to cut down costs of these inputs for agriculture.
(ii) A conducive climate will be created through a favourable price and trade regime to promote farmers’ own investments as also investments by industries producing inputs for agriculture and agro-based industries. Private sector investments in agriculture will also be encouraged more particularly in areas like agricultural research, human resource development, post-harvest management and marketing.
(iii) Rural electrification will be given a high priority as the prime mover for agricultural development. The quality and availability of electricity supply will be improved and the demand of the agriculture sector will be met adequately in a reliable and cost effective manner.
(iv) Emphasis will be laid on development of marketing infrastructure and techniques of preservation, storage and transportation with a view to reducing post-harvest losses and ensuring a better return to the grower. The weekly periodic markets under the direct control of Panchayat Raj institutions will be upgraded and strengthened. Direct marketing and pledge financing will be promoted. Producers markets on the lines of Ryatu Bazars will be encouraged throughout the width and breadth of the country.
(v) Storage facilities for different kinds of agricultural products will be created in the production areas or nearby places particularly in the rural areas so that the farmers can transport their produce to these places immediately after harvest in shortest possible time. The establishment of cold chains, provision of pre-cooling facilities to farmers as a service and cold storage in the terminal markets and improving the retail marketing arrangements in urban areas, will be given priority.
(vi) Setting up of agro-processing units in the producing areas to reduce wastage, especially of horticultural produce, increased value addition and creation of off-farm employment in rural areas will be encouraged. Collaboration between the producer co-operatives and the corporate sector will be encouraged to promote agro-processing industry.
Strategy # 7. Institutional Structure:
Indian agriculture is characterized by pre-dominance of small and marginal farmers.
Institutional reforms will be so pursued as to channelize their energies for achieving greater productivity and production:
(i) The approach to rural development and land reforms will focus on the following areas –
(a) Consolidation of holdings all over the country on the pattern of north-western States;
(b) Redistribution of ceiling surplus lands and waste lands among the landless farmers, unemployed youth with initial start-up capital;
(c) Tenancy reforms to recognize the rights of the tenants and share croppers;
(d) Development of lease markets for increasing the size of holdings by making legal provisions for giving private lands on lease for cultivation and agri-business;
(e) Updating and improvement of land records, computerization and issue of land passbooks to the farmers, and
(f) Recognition of women’s rights in land.
(ii) The rural poor will be increasingly involved in the implementation of land reforms with the help of Panchayati Raj Institutions, Voluntary Groups, Social Activists and Community Leaders.
(iii) Private sector participation will be promoted through contract farming and land leasing arrangements to allow accelerated technology transfer, capital inflow and assured markets for crop production, especially of oilseeds, cotton and horticultural crops.
(iv) Progressive institutionalization of rural and farm credit will be continued for providing timely and adequate credit to farmers. The rural credit institutions will be geared to promote savings, investments and risk management Particular attention will be paid to removal of distortions in the priority sector lending by commercial banks for agriculture and rural sectors.
(v) The basic support to agriculture has been provided by co-operative sector assiduously built over the years. The Government will provide active support for promotion of co-operative form of enterprise and ensure greater autonomy and operational freedom to them to improve their functioning.
The thrust will be on:
a. Structural reforms for promoting greater efficiency and viability by freeing them from excessive bureaucratic control and political interference;
b. Creation of infrastructure and human resource development;
c. Improvement in financial viability and organizational sustainability of co-operatives;
d. Democratisation of management and increased professionalism in their operations, and
e. Creating a viable inter-face with other grass-root organizations.
Strategy # 8. Risk Management:
Despite technological and economic advancements, the condition of farmers continues to be unstable due to natural calamities and price fluctuations. National Agriculture Insurance Scheme covering all farmers and all crops throughout the country with built-in provisions for insulating farmers from financial distress caused by natural disasters and making agriculture financially viable will be made more farmer-specific and effective –
(i) Endeavour will be made to provide a package insurance policy for farmers, right from sowing of crops to post-harvest operations, including market fluctuations in the prices of agricultural produce.
(ii) In order to reduce risk in and impart greater resilience to Indian agriculture against droughts and floods, efforts will be made for achieving greater flood-proofing of flood prone agriculture and drought-proofing of rainfed agriculture for protecting farmers from vagaries of nature.
(iii) The Central Government will continue to discharge its responsibility to ensure remunerative prices for agricultural produce through announcement of Minimum Support Prices policy for major agricultural commodities. The food, nutrition and other domestic and export requirements of the country will be kept in view while determining the support prices of different commodities.
(iv) The Government will enlarge the coverage of futures markets to minimize the wide fluctuations in commodity prices as also for hedging their risks. The endeavour will be to cover all important agricultural products under futures trading in course of time.
Strategy # 9. Management Reforms:
Effective implementation of policy initiatives will call for comprehensive reforms in the management of agriculture by central and state governments:
(i) Central Government will supplement/complement the State Governments’ through regionally differentiated Work Plans, comprising crop/area/target group efforts specific interventions, formulated in an inter-active mode and implemented in a spirit of partnership with States.
(ii) The Government will focus on quality aspects at all stages of farm operations from sowing to primary processing. The quality of inputs and other support services to farmers will be improved. Quality consciousness amongst farmers and agro-processors will be created. Grading and standardization of agricultural products will be promoted for export enhancement.
(iii) The database for agriculture sector will be strengthened to ensure greater reliability of estimates and forecasting which will help in the process of planning and policy making.
Challenges before the Indian Agriculture:
The major challenges confronting the agriculture sector, particularly in food grains production is the slowdown in fertilizer, irrigation and energy use at the farm level and technological stagnation. Crop intensity and area under cultivation have also shown a decline.
Improvement in rural infrastructure, proper price, marketing, storage and extension support services and facilities, better irrigation based on improved methods of water utilization, extension of improved technologies, balanced use of fertilizers and crop diversification provide the necessary framework for sustaining a growth rate in the farm sector of close to 4 per cent. It is also imperative to consolidate unviable and fragmented holdings, substantially raise agricultural productivity and improve opportunities of non-agricultural employment to relieve the pressure on agriculture for residual labour absorption –
(i) Slow Down in Agricultural and Rural Non-Farm Growth:
Both the poorest as well as the more prosperous ‘Green Revolution’ States of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have recently witnessed a slow-down in agricultural growth.
Some of the factors hampering the revival of growth are:
(a) Poor Composition of Public Expenditures:
Public spending on agricultural subsidies is crowding out productivity-enhancing investments such as agricultural research and extension, as well as investments in rural infrastructure, and the health and education of the rural people. In 1999/2000, agricultural subsidies amounted to 3 per cent of GDP and were over 7 times the public investments in the sector.
(b) Over-Regulation of Domestic Agricultural Trade:
While economic and trade reforms in the 1990s helped to improve the incentive framework, over-regulation of domestic trade has increased costs, price risks and uncertainty, undermining the sector’s competitiveness.
(c) Government Interventions in Labour, Land and Credit Markets:
More rapid growth of the rural non-farm sector is constrained by government interventions in factor markets — labour, land and credit — and in output markets, such as the small-scale reservation of enterprises.
(d) Inadequate infrastructure and services in rural areas.
(ii) Weak Framework for Sustainable Water Management and Irrigation:
(a) Inequitable Allocation of Water:
Many States lack the incentives, policy, regulatory, and institutional framework for the efficient, sustainable, and equitable allocation of water.
(b) Deteriorating Irrigation Infrastructure:
Public spending in irrigation is spread over many uncompleted projects. In addition, existing infrastructure has rapidly deteriorated as operations and maintenance is given lower priority.
(iii) Inadequate Access to Land and Finance:
(a) Stringent Land Regulations Discourage Rural Investments:
While land distribution has become less skewed, land policy and regulations to increase security of tenure (including restrictions or bans on renting land or converting it to other uses) have had the unintended effect of reducing access by the landless and discouraging rural investments.
(b) Computerization of Land Records has Brought to Light Institutional Weaknesses:
State government initiatives to computerize land records have reduced transaction costs and increased transparency, but also brought to light institutional weaknesses.
(c) Rural Poor have Little Access to Credit:
While India has a wide network of rural finance institutions, many of the rural poor remain excluded, due to inefficiencies in the formal finance institutions, the weak regulatory framework, high transaction costs, and risks associated with lending to agriculture.
(iv) Weak Natural Resources Management:
One quarter of India’s population depends on forests for at least part of their livelihoods:
(a) A purely Conservation Approach to Forests is Ineffective:
Experience in India shows that a purely conservation approach to natural resources management does not work effectively and does little to reduce poverty.
(b) Weak Resource Rights for Forest Communities:
The forest sector is also faced with weak resource rights and economic incentives for communities, an inefficient legal framework and participatory management, and poor access to markets.
(v) Weak Delivery of Basic Services in Rural Areas:
Low Bureaucratic Accountability and Inefficient Use of Public Funds:
Despite large expenditures in rural development, a highly centralized bureaucracy with low accountability and inefficient use of public funds limit their impact on poverty. In 1992, India amended its Constitution to create three tiers of democratically elected rural local governments bringing governance down to the villages.
However, the transfer of authority, funds, and functionaries to these local bodies is progressing slowly, in part due to political vested interests. The poor are not empowered to contribute to shaping public programs or to hold local governments accountable.