Saturday, May 23, 2015

Who will feed India?

Who will feed India?

Before 60s and 70s people in underdeveloped countries were living in hunger and mass misery. India was feeding poors with 'Red Wheat' from US under PL480 through the PDS network.

With the initiation of Mexican Government and with his endless hard work to end hunger, 'A Great Man' emerged from this crisis and successfully created wheat varieties that were resistant to troublesome rust diseases. He was Dr. Norman Barlaug, the Father of Green Revolution. Later IRRI in Philippines developed HYVs of Rice. HYVs combined with fertilizers and pesticides created a large output to feed the exploded population in the world.

Hunger ended but it has generated side effects of substantial loss of ground water, fertility loss, pollution of river and adverse impact on human health due to over utilization of fertilizers and pesticides.

Farmers in India made the Country self sufficient in food. India mostly a wheat importer became exporter of wheat.

Per capita water availability in India is 4200 ltr (equal to Germany) but India missing water management. The farmers exploited the ground water resources badly. Free electricity and Government buying at MSP made Punjab farmers weak to compete in open market. Its water table is going down 33 cm every year. It's a water scarcity State exploiting water from 800-1000 feet with free power to grow high water consuming crop of rice (1kg=3000 ltr water) and sugarcane (1kg=2000ltr) and FCI supply the same to eastern India where these crops can be grown with better water resources. 5% of sugarcane crop takes away 70% water of the State in Maharastra.

Average farms size going down as 80% of farmers holding 2 hac. Labour became costly and mechanization capital cost not matching with farm size. Investments in farm machineries and pump sets gone up.

Per capita consumption of cereals going down due to more consumptions of fruits and vegetables.

Input subsidies going up. 5 states and 15% of farmers are MSP beneficiaries. Investment-subsidy ratio is 20:80. If the subsidies of Rs. 2,35,256 Cr (Food Security: 1,15,000 Cr; Fertilizers: 72000 Cr;  Agriculture: 31000 Cr; etc,) converted into investments, that will increase Agriculture growth rate to 6-7%. A choice between political return v/s economic return.

2004-5-6 were worst year for food grain production due to scarcity of rains. International prices erupted. Govt banned  export and increased MSP by 20% each year from 2007-8 to 11-12. Mean time, food grain production went up to 43 MT against the estimated 23 MT. National demand of food grain was 31.9MT. At last, loss of grains forced the govt to open export but the decision was late by 2 years.  

Lastly, under food security act, the government aimed to distribute 61.2 MT of cereal procured from farmers at MSP to  820M people through 4,80,000 FPSs. The estimated cost to the exchequer in 13-14 was Rs. 124700 Cr,  Rs. 140200 Cr in 13-14 and Rs. 157700 Cr in 15-16.

Suggested Strategy:

1) Rice cultivation to move from Punjab Haryana to Bihar and W.Bengal (Eastern India Initiatives).

2) Limit urbanisation and industrialisation to protect fertile belts (ganga, etc) of India. 

3) Need for agriculture regulations. Restrict cropping of rice and sugarcane (high water intake) in water scarcity areas. Promote crops as per the suitability to the area.

4) No free electricity permitted for irrigation. All farmers should be treated equal across the country.

5) Government should move out of procurement and MSP. PDS beneficiaries may be given cash coupons to buy cereals etc, from open market.

6) Fertilizers subsidy to be discontinued so that over utilisation of fertilizers can be restricted. Let the price of product decided by the market so that farmers put serious efforts on improving productivity. 
7) As agriculture utilizes 80% of the water of India, drip irrigation and other water saving techniques to be promoted.

8) 20% growth recorded in Punjab and MP in last three years, making Indian agriculture more competitive compare to manufacture. Scientific promotion will do wonder.

9) Now it is time for BT. BT is nokcking door for Second Green Revolution. BT cotton has changed agriculture growth statistics of Gujarat. People are eating Cotton Seed oil made out of BT cotton seeds. To deal with malnutrition and micro nutrients deficiency, the doors are to be opened for BT. (BT Brinjal awaiting).

10) Promote exports but not at the cost of water (i. e. Rice).

11) Agriculture is mostly done by agriculture labourers.  Give them training of scientific farming. Equipped them with better equipments.

12) Agriculture is facing scarcity of labourer in some areas due to urbanisation and other employment opportunities.  Therefore, there is need to address farm mechanisation at economic rate through banks funding. 

13) Improve quality of seeds and make it available to farmers.

14) Guide farmers through mobile.

15) Increase storage capacity to reduce losses of grains.

16) Add value and life to perishable crops yield.

17) Promote animal husbandry and other allied activities to make agricultural sustainable as large number of farmers are small and marginal.

18) Review Food Security Act.

"Grow more but food must be first". 



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