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Private investment crucial for Indian agriculture: Govt

Jun 20, 2015

Experts at an agro summit in New Delhi called for bridging the information gap in the agricultural sector for enhancing farmers’ profits.

New Delhi: Government alone is not able to fulfil all the requirements of farmers and private investment is needed for agriculture, said Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, India’s Ministers of State for Agriculture. He was speaking at the Economic Times Agro Summit in New Delhi on Friday.

According to him the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) model holds the key to the success of the agriculture sector. Balyan lamented that there was no long term private sector investment in agriculture. “Private investment is crucial for the development of Indian agriculture,” he said.

Pravesh Sharma, MD, Small Farmers Agriculture Consortium (SFAC) said that the changed consumer patterns have made the Indian farmer change his cropping pattern. “Earlier three-fourth of agricultural production comprised of grains including pulses but now high value food products comprise three-fourth of the farm produce,” he revealed.

Stressing on the need for collectivisation of farmers at the grassroots level, Sharma clarified that it is a misconception that holding size of the field determines the amount of produce. “China’s per capita holding size is less than that of India but their produce is much higher. In India, there are about 900 producer organisations in the country with a membership of 20 lakh farmers. West Bengal is emerging as a state where the aggregation of farmers is increasing,” he said.

Deepak Kumar, Joint Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies Ministry, talked about the various initiatives of the government for helping states in minimising the distribution losses.

He said that provision has been made with Management Information System (MIS) for tracking the supply of grains from the Food Corporation of India godowns to the last mile. “Leakage in the distribution process is being plugged by putting all the information online. Record of beneficiaries is also available on the website for the sake of maintaining transparency,” he said.

Kumar added that ninety percent of the work in the procurement process has been decentralised and private sector is being introduced in the food management system.

Sanjeev Chopra, Mission Director, National Horticulture Mission, said that today horticulture production (including fruits, vegetables, nuts and saffron) is more than cereals. He stated that agricultural exports will happen through high value agriculture.

Bijoy Patro, Director (Programmes), One World Foundation, highlighted the need for bridging the information gap in the agriculture sector. “There is no space for information in larger framework. Scientists don’t know how to package the information. A farmer needs timely information for various purposes,” he said.

Talking about ICT enabled initiatives, Patro said that introduction of simple mobile services like weather forecasts and market prices could be helpful in boosting farmers’ income. He also cited an example of Shri Jagdamba Samiti, a Rishikesh-based non-governmental organisation, which has initiated social business model for the apple growers in Uttarakhand.

He elaborated that a nonprofit like OneWorld Foundation India has in collaboration with Cisco pioneered the use of ICTs for assisting the farming community to get customised solutions to their queries. “With the help of mobile phones, farmers dial-in to a service called LifeLines-Agriculture and record queries about any agriculture related problems they face and secure customised answers in both text and voice forms,” he said.

Ravinderjit Singh, CEO, Agriinovate (A government of India Enterprise), highlighted the need for enhancing agricultural development through partnership. Singh said that small farmers don’t have the bargaining power for their produce.

He lamented that the research done by scientists is not able to help farmers on the ground as the same is not marketed well. “Scientists have the knowledge but it is not going to the field,” he said.

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