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Agriculture

Drought, rural distress and support to farmers Agriculture
 The difficulty of being a farmer

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

After reading this op-ed you will be able to fully attempt the below mentioned question.

Q.) Indian farmers are facing multiple crises. Critically analyse the nature of these crises. (200 Words)

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Crop insurance programmes, APMC Act, Social welfare programmes, Minimum wage levels.

Mains level: Various problems faced by farmers and suggested solutions.
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News:

Context:

1. The Indian farmer has always been like an areca nut in a nutcracker—always under pressure from both the supply and the demand sides

Condition of landholdings and irrigation in country:

1. Number of farmers: There are about 145 million landholdings in the country. With about 92% of them being wholly owned and self-operated, we may assume that we have about 130 million farmers

2. Irrigated vs Rain-fed area: With more than 40% of our cultivated area of 175 million hectares being irrigated, there is a clear distinction between farmers with irrigation and those with rain-fed acreages

3. Vulnerability: While farmers who have access to irrigation are better placed, those who are in rain-fed and drought-prone areas are most vulnerable

4. More area, less productivity: They occupy 60% of the cultivated area but contribute only 45% of the total agricultural production

5. Consequences: These are the farmers without the financial wherewithal to withstand the vagaries of nature. A single crop failure due to drought, flood or similar reasons can destroy them

Problems faced by our farmers:

• Crop insurance programmes:

1. Crop insurance programmes have not been able to recover farmers’ investments in most cases

2. This is due to lack of accurate farm-level data that can be used to settle claims

3. Satellite and remote sensing technologies are for the future

• Economics of demand and supply:

1. Planted acreages have little to no connection with projected demand

2. With every recurring phenomenon of high production that is in excess of demand, there is the consequent (and drastic) fall in prices

3. When a farmer plants a crop, he does not know what the likely market price of his produce will be

4. The government’s minimum support price (MSP) gives him some direction, but it operates only with some crops

• No commodity-based farmers’ organization:

1. In other countries, such organizations advise farmers on global projections of demand and supply for specific crops and help in moderating acreages in line with projected demand

2. There is no commodity-based farmers’ organization in the country to address these issues

3. Neither are there platforms for farmers to highlight issues to key stakeholders such as policymakers, economists and scientists

4. Existing farmer organizations are aligned with political or other special interest groups

• High-input cost of farm labour:

1. The cost of labour has risen due to social welfare programmes and minimum wage levels

2. Also, the problem is the availability of labour at the right time and at the right cost

3. At peak times, like sowing, transplanting, harvesting, etc., it is very difficult to get sufficient farm labour

4. One solution to address this is greater reliance on technology

5. It can be through farm mechanization, the use of weedicides or genetic engineering, that can lower input and time costs

6. Farmers should be encouraged to use such labour-saving options instead of being burdened with the social objective of protecting rural employment and being denied access to new technology

• Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act

1. APMC Act prohibits farmers from selling their produce in any mandi (grain/commodity market) other than their designated one

2. This makes farmers vulnerable to middlemen and vested interests

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3. They are exposed to global prices but are not provided with access to cost-efficient technologies and information systems

4. Karnataka has united all mandis in the state on an electronic platform and this has reportedly improved farmers’ selling prices by 38%

5. This should be replicated nationally

• Agricultural extension system:

1. It has collapsed in many parts of the country

2. The farmer is forced to depend on the advice of agri-input dealers and commercial organizations instead

3. Some organizations are attempting to use information and communication technology-based methods to give technical advice to farmers

• Banks:

1. Banks need to get more generous with credit in rural areas where the stranglehold of private moneylenders continues to wreak havoc

• Other problems:

1. Lack of rural infrastructure, reliable power, cold-storage, roads and transport systems, etc., continue to cripple farm operations and increase costs

Suggested solution:

1. We need to overhaul our thinking and approach towards addressing farmers’ challenges which are complicated and structural in nature

2. Waiving farm loans is a lazy option for governments and a costly option for the banking system