Trend of enterprising youth returning to villages to take up agriculture must be encouraged: Vice President

RSTV Bureau

The Vice President Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today emphasized the need for much-needed reforms in the agriculture sector to improve the status of the Indian farmers and make agriculture profitable. He called for cooperative action to achieve this and a dialogue with farmers and agricultural scientists to design a system that delivers tangible results to the farming community.

Expressing happiness about instances of enterprising youth returning to the villages and bringing advanced techniques to agriculture, the Vice President said this is an encouraging trend and must be further accelerated. He underscored that agri-entrepreneurship is an effective way to gainfully and sustainably employ and leverage our demographic dividend.

Shri Naidu also advised top priority and coordinated action by both the Centre and the States with a team India spirit to bring in reforms.
Shri Naidu also suggested that the 4 Ps–Parliament, political leaders, policymakers and press must proactively adopt a positive bias towards agriculture. “In fact, a radical shift in making agriculture profitable is the need of the hour. We must also ensure that the growth is steady and sustainable”, he said.

Releasing the book ‘Agriculture in India: Contemporary Challenges – in the Context of Doubling Farmers Income’ authored by former Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary, Dr. Mohan Kanda, the Vice President suggested that the problems that are holding back Indian farmers from realizing their full potential must be identified, adding “we can’t continue with business as usual”.

Referring to key issues affecting agricultural productivity such as the decreasing sizes of land holdings, continued dependence on the monsoon, inadequate access to irrigation and lack of access to formal agricultural credit, among others, he said “As a result of these factors, agriculture is not seen as a profitable venture”.

Shri Naidu observed that many people are leaving agriculture and migrating to urban areas because it is not remunerative, because of rising input costs and unfavourable market conditions.

In this regard, the Vice President called for long term policy changes like governance and structural reforms to make agriculture viable. Suggesting that centre and states should give a helping hand to the farmers, he advised governments to think beyond loan waivers. Farmers need timely and affordable credit, assured and quality power, infrastructural support like godowns and marketing facilities, more than just doles, Shri Naidu remarked.

Reflecting on the good practices that can improve the state of agriculture in India, Shri Naidu advised governments to encourage farmers to diversify their crops and take up allied activities to mitigate risks in agriculture. He added that with changing consumption patterns and preferences, organic farming and food processing can be taken up in a big way to make agriculture more profitable. He also suggested that Farmer Producer Organisations should be revived, to leverage the economy of scale and increase the bargaining power of farmers.
Shri Naidu observed that despite the numerous challenges, Indian agriculture looks poised for further growth due to the inherent strengths of Indian farmers and the innovations happening in the sector. In this context, the Vice President lauded the farmers for achieving the feat of record food grain and horticulture production, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s call for doubling farmer’s income by 2022, Shri Naidu remarked that there was a shift in approach in governments and policymakers from simply production and productivity to a focus on farmer and farmer welfare. He said that for this purpose, a holistic strategy was conceptualized and multiple reforms and programmes were introduced, including the recent farm legislations.
Stressing on the importance of addressing the problem of yield-risk and price-risk faced by farmers, Shri Naidu called for focusing on key linkages that can add value to farming such as improvement of road infrastructure, storage and warehousing facilities, crop diversification and food processing. He said that these initiatives can put agriculture on to a more viable, income-generating trajectory.

Elaborating on the importance of crop diversification, Shri Naidu noted that consumption patterns in the country have changed over the years, with less dependence on cereals for nutrition and increased consumption of protein. In this regard, he underscored the need to encourage farmers to grow crops that use less water and power.
Shri Padmanabaiah, Former Home Secretary, Government of India, Shri B. Vinod Kumar, Vice Chairman, Telangana State Planning Board, Dr. Mohan Kanda, Prof. Devi Prasad Juvvadi, Director, Centre for Good Governance, Shri Anil Shah, Director, BSP Books Pvt. Ltd. and others were present during the event.

Following is the full text of the speech:
“Dear sisters and brothers,
First of all, it is a great pleasure to interact with agricultural policy experts, Govt. of Telangana and AP senior officials and Agricultural scientists across India on the occasion of release of book titled “AGRICULTURE IN INDIA: CONTEMPORARY CHALLENGES – In the Context of Doubling Farmers Income” authored by Dr. Mohan Kanda.

I am happy to release the book of Dr. Mohan Kanda whom I know for years and  hence I am familiar with his background and his services to state of Andhra Pradesh and to Union government.

The scientists know that word agriculture is derived from a Latin word- ager or agri meaning soil, and ‘culture’ meaning cultivation of the soil. In modern terms, agriculture comprises “the art and science of cultivating the soil, growing crops and rearing livestock but this has been the soul of India for ages. Besides providing for the livelihood of farmers and labourers, the agricultural sector also addresses food security for the nation.

In post independent India, due to the vision of our policy makers, ingenuity of our agricultural scientists and the industry of our farmers, the agriculture sector has emerged as one of the major success stories. With green revolution, India not only became self-sufficient but exporting several agricultural products.

I am happy to note that during 2019-20 crop year, food grain production reached a record 296.65 million tonnes while production of horticulture crops in India is estimated at a record 320.48 million metric tonnes. It needs to be borne in mind that this output is despite unfavourable conditions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our farmers deserve all appreciation for achieving this feat.

The importance of agriculture and allied activities in our economy is also evident from the fact that during 2019-20 agriculture contribution in GDP has increased to 19.9 percent from earlier year 17.8 percent.  India has also the largest cattle inventory in the world in 2020 followed by Brazil & the United States.

There are however quite a few formidable challenges in Indian agriculture

It is a matter of concern that the agricultural yield (quantity of a crop produced per unit of land) is found to be lower in the case of most crops, as compared to other top producing countries such as China, Brazil and the United States.

Although India ranks third in the production of rice, its yield is lower than Brazil, China and the United States.  The same trend is observed for pulses, where India is the second highest producer.

Key issues affecting agricultural productivity include the decreasing sizes of agricultural land holdings, continued dependence on the monsoon, inadequate access to irrigation, imbalanced use of soil nutrients resulting in loss of fertility of soil, uneven access to modern technology in different parts of the country, lack of access to formal agricultural credit, limited procurement of food grains by government agencies, and failure to provide remunerative prices to farmers. As a result of these factors, agriculture is not seen as a profitable venture.
We can’t continue with business as usual. We must identify the problems that are holding back Indian farmers from realising their full potential. We have to put our heads together, dialogue with farmers and agricultural scientists and design a system that operate efficiently and delivers tangible results to the farming community.

There is a need for urgency in bringing the much-needed reforms in the agriculture sector to improve the status of the Indian farmers. This requires coordinated action by both the Centre and the States with a team India spirit to make agriculture profitable. As farmers are unorganized and voiceless, the 4 Ps–Parliament, political leaders, policymakers and press must pro-actively adopt a positive bias towards agriculture. In fact, a radical shift in making agriculture profitable is the need of the hour. We must also ensure that the growth is steady and sustainable.

Distinguished policy experts and farm scientists,
There are a few trends, catalyzed by new initiatives by both government and the private sector that augur well for the farming sector.
Amidst numerous persistent challenges, Indian Agriculture and Economy look poised for further growth due to the inherent strengths of Indian farmers and the innovations happening in the sector.
Some of the suggestions provided in the book find resonance with the solutions that are necessary for achieving growth in the agriculture sector.

As you all know, Government of India has for the first time brought about a shift in our agricultural strategy from growth of production to increase in farmers’ income. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi declared on 28 February 2016 that his dream is to see that farmers’ income is doubled by 2022 to mark 75 years of India’s independence. This is a major shift in our approach, a clear focus on farmer and farmer welfare, rather than simply production and productivity.

For this purpose, a holistic strategy for the agriculture sector was conceptualised. Efforts are being made to follow this with an integrated approach by introducing multiple reforms and programmes with an overall objective of doubling farmers’ income. The purpose of recent farm legislations included the following aspects:
1.     Increase productivity / production and reduce losses.
2.     Increase market access of agricultural produce through marketing reforms, post-harvest infrastructure and value addition.
3.     Reduce input cost of farmers through optimisation of resources used as inputs.
4.     Undertake governance and structural reforms.
5.     Expand risk mitigation measures to protect farmers against losses due to yield and price risks.
6.     Increase investment in and for agriculture.
7.     Link development activities in sectors such as water resources, soil health, food processing, rural development, power, information technology, environment, fertilisers, and other sectors to agricultural development.

It is important to address the problem of yield-risk and price- risk faced by farmers. Programmes of crop insurance and minimum support price are there for quite some time. It is necessary for all of us to understand and appreciate the principles, objectives and limitations of these programmes. We must focus on key linkages that can add value to farming. Improvement of road infrastructure, storage and warehousing facilities, crop diversification, food processing can put agriculture on to a more viable, income-generating trajectory.  Over the past few decades, with increasing per capita income and access to a variety of food groups, the consumption pattern of food in the country has been changing.  Dependence on cereals for nutrition has decreased and the consumption of protein has increased.

We need to recognize the need to conserve water and power and encourage farmers to grow crops that use less water and power.  We need to educate the citizens to rely on proteinous nutritious food rather than excessive reliance on cereals.

Sisters and brothers,
Many of you have made a mark with your contributions in the ever-risky field of agriculture. Your commitment and achievements made India self-sufficient in food production. I am sure that your achievements not only inspire me and my generation but would also inspire the future generations.  I think, and I am confident, that our generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers have created a platform for future generations to transform India into a great nation.  I am sure the book of Dr. Mohan Kanda will guide and inspire policy makers and farm scientists from time to come to make India Atma Nirbhar Bharat.
Jai Hind!”