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‘The Challenge Is To Ensure Farmers Get Profitable Returns’

In an exclusive interview Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh speaks to BW Businessworld

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In an exclusive interview Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh speaks to BW Businessworld. 

Edited excerpts:  

Q: What are the main challenges before the agriculture sector in the country today?
The agrarian challenges in India need to be considered. To overcome these challenges, we have to work together to win over them. Our country has only 2.4 per cent of the world’s land area and only 4 per cent water resources are available from the world’s water resources. Despite this, India has to feed nearly 17 per cent of the world’s population. Agriculture is still the main source of livelihood for half of India’s  population and it also provides raw materials to many industries.

Q: What is the Modi government doing to increase the income of the farmers?
Our government is committed to fulfilling the dreams of PM Narendra Modi of doubling the income of farmers by 2022, which marks the 75th anniversary of our Independence. This means that the crisis of the agrarian society will be solved.

We have also devised a new strategy for agriculture sector along with crops, horticulture, dairy, poultry, fisheries and other agriculture related activities. For this, the government has increased budgetary allocation from Rs 45,035.20 crore in 2016-17 to Rs 62,376 crore by the Ministry for 2017-18. At the same time, the budgetary allocation of low expenditure was also increased to higher expenditure.  In 2016-17, allocated budget was Rs 45,035.20 crore, but the expenditure was Rs 57,503 crore. The government has prepared a new strategy for integration of the non-budgetary resources. Under these strategies, corpus fund of Rs 40,000 crore for AIBP projects, Rs 5,000 crore for micro-irrigation and Rs 8,000 crore for dairy development have been included. Apart from this, the government has changed the guidelines relating to many schemes like MNREGA to increase the investment in the sector. Due to this, the investment made under MNREGA related to water management and storage has increased by more than 50 per cent of the total allocation.

Q: What are the steps taken by the government to increase the quality of the seeds?   
The total quantity of the certified and quality seeds have been increased. In 2016-17, 380 lakh quintals were available. Seed Village Programme was organised in 30,000 villages and 150 seed centres were established for pulses.

To produce more under NFSM and NMOP, the productivity of the crops has to be increased. These programmes include distribution of mini kits, front line and group demonstration, water saving tips, IPM, INM and capacity building. In 2016-17, the emphasis was on pulses. There was a record production of 273 million metric tonnes (MT) of food grains and 287 million MT of fruits and vegetables. The estimated production of pulses was 22.4 million MT whereas the production of pulses has been 32.50 million MT.

Q: What steps have been taken to reduce the cost of farmers and to increase their income?
We have taken several steps in this regard:
A.  Soil Health Card (SHC): Before 2015-16, soil health cards were prepared on a small scale by the various state governments and no fund was allocated separately for this. Through this scheme, 12 soil health parameters are analysed so that the farmers might be aware of the right use of fertilisers and nutrients in their fields. There has been 8-10 per cent reduction in the consumption of the fertilisers during 2016-17 as compared to 2015-16. At the same time, there has been a 10-12 per cent growth in production.
B.  Promotion of Organic Farming: To promote sustainable agriculture in Eastern region and the Himalayan states, particularly rain-fed and hilly areas, the government has prepared two major schemes — Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana and Jaivik Shrinkhla Vikas Yojana for Eastern region.
C. Integrated Farming: We use the Integrated Farming System (IFS), which focuses on multiple cropping, crop rotation, inter cropping, mixed crop practices along with horticulture, livestock, fisheries and beekeeping, etc. It not only makes the farmers eligible for sustained livelihood but also reduce the impact of drought, flood and other serious weather-related issues. IFS is being encouraged under the scheme Rain-fed Area Development (RAD), a component of National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. RAD is being implemented in the States from 2014-15.
D. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY):  The Ministry is very concerned and vigilant about farming in the rain-fed irrigated areas. To solve this problem, the government has started a scheme called PMKSY.  The aim is to complete 99 long-term pending and incomplete main and medium agriculture programmes by 2019-20 and to bring 7.6 million hectares additional land under irrigation.  Apart from that, MGNREGA funds will be utilised for protective irrigation.  So far, 9 million hectare area has been benefitted by MGNREGA in the last two years. For the Ministry, water use efficiency is also a special focus area. At present, less than 9 million hectare area is under micro irrigation and now the government is committed to adding two million hectare area each year under micro irrigation.  In 2016-17, 8.5 lakh hectare areas were brought under micro-irrigation.
E. Marketing Efficiency: The biggest challenge in making agriculture viable is to ensure that the farmers get profitable returns for their products. The Ministry is focusing more on post crop activities and marketing operation. Earlier, each State had separate marketing rules. To create a unified national market three major reforms: electronic trading, single point levy of market fees, and single license valid across all markets were brought after consultation with the States. The government had launched eNAM on 14 April 2016, to integrate different APMCs to promote online business on the eNAM platform.  

Till March, 419 markets of 13 states have been brought on the board against the target of 400 markets. eNAM is getting a positive reaction. Currently, 69 agriculture products are being traded through this platform.

Q: What is the plan to save the post-harvest loss?
 Through Agro-Marine Processing And Development Of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA) scheme, help is being provided to the farmers. This is a comprehensive scheme under which Rs 6,000 crore has been allotted and aim is to utilise an investment of Rs 31,400 crore and to manage 334,000 MT of agriculture product worth Rs 104,125 crore.

Q: What steps are being taken by the government to save the farmers from the moneylenders?
For this, the government has taken concrete steps. The dependence of farmers on non-institutional credit is one of the many reasons of the agrarian crisis. The government is constantly increasing the facility of institutional loan for the farmers. In 2013-14, the flow of agriculture loan was Rs 7 lakh crore, which has been increased to Rs 9 lakh crore in 2016-17 and Rs 10 lakh crore in 2017-18. Farmers will continuously get a concessional loan for both production and post-production.  To provide short-term crop loans of Rs 3 lakh at the interest rate of 4 per cent, especially to those farmers who promptly repay, the budgetary provision was of Rs 6,000 crore in the year 2013-14, which has been increased more than two times to Rs 15,000 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 20,339 crore in 2017-18.  To benefit small and marginal farmers in particular, in 2017, a budget of Rs 1,950 crore has been allocated for computerisation of all PACS within three years.

Q: How will the government compensate farmers for their losses? 
There will be various ways for the same:
A. Relief: The government has allocated Rs  61,219 crore to the states under SDRF for the period of 2015-20, which is double as compared to Rs 33,580 crore for the period of 2010-15. After modifying norms for the eligibility of relief, the compensation amount has been increased to 1.5 times. The government has taken quick action under the NDRF on the demand of the State governments and Union Territories Administration. Under NDRF, Rs 29,194 crore has been released to the states during the period of 2014-17 against Rs 9,068 crore during 2011-14.

B. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY): After modifying the earlier scheme Modified National Agricultural Bima Yojana (MNAIS), the government launched PMFBY in 2016. Under the new scheme, a maximum of 1.5 per cent has been fixed for Rabi, which is the lowest rate till date. It not only includes damages to the standing crop but also the risks related to pre-sowing and post-harvest. Under this scheme, the assessment of damages from local disasters is being insured for the first time and 25 per cent of possible claims are paid immediately. In \2016-17, advance claim amount was paid as immediate relief to farmers of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

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