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Decoding Issues And Priorities For Indian Agriculture Sector
India is self-reliant in agriculture and exports USD 60 billion and imports USD 30 billion worth of agricultural products, Agarwal said
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Farmers must be liberated from numerous controls, restrictions and constraints and need to sell their produce only in regulated mandis, said Saurabh Agarwal, Founder and CTO, ReshaMandi in an interview with BW Businessworld.
He further said that if India can ensure not more than 10 per cent of its workers in 2047 in agriculture are producing 10 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP), it will truly signal farmers’ prosperity and that of the Indian economy by extension.
Following are the edited excerpts of the interview:
1. As India is moving on from the shadows of the pandemic, what is the current status of agriculture in India?
The majority of India’s population – 58 per cent makes their living largely from agriculture. One of India’s greatest employers, the unorganised sector, is becoming more organised as a result of the growth of agritech and its ecosystem.
The industry has witnessed strong growth in terms of exports during the past 12 months. India received about USD 1 billion in agritech funding between 2017 and 2020, according to IBEF. India ranks third in terms of agritech finance and the number of agritech startups, along with strong investor interest.
The country as a whole has seen a tremendous expansion of agricultural trade. Producers now have access to additional markets because of the government's strong support and investment in regulatory measures that have enhanced farmers' access to agricultural markets. The diversification of agricultural livelihoods through agri-allied sectors, including animal husbandry, forestry and fisheries has increased the range of available livelihoods.
By 2025, Inc42 projected that the Indian agricultural sector will grow to a value of USD 24 billion. Indian agritech companies are anticipated to receive investments worth USD 30-35 billion around the same time.
2. How is your company helping Indian farmers?
Since its inception, ReshaMandi has transformed the natural fibre supply chain, which helped in controlling the unorganised sector. Currently, we collaborate with over 60,000 farmers, 10,000 plus weavers, 6,600 reelers and 4,000 retailers. We also train farmers using an AI-driven cocoon grading system that is a modification of the famed Renditta test.
3. How can that fourth agricultural revolution in India help rural farmers?
The fourth agricultural revolution aims to feed more people by increasing food production on the same amount of land. It is creating cutting-edge, long-lasting improvements in agro-processing and production through smart farming technologies. With new, paradigm-shifting technologies on an economic, environmental and societal level, the global agriculture system is changing.
Increased productivity and better eco-efficiency may be possible with the use of smart technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT). Farmers utilise the IoT to remotely monitor their crops and use sensors to find weed growth, pest infestation and water levels. By 2025, it is anticipated that the IoT-enabled agricultural sector would generate USD 4.5 billion.
AI will support autonomous machinery that might be utilized for weeding, milking livestock, picking crops and spreading agrochemicals, as well as assist farmers in making wise decisions.
4. Do you think the agriculture sector needs to perform beyond expectations to achieve a USD 5 trillion economic target?
According to a report by ICAR, India is currently working hard to attain a GDP worth USD 5 trillion. India’s economy, which is ranked second after China, receives USD 400 billion from agriculture.
All economic sectors, including those in agriculture, industry and services, must perform above average to meet this ambitious national goal. To reach this objective, our total exports must be USD 1.0 trillion per year, with 10 per cent of that coming from agriculture and allied industries.
To reach USD 100 million in agri-export, smart agriculture is essential to maintain our products’ competitiveness on a global scale.
Agritech startups can be extremely helpful in this effort. However, the bottleneck needs to be cleared within the least possible time. If the efforts are met with success, not only will the per capita income increase from the present USD 1,800 to USD 3,600, but the income from systematic farming will also double.
5. What are the major technologies that farmers should adopt to boost their output?
A lot of cutting-edge technology, such as IoT devices, moisture and temperature sensors, GPS, etc., should be adopted by farmers. Businesses can become more successful, productive, safe and environmentally friendly due to cutting-edge equipment, robotic systems and precision agriculture techniques.
6. PM Modi said that India will be a developed country by 2047. How can reforms in the agriculture sector help to achieve this dream?
Presently, India is self-reliant in agriculture and exports US$60 billion and imports US$30 billion worth of agricultural products.
Reinvesting in more diverse agriculture can regenerate the Earth and set communities up for long-term economic success. To achieve this goal, the Government of India is committed to developing a strategy to double farmers’ income.
Farmers must be liberated from numerous controls, restrictions and constraints and need to sell their produce only in regulated mandis. If India can ensure not more than 10 per cent of its workers in 2047 in agriculture are producing 10 per cent of its GDP, it will truly signal farmers’ prosperity and that of the Indian economy by extension.
7. How have recent developments like the export ban, heatwaves and farm fires impacted the agricultural sector? How can we improve that?
The wheat export prohibition dilemma has drawn attention to India’s sweltering conditions. Crops, fruits and animals in the nine states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra have been affected by the anomalous increase in the maximum and minimum temperatures this year.
Farm fires have resulted in major damage to crops and severe losses for farmers.
Through continued efforts, agriculture is now becoming more adaptive to the climate. To increase the agriculture sector’s adaptability to a changing environment, the central government has introduced specific programmes such as the Paramparagat Krishi Vikash Yojana, Soil Health Card plan, Neem-coated urea, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, etc.
Meanwhile, some state governments, such as those in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, etc., have begun large-scale campaigns to support natural and organic farming methods.
Increased solarisation (and the use of renewable energy) in Indian agriculture is now being seriously recommended to reduce the sector’s carbon footprints, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
The ministry has identified its intended climate actions in the agriculture sector such as increasing efficiency in water usage, promoting organic farming, conservation agricultural practices, plantations and agroforestry, etc.