'Agri sector crisis likely to deepen in 2016-17'

'Agri sector crisis likely to deepen in 2016-17'

'Agri sector crisis likely to deepen in 2016-17'

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advisor on the farm sector on Sunday made a strong pitch for involving the private sector in “all aspects of agriculture” as successive droughts signal tough time ahead for farmers.

Delivering the keynote address at the National Conference on Sustainable Agriculture and Farmers Welfare here, Ramesh Chand, member, NITI Aayog flagged three key issues — assured income for farmers, dealing with fluctuation in the income and easy access to markets — as “quantifiable indicators” to ensure farmers’ welfare.

According to Chand, a agriculture economist, farmers benefited from rising international prices between 2005 and 2012, a period that saw 30 per cent increase in farm income.

However, global prices have remained depressed during the past couple of years, a trend that has also reflected in India. He said the crises could deepen further if the trend is not reversed in 2016-17. He suggested changes in land lease laws to bring sharecroppers within the ambit of various farm credit and crop insurance initiatives of the government.

“25 lakh farmers are leaving farming every year, but they are not leasing or selling their land holdings,” Chand said.

He suggested consolidation of land holdings through lease as more than 50 per cent farmers cultivate less than one acre of land to earn a living.

“Can farmers make a good living out of 2200 sq mts of land? Farmer will always remain in poverty,” he said suggesting extension of the Centre’s flagship initiatives — Startup India, Make in India and Atal Innovation Mission — to the rural sector.

“We should shed the socialist mindset and allow private sector into all aspects of agriculture — R&D, seed production, agri-marketing and trade,” Chand said.

Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh admitted that 2015-16 has been a challenging year for agriculture on account of two successive droughts and deficient post-monsoon rainfall.

He said the government was mulling increasing institutional credit to farmers from the present Rs 8.5 lakh crores.

Singh said the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana unveiled by the Centre last week also covered post-harvest losses that would give greater assurance to farmers on protecting his investments.