Agriculture Pivotal to Economic Revival
2nd Sep, 2020
India, being largely an agricultural economy, has to focus on rural areas that have immense potential to ‘reboot and revive the economy’.
Role of Agriculture in the Indian Economy
- The agriculture sector contributes to 265 billion dollars which is 17 percent of GDP and employs ~60-70 percent of the Indian population (directly or indirectly).
- The country houses nearly 1/4th of the world's farmers and contains 48 percent of the world's arable land.
- Currently, India is the-
- world's top producer of pulses, milk
- 2nd largest producer of wheat, rice, vegetables, fruits
- 3rd largest producer of food-grains
- According to NITI Aayog, the agriculture sector is a silver lining for current Indian economy and is supposed to grow at the rate of three percent in the fiscal year 2020-21.
Need for Talking about the Economy
- The rural economy needs a rapid transformation to become economically viable and to further reduce the rural-urban migration.
- The villages need to be reshaped as a pivot of economic growth in order to reduce undue pressure on the cities and to act as a savior in crisis.
India's Position in the World Economy
- We are at an opportune time to tap the world food market as a supplier. For this to happen and to meet the global standards, we need to massively upgrade our agricultural infrastructure and available technologies. Although we may not immediately become big exporters of paddy or pulses,we should attempt to move in that direction.
- In the past, the biggest roadblock to exports has been at the policy level and the food shortage mindset; but now farmers are ready to take on the world market with newly introduced initiatives and policy reforms.
- We have to inspire the agriculture sector to make investments and enhance productivity. It is right time for its high graded entry into the world market. The first and foremost requirement is to accept the role the agriculture can play in revitalising the economy in the years to come.
India's Perspective of Rural Economy
- The role of rural economy in our country is not a new agenda. We have always had the agenda to build and develop rural communities and rural India at the forefront.
- However, with the gradual revival of industries and businesses in urban areas in view of the pandemic, as compared to rural India where recovery is also fast; the business ecosystem needs to move to a safer and prolific domain.
- As we navigate through this crisis, a rural revolution can pave the way to a sustainable future.
Reverse Migration Scenario
- The country is facing the twin challenges of preventing the spread of disease in the short run and accommodating a large number of migrants in the rural economy in a productive manner.
- Thus, to fully leverage thepotential of the agricultural sector and reboot ourrobust rural economy, we need to upscale our farmers- real people who working hard to provide the food on everyone’s plate.
Concerns and Issues
- Since the number of such laborers is huge, providing them employment based on their skills is the next evident step.
- Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Pusa (RPCAU), has developed multifold agro-based technologies that can enable these returning laborers and provide them with skill based jobs. Although accommodating these migrant returnees and employing them in a short duration is a challenging task.
Obstacles during Crisis
- COVID-19 underlined the gaps in our food system in the light of the pandemic i.e. disruptions in the food supply chain, reduction in labor forces, rising prices of staples hitting lower-income communities, supply shock, production slowdown and subdued demand.
- We need to make farming more viable for small land holders by creating a climate-resilient low-cost farming system and drive our own Agri-market with robust demand and expanding export.
- The government organisations and private industries are working hard to fill the existing gap forthe proper transformation in the agriculture sectorand to shift it from traditional to new farming style.
- We are moving from food security to nutrition and health security and growth to efficiency with the market-based high-quality research and new policies, regulations, and reforms.
- The Agri-entrepreneurship and Agri-business development is already getting due attention.
The Way Forward
- The most fundamental step that needs to be taken during this slowdown to leverage the potential of the agriculture sector is to make the farming sector economically viable in the coming months.
- The policy framework needs to be more supportive to agriculture.
- Developing skills amongst low-income farmers in modern farming and other agricultural activities is a right move towards self-sufficiency in domesticfood production and must be at the center of a plan for a sustainable recovery.
- What we need is a package of policy support to ensure that these enterprises can achieve their full potential as units of production, employment and income.
- The need of the hour is to reskill these laborers depending on their existing skillsets, experience and education. The worker must be trained in the new priorities area and we must value their potential.
Increasing Role of Women in Farming
- The role of women farmers is extremely important in the farming as their male counterparts moved to urban areas and started doing other jobs.
- Today women share over 40 percent of the agricultural workforce in India. The increasing proportion of women farmers also reflects that rural agriculture, to a large extent, depends on women's participation.
- However, only less than 10 percent of India's land is owned by women and still, their access over resources remains very low as compared to their male counterparts.
- The women farmers need recognition and rewards to boost their morale and to become a role models so as to influence and motivate other female farmers too.
Promoting Farmer's led Organisations
- The agriculture sector in India is mainly hampered by high transaction costs and low access to credit and agricultural produce markets.
- Hence there is need is to reduce the importance of middlemen trading and let farmers do direct marketing of their produce. This will surely scale up investment in agriculture with improved price realisation.
- One potential solution is the formation of Farmers Organisations and promoting group or cluster farming through them to reap the real benefit of rural India.
Contingent Crop Planning
- To make agriculture more profitable and sustainable, we need to develop crop plans based on different Agro-climatic and Agro-ecological zones. A contingent crop plan, well in advance for the main cropping season, helps farmers to prepare for weather uncertainties during the particular year.
- There is a need to come up withstrategies to educate the marginal and small holder farmers about the resources available to them and the way forward, if there is any loss of crops due to climate.
Agri or Social- Entrepreneurship and Technical Skill Development
- There is need is to provide them proper conditions and bringing them together, as some of the migrants are comfortable with technology and are educated enough. Hence, they are required to be trained further to enable their maximum contribution in rural livelihood.
- In the current challenging scenario, utilitarian values of returning migrant workers have been manifold enhanced.
- Time is ripe to give momentum to the "Back to village" slogan in the post-COVID- 19 India. Quite poetically, this crisis has forced us to truly understand the importance of food the plate and the whole agriculture workforce working tirelessly to make it happen for general mass.