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How to make agriculture a profitable sector

The agriculture sector contributed 51.9 percent to India’s GDP in 1950. Since then it has been on a downside and it currently stands at 13.9 percent. However, a change from an agrarian-centric economy to an industry-centric economy is inevitable with the advent of industries. With industries growing at a faster pace than the rate at which trees are being planted, will there be a time when agriculture’s productivity dwindles to a null? If yes, is it already here?

Living in a country where the cattle is worshipped as a goddess, about 60 percent of the population was banking on agriculture for their main source of income during the 1950s. Despite half of the population still continuing with the profession, the returns are low. While urbanisation might be cited as a reason, it is hard not to neglect the fact that agriculture is no more a profitable sector. Infrastructure costs have started running high, with its maintenance cost and capital investment only adding on to the farmers’ misery. According to an article by The Hindu, the average recovery rate of the investments made by Indian farmer is only 30 percent.

Another cause for low productivity is small holdings of land with farmers. By owning a fragmented land, effective irrigation and optimum usage of fertilisers for crops becomes difficult, thus resulting in lower yields. In India, more than two-thirds of the crops lack proper irrigational facilities, albeit India being the second largest irrigated country after China. But improper irrigation can also lead to other problems affecting yield like soil erosion, salinity, etc.

In the wake of agriculture losing its lucrative appeal, budget 2016-17 has proposed to bring 2.85 million hectares under irrigation, Rs 2,87,000 to be donated and 100 percent electrification to all villages by May 2018. The government has also announced a couple of initiatives to resolve the farmers’ plight.

Some of the recent developments in the agriculture and allied sector are enumerated below:

Launch of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana 

Farming has become an unreliable sector. Farmers are always unsure of the yield they’ll reap, but strive to draw the maximum benefits out of their investments and effort. Often farmers might be at the receiving end, with natural calamities like droughts and floods affecting their yield adversely. To resolve the problem of unpredictable nature of farming and prevent farmer suicides in the country, the Government launched PM Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in early 2016. It’s a crop insurance policy with relaxed premium rates on the principal sum insured for farmers. Implemented with a budget of Rs 17,600 crore, this scheme will provide financial support to farmers and cover for their losses. This initiative is expected to go on floors from the next Kharif season of farming, that is from June 2016.

After green, white, and golden, it’s time for blue

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Blue Revolution in India. It’s an integrated scheme designed to increase the productivity and profitability from aquaculture and fisheries resources, inclusive of both inland and marine. With a budget of Rs 3,000 crore offered by the government for the next five years, this scheme aims to maintain an annual growth rate of six to eight percent of the agriculture and allied sector.

Government to invest Rs 221 crore to improve milk productivity

India boasts of being the largest producer of milk in the world with an annual output of 130 million tonnes. However, with a milk-producing animal population of more than 118 million, the milk yields per animal is very low. To meet the steadily growing demand for milk, the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has announced 42 dairy projects, under a budget of 221 crore. These projects shall focus on improving the milk productivity of major milk-producing states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the likes.

Energy-efficient irrigation to be implemented

A report says that in India more than two-thirds of the arable area lacks proper irrigational facilities. Taking note of this, Power Minister Piyush Goyal said that the government is planning on investing Rs 75,000 crore to provide energy-efficient irrigational facilities to farmers, over the next three to four years. Under this scheme, close to 30 million energy-saving pump sets would be given to farmers and this cost would be recovered via savings in the electricity consumed. This would result in about 46 billion kWh of power being saved and creation of 20 lakh jobs.

Launch of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

The government has launched Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana in order to address the critical importance of soil and water for improving agricultural production. The government would support and improve the organic farming practices prevalent in India. Following cluster approach mode of farming, at least 50 farmers would form a group having 50 acres of land to implement organic farming. The government aims to cover 10,000 clusters and five lakh hectares of arable land under organic farming within three years.

Recently, the government has been active in investing in agricultural infrastructure such as irrigational facilities, mechanised farming, and warehousing. The growing use of genetically modified crops will also improve the sector’s contribution to GDP. While all of these initiatives look promising, in what way are they going to affect the current scenario is something interesting to watch out for.

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