Half of the year has passed by in a blink and there is no better time to reflect on the past and assess the future possibilities for Indian agriculture than this. The past few years have been distressful for Indian farmers – dwindling income, drought or consistent drought-like situations and resultant financial debt has posed considerable difficulty to the farming community. There were uncertainties around the elections too, but now that all doubts have been put to rest, it is time to set the right course for Indian farming community.
Developing Agri Startups for Better Use of Crops
Amid all the gloom, one good news is that the Indian agriculture has started attracting foreign investment firms – agri-focused accelerator and investor Pioneering Ventures has launched ‘Rural India Impact Fund’, a private equity fund with a targeted corpus of US$70mn, to provide growth capital exclusively to companies it has backed so far. This is one among the series of venture capitalists flocking to Indian agriculture, a trend that can give tremendous boost to the shaky supply chain management and credit facility to farmers. In fact, the farm-to-fork concept that comprises a growing number of start-ups in the domain will receive further fillip and in turn, the farmers will get a more reliable channel to mobilise their produce. With the new government with a huge mandate in place, we are likely to see more incubation happening for developmental- and early-stage start-ups even as mid-stage start-ups are likely to receive more funding. The government must focus on attend to the support infrastructure needs in each state and address key issues such as requirement for loans, availability of growth capital, taxation on angel investment, and applicability to mainstream government schemes, among others.
Tackling Climate Change and Developing Irrigation
Out from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, climate change is as real as a raging fire. In many parts of India, this rapidly aggravating phenomenon has left hundreds of acres of arable land dry and barren. The drought and drought-like condition has forced several farmers in the western and central parts of the country to take adverse steps. Those who are alive are forced to watch standing crops adversely impacted. The changes in climate are a significant trend to watch out for this year. An effective climate risk mitigation strategy comprising better water management, including improving irrigation penetration and opting for drip and micro irrigation as well as investing in more serious research to develop crop variants that are resistant to rising temperatures and drought and will need less water are key. Effective climate mitigation is an effort for sensitizing the adoption of climate change measures to ensure countless benefits for farming and trading fraternity. The government is rolling out curated solutions for early warning system which is expected to play a vital role in evaluating and reducing the risks of erratic climate changes. However, farmers may need some help with expertise in water management and optimum utilization of available water resources that should aim at reducing consumption of groundwater for farming.
PMKSY can provide innovative solutions
The water management and conservation initiatives such as watershed management and drip irrigation play an important role in solving the water problem of the Indian agricultural sector to a large extent. Storing rainwater, also known as rainwater harvesting, can become a reliable source of waters for farmers. The government agencies monitoring water usage to maintain national and international standards should empower the farming fraternity by providing the right kind of support to build the infrastructure. Besides, providing loan waivers and incentives to the farmers who use water judiciously should add an extra plus. Schemes like Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojna (PMKSY) are a great move to bring in more area under irrigated agriculture: In 2017, nearly Rs1,484cr was sanctioned under the scheme, aiming to cover 39 lakh ha of land. The micro irrigation scheme under the PMKSY has added 6 lakh ha in the current year. This trend needs to continue as schemes like these are beneficial for small and marginal farmers and in geographies where limited water sources are available.
Apart from these, expansion of agri insurance coverage, effective claim management, controlling distress sale and the oversupply of agricultural commodities during the peak season and mitigate the agricultural losses in the near future are some of the concerns the government needs to address on an urgent basis to enable Indian agriculture flourish.
The author, Rajesh Aggarwal is Managing Director, Insecticides (India) Limited