New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) Doubling farmers’ income through increased production, diversification in farming systems that are eco-regionally sustainable, input cost reduction, availability of credit at low interest rate, better income through direct linkages to markets are some of the major recommendations of a report submitted to the government recently.
The report on ‘Policies and Action Plan for Secure and Sustainable Agriculture’ prepared by a committee headed by R.S Paroda was recently presented to K. VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Advisor.
VijayRaghavan had constituted the committee to review agricultural policies and suggest strategies as well as action plan to achieve faster, secure and sustainable agriculture so as to ensure improved livelihood of smallholder farmers.
For increased income of farmers, and for attracting youth in agriculture, the report has said that emphasis is clearly needed now on secondary and specialty agriculture, supported well by value chain for efficient post-harvest handling, rural based primary processing and marketing.
In this context, it has recommended that the minimum support price (MSP) be fixed at 1.5 times of cost C2 and the procurement in future be extended to all commodities, with decentralised procurements to be made by the States.
Also, there is need to enhance markets intensity in rural areas and ensure market linkages through e-NAM requiring uniform adoption of Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLM) Act and Contract Farming Act by various States. Further, the mandi tax has also to be rationalised around 5-7 per cent, as some even charge more than twice the amount.
The Essential Commodities Act (ECA) and Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act also need to be reviewed in regard to their relevance especially when intention through e-NAM is to create a unified national market to benefit both the producers and consumers.
The report has highlighted the need to rationalise input subsidies and transfer them henceforth to farmers through direct benefit transfer (DBT) mechanism such as: converting subsidies on fertilizers as incentives for use as per the need assessed through soil health cards, power and irrigation subsidy through adoption of conservation agriculture as well as micro-irrigation practices.
Accordingly, the committee has recommended to convert subsidies as incentives for both farming efficiency and environmental services at the rate of Rs 10,000 per acre per annum up to a maximum of 10 acres per farming family.
Strengthening of the price stabilization fund is also suggested with enhanced allocations and the creation of a credit risk management fund is suggested on the model of plantation crops. Insurance of horticultural crops, livestock and fishery needs to be given equal importance under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY), it said.
The report also highlights an urgent need for policy reforms to increase capital investment in agriculture (both public and private), especially in the eastern, North-eastern, dryland and coastal regions that are capable of more sustainable Green Revolutions in future.
It has also called for increase in credit access to the farmers and young entrepreneurs at low interest rate — 4 per cent — and creation of more financial institutions such as Kisan Banks, increasing investments in rural — roads and electricity — and marketing infrastructure, including pledged warehouses, production and availability of quality seeds and planting material.
The report notes that institutional reforms are important to sustain the gains in agriculture through scaling scientific innovations.
Some key institutional reforms recommended are: review of existing agricultural policies and forming new ones on agriculture and farmers’ welfare to meet the emerging challenges and reorientation of on-going missions/national programs, including urgency for initiating some new missions; clearance of some key pending Acts/Bills by Parliament; strengthening of institutions like ICAR, establishment of a new National Agricultural Development and Farmers’ Welfare Council (NAD & FWC) under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.
It has also called for establishing Farmers’ Welfare Commissions both at the Centre and State level, as an institutional mechanism for providing a neutral platform; an Independent Strategic Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation Unit to review and assess the impact of all central agriculture related schemes; grass root knowledge empowerment through both public and paid extension systems.