Food Crisis in India

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Food Crisis and Agricultural Reforms in India

"Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy" - this is a statement which epitomises and defines the importance of agriculture in India. It is the driving force of the Indian economy.

The following statistics drive home the point that various agricultural issues and problems need to be addressed and resolved with utmost care for the betterment and sustainability of the economy and society as a whole.

Food Reforms

Share held by agriculture (2009-10)

Percentage

% of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

14.6%

% of total exports

10.23%

% of nation’s total workforce

58.2% (highest across all sectors)

Brief history:

India was hugely dependent upon food imports for many years post-independence. This prompted the government to develop a model for self-sufficiency in grain production. The Green Revolution, headed primarily by Dr.Swaminathan proved to be "successful" in this regard. Consequentially, the country also created substantial reserves for the same.

Challenges faced in the 21st Century:

The benefits of the Green Revolution were evident till the early 1990s. Henceforth, however, the slowdown in agricultural growth became a major cause for concern. Currently, India’s rice yields are one-third of China’s and about half of that of Vietnam and Indonesia (true for most agricultural commodities). Bold action from policymakers will be required to shift away from the existing subsidy-based regime that is no longer sustainable, to build a solid foundation for a highly productive, internationally competitive and diversified agricultural sector.

Poor irrigation

Canal Irrigation (major dam projects) – no more in favour

Major and medium canal irrigation projects are no longer efficient in functioning. They are fast becoming out dated and hugely expensive to maintain.

Micro-irrigation:

Research studies indicate that:

Water saving is about 40 – 80%,

Incurs less labour and fertilizer cost and

The output yield increase is up to 100% for different crops.

Drip irrigation (type of micro-irrigation) is proven to be technically feasible and socially acceptable for small, marginal and large farms.

Limitation:

Unaffordable initial installation cost

In this regard, the government facilitates increase in micro-irrigation by subsidising 50% of the cost of equipment and issuing the balance by institutional credit.

Illiteracy and communication problems

Farmers need to be educated so that they can make well-informed decisions with respect to crop cultivation and harvest. The ITC e-choupal is an excellent venture and lays prime focus on farmer problems.

We know that there has been tremendous penetration of mobile phones in the rural market over the past few years. The potential is huge and the most important part is that the farmer does not have to be literate to use a mobile application.

Concepts which can benefit the farmer community:

Two-way audio/video broadcasts and communication system facilitating direct communication between agricultural experts and farmer community. Mobile social network of local farming community

Farming mobile alerts software giving information on government conferences, market price fluctuation, weather updates etc. Agricultural mobile query system
Inbuilt radar system on mobile phones for regular updates

Inadequate financial inclusion in the rural areas

Financial inclusion is critical for the inclusive growth of a country. According to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), nearly 73% farmers do not have access to any credit facility - formal or informal. This has an effect on the farmer’s marketing strategy as well.

The following facilities can create a positive impact:

Overdraft facility
Provide micro-insurance
Mutual fund and other financial products
Use technology for...
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