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The Improved Face Of Indian Farmers

Agriculture, with its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihood in India with 70% of its rural households depending primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82% of farmers being small and marginal. The Indian food industry is poised for massive growth, increasing its contribution to the world food trade every year due to its immense potential for value addition. The Indian food and grocery market are the 6th largest in the world with retail contributing to 70% of sales. India is rapidly developing in terms of technology, infrastructure, government support & education which has helped Indian farmers in many ways as discussed below:

Improved Infrastructure

With the growing Indian economy and changing business perspectives, the scope of the logistics industry has broadened from rudimentary transportation of goods to include end-to-end supply chain solutions, warehousing, and express delivery.

The movement of trucks is much faster than it was ever before thus increasing the consumability of the product within its shelf life. The farmers have easy access to the cities to sell the product which was not possible in yesteryears

IME, UK has pointed out that India’s investment in the cold chain is projected to be $15B over the next five years. Better storage facilities encourage traders and companies to increase their stock levels, which motivates the farmers to produce more without jeopardizing their sales, thus improving the overall growth in the agri- economy.

There has been a 200% increase in irrigated land in the past decade due to better irrigation facilities, thus helping farmers to be less dependent on rainfall. In addition to this, the initiative – Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) has been launched investing Rs 50,000 crore (USD $7.7B) aimed at the development of irrigation sources for providing a permanent solution to drought.

Technological Advancement

Unlike the olden day farmers, the new age Indian farmer is not the stereotypical ‘Kisan (farmer). They are tech-savvy and are open to adopting new technologies that can help them improve their income. For instance, there are several YouTube channels like Hello Kisan with 422k, Farmer Leader with 2 million subscribers helping farmers across India. On social media platforms like Facebook, there is a group called The Farmer’s Market with a member strength of 25k it has become an engaging platform for farmers to seek help or advice from other farmers. WhatsApp groups are now used extensively by farmers to exchange knowledge and collaborate with peers. A group called Hoy Amhi Shetkari (HAS) has impacted the lives of more than 600k farmers having hundreds of success stories to share. From ordering seeds online to seeking inputs on social media, there is the rapid adoption of information technology by Indian farmers.

eNAM (National Agriculture Market) and ITC e-Choupal

eNAM market facilitates farmers, traders, and buyers with online trading in commodities that is helping in better price discovery and provide facilities for smooth marketing of their produce. It is linked with 585 markets Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in 16 states and 2 union territories, with over 45 lakh farmer membership in 15 states.

Similarly, ITC e-Choupal empowers farmers resulting in higher productivity and income through a host of services related to know-how, best practices, relevant weather information, transparent prices, access to quality agriculture inputs and it also serves as a purchasing center. It has benefitted more than 4 million farmers in over 40,000 villages.

There are 345 Agri-tech startups in India working with the latest technology, reaching out in the most remote areas to help the farmers. Smartphones with low-cost data and calling charges have truly been a boon in recent years.

Newer Market Opportunities

The private retail wave has been extremely fast, particularly in the past 6 years increasing it to 49% p.a. Small producers, who have been able to integrate into the logistics of the supply chain, supermarkets have offered enhanced security and higher margins than traditional clients (wholesale and grocery stores). For example, retailers like Nature’s Basket, Foodhall, Metro, Big Basket are directly reaching out to farmers, improving marketing efficiency and post-harvest processing that benefits all the stakeholders in the full cycle of the supply chain.

A growing number of farmers and agribusinesses in India have seized on export opportunities with the agricultural export market reaching almost USD $40B. Geotagged commodities like turmeric, pepper, tea, saffron, basmati rice have opened new market opportunities for the grower community.

Farming Groups – Non-Governmental Organization (NGO)

There are multiple farming groups helping farmers in many ways for e.g. Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA) in Andhra Pradesh has reached 8033 villages in 503 manuals of all 22 districts. It covers about 2.7 million acres and benefits about 1.05 million farmers. Their main goal is to enhance the participation of farmers in the entire life cycle of farming which includes problem analysis, technological advancement, process evaluation, and early adoption leading to food security and self-reliance.

Organic Farming wave and Fair-Trade practices

India continues to be a country with the highest number of organic farmers in the world i.e. 8,35,000 with more than 1.5 million hectares under cultivation. Organic production has stimulated a dynamic market growth contributing to farm incomes and pushing food productions towards higher sustainability.

There has been a major improvement in soil quality which is helping farmers grow a variety of crops. Under Organic cultivation, there is zero use of pesticides removing any chemical threat to our Farmer’ health and higher income (organic fetches about 15-20% more than conventional) giving them a better lifestyle.

Insurance and Credit Schemes

Agricultural insurance protects farmers against either the loss of their crops due to natural disasters (hail, drought, and floods) or the loss of revenue due to declines in the prices of agricultural commodities. Insurance and credit assurance schemes have brought about a paradigm shift in agriculture, with recent farm credit expansion clocking Rs. 12 lakh crores, a record. The current scheme envisages a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops and 1.5 % for Rabi crops. This encourages the farmers to adopt progressive farming practices, high-value inputs, higher technology and to help stabilize farm incomes, particularly in disaster years.

Government Policies

Several policies are Agro centric with a focus that the Indian farmer has come a long way but still has much to achieve in comparison to other developed countries. Our current government has ensured that farmers have bank accounts so that the benefits are transferred directly to the farmer. The Kisan Credit Card is linked to the farmer’s savings account and all the transactions are done under a single account. This helps them in buying seeds and other essentials during the sowing season and ensures smooth availability of the capital

What is depicted daily through media is a victimized image of the farmer with only suicides and farm waivers shown. It is important to take a holistic view & appreciate the joint efforts of government, cooperatives, corporates & NGOs over the years, who have been working tirelessly to improve the conditions of “Our Farmers”.

It is recognized that significant efforts should be channelized from various agencies & communities for farming to become a successful business model of free choice. According to the World Bank, agriculture is recognized to be more effective in reducing poverty compared to other sectors. Therefore, let’s make agriculture safe, sustainable, and profitable trade.