AGRICULTURAL DISTRESS

13 Jan 2022

Curtain Hug

In recent years, crop failures, indebtedness, non-remunerative prices, and low returns have resulted in agrarian distress in most parts of the country. India is an agrarian country with around 70% of its people depending directly or indirectly upon agriculture. Agriculture had a 15.4% share in the economy of India in 2017. Around 41.49% of total labor are associated with agriculture in 2020. Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Activists and scholars have offered many conflicting reasons for farmer suicides, such as anti-farmer laws, high debt burdens, poor government policies, corruption in subsidies, crop failure, mental health, personal issues, and family problems.

Poor policy and planning: In the past, Government strategy primarily focused on raising agricultural output and improving food security rather than recognizing the need to raise farmer's income, Absence of direct measures to promote farmers welfare.

The declining average size of farm holdings: Increasing demographic pressure, disguised employment in agriculture, and conversion of agricultural land for alternative uses, has drastically reduced the average landholding.

Dependence on rainfall and climate: Indian agriculture is heavily dependent on monsoon and ever-increasing global temperature has made agriculture more prone to extreme weather events.

Collapsing farm prices: Low global prices have affected exports and the cheaper imports have hurt domestic prices in the country. Lack of easy credit to agriculture and dependence on money lenders. Fragmented supply chains: Large gaps in storage, Cold chains, Limited connectivity, Absence of marketing infrastructure.

Lack of Mechanization: Introduction of the latest technology has been limited due to various reasons like accessibility for credit and low awareness. Crop production is always at risk because of pests and diseases. Shortage of inputs like seeds and irrigation facilities. Deficiencies in Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act. Profiteering by middlemen.

The most commonly cited measure is the number of farmer suicides. As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 10,269 farmers committed suicides in 2019 and the most cited reason was high indebtedness or their inability to pay back loans. Economic insecurity, low productivity, and lack of modernization are the major challenges of Indian agriculture. But China tackled those challenges and modernized agriculture with the twin strategy of increasing small-farm productivity and income and creating non-farm employment in rural areas. The long-term solution of the agrarian distress lies in improving farm productivity by a series of measures like mass irrigation programs through interlinking of rivers, diversification of agriculture, and smart farming by using the latest technology. The climate is changing at the highest ever pace and crops are much dependent on it. Higher temperature can reduce crop productivity and could also increase weed and pest proliferation, which in turn reduces the profit of the farmer and thus inspire him to give up on it and look for other sources of income. The problem of small farmer livelihood is aggravated since small farmers suffer from many production risks like drought, flood, lack of adequate use of inputs, poor extension leading to large yield gaps, lack of assured and adequate irrigation, crop failure. Agriculture is the Fastest Growing Food Production Sector, According to the FAO Report. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a report on July 10 stating, "with 5.8 percent annual growth rate since 2010, aquaculture continues to grow faster than other major food production sectors. Over the next two decades, state governments set up large mandis which were run by regulated Agricultural Production Market Committees or APMCs.

Future agriculture will use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agriculture and robotic systems will allow farms to be more profitable, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly.