Radha Mohan singh – Agricultural Minister of India
Ranvir Nayar September-October 2016
Optimising agricultural potential
Agriculture has been the backbone of Indian economy. While the country industrialises rapidly, agriculture has been facing setbacks. But, the government is resolute on bringing the agriculture sector up to pace and provide it with the necessary support.
What have been the key achievements of your government in the last two years?
There have been numerous achievements of the government in the last two years. We firmly believe that with these interventions, we will be able to double the income of farmers in the next two years.
After weeding out the anomalies in various insurance schemes, the Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme has been launched all over India. This is government’s biggest support till date for complete protection of farmers’ production costs. We also have schemes to bring irrigation to each field and develop soil health cards which will be made available to all the 140 million farmers of our country. It will help them use appropriate inputs for a better crop besides improving soil health and fertility. We also have schemes to promote organic farming in the country. The scheme aimsat the development of Organic Value Chain in the North East, and is already operational. Another initiative is to ensure best price to farmers for their produce through a unified national electronic trading portal.
For the convenience of farmers, four mobile apps namely, KisanSuvidha, PusaKrishi, Agri MarketandFasalBeema have been launched. These can be downloaded from mkisan.gov.in as well as the Google Play Store.
For promoting agriculture forestry, INR 750 million (EUR 10.08 million) has been earmarked in the union budget of 2016-17. This will promote intercropping and plantation on fallow lands and thus, in turn, being additional income to farmers.
For the first time in our country, under the National Bovine Reproduction and Dairy Development Programme, India’s own cattle breeds being conserved and promoted. We have also given fresh impetus for integrated development of marine and inland fisheries. The goal is empowerment of fishermen and increased fish production in a sustainable manner.
Although agriculture forms the basis of the Indian economy, 52 pc of agricultural households are in debt; what initiatives are being taken to improve the condition of farmers?
Farmers are indebted to both institutional and non-institutional sources of credit. In order to bring more and more farmers within the institutional fold, the government is providing, through institutional sources (commercial banks, cooperative banks and regional rural banks), short-term crop loans and medium/ long term loan to farmers.
The ground level agriculture credit target for the year 2014-15 was fixed at INR 8 trillion (EUR 107.5 billion) and credit to the tune of INR 8.45 trillion (EUR 113.5 billion) had been advanced to the farmers in the country. The agriculture credit target for 2015-16 was INR 8.5 trillion (EUR 114 billion) and agriculture credit of more than INR 8.77 trillion (EUR 117.8 billion) (provisional) has been advanced. The agriculture credit target for 2016-17 has been set at INR 9 trillion (EUR 120. 8 billion).
Short-term crop loan of INR 300,000(EUR 4,000) is being provided to farmers at an interest rate of 7 pc per annum. Farmers, who promptly repay their crop loans as per the repayment schedule fixed by the banks, get the benefit of interest subvention of 3 pc. Thus, the effective interest rate for the short-term crop loan is only 4 pc per annum.
In order to discourage distress sale by farmers and to encourage them to store their produce in warehouses against warehouse receipts, the benefit of interest subvention scheme has been extended to small and marginal farmers having Kisan Credit Card for a further period of upto six months post-harvest on the same rate as available to crop loan against negotiable warehouse receipt for keeping their produce in warehouses.
We are also promoting Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) which is an informal group comprising 4-10 individuals coming together for the purpose of availing bank loan on individual basis or through group mechanism against mutual guarantee. The JLG mode of financing serves as collateral substitute for loans to be provided to the target group i.e. small, marginal, tenant farmers, oral lessees, share croppers etc.
While the overall growth of GDP in FY15 was estimated at 7.3 pc, the agri-GDP grew only 0.2 pc. Why is the agriculture sector lagging behind?
Growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) is compiled over the previous years. The year 2013-14 was an excellent agricultural year with record production in many crops. The year 2014-15 suffered drought in many parts of the country with overall rainfall deficiency of 12 pc and the crop production declined. Due to combined impact of higher base in 2013-14 and lower crop production in 2014-15, the growth in crop sector was negative.
What is the Government doing to promote Organic farming?
Our government has put great focus on organic farming. This is happening for the first time in the country. Cultivated area certified under organic farming has grown from 455,000 ha in 2009-10 to 1,489,000 ha in 2015-16. Under organic certification system, both the cultivable as well as wild harvest collection area is certified.
Under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) scheme, the financial assistance is provided to a target of 10,000 clusters of 50 acres each, to be taken up within three years. In 2015-16, INR 3 billion (EUR 40 million) has been allocated under PKVY. The scheme is being implemented with the sharing pattern of central and state government, on a 60:40 ratio, and 90:10 for the North-Eastern states of India. INR 20,000(EUR 270) per farmer per acre in a cluster was provided to the farmers for three years, which have now been increased to INR 50,000 (EUR 670) per farmer per hectare.
Prices of pulses are soaring; what is the government doing to increase the yield of pulses?
Recently the government has taken several steps to increase production of pulses in the country. Support price of pulses has been increased tremendously. Also, we are procuring on market prices this year, which are more than support prices.
Under National Food Security Mission (NFSM), 482 districts of 16 states were included up till 2013- 14. Now, eight north-eastern states, three hilly states, Goa and Kerala are also included. In 2016-17, all 638 districts in 29 states of the country are included under NFSM. Of INR 17 billion (EUR 228 million), total allocation for the NFSM, INR 11 billion (EUR 148 million) (centre’s share) were allocated to pulses, which is 60 pc more than the total allocation.
To ensure availability of seeds of new varieties, ICAR, State Agricultural University and Agricultural Sciences Centres, are creating pulse seeds hubs. Every centre will produce 1,000 quintals of pulses and availability of 150,000 quintals of seeds would be ensured from these 150 pulses seed hubs. I am happy to report that there has been a 40 pc increase in sowing area of pulses so far this year.
How can the agriculture sector gain from international food fairs? How can India learn from the west in research, production and technology in agriculture?
By participating in agriculture related international events, we get the chance to see the development in the sector as well as to showcase the development made by India in this field.
The Ministry has been signing MoUs/Agreements for expanding cooperation in the Agriculture sector by fostering mutually beneficial partnerships with other countries of the world in a multilateral as well as bilateral format. So far, 76 MoUs/ Agreements have been signed with 65 countries for cooperation in the field of agriculture.
Likely benefits accruing from such agreements/MoUs are in the nature of capacity building, knowledge exchange through visits of scientists and technicians, exchange of genetic resources, etc. that aid in development of appropriate technologies and farm practices for enhancing agricultural productivity. Such cooperation also facilitates creation of opportunities for trade in agricultural commodities. India’s strategic interests are also served through partnerships with other countries.