Monday, February 23, 2015

Opinion: ‘Farm in India’ and smart farmers

‘Make in India’ is aimed at providing employment. But another major problem of India is its food prices which is a major source of inflation too. Before we discuss further let us look at some numbers.

Source: Agricultural Ministry, Govt. of India
India has 2.4% of world’s geographical area but has to feed 17% of world’s population to be self-sufficient. All of that 2.4% land is not arable. India is a mini world. It has deserts and snow-capped lands. Its mountains and valleys do not make farming an easy task. India houses more than 2,000 wild tigers in its protected forests and all of that forest land (~23% of India’s land) would never be available for farming. (So the effective arable land reduces to approx. 60% of the total land available. Data source: World Bank, Link: India’s population (and world’s too) is expanding. They need to be provided with food at affordable prices. When population is rising, farm output has to increase but the land available for it is not infinite. So it pushes up the food prices. 

Trying to limit the prices through subsidies is bad economics. The better way out of this would be is by increasing agricultural productivity. We know our farming skills are not efficient and we wonder when we hear of a single farming family working in hundred acres of agricultural land in Europe or US. Surely our farming needs reforms. We need to make our farmers less immune to swings of monsoon. We need to build more cold storage facilities to avoid wastage of vegetables and corn. We need to encourage farmers to use better farming methods and machinery. We need to encourage exports of farm produce. We need to increase the number of agricultural universities we have. We need to make agriculture an attractive sector for new talent. That will help provide employment for youth and food at affordable prices for India. And also to the world when we produce surplus.

If we can have a ‘Farm in India’ campaign (after 'Make in India' achieves some milestones) that can encourage prospective entrepreneurs to get into Agriculture. Inviting those international farmers and their associations to do contract farming in India can help our farmers to improve their productivity and farming yields. 

Dear beloved Mr. Modi, as you build smart cities, please help our farmers become smarter too. Help them to help India.