Thursday, August 18, 2016

Food Parks, a new sunrise industry

During the last budget, our Finance Minister expressed intentions to double the farm income in next 5 years. A great initiative, I thought. Anyway farm incomes would rise given the steadily growing demand and short supply causing food pricing soaring high and being a major driver in inflation. But Govt.’s efforts would surely help the farmers. I was thinking in what all ways farm incomes can see an improvement. I wrote them down here.

·       Higher yield (GM seeds, right use of fertilizers and pesticides, right info)
·       Infrastructure (Water and Power supply, better connectivity to markets)
·       Improved storage (modern warehouses, cold storage etc.)
·       Productivity gains (use of farm equipment, imparting skills to farm labors)
·       Wider market (Reducing export restrictions, futures market)
·       Finance (easy loans and crop insurance)

When you look at those factors, while some of it can be done at individual capacity, most of it needs Govt.’s support like developing infrastructure, removing trade barriers etc. And Govt. has started acting on it. (Link:http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/more-cold-chains-food-parks-to-boost-farm-incomes/article8999592.ece)
A food park can help farmers in many ways from providing the right info to sow to connect them with end markets. Strengthening that with right infrastructure would help in every phase of farming. From soil testing to rain forecasts, choosing the right seed to right amount of fertilizer, helping them store the produce to reduce wastage or turn produce into alternate products through food processing and finally helping them to market at the right price. This kind of hand-holding throughout the farming process is necessary to reduce the volatility in supply and in the prices. As more umber of people get out of poverty, their first demand would be increased food consumption. Population is still growing and would need few decades before it tops out. That will also take the food demand high. But the available land does not increase as forest zones are already carved out and all towns and villages are expanding too. Only way out would be to have higher yields with improved methods and facilities. Whole world is noticing this and India needs to lead by example.

India was an agriculture based economy throughout its history. When the human civilization learnt farming, they found that there is no better place than India to grow their food. So large number of migrants settled down here to become part of India. Those farmers financed the kingdoms through taxes. But they remained poor forever. Times are changing. Don’t be surprised if an average farmer’s income matches that of an IT employee in the next ten years. By the way growth in IT parks is seeing saturation but Food Parks are a sunrise industry.

Dear Finance Minister, your wish will come true but it may take little longer than five years. Those looking for long term investments, farm lands should be on your horizon.