The agriculture sector emerged as a sole bright spot in India’s economy during the current fiscal year, clocking a growth of 3.4%. But the growth needs to be sustained by treating the sector as a modern business enterprise and not just as a means of providing rural livelihood, says the annual economic survey released on Friday.
While the agriculture sector ensured against all adversities due to Covid-19 a continuous supply of staples and enabling food security, the finance ministry document adds that India’s objective of inclusive development cannot be realised without the development of the rural sector which crucially depends on agriculture.
“There is a need for a paradigm shift in how we view agriculture from a rural livelihood sector to a modern business enterprise. In this context, both production and post production in agriculture needs urgent reforms to enable sustainable and consistent growth,” the survey said.
It highlights that there is a need for increasing the area under irrigation, adoption of hybrid and improved seeds, increasing variety replacement ratio and augmentation in seed testing facilities will help address low productivity concerns.
“Adequate storage and remunerative markets for agricultural products should be the main focus of post-production management. It is also important to integrate agriculture with nutritional outcomes by means of food fortification of staples,” the survey added.
Linkages between production, processing, markets
There is also need for setting up village-level procurement centres, setting up linkages between production and processing, development of rural markets and offer farmers the option of selling outside Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Markets.
It adds that the recent agricultural reforms would remove the restrictions that prevented farmers from selling their produce outside APMC markets. It adds that the presence of multiple intermediaries between farmers and the final consumers has led to low realization for the growers.
Poor marketing infrastructure such as faulty weighing scales and huge queues to sell their produce further compound the difficulties of farmers.
The survey adds that it is essential to impart farmers basic education and training to transform their role from producers to entrepreneurs.
It suggested that the option of setting up rural agricultural schools for hands-on training may be explored.
Moreover, allied sectors like animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries need to be boosted not only in terms of higher production, but also better marketing of their products.
Similarly, agriculture extension services need to be strengthened to provide farmers better technical information about agriculture practices and the use of inputs, the survey added.