Tips For CM Adityanath: These 11 Steps Can Make Uttar Pradesh Agriculture ‘Uttam’

  • Multiplying agriculture growth can pave the way for his dream of creating an Uttam Pradesh.

    There is no growth possible in UP if agriculture stagnates.
  • Swarajya StaffMonday, April 10, 2017 5:09 pm IST
    Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh
    Agriculture in Uttar Pradesh

    Almost a month into office as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath has already set a blistering pace of reforms. The state's tardy bureaucracy is simply struggling to keep pace with its new Chief Minister. Adityanath has displayed glimpses of governance vision he is planning to execute in the coming years in one of the largest states in the country. From the two interviews he has given so far, it is pretty much clear that agriculture will be one of big focus area for his administration. And rightly so, as the sector employs 59 per cent of the state's population.

    The road to a prosperous life for people in Uttar Pradesh cannot be built without first fixing the state's biggest employer. However, challenges are of Himalayan proportions. The average agricultural land holding size in the state is a paltry 0.76 hectares per farmer. 92 per cent of these holdings are with small and marginal farmers. Average monthly income of an agricultural household in UP was the third lowest in the country. UP’s agricultural gross state domestic product grew at just 2.5 per cent per annum over the period between 2001 and 2015.

    This means two things are clear:

    • First, farm incomes cannot be substantially increased by sticking to traditional farming alone. Diversification is need of the hour.
    • Second, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's initiative of 'per drop more crop' has to be turned into reality to reap benefit from limited holdings.

    Infosys chair professor for agriculture Ashok Gulati and co-authors Smriti Verma and Siraj Hussain have written a working paper suggesting some steps the Adityanath government should take if it wants to double agriculture growth in Uttar Pradesh. (Note: The paper relates to doubling growth, not farm incomes).

    The authors point out that growth in agriculture and allied activities has averaged 2.5 per cent per year in UP in the last 14 years. Doubling this would greatly improve the lives of farmers and prove to be a fillip to India's overall national average. Gulati et al suggest 11 policy interventions to achieve this. These are:

    1) Procurement: In this area, the authors point out three big problems farmers face.

    • Out of the 257 market nodes in UP, mandi personnel at 151 do not report arrival data of crops brought by farmers to these mandis. This means farmers aren't aware of the actual price they should get and get tricked by middlemen.
    • Arrivals themselves are very low given the poor infrastructure.
    • Even those farmers, who do go to these mandis are refused minimum support price (MSP) and small and marginal farmers are forced to sell at lower price since they can't afford to delay for long periods.

    Improving recording of price and arrival data in Agmarknet portal, incentivising increased arrivals into mandis by ramping up rural infrastructure, and ensuring timely payment of MSP to farmers would solve the problems associated with procurement.

    2) Electronic-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM): Although the state is the biggest participant in Centre's initiative, authors note that the value of trade via electronic portal is not encouraging. Compared to much smaller Haryana, which achieved Rs 6,110 crore worth of trade, UP has only done trade worth Rs 480 crore. The trio suggests removal of all restrictions on licensing and trading and creation of assaying facilities in mandis to increase trade through e-NAM. They also believe that trading electronically will also help correct the market which has skewed in favour of big farmers.

    3) Dairy Sector: Acknowledging the failure of cooperative dairy sector (their procurement being only 0.4 per cent of total production), the authors of the working paper call for incentives to private sector to come in. They suggest roping in private sector dairies like AMUL (Adithyanath is already moving on this front) to increase dairy processing to add value to milk products. Currently, UP only processes 12 per cent of its total production compared to Gujarat's 50 per cent. There is a lot of scope for improvement.

    Then there is the issue of improving the productivity itself by using available technology innovations. By upgrading existing breeds of cattle by cross breeding with the help of imported semen of high quality breeds, the authors say the production can be increased three to four times.

    4) Sugarcane Sector: The past years' arrears that are pending with sugar mills are a big problem, especially in the western region of the state. Why don't mills pay? Because the previous state governments insist on state advised price (SAP), which is much higher than fair and remunerative price (FRP) set by the Centre. So, SAP causes distortion as it is higher than ex-mill sugar prices and mill owners fail to pay up the difference. The trio calls for correction in this policy.

    The authors also call for price stabilisation fund to clear dues of cane farmers in years when sugar industry is in a glut. They also exhort the government to abandon the current molasses policy where local liquor industry is subsidised at the cost of farmers.

    5) Farmer Producer Organisations: Gulati, Verma and Hussain bat for creation of farmer producer organisations to aggregate small farmers into groups so that their bargaining power increases.

    6) Rural Road Infrastructure: This is critical to make markets accessible to farmers. UP has consistently fallen behind targets under various road schemes. It is imperative that road infrastructure is ramped up. The authors believe doing so would "provide strong incentives for agricultural diversification toward high-value crops, livestock and agro-processing making higher agricultural growth more achievable and sustainable."

    7) Irrigation: The authors say that while the western and central regions are decently irrigated, and eastern region gets good rainfall, the problem of water shortage is critical in Bundelkhand. Here, they say, micro irrigation techniques like drip and sprinkler systems can be useful. Under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, the authors recommend, more priority should be given to delayed projects.

    8) Extension Services: These include soil sampling, nutrient testing, soil health testing, agri-implements, good quality seeds for wheat, rice and sugarcane. Gulati, Verma and Hussain, who visited Amroha, note that such important services aren't available to farmers. They have to send samples for testing to labs on their own and don't get results quickly which renders the whole exercise useless. The government needs to make vast improvements on this front.

    9) Overcoming Power Shortages: The authors suggest installing solar pumps replacing diesel ones and they recommend giving more subsidy to farmers for this. The reason behind the suggestion is the dire condition of power shortage in UP. Power Minister Piyush Goyal has already met state officials and Chief Minister Adityanath himself has vowed to eradicate power problem by 2019. These steps are encouraging. And if power situation improves, this will obviate the need to pump subsidies in solar pumps etc, as they are not very reliable and sunlight in not available all the time.

    10) Innovative Techniques: Gulati, Verma and Hussain write that despite being largest producer of mangoes in the country, UP's per hectare output is very poor. Other states have greatly improved their yields by experimenting with innovative techniques (like pruning of trees on a regular basis to keep their size under control and mulching to keep the fruits from getting damaged on the ground). UP farmers can surely learn from the successes of others.

    11) Value-Chain Development : Lastly, the authors say diversification towards high-value commodities like fruits and vegetables will prove to be a boost to growth. But the benefits can be reaped only if there is enabling infrastructure. So, developing of cold chains, warehouses, cold storages, transport systems and food processing facilities are important if diversification is to be a success. In addition, horticulture needs to be promoted big time so that it can help ensure farmers a regular income in years of farm distress.

    Madhya Pradesh has set a good example by achieving an average agriculture growth rate of over 7 per cent in the last 14 years. If its fellow so-called 'BIMARU' state can achieve this, UP surely can. Chief Minister Adityanath must get cracking on some of the suggestions given in the working paper right away. Multiplying agriculture growth alone can pave the way for his dream of creating an Uttam Pradesh.

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