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Agriculture census 2015-16

Agriculture census 2015-2016

The first comprehensive Agriculture Census was carried out with Agriculture year 1970-71 as the reference. This was one of the biggest operations in Agricultural Statistics ever launched in India in which over one lakh village level functionaries involved in the collection of data on various characteristics of 71.0 million operational holdings in the country.

Small and marginal holdings (Below two hectares) constituted 86.21% of the total land holdings, an increase of 1.2 percentage points compared to 2010-11. However, the operated area (which includes any agricultural land, provided a part of it used for production) has shown a decline of 1.5%.

It is noteworthy that marginal, small and medium land holdings constitute the lion’s share of operated area – large land holdings account for only 9% of the total operational area. The average size of operational holdings is highest in Nagaland (5 hectares) and lowest in Kerala (0.18 hectares).

About 45%of India’s workforce is involved in agriculture relative to national best practices of less than 1%, making India one of the least productive in agriculture on a per farm worker basis amongst major economies.

The disproportionately large labour force in agriculture is related to the size of India’s landholdings. From an average of 2.7 hectares in 1970, India’s farms have become progressively more fragmented, with the latest Agriculture Census 2015-16 showing that India’s average farm size is now 1 hectare. Compare this to say, Canada (~300 hectares), Argentina (~500 hectares) and Ukraine (~1,000 hectares). Small landholdings have constrained mechanisation, technology adoption, and economies of scale do not accrue at such levels of landholding.

What needs to be done?

  • NITI Aayog has recommended that farms need to get bigger. Land being a state subject requires that states must take the lead by using NITI Aayog’s Model Land Leasing Act, 2016, after suitable modification as per their needs.
  • Accelerating the digitisation of land records is critical for smooth implementation of this game-changing reform. Telangana has made significant progress in this regard and other states must follow their example.
  • Similarly, a stronger push is needed to collectivise farmers through various farmer producer companies (FPCs), farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and cooperatives, for bringing collective benefits from scale.

Post Harvest Losses 

  • The benefits of rising productivity will not accrue to farmers unless the supply and value chain is strengthened, especially in the case of horticulture products.
  • NITI Aayog’s Strategy Document points out that the annual cost of post-harvest losses can be as much as Rs 92,561 crore.
  • The study by the Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET) indicated that the largest amount of losses accrue at the harvesting stage, then at the sorting/grading stage, followed by the transport one.

Role of Gramin Rural Agriculture Markets

  • We need to target the creation of packhouses much closer to the farm gate. The Gramin Rural Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) scheme is targeting the transformation of 22,000 rural periodic markets close to the farm gate.
  • An important component of this scheme is that these GrAMs be kept out of the purview of the State APMC Acts. Promoting FPC and FPO ownership of these GrAMs should be considered.
  • Similarly, private sector enterprises willing to establish backward linkages should partner with state governments in organising their sourcing through GrAMs.
  • Larger farms with a strengthened supply chain are incremental solutions to agrarian distress, as are marketing reforms and contract farming, which will collectively serve to, perhaps, double the final output of the overall food supply chain in the country. However, even with these reforms, the problem of dismally low productivity per farm worker is not yet suitably addressed.

What is the Strategy Suggested by NITI Ayog ?

  • As NITI’s Strategy for New India @ 75 document states, pulling cultivators into non-farm or off-farm activities is the strategy we need to follow. This requires more remunerative jobs being created outside agriculture.
  • The ‘Make in India’ initiative could be a driver of absorbing some of the labour from rising farm productivity, but for speedier progress, the construction sector, with its relatively high labour intensity has the capacity to absorb labour rapidly without depending on the uncertain global economy.

What is Farming as a Service?

  • Chand, Singh, and Srivastava (2017) note that creating blue collar jobs in and around agriculture is an attractive option. The food processing industry has the potential to generate substantial employment.
  • Farming as a Service (FaaS) offers employment generation capacity as well. Whether it is delivering farm mechanisation solutions, transport solutions or extension services, FaaS has the potential to reduce costs for farmers besides generating rural employment. Madhya Pradesh has had success in promoting the custom hiring centre model.
  • Partnering with the private sector in delivering extension services is another avenue towards generating rural employment. NITI’s Strategy for New India @ 75 pitches for public-private partnership in extension delivery through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK).

The current farm distress is one of excess at the farm gate rather than drought and borne of the government’s success in improving irrigation combined with a couple of years of a reasonable monsoon. It is currently easy to forget that India’s productivity at a global level is well below average. The current distress should remind us that as productivity increases, we have to focus more on efficient evacuation with aggregation points closer to the farm gate to avoid distressed sales and depressed prices, especially in the case of horticulture products. Improving productivity should be accompanied by developing an efficient value chain, with adequate grading/sorting and assaying facilities, marketing reforms, encouraging contract farming, and boosting investment in the food processing industry. It should also be accompanied by boosting construction and manufacturing in rural areas to absorb the labour generated by higher farm productivity.

Current Affairs 2020

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