We have already outlined in detail as to how the present government at the Centre has been delivering promises in the Agriculture Sector. With specific assistance to farmers during each stage of farming, the year 2018 has seen improvement in seed availability to market infrastructure. As the year 2018 ended, a notable theme has been that the evident increase in the food grain production is being linked to systematic procurement, improvement in the PDS and the benefits are reaching the deprived people. This is actually helping the farmers in a long run. Apart from the procurement and Public Distribution System, the market infrastructure has also been strengthened like never before under the Modi Government in the bygone year.
Before we analyze this trend in detail, the below infographic gives in a perspective about the progress of the agriculture sector and people were given respite from hunger.
Bringing Life Back to the Farms
To make the life of farmers prosperous, it is imperative to make our lands nutrient rich. One step in that direction is the distribution of soil health cards, whose benefits have been described at length in our article, Soil Health Card – Bringing Life Back to Indian Farms.
The year 2018 further enhanced the progress made on this front of making the land rich in nutrients. Significant progress was achieved in:
- Nearly 3 crore Soil Health Cards (SHCs) were distributed in the year 2018 to reach the total number of 15 crore SHCs distributed.
- An area of 5,060 hectare of senile orchards has been rejuvenated.
- 1,814 water harvesting structures have been created.
- A sum of Rs 7,168 lakh released to states for setting up of 6 Static Soil Testing Laboratories (STLs), 6 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories, 1,561 Village Soil Testing Laboratories, strengthening of 139 STLs, 2 Fertilizer Quality Control Labs (FQCLs), strengthening of 21 FQCLs. The money has been sanctioned to the States.
- The land brought under irrigation through Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana has reached to 6.1 lakh hectare so far.
How the Farmers’ Position has been Strengthened
Bumper production speaks volume about the good health of the agriculture sector. Both Rabi and Kharif estimations have shown a huge production leap. As per the Fourth Advance Estimates for 2017-18, total Rabi foodgrain production in the country is estimated to be 144.10 million tonnes which is higher by 7.32 million tonnes than the previous record production of Rabi foodgrain of 136.78 million tonnes achieved during 2016-17.
The production of foodgrains in the country during Kharif 2018 has been estimated at 141.59 million tonnes (1st Advance Estimates) against 140.73 million tonnes (4th Advance Estimates) during Kharif 2017, which is higher by 0.86 million tonnes. Further, kharif foodgrain production is 11.94 million tonnes more than the average production of five years (2012-13 to 2016-17) of 129.65 million tonnes.
Giving a major boost to the farmers’ income, the Government has approved an increase in the MSPs for all Kharif & Rabi crops for 2018-19 at a level of at least 150% of the cost of production.
There has been a yearly increase in the low-cost credit to farmers in all these years under the Modi Government. Each year banks have surpassed the annual target and 2017-18 is not an exception. Against the annual target of Rs 10,000 crore, an amount to the tune of Rs 11,68,502 crore has been disbursed.
115 wholesale regulated markets have been integrated with the e-NAM platform to achieve a target of total 585 e-NAM markets in 16 States and 2 Union Territories. The financial assistance has been sanctioned for cleaning, grading, sorting and packaging facilities in the 320 existing e-NAM mandis and for compost units in the 245 existing e-NAM mandis.
In addition, 215 market infrastructure has also been set up. The year saw the upgradation process of 22,000 Gramin Haats as centres of aggregation and for direct purchase of agricultural commodities from farmers.
In the year 2018, Sugarcane got a major respite. A minimum selling price of sugar has been set at Rs.29/kg for sale at the factory gate in the domestic market. There has been an extension of soft loans of Rs 6,139 crore through banks to the mills for setting up new distilleries and installation of incineration boilers to augment ethanol production capacity for which Government will bear interest subvention of Rs. 1,332 crore.
Increased Farm Production Giving Respite from Hunger
Though the legal framework for food security was laid down much before, this government has strengthened both procurement and Public Distribution System. It is beneficial to both farmers who grow the produce and the section of society who is malnourished. Below are the facts that have emerged in 2018 to substantiate this claim.
- During Kharif Market Season (KMS) 2017-18, a record quantity of 381.84 Lakh MT paddy was procured. In 2016-17 KMS it was 381.07 Lakh MT.
- During Rabi Market Season (RMS) 2018-19, a quantity of 357.95 lakh MT of wheat was procured which is the highest in the last five years. In RMS 2017-18 this was 308.24 LMT.
- During the financial year 2018-19 (up to12.2018), Rs 2,575 crore has been released to State Governments as Central assistance to meet the expenditure incurred on intra-State movement & handling of foodgrains and fair price shop dealers’ margins. Such an arrangement has been made for the first time under NFSA (National Food Security Act). Under the erstwhile TPDS (Targeted Public Distribution System), state governments were required to either meet this expenditure on their own or pass it on to beneficiaries.
- In 2018, Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) was launched which is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce as announced in the Union Budget for 2018.
- Cabinet has also decided that participation of the private sector in procurement operation needs to be piloted so that on the basis of learnings the ambit of private participation in the procurement operations may be increased.
Thus, in the year 2018 what we saw in the agriculture sector is a model that has been evolving where the farmer is benefitting on one side and the hunger and nutrient requirement of the needy is being met by the government on the other side. At the same time, market infrastructure is also being strengthened by the Government to tap the private demand.