Agriculture and Government policy frame work in India:
Who controls food prices in India? Farmers: answer is "No". Government: answer is "yes"and "no". Traders and Middlemen/ Hoarders: answer is a big "YES".
Next question is it the right way to go about or this very system need to be re oriented. Issue becomes significant more so that since a clear advisory, as per press reports of today, has gone out from the RSS and Government of India conclave going on in the Capital, that GOI must reorient it's policies towards agriculture and it's stake holders i.e. farmer's community and strike a good balance between industry and agriculture.
A few items like Sugar or Wheat prices to some extent are controlled by the Government as MSPs are decided by the government. But largely government does this by keeping a check on annual production. But there's is no formal body which takes care of this aspect. Farmers either keep on producing traditional crops as per their command area or decide what could be the best for them. Monsoon plays vital role on the livelihood of almost 70% population of India. It's all a big speculative market with very little control of the government. Middlemen in this sector gets the maximum returns. Government also has no clear cut policy on exports of the agricultural produces either in it's raw or processed form. It's all for public and investors to try what suits them.
When country suffered a situation very close to feminine in 1963-64 the pet slogan was "Jai Jawan-Jai Kissan". Agriculture got boost and green revolution took place thereafter. But emphasis was for more production and not on quality. Today, we grow much more in terms of per acre but in this melee quality has suffered a lot. Also, by excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides we spoiled our farms and quality of produce coming from it.
It's time for taking corrective steps on both fronts so that we produce more and improve the quality.
I think government is expected to take some policy based decisions which may improve the quality by giving proper inputs like right variety of seeds and control excessive use of chemicals which ultimately should help in checking the erosion of productivity of our soil. Also, government is well advised to fix export targets on year to year basis so that farmers know which commodity will give them good returns.
Also, government should work on R&D in this area. Though we have created a big infrastructure of R&D and Agricultural Universities all over the country but better management of these resources is the need of the hour.
Government should create proper environment for improving the quality of agricultural products as it is directly linked with the health of the people. For a healthy India it's important that we produce and supply healthy food. Good quality would eventually give us excess to better markets.
Perishable produce like Onion, Potatoes, Tomatoes do give headaches once in three or four years. We have to find answers by creating suitable infrastructure like better managed technologically warehouses and Cold Chain solutions. There's need to create infrastructure for Food preservation and processing.
Let's hope government turns it's attention on these critical aspects and give impetus to farm economy.
SURENDRA PAL SINGH