OnSwipe redirect code

Monday, August 31, 2009

Should Indian farmer think of his family's hunger or the country's?

This is the type of condition the typical Indian farmer currently is in. When I say typical Indian farmer, I am referring to those lean hard working people who sweat out the whole day and yet just have a hand to mouth existence, that too if they are lucky. I do not have to substantiate the last part of my previous statement as the state of our farmer is well known. No matter how hard the farmer tries, how hard he struggles, the first person to gain from that is the middle-man, with whom the farmers are compelled to park their annual produce. The reason for that is another story in itself, probably some other time. Anyways, focusing on the topic of this post, let me try and tell you why I think farmers today are faced with this question.

We all know Indian population is growing faster than any other thing in the country with an unbeatable consistency. This directly corresponds to heavily increased demand & consumption of food. Good news is that the country's agriculture is able to meet this rising demand pretty well, thanks to the technology. With improved variety of seeds and fertilizers, increased proliferation of irrigation, some education to farmers, better knowledge of weather behavior and so and so forth, the throughput per acre of land has increased, in almost every variety of cultivation. So the farmer now has more goods to sell every year and get more revenue. But sadly this is has not transformed into increased income to the farmer yet because of the ever increasing input costs. The seeds have improved, but they cost more, a lot more. The fertilizers are better, they reduce the time to grow, but they really push the farmer deep into the pit of debt. Its the same story with irrigation equipments, modern cultivation methodologies, etc.. (Government is trying various policies and subsidies, but still the costs are higher and have increased substantially). As a result the farmer is still poor and leads a hand to mouth existence. Not only that, he now has to invest a higher amount initially (which most farmes do by taking a loan from the middle-man) and hence is taking a bigger risk, because in case of a failed crop he has a much bigger debt to repay. The trade off / inequality / tragedy is clear here. The farmer is the one who is providing the country's ever increasing population with the food supply, by putting on more risk on himself and yet he earns the same as he has been earning. All that he can think of doing is to have proper meals for himself and his family, in other words - bare survival. If he starts thinking of proper education for his children, or a proper house in place of the generations old dilapidated building, he invariably has to go for a loan again. In such a situation it is but natural for the farmer to think that whether the extra risk that he is taking every year is really required? If we put ourselves in his position and think about the question the answer stands out clearly as NO. And fortunately or unfortunately this is what the Indian farmer is thinking now.

He is thinking of securing his home first. He is not thinking about the national crisis it may cause and he can't be expected to think about that either. But the government has started to see this. It also has realized that if the farmer goes his way the country will soon be facing a huge food crisis and huge imports will be inevitable. I am not sure if imports is the right word here, it might as well become begging. With us (our country) in a such needy state all our policies will be influenced either by the one who will be lending us the food or the west (Europe and US) in general. That might bring a stop to the magnificent growth picture being painted everywhere in the country now. The government knows this all and it obviously can't let this happen because anything like this will instantaneously put them out of voters' favor. So the government has already started taking measures to counter this. Currently it is not very aggressive in its approaches. It is trying to convince the farmers to grow more and work towards increasing the yield instead of just thinking of survival. Though it does not appear plausible, we might just see a rule mandating a minimum yield/unit of land coming from the government. Or to be farmer friendly we might just see government going in for huge amounts of subsidies. I do not know how the government will handle this but I think the best way is to make arrangements for farmers to get a fair value for their produce, which means getting rid of middle-men. That is a very hard thing as every activity of the farmer is linked to the middle-man and hence there has to be an alternate system in place to replace the middle-men. Lets hope that the government will think of something that will feed both the country and the farmer well and equally.

1 comment:

  1. Eye Opener.Would love to know about the role of the middle men and how they affect the farmer's profits.