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Policy bias against rainfed agriculture

Topics Covered:

  1. Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

 

Policy bias against rainfed agriculture

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Various schemes for the support of rainfed agriculture in the country, challenges faced by them and the need for urgent reforms.

 

Context: A new rainfed agriculture atlas has been released recently. It has been released by Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture (RRA) Network.

The atlas not only maps the agro biodiversity and socio-economic conditions prevailing in such areas, but also attempts to document the policy biases that are making farming unviable for many in these areas.

 

Challenges present:

  1. Three out of five farmers in India grow their crops using rainwater, instead of irrigation. However, per hectare government investment into their lands may be 20 times lower, government procurement of their crops is a fraction of major irrigated land crops, and many of the government’s flagship agriculture schemes are not tailored to benefit them.
  2. There has been “negligence” toward rainfed areas which is leading to lower incomes for farmers in these areas. Farmers in rainfed areas are receiving 40% less of their income from agriculture in comparison to those in irrigated areas.
  3. Lands irrigated through big dams and canal networks get a per hectare investment of ₹5 lakh. Watershed management spending in rainfed lands is only ₹18,000-25,000.
  4. The difference in yield is not proportionate to the difference in investment. When it comes to procurement, over the decade between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the government spent ₹5.4 lakh crore on wheat and rice. Coarse cereals, which are grown in rainfed areas, only had ₹3,200 crore worth of procurement in the same period.
  5. Flagship government schemes, such as seed and fertiliser subsidies and soil health cards, are designed for irrigated areas and simply extended to rainfed farmers without taking their needs into consideration.

 

What needs to be done?

  1. A more balanced approach is needed to give rainfed farmers the same research and technology focus, and production support that their counterparts in irrigation areas have received over the last few decades.
  2. In the long run, cash incentives and income support like the PM-KISAN scheme announced in the budget are better than extensive procurement. While income support is important to help farmers through the current crisis, it is now the time to design better structured interventions for the future.

 

Sources: the hindu.