GV Bhaskar Rao
Though India's foodgrain production has more than doubled over the decades to a record 264 million tonnes in 2014, there is hardly any measurable improvement in the lives of millions of poor and marginal farmers who toil the land to fill the food basket and feed the country.
Dependency on erratic rainfall and threats of abrupt climate change largely impact crop yield. Many a time what a farmer expends on the land, labour, and loan outweigh his returns. Basic infrastructure like irrigation, roads, electrification, storage, access to markets, assured price for the produce go a long way, to make farming sustainable.
Besides, use of improved seed of hybrids and high-yielding varieties coupled with allied activities, such as dairy, poultry, fishing, and skill improvement of farm families will increase incomes and margins. This in turn will lead to more rural employment, curbing migration and subscribing to inclusive growth holistically.
The Union Budget for 2015/16 takes cognisance of these concerns - of increasing agricultural productivity and bettering the lives of poor farmers with a lasting goal of retaining the farmer in farming. Three important budgetary provisions towards achieving this will positively impact agriculture:
- Financial support to extend irrigation and soil health for enhancing agricultural productivity.
- Raising the agricultural credit, and
- Creation of a unified national agricultural market to fetch a fair price for the farm produce.
The Budget shows intent to support organic farming and continued support for micro irrigation and watershed management.
To increase farm productivity, the Budget focuses on investment on judicious use of water (watershed management and micro-irrigation).
These are expected to ameliorate the lives of farm families and check on urban migration in search of livelihood. For those of us in the seeds sector, which is key to increasing agriculture productivity, extension of irrigation and improved soil health will pave the way for greater demand for quality seeds of high-yielding hybrids and varieties of three major food basket crops - rice, wheat and maize.
(The author is CMD, Kaveri Seed Company)