Doubling of Farmers’ Income by 2022 - an overview of Manipur's smallholder farmers

In the present light of the doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, policy makers are concerned over whether Manipur will achieve the target amid several prevailing issues.


(Photo: IFP)

 

Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said “the doubling of farmers’ income was the biggest priority of the Narenda Modi government and that the three Central farm laws would ensure manifold hike in their earnings”. The income of large and medium farmers might be realized, but we worry whether the goal of increasing the income of our 80 per cent small, marginal and landless farmers could be achieved.

At present,  the country is witnessing strong protests against the new three farm bills on one hand and the government mission of doubling farmers’ income on the other. 

The so-called debate, conflict or agitation and comments and opinions from experts will continue as the three bills have both merits and demerits. However, the new farm bills will have a negative impact on the small and marginal farmers the most.

According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India analysis, the contribution of “Agriculture, forestry and fishing” (AFF) to India’s GDP, refined as Gross Value Added in the segregated set of data, has gone up sharply to almost 18 per cent in the first quarter of 2020-21 from about 13 per cent in April-June quarter of the previous fiscal (2019-20).

During this COVID-19 pandemic, it is also reported that the agriculture sector contributed the most to the economic growth. However, the RBI annual report on the prospect review for 2020-2021 has also suggested that without a fair term of trade for agriculture, the income would not be proportionate to the production.

Do the small and marginal farmers get the remunerative prices of their actual produce? Will they be able to achieve the target of doubling income by 2022? Do institutional mechanisms support the small, marginal and landless farmers, or are they ready to attain their mission of doubling the farm income by 2022, are the big questions from different stakeholders.

A study by Chand et al (2015) reveals that it took 22 years (1993-94 and 2015-16) to double the farmers’ real income.

When we relook at the concept of Doubling Farmers Income, the National Commission for Farmers was constituted in 2004, chaired by Prof MS Swaminathan, to suggest ways for faster and more inclusive growth for farmers. Then, the Government of India in 2016 constituted an expert committee headed by Ashok Dalwai to look into the entire agriculture ecosystem in the country to suggest ways and means to reform it so that farmers’ income can be doubled by 2022. The committee submitted its final report to the Government in September 2018.

The goal of doubling farmers’ income is ambitious but certainly not impossible.

It was the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi who initiated to double farmers' income by 2022-23 so as to promote farmers' welfare, reduce agrarian distress and bring parity between income of farmers and those working in non-agricultural professions. Under his vision and mission 2022, various programmes and schemes and reforms have been initiated so as to bring a change in the status of the agrarian society of this nation. These schemes and programmes of the Government of India are meant for the welfare of farmers by increasing production, remunerative returns and income support to farmers. With these, the vision of doubling farmers’ income started and implemented through various stakeholders across the union of Indian states.

Current status of Doubling Farmers Income in Manipur:

Agriculture is the backbone of Manipur’s economy and about 80 per cent of the state's total population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. There are vast tracts of fertile land in Manipur with a gross cropped area of 2,85,000 ha which account for about 12.98 per cent of the total land areas of the state and about 82 per cent of the gross cropped areas is utilized for paddy cultivation. The tribal people living in the hills usually practice Jhum cultivation. The overall cropping intensity of the state is estimated at 150 per cent. Rice is the staple fruit crop in Manipur which is grown on a large scale. Paddy is the largest cultivated crop both in hills and in plains. The other important food crops of the state include wheat, maize and pulses. Potato, ginger, gram, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard, turmeric, and other spices are the major crops of Manipur. Among the horticultural crops, pineapple, banana, lemon, orange, passion fruit, kiwi, orchid etc.

The state has a very rich species of flora. A number of medicinal plants are found in the region. The state has got a suitable climate and environment for practicing sericulture. Bamboo, Oak, Teak, Leihao (Magnoliaceae) and Uningthou(Phoebe hainesiana), etc cover the forest areas.

Manipur also has plenty of fishing resources in the form of lake, reservoir, tanks, ponds, marshy areas, natural basin, waterlocked areas and canal etc. occupying an area of 56461 ha.

Steps taken by the state government

In tune with Modi’s vision to double farmers' income by 2022-23, the government of Manipur had started to take actions. Accordingly, the chief-minister initiated high-level committee was formed and it was headed by the chief secretary. Members from the various line departments, including their respective directors along with the NABARD and other related banks also participated in this vision. Both the state and Central government institutes and organizations such as the ICAR, Manipur centre, CAU, Horticulture, Agriculture, Fishery, Vet and Animal Husbandry, ATMA, Sericulture, CADA, MI, IFCD and specially the KVKs are the key players for both the strategic planning and implementation of various schemes and technology transfer in the state of Manipur for the doubling of farmers income by 2022. The role of the other departments such as the Forest, Environment, Commerce & Industries, RD & PR, IWMP and mostly the Stakeholders working in the community/ Village levels too.

Estimated Average Incomes of Farmers in Different Sectors

Sl. Nos

Sectors

Average Income (2017-18)

(In Rs.)

Targeted Average Income (By 2022) in Rs.

1

Agriculture

45,000.00

Minimum Target = Rs.1,51,200.00

Projected Target =Rs. 1,95,237

2

Horticulture

60,000.00

3

Dairy

72,000.00

4

Poultry & Livestock

63,000.00

5

Fishery

1,50,000.00

6

Sericulture

60,000.00

Source; Department of Agriculture, Govt. of Manipur

The Committee unanimously declared and made efforts to intervene into the following major components so as to increase the farmers’ income by 2022.

Mandated Interventions

Sl. Nos

Particulars

% contribution for increasing the average income of the farmers

1

Irrigation Support

50%

2

Quality Seeds and Planting Materials

30%

3

Training

30%

4

Integrated Farming and Bee-keeping

30%

5

Marketing & Related Infrastructures

50%

6

Value Addition and Food Chain

40%

 

Strategies for Doubling of Farmers’ Income, Manipur State (by 2022)

- Short-term plan for immediate intervention

- Medium-term plan to augment medium as well as long-term beneficiaries and

- Long-term plan to address long lasting issues.

 

Sl. Nos.

Interventions

Strategies

1

Short-term plan

Awareness; Training and Demonstration on need based and regular basis

2

Medium-term plan

Reforms on Marketing; Land Leasing law for availing of Loans; Planting of more useful trees in private lands and promotion of Agro-Forestry; Legislation of Contract farming and Institutional Lending mechanisms

3

Long-term plan

Establishment of an enabling environment for timely support of

Agricultural Inputs

Creation of Agricultural Infrastructure

Development of natural water bodies

Setting-up of Feed processing Plans,

Connectivity between farms, collection centers and to main market(both the state ; national and international markets)

 

Issues and concerns in doubling of farmer income by 2022:

Although agriculture remains a major occupation of the people of Manipur, farmers mostly depend on monsoon for irrigation in the state. This sector contributes a major share to the total state domestic product and provides employment to about 22.13 per cent (according to 2011 census) of the total workers in Manipur. Out of the total geographical area of the state, only 7.41 per cent is used for cultivation. Of this total cultivated area, 52 per cent is confined to the valley. Therefore, half of the total valley area, which accommodates 67 per cent of the total population, is used for agriculture purposes. The land is the livelihood of more than 70 per cent of the population.

Farmers cultivate various crops (Cereals; Pulses; Oilseeds; Spices & Plantation etc.) and rear livestock and fishes for their main sources of income from their ancestral period. However, due to the ever-increasing population, limited land resources, growth of social infrastructures in the crop lands, faulty or unsustainable means of farming coupled with global climate changes phenomena resulted in the low and unproductive trends of food crops including livestock.

In the present light of the doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, policy makers are concerned over whether the state will achieve the target.

Some of the major issues

The Manipur government had started some major, medium and multipurpose projects during the 4th plan to provide irrigation, power and other social capital formation objectives in the state. However, the physical target could not be attained due to some institutional and social problems. With these, the livelihood of the affected people and the likely beneficiaries are in great dilemma as the government is not given the actual benefit to these meagre sections of the society. Although minor irrigation projects are very small, the overall impact is quite substantial which can be set up in both the hill and valley areas, but the performance appraisal and real ground situation in the state of Manipur is quite interesting. These schemes are supposed to be implemented effectively to supply the assured irrigation in the state. However, implementation status of the national schemes is in the nascent stages wherein our goal of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022 is not realistic except in few villages of the valley districts. According to reports, efforts of the state agriculture department in creating awareness among the public and mobilizing the farmers to subscribe to the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana scheme is another major question. The state government has not been able to implement the scheme effectively in the state. Be it lack of initiative from the government or ignorance of the farmers, the farmers are always at the receiving end when it comes to loss of crops due to various reasons. So far, sufficient rainfall remains the only hope for the farmers of the state despite spending huge amounts of public funds by the government.

The Prime Minister-Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISHAN) that was launched in 2018 as a scheme for operational cost management covering Rs 6000 per annum has an issue at the national and state level too. A report by The Wire reveals that the DBT amount to the farmers account has been auto debited. The same issue has been found in the State Bank of India; Canara Bank; UCO bank, Bank of Maharashtra and Syndicate bank too.

According to the report of the NITI AYOG, the share of North Eastern states has been less than one per cent in total agricultural credit disbursement. Moreover, the informal source of credit constitutes 40 per cent of loans. The interest demanded by them is very high and they eventually end up in losing their land. As per the Union Budget 2019, only 50 per cent of the total agricultural credit disbursed went to small and marginal farmers (SMFs).

Also, an imbalanced use of fertilizers leads to a loss of fertility in the soil over a period of time, affecting productivity. While the recommended ratio of use of the NPK fertilizers is 4:2:1, this ratio in India is currently at 6.7:2.4:1. Further, only about one-third of the total production of foodgrains are procured due to long distances to the procurement centres, increasing cost of transportation for farmers and irregular hours of the procurement centres. In such situations, farmers do not have any option but to sell their produce to middlemen with very little or no profit at all.

The use of agricultural machinery in agriculture enables agricultural labour to be used in other activities. But, the overall level of mechanization in India is still less than 50 per cent, as compared to 90 per cent in developed countries. A robust storage infrastructure is required to minimise any losses due to adverse weather conditions or in the process of transportation. More and more young cultivators are leaving farming as a profession because it is not profitable for them. In a scenario, where the unemployment rate is at an all-time high, it will be difficult to absorb these young cultivators in other jobs.

The NITI AAYOG said that India has been one of the worst performers in the Global Hunger Index. Due to large-scale wastage of food grains due to lack of storage infrastructure, India’s food security further falls into threat. Due to lack of irrigation facilities and lack of institutional credit, farmers fall in the debt trap and are not able to repay the loan installments. As a consequence, banks tend to reduce the flow of credit to the small and marginal farmers. A reduced output from the agricultural sector will have a direct bearing on the output of other important sectors of the economy. For example, the food processing sector is directly dependent on agriculture output.

Areas of Major Concerns:

Experts and farmers believe that the assured supply of irrigation facilities for crop production is a must for the enhancement (50%) of both production and productivities. On the contrary, the farmers of the state are relying on seasonal monsoon rain, hence we can consider the state’s agriculture status as an “Underdeveloped” one. In most of the districts, except in a few valley districts, the mono-culture and unscientific production technologies of crop production is also hampering the growth of the production in the state. Although various institutes like KVKs, ICAR, CAU and other line departments have intervened in the crop production process, the actual performance could not be marked satisfactory with the exception of a few pockets and some farmers. The cases of the most success stories or research articles are manipulated from the concerned reporting organizations too. Again, to start an activity in agriculture and allied sectors definitely require capitals. On farm irrigation support systems like Drip; sprinkler and tube-well must be delivered to the real small and marginal farmers. In many cases, the supply of such irrigation inputs often goes to the medium and big farmers who can afford it.

Schemes like farm ponds renovation, construction of water harvesting structures, the delivery mechanism to the right farmers are at a slow rate and they need to be sped up. Here, the role of the banks and other lending institutes are large and in certain cases, farmers are also experiencing negative responses from insincere authority of some reputed banks. Who will intervene in these lacunae? Will it be individual, group, FPOs or government?

Majority (90%) of our small, marginal and landless farmers are not able to avail the institutional credit linkage facilities due to poor financial literacy, illiteracy and tenancy in real terms. However, the performance of MSCB, MRB and other nationalised Lead banks in the valley districts are gaining momentum due to evolution of Farmers Club’s , SHGs, JLGs and recently the Farmers Producer Organizations (FPOs) in particular. But their performance in the hilly area is quite negligible. The constraints could be the present land-tenureship - system, lack of assets, illiteracy and poor initiatives from the organizational and district-level authorities. Most importantly, the entire seed system supply mechanism in the state of Manipur is also one of the most deciding factors in terms of the agricultural/ horticultural/livestock and fishes production scenario. However, the certified seed supply mechanism of cereals, pulses and oilseeds is being revived in the form of Participatory Seed Production (PSP) ICAR NEHR Seed wherein the farmers are made to produce the certified seeds at their levels under the technical guidance of the ICAR-MC, Participatory Seed Production.

The scenario could alter from two per cent to more than 40 per cent seed replacement rate in case of rice which can be accounted as a significant and remarkable change and contribution from this institute (ICAR, Manipur Centre). ICAR, Manipur Centre can achieve 100 per cent seed replacement if we could have a sound infrastructure and reliable funding mechanism from the government or any interested organizations. However, the supply of quality planting materials in case of fruits trees and vegetable crops, including the Hi-Yielding and Hybrids varieties are still depending on the other states and multinational seed companies and a huge amount of farmers’ money is drained out. This gap can also be narrowed down with the support of state and Central government intervention in the institute.

Farmers need to scale up their scientific skills to increase their produce. Vocational training is highly recommended and for which stakeholders like the state and Central government having funding capacity need to intervene. The experts and organizations concerned must impart good training to farmers. In many cases, inefficient or incompetent trainers are involved in skill training and this also alter the impact of the training. Such cases must be assessed and their capacity building programmes or refresher courses must be organized.

Most viable farming system for farmers in Manipur

The Integrated Farming System model is a viable and most suited system of farming for our small, marginal and landless farmers to enter into the doubling income way of farming business. A few demonstrations have been found to be successful in some districts. However, the adoption of such technology needs large capital involvement in the initial phases. Young agri-preneurs and unemployed youths need to avail the credit facilities to start this venture for which the state government must provide support.

Bee-keeping has been a sustainable technology right from the traditional and indigenous farming era. Scientists are of the fact that crop yields can be increased to over 100 per cent if we incorporate Bee-Keeping as a component of the crop production scenario. Such components must be readily made available to small, marginal and landless farmers. However, this particular technology of bee-keeping often fails at the farmers field level either due to lack of proper skill or lack of quality inputs supplied by the technology providers.

The ultimate efficiency in the farming business can be accounted for when the producers could get realistic prices for their farm products in the market. Till now, our small and marginal farmers could not get the real prices. The reasons might be low in volume, inferior in quality, unorganized form of markets, lack of market information, high transportation cost, low demand in local markets, exploitation by market intermediaries and lack of adequate market infrastructure.

Various institutional reforms have come into play regarding the marketing of farm produces and its logistics mechanism but the producers are often in distress conditions. The present three farm bill is also an attempt to enhance our agricultural marketing by curtailing the middlemen so that the farmers will get the remunerative prices. But the whole nation is in a state of debate regarding these farm bills.

The main concern for our state is the contract and corporate farming models where the majority of the small, marginal and landless farmers are in the jaws of the dominant opponents. The logic behind the statement is the tenancy and lack of ownership issues on these vulnerable sections. On the flip side, the government is always turning around the scene. Neither does it have the capability to furnish the basic market infrastructure nor it acts and intervenes in the real price regulation mechanism and remains a silent spectator. The ultimate losers are the small farmers. They usually end with distress sale to repay the interests and loan amounts they borrowed from the high-charged local level money-lenders. Till now, we don’t have proper market infrastructures at the rural, block or district and state capital too. As far as the e-market status is concerned, Manipur is yet to implement the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees which can be highlighted as the most insignificant remark of the state. Lack of proper forum and initiatives for e-market, illiterate features of small holders and other social problems like illegal collections of taxes by various groups have been hampering the realistic benefits of farmers.

Primary produce are often varied and low in production and often resulted in distress sale which is one of the most important challenges of small holders. Vertical integration (both the forward and backward) i.e. on the demand and supply chain synchronizing mechanism like the formation of the Farmer Producer Organization (FPOs) can revive the overall value addition and food chain supply which in turn can enhance the returns of small and marginal farmers in the state.

Issues with the PM-Kishan Scheme must be checked and streamlined for cases like farmers selection and registration, including the Adhaar linkage with the farmers accounts. The concerned departments which are implementing the various national schemes related with the doubling of farmers’ income must be sincere enough to put these schemes on the public domain so that awareness, familiarity and prevailing issues can be minimized at the most. Till today, the majority of farmers are experiencing biasness, insincerity and lack of awareness regarding the various schemes under the doubling of farmers’ income by 2022.

(The views expressed is the writer’s own)

 

First Published:Feb. 5, 2021, 9:05 p.m.

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