My dear friends: Following my interaction with you last week, some called me to say that marketing is the main problem in agriculture. Some said I should be aware of it since I am a farmer myself.
What can be done to improve marketing under the present scenario?
We read about delta farmers in newspapers and on television. We hear about loss due to heavy rains or drought and there is a demand for government compensation in the form of subsidies, loan waivers and so on.
But government wheels do not run fast. In agriculture, more-so-ever, the wheels run exceedingly slow or do not run at all.
Many people are thinking that the crises in agriculture are due to poor farming practices, but that is not true. The real crisis is deficient marketing, as well as a poorly organized supply and distribution chain. Why is that so? Could it be because the sector is controlled by the government? Then what could be a probable solution? Can privatizing the sector be an effective answer to the existing marketing problems? Have you thought about who runs agriculture today? From price fixing to procuring the foodgrains, everything is under government control.
The present crisis in agriculture is due to lack of specialised management; ineffective planning and poor marketing. All these should be handled by professionals. But in our country agricultural experts/scientists are the ones who are suggesting solutions. What needs to be handled by marketing professionals is being dealt with by scientific people who know little about managing agriculture. My humble suggestion would be to bring in professional opinion.
There are a lot of discrepancies in fixing the price of the produce between central and state policies. Agriculture is a state subject but is controlled by the centre. It looks weird that somebody not even remotely connected with the grassroots decides on the price of the produce.
Take for instance a meeting called by the agriculture minister to fix the MSP for any produce. The meeting is typically attended by the minister, his secretary, and an assortment of officials. An announcement is made the evening of that day.
No farmer or farmers’ organizations are invited to the meeting. None would have been consulted or asked to give in their suggestion.
In my opinion, private entrepreneurs can do a better job of solving the marketing problem than the present government officials if they are given an honest chance to prove themselves.
In fact, it is high time universities start establishing Krishi Vyapar Kendras instead of stopping only with Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVK). The initial thought behind KVK when it was established was that they will act as barometers of the farmers pulse and the scientific fraternity can work on the feedback from KVK through various farmers in the region.
But today the scenario has changed. What we need is a pure business model. Our farmers know how to produce and how to take care of good practices. What is needed is efficient marketing. This is the need of the hour.
We need not look far for this. Why can’t our agriculture experts learn from Mumbai dhabawallahs, managed and run by illiterate, middle-aged people. They are also in the business of dealing in perishable food. And their system is so efficient and proven.
Remember friends, there are no instant solutions for agriculture which has been reeling under several problems for past 60 years.
The approach needs better planning and co-ordination across different agencies. Are you listening?
Will continue to talk next week…
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