My dear friends: Our country’s daily turnover from vegetables and fruits could be easily about Rs 290 crore (US$ 59 million). The estimated cost of ‘wastage’ per day is around Rs 100 to Rs 140 crore (US$ 27 million), which is a lot more than the daily turnover of some of the big industrial houses of India.
In India, for centuries agriculture was and is being run by rural folk who are not highly educated. Only in agriculture, advanced technologies have not made a mark. A lot is being discussed, much has been spoken but at the grassroots practically little has been achieved. While this is the situation in agriculture, we at the same time see big companies advancing rapidly, technologicall and financially, employing top-level talent.
Food, shelter, and clothing are considered basic things a growing economy cannot do without. Of these, the threat of shortages still looms over only food. Why? Because the percentage of those who do farming are declining every day.
Because farming is just not proving to be renumerative. People are quitting agriculture and moving to cities. More importantly, the youth do not fancy an agri-career.
“In every industry, prices are driven by customer demand. But in India, it is the middlemen who control agriculture sector”
To give an example, moste of the students who join agriculture courses in college have the aim of using them as stepping stones towards a career in civil services, not farming. Absence of valid data to provide a forecast for this industry correctly makes things more difficult. Many term agriculture as a risky business, but can you name any one industry devoid of risk? Typically high-risk implies high return. But how come people perceive agriculture to be a ‘high-risk, no-return’ venture?
Risks and unpredictability exist in all trades. Agriculture economy has had to endure natural disasters, not man-made ones, and these disasters are far more predictable. Inspite of all the odds stacked against a farmer, it is surprising that we are actually able to get food on our plates every day. But food consumers stay ignorant of the processes.
For instance, the farm price for tomatoes hovers around Rs 5 to Rs 10/kg. In the city, wholesale tomatoes are priced at Rs 7 to Rs 10 a kg and in retail it may be between Rs 20 to 25 half a kg.
“Inspite of all the odds stacked against a farmer, it is surprising that we are actually able to get food on our plates every day”
In every industry, prices are driven by customer demand. But in India, it is the middlemen who control agriculture sector.
Farmers need help in planning cultivation, marketing produce and managing finances, but unfortunately there is no one to help. Agriculture institutions and many NGOs only assist cultivation, and aren’t competent to handle management-related tasks. Farm policies are confusing and contradictory. There are innumerable ministries and schemes that are often redundant and over-lapping.
Instead of letting such contradictions and overlapping continue to dog agriculture, the Centre and the states can sit together to formulate a complete, comprehensive package for farmers with a seamless implementation mechanism in place.
So how can this be changed?
Almost all agricultural sector statistics are very old and outdated, at least five years old, and often projected from the last Census. Practically no database exists for this sector.The government pumps in several crores, not bothering to know what crops are being sown in different regions.
So what can we do? We on our part can be conscious consumers. How?
Start asking questions. Read the printed price bill carefully for signs of price rise. Find where the products came from (find out that the potatoes you buy from your market are really coming from Ooty, since many say the vegetables come from Ooty.)
Ask your local agriculture department officer on mobile whether he and his team visit villages or talk to a farmer? Start questioning, start talking and start being more social conscious. Will continue to talk …..