Agriculture sector in shambles

The recent study conducted by Giri Institute for Development Studies [GIDS] has pointed out an alarming situation in the agricultural sector of Uttar Pradesh.

According to the GIDS report, the share of agriculture in Gross State Domestic Product [GSDP] has declined by about 25 per cent. However, the growth of agriculture is critical for inclusive development as two-third of the work force is engaged in this sector itself. The report revealed that Uttar Pradesh suffered from agriculture stagnation for nearly two decades, though some signs of revival of growth in the sector have been spotted in more recent years.

Between 2000-2001 and 2009-2010, the gross value of agriculture output grew at the rate of only 1.8 per cent per annum. Likewise, food grain output increased at rate of only 1.7 per cent per annum, which is less than the growth of population in the state. The main constraints on agricultural growth in UP are: low investment levels, non-remunerative prices, land degradation and poor soil health, predominance of marginal holdings, inadequate support systems and unfavourable policy environment. The investment in agriculture constitutes only a paltry nine per cent of agriculture GSDP of state, as against a higher 12 per cent of the whole country. However, the really shocking part is that expenditure on agricultural research is not even 0.01 per cent of the agricultural GDSP.

Terms of trade have remained unfavourable to agriculture as prices paid by the farmers are increasing at a higher rate than the prices received by him. Almost 60 per cent of the agricultural land in the state suffers from various degrees of degradation. Soil health is deteriorating, as there is severe deficiency of micronutrients in it.

The small and declining size of the holdings poses a major hurdle in higher investment and growth in agriculture as over 90 per cent of the holdings are in fact below two hectares in size. The Akhilesh Yadav government should wake up to the alarming fact that the support system provided to the farmers is inadequate and deficient. There is almost a total collapse of the public extension system, access of institutional credit to a large majority of farmers remains low, timely and adequate supply inputs continues to be a major issue, the procurement system suffers from various defects and rural infrastructure is in an abysmal state.

GIDS report also pointed out that the  Agricultural produce market committee Act [APMC] Act has not been amended restraining the realisation of potential of agro processing in the state, land market is regulated, leasing is legally banned, there is excessive politicisation of sugarcane prices, organised sector is not encouraged to invest in retail chain in agri-products.

It is time for Akhilesh Yadav government to look into the recommendations of the workshop given below:
  • Public and private investment in agriculture and allied sector, agricultural research, irrigation and rural infrastructure has to be substantially increased.

  • Priority has to be given to conservation and development of land.

  • Attention to soil health deserves high priority.

  • Irrigation management system and irrigation efficiency has to be improved.

  • Timely supply of quality input like improved seeds, fertilisers and planting material has to be ensured.

  • Access of marginal and small farmers to credit has to be substantially improved.

  • Agricultural extension system should be revamped with public-private participation.

  • Agriculture research and education have to be rejuvenated.

  • The farmer-market linkage has to be strengthened by removing deficiencies in the market system and bigger role to large private players.

  • Agro-processing industry needs a big boost. [IPA]
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