Maha needs to focus on irrigation, price protection for agriculture

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 04 Jan 2019 09:20:37


By Dr G N Karalay,

THE crisis in agriculture in the country has come into focus due to serious problems being faced by the farmers. Each State is trying to find solutions to solve the problems in its own way although the problems are similar in nature. Major problems relate to productivity, cost of production, pricing of produce and marketing.

Regarding cost of production, pricing and marketing, there is more or less consensus that the farmer should get 50 per cent more than the cost of production. Minimum support price (MSP) is supposed to take care of this aspect. But the problem is that the State procurement is barely 6 per cent of the total produce and the rest is procured by the private entities.

The private entities procure the produce below MSP as they apprehend that they will not be able to get the right profit. This finally results in price lower than MSP to the farmers although intention of the State is to offer suitable MSP for the total agricultural produce.

Maharashtra tried to make incumbent on private procurers to pay MSP and penalise those procurers who default in doing so. But due to strong resistance shown by agitating private procurers, the decision on compulsorily procuring at MSP was reversed. To solve this issue, ultimately nation has to move towards establishing national market in place of present agriculture marketing committees (APMCs).
Coming to problem of productivity, major constraint is perennial drought situations especially in Maharashtra. In 2019, Maharashtra is set to face gravest problem of drought.

Adequate irrigation / micro irrigation facility could have mitigated such crises.  There are multifarious strong reasons for low agriculture production, but below normal
monsoon is surely one of the main reasons.  While all-India average of 40-45 percent irrigation coverage is itself low, Maharashtra is almost at the bottom of the rung. Presently the statewise percentage irrigation coverage is Punjab (98), Haryana (85), UP (76), Bihar (61), Tamil Nadu (58), West Bengal (56), AP (49), Gujarat (46), Orissa (35), Rajasthan (35), MP (33), Karnataka (32), Chhattisgarh (27), Maharashtra (19), and Kerala (17).

Poor rainfall last year has now affected half of Maharashtra. For 151 talukas out of a total of 355 have been declared as drought affected and the State is under pressure to declare many other talukas as drought affected. Along with water scarcity  ahead, there have been already substantial crop losses due to poor rain.

The State Government focused on irrigation projects wherein 75% work is already completed. In the process many projects where work was started have been left out. There is bound to be cost escalation which will prohibit the State to take up these projects later. Lack of adequate provision in State budgets is coming in the way of extending irrigation facility.

Similar problem of inadequate irrigation is being faced by other states and availability of adequate finance is the root cause. The provision for irrigation even in Union Budget is meagre. The same has to be enhanced adequately if agriculture is to be taken out of the present crisis caused by severe droughts.

(G N Karalay is the author of books on rural development)