Workshop on Agriculture in Eastern Agro Climatic Zone Challenges and Prospects

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Workshop on Agriculture in Eastern Agro Climatic Zone Challenges and Prospects

Date: 19 Jul 2018
Speakers
Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, Secretary, DARE & DG ICAR
Shri Pawanexh Kohli, Chief Advisor & Chief Executive Officer, NCCD

Report

Record of Discussion

Subject:    'Agriculture in Eastern Agro-Climatic Zone - Challenges and Prospects'

Date: 19th July, 2018

Venue:  BPST Main Lecture Hall, Parliament Library Building, New Delhi

 

Resource Persons:

  1. Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, Director General (DG), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
  2. Shri Pawanexh Kohli, Chief Advisor and CEO, National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCD)

Shri Rahul Dev, Honorary Advisor, SRI welcomed the members of Parliament and the two experts i.e. Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra, DG, ICAR and Shri Pawanexh Kohli, Chief Advisor and CEO, NCCD to the workshop on ‘Agriculture in Eastern Agro-Climatic Zone – Challenges and Prospects’ held under the auspices of Speaker's Research Initiative on 19th July 2018. Dr. S. K. Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare and Dr. A. Arunachalam, Agriculture Scientist were present at the workshop. While welcoming them, Shri Rahul Dev said that as the problems and challenges of each agro-climatic zone in the country were not identical, there was a need to understand each of them separately. The purpose of the workshop therefore was to have focused discussion on ‘Eastern Climatic Zone’ as the region was lagging behind. Moreover, the region was represented by a large number of MPs who showed interest in the subject.

Beginning his presentation, Dr. Trilochan Mohapatra focused on the problems in agricultural sector in eastern region and the activities undertaken by ICAR to provide technological solutions to address them. Presenting demographic spread of the Eastern Region which comprised Assam and other North-Eastern States, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Jharkahand, Odisha and West Bengal, he said that the region held 21.85 % of the total geographical area, 33.62 % of human population, 32.28 percent of livestock population and 21.82 of poultry population of the country. Compared to national average of 72.18 % and 67.04 % of rural population and marginal farmers respectively, Eastern Region had 82.95 % of rural population and 81.24 % of marginal farmers.

About the status of water resources, he said that the rainfall was erratic in Eastern India, ranging from 1091 mm to 2477 mm and on an average 1526 mm. The region had 18% of country’s utilizable water resources with ultimate irrigation potential of 33.65 million ha meter. However, utilization of the created irrigation potential was only 65.5%.

Eastern Region is characterized by:

  • Highly productive soil,
  • Plenty of rainfall,
  • Substantial increase in surface irrigation potential over the years,
  • Ample scope for good quality groundwater exploitation,
  • Congenial climate for cultivation of rice crop,
  • Suitable agro-climatic condition for horticultural crops,
  • Availability of labour at reasonable costs.

 

He enumerated the following as the challenges for the Eastern Region:

  • Frequent occurrence of extreme climatic events (floods, droughts, cyclones etc.) affecting agriculture,
  • Uneven distribution of rainfall leading to water scarcity in Rabi and excess water in Kharif,
  • Poor percentage of  irrigation in Rabi season,
  • Low irrigation efficiency and meager groundwater utilization,
  • Presence of salt affected soils along the coast,
  • Flat topography with poor outfall conditions leading to water logging/water stagnation,
  • Resource poor farming community with fragmented land holdings,
  • Low level of fertilizer application,
  • Poor procurement/storage facility/post harvest management/market support,
  • Poor industrial development - leading to higher percentage of unemployment,
  • High BPL population and significant percentage of labour rural mass.

Though major area of rice was in Eastern States, their productivity was less. However, Eastern India had the tremendous potential to enhance rice production in the coming years. In order to tap this potential, National Rice Research Institute, Cuttack (NRRI) was implementing Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) programme since 2010-11. The programme was being implemented in 149 districts across 7 states in Eastern India. In the year 2017-18, about 118 districts had been covered in Assam (14), Bihar (23), Chhattisgarh (14), Jharkhand (20), Odisha (22), Eastern UP (14) and West Bengal (11). The programme involved 127 scientists from 2 ICAR Research Institutes and 11 State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) of the region. The major interventions included varietal development and agronomic practices like System Rice Intensification (SRI), Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) and line transplanting.

Comparing productivity between BGREI and Non-BGREI States, he said that rice productivity was showing increasing trend in BGREI States and attained maximum in 2012-13 while it was maintained / stagnant in Non – BGREI States compared to the base year 2009-10. Rice Productivity increased at 19.4% in BGREI States while the same increased at 8.9% in Non-BGREI States and at 15.2% in All India from year of 2009-10 to 2015-16.

Other schemes, he said, that were being implemented by the Government in Eastern India were:

  1. National Food Security Mission (NFSM),
  2. Rashriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY),
  3. National Mission on Oilseeds & Oil palm Mission (NMOOP),
  4. Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH),
  5. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA),
  6. National Agriculture Market Scheme (e- NAM),
  7. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY),
  8. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), and
  9. National Agro-Forestry & Bamboo Mission (NABM).

He apprised the Members about the steps taken for upscaling of technologies inventories for Eastern Region, conservation of rice genetic resources and development of crop varieties for different ecologies, biofortified rice and crops for climate resilience such as drought resistant grains, sub-mergence-tolerant rice variety, improved jute varieties, water logging tolerant lines in pulses, new varieities of Litci and Makhana for the Eastern Region.

About animal breeds and varieties, he informed that 17 out of the total 169 animal breeds registered were from the Eastern States. In addition to buffalo cloning and development of new poultry varieties, new pig varieties had also been introduced in the Eastern Region to enable pig farming through supply of quality pig germplasm, balanced economic nutrition of pigs, value addition and technologies for pork product processing and control of major diseases of pigs. Further, State-specific roadmap had also been prepared for development of fisheries, duck rearing and shrimp farming.

Outlining the public outreach programmes, he informed that comprehensive weather based agro-advisory services at district level were being provided through Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) which benefitted farmers in saving on input cost, time of spraying, irrigation scheduling and crop harvesting. Advisories were also being provided through SMS on mobile phones. A number of scientists had also visited the region to demonstrate various technologies and distribute seeds. Villages had also been adopted for the purpose.

 

Regarding the actions taken by the Government to enable second green revolution, he stated the following:

  • Identified researchable issues in consultation with stakeholders,
  • Brainstorming Session on Second Green Revolution (2011),
  • Agri Summit 2013 - A Step Towards Second Green Revolution,
  • Created database for the region,
  • Second Green Revolution Cell established for technological backstopping for holistic agricultural development,
  • Sensitization workshop for Member Secretaries, State Co-ordination Committee(s),
  • First Steering Committee meeting,
  • Arranged State Coordination Committee meetings for Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Eastern, UP, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal,
  • Developed technology inventory for Eastern Region.

 

In order to double farmer’s income, he outlined the following strategies of the Government for the purpose:

  • Increasing crop productivity of major crops,
  • Reducing cost of production through improved technology,
  • Enhancing crop intensity in rice fallow cropping system,
  • Promoting niche crops in specific area,
  • Integration of different enterprises in Farming System (livestock, fisheries, poultry),
  • Quality seed production of improved varieties and improved breeds and species of fish,
  • Livestock management and disease management in pig, poultry, dairy, goat etc.,
  • Promotion of allied activities viz. mushroom and vermicompost etc.,
  • Value addition and post harvest management,
  • Organic farming,
  • Increasing productivity through efficient utilisation of water through appropriate methods (rain water harvesting).

 

While concluding his presentation, he said that the Government was determined to make Eastern India as the hub of 2nd Green Revolution through policy intervention, novel technologies and farmers support system so as to feed 1.6 billion population by the year 2050 by increasing rice yield by 12%, pulse productivity by 75%, fruit production by 8%, vegetable production by 25%, milk production by 23%, fish production by 120% and egg production by 160%.

Shri Pawanexh Kohli, Chief Advisor and CEO, NCCD began his presentation with comparative data to assess the present status of food security in the country. He said that compared to 461 million people in 1961, food availability had to be secured for 1.3 billion people in the year 2016. India had come a long way from ship to mouth food aid, intensive agriculture programs, regulated agricultural markets and procurement induced growth to becoming 7th  largest net exporter globally with surplus buffers, one-nation unified market and post-harvest management.

 

Referring to inter-ministerial DFI (Doubling Farmers' Income) Committee constituted by the Government in April 2016, he outlined the following as approach of the Committee:

  • Transition from agriculture to agri-enterprise,
  • Integrate interventions to capture greater value,
  • Ensure sustainability in production management,
  • Evidence based, in context to current day agricultural status,
  • Continuous recommendations in parallel, for adoption by Government,
  • Income security of farmers as important as food security of nation.

  

He emphasised on the change in income ratio of farm income: non-farm income from 60:40 to 70:30 and fork-to-farm approach in production and sustainable production system. He made the following key observations:

  • Price signals alone were not sufficient; need to factor in consumer demand for market intelligence,
  • Current market architecture isolated the farmers from option to access the national market,
  • Produce was monetised at first-instance, at mandis where local market surplus existed; more optimal to direct traffic to demand linked destinations,
  • Poor supply chain added to inflation pressure; feeds losses did not generate value for farmers,
  • No differentiated produce-specific handling at source points; weakest links at village level,
  • Inverse relation between production and income could be broken by logistics networks,
  • Markets were not perfect. Government role must continue and be to make the system unified and not remain area bound,
  • Setting up post-production activities was not sufficient; Effective market intelligence must be developed,
  • Farmer Producer Organisations needed to develop contiguous clusters of farming land. Village Producer Organisations to create scale and integration,
  • Secondary agriculture not defined as an activity for farming community; need to broad-base agricultural activities.

 

Emphasising on the need for new market architecture and envisaging change in old concept of a market every 80 square kms (5 km radius), he suggested that market density should be based on travel time, at the distance of about one to two hours from farms. These markets should function as platforms not only for local exchange but also as a facilitator to connect and transact. He apprised that Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitating) Act (APLM), 2017 allowed any existing warehouse or cold store to function as markets.

About availability of dry godowns and warehouses, he said that India’s assessed storage capacity needed by 2022 would be 196 million tonnes against the existing capacity of 185 million tonnes in public and private sectors. Therefore, he suggested that more focus should be on upgradation for warehouse compliance and not creation.

Regarding cold-chain infrastructure, he said that all previous efforts were focused on cold storage requirement. The other components necessary for handling fruits and vegetables were not considered – such as Modern Pack-houses and transport requirements for fresh produce. As a result, major infrastructure created in the form of refrigerated storage did not bring impetus to better post-harvest handling of fresh produce, but it helped to develop marketing of certain processed foods and fresh imports coming in cold-chain. He stated that while against the total requirement of 34,164,411 metric tonnes of cold storage (bulk) and 9,36,251 metric tonnes of cold storage (Hub) facilities, 31,823,700 metric tonnes capacities existed already with 10% gap, against the total requirement of 70080 units of modern pack-houses, only 249 units existed in the country with a large gap of 99.6%. The gap was also large in transport connectivity and ripening chambers. He therefore stressed on strengthening these components to improve capital use efficiency in agriculture.

Stressing on crop geometry, he said that demand for horticulture, dairy, livestock and fish was increasing faster than for food grains. Further, demand for fresh produce was growing faster than expected. He thus suggested that crop geometry was important for farmers to capture more value from available area.  He urged that the farmers be encouraged to release the surplus land under cereals and diversify production system to take advantage of demand.

In addition to enhancing farm production, he stressed upon the need for intelligent agri-marketing by expanding marketing range of farmers and adopting ‘fork to farm approach’ so that products were directed by pull from customers. He said that farm production was gainful only when demand-supply distances were bridged. He said;

“Food Loss is not a matter of static measure and its root cause in many times ignored. In large parts of the world, farmers discard their harvest due to lack of logistics connectivity with markets. Trading in farm produce must undergo a transformation, so as to enable farmers with access to terminal markets of choice. Cold-chain is one such logistics bridge between farms and consumers.”

He concluded his presentation with the following statement:

“The mandate of Agriculture is to generate both food and raw material, to meet the requirement of modern society for feed, fibre, fuel and other industrial uses and in a manner that is sustainable and with aim to bring economic growth to farmers.”

During the question-answer session, an hon’ble Member of Parliament sought to know how the farmers would benefit from the mechanism of Minimum Support Price (MSP) if neither Government nor traders bought their farm produce. To this, Shri Pawanexh Kohli replied that the Government proposed to launch Private Procurement and Stockist Scheme (PPSS) to address this difficulty.

A Member wanted to know about the schemes being run by the Government for farmer education in methods, technologies and packaging as most of them were uneducated. Shri Pawanexh Kohli replied that even if most of the Indian farmers were less educated, they understood the basic concepts.

A Member opined that Indian farmers were bestowed with fertile land, irrigation facilities and good productivity, however, they could not make them profitable on account of lack of technology and market accessibility. He wanted to know how the farmers could be motivated to link with the markets. Giving an example of grape harvest which had short shelf life, Shri Pawanexh Kohli said that more than 135 Grape Packhouse facilities had been created in the country through which grape producers were linked to the market. This success should be replicated in other areas also.

Another Member sought to know how agriculture could be made a profitable business and how to link them with the market. Shri Pawanexh Kohli rued that Indian farm produce was fragmented. He suggested that farmers of five to six villages could align and cultivate together. They could bring their farm produce at one place which then could directly go to the terminal market in India or abroad. For this to happen at large scale, he stressed upon the need for developing warehousing transport and cold stores. He projected that Indian farmers would produce 330 MT grapes by the year 2022 and require 196 MT storage facilities. Storage capacity of 185 MT was already available in the country.  Similarly, there was sufficient cold-chain facility in the country. Therefore, instead of creating new facilities, upgradation of the existing facilities were required. Another component on which the country had to work extensively was creation of transport facility for which only 10% capacity existed.  Earlier, India was creating assets; however capacity utilisation of assets were highly required.

A Member sought to know about the transport capacity of 10%. Shri Pawanexh Kohli replied that in the cold chain, the country only had about 10,000 reefer trucks. On an average, the capacity of a reefer truck was eight tonnes; and it ran two days up, two days down with one day waiting. There were 52 weeks a year. One week went for down time. So, it was 51. Multiplying the same, it came to less than three million tonnes as capacity.

Another Member sought to know about modern pack houses to which Shri Pawanexh Kohli explained that modern pack houses were for perishable items. These items were not only stored but packaged there so as to create their holding life or marketable life before sending to shop shelves.  He added that cold-stores were used only to bulk these items. However, modern pack houses worked like hubs.

He reiterated the need to shift to crop geometry. Horticulture was practiced in only 7% of the cultivated land in the country, however it had a value of 25%. He stressed that farmers should be encouraged to produce farm products which had high demand and value in the market.  He also opined that as the country had been progressing and people were getting richer, with affluence, they would go for fresh food items and not processed one. He called India and Indian market unique where 95 per cent of food plate was occupied by fresh food. Fresh food implied that the country had to have better logistics connectivity.

A Member sought to know if all the States had passed the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) to which Shri Pawanexh Kohli replied that some States had passed it. He informed that the Government had proposed a new Act viz Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017 seeking to replace APMC act.

The Workshop concluded with a vote of thanks to the members of Parliament and the experts.