Sunday, December 25, 2011

Is subsidized agriculture system ruining India's agriculture production potential?

I saw this article below in The Hindu (25-12-2011). The entire system of government subsidized Agriculture in India is not only ruining agriculture production in India but also ruining the farmers whom the government purports to help. So why are subsidies not good for agriculture? First of all it depends on what is being subsidized. Let us for eg., take fertilizer subsidies, the government of India and the states want to encourage farmers to use fertilizers to increase production therefore purchases certain amount of fertilizers especially nitrogen ones such as Urea. The government pays the wholesale price and then subsidies the price to farmers. This is all well and good from the governments perspective. However farmers do not know if they need this type of fertilizer for their crop or land as there are not many facilities to the soil test nor is there much awareness. The farmers purchase this fertilizer and apply in what ever amount they can afford to. This will lead to irregular use and patchy use of the fertilizer and in many cases excess use. Nitrogen fertilizers when used excessively either leach out with rain (about 40%) or end up causing diseases in crops such as rice or wheat. Additionally the build up of nitrogen fertilizers causes land to become acidic and degraded over time. the leached nitrogen runs off into water systems and contaminates underground water and rivers and creeks leading to formation of algal blooms in water killing bio diverse water systems.
Governments instead of so called subsidizing fertilizers should help farmers by conducting soil tests for free allowing them to correctly use the right fertilizers at the right time to increase production. Just subsidizing fertilizers is of no use to anyone as it needs monitoring. Nitrogen fertilizers such as Urea are also synthetic fertilizers manufactured using fuels leading to a high carbon foot print as well.

Water subsidization is also not very helpful as it leads to excess use of water indiscriminately and and inefficiently. India should concentrate on subsidizing good irrigation systems such as drip irrigation and fertigation. India should also concentrate on developing good seed production and storage system along with Integrated Pest Management system. India should provide free advice and training to farmers in land care, soil managment, pest and disease control and use of best managment to maintain land for the future. Degradation of land is no good for the country.

Subsidizing agriculture in an untargeted manner is no good to anyone. Farmers need educational help in best management practice and a market based price mechanism. This will stop farmers producing crops excessively just because there is subsidy and lead to proper production based on market demand and supply. This in turn will reduce governments having to purchase grain and produce at an artificial price and having to store it and waste it. Government of India should stop wasting tax payers and people's money on these silly schemes and come to terms with today's market based mechanisms and create more opportunities for increased production through the use of best management practices rather than distort the market with artificial interference and inefficient systems. Over 52% of the employment in India is based in rural areas and agriculture sector contributes over 25% GDP. Much hyped IT sector contributes only 7% GDP. It is high time India made use of currently available tools and developed more IT tools to help farmers. There is a serious potential to increase production efficiently and India needs to feed over 1.5 billion people by 2050. 

Freebies and subsidies only destroy agriculture and production’


The Hindu
“It is a well known fact that the rural agricultural economy is in dire crisis today. Whether the government is aware of this or is deliberately ignoring farmers’ issues is a million dollar guess,” says Mr. R. Kulandaisamy a leading farmer and owner of Tari Bio-Tech, Thanjavur.
Prices plummet soon after harvest and traders refuse to buy the produce due to high stocks and volatile price fluctuations.
“The fluctuation in price or absence of buyers is mainly due to excess production of a single commodity. For main cereals such as paddy and wheat the government fixed a minimum price but today they are not able to purchase the entire quantity from farmers at that price,” says Mr. Kulandaisamy.
“If the farmer cannot sell the produce how can he get back his investment? A sugar factory is aware of its cane requirement and plans planting only for that requirement. Similarly Government must decide on its annual food grain requirement and decide to what extent crops need to be cultivated. But sadly that never happens,” he says.
The State agriculture department must select the most suited districts or taluks in terms of soil, water availability, and climate. Based on this, each area must be provided a target area of cultivation and season of cultivation.
“If this can be adopted then our resources will be saved – for instance Tiruvarur district, Tamil Nadu is suited only for paddy. But we find Ramnad farmers also growing paddy in spite of severe water shortage. Instead, these farmers can try to cultivate pulse or ground nut and get two harvests in a year,” explains Mr. Kulandaisamy.
While fixing the price, the Government should pay attention to the extent crops need to be grown. “If they do this, there will not be excess production and consequently any marketing problem,” he reasons.
Similarly each and every cropping pattern needs to be planned by the government before permitting farmers to cultivate. Even today a general belief exists that there is a shortage of cultivable lands.
“If the cultivable land availability is more, then the government needs to look at export market and fix a rate at least close to the international rate for the produce as well as the cultivation cost involved for a reasonable profit,” asserts the farmer.
One of the main reasons for declining produce is the freebies and subsidies. They are destroying agriculture and our lives, according to Mr. K. Tharsius his son.
Since power and water are provided free, a farmer does not feel the need to plan nor devise any improvised method to minimize their usage. “If farmers are charged for electricity it will help improve their efficiency in minimizing this scare resource,” says Mr. Tharsius.
Another impediment is the availability of fertilizers and chemicals. India is dependent on other countries and hence rates are increasing day by day. There are chances of these chemical fertilizers getting exhausted. The permanent solution is only through some renewable sources such as bio-fertilizers and organic manures, according to Mr. Kulandaisamy.
“It is high time the Government seriously starts thinking in proactive measures to revamp our agriculture system. The negative trend in agriculture today is bound to create adverse impact on the overall health of our nation’s economy. We need to find new avenues to keep farmers on the farm, attract new people to take up farming, and make agriculture profitable since it is the backbone of our country,” says Mr. Tharsius.
Mr. R. Kulandaisamy and Tharsius can be reached at, website:, mobiles: 98430-59117 and 98434-39909.

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