Broad field of policy issues
S. S. Johl

Glimpses of Indian Agriculture: Macro and Micro Aspects
Ed: S M Jharwal, R S Deshpande, Vijay Paul Sharma, R P S Malik, Brajesh Jha.
Academic Foundation, Pages 1608. $149.95

Problems of the agriculture sector in India are too varied, vast and vexed and are ever changing. Any policy prescription becomes, if not completely, then at least partially obsolete and irrelevant within a couple of years and often earlier. Glimpses of Indian Agriculture... is a collection of write-ups, published and unpublished, by economists from agro-economic research centers in India. Although edited by a group of well known and not-so-well- known economists, the book serves more as reference material than offering policy guidelines on topical issues of temporal importance.

This bulky book in two volumes spread over 1608 pages and 287 data tables is a collection of 105 write-ups, small and large, produced over a period of five years from 2000 to 2004.

The book appears to be an attempt at justifying and projecting the research work done at 15 agro-economic research centres of the country, dealing with region-specific issues and three centres are located in prestigious national level institutes, i.e., Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmedabad, Institute of Economic Growth (IEG), New Delhi, and Institute of Economic and Social Change (ISEC), Bangalore.

In the first volume, policy issues tackled at the macro level provide some reasonable background and methodologies that can be purposefully used for analysing emerging issues of today and tomorrow. The approaches adopted can be employed in projecting the policy stances that would meet the challenges thrown by the process of development at the national level. Quite a broad net has been cast in this section related to the responses of the sector to policy changes, impact of WTO on the sector, market access and constraints, ramifications of minimum support prices, agricultural trade, food security, buffer stocks policy and institutional issues. There are five write-ups on oilseeds and pulses that deal with issues related to production, constraints and prospects, imports and tariffs. Concern of small and marginal farmers, especially with respect to credit supply and marketing have been addressed.

Emerging high value crops such as fruits, vegetables, spices, mushrooms as well as milk and milk products that can be profitably taken up by small and marginal farmers have been dealt with in respect of their production and marketing under the changing scenario of domestic markets integrating with the international markets. Some articles have been added on non-farm employment, integrated pest management, reporting of agricultural statistics, agricultural machinery and inputs as well as subsidies. The information, though presented in an un-integrated framework, is useful for those who deal with policy analysis in the sector. Students of agricultural economics, especially those specialising in development policy can benefit from this volume.

The second volume contains the research work carried out at regional level agro-economic research centers and pertains to a wide range of issues involving production, production costs and marketing of crops in states covered by the respective regional centres. Some important issues researched include resource-use efficiency, methods and systems of farming, problems related to irrigation, water markets, shallow wells, water tanks, fertilizer use, seed production, bank financing, micro finances and financing institutions, technology changes, problems of drought-prone areas, land-use patterns, size distribution of land holdings, land reclamation, economic reforms and cooperative movement, crop insurance and rural development. Issues involved in dairy development, livestock economy, feed and fodder, sheep husbandry, fish farming, farm distress have also been tackled. Studies on high value crops like fruits; vegetables, mushroom floriculture etc. have also been included. Allied sectors like food processing, agro-enterprises, agri-businesses, poverty alleviation, farm labour, rozgar yojna have also been looked into.

Maximum number of studies, 16, pertain to the state of Karnataka followed by Tamil Nadu six and Maharashtra four. Only one study each has been included for the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa. Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. All said and done, this compendium amounts to amassing of a large number of write-ups without much scrutiny. Editors have done precious little to spin these studies into any cogent framework that would tackle the policy issues in an integrated manner.

At least a chapter could be provided in the beginning or at the end, wherein emerging policy issues and recommendations could be put in one place.