A. Amarender Reddy and Tulsi Lingareddy
INDIA’S foodgrain production rose from 50 million tonnes in 1951 to a record 330 million tonnes this year, almost a seven-fold increase. Similar progress has been achieved for other agricultural products. The father of India’s Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan, who passed away last week, played a key role in guiding agricultural policies towards food self-sufficiency and affordability as well as nutritional security.
The father of the Green Revolution, MS Swaminathan, played a key role in guiding agricultural policies towards food self-sufficiency and affordability as well as nutritional security. The next agricultural revolution needs to adopt a holistic approach driven by efficient post-harvest management, eliminating wastage through the food value chain, ensuring restoration of soil organic matter and fertility, optimal resource use and the adoption of sustainable production practices. Farmers must be made a vital part of the agri commodity value chain.
In keeping with Swaminathan’s vision, the emphasis of the New Delhi G20 Leaders’ Declaration on food and energy security brings out the need to focus on enhancing food production and its availability at affordable prices for economically weaker sections. The declaration commits to accelerate investment for increasing agricultural productivity and post-harvest management towards building sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture and food systems. While there has been a remarkable growth in the domestic food production, the progress in post-harvest management has remained subdued, resulting in supply chain inefficiencies and substantial loss and wastage of food. There is an urgent need for devising a holistic and comprehensive policy to address the challenges for bringing efficiency in post-harvest management, while promoting optimal use of input resources and sustainable agricultural production practices.
The growth in the output of major food crops has been largely input-driven, accompanied by a significant expansion in the area under cultivation, and more importantly, the area under irrigation. The area under foodgrain crops increased from about 90 million hectares to over 130 million hectares, while the irrigated area rose from about 18% to over 55% during the past 60 years or so, as per estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture. But the scope for further expansion in the area under cultivation as well as irrigation is limited. The existing area needs to be utilised more efficiently and sustainably.
On the input side, the use of chemical fertilisers has reached its peak, increasing from about 2 kg per hectare in the early 1960s to around 159 kg per hectare in 2019-20. Recent studies suggest that the crop yield responsiveness to fertiliser use has declined significantly from more than 10 kg to less than 5 kg of the grain output per kg of chemical fertiliser. The unrestricted use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has led to long-term adverse effects such as contamination of soil and water, killing of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms in the ecosystem, loss of biodiversity and a harmful impact on human and animal health. This calls for urgent measures to promote sustainable cultivation practices to restore the natural crop ecosystem with judicious use of inorganic and organic or bio-fertilisers for enhancing crop yield.
Reducing food waste is a top priority as it contributes to lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Inadequate post-harvest management is resulting in a substantial loss and wastage of food during its journey from the point of production to the point of consumption. The extent of loss and wastage of food from farm to fork is estimated at over 40 per cent, according to the T20 Brief on Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Enabling Action through the Target-Measure-Act Approach, released in May this year.
It is vital to facilitate the establishment of adequate infrastructure and logistics for efficient and timely movement of produce from the farm to the consumer. Such infrastructure must ensure minimal or no loss of the produce both qualitatively as well as quantitatively, reaching out to the remote corners. Further, it needs to enhance farmers’ income by enabling their direct connection with value chains and thereby reducing the role of intermediaries. Such direct linkages with the value chain will not only help in increasing the farmers’ share in the crop prices but also help them understand the changing consumer preferences with respect to their produce in terms of quality, variety, etc.
In order to promote the development of requisite post-harvest infrastructure, the Union Government established the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs 1 trillion in May 2020. The fund provides financing for projects relating to post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through incentives and financial support. Under this scheme, Rs 23,711 crore has been sanctioned so far, according to the National Agriculture Infra Financing Facility.
The phenomenal growth in agricultural production was primarily spurred by the use of inputs. However, their excessive use has had a detrimental effect on yield responsiveness to inputs, soil fertility and groundwater. Climate change is adding to the concerns about agricultural production and farm incomes. Notably, Swaminathan was keen on greater participation of farmers in climate-resilient agriculture.
Hence, the next agricultural revolution needs to adopt a holistic approach driven by efficient post-harvest management, eliminating wastage through the food value chain, ensuring restoration of soil organic matter and fertility, optimal resource use and the adoption of sustainable production practices. The private sector needs to play an active role, along with the Central and state governments, to make farmers a vital part of the agricultural commodity value chain by creating awareness, building capacity and providing technological support.
Reddy is Joint Director, School of Crop Health Policy Support Research, ICAR-National Institute of Biotic Stress Mgmt, Raipur; Lingareddy is a consultant economist (sustainable finance, markets & agriculture).Views are personal
Send your feedback to [email protected]
Most Read In 24 Hours
Don't MissView All
Rescue workers break through the 60-metre stretch of rubble ...
Education dept issues the dismissal orders following approva...
To hold a meeting in Hisar to decide their next course of ac...
Set to meet Governor Banwarilal Purohit
Sikhs of America says gurdwaras are places of worship and sh...