Small farmers in India need to be strengthened with basic inputs

Photo credit: Google

Plowing a field the old fashioned way


MANAS JENA | in Bhubaneswar

Odisha has been importing major food items such as fish, banana, egg, chicken, potato, onion and vegetables from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Jharkhand to meet the everyday consumption need. The dependency has to be mitigated by increasing production of these items within the State.

The per capita consumption of vegetables, milk, egg, fish and meat in Odisha is less than the national average. Similarly, production is also very less in comparison to the neighbouring States. This is a major factor which has been influencing the price in market with burden on poor consumers appearing very high. The yielding rate of food grains in Odisha is below the yielding rate in some of the major States. For the year 2012-2013, the yielding rate of food grains at all India level was 2,125 kg per hectare (ha) and highest 3,698 kg per ha was reported in Haryana. But in Odisha, yield per ha was just 1,696 kg.

There has been a decline in the net sown area. Though cropping intensity has increased and it is higher than national average, but it is far behind Sikkim, Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal.

Fish, meat, milk and vegetables are produced by the small and marginal farmers and landless labourers, Adivasies, Dalits and minorities in rural areas. A majority of them are not supported with basic infrastructure such as land, water, power and credit. The Government institutions like OMFED, OPOLFED and FISHFED have not reached to the small farmers from marginalized social groups. Many of the prospective producers are in need of support to engage in production which can also potentially contribute to generate employment and income for the rural poor families. This can also contribute to a condition in achieving price control with food security and added nutrition value with decreasing dependency on the neighbouring States.

Take the example of fish. During the year 2012-2013 about 21,217 MT of fresh water fish was imported through private trade channels from the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh because Odisha has not enough fresh water fish even to meet the domestic market though during the same period Odisha exported about 111.85TMT fish to other States and foreign countries and about 60 per cent of export constituted marine products, frozen shrimp, ribbon fish etc. These were mostly exported to Japan, China, USA, UK, UAE, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, France, Nederland and Hong Kong etc. The export of marine products to foreign countries has been increasing every year. In last ten years, it has increased about three times. The value of the marine products was about worth `1,700 crore for the year 2013-2014.  China is the highest fish producing country of the world which is contributing 34 per cent of the total world fish production. In India AndhraPradesh tops the list among fish producing States followed by West Bengal and Gujarat. Fish Farmers Development Agency, a centrally sponsored scheme, functions in every district and provides financial assistance for pisciculture development. The Revenue Department of Odisha provides lease of brackish water areas in the coastal districts in the State to BPL families,    woman self help groups, cooperatives ,educated unemployed persons,  fishermen and land less persons having income not more than Rs 40,000 per annum. A lessee can use land as collateral security in any bank for availing necessary finance. But many of the State efforts are not reaching to the socially marginalized groups.

Read the full article: The Pioneer

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.