Pitch forking the farmer into the marketplace

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Ranchi, Feb 5 (ANI): The face of agriculture in India is changing fast. It needs to become not only sustainable but also profitable for farmers especially the young to stay on the land and cultivate it.

The farmers must understand how markets respond to agricultural produce. He should not stop by spending all his life's energy and resources on creating the agricultural produce, but should know how to get good returns for his efforts.

This is the point of make or break for the cultivator, one which decides whether he will be in penury or in prosperity. Notwithstanding the measures taken by the government like ensuring Minimum Support Price for essential commodities and subsidising farm inputs like fertilisers, seeds or even at times power, the farmer still remains at the vagaries of the market, unsure of how to position his produce, in what measure and when. learly this is an area that needs attention. The farmer should be trained to understand market dynamics, so that he straddles both the worlds, the supply which he creates and the demand that drives it.

Jharkhand is a case in point. Farmers here are provided quality seeds, some of them hybrids. Yet this one aspect is not a recipe for success. But that is not adequate. The fundamental flaw in the state remains the lack of a suitable market for their produce. f course there are several others, Cultivation in the state is still dependent on rainfall the use of pesticides is rampant.

There is a belief that to draw out the best from the modern hybrid seeds, the use of pesticides is a must. This incidentally is in sharp contrast to the traditional seeds like Sathi Sirhati, Baldeva, Jogiya, Longiya, Piyarwa, Haldi Mohan and Kodo, which need a different approach, practiced over generations.

These seeds have all but vanished from the scene. The farmer is in a quandary as to how to evolve new agricultural practices based on the hybrid seeds. What the farmer here requires is an orientation and training to understand new practices concerning these modern seeds to enable him to get the best out of them.

The farmer also needs to be made aware of the entire gamut of agricultural activity beyond the first and undoubtedly the most crucial stage of cultivation.

In Jharkhand, there is a virtual absence of marketing facilities to farmers. There are hardly any ' Mandis' established where they could sell their produce.

There should be regular and a systematic way for the farmers to sell their produce, a direct interface with the consumers rather than through a middleman. 'Farmers markets' in Haats( village markets) could be one option. There could be others.

For instance 'contract farming' could be one effective way to improve the farmer's condition. Before the actual process of cultivation begins , the supplier of the produce or the farmer can discuss with the buyer or the trader of the crop that is required, its quantity and expected price.

Thus instead of producing first and then waiting for the market to open up and hope for a good return, the farmer produces based on a pre-determined demand which minimises the scope for loss.

Of course this alone may not suffice. The farmer would still need knowledge and skills on a host of practices and inputs required for not only cultivation but also off-farm activities like animal husbandry, fishery, poultry and horticulture.

Essentially this means, that the universe of the farmer traditionally restricted to growing a particular crop in a particular way, expands. In addition to what he has been cultivating, he would be made aware of options in terms of crops, practices, ancillary activities and underlying all of this, the return from the market, which in a sense is the fulcrum and the arbiter of his destiny!

Once the farmer realizes the options and their potential to give him returns, he will not be at the receiving end but will take decisions, which will ensure good returns. In a larger sense, this is how agriculture becomes profitable.

It is happening in other parts of the country. Vithal Shinde, a farmer from Pune shifted from cultivating to growing flowers and is today reaping rich rewards. He was approached by a company for marketing the produce and Shinde made the transition from being only a cultivator to a businessman. Today he is not only a role model but is able to teach other farmers the ropes while expanding his own business. On 100 square km of land he has created groups of 50 farmers each who now grow flowers which find a ready market.

Jharkhand farmers are still far from this and continue to struggle in the darkness of little or no knowledge of the markets and alternate crops, which could pitchfork them into this arena and allow them the maneuverability to get the best from it.

What they need to realise is the 'Menu card' concept, to present their produce in much the way a culinary expert would present an array of delicacies. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Jharkhand lags behind, it is among the poorer six states in the country.

Agriculture in the state and indeed in the country needs to be revitalised. That requires massive policy measures and resources no doubt but it also requires innovation, an understanding of what makes it all tick for the farmer, of what can spur his further growth.

The Charkha Development Communications feels that An environment needs to be created wherein the despondency of farmers in the country is replaced with a sense of worth and of pride. By Shailendra Sinha (ANI)

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