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Beyond loan waivers and MSP hikes: Pressing farm issues that need addressing

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New Delhi, July 05: All eye would be on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman when she presents the first Budget of the Modi 2.0 government in Parliament today. There are many economic issues to be addressed and expectations of the people who voted the BJP to power to be met. While the general public would look at what would become expensive and what would cost less, the economists would be keen on what measures the government takes to strengthen the economy.

Among many issues that Sitharaman is expected to address, are the issues related to farmers given the concerns over concerns over volatility in food prices. In previous budget, former finance minister Arun Jaitley announced several measures to boost agricultural production and rural economy. One of the major initiatives Jaitley announced was fixing minimum support price of the Kharif crops at 1.5 times the cost of production.

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The farmers have been demanding waivers on farm loans and higher prices for their crops for a long time now. Government after government comes, but the condition of the farmers changes little. Farming is a sector which generates maximum employment in India, but most farmers lead a tough life full of uncertainties.

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Hiking the MSP and farm loan waivers have been popular political moves adopted by many governments in the past to appease peasants. While the hike in MSP will undoubtedly provide some relief to the farmers, some say that too little is being done to address the actual problem. The farmers have been unable to arrest the rising cost of production which depends on several factors such cost of fertilizers, irrigation costs, transportation costs, cost of other raw materials etc.

Low yield problem:

Another reason which significantly affects farmers' income is low yield. Indian soils have been used for growing crops over thousands of years without caring much for replenishing. This has led to depletion and exhaustion of soils resulting in their low productivity. The average yields of almost all the crops are among the lowest in the world. One way to address this using right manures and fertilizers.

Quality of seeds:

Yield also depends on quality of seeds. Seed is a critical and basic input for attaining higher crop yields and sustained growth in agricultural production. Unfortunately, good quality seeds are out of reach of the majority of farmers.

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Irrigation:

Irrigation is also a key factor that contributes to agricultural output. Although India is the second largest irrigated country of the world after China, only one-third of the cropped area is under irrigation.

Lack of mechanisation:

Lack of mechanisation effects the yield. Mechanisation needs massive investment and a farmer with small land holding may not be able to afford it. This is where the government should pitch in. In fact the small land holdings is in itself a big problem. A big farmer with a large holding will be in a better position to invest in quality agricultural practices.

Need of the hour: Long term strategy and holistic approach

All in all, a holistic approach is the need of the hour to tackle agricultural problems in India. Several traditional agricultural practices must be shunned and new ways ought to be adopted. The government should not only take initiative to make farmers aware of modern agricultural techniques, but also should give financial help to change the way farming is being done over the years. This is multidimensional problem which needs a long drawn strategy to solve.

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