S. Mahendra Dev
The agricultural sector needs a big push in policies to boost growth and farm incomes and address the agrarian distress in terms of adverse terms of trade. The interim budget and pre-election promises concentrated on short-term measures such as loan waivers and cash transfers. In this year’s interim budget, the government announced PM-KISAN for small and marginal farmers but now it is applicable to all farmers. This cash transfer may be useful to farmers but may not help revive agriculture. The NDA government with its massive mandate should concentrate on long-term policies for transforming the agriculture sector. It should focus on the following five long-term measures and the forthcoming budget in July can be the starting point to revive agriculture.
First, agricultural marketing reforms should be a priority. We should move away from consumer to producer-centric price policy. Agricultural markets have witnessed only limited reforms. They are characterized by inefficient physical operations, excessive crowding of intermediaries and, fragmented market chains. Due to this, farmers are deprived of a fair share of the price paid by the final consumers. We have been talking about APMC reforms for the last two decades. States have not shown any urgency in reforming agricultural markets. The central government including NITI Aayog should work with states in undertaking marketing reforms. There is little progress on e-NAM which is supposed to create a national market. For better price discovery, agriculture has to go beyond farming and develop value chains comprising farming, wholesaling, warehousing, logistics, processing and retailing.