India healthy, Bharat wealthy.
Many urban customers perhaps do not think of the incredible challenges every small farmer overcomes every year. Rains may fail, crops may suffer pest attacks, prices may crash. For those with small land holdings, no irrigation and low rainfall, the challenge is even greater – how does one manage the household and farm finances?
But there is money out there – enough to make small farmers prosperous. Since India has about 50 crore people heavily dependent on farming, this makes the nation prosperous. So where is the money?
Traditionally farmer friendly policies have focused on a wide variety of issues – water management, sustainable agriculture, better farming practices, better inputs like seeds, interest subsidies, minimum support prices (MSP) and farm loan waivers.
But two gaps remain: a clear focus on the market, i.e., what customers need, and a way of making the farmer central to his own life. The focus on the consumer tells us where the money is “out there”. As said earlier, many consumers do not perhaps know that the gap between farm gate prices and retail prices range between 500% and 2000%. For example, farmers get at most Rs.17 per kg of wheat, whereas pasta sells for a minimum of Rs.240 per kg. The same is true of nearly all food products. The world-over, wherever farmers have got together to directly reach consumers, they have prospered and consumers have benefited. In India the best known example is Amul milk. Farmers became prosperous and India is now the world’s largest milk producer. Thus customers also benefited as they no longer face the crippling milk shortages of the 1960’s or earlier.
A direct connection between rural Bharat and urban India is needed. A wisecrack may say : India healthy, Bharat wealthy.