Insights from Webinar hosted by CII on Future Proofing of Indian Agriculture Post Lock-down
CII organized a webinar hosted by Dr Rahul Mirchandani.
Dr. S K Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner also took part.
Dr S K Malhotra told us about bumper Rabi crop where we have produced 106.2 million tonnes of wheat and 23 million tonnes of pulses. He told us that the government issued a circular not to stop any truck carrying fruits and vegetables. Farmers were allowed to do direct marketing to consumers. 1600 Mandis were opened on 25th MARCH to procure farmers' produce. 12.7 million hectares is under micro irrigation. Dr. Malhotra suggested that we should work on providing inputs ( seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) at the farmers’ doorstep , like Amazon does for urban consumers. Can we use the post office for doorstep delivery? We still import raw materials from China, a lot of machinery is purchased from China and this is a wake up call for us to produce these here in India. We have to stop our dependence on CHINA.
We have to help farmers become Urjadata also along with Annadata. GOI has a target of providing 2 million solar pumps and connecting 1.5 million farmers to Solarized Grid.
Mr. Sameer Goel, Managing Director Coromandel International Limited told us that they have 800 outlets in Rural Areas and out of those 700 were operational during lock-down. They provide agri services like soil testing to 3 million farmers. Fertilizers and Pesticides are available to farmers for Kharif crops. They are also making neem based bio pesticides. They could open manufacturing within 15 days of lockdown.
Mr. Arving Kapur, Managing Director Acsen Hyveg (P) Ltd. told us that because of lock-down they could not procure most of the good seeds from fields on time for cleaning, treating and bagging for kharif crops. Only 30-40% labor was available. Then problems were in moving seeds from plants to distributors as local police would not allow movement of vehicles. Now it is allowed. We need to come up with strategies on how to collect money from farmers. If a situation like this occurs again then we need to be prepared with more mechanization and depend less on labor. Overall seed industry might have a setback of 15-20% because of lock-down.
Mr. Ajay Rana, CEO Savannah Seeds Pvt. Ltd. told us they are present in 25 states. Rice is the largest crop in India. Out of 44 million hectare, 38-39 million hectare is planted. In case of rice, 90% of the crop is transplanted. Among the total cost of growing rice , 23% is only for transplanting and it is fully labour based. Indian farmers are spending 15000 to 16000 Crores on transplanting only. In this method it takes 2000 to 3000 litres of water to produce 1 KG rice. 20-30 litres of diesel is used for 1 acre. Instead, if we start using direct seeding of rice and use drip irrigation there will be a lot of cost savings. Flip side would be weed management.
In India we produce 4 tonnes of rice in one hectare whereas in China they produce 6.5 tonnes of rice in one hectare. If we can reach this efficiency then we can save 10 million hectares of land for other crops like edible oil which we import.
We need to adapt to digital marketing to reach farmers directly for information dissemination. In Covid and lockdown situation we cannot reach each and every farmer in person.
Mr. Sanjiv Kanwar, Country Manager Yara Fertilizers India Pvt. Ltd. echoed the same sentiments about Cereal crops taking too much land and not providing enough value. He told us Rice , Wheat and Maize cover 42% of land and only provide 19% of value whereas horticulture takes 12% of land and provides 24% of value.
We have indulged in reckless use of fertilizers and water, inefficient use of irrigation which has resulted in bad soil and drought situations.We have been having droughts every 10 months. We use too much water and we are wasting it. We have to switch to direct seeding of rice and micro irrigation. Right now Fertilizers + seeds + pesticides are not economically viable for farmers.
Mr. R D Kapoor, Head Agri Support & Alliances PI Industries Ltd. told us that mustard farmers in Punjab have produced 1800 Metric tonnes of honey, but because of lockdown they have not been able to sell.
Dr. Sangita Ladha, Vice President - Marketing & Business Development Jain Irrigation told us that if we use Direct Seeding of Rice and use drip irrigation we can produce 1 KG of rice by using 1000 liters of water instead of 3000 liters that we use in transplanting method.
We have to package schemes of Solar Pump with Drip Irrigation systems then only we will realize the full potential.
On pricing discussion, we were told there is no demand problem but supply problem is there. Government has reduced subsidies on NPK imports, and the exchange rate has gone up. Farmers used to get fertilizers at discounted rates but now dealers will not be in position to offer discounts so farmers will end up buying at MRP. Effectively fertilizer prices will go up. Same with Pesticides. Maybe after June 2020 prices will go up.
Companies are using zoom calls, whatsapp messages, daily telephone calls to reach out to farmers and provide information about crop agronomy, planting time and seeds.
During the Rabi crop because of lock-down, not many aggregators reached vegetable farmers, they couldn't get price so either they did not harvest or threw the crop. There is no cold storage facility. No hub and spoke model. A lot of vegetable farmers may switch to easier and less labor intensive crops where they just need to plant and irrigate, harvest and sell to Mandis. So vegetable prices may go up because of less produce during kharif season.
Traceability of crops will be needed in the B2B segment and may not be effective in B2C right now.
We will need a lot of innovation in Agri Biotech. People have bad sentiments for GM seeds. We need to work on gene editing and genome sequencing of better quality seeds.
With use of organic fertilizers can we reach the production level we are at right now? Will it be sustainable? Cost of production goes up?
We should join an integrated pest management program. Bio-Pesticides will be bigger and bigger going forward. Hydroponics are only good for leafy vegetables. There are hydroponics guidelines available. Direct marketing of farmers produce needs to be promoted. Focus has to shift from production to marketing.Prices of pesticides and fertilizer will increase, farmers need to shift to bio pesticides and bio control agents.