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High time to explore new agri-business models: expert

Jan 28, 2014

Discarding traditional agricultural practices in favour of alien methods have pushing Indian farming on the edge, said Devinder Sharma, Agriculture and Food Security Expert.

New DelhiAccording to agricultural entrepreneurs, public private partnerships could go a long way for promoting sustainable agriculture in India. This was the general suggestion which emerged at a roundtable meet in New Delhi.

Uttarakhand-based Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS) organised the meet along with OneWorld, ‘Exploring New Agri-business Models’ to look at and debate new models of fostering partnerships that are emerging in the agri-business sector.

Devinder Sharma, Agriculture and Food Security Expert, said that farmers are going to face bigger problems in future unless basic issues affecting their economic lot are not addressed by the policy makers. He also called for experiments to explore new agri-business models and look beyond FDI in retail to improve the financial condition of farmers.

Quoting census report, Sharma said that around 2500 agriculturists (24 per cent farmers and 34 per cent farm-workers) quit agriculture everyday which presents a very worrisome scenario. According to the CRISIL report around 3.2 crore farmers have quit agriculture in the last seven years, he stated.

Sharma made a strong argument for regulating the public-private partnerships. He said that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is not a touchstone to development and called for more support for the Indian farmers. “Even in America, farmers are given direct financial support, then why have we left our farmer on his own. The crisis in Indian agriculture is because we are discarding our age old practices. There should be a guarantee of monthly income for the Indian farmer,” Sharma said.

Laxmi Prakash Semwal, Chairman, Sri Jagdamba Samiti, Uttarakhand, urged for developing traditional farming into viable business models which is fruitful for both the producers and the consumers. He said farmers are still at large about the solutions related to markets, storage and processing.

He said businesses have shied away from partnering farmers as they are wary about the economic viability of the agri-business models. He urged the business community to look for competitive models to make agriculture a lucrative profession.

V K Saini, Director, AgriCare Organic Farms, talking about organic farming and contract farming with contribution of FPOs, said that diversification of farming is the ultimate solution for sustainable farming. He stressed on the need for reviving traditional farming which was organic in nature and was based on the biological processes. Warning against excessive use of chemicals in farming, he said that use of genetically modified crops should be avoided.

Pramod Singh, Director, Image Makers, said that in the last 23 years, since the year 1991, around four lakh farmers have committed suicide. Singh said despite government efforts to improve the lot of farmers, not much could be eventually done to improve their lot. He expressed hope that the newly passed Food Security Act will prove to be a milestone in improving the financial condition of the farmers.

This roundtable discussion follows a series of two conferences and three roundtables that have been held during the past one year. The roundtables are limited to key stakeholders, including the government, corporates and financial institutions, NGOs and people with interest in the fields of agriculture and sustainable development.

India’s Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat was the Chief Guest at the first conference, while Union Textiles Minister K S Rao was the Chief Guest at the second conference. S K Muttoo, IAS, Chief Investment Commissioner, Uttarakhand, and renowned agricultural scientist Prof. M S Swaminathan addressed the first and second roundtables respectively. The third roundtable, that concluded on January 10, 2014, had the top PSU banks speaking on the topic of ‘Financing Sustainable Agriculture’.

OneWorld, in collaboration with Sri Jagadamba Samiti (SJS), is holding a series of round-table discussions to explore means and mechanisms that could capitalise on the potential of rural India and overcome inefficiencies of the current rural production-supply chain relations.

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