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Join us to improve the lot of farmers: Corporates to Govt

Jan 31, 2014

Private and public ventures should come together for extension programmes for the benefit of farmers, suggested agri-business entrepreneurs.

New Delhi: Entrepreneurs who met at the round table meet in New Delhi to explore new agri-business models, called upon the government to join the private sector in evolving models for improving the lot of farmers.

The roundtable titled ‘Exploring New Agri-business Models’ was organised by Uttarakhand-based Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS) along with OneWorld to debate new models of fostering partnerships that are emerging in the agri-business sector.

Swarup Raj, Managing Director, Crystal Group, said that small farming has become economically unviable. He said that there was a dire need of directly working with the farmers. Right kind of education on farming can improve the yield by many times, he said.

Raj highlighted the need for the government to join hands with the private sector for improving the plight of farmers and to make agriculture a profitable venture. Talking about the need for research and development, he mentioned Cyrstal Group’s partnership with Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) for assisting farmers by providing solar solutions.

He said that farmers do not have the knowledge about the kind of crops they could grow for better profits. Raj advocated that extension programmes should be carried out in the rural areas to educate farmers about the latest techniques by which they can generate better profits.

“Unless the policies reach the farmers, all the discussion about improving their lot would not make much sense to the agrarian community at the ground level. Private and public ventures should come together for extension programmes,” he said.

Devinder Sharma, Agriculture and Food Security expert, said that there was urgent need for skill development in the rural areas, especially of farmers. He lamented that Indian education has failed to encourage people to adopt agricultural as their profession. “Why are we ashamed of our traditional agricultural practices and traditional breeds of animals,” he questioned.

“Most of our agricultural crisis is because we have adopted alien practices without knowing their full implication on our land from various aspects,” Sharma said.

Sharma said that there is no need to eliminate middlemen from the farming chain. “Middlemen are an important component of farming and the loopholes in the chain should be addressed instead of eradicating the important component of our agriculture,” he said.

Laxmi Prakash Semwal, Chairman of Shri Jagdamba Samiti (SJS), a Rishikesh-based NGO, believes that only a business-driven model can empower marginalised farmers.

He talked about his apple project model in Uttarakhand wherein the farmer-run joint venture companies distribute the surplus profit to farmers in the form of premiums. “In the long run, when farmers are able to return the money invested in these companies, they become the owners. Thus, the entire value of the agricultural produce is realised from the markets in a professional way,” he said.

Deepak Pandey, Joint Chief Seed Production Officer, Uttarakhand Seeds and Tarai Development Corporation, said that seed production is more difficult than agriculture in hilly regions.

Pramod Singh, Director, Image Makers, called for renewed efforts by the corporate world for fruitful partnerships with the farmers by citing an example of Netherlands-based company Van Amerongen, which according to him is doing pioneering work of empowering apple farmers in the hilly states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

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.

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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