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Farm sector: Pepping up to reap rich dividend

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  13 Sep 2016 12:00 AM GMT

By Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

The latest - the forecast is there - Russia’s agriculture could become the country’s second biggest export after energy. The country is gaining momentum as one of the world’s leading exporters of agricultural products. Russia is successfully regaining the status of a major supplier on the global food market

By now it is well known a fact that Russian agriculture has been in decline since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Investors avoided the sector, turning to raw materials instead. Over that period Russia lost about 35 million hectares of arable land [an area almost the size of Germany]. Everything changed in 2014 with the introduction of Western anti-Russia sanctions and Moscow’s response.

In recent years, the share of agriculture in the Russian economy has increased, contrary to the global trend. In the past year, Russia for the first time earned from agricultural exports more than from the sale of arms. Grain production rose over the last six years and in 2015 - Russia unseated the US as the world’s biggest wheat producer and exporter. According to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture this year’s harvest will be at least 110 million metric tons. At the moment, Russia exports 22.5 million metric tons of grain and this is expected to increase by 4.5 million tons for 2016/17. Wheat exports from Russia are expected to outpace the European Union this year, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

Clearly, the economies which attach top priority to this sector gains in the long run. It is definitely an eye opener to the developing block.

The good side now is that FAO raised its forecast for world cereal production in the 2016-17 season to nearly 2.566 billion tons, 1.6 percent higher than in 2015. It forecast both world wheat and rice output hitting new records. Side by side, the fact remains that World food prices rose in August to their highest since May 2015, as increases in dairy, oils and sugar offset a drop in cereal prices, according to the United tions food agency. Food prices on global markets were almost 7 percent higher in August than in the same month last year – the index measures a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar.

Innovative approach not to lose sight of

It is a well known fact that global hunger is not the result of insufficient food supplies but of their uneven distribution across the globe: 1.02 billion people are going hungry entirely unnecessarily. Still 70 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas: a healthy agricultural sector is of paramount importance to their sustaible development and food security and to reducing global poverty.

It remains a matter of deep regrets that in spite of latent potentialities developing world cannot make much headway. Ignorance about the main tents of intertiol marketing, faulty planning and poor implementation of the same, among others, did not allow economies like India to make the desired foray into the vast intertiol markets. The sincerity on the part of the Governments is not questioned on this score, but that what is lacking is absence of a proper regiol development plan which could eble the implementation agencies to move systematically.

In India, for example, agricultural production has been increasing though cultivable area has seen a decline. While Centre has taken steps to increase the cultivable area, the agricultural production in the country has been increasing except in the years affected by drought, floods and other tural calamities. The average area under cultivation declined to 181.713 million hectares in 2013 – 14 compared to 182.209 million hectares during the period from 2007 – 08 to 2011 – 12. As per Agriculture Census data for 2010 – 11, the average size of operatiol holding of land has declined from 1.33 hectares in 2000 – 01 to 1.15 hectares in 2010 – 11. State governments have to take further suitable measures to check diversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes

It is of course good to note that various crop development schemes and programmes are being implemented to boost agricultural production and productivity of agricultural crops. The government is also implementing the tiol Mission for Sustaible Agriculture to prevent soil erosion and land degradation.

Still a long way to go

It may be noted that a number of developing countries that depend on imports for their food supply are also concerned about possible rises in world food prices as a result of reductions in richer countries’ subsidies. Although they accepted that higher prices can benefit farmers and increase domestic production, they feel that their concerns about food imports need to be addressed more effectively.

Some developing countries make a clear distinction between their needs and what they consider to be the desire of much richer countries to spend large amounts subsidizing agriculture at the expense of poorer countries. Whatever is: it is clear that subsidy cannot be a lasting solution; at best it can give short term benefits. Once it is stopped there would be hue and cry because the recipients were attuned to that and old habits die hard! So why not to restrict the same at the initial stages only??

Realistically speaking, food Security is one of the important areas which call for immediate attention especially in the background of globalization. It is a fact that in addition to macro-level efforts through production and distribution programmes, micro-level initiatives for food security were also taken up by the Government through Community Grain Banks and many non-governmental organizations have also come forward in the recent past to take up these activities, but the asking rate has been so high that a lot remains to be done before we reach at a satisfactory level.

Not only India but also for every tion adequate production and distribution of food and attaining self-sufficiency in food production have become the priorities – the concern amply spelt out by the FAO at its World Food Summit held as far back in 1996 wherein heads of different tions reaffirmed “the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free of hunger”. As per the Rome Declaration “Food Security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. What is more there was a pledge of political will and commitments to eradicate hunger in all countries with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people by half their present level not later than 2015.

Filly, climate change is already threatening fragile food security ecosystems throughout the developing world. The poorest and vulnerable are affected most because they rely on climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, and often lack capacity to adapt to disaster risks. Climate change requires collective action and also substantial investment in mitigation and adaptation efforts.

(The writer is a noted Magement Economist, an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Trends and Principal, Eminent College of Magement and Technology, can be reached at m.bibhas@gmail.com)

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