(The writer is Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India)
Indian civilization is one of oldest civilizations in the world and similarly Indian agriculture is also of the same age. Ancient Indian farmers were quite rich because agriculture was the most advanced and prestigious occupation of that time. Fifty per cent of the population is still dependent on agriculture and occupations related to agriculture.
Indian traditions, customs and religious culture were adversary affected along with agriculture due to foreign invaders and rulers and our advanced agriculture lagged behind as compared to other countries.
After achieving freedom, with the support of our farmers and the manpower related with agriculture, our country has become independent in terms of food grains, cotton, sugar, milk, meat and poultry products. Today India has become the main producer of cereals, milk, sugar, fruits, vegetables, spices, eggs etc. The contribution of rice, meat and sea foods is 52 per cent in the total export.
Although India occupies only 2.4 per cent land of the world, proportionately we have more cultivable land in the world which is capable to fulfill our requirement of food grains. Moreover, we can supply food products all over the world through exports.
The farmer-friendly Modi government has initiated a new export policy to double the export price by 2022. The government is planning to increase the export price from $30 billion to $60 billion. A broad agriculture policy has been initiated to take care of issues related to agriculture and agri-cells have been established in many Indian embassies under this policy.
The government has decided to develop the field of transport of goods and courier facilities through innovations. As a result of the efforts made by this government, the export of agricultural produce and products related to agriculture has been increased to Rs 2.73 lakh crore. Today, India is capable of supplying food to the other countries of the world. Favourable climatic conditions, vast cultivable land, our hardworking farmers etc., are factors which will certainly increase our agriculture export.
With a view to prepare Indian farmers to compete with the farmers of other countries in a better way, opportunities are being provided to them to adopt new and advanced technologies with the help of the Centre and state governments, but this area needs further development. It is the need of the hour to give priority to research for the development of various high producing crops.
If we want to compete with the world with respect to production, our farmer brothers will have to use advanced technologies available in the global community. Private investors will have to play an important role in export oriented activities and the basic structure will have to be developed.
Loss of food items could be reduced with structural development work like godowns, cold storages and market yards etc. We can encourage value added services by promoting the food processing industry. By increasing quality of our products, we can attract other countries to import our food products. These measures will help us establishing/recognise "Brand India" at the international level.
Combined efforts of the Centre and states are required to address the challenges of export related problems. The Central government has provided new financial packages to the agriculture sector to provide them all possible help and the targets of the government to double their income could be achieved.
The government is promoting agri-business with a view to providing maximum benefit to the farmers. Amazon, Alibaba, E-bay and Wallmart E-commerce agencies have brought revolutionary changes through artificial intelligence and machine learning. In line with the revolution of E-commerce, a platform of E agri/digital agriculture is being prepared with the help of which agri-business schemes will reach the major urban and town areas.
Home delivery agencies like Big Basket and Grofers have helped in paving the way to develop beneficial agri-business for their own with the help of agriculture specialists. Green farm house, poly house and small bio farms for growing vegetables etc., are becoming beneficial for the farmers due to their quality and fair prices.
These days organic farming is becoming popular among women farmers also. Today a farmer can start agricultural business plan as a startup, develop it as a source of permanent income and sell his products in the open market. Medicinal plants like Aloe vera, Neem, Tulsi can be produced on a large scale for medical and pharmaceutical sectors.
All efforts are being made by the Government to enable farmers to have freedom and facility to sell his products as per his choice. The Government is encouraging innovations and advanced scientific agricultural techniques for paving the way for reforms in agricultural sector and rural development to ensure inclusive development.
Some of the important advanced agricultural techniques which can transform Indian Agriculture are as follows:
n Biotechnology: This is a technique which helps the farmers produce more in lesser area by use of advanced agricultural systems. This technique is also environment friendly and helps in increasing food production by the use of plant and animal wastes/residues.
n Nano Science: This is a technique which provides information to the farmers through use of smart delivery system and nano sensors as to whether or not plants are receiving water and other necessary inputs in adequate quantity. Besides, it also provides information about the quality of food produced.
n Geo Spatial Farming: By adopting geo spatial farming, agricultural production can be increased on a large scale. Higher production can be achieved on the basis of factors like weeds, quality of soil and its moisture content, production (fertility), rate of seeds, need of fertilizers and other such factors.
n Big Data: Big data will help in smart farming and it will help the farmers in taking appropriate and timely decisions. This will help in forecasting and advance estimates and will strengthen the agricultural development.
n Drones: They help in increasing production by reducing costs and loss in agricultural produce by supervision work. Advanced sensors, capability of digital imaging, soil analysis, crop spraying, crop monitoring, analysis of health of crops including fungus infection is possible with the help of drone technique. Necessary permissions from the Central government are to obtain for agriculture and other works. Recently in Rajasthan, the role of drones has proved to be important in safeguarding agricultural produce from locust attacks.
We can transform this challenge of worldwide spread of the Corona pandemic into an opportunity as due to the epidemic, there is matter of concern of lack of food items in the whole world. Due to this concern, there is a big gap being observed in the supply and demand because people have started storing food items. India can use this situation as an opportunity so that it can pave the way of economic prosperity for our farmers. This step will automatically provide opportunity in doubling farmers' income by 2022 and will play a vital role in giving India an important place in the agriculture sector.
Today's world is of science and technology. Going with time, we should also develop agriculture by using technologies in such a way so that they can be helpful for us. Through technologies we can achieve our desired goal of inclusive agricultural development. (IANS)