Agriculture Series – Part II

This article is the second part of the ‘Agriculture’ series of articles. Read Part I here.

‘Agriculture’ is a hot topic for UPSC. Questions from this topic can be expected in the essay paper or any other general studies paper. Therefore, in order to cover various aspects and dimensions of this topic we bring to you a series of posts dedicated to this specific topic. We would be analysing the topic from multiple angles and at the same time provide data, quotes etc. related to the topic.

Wherever required, we will link the article with previous parts of the series. This will not only help a better understanding of the topic but also would help in revision.


1

Storing of foodgrains:

Most grain in India, which is procured from farmers by the government, is stored using the CAP, or cover and plinth method (building a cement plinth, storing the grains in bags and then covering it with a tarpaulin). India stores about 30.52 million tonnes of rice, wheat, maize, gram and sorghum in such structures at Food Corporation of India godowns and hired spaces.

In other parts of the world, grain is stored in silos. Here, stored grain is kept dry and aired so as to prevent fungal and insect attacks. Today, the U.S. has a permanent storage capacity nearly equivalent to its annual grain production. But in India, the government has considered only four silos to be sufficient for the nation’s needs — one each in Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai and Hapur-Ghaziabad.

The remainder of government-procured grain is stored in conditions so shoddy that it is estimated that there is a 10% loss of harvested grain, of which 6% (around 1,800,000 tonnes) is lost in storage. This means that the grain is so damp and fungus-ridden that it cannot be ground and passed on to the public for consumption.

Eating mouldy grain causes a variety of illnesses. According to a World Health Organisation, mycotoxins, which are found in mouldy grain/foods, are associated with human diseases and produce cancer-causing toxins. Chronic low dose exposure to such toxins can result in impaired growth in children.

Source: The Hindu


2

Challenges associated with abundance of produce:

The challenge with a “situation of abundance” is that of maintaining food prices at levels that ensure farmers get their due profits, while not depriving consumers of the gains of a bumper harvest.

A bumper harvest will help the government fill its granaries for the Public Distribution System and reduce hunger and malnutrition. However, with the increased supply of crops (cereals and pulses) other than the foodgrain, which are procured by the government, the fall in prices can never be ruled out, which is associated with the economics of demand and supply. A bumper crop is expected to benefit the consumer. For farmers, it is a different story. The key issue is that a very small proportion of the produce is procured by government agencies. The bulk of the output is purchased by private players. The system of selling the produce is such that the intermediary gains more and the producer and the consumer both suffer. While the primary producer (farmer) gets low prices, consumers often have to pay high rates.

After harvesting, the crop goes out of the hand of the primary producer (farmer) and is largely usurped by the intermediary. When the primary producer’s share of the pie is declining, the sustainability of farmers come under threat. This is the trend with bumper crop prices, especially those of pulses, vegetables and fruits, crashing at the time of harvest and sky-rocketing in the lean period. Marketing institutions are very weak across the country, and innovative reforms are lacking in this area.

To make farming a healthy business, the government needs to invest in the agriculture sector to improve input and output chains, where the value addition should be reaped by the farmer. Increased investment is urgently required to revamp a dying agriculture sector and make it inclusive and sustainable in the long run.

Source: The Hindu