Doubling the income of Indian farmers by 2022, a far-fetched dream?

“We are grateful to our farmers for being the backbone of the country’s food security. We need to think beyond food security and give back to our farmers a sense of income security. Government will, therefore, reorient its interventions in the farm and non-farm sectors to double the income of the farmers by 2022.” —Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, budget speech, February 29, 2016.

A bad monsoon in India affects the entire economy. A likely result as agriculture is the primary source of income for over 58% of rural households in India. Despite being hailed as the backbone of the Indian economy time and time again, farmers have scarce gotten their due, financially or otherwise.

Despite the ambitious roadmap laid out by Arun Jaitley doubling farmers income by 2022 would be nothing short of a miracle. No we are just not making a sweeping statement.

An analysis made by IndiaSpend reveals that the income of a farmer only rose 5% per year over a decade (2003-2013). To double a farmer’s income by 2022, agriculture will have to grow annually by 14.86% in the next 5 years. A growth level that the Indian agricultural sector is yet to reach. Added to the mix are the rise of an agrarian distress and two years of consecutive drought.

Here’s another scenario, the 12th five year plan (2012-17) targeted a 4% growth rate. 2% growth rate however has been recorded as against the desired 4%. If the growth has to be as projected then agricultural sector must grow by 8%. A growth rate which seems impossible right now.

What is the actual income of a farmer in India?

The average income of a farmer is Rs 1,670 per month as per the Economic Survey 2016-17. What many fail to understand is that crop cultivation accounts only for 63% of income. The rest of the income is derived from other sources. The remaining could be allied such as livestock activities.

Does the future look promising for Indian agriculture?

Doubling the income of farmers might seem like wishful thinking. But it could be achieved by embracing an effective approach which focuses primarily on 7 areas:

  1. Two fold increase in productivity, yield and efficiency in agriculture
  2. Bring 60% of the area used for agriculture under irrigation and increase the reach of micro-irrigation program
  3. Double the investment credit provided to the agricultural sector by using a value chain approach
  4. Boost the growth of the agro processing and value addition services sector (2X)
  5. Build a framework for market driven remunerative farm gate price and establish an appropriate minimum support mechanism to double farmers’ income and insulate the farmers
  6. A two-fold increase in investment in allied activities such as livestock, poultry, beekeeping and fisheries
  7. Augment agriculture market efficiencies and minimise the number of intermediaries by half by accelerating the Unified National Agriculture Market.

Can farmers’ income actually be doubled?

To achieve what seems like an impossible target right now agriculture needs to do away with the traditional policy framework. The government needs to bring into force comprehensive reforms, private and people partnerships to change the face of the agricultural sector in India. The need to reform the agricultural sector has never been more crucial given that India is touted to become the most populous nation in the world. Our farmers will have to provide food for roughly 1.30 billion people by 2030 with fragmented land holdings and fast depleting water resources.

Food security clearly lies in the hands of the farmers in India.

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