Rural India Changing Harvest

Inflation of the prices of the fruits and vegetables has been alarming. Who is responsible and who gains out of this inflation? Unfortunately, the farmers don’t. As good news, the Indian farmers are trying to work against all odds such as water scarcity and government impertinence to sustain the livelihood from the gradually diminishing landholding due to family fragmentation.

Many enterprising farmers are taking bold steps and switching over to the crops that have better market and better return. With improving road connectivity, it is getting easier to reach the markets.

I get reminded of my grandfather in our remote village. He used to advise to take some grapes for keeping fit during college days. The grapes were really costly and scarce in those days. In summer, one could not find milk in Sasaram even with villages all around it. Things have changed. Many in villages are keeping good breed of cows, supply milk regularly to the collection centre and get a regular extra income. Even the state governments are trying to emulate the successful enterprises of the other state. As reported, Bihar is planning to set up a large number of mini-dairies.

I was talking to Pintoo in his village in Bihar today morning. He was in his fields irrigating his wheat field. I was surprised when he started talking about sprinklers and drip irrigation. With roads reaching his village, he with his cousins is trying to have some commercial crops such as peppermint. May be pretty soon, they switch to vegetables and fruits too.

A farmer with small landholding up to 10 acres can’t be reasonably affluent unless he switches to produce vegetables, fruits, and have commercial plantations for additional earning. He will have to adapt the best possible farming practices too.

And the good news is that it is happening in many states. The urban Indian consumers today get exotic strawberries, kiwi fruit all the year round and celery, cauliflower and green peas in summer. As reported, fruits and vegetables are being grown on nearly twice the land as in 1990-91. I can get broccoli, baby corn and many varieties today in Noida’s shops that I used to see in the western countries. The apples coming from the local producers are as juicy as one from California. Mushrooms and soybeans have got into Indian cuisines.

Maharashtra has showcased what can be done on the fruit front, particularly bigger, seedless grapes. Scientists are also helping to develop high yielding better crop varieties.
The Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Limited with a tie up with an Israeli company grows olives and dates. Orange cultivation is already transforming the landscape in Jhalawar. Rajasthan cultivates chillies, coriander and other cash crops such as cumin, fenugreek garlic, fennel and ajwain. Interestingly, Gujarat is trying to grow apples.

With frequent drought and growing shortage of water, the farmers are switching over to new practices that require much less water. Many rice producing states are experimenting with a new technique of direct dry seeding for paddy. Interestingly, the environment gets less methane with this practice. And all this is with no loss of yield. Companies such as PepsiCo and ITC are assisting the farmers in different states. Punjab has developed a new machine that drills the seeds directly into the ground.

Indian farmers at least majority of them still need a lot of handholding, easy availability of quality inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides, electricity and timely credits from banks, besides the knowledge about the new scientific developments that is useful for him for improving the yield productivity.

Can the governments focus on these aspects rather than offering only the waivers and subsidies that hardly reach to the deserving lots?

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