‘Ordinances on farm reforms will benefit small, marginal farmers’

4 months ago 20
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NEW DELHI: A day after promulgation of ordinances on key agri reform measures, Union

agriculture

secretary, Sanjay Agarwal, talks to Vishwa Mohan about the impact of the historic move on farmers and the threat of a locust invasion. Excerpts:
How would the ordinances benefit farmers who can’t access distant markets for getting better prices for their produce?
The ordinances are meant to benefit the small and

marginal farmers

(SMF). In the present system, farmers can sell their market surplus only at fixed places, which can either be markets operated by market committees or private markets, cold storages, silos declared as deemed markets or notified places of direct marketing licensee. Even in these places, the purchase is done only by licensed trader. On the other hand, such purchaser is free to sell the produce to anybody anywhere. The ‘farm trade’ ordinance corrects this trade ecosystem. It gives farmers and traders freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farm produce which facilitates remunerative prices.
The new system, backed by the law, will promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade of farmers’ produce outside the physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various state

agricultural produce market committee

(APMC) legislations. It has a facilitative framework for e-trading which will be most beneficial to small farmers whose market surplus is not truck load or even tractor load and those who don’t have means to take the purchase to distant places.
How will the ordinance on ‘farming agreement’ protect interests of farmers?
It provides for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price. Farmers were compelled to take their produce to a mandi for selling. It used to be quite difficult for most of them. After promulgation of these two ordinances, the SMF can now enter into an agreement for sale of their produce at the time of sowing itself. This ordinance will also allow availability of latest technology for farming.
How soon will the farmers get benefits of these reforms?
Right away, as far as ‘farm trade’ is concerned. We have reports from states of farmers already taking their produce to other states for sale. In case of ‘farming agreement’ (contract farming), you may see the result in near future. We are sensitising stakeholders through webinars in current Covid-19 situation.
Will the locust incursions derail India’s target of record foodgrain output for 2020-21?
So far, no major crop losses have been reported except in small areas in Rajasthan,

Maharashtra

and

Uttar Pradesh

. Till now, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat haven’t reported any crop loss. Since rains have now started in Scheduled Desert Areas, the immature pink swarms will in due course grow as yellow adults and will mostly confine themselves in desert areas for egg laying.
Latest update from the FAO on locust situation shows that these movements will cease as swarms begin to breed and become less mobile. The containment of desert locust becomes more effective once they are confined to the desert. Their ability to inflict damage to crops will then also be reduced. So, our foodgrain production will not be affected.
India had to face locust attack this year earlier than its normal incursion period. What’s the reason?
Locust is a trans-boundary pest and its incursion in the summer breeding areas of India occurs if conditions are favourable. Usually, the locust swarms enter India through

Indo-Pak border

for summer breeding in June or July with the advent of monsoon. This year, however, the incursions happened much earlier because of presence of residual population of locust in Pakistan.

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