Subsidies based on outcomes rather than input-oriented would be the best way to go forward for promoting innovation, experts said, while participating in a panel discussion at the BusinessLine Agri Summit here on Friday.
“Outcome-based subsidies can be a driver for bringing in technology into Indian farming. For example, Nabard earlier used to give projects which are input-oriented. Now, Nabard changed it. Now, its projects insist on outcomes and the renumeration is now linked to the outcome,” said M L Jat, Principal Scientist and Systems Agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improverment Center.
“When we talk about technology, the impression we carry is that technology could be panacea for agriculture. That is not necessarily the case. There are many stakeholders in agriculture. Prioritisation is key when technology is thought of,” said Sandeep Malhotra, Chief Executive Officer of IFFCO Kisan, while talking at a panel discussion moderated by N Madhavan, Senior Associate Editor of BusinessLine.
Changing farmer mindset is very important, Malhotra said. Giving the example of agricultural extension workers who are currently around 1.5 lakh in the country, Malhotra said currently they reach out to 25-30 farmers each. Can technology be used to increase the number to 100 or more?, he asked.
He said IFFCO Kisan geomap each and every farm they work with. “There are about 5 lakh farmers on board currently and we are in a better position to impact them meaningfully,” Malhotra said.
Footprint in Africa
Naveen Chaurasia Vice-President of OLAM, said: “Our motto is very similar to that this conference, which is Re-Imagining India’s Agriculture.” Citing the example of Ivory Coast, where OLAM started working very early on, Chaurasia said the African country offered them an area which is least productive to work on. “We have a lot of farming footprint in Africa. Particularly Ivory coast. The area given to us by the Ivory Coast government was poor and least productive. We worked with 2,000 farms. We were giving them advisories, everything that they need for doing farming, grow cotton in a sustainable manner, with minimum fertilisers, pesticide and water. The farmers were getting a yield of better quality cotton of 260 kg per hectare which went up to 560 kg a hectare after our intervention that too with 50 per cent less water and other agri inputs,’’ Chaurasia said.
What is need is to marry farm technologies with policy support. We need to give farmers a bouquet of tools that can give them a plethora of opportunities,” said V Ramanathan of Rallis India. He reminded the audience how the crop productivity of cotton saw a spectacular rise in the years following the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002.
M Jawaharlal, Director of Extension Education at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, said a lot of technologies are available; whether they work is the question.
He said TNAU imparts training to a number of youth to become entrepreneurs in the food space. Giving the example of marigold cultivation in Tamil Nadu, which TNAU introduced, he said farmers even with small patches of land are earning better as the price of the flowers, which is also used for extracting a pigment, went substantially.