Addressing the spreading agrarian crisis: M S Swaminathan

The agrarian crisis, now affecting small and marginal farmers in several states, arises largely from the unfavourable cost-risk and return structure of farming. The chronic problems of low productivity and market volatility are, however,being addressed mainly through loan waivers. While this might give some short-term relief to farmers, it will not help to ensure the long-term economic viability of agriculture. The answers lie in enhancing the productivity of small farms and ensuring adequate public procurement at remunerative prices. It is time that the recommendations contained in the Reports of the National Commission on Farmers, particularly the chapter on farmers of the 21stcentury, are implemented. For example, the NCF has recommended methods for giving the power of scale to small producers at both the production and post-harvest stages of farming. It has also recommended a procurement price of C2 + 50%. These recommendations were formulated after discussion with farmers in all parts of the country. Therefore, there is widespread demand among farmers that they be implemented without further delay. Long-term solutions are important to ensure that farming remains in our country as an occupation of choice among the majority of the rural population. If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will go right. To ensure that agriculture goes right, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare should really place farmers’ wellbeing at the centre of all programmes and policies.

Issue 47| June 2017