India continues to prove its mettle as an agriculture-based country. The huge grain production of 275.68 million tonnes in 2016-17 and an enormous agricultural export value of US$ 24.66 billion in 2017 (Source: Ibef.org) are some noteworthy examples. Despite of these impressive figures, the contribution of agriculture and allied sectors towards GVA (Gross Value Added) has been on a decline, from 18.2 in 2012-13 to 17 in 2015-16 (Source: Agricoop.nic.in). And, many factors are responsible for this.
Fortunately, the use of agricultural machinery in India can address a number of these issues. However, the stakeholders need to closely understand where we lag, focus on the benefits, recognize the challenges and figure out the solutions that would ultimately empower agricultural mechanization in India. So, here we give a brief account of all these aspects that need attention.
Need for Transformation through Mechanization in Agriculture
- Match the Global Standards: With USA’s level of mechanization reaching 95% and that of India’s arch rival China’s at 48%, India at 40% seriously needs to up its game.
- Feed the Ever-growing Population:India’s population has already crossed the mark of 1.32 billion. The country can’t afford to experience a decline in agricultural output.
- Check the Rural-to-Urban Migration: Rapid urbanization and increase in the number of jobs in manufacturing and service sectors constantly attract youth from rural to urban areas. Mechanization of agricultural machines would limit this trend.
What Are the Benefits?
- Increased Quantity: The use of agriculture implement results in higher yield per hectare of land. Considering the fact that India has huge areas of land apt for cultivation, it is easy to guess the increase in overall output.
- Decreased Inputs: The use of farm machinery saves the inputs like seeds and fertilizers without compromising the output quantities. The anticipated water shortage in the future can also be addressed with these machines to some extent.
- Shorter Production Time: As machines involve reduced human and animal labour, it automatically reduces the farm production time.
- Decline in Injuries: Hand tools that are still widely used across India cause about 60% of the agriculture-related injuries (Source: ScienceDirect). Farm machines can help them reduce.
- Improved Lifestyle: Mechanization, by saving time and efforts and improving farm income, definitely add to the improved living standards.
- Machine Costs: Technology-based machines are costly and the small farmers are unable to afford them.
- Limited to Tractors: Farmers in a number of states are familiar only with tractors in the name of agriculture machines. They are still unaware of other machines like rotavators, threshers, seed drillers, combined harvesters, land levellers and so on.
- Lack of Skills: A majority of farmers don’t have the skills to use the advanced technology on which many of these machines are based.
- Poor After-sale Services: Most of the equipment manufacturers, suppliers and vendors promise but fail to deliver quality after-sale services that pose hindrance on the path of absolute mechanization.
- Fragmented Lands: Property inheritance and many such factors have led to creation of small fragments of cultivation lands. Owners of these lands find it impractical to invest in machines for small-scale productions.
- Procurement Hiccups: An uninformed farmer find sit really frustrating to go through the cumbersome stages of procuring farming equipment.
The Possible Solutions
- Better Government Schemes: National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology and manysuch government-backed schemes are already in place. The ministry and bank institutes should come together to offer better subsidies and credits to encourage the purchase of these machines.
- Corporate Farming: Corporate houses need to support farmers in buying and using modern technologies for all-face development of agricultural practices.
- Custom Hiring: The concept needs to be improved to ensure that farmers have easy access to agriculture equipment available on hire or lease.
States like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are already a part of the ongoing transformation. There is need to involve the regions like Northeast states and make India shine on the global map of technology-based agricultural revolution.