ARTICLE- INDIAN AGRI’S CHINK IN THE ARMOUR

Copyright@shravancharitymission

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By Kamlesh Tripathi- Ex: General Manager, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.; Head Operations, Mahindra Shubh Labh Services Ltd.; Head-Agri-Business & Head Engines for Gensets, Escorts Ltd.; Vice President Reliance Retail; Head of Marketing & Sales, SAS Motors; (WRITER AND AUTHOR).

If 2011 agri census had its way. It would huff, puff and jostle the policy makers to have a hard look at the stressed agri scenario of India. That is entering from the back doors of gradual reduction in operating land holding size. It may sound primordial, yet the tremors are only getting closer to the feet, slowly and steadily.

Let’s take a close look at some key statistics thrown up by agriculture census of 2011. Which are rather alarming, more for those who thrive on agriculture. And, considering the fact that census takes place every five years. What will emerge in the next could only be a heart broken anticipation coming true.

LAND HOLDING PATTERN UNDER STRESS

The total no of operational holding has increased from 129.22 million hectares (ha) in 2005-06 to 138.35 million ha in 2010-11, showing an increase of 7.06%. This may sound good.

The operated area has also increased to 159.59 million ha in 2010-11 from 158.32 million ha in 2005-06. A marginal increase of 0.80%.

But the average operational size of holding which was 1.23 ha in 2005-06 has declined to 1.15 ha in 2010-11, at an average all India level. Which is below 3 acres on a more prevalent terminology. And, what it might be in the census of 2015-16 could be anyone’s wild guess. All in all, this shift will bring about economic stress. That will perforce change the farming paraphernalia, of an Indian farmer. But are we ready for this is the moot question?

Juicing from the veritable census report in the table below, one finds. The small and marginal <2 ha operational area has gone up from 41.14% to 44.58%. While both semi medium, medium and large holding have come down. And the average operational size of holding in <2 ha class has gone up from 83.29% to 85.01%. Now this should at least ring bells if not alarm bells. Further the table also conveys:

REDUCTION SWING IN SIZE OF LAND HOLDINGS
CENSUS-2005-06 CENSUS- 2010-11
SMALL AND MARGINAL < 2HA
AVEARAGE OPERATED SIZE OF HOLDING 83.29% 85.01%
OPERATED AREA 41.14% 44.58%
SEMI MEDIUM AND MEDIUM 2.00 HA-10HA
AVERAGE OPERATED SIZE OF HOLDING 15.85% 14.29%
OPERATED AREA 47.05% 44.88%
LARGE HOLDING > 10.00HA
AVERAGE OPERATED SIZE OF HOLDING 0.85% 0.70%
OPERATED AREA 11.82% 10.59%

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Major productivity is going to come from <2 ha holdings. Therefore, the methodology of agriculture production changes from heavy, medium to mini and micro farm equipment. Which is a capital cost change for the industry. Distribution and marketing too will have to retract and align to the scattered farm production. That is helter-skelter logistics and smaller heaps to carry and deliver.

THE NEW PAGE IN FARM MECHANIZATION

Reduction in the size of average operational holding by 6.50% over five years ending 2011. Together with the trending future and historical past, has not gone on deaf years with major Farm mechanization companies. As, they too, over the years, have added, scaled down variants of lower horse power (HP) tractors in their stable. That is from 60 to 45 to 35 to 25 and now to even 16 (HP). Yet the break-even points of these machines are spilling on to the kuccha village roads, tarmac roads where they carry passengers, work in brick-kiln and get into seasonal transport jobs to make two ends meet.

And, also mere reduction of HP will not be sufficient in bringing about farmer profitability. The present average land holding size denotes. Like a nuclear family have –nuclear farming. But this nuclear farming will be viable only with tilling machines in the range of 3 to 7 HP along with allied paraphernalia. Machines that even a lady can operate; and that are self-sustainable, in terms of cost by the income of the farm alone and do not escrow with other seasonal side operations to break even. Therefore, it is not far when the early birds of the industry will arrive in this segment.

As a concerned friend of the farmers. I feel the Government of India needs to take a pragmatic view of the coming to stay scenario, and work out a complete package for the new trendsetting ‘nuclear farming.’ Which I feel is a new skill set. And I say this for the following reason.

For etching a full time farming career from a farm of less than 3 acres would mean performing most farm activities yourself. Or in the company of your spouse, and this would require small farm machines for all activities to match that. Especially, when the net farming profitability per acre stands around twenty five to thirty thousand rupees per annum per acre on an irrigated land.

Indian agriculture has been slow but, steady in catching signals of change. Perhaps, it is waiting for a point when push comes to shove. But this time it needs to be proactive. And it has the capability to imbibe change. Where, the GOI must facilitate with meshing policies.

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