Appoint an agricultural engineer at block level in each state to boost mechanization: ICAR
Because India loses over 1 lakh crore per year due to post-harvest losses, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has proposed the establishment of a separate directorate of agriculture engineering at the block level in each state, which could help significantly reduce losses and enhance farmers’ income.
Agriculture engineers not being utilized
‘Agriculture engineers are few even at the district level in the majority of states.’ Even if they are accessible, their services have been used in other sectors such as seed distribution in states where there is no specific directorate,’ said S N Jha, ICAR’s Deputy Director General (engineering). He has advised that the agricultural ministry persuade states to establish a separate agriculture engineering directorate.
He stated that every state should appoint an agricultural engineer at the block level, or if that is not practicable, at the district level, to assist farmers in running agriculture machinery at the farm level smoothly, not only for production but also for processing and crop value-addition.
Concerned that the expertise of agriculture engineers is not being utilized to its full potential, Jha stated that there would be three benefits: job creation, reduction in post-harvest losses, and an increase in farmers’ income.
Losses incurred after harvest
According to a study conducted by the Ludhiana-based Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering & Technology (CIPHET), the range of average post-harvest losses for foodgrains, oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables has been estimated to be 4.65% to 15.88%, valued at ₹92,651 crores at 2014 prices.
It discovered that total losses had decreased by 2% between 2005-06 and 2013-14, owing mostly to improvements in infrastructure and transportation facilities.
According to the report, paddy, wheat, chana, soybean, tomato, onion, potato, banana, mango, coconut, sugarcane, fish, poultry meat, and milk account for 78% of total post-harvest losses. Because of the perishable nature of these commodities, horticultural output has the largest 34% share.
Jha cited the examples of Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, where a separate directorate of agriculture engineering has been established and stated that such a measure will help the agriculture industry thrive.
Vital role of mechanization
As mechanization is the way ahead in farming, he believes that only an agricultural engineer who knows both engineering and agriculture can do justice, even in the instance of pesticide delivery by drone.
He has encouraged the Karnataka government, the country’s first to establish a separate directorate of secondary agriculture, to incorporate agricultural engineering in the new structure.