‘Doubling farmers income’ is just a slogan, secondary agriculture is unlikely to achieve in Karnataka
The establishment of a secondary agriculture department in Karnataka to aid in the value addition of agricultural produce as a means of doubling the farmers’ income is part of an additional ‘bureaucratic procedure,’ according to analysts, that will have minimal impact on the industry.
The idea derives from the possibility of adding value to farmers’ produce, which would help improve profits, but they argue that it misses the fundamental problems that the industry and its practitioners confront.
‘This (secondary agricultural department) would absolutely not assist because they (the government) were unable to find solutions to existing problems,’ said Dr. Prakash Kammardi, a farm specialist and former chairman of the Karnataka Agricultural Prices Commission (KAPC).
According to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, the decision to establish the department is ‘the means to move agriculture forward and accomplish the goal of doubling farmer income.’
The establishment of the department is an extension of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious plan to double farmer income by 2022 in a country where most farmers are bleeding from mounting losses and surviving from one disaster to the next.
According to sources familiar with the developments, the union government’s forced withdrawal of disputed farm policies is believed to have helped to the establishment of the secondary agriculture thinking process as a strategy to benefit major companies.
‘Since all three acts (agricultural laws) have been withdrawn, it is possible that they (governments) are looking at it differently, and this (secondary agriculture) might be a ruse to help the corporate world or anyone other than genuine farmers,’ Kammardi added.
The proposal comes at a time when farmers across the country have been hit hard by market and monsoon fluctuations, worsening existing issues caused by increasing land pressure, smallholdings, piling losses, and price fluctuations, all of which have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors.
According to data from the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA), the state experienced 307 mm of rainfall between October 1 and November 21, compared to an average of 166 mm over the same time. The state saw excess rains of more than 85 percent on average, with excess to substantial excess rainfall recorded in 23 of 31 districts.
In November, there was a 271 percent increase in rainfall across the state, with Karnataka recording an average of 129 mm compared to a normal of 35mm.
This has harmed crops on lakhs of hectares of agricultural and horticultural fields, with compensation either yet to reach farmers or just insufficient to compensate for losses, contributing to the southern state’s worsening agrarian crisis.
‘It is now 2022, and the only thing that has doubled is farmer fatalities, not farmer income,’ said farmer activist Kurubur Shanthakumar.
Employ rural skilled laborers
Secondary agriculture has been identified in Karnataka as those that use raw materials, primary products and byproducts of agriculture, and other biological resources that are locally available in its rural agrarian neighborhood, and that employ locally available skill sets or a high level of rural skilled laborers to manage the production of goods and services.
The initiative also aims to stimulate farm, cottage, and village-level rural enterprises through the use of low-intensity capital and technology.
According to the Karnataka government, ‘secondary agriculture encompasses food and non-food bio-resource based products for human and industrial use.’
In a two-part tweet on Wednesday, CM Bommai wrote, ‘In response to Hon’ble PM @narendramodi ji’s appeal to double farmers’ income, the Govt of Karnataka has established the Directorate of Secondary Agriculture.’ By providing better markets and market intelligence, this new entity will aim to popularise the Integrated Farming System (IFS) in each agro-climatic zone.’
According to sources familiar with the developments, the doubling of agricultural income is in doubt because there is no way to quantify what a farmer earns currently because the vast majority of workers in the Agri sector own less than an acre of land.
‘Doubling (incomes),’ and so on are all slogans. ‘Nowadays, no one thinks about doubling,’ said Siraj Hussain, an agricultural specialist, and retired civil officer.