Govt to revise its draft policy to treat commercial farming on par with industry
Following the success of the free foodgrain distribution scheme, which has 93-94% offtake, the government is set to reconsider its Draft National Water Policy, which will treat water-guzzling commercial farming on par with industry in terms of prioritization for its use.
The draft policy prioritizes drinking water first, followed by agriculture. However, a distinction has been made in the case of water-intensive commercial farming, with the recommendation that ‘it must gradually adopt water-saving technologies.’
‘It is true that paddy is a high-water-use crop. However, it is also true that the government has been able to distribute rice/wheat free of charge under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) to 80 crore people due to the govt’s stock,’ said an official.
It is not practical to compare water-guzzling crops to industry and charge them accordingly, according to the official, who added that the draft may be reviewed and tweaked before it is finalized.
The Cabinet last week extended the PMGKAY for free foodgrain distribution to the underprivileged population by four months, until March 31.
A radical shift is required
‘Irrigation water consumption accounts for 80-90 percent of India’s water use, with around 80 percent consumed by just three crops – rice, wheat, and sugarcane,’ according to the draft policy.
‘Without a radical change in this pattern of water demand, basic water needs of millions of people, for drinking water or protective irrigation, cannot be met,’ it said, recommending that the government align its incentive structure and crop value chain development investments with the need for crop diversification.
Despite the fact that the government manages the crop diversification program, it has become a non-starter due to the increased procurement of rice and wheat. Official rice purchases under Central Pool stocks have increased to 49% of production in 2020-21, up from 30% in 2013-14.
Similarly, in the case of wheat, the procurement share of production has increased from 29% to 40% over the last eight years.
In the case of sugarcane, farmers are unafraid to increase production despite the outcry over arrears as mills delay clearing the dues due to a sugar glut.
‘For years, the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) has advocated for a change in the current procurement policy, which favours rice and wheat over other crops.’
Also Read: More than 20 lakh ha of land will be under drip and sprinkler irrigation
However, it is a difficult political decision to make. ‘It’s become more difficult since farm laws were repealed,’ an expert said. Hopefully, the next agri-reform committee that is formed will assist in resolving this vexing issue, he added.