The farmer’s job is to cultivate and harvest. Not to construct grain silos.
Prime Minister Modi on Aug 09, 2020 launched a new financing scheme under the Rs. 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund meant for setting up storage and processing facilities, which will help farmers get higher prices for their crops, according to the government statement.
“The scheme will support farmers, PACS [primary agricultural credit societies], FPOs [farmer producer organisations], agri-entrepreneurs, etc. in building community farming assets and post-harvest agriculture infrastructure. These assets will enable farmers to get greater value for their produce as they will be able to store and sell at higher prices, reduce wastage, and increase processing and value addition,” the statement said.
Modi said the scheme would give farmers and the agriculture sector a boost and “increase India’s ability to compete on the global stage”. Modi reiterated that “India has a huge opportunity to invest in post-harvest management solutions like warehousing, cold chain, and food processing, and build a global presence in areas such as organic and fortified foods.”
It is not known why was this scheme waiting for six long years. And the PM keeps his pet word ‘Global’ always in his kurta sleeves to entertain the audience, wherever he goes! In the US, they have safe grain bins to store 80% of their annual produce. But our Food Corporation of India’s post-harvest management solution is the grandoise tarpaulin.
According to a June 2020 report of Scroll.in, the government does not have proper storage facilities for stocking large amount of excess grain. Since much of this excess grain has been stored in suboptimal conditions for long, a significant part of it has been damaged. As of May 1, 60.5 lakh tonnes of wheat and 11.3 lakh tonnes of rice held by government was not “readily issuable”. This included grain that was sub-standard, partially spoilt (what the Food Corporation considers as partially salvagable) or completely damaged (nonissuable).
The report further states: “In just four months, between Jan 1 and May 1, the stock of rice and wheat that was not “readily issuable”, which included partially spoilt as well as damaged grain, increased from 7.2 lakh tonnes to 71.8 lakh tonnes. This is more than the amount of grain that has been distributed through PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana in April and May to deal with the crisis of livelihoods and food insecurity created by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district farmers were complaining on Aug 10, 2020 that one bag of paddy (75 kg) is fetching them Rs. 850 whereas the same quantum of husk is selling at Rs. 900. Mr. Prime Minister, When will the new infra assets enable these farmers ‘to get greater value for their produce as they will be able to store and sell at higher prices’?
The farmer’s job is to cultivate and harvest. It is the responsibility of the state to construct or cause to construct godowns and store the foodgrains safely. How can the PM outsource his business to the farmers?
Numerous farm blue baloons were floated by Narendra Modi from 2013 onwards. A few of them: Minimum Support Price as per Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations (Cost price + 50% profit), the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna, Doubling the farmer’s income in 5 years (2017-2022), Soil test, Optimum use of water & fertiliser, focus on fisheries, animal husbandry, honey bee keeping, timber farming, neem-coated urea etc. List is very bombastic like Modi’s lectures. Effect is pedestrian. Agri-Infra Fund’s result won’t be different.
Sankara Narayanan is a Bhubaneswar based activist