Niti Aayog member calls for measures to ward off a deeper farm sector crisis

With the downturn in the global commodities markets, the crisis in India's farm sector is expected to deepen in 2016-17 and without key reforms, including private sector involvement and provision for generation of income outside the agricultural sector, the country's farmers would be in big trouble, Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand has warned.

Unless the downturn in the global commodities markets is reversed, the country's farm sector crisis is expected to deepen further in 2016-17, Chand said. He also pitched for imparting new skills to farmers to enable them secure jobs outside farming so as to tide over the agricultural crisis.

Besides, he said there is in a need to involve the private sector for innovative management and marketing of farm produce in the country. At the same time, he emphasised the need for reforms in land lease policy and improving market access for farmers.

"At present, the market is not behaving in a normal manner. As a result, the crisis is deepening," Chand said while delivering the keynote address at a national conference on sustainable agriculture here.

Indian farmers benefited from rising global food prices from 2005 till 2012, the situation has worsened in the last two years, he said.

"In the last two years, agriculture is facing very serious problem. We have seen drought and unseasonal rains. Surprisingly, despite lower production, we are seeing that prices are very low," he said, adding that lower output should ideally push up prices, but that is not happening now.

Chand said existing programmes like Start Up India should focus on these issues as well.

Since farmers are leaving farming without giving up their land holdings, a reform in land-lease policy is required to ensure that land is put to use and facilitate tenant farmers to take up farming with adequate credit access, he added.

On credit, Chand said that 50 per cent of the farmers still depend on private lenders. To bring them into formal banking credit system, he suggested launch of a 'kisan dhan yojana' alongside the existing 'Jhan Dhan Yojana'.

"We need to involve private sector as in many areas public sector is not delivering," he said.

Observing that it was difficult to assess farmers' welfare in the absence of data on farmers income and other related issues, Chand suggested that NSSO should publish data on farmers' income annually.