E-Technology in Indian Agriculture to Aid the Farmers

E-Technology in Agriculture

E-Platform for Agriculture Markets in India.

The electronic trading portal for national agricultural market is an attempt to use modern technology for transforming the system of agricultural marketing.

National Agriculture Market

  • The National Agriculture Market (NAM) is envisaged as a pan-India electronic trading portal which seeks to network the existing APMC and other market yards to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. NAM is a “virtual” market, but it has a physical market at the backend.
  • NAM was announced during the Budget of 2014-15 and is proposed to be achieved through the setting up of a common e-platform to which initially 585 APMCs selected by the states are linked. NAM was launched on 14 April 2016 with 21 mandis from 8 States joining it and the first phase of connecting 250 mandis was over on 6 October 2016.
  • NAM will be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme through Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF). The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC), Ministry of Agriculture will set it up through the Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC).
  • The Central Government will provide the software free of cost to the states, and in addition, a grant of up to Rs. 30 lakhs per mandi /market will be given as a onetime measure for related equipment and infrastructure requirements. In order to promote genuine price discovery, it is proposed to provide the private mandis also with access to the software, but they would not have any monetary support from Government.

Benefits of NAM
NAM is said to have the following advantages:

  • For the farmers, NAM promises more options for sale. It would increase his access to markets through warehouse based sales and thus obviate the need to transport his produce to the mandi.
  • For the local trader in the mandi / market, NAM offers the opportunity to access a larger national market for secondary trading.
  • Bulk buyers, processors, exporters etc. benefit from being able to participate directly in trading at the local mandi / market level through the NAM platform, thereby reducing their intermediation costs.
  • The gradual integration of all the major mandis in the States into NAM will ensure common procedures for issue of licences, levy of fee and movement of produce. In a period of 5-7 years Union Cabinet expects significant benefits through higher returns to farmers, lower transaction costs to buyers and stable prices and availability to consumers.
  • The NAM will also facilitate the emergence of value chains in major agricultural commodities across the country and help to promote scientific storage and movement of agriculture goods.
  1. Karnataka Agriculture Marketing Model
  • Among various states of the country, Karnataka has been the forerunner in market reforms and in devising innovative practices to improve agricultural markets and competitiveness.
  • In order to take advantage of modern technology to improve agricultural marketing, the state prepared a plan in 2012–13 with the assistance of NCDEX (National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange) Spot Exchange for automation of auction process in mandis (primary agricultural markets where producers sell their agricultural produce).
  • The plan involves the creation of transparent, integrated e-trading mechanism coupled with facilities for grading and standardisation to facilitate seamless trading across mandis (APMCs). The approach was to integrate all such APMCs with major consumption market to fetch remunerative prices to farmers.
  • The plan has been implemented through Rashtriya e-Market Services (ReMS) Private Limited Company, which is a joint venture created by the state government and NCDEX Spot Exchange.
  • ReMS offers automated auction and post-auction facilities (weighing, invoicing, market fee collection, accounting), assaying facilities in the markets, facilitation of warehouse-based sale of produce, commodity funding and price dissemination. NCDEX is also implementing a unified market platform, whereby all mandis in the state are being unified for single trading.
  • The unified online agricultural market initiative was launched in Karnataka on 22 February 2014. A total of 105 markets spread across 27 districts have been brought under the Unifi ed Market Platform (UMP) as of March 2016.
  • Under this initiative, every farmer who brings produce to the APMC market is given an identified cation number for the lot brought into the mandi.
  • The farmer has a choice to use the common platform or the platform of commission agent for the auction of the produce. These lots are then assayed, and information about quantity and quality is put on the portal of ReMS.

Agriculture Marketing Information Network (AGMARKNET).

  • Agricultural Marketing Information Network (AGMARKNET) was launched in March 2000 by the Union Ministry of Agriculture.
  • The Directorate of Marketing and Inspection (DMI), under the Ministry, links around 7,000 agricultural wholesale markets in India with the State Agricultural Marketing Boards and Directorates for effective information exchange.
  • This e-governance portal AGMARKNET, implemented by National Informatics Centre (NIC), facilitates generation and transmission of prices, commodity arrival information from agricultural produce markets, and web-based dissemination to producers, consumers, traders, and policymakers transparently and quickly.
  • The e-governance portal caters to the needs of various stakeholders such as farmers, industry, policymakers and academic institutions by providing agricultural marketing related information from a single window.
  • The portal has helped to reach farmers who do not have sufficient resources to get adequate market information. It facilitates web-based information flow, of the daily arrivals and prices of commodities in the agricultural produce markets spread across the country.
  • The data transmitted from all the markets is available on the AGMARKNET portal in 8 regional languages and English.
  • It displays Commodity-wise, Variety-wise daily prices and arrivals information from all wholesale markets. Various types of reports can be viewed including trend reports for prices and arrivals for important commodities.
  • Currently, about 1,800 markets are connected, and work is in progress for another 700 markets. The AGMARKNET portal now has a database of about 300 commodities and 2,000 varieties.

The information being disseminated through the AGMARKNET portal includes:

  • Prices and Arrivals (Daily Max, Min, Modal, MSP; Weekly/ monthly prices/arrivals trends; Future prices from 3 National commodity exchanges)
  • Grades and Standards
  • Commodity Profiles (Paddy/Rice, Bengal Gram, Mustard-Rapeseed, Red Gram, Soybean, Wheat, Groundnut, Sunflower, Black Gram, Sesame, Green Gram, Potato, Maize, Jowar, Cotton, Grapes, Chilies, Mandarin Orange etc.)
  • Market Profiles (Contact details, rail/road connectivity, market charges, infrastructure facilities, revenue etc.)
  • Other Reports (Best Marketing Practices, Market Directory, Scheme Guidelines, DPRs of Terminal Markets etc.)
  • Research Studies
  • Companies involved in Contract Farming
  • Schemes of DMI for strengthening Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure

Schemes and Projects of Government and its agencies in e-technology for farmers.

Agricultural Technology Management Agency (A T M A)

  • ATMA is a society of key stakeholders involved in agricultural activities for sustainable agriculture development in the district. It is a focal point for integrating Research and Extension activities.
  • It is a registered society responsible for technology dissemination at the district level. As a whole, the ATMA would be a facilitating agency rather than implementing Agency.
  • The scheme is supported by the Central Government. The funding pattern is 90% by the central Government and 10% by the state government. The 10% state’s share shall consist of cash contribution of the State, beneficiary contribution or the contribution of other non-governmental organizations.

The objectives of ATMA are

  • To strengthen research – extension – farmer linkages.
  • To provide an effective mechanism for co-ordination and management of activities of different agencies involved in technology adaptation / validation and dissemination at the district level and below.
  • To increase the quality and type of technologies being disseminated.
  • To move towards shared ownership of the agricultural technology system by key shareholders.
  • To develop new partnerships with the private institutions including NGOs.

National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET)

National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET) is being implemented during the 12th Plan period.

NMAET consists of 4 Sub Missions:

  1. Sub Mission on Agricultural Extension (SMAE)
  2. Sub-Mission on Seed and Planting Material (SMSP)
  3. Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)
  4. Sub Mission on Plant Protection and Plant Quarantine (SMPP)
  • Agricultural Technology, including the adoption/ promotion of critical inputs, and improved agronomic practices were being disseminated under 17 different schemes of the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation during the 11th Plan. The Modified Extension Reforms Scheme was introduced in 2010 with the objective of strengthening extension machinery and utilizing it for synergizing interventions under these schemes under the umbrella of the Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA).
  • The NMAET has been envisaged as the next step towards this objective through the amalgamation of these schemes.
  • The common threads running across all 4 Sub-Missions in NMAET are Extension and Technology. Therefore, while 4 separate Sub-Missions are being proposed for administrative convenience, these are inextricably linked to each other at the field level, and most components thereof have to be disseminated among farmers and other stakeholders through a strong extension network.
  • The aim of the mission is: to restructure and strengthen agricultural extension to enable delivery of appropriate technology and improved agronomic practices to farmers.

This aim is envisaged to be achieved by a judicious mix of:

  1. extensive physical outreach and interactive methods of information dissemination,
  2. use of ICT,
  3. popularisation of modern and appropriate technologies,
  4. capacity building and institution strengthening to promote mechanisation, availability of quality seeds, plant protection etc. and
  5. encourage aggregation of Farmers into Interest Groups (FIGs) to form Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs).
  • In order to overcome systemic challenges being faced by the Extension System, there is a need for a focused approach in mission mode to disseminate appropriate technologies and relevant information to larger number of farmer households through interpersonal and innovative methods of technology dissemination including ICT.

M-Kisan SMS Portal

  • Though there are about 38 crore mobile telephone connections in rural areas, internet penetration in the countryside is still abysmally low. Therefore, mobile messaging is the most effective tool so far having pervasive outreach to nearly 8.93 crore farm families.
  • M-Kisan SMS Portal for farmers enables all Central and State government organizations in agriculture and allied sectors to give information/services/advisories to farmers by SMS in their language, preference of agricultural practices and location.
  • These messages are specific to farmers’ specific needs & relevance at a particular point of time and generate heavy inflow of calls in the Kisan Call Centres where people call up to get supplementary information.
  • As part of agricultural extension (extending research from the lab to the field), under the National e-Governance Plan – Agriculture (NeGP-A), various modes of delivery of services have been envisaged. These include internet, touch screen kiosks, agri-clinics, private kiosks, mass media, Common Service Centres, Kisan Call Centres, and integrated platforms in the departmental offices coupled with physical outreach of extension personnel equipped with pico-projectors and handheld devices. However, mobile telephony (with or without internet) is the most potent and omnipresent tool of agricultural extension.
  • USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) and Pull SMS are value added services which have enabled farmers and other stakeholders not only to receive broadcast messages but also to get web based services on their mobile without having internet. Semi-literate and illiterate farmers have also been targeted to be reached through voice messages.

Kisan Call Centres

  • In order to harness the potential of ICT in Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture launched the scheme “Kisan Call Centres (KCCs)” on January 21, 2004. The main aim of the project is to answer farmers’ queries on a telephone call in their own dialect. These call Centres are working in 14 different locations covering all the States and UTs. A countrywide common eleven-digit Toll-Free number 1800-180-1551 has been allotted for Kisan Call Centre.
  • Replies to the farmers’ queries are given in 22 local languages. Call centre services are available from 6.00 am to 10.00 pm on all seven days of the week at each KCC location.
  • A Kisan Knowledge Management System (KKMS) to facilitate correct, consistent and quick replies to the queries of farmers and capture all the details of their calls, has been developed. The Kisan Call Centre (KCC) Agents working at various KCC locations throughout the country have access to it.

Sandesh Pathak

  • The Sandesh Pathak application developed jointly by C-DAC Mumbai, IIT-Madras, IIIT Hyderabad, IIT Kharagpur, and C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram will enable SMS messages to be read out loud, for the benefit of farmers who may have difficulty in reading.
  • It is usable by people who cannot read. A large population of farmers belongs to this category. So, when they receive an SMS message either containing agriculture-related advice or some other thing, this app will read aloud the content.
  • It uses the text-to-speech synthesis systems developed by the Indian Language TTS Consortium. To make it especially useful for farmers, the TTS engines of all these languages have been tested on the agriculture domain-related texts and fine-tuned accordingly.
  • The app which is available for download from the App store of Mobile Seva Project of the government of India.

Kisan credit card

  • Kisan credit card uses the ICT to provide affordable credit for farmers in India. It was started by the Government of India, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) in 1998 to help farmers access timely and adequate credit.
  • The aim of Kisan Credit Card Scheme is to provide adequate and timely support from the banking system to the farmers for their short-term credit needs during their cultivation for purchase of inputs etc., during the cropping season.
  • Kisan Credit Card has emerged as an innovative credit delivery mechanism to meet the production credit requirements of the farmers in a timely and hassle-free manner.
  • The scheme is under implementation in the entire country by the vast institutional credit framework involving Commercial Banks, RRBs and Cooperatives and has received wide acceptability amongst bankers and farmers.

Sanchar Shakti scheme

  • The Sanchar Shakti scheme for Mobile Value Added Services (VAS) provisioning envisages development of content/information customized to the requirements of women SHG members engaged in diverse activities in rural areas across India. The scheme entails innovative application of technology in designing & delivering the VAS content so as to ensure its easier accessibility & effective assimilation among the targeted women beneficiaries.
  • Sanchar Shakti scheme has been initiated by the Universal Service Obligation Fund(USOF) which launched wireless broadband Scheme in 2009. USOF is funding the National Optic Fibre Network which is being managed by Bharat Broadband Network Limited. Bandwidth from NOFN will be eligible to give wide range of services to rural India.

Agropedia –ICAR initiative

Content availability and its intelligent organization continues to be a serious challenge in agriculture. This prevents offer of meaningful and efficient advisory and allied services to farmers and other stakeholders. Agropedia is an attempt to infuse semantic and social networking technologies into agriculture information management to alleviate this problem.

Voice Krishi Vigyan Kendra

  • KVK places a special emphasis on training and education of farmers, entrepreneurs, farm women, rural youth, financial institutions extension functionaries as well as voluntary organizations.
  • The centre plays a First Line Extension role- A linkage between research and the field in augmenting the socio-economic conditions of farmers, farm women and livestock owners since 1985 – 86.
  • Total 631 Krishi Vigyan Kendras-KVKs have been established across the country at the district level with a team of multidisciplinary team of experts. The KVKs aim at technology assessment and refinement and work as knowledge and resource centre in the district.
  • A voice KVK (VKVK) is a set of advisors (KVK experts) and peers (lead smallholder farmers) connected through mobile and internet technologies. In the VKVK, the interaction between the two parties can be entirely electronic.
  • The agropedia platform acts as ‘middle ware’ for this interaction providing amplification (one-to-many and many-to-one), persistence (messages are stored and can be searched, retrieved), monitoring and other utilities which are possible when the content is electronically stored and semantically indexed.

E-NAM

In April 2016 Union Government launched the pilot of e-NAM – the e-trading platform for the National Agriculture Market.

Key features of E-portal

  • The e-NAM is a pan India e-trading portal to network existing APMC and other market yards to create a unified national market for agri commodities.
  • The portal will provide a single window service for all APMC related information and services.
  • The portal will connect e-mandis in several states and is aimed at ushering in much needed agri marketing reforms to enable farmers to get better price of their produce and double their income.
  • It is designed to create a combined national market for agricultural commodities. Farmers can display case their crop online from their adjacent market and dealers can costing price from anywhere.
  • Online trade will be allowed within the state and inter-state trade will be likely once all states and mandis are integrated at the primarily stage. 25 possessions including onion, potato, apple, wheat, pulses, coarse grains and cotton, have been recognized for online trading.
  • To mix a wholesale mandis from corner to corner from the country with the online platform, the state governments have to amend their Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act.
  • eNAM will be realized in different phases with an aim to assimilate 585 controlled markets across the country with the common e-market platform by March 2018. So far 365 mandis from 12 states have been established approval.

Significance of E-NAM

  • A major objective of the common market is to iron out the price differentials that exist across the country, by curbing the tendency to hoard, which could lead to moderation of food inflation.
  • The initiative will usher in transparency that will greatly benefit the farmers. Farmers are often forced to sell at a distress prices in the closest mandi (market) and the e-NAM platform will allow them to sell their produce anywhere in the country.while farmers will earn more, traders will have a wider choice and consumers can expect lower prices
  • The current state-level APMC laws permit the first sale of crops — after harvesting by farmers — to take place only in regulated market yards or mandis. It, thus, restricts the farmer’s universe of buyers to just the traders licensed to operate in the mandi under the concerned APMC’s jurisdiction.
  • Even traders have to procure separate licenses to operate in different mandis within the same state. NAM would essentially be a common electronic platform allowing farmers to sell their crops to buyers anywhere in the country and vice versa. The benefits to buyers — be it large retailers, processors or exporters — are obvious, as they can log into the platform and source from any mandi in India connected to it. They don’t need to be physically present or depend on intermediaries with trading licenses in those mandis.
  • Horticultural crops such as onions and potatoes are often sold at varying rates in different states and a unified market can help bring a parity in prices.
  • A farmer in north India can sell his produce on the NAM to a trader in the west or south based on price. This will make a significant difference because there is no state or national price.

Challenges/Criticism

  • While buyers would definitely gain from this portal same could not be clearly said about the Farmers as Most farmers do not take their crop to the mandis; they sell off to the local arhatiya or produce aggregator even before that. Even the ones who take would offer a trolley load or two at most — hardly enough to excite distant buyers bidding online.
  • The National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) recently released ‘Some Aspects of Farming in India’ report shows almost 85 per cent of coconut growers selling their produce to retailers and dealers in their immediate neighbourhood. These ratios are well above 50 per cent in most crops.
  • The survey data also provides a possible reason why most farmers lack the flexibility to even take their crop to the mandis. The survey data indicates that Farmers procure most of their Fertilizers, Fodder, and credit for seasonal agricultural operations from the local Bania and the credit and other inputs are given to the farmers on the condition that they will have to sell their goods to the local bania.
  • The biggest challenge will be to bring in uniformity and rationalization in taxes as agriculture and the marketing is a state subject.
  • Essentially the farmers cannot do away with the procurement agents whom the government wants to cut off from the ecosystem by having a transparent system.” Even APMC is only a “political platform of powerful and connected traders”. These traders own large tracts of land themselves. This nexus needs to be knocked off.

Way Forward

  • eNAM may become a game changer for agriculture but States need to deliver by amending there age old APMC laws. The government should have centralized APMCs and put a cabinet rank minister to cater to commerce part of agriculture.
  • Farmers can greatly benefit if they were to find ways for aggregating produce on their own, bypassing the arhatiya, Local Bania and even the local mandi in the process. This is where farmer producer organisations and cooperatives can play a role, by facilitating aggregation and creation of volumes that is intrinsic to the success of any ambitious virtual marketplace experiment.
  • In order to reduce the role of Village Bania in the life of Farmer, we need to improve the structure of formal source of credit, Fertilizers and other Agriculture inputs.
  • While e-NAM Can bring together both Buyers and sellers at a virtual space however in order of have adequate physical connectivity between the Farmer and retailer (which is a necessity if virtual deal needs to be transformed into actual deal )rural infrastructure like roads, warehouses and cold storage Infrastructure need to be improved simultaneously.
By
Himanshu Arora
Doctoral Scholar in Economics & Senior Research Fellow, CDS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
CategoriesUncategorized
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