From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 3- Agri-marketing reforms and water accounting to solve the problems of agriculture
China and Israel offer two important lessons for India to transform its agriculture: agri-market reforms and water accounting.
Lessons from Israel and China
- India, China and Israel — started off their new political journey in late 1940s, but today China’s per capita income in dollar terms is almost five times that of India, and Israel’s almost 20 times higher than India.
- China produces three times more agri-output than India from a smaller arable area.
- China started off its economic reforms in 1978 by taking up agriculture first.
- It dismantled its commune system of land holdings and liberated agri-markets that allowed farmers to get much higher prices.
- As a result, in 1978-84, farmers’ incomes in China increased by almost 14 per cent per annum, more than doubling in six years.
- Israel cultivates high-value crops for exports (citrus fruits, dates, olives) by using every drop of water and recycling urban waste water for agriculture, by de-salinisation of sea waters.
- Water accounting in Israel is something exemplary.
Need for agri-reform in India
- The average holding size in China was just 0.9 ha in 2016-18, smaller than India’s 1.08 ha in 2015-16.
- So there is no doubt that small holders can do wonders, if they are given the right incentives, good infrastructure and research support, and the right institutional framework to operate.
- In India, the 1991 reforms did not include agriculture.
- Indian agri-food policies remained more consumer-oriented with a view to protect the poor.
- Export controls, stocking limits on traders, movement restrictions, etc all continued at the hint of any price rise.
- The net result of all this was farmers’ incomes remained low and so did those of landless agri-labourers.
- India needs to change its policy framework from being subsidy-led to investment-driven, from being consumer-oriented to producer-oriented, and from being supply-oriented to demand-driven by linking farms with factories and foreign markets, and, finally, from being business as usual to an innovations-centred system.
- Until India breaks away from the policy of free power for agriculture, there would be no incentive for farmers to save water.
- In a state like Punjab where almost 80 per cent of blocks are over-exploited or critical, meaning the withdrawal of water is much more than the recharge.
- Highly subsidised urea and open-ended procurement have become a deadly cocktail that are eating away the natural wealth of Punjab.
- Out-of-box thinking is needed to break this regressive cycle for a brighter future for Punjab, for our own children.
Consider the question “What are the implications of subsidy oriented policies for Indian agriculture.”
Lessons from China and Israel suggest that India need reform in agri-food policies and water accounting to address several issues plaguing agriculture.