[Sansad TV] Perspective: Cluster Farming


Central idea

  • Five private firms have been allowed by the Central Government to engage in cluster farming of specific horticulture crops on a pilot basis.
  • The goal of this initiative is to enhance the competitiveness of Indian produce on a global scale and increase the earnings of farmers.
Overview of the Horticulture Sector in India

India is the world’s second-largest producer of horticulture crops. It is a leading producer of fruits such as Mango, Banana, Pomegranate, Sapota, Acid Lime and Amla.
UP was the top state in horticulture production in 2021-22, followed by MP and West Bengal. West Bengal, UP and MP were the top states in vegetable production.
Maharashtra followed by AP and UP were the top states in fruit production.
The area under horticulture crops increased to 27.74 million hectares in 2021-22, producing around 341.63 million tonnes.

What is Cluster Farming?

  • Cluster farming is a strategy aimed at improving the global competitiveness of Indian produce and boosting farmers’ income.
  • It involves the regional concentration of targeted horticulture crops to allow for specialization in production, post-harvest management, marketing, and exports.

Features of cluster farming include

  • Collaboration: It is a collaborative effort where farmers work together to share resources, knowledge, and expertise to achieve common goals.
  • Resource sharing: It involves sharing resources such as land, water, labor, and equipment to achieve economies of scale and reduce the cost of production.
  • Specialization: It allows farmers to specialize in particular crops or livestock, which enables them to become experts in their chosen areas and increase their productivity.
  • Marketing: It enables farmers to market their products more effectively by pooling their resources and creating a unified marketing strategy.
  • Infrastructure development: It involves the development of shared infrastructure such as irrigation systems, warehouses, and processing facilities, which improves efficiency and reduces costs.
  • Environmental sustainability: It promotes environmental sustainability by encouraging farmers to adopt eco-friendly farming practices, such as conservation agriculture and integrated pest management.

Why need Cluster Farming in India?

There are several reasons why cluster farming is needed in India:

  • Income push for small farmers: India has a high percentage of small and marginal farmers who own less than 2 hectares of land. Cluster farming can help small farmers pool their resources and achieve better access to inputs, services, and markets.
  • Youth retention: Many young people are leaving rural areas in search of better economic opportunities in urban areas. Cluster farming can help create job opportunities in rural areas and improve the livelihoods of rural communities.
  • Supply chains utilization: India’s agriculture supply chain is fragmented, resulting in low prices for farmers and high prices for consumers. Cluster farming helps farmers create a unified supply chain and market their products effectively, reducing intermediaries and improving prices.
  • Filling infrastructure gap: Many parts of rural India lack basic infrastructure such as roads, irrigation systems, and storage facilities. Cluster farming can help farmers share the cost of building and maintaining such infrastructure, which can improve efficiency and reduce costs.
  • Mitigate climate change: Climate change is increasingly affecting India’s agriculture sector, with frequent droughts, floods, and extreme weather events. Cluster farming can help farmers adopt climate-resilient farming practices and reduce their vulnerability to climate change.

Key initiative: Horticulture Cluster Development Programme

  • The CDP is a recently launched central scheme with an outlay of Rs 2,200 crore.
  • It is a central sector programme aimed at growing and developing identified horticulture clusters to make them globally competitive.
  • Under the CDP, financial assistance of up to Rs 100 crore will be provided to projects based on their size.

Implementation strategy

  • The National Horticulture Board (NHB) is responsible for implementing it.
  • The list of 55 clusters, each with a focus on specific crops, includes states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, West Bengal, Manipur, Mizoram, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand.
  • During the pilot phase, it was implemented in 12 clusters across 11 states and union territories.

Objectives of the CDP

  • Export promotion: Improve exports of targeted crops by 20% and create cluster-specific brands to enhance competitiveness
  • Sectoral reform: Address all major issues related to the Indian horticulture sector including pre-production, production, post-harvest management, logistics, marketing and branding
  • Leverage geographical specialisation:  Promote integrated and market-led development of horticulture clusters
  • Converge with other government initiatives: Such as the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund
  • Attract investment

Other initiatives

(1) Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)

  • MIDH is a centrally sponsored scheme for the holistic growth of India’s horticulture sector, covering fruits, vegetables, and other areas.
  • The government of India contributes 60% of the total outlay for developmental programs in all states (except North Eastern and Himalayan states where it contributes 90%), with 40% contributed by state governments.

(2) Project CHAMAN

  • The project name stands for “Coordinated Horticulture Assessment and Management using Geo-informatics.”
  • It is focused on leveraging geo-informatics, which involves using spatial data, to provide assistance to farmers and improve the overall management of the horticulture sector.
  • It aims to provide farmers with accurate and up-to-date information on factors such as weather patterns, soil moisture levels, and disease outbreaks.

(3) National Horticulture Board (NHB)

  • NHB is a government organization that provides financial assistance and other support to promote the development of the horticulture sector.
  • The NHB provides support for various activities, including production, post-harvest management, marketing, and export.

Hurdles for horticulture development in India

  • Fragmented landholdings: Land fragmentation is a major issue in many horticulture clusters in India, which can make it difficult for farmers to achieve economies of scale and adopt modern farming practices.
  • Inadequate market linkages: Many farmers in horticulture clusters have limited access to markets, which can result in low prices for their produce. Improving market linkages is crucial for promoting the growth of the horticulture sector.
  • Pest and disease management: Pests and diseases can pose a major threat to horticulture crops, and managing these risks can be challenging for small-scale farmers who may lack access to information and resources.

Way forward

  • Land consolidation: The government could encourage land consolidation in horticulture clusters, which would enable farmers to achieve economies of scale and adopt modern farming practices.
  • Facilitate access to finance: The government could work with financial institutions to provide credit and other financial services to small-scale farmers in horticulture clusters. This would enable farmers to invest in their farms and adopt new technologies.
  • Establish market linkages: The government could work with private sector players to develop market linkages for farmers in horticulture clusters. This would help farmers get better prices for their produce and improve their livelihoods.
  • Pest and disease management: The government could provide training and support to farmers in horticulture clusters on pest and disease management. This would help farmers adopt eco-friendly pest and disease management practices and reduce crop losses.

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