Dr. Tasneem Mubarak
Agriculture technologies are production and quality centric. We have a number of technologies for production to meet present and future demand. However, farming broadly has two aspects: technology and economics. With technologies we are fine but there are many problems with economics. The right cost of inputs and price of output is vital for farmers. Ever-increasing input costs and lack of sufficient facilities for processing and value addition, along with inadequate market linkages, have been reasons for lower returns in farming sector. It’s a bitter truth that the farmer gets very less of what the consumer pays for his produce. A long chain of intermediates/ middlemen still exist in the system even after reforms in the marketing of agricultural produce. Recent two new ordinances hopefully will prove a great reform for liberalisation of agriculture economy. The ‘farmers’ produce trade and commerce ordinance’ and the ‘farmers’ agreement on price assurance and farm service ordinance’ can improve the situation on the ground. The ordinances give farmers and traders freedom of choice for buying and selling agriculture produce outside the wholesale markets.
When we talk of Jammu and Kashmir, many farmers face difficulties in marketing of fruits, especially in case of apple, the major fruit crop. Unregulated market and lack of sufficient storage facility and market advisory service remain causes of concern. To avoid glut in the market, it is crucial to focus on these issues and for that, sufficient infrastructure in terms of cold chain storage, value addition, and processing of culled grades is required. Like other sectors, fruit industry has witnessed tough times during since 5th August last year. This season also the situation seems to be bleak. Farmers had hardly came out of the shock of untimely snowfall in the month of November 2019 when the Covid-19 pandemic emerged to further shatter them just at the onset of crop season. The government has had to impose lockdown as a precautionary measure and thus the movement of people has been restricted. Despite the efforts of government agencies in terms of supply of inputs and farm advisory services, the situation has prevented many farmers from purchasing agricultural inputs and many farmers have been unable to do crucial plant protection and nutrition management practices.
A huge area under apple has suffered losses due to hailstorm. The overall situation seems grim at present but there is still hope in the market intervention scheme. There is a great demand from the farmers to reintroduce the scheme this year. The fruit purchasing made by National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED) last year brought smiles to the faces of distressed apple growers in the valley. Farmers got reasonably good prices for their produce. The scheme this year is the only hope for farmers especially those having C-grade apple crop affected with scab and hailstorm.
The writer is Senior Scientist & Head, KVK-Kulgam, SKUAST-Kashmir. [email protected]