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Agriculture and economic experts at the webinar on Future of Farming in India: Reflecting on Farm Bills 2020 organized by IIM Rohtak

Reflecting on Farm Bills 2020 organized by IIM Rohtak.

Indian Institute of Management, Rohtak organized two panel discussions on the topic “Future of Farming in India: Reflecting on Farm Bills 2020”. In September this year, the President of India gave assent to three farm bills including the Farmer's Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, The Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 respectively. As stated by government, the main agenda was to empower farmer by transferring the risk of future uncertainties from the farmers to the corporations that sponsor the purchase. It was said that these acts of parliament shall encourage private investment in the farm in both marketing of farm produce and development of farm infrastructure to enter.

The webinar had participation from eminent experts namely Dr. Subramanian Swamy, (Member of Parliament), Prof. Ramesh Chand (member NITI Ayog), Shri Suresh Kumar (Chief Principal Secretary, CM Punjab), Prof. Ashok Gulati (Former Chairman CACP), Dr. Samar Singh (VC HAU), Dr. R S Sodhi (MD, AMUL), Prof. Barry Goodwin (Distinguished Professor and Agricultural Economist),  and Shri S SivaKumar (Head Agri Business ITC) who shared their valuable insights on the future of the agricultural sector, and the implications on India’s economy in the long run.

Professor Dheeraj Sharma, Director IIM Rohtak welcomed the esteemed guests and highlighted the vitality of such forums to ensure the youth are well informed about the challenges faced by our agricultural sector. He said, “We need to take strategic measures in the form of government intervention to deal with challenges faced by farmers.” Prof Sharma further contended that there should be a shift from “food security to nutritional security”. This shift will allow farmers’ produce to be aligned with consumer needs. He stated that recent acts of parliament if taken best spirit by corporate world, state governments, and farmers may result in better outcomes for the farm sector.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy elaborated the evolution of the agriculture sector and how India has enormous potential and reforms would only drive growth further. He said, “We need to empower the farmers and provide them with the freedom to choose the buyers. Farmers should be encouraged to directly export their produce which will maximize profits and improve their quality of life.” He said while India is blessed with the right climate and capacity, scientific intervention, and creating a competitive environment is imperative for sustained development. Finally, he stated that the farm bill will result in favorable outcomes. However, the rules should take into account some specific concerns of states.

 

Further to the discussion, Shri Suresh Kumar added that legislations bring in transparency and increase competition. He said, “With the decrease in biodiversity, crop diversity, and increase in water consumption, the need for reforms was unquestionable. However, there’s a lot of apprehension surrounding the new farm acts. Farmers being the major stakeholders should be consulted throughout the process and their concerns pertaining to MSP should be alleviated. The engagement with farmers will increase the rule-based trade which will lead to prosperity in the economy.” He acknowledged that the Bills may have commercial benefits and with the right leadership, the reservations about outcomes of these bills could be handled properly.

Prof. Ramesh Chand highlighted that the implementation of the bills was a culmination of the deteriorating conditions of the Indian agricultural sector over the decades. He further added, “APMC markets, though initially devised to offer infrastructure, have transformed into sources of revenues for the State governments. The real gain will only materialize when APMC and private channels will compete and grow along with each other.” He underlined that the growth rate is demand-driven and artificially sustaining it through subsidies will not sustain in the long run.

Prof. Ashok Gulati elaborated that the future of farming lies in guaranteeing food & nutrition security. He said that “The legislation will streamline the process through reducing intermediate cost, availability of alternatives, and opportunities. This will make the sector more competitive and consequently improve the domestic and international markets. We need to think of the country as a whole and balance the demand and supply. Subsidies have outlived their age and we need new alternatives to cater to the overall demand.”

Dr. Samar Singh elaborated on some of the new shifts that the bills will enable an open-market system, which draw investments in infrastructure. He further shared that there will also be a framework for electronic trading.

Dr. R S Sodhi imparted insights from the point of view of farmers. He explained how the dairy industry has the fastest growth rate in the country as opposed to wheat, paddy, and sugar; the reason being the farmers are free to sell to anybody, anywhere, and at any price as there are no state restrictions. "When you look at dairy and animal husbandry, these sectors are not subsidized and they are growing much faster than the ones that are. The agriculture sector has been struggling in the past few decades due to inefficiency and lack of competition”, he added.

Prof. Barry Goodwin brought in interesting insights on the farming in US, majorly speaking about the effects of climate change on agriculture and emphasized the impact that Genetic Engineering has had on the industry. Prof Goodwin shared the example of how agricultural outcomes during 1988 drought and 2012 drought in USA changed. He mentioned that technology in farm sector allowed US to navigate droughts better. He also mentioned that strategic steps should be taken to align agriculture policy to climate change. Climate change alone can reduce the agricultural yield by 30% to 60%.

Mr. S Siva Kumar spoke about the farmers' perspective, underlining the different measures the government needs to implement to raise farmers’ income. He elucidated that, "Farmers need access to demand and price signals at the time of planting itself. Access to real-time weather information and the relevant inputs and equipment for precision farming, which will enable us to conserve natural resources and respond to weather conditions. Additionally, the ability of farmers to hold produce post-harvest and add value through grading & sorting processes gives them greater bargaining power."

Overall, the panels concurred that reforms in agriculture sector are the need of the hour. If the reforms are initiated and implemented in true spirit by states, departments, marketers, and boards, farmer will realize the reasonably good benefits in next few years.

Prof Dheeraj Sharma said that change consumer eating habits can forever change the global demand for cereals. He said that IIM Rohtak will develop a white paper on challenges and opportunities from the three farm legislations and send it to Government of India.

IIM Rohtak has completed a decade in imparting excellence and management grit to the country’s aspiring young managers. It is amongst the country’s top management institutes and is the only IIM in the Delhi-NCR region. The institute aims to build tomorrow’s leaders by organizing various events to polish students’ skills and keep them updated about the current trends in the industry, hence bridging the gap between industry and academia.

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