During recent years e-commerce has found its way to the agricultural sector in India. The internet continues to become more popular among people who deal with agricultural business of any type. While technology availability has increased and its access has become easier, the demographic transition is also characterized by greater willingness to use technology among farming community. In the last few years agriculture has shown steady progress for which technology has made a visible contribution. The Indian agriculture sector accounts for 18 per cent of India‟s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs around 50 per cent of the country‟s workforce. Size of the Indian agriculture industry is pegged at $160 Bn . Our agriculture is the backbone of our country ! Yet while every other business in the country is reaping the benefits of e-commerce, agriculture remains far behind. But experts believe that the sector can be uplifted with more visibility and technology.
But will e-commerce be able to bring about meaningful change for the farmer in India?
Transformation of agriculture sector via the online medium will not happen overnight. ecommerce will give a platform for supply chain members to source directly from farmers, who otherwise have to go through multiple agents.
On April 14, 2017, PM Narendra Modi launched a new initiative – an online platform for farmers. Named eNAM (National Agriculture Market), it is a single-window service integrating mandis (agriculture markets) online so that farmers and traders can view all APMC (agriculture produce market committee)-related information and services. This includes commodity arrivals and prices, and buy and sell trade offers, thereby helping farmers bid for the best price across markets. For a start, eNAM is integrating 21 mandis in eight States – six in Uttar Pradesh, five in Telangana, three in Gujarat, two each in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and one each in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. The mission is to link 585 mandis to the portal by March 2018. eNAM hopes to go beyond the perfunctory, connecting mandis, enabling farmers provide information on what they want to sell, thereby eliminating middlemen.
Poor internet penetration will be a dampener for rural farmers. He apprehends that small farmers may not take to ecommerce platforms unless the government educates them on digital media.
Lack of uniformity in quality and taxes among States. Two years ago, APMC rules were amended to eliminate the rash of taxes levied by States so as to bring down the prices for agricultural produces and let farmers sell outside local mandis. In this respect, an online platform could provide a wider customer base for them.
Infrastructural inadequacies in inter-State transactions and poor warehousing and cold storage facilities for their produce.
Credibility increases when the buyer has information on how and where the farm produce were sourced. “Precision agriculture will work here. Farmers can keep track and provide information to the consumer online. eNAM can encourage terrace gardening too to encourage non-professionals to come on board. With India facing unprecedented agri-crisis, the recently amended crop insurance scheme and zero balance bank accounts for farmers are among efforts to help build its agrarian economy all over again. Stakeholders are hoping government regulations will be relaxed to let more private funding flow into the sector. Once the red tape is replaced by total commitment, a time will come when this will be a reality.