Role of Livestock in Doubling the Farmer’s Income- National Perspective

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Addressing to farmers’ distress, Honorable Prime Minister on the grounds of Bareilly gave a tough target and a challenge in itself for doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Since the days of Green Revolution the main focus remains increasing of production and productivity, but when farmers’ income has to be addressed, then the thinking has to be from a different angle. Conversely, it can be said that the policies till date are usually farm centric not farmer centric. India has already achieved applaudable position in many agricultural commodities. But for raising farmers’ income out of box thinking is required. This step has even received strong criticisms when the same was put forward by our Finance Minister in the Union Budget. Thereby it is evident that both Prime Minister and Finance Minister are targeting to double the farmers’ income by 2022 which is 4 years from the current year. For achieving this objective we need to excogitate some ground level plans to augment farmers’ income from not only agriculture but also its allied sectors.

India’s economy is driven by agriculture and allied activities therefore it is very important to look after the stakeholder’s interests and its well being. As a source of livelihood, agriculture (including forestry and fishing) remains the backbone of Indian Economy. While its output share fell from 28.3 per cent in 1993-94 to 14.4 per cent in 2011-12, employment share declined from 64.8 per cent to 48.9 per cent over the same period. Therefore, almost half of the workforce in India still remains dependent on agriculture. Despite being such an important sector the condition of farmers in still piteous. 70 per cent of the population of farming community comprises of small and marginal farmers mostly having fragmented land holdings. When doubling of farmers’ income is thought of which deals with small and marginal farmers in particular, livestock can play a major role in it. Livestock sector in India supports 20.5 million approximately people and serve as a source of subsidiary income for many resource poor families.

India is a land of vast livestock resources, besides securing top most position in cattle population; it has pretty good position in poultry, meat, and other livestock enterprises. Livestock sector contributes highest in total agricultural GDP which is around 26.1 per cent and thereby contributing 3.9 per cent to total GDP. It serves as a lifeline since it provides livelihood to two-third of rural community giving employment to large population of unskilled youth. Livestock contributes 16 per cent to the income of small farm households as against the national average of 14 per cent for all rural households. Not only this, livestock sector provides employment to 8.8 per cent of population which largely comprises of landless and unskilled population. In the livestock sector, the dairy sub-sector has always played an important role. This is quite evident from the words of Nanda Kumar, Chairman National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) that “Doubling farmers’ income by 2022 is impossible without dairy farming which has a CAGR of 19.6 per cent. 85 per cent of the farmers in India who are marginal and small own 45 per cent of the land, but 75 per cent of the bovine. So probably for a landless person, dairying is one of the best occupations”. Moreover no one is left untouched from the commendable position of India in the world in milk production accounting for 18.5 per cent of world production (789 million tons). The monetary value of this is more than the current combined value of rice and wheat, and this was achieved without subsidy and incentives.

By promising doubling of farmers’ income our Honorable Prime Minister has touched the nerves of the current debate of agrarian distress. Progress in agriculture has a direct effect on the fate of the largest proportion of the low income population in India. Every five year plans promises to bring improvement in miserable life of about 70 per cent lives of the country whose daily meals are dependent only on agriculture. When we turn the pages of the past, there were not much promising results seen in agriculture development. Distress mostly arises because farmers don’t get remunerative prices for their produce and they fall into the loop which ultimately leads to suicide. Thus income is the apropos measure of farmers’ welfare. By review of past literature on farmers’ income a recent literature in India is by Chand et.al, (2015) which suggests that growth in farm income after 2011–12 has plummeted to around one per cent, and this is an important reason for the sudden rise in agrarian distress in recent years. The income earned by 62 per cent of farmers in India who own less than 0.80 hectares of cultivable land was lower than the poverty line during 2007–09. This is the situation where use of livestock resources can come to rescue. Farmers’ distress can be largely minimized when livestock plays its magic wand. If income of farmers from livestock resources is more as compared to agriculture it is a win-win situation for the farmers. This is evident from the result of a study by Chandrasekhar, (2015) which concludes that that doubling income has been possible among those households with over 10 hectares of land which indicated large farmers. What about the fate of small farm households? The noticeable point in this study was the proof of the role played by farm income from animals. The ratio of net income from farming of animals was found to be highest. Thus livestock sector has that untapped potential whose improvement can help us achieving the target.

In agriculture farmers had to undertake many challenges and risk like market risk, price risk, seasonal risk. Crop diversification is a way of mitigating such major risk. Integrated farming system which includes livestock sector not only helps in income generation but also provides nutritional security. Diversification of farming was one of five point strategy given by Honorable Prime Minister for doubling farmers’ income. Integrated farming system provides farmers with immediate cash at the time of need and also during lean season of crop production. It also provides an opportunity to increase economic yield per unit area per unit time by virtue of intensification of crop and allied enterprises for small and marginal farmers. In India cost of feed and fodder is accounts for 65-75 per cent of the total cost of production but use of byproducts and waste materials reduces this cost of production by sale of dung, urine of cow etc. Crop diversification will also help in sustaining the potentiality of production base and restoring the lost nutrients in soil. Diversification thereby combining crop with livestock enterprises would lead to employment generation and would increase the labour requirement by employing family labour throughout the year.

When growth opportunities in livestock sector are taken into consideration, we see that there is immense scope in livestock sector which can help in doubling farmers’ income. In India demand for milk and milk products is elastic in nature but if it turns out to be inelastic then milk and milk product will fall in commodity basket of everyone. This will in turn help farmers in fetching a good price for them. Another area which can also help farmers in increasing their income is the big figure of marketed surplus which is around 70 per cent in India. If this is addressed properly then farmers can definitely be encouraged to pursue dairy farming as a main occupation which was basically thought of subsidiary occupation till now. This can be very well addressed by having strong marketing channels. If farmers’ income has to be doubled then farmers’ produce should reach to the consumers. India has already worked a lot in tightening of its marketing channel in milk. Cooperatives play an important role in strengthening economic status of farmers by not only giving remunerative prices but also giving necessary inputs to the farmers.

Though India ranks first in milk production but in order to remain in this position it needs to take care of farmers produce right from production till it reaches to the consumers. By giving value addition to the milk, the income of the farmers can be increased. Therefore government should work to strengthen the web of processing industries. Currently New Zealand is standing in first position in the world with respect to the processing of milk and milk products whereas India has less than 20 percent of milk being processed. Therefore if our purpose is to increase farmers’ income then the more weightage should be given in developing industrial base in this sector. Encouraging processing and developing value chains will help in generating non-farm jobs for in rural areas. 

Therefore until all these factors mentioned above come together, Modi’s dream of doubling farmers’ income can never be possible. Though doubling farmers’ income is a debatable target but yet it is not impossible. Government has to take tough steps to achieve this target. No doubt PM’s five point strategies can solve this issue to some extent. Moreover attempt should be to increase income in real terms. Focusing only on income from cultivation for facilitating doubling of income will prove to be inadequate. Policy measures aiming at increasing net income of households from animal farming will be the key driver of incomes in agricultural households. There is also need to improve our understanding of what constrains income growth from non-farm business at the household level. Doubling farmers’ income needs funds at institutional level as well as at enterprise level, for which a robust institutional credit flow mechanism is a must. There is need to create a healthy credit environment by enhancing access to credit through technology in an equitable manner. Our resource-scarce farming community such as small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers, share croppers, etc, and farmers in east, centre and north-east regions deserve special attention. With a good strategy, well designed programmes, adequate resources and good governance in implementation, this target is achievable. Here livestock can play its magic wand in doubling farmers’ income.

Dr. Priyanka Lal

Ph.D, National Dairy Research Institute

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