Speaking to The Free Press Journal, Narendra Dhandre, DGM, Netafim said, “The state has been gifted with 6-7 agro-climatic zones, good soil and plenty of water. Its agricultural growth is amazing. But it can do a lot more because it has not harnessed the full potential of what is possible in the field of farmer prosperity and agricultural growth. The state needs to make the linkages between farms and markets smoother and more predictable.”
There have been growing numbers of farmers who have understood the need for drip, micro irrigation etc in MP today. They have seen how production of crops like wheat, cotton, oilseeds, sugarcane etc has increased. But for this to sink in among farmers, it took almost 15 years. And even then barely 7 per cent of farmers have embraced drip irrigation and fertigation.
Netafim, is the world’s largest player in the micro-irrigation sector. It managers in India have been taking MP farmers to Chattisgarh (the most advanced farming using Netafim technologies is done there). This has helped farmers understand how much more economical and also productive agriculture can be. “We have taken 500 farmers in various batches to educate them on this technology for the past several years. This initiative was generally for farmers having small and medium land holdings of 4-5 hectares,” Dhandre explained.
After years of work, there has been recognition and adoption of appropriate methods adopted by farmers during production. But due to the failure in finding the right market at a right price, the state has not been able to encash this increased crop production. “Lack of a robust food processing infrastructure and cold chain infrastructure has become a challenge to reach rightly priced markets. Good infrastructure for price discovery, contract farming and food processing can help provide stable prices to farmers. That would reduce farm distress, and also give them stable incomes which in turn would encourage them to invest in new technologies to improve efficiency.” Such robust infrastructure encourages private players to enter the space and get into long-term contracts with farmers which would help them earn minimum prices.
Dhandre also added that there is a need for a body or authority to be set up to monitor various requirements of agriculture, especially extension services which the irrigation technology companies are supposed to deliver. “This will smoothen the process of subsidy allotted to the farmers.”
Apart from uneven rainfall, another challenge increasingly clouding the future of the crops in the region is climate change and the state would have to be prepared to face it.