Unlike other sectors that are weighed down by the COVID-19 pandemic, the agriculture sector has literally become the nerve centre for economic growth. This has been confirmed by key people – right from Reserve Bank of India, governor, Shaktikanta Das to Niti Aayog, CEO, Amitabh Kant. However, it is time that agriculture gets more support to grow more vibrant. In order to find ways to improve the sector, SIES and Free Press Journal (FPJ) in association with NSE, the Netherlands-headquartered East West Seeds and NCDEX are organising a webinar series on the ‘Future of Agriculture’.
The first webinar of the series ‘Why agriculture matters for India’ will be held on July 16 at 4.15 pm. The session, which will be moderated by RN Bhaskar, Consulting Editor, The Free Press Journal, will have names like Arun Raste, Executive Director, NDDB; Dilip Rajan, MD, East-West Seeds India; and Simon Thorsten Wiebusch, COO, Crop Science Division of Bayer for India.
With the arrival of south-west monsoon on time for this cropping season the crops are expected to witness an increase in production. According to DBS Group Research, better farm output is seen as a silver lining this year. “South-west monsoons have arrived on time, with rainfall at 11 per cent above the long-period average, skewed towards central and north-west regions with heavier rainfall. This allowed sowing for the summer (kharif) crop to increase by 88 per cent, led by higher oilseeds, cotton, pulses and coarse cereals.”
Under the employment scheme MGNREGA, the government has set aside up to Rs 40,000 crore to employ excess labour that migrated to the rural areas during the COVID-19-induced lockdown.
In addition, the government allocated Rs 50,000 crore to prioritise employment avenues for the migrant labour in 116 districts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh etc. which account for 65 per cent of the migrant labour force.
According to Care Ratings, given that the nation is in lockdown for July too with several restrictions on the resumption of services in particular as well as the movement of people, the cut-off date for normalcy will spread into the latter part of the third quarter and more likely to the fourth quarter. “Under these assumptions, our forecast for GDP growth is now -6.4 per cent for FY21 with GVA (de)growth estimated to be around -6.1 per cent.” Meanwhile, agriculture will grow at 2.5 per cent in FY 21.
Agriculture has the potential of creating the first wave in a consumption economy. The stronger agriculture gets, the greater will consumption demand be.
As per government data, agriculture and allied activities have seen growth during FY 2019-2020. This was when the manufacturing sector and service sector witnessed a slowdown. As the economy sagged, and because agriculture did not, the share of agriculture increased. Its share would have been greater had proper inputs been given and the farmer not exploited.
The fact is that a rupee spent in rural areas goes a long way than a rupee spent in urban areas. Thus, it becomes more than important to value agriculture. The biggest concern for the farm sector even today is not the consumption of the product but finding a market on time and at a affordable price.