Why have agriculture exports not been growing? If the government think tank Niti Aayog is to be believed, Essential Commodities Act, a law that provides the Centre and state governments the power to regulate the production, supply, distribution and prices of commodities, is a hindrance to farm exports.
"These regulations are like a sword hanging over farm producers. They must be reviewed in the interest of farmers and the economy," Rajiv Kumar, Vice Chairman, Niti Aayog said at the inauguration of the National Conference on Doubling Agri Exports, organised by Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture (ICFA).
Kumar said that "organic or natural farming is the sunrise sector of Indian agriculture". He said that exports from this sector have risen significantly, and have great potential for growth. He urged agricultural scientists to evaluate organic or natural farming on merit.
"Don't dismiss this model by saying that it will lead to a drop in agricultural production or will compromise food security. Please conduct studies and evaluate this model with due consideration. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) will meet our food security requirements and lead to a healthier and wealthier India," he said.
According to Kumar, soil degradation was taking place rapidly, and organic or natural farming was the only way to reverse this degradation. Stressing the need to increase the share of ZBNF in Indian agriculture, he urged all farmers to examine how they can move away from the use of chemicals in agriculture and adopt zero budget natural farming practices.
"Today, India is foodgrain surplus. If we improve our post-production value chain, our foodgrain surplus shall be efficiently utilised. We have to improve our labour productivity and yield in all crops and focus on capacity building of farmers. Our costs must be globally competitive. We need a second green revolution to increase farmer income and double exports," said Kumar.
Kumar and other distinguished guests released the IndGAP (India Good Agriculture Practices) document, standardising good agricultural practices for the country.
Union Agriculture Commissioner SK Malhotra said that the impressive export of table grapes from India has proved that our country has the capability to be at the top globally in agri export. Malhotra said that farmers must be aware of challenges related to pesticide residue.
Paban K Borthakur, Chairman APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) said that traditionally India has been exporting surplus products. "There has to be a paradigm shift in how we look at exports," he urged.
Rajesh Maheshwari, CEO, Quality Council of India said that India hasn't kept pace with the adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP), which included food safety regulations. It was important to reach out to farmers in every state for awareness regarding GAP.
Chairman ICFA MJ Khan said that the creation of commodity-specific boards should play a key role in export promotion. He also spoke about the FarmerPlus program of ICFA, which focusses on creating farm entrepreneurs for increasing exports and farmer income.
The conference was organised by ICFA as part of the four-day AgroWorld 2019, which started on November 5.