Managing the consequences of coronavirus pandemic on agriculture is becoming increasingly important and someone looking at this closely today is M S Swaminathan, the father of India's Green Revolution. In these trying times, he shared with BusinessToday.In, some important suggestions on ways to double farmers' income. Swaminathan, who is arguably a go-to guru on issues related to farmers, believes that we can double farmer's income through appropriate marketing and by ensuring that they get a fair price. "Based on the NCF proposal, namely C2 (total cost of production) plus 50 per cent, the government should help farmers through agencies such as the Food Corporation, Horticulture Development Board and others that farmers can rely upon," he said.
He further listed out more suggestions: "First, there is a need to improve small farm productivity and thereby the marketable surplus through concurrent attention to soil health enhancement, water harvesting and efficient use, adoption of appropriate technology and inputs, credit and insurance, and assured and remunerative marketing. Second, we should pay attention to the knowledge skill, credit and land ownership empowerment of women farmers who carry out more than 60 per cent of the farm operations. Third, we should promote farming systems based on high value agriculture like horticulture, and animal husbandry. Finally, we should establish BioParks for processing and marketing value added components of the biomass such as straw, leaves and husk, etc.
On handling the fallout of the migrant labour migration, which is leading to shortage of labour force in the current kharif season, Swaminathan says that we need to utilise our panchayat system as they would know what is locally available and what is missing in the diet.
"There are of course some generic issues like keeping enough foodgrain storage at the local level, but other foods such as poultry products can be distributed in the local community," he said, adding that a number of issues will come up on the management of COVID-19 that we should chronicle and learn from.
Swaminathan said, "Many steps will have to be taken to improve the productivity and profitability of agriculture. Technological upgrading of farm operations will bring down the cost of production and increase the margin of crops. This will have to be done at every Panchayat level." he emphasised.
Nearing 95 but active on Twitter, Swaminathan, has also been tweeting on some new issues bothering farmers such as the locust menace that has caused serious damage to agriculture and is worrying farmers. He tweeted: "The best way to control locust invasion is by spraying neem seed decoction over plants. Neem is a strong repellent and also a fertiliser."
Swaminathan even takes time out each day to attend to the work of the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation that he founded in 1988. Earlier, Swaminathan had expressed concerns over the impact of coronavirus lockdown on pisciculture along India's east coast. He has maintained that small scale fisheries require considerable attention in three areas, which are pricing, marketing and organisation.
In a note put out last month by the foundation, he has been quoted as saying: "Many of these are long-term, but there are a few immediate issues related to coronavirus. For one, the fishing ban coinciding with the biological breeding period should be safeguarded; otherwise the reproductive cycle of the fish will be interrupted with long-term consequences. Adjustments are needed to provide immediate relief to COVID-19 affected fishing communities. This should not be connected to regular payments like fishing ban compensation."