Professor N Mohendro Singh
When the whole world talks about innovation-driven economy, Manipur talks about food deficit. This reminds us that political freedom and economic freedom are two sides of the same coin; and food self-sufficiency is central to economic freedom. The image of a state goes hand in hand with economic freedom. Telangana, the youngest state, made farmers “real heroes” in the development process by providing free electricity, free irrigation, an annual input subsidy of Rs 10,000 per acre and waiving loans. The production of food grains has been multiplied by 8. Today, the per capita income is Rs 2,78,833; — one of the highest in the country.
Manipur’s development experience is marked by a discouraged trend of the agricultural sector disappearing with a sustained deficit ranging from 107 tons of food grains in 2013-14 to 267 tons. in 2019-20 even after 68 years of economic planning in the state. Much to our dismay and disappointment, rice yield recorded a decline from 2703.29 kg/ha in 2013-14 to 2192 kg/ha in 2019-20. To close the yawning gap, the state could take about 25 years, given the current growth rate (NABARD).
Economic insecurity experienced by small and marginal farmers remains high. The income of small farmers is only 39% of what medium farmers earn and only 13% of what large farmers earn. The average monthly income of Rs 9861 for an agricultural household is too meager to maintain a surplus to reinvest. Most farming households in the state are not free from the debt burden of around Rs 56,596 per household. Only 26% of agricultural households borrow from institutional sources. It is not surprising that when the land has gradually lost its productive capacity, 40% of small marginal farmers are no longer interested in agricultural engagement; a symptom of suffering in silence. Being totally rainfed, the operational property of 1 ha (on average) is too meager to fully occupy the agricultural household throughout the year. 80 percent are in monoculture. Moreover, the whole of the rural world is largely devoid of developed infrastructures. As such, for them it is a lost concern. They remain at the mercy of poverty and deprivation.
Today, the agricultural sector in the state is beleaguered and increasingly suffocated by 7 (seven) visible constraints such as land degradation, lack of sufficient irrigation, increasing outsourcing, challenge of climate change , transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, lack of marketing infrastructure, heavy reliance on unorganized informal sources of credit and lack of agricultural planning. The striking feature of the persistence of the deceleration phenomenon is that it cannot capture significant government intervention. Agriculture is seen as rural survival — as a stigma of backwardness — not as a major source of economic development. The perception needs to be changed from a simple rural livelihood to a modern business, with agriculture being treated as an industrial enterprise. A happy farmer is a productive farmer. In fact, farmers also need advanced social and political training.
The impact of a massive shift in the national scenario to double farmers’ income has yet to be felt in Manipur. To what extent has the state government acted on the 7 point strategy announced by Shri Narendra Modiji – including:
1. Increased focus on irrigation; “Per drop, more water”;
2. Availability of quality seeds and nutrients;
3. Large-scale investment in warehousing, cold chains and storage facilities;
4. Value added through food processing;
5. Risk management through the introduction of crop insurance;
6. Establishment of the national market and
7. Promote ancillary activities like poultry and fishing
This will be a daunting task in states like Manipur where the reform plan has not yet been put in place. To achieve the objective of doubling the income of farmers, the compound annual growth rate of 10.4% must be ensured, whereas it is currently barely 4% in the country and almost stagnant in Manipur.
In this regard, reference can be made to the multi-pronged strategy recommended by the Interministerial Committee, such as improving crop productivity, improving livestock productivity, efficiency of use resources, increasing cropping intensity, diversifying into value-added crops, improving the real price received by farmers, and shifting from farming to non-farm activity. We need to give equal attention to soil health, contract farming, and the development of wholesale and rural periodical markets.
One of the biggest challenges is declining crop yields due to climate change. We could experience a 9% decline in the yield of major crops over the period 2010-2039 in India in the absence of strategic intervention. Yield loss for rice can be as high as 35%, wheat 20%, barley 13%, and maize 60%, depending on location-specific factors and climate scenario. Manipur needs Green Accounting to assess environmental damage and changes in natural capital stocks.
Regarding Manipur, first we need to strengthen the agricultural administration for which we need good agricultural governance. When the market fails, government must step in with a new culture of determination to break all speed breakers. Left to the vagaries of market imperfections, it may not be possible to accelerate growth in the desirable direction.
Agriculture is a state subject. Manipur needs a long-term agricultural policy based on the institutional realities of the valley and the hills. Of course, we can do our best to take advantage of the national scenario such as Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan), Pradhan Mantri Kisan Mandhan Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, etc.
Second, we must act on a multi-pronged strategy to spearhead the productivity revolution of small and marginal farmers whose farms constitute 83% of operational farms.
Third, TOP-Revolution should be an essential part of the agricultural sector productivity revolution (T=Tomato, O=Onion and P=Potato). “Horticulture increases land yields by about 10 times.” (World Development Report, 2008, p-58).
Fourth, we need to put in place a strong mechanism to address the chronic problem of cost-disability and the growing concern of outsourcing.
Fifth, now is definitely the time for Manipur to implement the Manipur State Water Policy, 2015 – issued by Irrigation & Flood Control, Government of Manipur, to ensure water security/safety of irrigation.
Sixth, based on the area specialization index, the state needs a special agricultural area for quality products for export. This requires the strengthening of marketing infrastructure.
Seventh, land is the mother of all development programs—especially agriculture. To control the transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, Manipur needs a new land use policy to be put in place in earnest. Land scarcity is going to be a serious challenge in the near future. A decision without determination is meaningless.
Remember, “no agriculture, no Manipur” given its critical backward and forward linkages. What we need is proactive political intervention; no reaction to fleeting bubbles of worry.
For a successful and sustained productivity revolution in the agricultural sector, Manipur needs good agricultural governance, the sine qua non for food self-sufficiency. Now the Ministry of Agriculture should act with a creative visualization – Agriculture for Modern Manipur.