Opinions

Regulating crops doesn't guarantee better profitability for farmers: FSII Director General


Regulating crops is not an end in itself and does not guarantee better profitability for farmers, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) director general Ram Kaundinya told ET in an interview as Telangana prepares to be the first state to introduce regulated agriculture policy. Edited excerpts:

How do you view the decision of the Telangana government to choose a regulated agriculture policy in general and for cotton cultivation in 7-8 million acres out of about 12 million acres in particular?

Crop planning is a very difficult exercise because it has to satisfy many stakeholders. Ideally, this should be done at the national level. This is the first attempt by any state in India. The success of this exercise will depend on the achievement of the objective, which is better profitability for the farmer. Emphasis on cotton does seem to be on the higher side. We understand that this decision is taken because the data analysed by the state government showed that farmers made more money in cotton than in other crops, which might be true.

What opportunities would this decision create for hybrid cotton seed producers, and fertiliser and pesticide makers?

Demand for cotton is on the higher side this year. We do not see any special opportunity for cotton seed companies in this. We believe that the overall cotton area in the country may grow by about 8-10%. Fertiliser consumption in the state may not undergo much change because corn would have also consumed fertilisers, if it was grown in place of cotton. On the pesticide front, this might provide a better selling opportunity for the companies since cotton consumes more pesticides than corn. In view of labour shortage, weed control is the real issue that farmers will face. We expect higher offtake of weedicides in all crops.

What adverse effects do you anticipate with such high focus on cotton cultivation in Telangana, especially since most farmer suicides in India have been attributed to cotton crop related distress?

Cotton needs more investment from farmers than corn and hence, the distress could be more in the face of lower commodity prices. The state government will have to step in at that point of time and ensure that the produce is picked up by the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) at the minimum support price (MSP). Cotton price is expected to be good this year, but it has dropped in the last one month. We cannot predict the commodity prices that will prevail when kharif crops come into the market. Agricultural supply chains across the globe have been disrupted due to coronavirus and it is not easy to predict the price volatility this year. If the prices of cotton turn out to be good, it will be very good for the farmers. If not, then it will depend on how the CCI buys cotton at that time.

What would you advise stakeholders in the backdrop of the proposed regulated agriculture policy?

Regulating crops is not an end in itself. It is no guarantee of better profitability for the farmer. A lot of hard work needs to be done for providing market access to farmers, encouraging competition and ensuring better price realisation for the farmer when he sells his produce. Digital markets have to be made available to the farmer so that he is free to reach buyers anywhere in the country. Challenges of labour availability have to be handled through higher mechanisation.





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