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Diversification Inescapable, But Govt Must Mitigate Risk

It was the culmination of a series of Innovative Farmers’ meets, organised by the CII Northern Region across four cities in Punjab and Haryana from July end through to mid September 2023, and the near consensus that emerged was that diversification of agriculture is inescapable, but for it to succeed, the government will have to take responsibility for mitigating the risks to farmers.

The meets were organised at Siwani and Hisar in Haryana and Amritsar and Sangrur in Punjab.

Addressing the inaugural session of the culmination ceremony held at the CII Northern Region headquarters in Chandigarh on Tuesday, Guest of Honour and Haryana Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister Jai Prakash Dalal joined the chorus from farmers and farm experts that all stake holders, from policy makers, to bureaucrats, farmers, agricultural research institutions, to the industry, will have to join hands in making farming a profitable proposition through diversification of crops.

Diversification Inescapable, But Govt Must Mitigate Risk, Lifeinchd

Haryana Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister JP Dalal addressing farmers at the inaugural session of the Culmination Ceremony of Innovative Farmers’ Meet, organised by CII Northern Region at its headquarters in Chandigarh, on Tuesday.

Photos courtesy: CII NR

For this to happen, the central and state governments, in conjunction with the industry, will have to take up the responsibility for creating the infrastructure, like storage and cold chains and an efficient marketing network, so that the farmers are assured of earnings better than the assured returns from the MSP regime for wheat-paddy cycle. Only then will be farmers feel confident enough to break away from the vicious cropping pattern, Dalal, who also holds the portfolio of Dairying and Animal Husbandry, candidly admitted.

Himself practicing farming, and coming from a farming family, Dalal asserted that he had a deep understood of how the small and marginal land-owning farmers, as well as the landless contract farmers, were barely able to eke out a living for their families. They neither have the risk taking capacity, nor the appetite to take a risk by diversifying into other crops like maize, cotton, oil seeds, pulses, etc and into horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries and the likes.

The massive and unpredictable fluctuations in prices of especially fruits and vegetables created by the forces of demand and supply, natural and man-made disruptions, inadequate infrastructure like storage facilities and cold chains, etc. and marketing support are weighing heavy on the minds of the farmers and dissuading them from moving away from the MSP-assured incomes, he added.

Under the circumstances, the governments will have to support the farmers with risk mitigation measures by facilitating creation of a robust infrastructure and an efficient and effective marketing network. The private sector will also have to play a greater role in this endeavour, Dalal stated.

Talking about his own state, the minister said Haryana is among the frontrunner states as far as providing facilities and incentives for diversification of agriculture is concerned. Work has already commenced on establishing a massive international horticulture market at Ghanaur in Sonipat district. To be executed in phases, the India International Horticulture Market (IIHM) will not only provide farmers from the entire region direct access to international markets.

He said during the weeklong visit to Japan by a Haryana delegation led by him earlier this year to study modern farm practices, opportunities were also explored for international funding of the backward linkages of IIHM down to the block level so that the farmers’ produce was picked up from their farms itself for being marketed in international markets.

The proposal under the mega project is to build hundreds of pack houses and set up cold chains, crop e-market and information & community data sharing platforms in the state. Sorting of the produce, packaging, branding and transportation will form part of the entire exercise.

Counting other successes of the state towards conservation of scarce water resources and diversification, Dalal claimed that two lakh acres more land under traditional paddy cultivation had been converted to the water-saving direct-seeded rice (DSR) technique, and one lakh acres had been brought under horticulture production.

As a result of various subsidies, support prices and other incentives, the minister asserted that farmers in the state had turned around their fortunes in various diversified farm practices like aquaculture, especially ‘jhinga’ fish, sunflower oilseeds, floriculture, etc.

He proudly shared that at different times progressive farmers from Haryana have been honoured with the Padma Shri national award for pioneering work in the field of diversification of agriculture. These are Kanwal Singh Chauhan from Sonipat district (for propagating baby corn as a profitable pursuit), Sultan Singh from Karnal district (fish breeding) and Narender Singh from Panipat district (dairy development).

Encouraging others to emulate these pioneers, Dalal informed that his vision and plan to encourage 10,000 small farmers from the state to become ‘crorepatis’ in the next few years through diversified farm practises was progressing well and expressed confidence that it will achieve success.

The other Guest of Honour, Punjab’s Horticulture Minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra did not show up, giving credence to the growing impression that the present dispensation in the state does not value CII platforms as much.

Representatives of the state government have been missing from several conferences, seminars and meets organised by the prestigious industry body in recent times, unlike in the past when chief ministers, ministers, chief secretaries and other senior functionaries from the state were frequent participants.

Diversification Inescapable, But Govt Must Mitigate Risk, Lifeinchd

Panellists at the inaugural session of the Culmination Ceremony of Innovative Farmers’ Meet, organised by CII Northern Region at its headquarters in Chandigarh, on Tuesday, pose for a group photograph.

Representing the Punjab government, KAP Sinha, Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture & Farmer Welfare, Punjab, while emphasising the state government’s commitment to strengthening the critical infrastructure along the entire agricultural value chain, including storage, cold chains, marketing network, etc., called upon farmers to adopt modern farm practices to increase their incomes.

Giving the example of the expansive farms run by Namdhari Sikhs in Ramnagar area near Bangalore, he said it presented a perfect model of modern farm practices, all with minimal use of chemical pesticides and no government dependency, for the farming community in this region to emulate. He also offered to organise state sponsored study visits by farmers to the farms.

Intervening at this point, Gurmeet Singh Bhatia, Chairman of Ajooni Biotech Ltd. and moderator for the Culmination Ceremony of the Innovative Farmers’ Meet, offered that the CII Northern Region could organise one such visit for a delegation of farmers.

Established in the year 2000, Namdhari’s Fresh ( has aggregated thousands of acres of farms belonging to a close network of farmers, and using modern farm practices, including network of pack houses and integrated cold chain, is exporting its nationally and internationally food safety certified produce of exotic and ethnic vegetables and fruits to markets in Europe, Middle East, South East Asia and Australia.

Dr Jaswant Singh, Director, Agriculture, Punjab, cautioned farmers against the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides and insecticides on their crops. He informed that to counter the challenge posed by unacceptable limits of chemical residues found in rice exports, and their consequent rejection in international markets, the state government had completely banned 10 different harmful pesticide products, found to be at the root cause of the problem.

Urging farmers to pursue progressive agricultural practices, Dr Shailender Kaur, Director, Horticulture, Punjab, emphasised that the road to farmers’ prosperity lay in practice of horticulture.

Listing out a host of horticulture crops being successfully grown in Punjab, which were giving much better returns than the traditional wheat-paddy cycle, she said setting up local level processing facilities by small entrepreneurs with an investment of up to Rs 25 lakh would prove beneficial for all stakeholders.

Sharing that Punjab farmers were already supplying seed potato to the entire country, she said there is still a huge untapped potential for horticulture development in the state. Stressing the need for farmers to cut down on pre-harvest input costs for profitability, she also suggested that the agricultural research institutions should work on developing new processing grade crop varieties for betterment of the farming community.

In a separate session on ‘Paving the Path to Progressive Agriculture’, while sharing their experiences with farmers, senior functionaries from various participating agri and agro tech companies, explained to the farmers how the use of modern practices would help them cut down on input costs, save the already scarce water resources, reduce reliance on the now hard-to-get labour, enhance productivity and decrease harmful chemical residues in their produce.

The participating companies were PI Industries, FMC Corporation, Dhanuka Agritech, Mahindra & Mahindra (Swaraj Division) and JK Tyres & Industries.

Farmers were advised to switch to newly developed bio molecule based pesticides, which are safe to use on crops, and strictly use them in prescribed quantities and at suggested intervals. They must also avoid random spraying of these chemicals and choose the right chemicals for their identified crop-specific problems.

The use of modern spraying techniques like drone tech and boom sprayers was also emphasised. The farmers were informed that now early warning systems have been developed which can timely warn them against the onset of disease and threat of pest attack.

Reminding farmers of the heavy crop losses suffered due to the use of uncertified seeds during last year’s crop season, they recommended that the farmers use only certified seeds to harvest a good crop.  by APR Media House is an enjoyable digital reading startup, which keeps you abreast of the latest meaningful happenings of interest to large sections of folks in Chandigarh tricity, and expats from the region. It has been promoted by a public spirited senior journalist and media consultant with a view to encourage good quality and healthy journalism, a dire need of the times.

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