Create an agricultural innovation subsidy fund
We need innovative ideas and projects in agriculture and agribusiness development projects. It is a fact that Indian agriculture has become stagnant. Statistics have been bandied about by now by the Prime Minister, the Dy. Planning Commission boss and also by Sharad Pawar.
There are simply no new innovative ideas or projects anymore in the very many commissions and panels, headed by so many eminent persons. Dr.M.S.Swaminathan heads the list of these eminent persons and sees what more they have got to say. Not much. The world of economic change witnesses so many new business innovations. There are so many dedicated Consultancies like Mckinsey and others who often come out with innovative business solutions to tackle a variety of challenges and opportunities. In our own way we have been around for the past 15 years and we have been publishing perhaps India’s only dedicated agricultural journal on a commercial basis. We can claim we have been successful in a business sense because no journal of such niche field like agriculture has been a commercial success, unless such niche journals are part of some larger business group.
We have succeeded where others have failed or struggling to survive because of a combination of business innovations in running the journal, from content gathering to marketing strategies. Likewise, Vadamalai Consultancy Services (VCS) we have been able to draw investments in some of the innovative crops and also innovative agribusiness projects. We had introduced commercially more rewarding crops like safed musli, stevia and aloe vera and we have done this on a contract farming basis and brought in groups of farmers and got them bank and other funding and gave them integrated management training and with experts we managed to give them/arrange buy-back guarantee and these contract farming projects had proved to be fairly successful. This we had done against all hostility from banks, government agencies and most of all from national level agencies like Nabard and Medicinal crops promotion board. Nabard is proving our charge that any monolithic agency, having exited without any larger vision becomes a bureaucratic hurdle for new thinking. Nabards norms are all unreliable; they have no innovative projects that would make public news.
So too the other national agencies like National Horticulture Mission to the National Medicinal Crops Promotion Boards. So far we have not got our farmers or we know any farmers who had got any subsidy from these agencies. All the funds come to the State level boards and the entrenched bureaucratic culture in our country sees to it that no farmer is actually given any subsidy cash. Here also, these dedicated agencies do their own mischievous propaganda against private sector initiatives in agricultural innovation. Some State level medicinal crops promotion board fellow in fact spoke against our projects in their respective States. This sort of officialdom in agri promotion sectors is killing many an opportunity to innovate and bring about new investments in the agri sector. Our field experience shows that while there is so much going on in micro finance and SHGs, these micro agencies are not into actual farming or creating wealth in farming or adding value to agro produce.
Why the much-touted food processing sector is not witnessing any big boom? Simple. There are innovations, no innovative products lines or marketing strategies. Marketing is not government marketing. It is marketing as a business strategy. We speak of McKinsey Way. What does it mean? McKinsey Consultancy comes out with a business strategy and meets your goals with well-defined solutions. The world’s most famous business consultancy company charge high fees. But they do so after satisfying you with a new vision and a new innovative business solutions. In India, we have been living on official wisdom for long. Now the globalised world had radically changed. IT and telecom revolutions had come without our politicians and officials knowing anything about them!
Likewise much of the agriculture innovations so far have come about in the private sector only. Pepsi agro project in Punjab is one example. ITC’s e-choupal is another thing.
In contract farming there is still no clarity. The government is simply not active. Our mindset is to import onions when there is a shortage in some places. This is foolish. You must move surplus stocks, say from Karnataka, and ensure farmers get good prices. So too, giving wasteful subsidies to politically driven sugar co-ops and cotton monopoly schemes and depriving the small and unorganized farmers the benefit of institutional support(farm credit) or enabling the private sector agri media-cum-consultancy-cum-online companies is a big mistake. There is a need to give a 10-year Income Tax holiday for agri companies who are doing innovative business projects.