Policy is not working! Logistics could break the impasse in agriculture!
Who believes the Central government when it says it can reform agriculture? Agri reforms is much tougher, it seems, than we imagined, to be a much more a high priority of the economic reforms. Even in economic reforms we don’t see any unity of thinking within the Cabinet. What the PM says is one thing; what the Planning Commission deputy chairman is another. Both are trained economists and long time government servants.
This shows their efficiency in coming out with some formulation but also shows their limitations, their ideas don’t gel with the ground level reality. As for the Finance minister and the Agri minister, there is no common ground. The Commerce minister is also fighting, it looks, a lonely battle. As for the rest, they don’t seem to have any clue. When you come to agriculture, there is a very gaping hole; M.S.Swaminathan Commission is just a straw in the wind, and the government clings with some desperate hope to save it from many embarrassments. Unfortunately, the eminent agri expert seems to have dragged the government into a blind alley!
There the matter stands! No one seems to know what next!
In the meantime, the farmer’s suicides continue unabated and the breast-beating is becoming routine. Indian farming is caught in a huge debt trap. While other sectors get massive writeoffs, be it debts or tax arrears, farmers silently suffer.
It now seems that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The eminent management guru has come out with a flash of brilliant insight. He says the key agricultural reforms are not in any new policies. But in logistics! Yes, what the private sector, Sunil Bharti Mittel of the telecom fame and the Reliance new retail concept of Farm fresh venture could open up a new front with the potential of overturning the persistent failure of agri production and price fluctuations causing damage to farmers fortunes, can be finally broken. Some rationality can be brought into play in matching of agri production levels and reasonable, assured prices for farmers, rich and poor alike!
C.K.Prahalad is a management expert of great repute, he thinks radically and he is professor of corporate strategy at the University of Michigan. He spoke at Chennai recently and came out with a great idea. It is this. “If I look at what Bharti is trying do with Wal Mart and what the Ambani’s Reliance Fresh, I think they are going to use extraordinary levels of IT to connect subsistence level farmers to national and global markets. And that is going to transform our agriculture. Not more subsidies, more worries about irrigation, more fertilisers”
The focus should be on giving farmers an opportunity to get a fair price and eliminate middlemen, similar to what Amul has done. “The amazing thing for me is Amul has 2.2 million farmers and processes 7 million kilograms of milk a day. It is the largest in the world. But most farmers have two or three buffaloes. And we look at that and we just don’t think that is a model to scale up in agriculture”.