The big disconnect!
Agriculture and the private investments.
ICAR is another world, alient world, as far as farmers investing in agribusiness venture.
There is one body, called, Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium! What it has done? Precious little, shall we say?
So to there are so many ICAR-funded bodies in Hyderabad. Oh, so many to name them here.
What is their sum total of achievements?
Please let us recognise the reality that Indian agriculture, in spite of what the ICAR has done or not done, is progressing thanks to free market5 forces.
India is now an agriculture export economy.
We export rice in a serious way. We are almost next to Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia in rice exports.
This is a long way indeed in the transformation of the Indian agri economy.
So, too the next big agri revolution will be in agriculture diversification.
The Karnataka global agri investors meet ends a flop!
Rs.1.97 crores for two days accommodations!
Rs.1.23 crores for event arrangement! Publicity, media expenses alone at Rs.3.32 crores!
Out of 70,000 cores promised only one proposal came to the tune of Rs. 1.10 lakh crores!
We could see why such a big ambitious global agri investment meet on Dec 1 and 2 flopped. There could be many reasons, valid and ill-conceived.
Of course, those inside the government these days this is no big deal. We mean no big expenditure anyway!
Yes, agriculture and agribusiness activities are different, we must know.
One major reason it seems is the rather collection of so many experts and knowledge partners and consultants. The best case scenario could be all thought agriculture is an easy filed and where everyone knows about agriculture. In the case of industry, it is assumed there are big boys, the big corporates and who knows their investment destinations and investment targets. Here we see from day one there was a mistaken belief that these guys are knowledgeable while we can see they were out to cheat the unsuspected government.
And the fees!
Oh,they are all mind boggling.
For a London headquartered Price water House Coopers, the knowledge partners and transaction advisers, the fee in several splits, was as high one crore and above. The maximum amount was spent on publicity and media coverage. We were aghast to see that under this head the amount comes to as much as Rs. 3.32 crores.
This is a plain rip-off.
Somebody played the mischief.
We ,at the Vadamalai Media, are in the agriculture media business now for over 25 years! The first cover page featured incidentally, the then Chief Minister, none other than the great Deve Gowda who was gracious enough to give us an interview and also, let us admit here plainly, a great deal of support. To compensate for his moral and government support, that within a month’s he went on to adorn the high chair of the Prime Minister of India. So, all goodwill we have for a farmer-turned Chief Minister and then Prime Minister.
We have had connections in the past with some of the great farmer leaders. Charan Singh, C.Subramanyam and even others like Balram Jhakhar, P.Thimma Reddy and many others.
Today, agriculture is fast changing.
The government cares only to keep up the production targets.
Government also worries about votes. As for farmers constituting a vote bank, it had gone now, forever it seems.
Farmers are also now a divided lot. May be, in UP and Punjab, big farmers, say, that farmers might constitute a caste lobby. Even that seems to have evaporated. See what Ajit Singh’s own party got in the UP elections. Charan Singh’s heir(our friend) at least got the plum portfolio of civil aviation minister! Good luck to him!
As for other heirs, they languish in obscurity. P.Changal Reddy, P.Thimma Reddy’s heir, formed a farmers lobby and waited upon various Finance Ministers. We know him. But we feel he didn’t go far in such waiting upon ministers. He must now be a wiser man.
Now, let us come back to promoting agribusiness ventures.
It is happening any way through the great changes in our economy, the coming of the retail revolution, the FDI controversy will end, we hope, in favour of FDI and once that sector is opened up, there could be supply chain management, cold chains and contract farming.
Only such big FDI in establishing supply chains, like what already the Pepsi co. in doing in Punjab, or as ITC is doing. Already the many private sector ventures into big Walmart-type operations floundered. So, a new business model must be merging.
As for states promoting agribusiness ventures, the ministry of food processing, as far as we know, hasn’t taken off.
In fact, there is a great disconnect between the agri universities and the demands of the farmers, demands of the farm sector.
Agri universities were granted funds in the latest budget. But there was no agenda.
There are other vested interests in the agri sector.
Now, the commodity exchanges, some 21 such exchanges are functioning. It is unwisdom to demand a ban on commodity Exchanges. They are the international trend.
Any agri minister, specially the one who has accumulated so much wealth, from such diverse fields like cricket game, can’t be a true visionary agri development man. Nor can everyone become a visionary on rural development.
We need robust thinking and practical wisdom. We can’t follow the big, MNC type agribusiness development models for India or Asian countries that are basically and for a long time to come be agriculturally rich countries. Small farmers based enterprises, marketing and even distribution chains, benign and people friendly, say “Small is Beautiful” business models only might make sense.
So, we need new ideas, new innovations and new business models.
Image source : iiml.ac.in