Pitching for more pro-farmer policies, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on June 21 said loan waiver is not a permanent solution and in the long-term, it would affect the agriculture sector and "hurt" cultivators.
Claiming that farmers who take up allied activities such as poultry and dairy along with traditional farming, do not commit suicide, he said cultivators must be able to export their produce for better returns.
In many policies, consumers are given more importance because of their large number, but farmers' concerns shouldn't be ignored, Naidu said, adding, "How do we balance the two conflicting interests in practical terms? That is a major challenge."
The vice president was here to inaugurate a national consultation on 'making agriculture sustainable and profitable' at the Vaikunth Mehta National Institute of Cooperative Management.
Agricultural scientist and the Father of Indian Green Revolution Dr M S Swaminathan, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and NCP chief Sharad Pawar were present at the event.
"Loan waiver is not a permanent solution and in the long-term, it will affect the agriculture sector and hurt farmers," he said, and opined that since a huge population is dependent on agriculture for livelihood, increasing the income and purchasing power of this group is extremely important.
Naidu said the major challenge is to make agriculture economically viable and the solution to it lies in identifying gaps in policy formulation.
"We should make our policies more pro-farmer. Secondly, we should streamline the implementation processes keeping the end consumer -- the farmer -- always in mind," the vice president said.
It is important to encourage farmers to take up allied activities such as poultry, dairy, fisheries and aquaculture that can not only enhance their income of but also cushion them against the adverse impact of failed crop season, he said.
Farmers who take up allied activities like poultry, dairy along with traditional farming, do not commit suicide, Naidu said.
Noting that selling of agricultural produce and getting a fair return was a big challenge for most farmers, the vice president said cultivators still rely on local markets and have to very often resort to distress sale.
"Reliable, real-time information is the key... e-NAM implementation needs to be further streamlined. The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act needs to be amended by introducing single-point levy of market fee across a state and a unified single trading licence," he said.
The e-NAM pan-India electronic trading portal networks the existing APMCs to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
Naidu appealed to scientists to work with the government's extension machinery, like Krishi Vigyan Kendras, to advice farmers on cropping patterns, post-harvest processes and food processing technologies.
The government is focusing on developing rural roads, supplying reliable power, setting up godowns, cold storage facilities, refrigerated vans and market yards, he said.
Admitting that agriculture today is at cross-roads and is facing many challenges, Naidu said, "We need to evolve a multi-pronged strategy to make it viable, profitable and sustainable. That is the purpose of this consultation."
"We cannot be complacent about food security situation as it exists today. The growing needs of our country's increasing population require our own home-grown food security strategy as suggested by Prof Swaminathan," Naidu said.
Stressed on four 'I's -- irrigation, infrastructure, investment and insurance -- he said these sectors need to be strengthened for development of the farm sector.
"Secondly, lab-to-land transfer of technologies need to be enhanced. Thirdly, strengthening of marketing systems is the need of the hour," the vice president said, adding an increased productivity is possible if farmers have greater access to knowledge, technology and credit.
Swaminathan said the time has come for people to move from green revolution to "evergreen" revolution.
Asserting that market linkage is a major challenge in sustainability of agricultural prices, Fadnavis said, "We have expertise in procurement of agri-produce and today our all warehouses are full of procured produces but we don't know how to sell the produce and we need to work on it."
He said a lot of technologies can be brought into agriculture by adopting Artificial Intelligence.
"We have started end-to-end integrated agriculture programme in 5,000 villages right from soil development to crop planning to market linkage and with this integrated approach, we can bring sustainability," he said.
On the occasion, Pawar said there is a need of wealth creation in the field of agriculture.
"Indian agriculture sector has a great potential but there is a deficit in terms of infrastructure, credit policies, knowledge-sharing, skill development and marketing of agriculture products. Experts should give valuable inputs to make improvements in these sectors," he said.