Performance of agriculture, allied sectors shows resilience to Covid-19 shock: Economic Survey

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Observing that the performance of the agriculture and the allied sector has been “resilient” to the Covid-19 shock, the Economic Survey 2021-22 has highlighted the need for improving productivity of small and marginal farmers through development and implementation of small-holding farm technologies. The survey has also suggested use of “alternative” fertilisers like Nano Urea and organic fertiliser to protect the soil.

The Survey said, “The performance of the agriculture and the allied sector has been resilient to the COVID 19 shock. The sector grew at 3.6 per cent in 2020-21 and improved to 3.9 per cent in 2021-22.”

Referring to the findings of the National Statistical Office (NSO) survey on “Land and Livestock Holdings of Households and Situation Assessment of Agricultural Households”, conducted during the period 1st January 2019 to 31st December 2019, the survey said that the fragmentation of landholdings has led to alternate sources such as livestock, fishery and wage labour becoming significantly important for an agricultural household.

“Increasing importance of allied sectors including animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries in growth and income of the farmers indicates that focus needs to shift more towards harnessing the potential of allied activities. There is also a need to improve productivity of small and marginal farmers through development and implementation of small-holding farm technologies,” said the Survey, which was tabled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Lok Sabha on Monday.

“Focus should be on use of new technology including drones and AI based decision support systems, reduction in use of chemical fertilisers and use of low-cost organic inputs and supporting start-ups for innovations,” it recommended.

The recommendations come at a time when the government is in the process of preparing a farmers’ database by providing a unique ID to each farmer. Besides, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has recently signed MoUs with 10 private companies: CISCO, Ninjacart, Jio Platforms Limited, ITC Limited and NCDEX e-Markets Limited (NeML), Microsoft, Star Agribazaar, Esri India Technologies Private Limited, Patanjali, and Amazon.

The survey also highlighted the need for using alternative fertilisers like nano urea. “There is a need to explore options and promote use of alternative fertilisers such as nano urea and organic fertiliser which protect the soil, are more productive and contribute to higher nutrient use efficiency,” the Survey said.

The Survey also said that crop diversification towards oilseeds, pulses and horticulture needs to be given priority by addressing the core issues of irrigation, investment, credit and markets in their cultivation.

“While the Government has adopted the use of MSP as signal to encourage crop diversification, there is also a need for coordinated action from the State Governments to facilitate the shift to high value and less water consuming crops to enable realization of the objective of doubling farmers’ income in a sustainable way,” the Survey said.

It also said that “research and development” in agriculture and allied sectors can play a major role in realisation of sustainable agriculture practice that efficiently meets the objectives of nutritional security and improvement in farm income.

“Research shows that every rupee spent on agricultural research and development, yields better returns compared to returns on money spent on subsidies or other expenditures on inputs. The increase in agriculture R & D therefore may improve productivity in the crop and allied sectors,” it said.

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