Dr. Ashu Sharma
Agriculture has always been a lifeline and significant contributor to the nation gross domestic product and Indian economy providing livelihood to millions of farmers. Around 70 per cent of rural population depends on farming and allied activities. The population has increased 3.5 times from 350 million to 1.40 billion hence demand for food has increased while total cultivable land has shrunk. The grain area per person has been shrinking steadily for several decades from 0.22 ha to 0.10 ha and it is projected to be as less as 0.06 ha per person in 2050. So the big, alarming question on food and income security has been raised. Besides, the marginal and small farmers are facing a rapidly overflowing basket of challenges. Though they produce food of sufficient amount, the output which they get of the input isn’t worth satisfying mainly due to lack of facilities like market facilities i.e., transportation, storage, processing etc. value chain addition, credit facilities, input supplies, proper support of technical staff, information dissemination. However the high production cost, low access to credit as well as poor market linkages also hinders the growth. Rapid alteration and uncertainty like scarcity of irrigation water, menace of wild animal, shortage of labour growing inter-farm as well as inter-regional disparity, unequal household income and low productivity are the prominent witnesses in present day agriculture. The problems have imposed critical implications on farming community and as a result every day more than 2000 farmers are leaving agriculture and many more rural youth are migrating to cities for other professions.
One of the major joint initiative of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and Prime Minster of India, Narendra Modi under NITI Aayog also emphasizes on doubling the farmer’s income. In this scenario the solution is possible through exploring innovative market led extension models in order to integrate the farmers, especially the small farmers; with the value chain so that the net return at the farmers end is remunerative enough for them to remain in agriculture. Several institutional models have been tried in India to integrate farmers with production and value chain like Self Help Groups, Farmers Interest Groups, and Farmers Cooperatives etc. But the recent model “Farmer Producer Organization” is one of the major initiative which enables farmers to organize themselves as collective, provides them a business outlook to agriculture, links them to market and to improve their own economics and social situation.
Strategies to boost income through Farmer Producer Organization (FPO)
Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) is a formal or informal institution for collective action in which most of its members are the one whose main source of income and livelihood is agriculture and allied activities. FPO provide services which are the main source to enhance the livelihood, access to market information, inputs and advocacy FPO helps in improving socio economic condition of farmers, enhancing the capacity of farmers through better market access and improving the orientation of farmers towards entrepreneurial activities. Indian government has declared 2014 as the ‘Year of Farmer Producer Organization’ and these were introduced by support of ministry of agriculture and farmer welfare and research and is keen on doubling the income by 2022 through covering 10,000 FPOs and providing better life for those engaged in farming. Government of India has launched a new central sector scheme “Formation and Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)” with a clear strategy and committed resources to form and promote 10,000 new FPOs in the country. FPOs are to be developed in produce clusters with focus on “One District One Product” to promote specialization, better processing, marketing, branding, export for leveraging and improving market access for members.
Benefits of Forming FPO
Providing Services: FPO provides various services to their farmers from enhancing the capacity by providing capacity building services, improving market access by providing better market linkages and increasing production per crop by providing better quality seeds, fertilizers, and their development through increasing linkages with better institutions.
Better income to farmers: Better services provided by FPO helps in strengthening the socio economic condition of farmers by making Net increase in output and improving production of the farmers produce by providing better quality produce. Procurement of input in bulk at lesser cost and selling them in a market at bulk would help the farmers in getting better prices for the produce and thus help in enhancing the income of the farmers.
Linking farmers to market: Linking farmers to markets is critical for improved livelihood of smallholder farmers and beneficial for the consumers. Smallholders are more efficient in production, yet they face serious disadvantage mainly on account of marketing their produce. Farmer producer organizations assured marketing linkages and provide small farmers to participate in the marketing collectively and more effectively. They are in a better situation to lessen the transaction costs of accessing inputs and outputs, obtaining the essential market information, securing access to new technologies, and to enter into the high value markets, allowing them to participate with larger farmers and agribusinesses.
Value chain addition: FPO has better value chain addition processing unit. Value addition of produce at farmer’s level would help the farmers in doing business with ease and retaining better income through performing beyond the farm level. Value addition through branding, sorting and processing enhances skills and knowledge and helps in procurement of produce and provides reasonable prices for the farmers facilitating marketing options, reducing post harvest loss and tremendous employment generation potential for rural poor in general and for women in particular.
(The author is Scientist at KVK Kathua of SKUAST Jammu)
Dr. Ashu Sharma