The government will cover as many as 585 agricultural markets electronically by the next year, which will allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country, agriculture secretary Shobhana K. Pattanayak said on Thursday.
On 14 April, the government had launched the project on a pilot basis, beginning with 21 markets covering eight states. “We are hopeful of rolling this out in 585 markets in the country by the next year. The farmers for the first time will have a voice to sell goods wherever they want to. It will empower farmers,” Pattanayak said at a workshop on India Country Programme Evaluation jointly organized by The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the department of economic affairs (finance ministry).
A specialized United Nations agency, IFAD invests in rural areas, poverty eradication, agriculture, food security and nutrition. Pattanayak is of the view that agriculture will be attractive only if farmers are empowered and their produces are linked to markets or a value chain.
He underlined the need to concentrate on agriculture to lift people from below poverty line. In India, close to 70% of the population lives in rural areas depending on agriculture. “The reality in India is it is small holders’ agricultural nation. Most of the people are small and marginal farmers. And to make agriculture a profitable venture… is a big challenge”, he added.
The government, he said, strongly feels that doubling farmers’ income in the next six years is doable. Additional secretary of department of economic affairs Dinesh Sharma pointed to the apparent contradiction between cheap food and remunerative prices to farmers. “We have to balance these two things…,” Sharma stressed.
He felt that agriculture sector in India needs to be part of the global value chain to make it more attractive. He suggested that opening foreign direct investment in retail will make farmers suppliers of the food chain and give them more assured returns. “India has numerous public rural development schemes… A process of greater devolution of funds and powers is under way. This creates opportunities for IFAD-funded projects,” said Oscar A Gracia, director, independent office of evaluation of IFAD.