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AGRICULTURE

Agri minister calls for measures to up maize production & productivity
Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
A package of measures was needed to boost maize production and productivity and realise its potential as the future cereal crop. This was stated by Radha Mohan Singh, minister of agriculture and farmers’ welfare, Government of India, at the fifth essay of India Maize Summit, organised in New Delhi by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The minister, who inaugurated the meet, added that there was a need for a mix of strategies and interventions around technological innovations, promoting producer aggregation and linkages, enabling supporting infrastructure, forging public-private partnerships (PPPs) and appropriate policy measures.

“Forging PPP opportunities for the establishment of maize-based silage making units, skill development centres (SDCs) and farm machinery banks are the prospective avenues for investment,” he said.

Singh stated that these avenues needed to be tapped and scaled up to increase mechanisation in maize production. Between now and 2050, the demand for maize in the developing world will double, and by 2025, maize is poised to become the crop with the greatest production globally and in the developing world.

“In India, most of the maize produced is used for animal feed, and only a small portion is utilised for human consumption. Its full potential, therefore, is yet to be realised,” he added.
 
The minister pointed out that only 15 per cent of the cultivated area of maize is irrigated. It was time to link the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand the cultivable area under assured irrigation (har khet ko pani), improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (more crop per drop) to increase the production, productivity and quality of the maize crop in the country.
 
He said that the ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare was focusing on reforms on agri-marketing and has made special announcements on developing and upgrading existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) with a corpus of Rs 2,000 crore.

“I would suggest the maize agri-business companies should make special efforts to create linkages with maize farmers on ground by exploring various opportunities in agri-marketing,” he said.
 
The minister released a FICCI-PwC knowledge report titled Maize Vision 2022.
 
Prem Kumar, agriculture minister, Government of Bihar, gave an overview of maize production strategies in the state, stating that the agriculture roadmap of 2017 focused on ensuring higher and cost-effective production of maize. He added that maize would soon be brought under the ambit of organic farming, currently confined to cultivation of vegetables.
 
Ashok Dalwai, chief executive officer, National Rain-fed Area Authority, said, “The legal framework for post-production facilities, in the shape of the new Agriculture Marketing Act and Contract Farming Act, would bring about the required change in farming landscape.” He added that states needed to be active in adopting the law to the advantage of farmers.
 
“Minimum support price (MSP) is the last resort to come to the aid of the farmers. It is not a remunerative price, which is more than MSP. The need of the hour is to create a competitive environment market and a secondary market within agriculture to create jobs, incentivise farmers, raise incomes and give a fillip to industries based on maize,” he added.
 
In his address, Dilip Chenoy, director general, FICCI, pointed out that maize qualified as a suitable candidate to realise the prime minister’s vision of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022.

This was because about 15 million farmers are engaged in maize cultivation. By cultivating maize, farmers can save 90 per cent of water and 70 per cent of power as compared to paddy and earn far more than they are earning through paddy and wheat. Moreover, maize is less water-demanding and gives a higher yield per hectare in a shorter period compared to other crops.

He laid stress on establishing maize-based SDCs and suggested that the Government of India could contemplate running such SDCs for maize along the PPP mode.
 
Sanjay Kaul, managing director and chief executive officer, National Collateral Management Services Ltd, said, “It is important to recognise that unlike other crops, maize is not a food crop, but an industrial crop, as only 12-13 per cent is used for human consumption. Therefore, there is a need to create a competitive market, which the industry finds attractive, so that private investment is forthcoming.”

FICCI-PwC Knowledge Report on Maize Vision 2022
The FICCI-PwC report stated that though India has achieved maize production of 26 million tonne, it would require 45 million tonne by 2022. Of this, 30 million tonne will be for feed and 15 million tonne will be required for food, seed and industrial use.

This signifies that production must grow at  compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15 per cent to meet the domestic demand simultaneously, with an ambitious target to double the farmers’ incomes by 2022.

Improving price-realisation for maize cultivators is also of paramount significance. In order to meet the desired demand levels and enhance farmer’s incomes, the report suggested backward and forward linkage strategies to bring about a paradigm shift in the crop economy.
 
It recommended that the sector required closer attention to further enhance the growth and tap the immense potential it offers. Approximately 5-7 per cent of the maize produced in India is lost due to improper storage.

The promotion of maize silos for modern storage techniques is crucial. State governments should promote initiatives similar to the Maize Silo Scheme of the Government of Bihar.

The report also suggested that the establishment of maize-based SDCs and maize-based farm machinery banks for small and marginal farmers could be game changers.

With high impetus on promotion of farmer producer organisations (FPOs)/farmer producer companies (FPCs) in the Union Budget 2018-19, crop as well as seed production clusters in select pockets of the country could emerge as formal institution like maize producers’ companies and maize seed producers’ companies.
 
It noted that private players should be incentivised to install maize dryers. Rapid technology adoption through scaling up of single cross-hybrid and biotechnological interventions to boost productivity, facilitating producer aggregation and market linkages, supporting enabling dedicated infrastructures like seed cold storages, maize dryers, maize silos and value-added units were key future considerations identified in the report.
 
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