Lok Satta

Monday, 29 June 2009 16:36

Cooperative farming will end up In disaster, warns Dr. JP

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The cooperative or collective farming envisaged by the Andhra Pradesh Government to step up both productivity and production will end up in a disaster, Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan warned today. “The remedy proposed is worse than the disease.”

 

Dr. JP, who took part in an all-party meeting convened by the Chief Minister on cooperative farming earlier in the day, said farming in Andhra Pradesh suffered from a host of ailments all of which had little to do with the size of farms. “Productivity and production in the farm sector have been low not because the land holdings are small but because farmers do not have access to technology.”

 

He pointed out that “technology is scale neutral.” Farmers irrespective of the size of their holdings embrace new technologies if they are available as is evident from the fact that 80 percent of cotton farmers have taken to the pest resistant BT cotton variety all over the country. The farmers are helpless either when modern technology is not available or they have no access. Although there are cane harvesters all over the world, they are not available in Andhra Pradesh.

 

Dr. JP highlighted that only eight percent of seeds used by farmers are certified and four percent of their soils tested. On both counts, the farmer is a loser. The problem, therefore, lay with the Government and not the farmer in making new technologies accessible to him.

 

Dr. JP told a media meeting that the Government’s advocacy of large, consolidated holdings in the name of cooperative or collective farming for precision farming is untenable. Precision farming involves control of temperature, moisture etc in green houses as in the raising of tulips in the Netherlands. The holdings involved are all small and not at all large.

 

Dr. JP pointed out that all over the country productivity in small farms is higher than in large farms because the small farmer invests his labor of love, besides other inputs, to reap higher harvests. He does not include his labor in costing. If cooperative farming is introduced, the small farmer becomes a wage earner and loses his dignity. As he charges for his labor, the cost of production in cooperative farming is bound to be higher.

 

Dr. JP said the real problem lay in the absence of breakthroughs in technologies after the Green Revolution of the 1960s. The Government could address some of the problems like absence of dryers and threshing platforms.

 

“Nowhere in the world large-scale farming has been a success. In India itself, we have 14 Central State Farms spread over tens of thousands of acres. But all the farms run by the Government of India are bankrupt. The erstwhile Soviet Union paid a very high price for promoting collective farming. In India, cooperatives have succeeded where they are engaged in processing and marketing and not in primary production. Milk cooperatives are a good example. Even in dairy cooperatives whenever the Government controlled them as in Kadapa and Chittoor, the dairies went bankrupt whereas farmer-controlled processing cooperatives are doing well.”

 

Dr. JP did not rest with rubbishing the Government proposal. He suggested alternatives for stepping up productivity and production. He wanted the Government to enact a law as in Punjab to promote consolidation of fragmented holdings. The present monstrous tenancy law has to be liberalized. Although two-thirds of land holdings in the State are in the hands of tenants, owners do not register them for fear of losing ownership.

 

Once tenancy is brought on record, the tenant can access bank credit and other inputs. A liberalized tenancy law will also facilitate contract farming which is in the interest of the farmer as also the country. For instance, sugarcane and oil palm are raised as a contract between processing mills and farmers. In a similar fashion, paper producers enter into an understanding with farmers for supply of softwood in Andhra Pradesh, and vegetable producers for supply of raw material to processing industry in Punjab.

 

Dr. JP wanted the Government to focus on value addition, warehousing and marketing. The marketing societies should be under the control of farmers, and all restrictions on marketing should be removed.