During these COVID-19 times, the only silver lining for the economy is agriculture. Its contribution to GDP has increased partly because agriculture has done well for itself, as well as the fact that other sectors of the economy have not done very well.
With above-normal rainfall supported by major policy disruptions at mandi level and varied pilot initiatives, agriculture has witnessed a new wave this year. This sector is estimated to dominate the growth of India's economy at least for FY 2020-2021. In fact, what 1991 was for industry and the Indian economy, 2020 could do the same for agriculture.
In order to find ways to improve this sector further, SIES and Free Press Journal in association with NSE, NCDEX Investor (Client) Protection Fund Trust, and East West Seed organised a webinar series on the ‘Future of Agriculture’. The first webinar of the series was ‘Why agriculture matters for India’ which was moderated by RN Bhaskar, Consulting Editor, The Free Press Journal. The panellists at the session were Arun Raste, Executive Director, NDDB; Dilip Rajan, MD, East-West Seed India; and Simon Thorsten Wiebusch, COO, Bayer Crop Science Division.
Dilip Rajan said, “Agriculture can be the sole bright spot in this overall gloomy economic outlook.” Economists believe that agriculture alone can give the Indian economy an overall GDP boost by 0.5-1 per cent. He added that agriculture can help India’s stalled economy and infuse the much-needed demand into the system.
Adding further, Rajan averred, “2020 could very well become 1991 for agriculture.” However, to fully exploit its potential Rajan wants a robust demand, attractive opportunity, timely support offered by the governments and unique competitive advantage.
Advocating the idea to revive the agri-sector, Arun Raste stated that the youth of the country has to come forward with new ideas to revive agriculture. Adding to this, Simon Thorsten Wiebusch stated that with more and more farmer producer organisations (FPOs) coming in, there will be a need for rural management which would need smart human resources which would demand an understanding of economics and farm management principles. He underscored that food security does not mean merely grain security. It means nutritional security and that India needs to address this urgently.
To become what China is for industries, it will not be tough for India if it manages its agriculture skillfully, stressed Raste. To which Rajan suggested that what matters is the evolution of a thought process and the first step could well be to address agriculture as agribusiness. He felt adding business to the word agriculture will change perceptions and hence the economics of this sector and it will become a lot more attractive among the youth.
Raste strongly believes that government intervention in the sector should be minimal in order to attract more youth to the sector. Echoing the thoughts, Wiebusch asserted, “The government should only regulate what needs to be regulated.” In the current environment, Wiebusch added, the government should set the right parameters and pull itself out of areas where its intervention is not required.
Bringing a close to the session, Uma Maheshwari Shankar, Principal – SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce said, “It was an excellent discussion from the student's perspective. The future ahead will be different, challenging and exciting.“ She added India at any time cannot be looked at without agriculture. She also stated going forward there will be a high-level of consumer awareness about the type of food it consumes, the price paid for the produce and origin of the product among other things.
Watch lecture session of webinar below: