22 اگست، 2014

In every 30 Minutes an #Indian Farmer Commits Suicide...the second side of India

 

About 200,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves over the last decade, according tomedia reports quoting India Rural Development Report 2012-13 released in September this year.




The report, prepared by a government-funded Infrastructure Development Finance Company, was released by India's rural development minister Jairam Ramesh. It says 65% of India’s poor live in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in 2011-12, a significant increase from 50% in 1993-94.

More recent news indicates that the crisis is continuing unabated. About two-thirds of the farmer suicides are being reported from 5 states: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Other states are not immune. Indian Punjab has seen nearly 7000 farmers kill themselves in the last decade. Gujarat, the home of BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, reported 60 farmer suicides in 2012-13. 

A report by Center of Human Rights and Global Justice blames failures of biotech crops, particularly Bt cotton, for the tragedy. The report also says inadequate policy responses are contributing to the crisis. Others believe it is caused by poor irrigation. They say that cotton requires a lot more water relative to other crops. It takes 25,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of cotton, about 50 times more than to grow a kilo of potatoes, according to a report in Forbes magazine. 

The problem of suicides appears to be at least in part due to the fact that India's value added agriculture continues be among the lowest in the world. Unlike India, Pakistan managed to significantly raise agriculture productivity and rural incomes in 1980s through a livestock revolution. Economic activity in dairy, meat and poultry sectors now accounts for just over 50% of the nation's total agricultural output. The result is that per capita value added to agriculture in Pakistan is almost twice as much as that in Bangladesh and India.

Adding value is the process of changing or transforming a product from its original state to a more valuable state, according to Professor Mike Boland of Kansas State University. The professor explains how it applies to agriculture as follows:

"Many raw commodities have intrinsic value in their original state. For example, field corn grown, harvested and stored on a farm and then fed to livestock on that farm has value. In fact, value usually is added by feeding it to an animal, which transforms the corn into animal protein or meat. The value of a changed product is added value, such as processing wheat into flour. It is important to identify the value-added activities that will support the necessary investment in research, processing and marketing. The application of biotechnology, the engineering of food from raw products to the consumers and the restructuring of the distribution system to and from the producer all provide opportunities for adding value."

Although Pakistan's value added to agriculture is high for its region, it has been essentially flat since mid-1990s. It also lags significantly behind developing countries in other parts of the world. For example, per capita worker productivity in North Africa and the Middle East is more than twice that of Pakistan while in Latin America it is more than three times higher.

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in Constant 2000 US$--Source: World Bank
There are lots of opportunities for Pakistan to reach the levels of value addition already achieved in Middle East, North Africa and Latin America.These range from building infrastructure to reduce losses to fuller utilization of animals and crops for producing valuable products. Value addition through infrastructure development includes storage and transportation facilities for crops, dairy and meat to cut spoilage. Other opportunities to add value include better processing of sugarcane waste, rice bran, animal hides and bones, hot treatment, grading and packaging of fruits, vegetables and fish, etc.

Agriculture Value Added Per Capita in South Asia, North Africa and Latin America--Source: World Bank
Pakistan's growing middle class has increased demand for dairy, meat and various branded and processed food products. Engro, Nestle, Unilever and other food giants are working with family farms and supermarket chains like Makro, Hyperstar and Metro Cash and Carry to respond to it by setting up modern supply chains.

Growth of value added agriculture in Pakistan has helped the nation's rural economy. It has raised incomes and reduced rural poverty by creating more higher wage jobs. It has had a salutary effect on the lives of the rural poor in terms of their ability to afford better healthcare, nutrition and education. Doing more to promote value added agriculture can accelerate such improvements for the majority of Indians and Pakistanis who engage in agriculture and textiles and still live in rural areas.

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