1. Collaborative Research Project with Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations, and India:
NITI Aayog and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for implementing the Monitoring and Analysing Food and Agricultural Policies (MAFAP) programme in India. MAFAP seeks to establish sustainable systems to monitor, analyse and reform food and agricultural policies to make them more effective, efficient, and inclusive. Globally, MAFAP is being implemented by FAO across fourteen developing and emerging economies. MAFAP analyses are used to inform targeted food and agricultural policy reforms, which will result in a more conducive environment for agricultural investment and productivity growth, especially for small-holder farmers. The MoU for Phase I was effective from 23 September–31 December 2019. Under this phase, the technical cooperation programme produced intermediate reports on the National Agriculture Price Policy for selected agriculture produce market committees in Haryana and Odisha, and the National Food Security Policy for selected districts in Chhattisgarh and Bihar. Subsequently, considering the short timeline available under Phase I, the MoU was proposed to be renewed in order to commence Phase II of the technical cooperation programme from January 2020 to December 2021.
2. Cooperative Federalism–State of Uttarakhand:
The agriculture vertical consulted respective ministries on various issues raised by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand in the fourth and fifth Governing Council meetings of NITI Aayog. The vertical monitored and expedited the settlement of issues raised by the state in coordination with Central ministries. NITI Aayog also arranged review meetings to discuss developmental matters and rural migration in the presence of Member (Agriculture). To take it forward, another meeting was proposed in December 2019 in Dehradun. In addition, the vertical appraised a number of externally funded projects (EAPs) proposed by the state besides the review of ongoing activities of the state.
3. Policy Matters:
Member (Agriculture) contributed inputs to PMO on various policy and critical issues such as price forecasting mechanism, scope for development of oil palm cultivations in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, value chain development related to Operation Green (integrated development of tomato, onion and potato). Besides, the contribution of additional inputs related to the action plan on doubling farmers’ income, action plan on eradication of foot and mouth disease in cattle and glanders disease in equines, oil processing industry and drafting of PM-KISAN. A committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Member (Agriculture) to recommend the level of buffer-stock of pulses in the country to address fluctuation in domestic production. The committee recommended 2.06 million tons of stock to maintain stability in pulses’ prices in the country.
4. Start-Ups for Smart Agriculture Conclave on 7 March 2019 at NABI, Mohali:
With the aim to bring agri-startups together and inspire them to devise appropriate solutions for agribusiness issues, NITI Aayog organized a one-day conclave on ‘Start-ups for Smart Agriculture’—with the support of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute (NABI)—at NABI, in Mohali, Punjab, on 7 March 2019. Governor of Punjab VP Singh Badnore was the chief guest and inaugurated the conclave as well as the stalls. The objective of the conclave was to provide an opportunity to showcase technology used by FPOs, cooperatives, agri-entrepreneurs and start-ups, especially for enhancing agriculture export, value addition and utilization of agriculture equipment, success stories/best practices, among others. More than 100 start-ups and FPOs attended the event along with senior officials of concerned ministries, state governments, NABARD, Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium and state agriculture universities of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. The participants included exceptionally performing start-ups and FPOs, which are transforming the agribusiness space through their innovative technologies and business models. The conclave helped create the desired awareness and built an entrepreneurial environment in the agriculture sector. A unique networking opportunity was provided to the participating entrepreneurs for peer learning from contemporary founders, in an informal yet high-energy, interactive environment.
5. Agriculture Reforms:
Doubling of Farmers’ Income:
Constitution of High-Powered Committee of Chief Ministers for Transformation of Indian Agriculture:
In pursuance of the decision taken in the fifth Governing Council meeting of NITI Aayog, the Prime Minister announced the setting up of a high-powered committee of chief ministers for transforming Indian agriculture under the convenorship of Devendra Fadnavis, former chief minister of Maharashtra. The member secretary of the committee was Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog. The committee also comprised:
- Capt. Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab
- Sh. Kamal Nath, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
- Sh. Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister of Haryana
- Sh. Narender Singh Tomar; Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj
- Sh. Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha
- Sh. Pema Khandu, Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh
- Sh. Vijay Rupani, Chief Minister of Gujarat
- Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.
In its first meeting on 18 July 2019, the committee discussed ways to incentivize the states to implement various reforms in agriculture. The committee emphasized the need to accelerate the growth of the food-processing sector, modalities to draw more investment in agriculture, subsidy on drip irrigation, water conservation, including the need to stress upon required amendments to the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act and Essential Commodities Act. The committee will also suggest the appropriate way out for adoption and time-bound implementation of agriculture sector reforms. The second meeting of the committee was held in Mumbai on 16 August 2019 after taking into account the inputs shared by participating states to develop the report in a more articulated and comprehensive manner. The report of the committee is yet to be finalized.
6. Ensuring the Implementation of Minimum Support Price (MSP), Including PM-AASHA:
In the Budget of 2018–19, there was an announcement that NITI Aayog, in consultation with Central and state governments, will develop a foolproof mechanism so farmers can get remunerative price for their produce. A meeting of Central ministries, states and union territories was held on 9 March 2018 under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar to discuss about the mechanism of implementation of MSP for the selected agricultural produce or to provide MSP to the farmers through some other way. As an outcome of the discussion, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare rolled out new schemes—Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA), Price Deficiency Procurement Scheme (PDPS), Price Support Scheme (PSS) and Private Procurement and Stockiest Scheme (PPSS)—for procurement of notified crops from farmers.
7. Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF):
A conference was held in NITI Aayog on 9 July 2018 under the chairmanship of NITI Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar to discuss about the scope and promotion of natural farming. The meeting was also attended by NITI Aayog Member (Agriculture) Dr Ramesh Chand; CEO Amitabh Kant; Secretary (Agriculture) Sanjay Agarwal; former minister of state (agriculture)
Gajendra Singh Sekhawat; and other senior officers and academics. Padma Shri awardee Subhash Palekar, an expert on natural farming, was also present at the event. He narrated how zero budget natural farming is different from organic farming. However, Dr Chand mentioned that ZBNF should be scaled-up nationally only after scientific validation. NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar said states can promote natural farming under the set of existing farm-sector schemes, such as Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
Subsequently, NITI Aayog conducted a series of meetings to discuss ZBNF on 2 January and 28 February 2019, in which agriculture ministers of states and lieutenant governors of union territories were present for wider consultations with the Central ministry. Dr Rajiv Kumar also attended a workshop on natural farming held at Gandhinagar, Gujarat, on 4 September 2019, and visited such farms. In addition, he visited Solan, Himachal Pradesh, on 13 July 2019, which is popularizing natural farming. The Vice Chairman, along with the Adviser (Agriculture) and senior officers of the Government of Andhra Pradesh went to Atkur cluster in the state on 13 September 2019 to interact with farmers, youth and women engaged in ZBNF cultivation. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke in the first Budget speech of the seventeenth Lok Sabha on the promotion of natural farming under the back-to-basics approach; accordingly, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare planned to launch ‘Bhartiya Prakritik Krishi Paddhati’, in a pan-India mode to cover 12 lakh hectares of area and 600 clusters, as a centrally sponsored scheme.
8. Promotion of Village Storage Scheme:
A meeting was held under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on l7 May 2019 to discuss the strategies to be adopted for the Village Storage Scheme. Ways to enhance village-level storage facilities were critically deliberated.
While participating in the discussions, CEO, National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD), Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW) mentioned that the Village Storage Scheme should address basic four categories of produce:
(i) Hardy food crops like grains
(ii) Long-holding perishables
(iii Short-life perishable crops
(iv) Produce like cotton, wool, industrial feedstock, which serve as raw material to the non-food industry
It was further quoted that holding of perishables in refrigerated village stores may not promote the development of a suitable post-harvest supply chain but would instead delay the problem of establishing a supply line to market channels, leading to deferred distress. It was suggested that village-storage and post-harvest facilities may primarily be set up at Gramin Agricultural Markets as an interface of APMC and farmers, which would provide preconditioning and connectivity to any market or user or organized storage in the country. It was also decided that the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with the National Centre of Geo-Informatics would create a portal and evolve a mechanism for geotagging warehouses, including the refrigerated ones done in base-line survey for cold storages, all over India.