Manipur needs an agriculture policy
IFP Editorial: The main problems faced by farmers in the state is the lack of a water policy and support mechanism for marketing of agricultural produce besides the problem of the majority of farmers being landless.
Updated on 3 Jan 2022, 10:47 am
(File Photo: IFP)
The Irabot Foundation Manipur (IFM) is one organisation doing good work in the field of agriculture and highlighting the multi-faceted problems faced by farmers in the state. This year, the ‘Poinu Meepham 3.0’ was organised under the theme ‘Agricultural Market Policy of Manipur’ on Thursday. As pointed out by resource persons, the main problems faced by farmers in the state is the lack of a water policy and support mechanism for marketing of agricultural produce besides the problem of the majority of farmers being landless. These are only the basic problems plaguing agriculture in the state and a lot of other factors need to be incorporated while framing an agriculture policy specific to Manipur.
First, one needs to highlight the ever-widening gap between demand and water sources while taking into account the erratic rainfall patterns. Farmers cite construction of dams, deforestation at catchment areas, and quarrying among others as the main cause for the drying up of the small rivers and tributaries. Manipur experiences water scarcity due to lack of facilities to harvest rainwater and destruction of catchment areas, as per reports. Manipur has been receiving an annual rainfall of 1,467.5 mm, which is higher than the national average.
The problem of water scarcity, however, persists due to lack of facilities for harvesting rainwater and destruction of catchment areas. There are also reports showing that 42 per cent of the natural springs in the hill areas of the state have vanished. In the context of Manipur, we need a state-specific comprehensive policy for water involving multiple departments so as to evolve an integrated strategy for rejuvenation of springs in the hills, afforestation of catchment areas of the major rivers, widespread rain-water harvesting schemes while regulating pumping of groundwater.
Second, the state does not have a marketing support mechanism for the agriculture produce to compensate for unforeseen situations and the ever increasing rise in expenditure for agriculture activities particularly paddy while the absence of cold chain mechanism in the state has led to huge loss among vegetable farmers. The coronavirus pandemic has affected every section of the society and the government in a bid to ensure food supply, particularly free rice to the general population for several months has taken a toll on the local farmers who are facing marketing problems of their produce. The quantum of free rice was such that even those families, who are adverse to superfine rice brought in from outside the state and whose taste buds or stomach has only place for the local rice, had grown accustomed to superfine rice.
Poinu means, the time has come for farmers to clear their granaries of whatever is left of the previous year’s harvest for stocking it with the new harvest. But, still there are few takers for the local rice even at a reduced rate. During the pandemic and pre-harvest, the price of paddy per Phoubot (80 kgs) was Rs 1600 which was a sell-out considering the cost of cultivation in recent times. Now, the price per Phoubot has plummeted to Rs 1,200 and still there are few takers.
Last, it is the case of the landless farmers who are a majority in the state. They are mostly poverty stricken and indebted. They depend on investments from the urban landlords. They still have to give the pledged number of Phoubots (80 Kgs) to the investors or the landowners, while they struggle with whatever is left of the harvest. Their entire sustenance depends on that. A regular farmer feeds his family, pays the fees for his children and other essential expenses with the income from the harvest. And they suffer when the price of paddy plummets.
To sum up, agriculture in the state is still practised at a subsistence level as a survival for the poor and landless farmer. And imagine, the frustration of the poor farmer when he had to wait for long hours in queue for fertilisers when he should be toiling in the fields and run from pillar to post to hawk their produce with the ever reducing prices of paddy and rice.