This article was originally written for Andhra Chamber of Commerce, Chennai for their 90th Anniversary Souvenir
The State’s strategic location and bountiful natural resources, supplemented by smart investments in infrastructure made it a leader at an all India level
Andhra Pradesh’s significant contribution to India’s agricultural sector is validated by the leading position the state occupies in the production of several major crops. The state is not only known as the “rice bowl of India”, but also ranks either first or second in the production of maize, groundnut, mango, papaya, lemon, chilli, turmeric, fresh water fish and prawn.
The state’s abundant natural resources – river systems such as Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra, Penna etc., and a wide variety of soils – support a diverse cropping pattern across the five agro-climatic zones. On its part, the Government has ensured propagation of sustainable farming practices, making Andhra Pradesh a pioneer in technologies such as micro irrigation and balanced fertiliser use based on soil health mapping.
Further, the State’s strategic location with 980 kms of coastline, fortified by several ports, makes it a gateway to the East and South East Asia, promoting the agri-exports from the State.
The inspiring vision of the Hon’ble Chief Minister is to make Andhra Pradesh amongst the three best states in India by 2022 and the most developed state by 2029. Agriculture sector has a vital role to play in achieving this goal, with the sector currently contributing 23% of the GSDP, and offering livelihoods to nearly 60% of the state’s population. A corollary objective is also to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.
Agriculture in Andhra Pradesh has immense potential: Realising this requires regionally differentiated strategies and sharper market orientation
Raising the agriculture budget for 2017-18 by 12% over the previous year, to Rs 18,214 Crores, the state has already demonstrated its commitment to the cause.
In addition to the ambitious Pattiseema project that brought water to the drought-prone Rayalaseema region besides stabilising the Krishna Delta, several drought-proofing technologies have also been deployed in the rainfed districts of the state, making state’s agriculture more resilient. Various other steps to raise the productivity, viz. seed supply, farm mechanisation, access to credit, extension services to popularise scientific practices etc., will all go a long way in raising the growth of agricultural sector and increasing farmer incomes.
Actually, as a state-wide average number, the per-capita income of an Andhra Pradesh farmer is already higher than the national average. The focus must now shift to dealing with the regional variations within the state, which are quite significant. A Guntur farmer earns four times that of a Srikakulam farmer, while a Nellore farmer more than twice that of a Kurnool farmer.
Raising productivity is a very important task, given the head-room that’s available, but higher productivity does not necessarily lead to larger farmer incomes, as a tomato farmer in Madanapalle can woefully vouch for, or the mango market in Nunna is a mute witness to, every time the production of those crops is bumper.
Only a fundamental shift in the approach can mitigate this risk. We must move away from finding markets for whatever is produced to producing what the consumer wants. Such demand-driven value chains can bring enormous benefits to the farmers if they are able to align production to market signals. This means a more regionally differentiated and sharply market-oriented production strategies.
For example, diversifying into horticulture and mastering the associated post-harvest operations are more critical for Kurnool, while communicating the nutritive value of millets to consumers in metro-cities is a prerequisite before the production is stepped up in Anantapur. The same objectives could be achieved by raising the food-safety quotient for chillies in Guntur and prawns in Nellore in order to service the global customers. On the other hand, the secret might be in putting special efforts to market the organic coffee from Araku valley that could help multiply farmer incomes from that region.
This strategy also provides a great opportunity for extensive corporate participation in execution, supplementing Government’s efforts
In a way, such participation by corporates is also an imperative, given their ability to build consumer-focused businesses more effectively. Recognising this, Government of Andhra Pradesh has already initiated a Public Private Partnership Project linking Farmer Producers Organisations (FPOs) with Corporates in 2016, with an explicit goal of doubling the farmers’ incomes.
This partnership approach provides a comprehensive crop production & marketing framework, integrating the strengths of all the stakeholders to support the small & resource-poor but very resourceful farmer. The government provides a favourable business ecosystem through investments in basic infrastructure in the project area, and converges all the subsidies being given to the farmers under different schemes. Agri Business / Food Processing companies bring in market linkages and the required technology along the full crop value chain as per global standards, and also be responsible for the overall project management and the deliverables. Where necessary experienced NGOs are brought in to assist in formation of farmers’ groups and their capacity building.
ITC Limited is also a committed partner in three such projects covering agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture segments, targeted at both domestic and export markets. By the time these projects scale, ITC intends to further widen the scope by integrating the various initiatives into the “digitally plug & play ready” e-Choupal 4.0 to support a large number of IT-based agri-services start-ups in reaching out the farmers across the state.
With these innovative initiatives, the State is well on its way from the Green Revolution days to the Golden Revolution era in the agriculture sector as an integral part of the Swarnandhra Vision 2029