DESK AND FIELD RESEARCH ON NEWLY INTRODUCED CROPS IN GUJARAT

AbstractRecently the agricultural pattern of Gujarat has undergone a tremendous change. The farmers are shifting to cultivation of non-traditional crops by replacing old crops which they have been growing for generations. Such a shift is an outcome of several pertinent factors and circumstances such as fall in the market price of traditional crops, increase in expenses, demand for new crops etc. The main objective of the research is to identify the root causes behind the shift and to analyse the various problems and difficulties associated with this change. The method of surveying the farmers was adopted to collect the necessary data. After the survey it was found that the shift proved out to be beneficial to the farmers as compared to their financial situation when they were growing traditional crops. But there were many unseen difficulties like transportation, lack of practical knowledge, absence of market linkages etc. which if resolved could help the farmer gain much more.

INTRODUCTION

LITERATURE REVIEW

Gujarat has emerged as one of the four major states having attained higher labour productivity in agriculture in the past few years. Formerly, farmers used to grow Bt-cotton and tobacco as major crops due to availability of irrigation. But, recently there has been a variation in nature of crops the farmers of Gujarat have been growing.

The farmers have been shifting there focus from traditional crops to new crops. According to Pattnaik, Itishree (Pattnaik, 2014), Gujarat has undergone a major shift from traditional to non-traditional crops. But the question they raised in their report was whether this phenomenon has reached the poorer sections of the society. According to the study it was found that even the remote villages in the districts of Gujarat are practising the farming of non- traditional crops.

As per (Amita Shah, 2013) the key problems being faced by farmers included fertiliser, irrigation and production price. Apart from all this lack of availability of labour was one of the most pressing problems. The major threat for agriculture, according to the cultivators includes

  • Increased cost of irrigation
  • Increase in seed cost
  • Increase in labour cost

Furthermore, increase in use of fertiliser, increase in input cost, market risk and decline in the ground water level are the major reasons that were reported for agriculture not being viable and profitable anymore among the farmers in future. These can be considered as primary reasons behind farmers shifting to non-traditional crops.

Not many studies have been done to understand the problems of the farmers in the interior villages of Gujarat arising due to the shift from traditional to non-traditional crops. The questions that need further research are: what are the needs of the farmers that can help them earn more and increase their disposable income and what are the issues that are acting as obstacles in their way. 

PROBLEM DEFINITION

Currently this shift of the farmers from growing traditional to non-traditional crops has gained a lot of momentum. On observing the farmers gaining profits by growing new crops, other farmers also started growing these crops to increase their income. The farmers shifted to new crops to avoid losses and increase their disposable income. But to their dismay, the farmers were facing a lot of troubles in cultivating these new crops. Farmers adopted this shift without taking into account the fact that the nature and the quality of the soil are different at different places. There were no pre soil tests done to determine the nutrient content in the soils and whether that soil type was suitable to do cultivation of that particular crop.

The key objectives of this paper are to:

  • To investigate the reasons that lead to the low market price value for the produce of the new crops
  • To understand the problems faced by the farmers in the process of cultivating non-traditional crops.
  • To recommend ways to bridge the gaps between resources available and the persons who need these resources the most.
APPROACH TO THE PROBLEM

The best way to know about a problem is to enquire the person who is affected by it the most. The trend of shifting from traditional crop cultivation to the non-traditional was initiated by the farmers and hence the main source of data and information are the farmers themselves. Firstly it was important to identify that in which area the crop shifting trend was observed. Considering the time constraint the following four districts were targeted:

  1. Sabarkantha where Soybean was grown
  2. Kutch district where Pomegranate were grown
  3. Anand district where Rose was grown.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
  • Research design

There were two designs followed in conducting the research. These two approaches were followed simultaneously. Exploratory Design and Descriptive designs were adopted.

  • Data collection from primary sources

Primary source of data were the responses obtained from the answers by asking the questions mentioned in the questionnaire.

  • Sampling and scaling techniques

To determine the sample, non-probability sampling was followed. The core characteristic of non-probability sampling techniques is that samples are selected based on the subjective judgement of the researcher. Under non-probability sampling, one of its types- purposive sampling was chosen so as to divide the sample size further (scaling).

Firstly, the farmers who were the members of SEWA were made the part of the initial set. Then, from each district a group of farmers (nearly 10-15) were asked to answer the questions regarding the new crop and the problems or hardships related to growing that crop. They were chosen based upon the fact that they were growing non-traditional crops.

FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS

In the field visits conducted in four districts, it was observed that there were a variety of crops being grown in various districts of Gujarat. Some crops were traditional like cotton, maize etc. but our main concern was to survey about the non-traditional crops which are newly introduced in those areas. The findings and the results are categorised below according to the crops identified in each district.

SOYBEAN

The soybean crop is grown in two districts namely: SABARKANTHA and VADODARA

Soybean in Sabarkantha

In Sabarkantha district, visit was made to Bayad taluka. The district co-ordinator (aagewan) helped a lot in gaining an insight about the farming trends and mind-set of the farmers growing Soybean.

Reason of shift:

The major traditional crops grown there were wheat and cotton. The reason of shifting from these traditional crops to the non-traditional crops was that the farmers were not getting expected price for their produce. The input expenses such as seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, irrigation, harvesting etc. was increasing and the yield or production was decreasing. The main reason of the reduction in yield was the destruction caused by Neelgai and pests. To avoid the attack of pests or insects, farmers had to use huge amount of pesticides and fertilisers which lead to increase in their expenses. So, the farmers decided to change the crop and shift to Soybean which needed less fertiliser, pesticides. The Soybean crop was much more resistant to Neelgai, as the probability of damage caused to new crops due to Neelgai was less as compared to the other traditional crops. Besides this, due to reduction in expenses on fertilisers and pesticides farmers were able to gain more. The output and harvest produced was double the input and thus the farmers were able to gain profits out of it. The expenditure was as low as Rs. 7000 and the output was as high as Rs.18, 000- Rs. 20,000 per bigha.

Although the farmers were happy and satisfied with the production of Soybean and the profits they were getting but during interactions certain problems were identified which were hindering the farmers from getting much more profits. The problems are:

  1. After the crop gets ready for the harvest farmers need to get threshers on rent for cleaning the crop. They cannot buy these threshers as they are too costly and are to be used only at the time of harvesting. These threshers cost them around Rs.800-900 for about one hour of usage and this costs increases when the demand is more.
  2. When the crop gets ready for the harvest the farmer harvests the crop and sells in the market at early stages. This happens due to absence of storage facility in the villages. As soon as the farmer harvests the crop, he/she is bound to sell it in the market at whatever price he is getting.
  3. After the harvesting of the crop, the farmer packs the crop and then takes it to the local mandi to sell. But there are no appropriate and hygienic ways of packing the crop which will keep it away from the damage.
  4. The farmer goes to the nearest local mandi to sell its harvested crop. To take the crop to the mandi, he/she needs to hire a tempo/rickshaw or truck depending upon the amount of harvest/yield he has. The transportation charges vary between Rs.200-900 depending upon the production. Every farmer has a different time of sowing and harvesting the crop. If a farmer has less yield he has to wait till the other farmers also harvest their crop and then they combine and send it to mandi. This leads to damage to the crop. Thus, there is a need for proper transportation facilities for the farmers.

Apart from these findings the other observations are:

The district team of SEWA met its members every month to now about the current financial situation and problems of the farmers. They estimated it by using an innovative technique. The members were given a collective wide chart sheet in which a bucket was drawn. The SEWA co-ordinators used to tell them to imagine this bucket as their financial budget of the month. Then the members had to mention the total amount and how they filled that bucket with their various expenses. It was a great experience to witness such kind of imaginative and creative technique which was easy for the farmers to understand and equally easy for the SEWA members to analyse the conditions of the farmers.

As per the data collected about the expenses and income of the farmers, the disposable income of the farmers was calculated by using MS Excel.

The following pie chart shows the proportion of expenses that the farmers have incurred in cultivating Soybean:

POMEGRANATE

The farmers in the Vadi farms in Kutch were growing Pomegranate from last three years. We talked to the farmers growing pomegranate and we were accompanied with the SEWA’s district team.  After talking to the couple of small farmers we came to know that not many small and marginal farmers were growing pomegranate in their own farms. The cultivation of pomegranate was majorly done by the big farmers and small farmers did labour work for the big farmers in their farms. The variety being produced in the Kutch region was Gen. tissue. One season of pomegranate was for the duration of two years. The plant grew after two years from the date of sowing the seeds. As the duration was very long i.e. two years, small farmers couldn’t afford that much time and expenses. The expense incurred in cultivating pomegranate was very high. The major problems of the farmers growing pomegranate were identified as:

  • Farmers lacked proper training and knowledge about growing pomegranate. They were not aware about the adequate amount of manures, fertilisers and water needed for growing a good variety of pomegranate. Sometimes the water given to the plant of pomegranate exceeds the required amount and thus the fruit develops black spots on the surface. Due to deterioration in the quality of plant, the price at which the fruit is sold in the market gets reduced.
  • The period for which the pomegranate plant requires fertilizers and pesticides is very long, thus they have to invest huge amount in cultivating pomegranate. Also, the cost incurred in pesticides and fertilisers was huge.

Apart from the above information, the other observations are:

  • The labours employed in the farms were majorly men. If women are employed, they are given minor work like cleaning the farm, cutting the unwanted grass etc. Major and tiring work is done by men.
  • The company/ retailers who were interested in buying the produce came to the farm to collect the produce. The transportation cost is borne by the buyer.
  • The farmers were using bio fertilisers instead of Urea and Ammonia (DAP). They were using much more advanced fertilisers.
  • Most of the sale of pomegranate was done in Delhi and Dubai.

The expenses, income and disposable income of the farmers were calculated using MS Excel.

The proportion of various expenses w.r.t. total expenditure is as given below:

ROSE

In order to inquire about the crops which are newly grown in the Anand district we visited the SEWA’s district office where Lalita Ben and her colleague helped us to know about the demographics of Anand and its villages. Traditionally, the farmers were growing tobacco and cotton. The reason of shift from cotton and tobacco are as listed below:

  • Tobacco farming was causing loss to the farmer both financially and health wise.
  • The farmers’ health was deteriorating due to ill effects of tobacco. It was effecting the present generation and also the pregnant ladies were facing problems due to tobacco, which indirectly affected the future kids too.
  • The price of tobacco which the farmers were getting was also below the market price. Thus it caused loss to the farmer.
  • The farming of cotton was very cumbersome as it was more prone to diseases and pests. This caused increase in expenses of the farmer.
  • Also the prices of cotton were decreasing due to deteriorating quality of cotton.

The variety of rose being grown there was Desi gulaab which was of a good quality and attained a good market price. The prices of rose which they were getting in the market was as per their expectations as they were getting the correct market price of rose.  The farmers were quite happy with the cultivation of rose as it gave them good disposable income as compared to the earlier crops grown. After having interaction with the farmers the major problems which we could identify were:

  • They needed an assistance from the government on any other organization upon how could they improve the quality of rose.
  • They have to take their produce time to time from their place to the market which is cumbersome for them.
  • There was no subsidy provided to them on buying kalam of rose or fertilisers/pesticides.

The other major observations are:

  • Most of the farmers growing rose had their own land.
  • The main sources of irrigation were wells and nearby river/pond.
  • The farmers started growing this crop on their own decision. It was not influenced by somebody else like KVKs etc.
  • The rose stem (kalam) was majorly bought from the local distributor at a current rate of Rs.7 per kalam.
  • Majority of the farmers had not employed any labour for cutting or any other work. The family members themselves followed the practice of sowing. Cultivating and cutting the flower. They lacked the practical knowledge about the cutting procedure but were still doing it by following the instructions of the head member in order to save money in employing trained labour.
  • The farmers there had no provision for subsidy on rose stems used for plantation and apart from this no government aid was given to them.
  • There was no proper training and guidance from any organisation involved in educating the farmers about proper technical procedure of growing rose.
  • The government’s initiative of making soil health card to make farmers aware about the soil mineral strength seemed to be totally absent in the region.
  • Farmers didn’t had any reliable source where they can go and share their problems related to the crop like disease, pest attack, low prices in market etc.
  • The whole produce of rose was taken to the markets of Vadodara, Ahmedabad and Surat (wherever the price is high at that time).
  • The farmers in order to get high price of their produce (rose) travelled to other cities. Other farmers who didn’t went to other markets and sold their produce to the middlemen or nearby mandi faced a reduction of directly 50%. Example: a farmer in Surat/ Ahmedabad got Rs.100 for a stem of rose and that same rose stem was sold at just Rs.50 to the middlemen in the village.

According to the responses collected, expenses, income and disposable income were calculated as follows by using MS Excel.

CONCLUSIONS

Based upon the problems identified related to the various crops we came out with the few recommendations that may be considered to design a feasible solution to help the farmers.

Recommendations for soybean
  • The water used for irrigation was scarce in Sabarkantha and it was also costly to use the water for irrigation through tube-wells. The solar power enabled pumps can be used which will decrease the cost of electricity and the flow of water will be adequate to irrigate the fields.
  • If the treatment of seeds is done with bio-fertilizers then it could protect the crops from various pests and pathogens.
  • Farmers were facing problem in storing the produce after harvest. SEWA can thus help in arranging a shed (can be on rent also) to help the farmers keep their produce safely till the time they get correct market price and are ready to sell their produce in the market.
  • The main problem of farmers was that they were unable to use threshers (in Bodeli) to clean the crops and in Sabarkantha region the farmers had to pay a good sum of money from their pockets to use thresher for one day. This lead to increase in their expenses and decrease in disposable income.
    • SEWA’s initiative of tools and equipment library can be launched in Sabarkantha and Vadodara villages. Under this, SEWA can help the farmers in buying tractor or thresher by giving them a group loan at nominal interest rates. The farmers can initially give the amount of loan from their own pocket and for repaying the loan amount the group who owns the machinery can lend the thresher or tractor to other needy farmers at lower lending rates (as compared to other companies) and repay the loan by collecting that amount.
  • Farmers use Urea and DAP directly in their soil. However the better alternative is to use Urea as basal dose (meaning using it directly on the root) with two or three splits whereas DAP can be used directly as a basal dose. Foliar sprays (sprayed directly on the leaves) are recommended only as corrective measure. This will increase the yield’s quality and quantity and will decrease the expenses.
Recommendations for castor
  1. Application of organic manure can increase yield of castor. The mode of using it is to spread 12.5 t/ha of FYM (Farm Yard Manure) or compost evenly on the main field before last ploughing and incorporate in to soil by using a plough. It is very important to note that FYM or compost shouldn’t be left exposed to the sunlight as it will result in loss of nutrients.
  2. Pre-treatment of seeds is necessary to ensure that the crops are not plagued by fungal infections.
  3. Intercropping, that is growing another crop side by side with the main crop will ensure increase in farmers’ income. Possible crops that can be grown are:
  • Intercropping of castor with Blackgram or Greengram.
  • Intercropping of castor with onion.
  1. Solar pumps can be installed which will give the small farmers access to the underground water which can be used for irrigation.
  2. The seeds the farmers buy from local distributors are very expensive. SEWA can help in this domain by connecting the farmers with distributors that can supply seeds at reduced prices. Or SEWA can help them with enrolling them with seed banks.
  3. Since farmers sell their produce to the middleman hence they get fewer prices than they should. SEWA can help by arranging suitable transportation thereby eliminating the role of middleman (under SEWA’s agricultural campaign – market linkages).
Recommendations for rose
  1. The farmers were not getting any kind of help from the government neither in terms of guidance nor in form of subsidies. SEWA can intervene in this regard by asking the government to provide the farmers with guidance and subsidies.
  2. Soil testing is to be done to get an idea regarding the composition of the soil. This will help ensure that proper amount of fertilizers is used.
  3. The farmers are using Urea directly in the soil, this result in excessive use of fertilizers and the excess fertilizer is washed off to the nearby waterbodies. To avoid this it’s better to use urea as a basal dose (applied directly to the roots). This will reduce the use of fertilizers which in turn will reduce the expenses of the farmers.
 Recommendations for tindora
  1. Since the farmers are practicing tissue culture cultivation hence it is very important that they are trained properly so that they can understand the process. Moreover they are getting all the information from the distributers which might be very limited. SEWA can help by providing proper guidance and training.
  2. Testing of soil is needed to understand the proper composition of the soil.
Recommendations for pomegranate
  1. Since the farmers have no proper training regarding the amount of fertilizers and water required or how to grow pomegranate hence SEWA can provide proper training to the farmers.
  2. Proper testing of soil is required to determine the composition of the soil. This will help determining the adequate amount of fertilizers and water required for cultivating pomegranate.

REFERENCES


Authors

Prof. Monika Mittal, Assistant Professor, Birla Institute of Management Technology

Priya Pathak, PGDM-IBM, Birla Institute of Management Technology