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Farmers' income can be doubled, shows ITC Ltd's initiative
Outlook - 23 Dec 2018

As the  Narendra Modi-led government has been stressing innovations and generation of  revenue through allied-farm activities to achieve the ambitious goal of doubling  farmers' income by 2022, some farmers, who are a part of ITC Limited's 'Baareh  Mahine Hariyali' initiative, said their income has doubled with adoption of  smart techniques and maximum utilisation of agricultural land.

The aim the  'Baareh Mahine Hariyali' initiative is to multiply farm income through crop  diversification and value addition, productivity enhancement, raising cropping  intensity, income diversification -- all being carried out round the year,  besides boosting market linkages.

The income  enhancement initiative has been introduced in four districts of Uttar Pradesh  -- Ghazipur, Chandoli, Allahabad and Hathras -- and Bihar's Munger districts on  pilot basis, where it has demonstrated encouraging results within a short span  of time, as per the Cigarette- FMCG- Hospitality conglomerate.

There is  "a skepticism" among farmers over crop remuneration and they can  maximize their income through four broad ways, said S Sivakumar, Group Head of  Agri & IT Business, ITC.

"We  have seen farmers get low prices for their produce but retail prices are high.  Then there are middlemen. We have to see how to plough back more money from  consumers to farmers," he said, stressing the need to adopt demand-driven  value chain approach.

"Also,  we need to increase productivity with minimizing the cost of cultivation. It  can be achieved through interactions with farmers instead of one-way  broadcast."

Moreover,  increasing the number of crops from the same field during one agriculture year  and income from allied-farm and non-farm activities can help farmers in getting  more income, he said.

Jewari  village is among the villages in Chandoli, where farmers claimed to have  witnessed an increase in their income by taking up innovative approaches and  utilising their land round the year under the initiative.

Lalji  Yadav, who owns 20-acres of land, said his income has doubled owing to decrease  in the cost of cultivation besides earning revenue from different sources.

"Earlier,  it would take 150 days for rice cultivation. However, we used new varieties,  farm inputs and paddy transplanters provided by ITC, which not only reduced the  crop cycle to 130 days but lowered the cost of cultivation by Rs4,000,"  Yadav said.

"Similarly,  the cost of cultivation of wheat has gone down by 16 per cent with introduction  of new varieties and use of zero till machine."

Creation of  more space due to reduced crop cycles thus allowed these farmers to take  additional crop such as moong, adding further to their income, said Ramashankar  Tiwari, who cultivates 10 acres in nearby Alimoha village.

With the  assistance of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and other  agencies, the ITC has made available rice varieties such as PS-5, PS-6, PR-123,  PR 124 and wheat varieties such as PBW-550, Kedar, HD 2967 to these farmers as  per the local conditions.

"Our  approach is different for different areas. What worked in Punjab may not work  in Uttar Pradesh. So we localised our research and innovative techniques as per  the need of a particular area," said Sachin Sharma, General Manager at  ITC's Agri Business Division.

Livestock  rearing, agroforestry, non-farm activities such as agarbatti (incense sticks)  making are also important aspects of 'Baareh Mahine Hariyali' initiative.

The  initiative is an extension of ITC's e-Choupal programme, which links the  company with farmers via internet for procurement of agricultural commodities  serving 35,000 villages across the country.

Rajnikant  Rai, Chief Executive of ITC's Agri Business Division, said about 2,00,000  farmers have been covered under the initiative so far and as many as 30,000  have reported doubling of their income.

The  farmers, who implemented the initiative partially, have reported 30-75 per cent  income rise.

"We  have been doing branding of 'Baareh Mahine Hariyali' from past 2-3 years. It  has impacted over two lakh farmers so far. We intend to bring 10 lakh farmers  under its cover in next two years," Rai said.

"As  the initiative shows positive results, more farmers would adopt it."

(Correspondent  was in Chandoli at the invitation of ITC Limited.)

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