Marketing & Marketing Infrastructure Development for Improving Farmer’s Income in NE Region

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NE Region is blessed with vast natural resources and it has immense opportunities for trade & commerce both in fresh & processed form. The region being home to diverse exotic variety of fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants and other crops could immerge as major centre of food processing industry. Enhancing income of farmers through value addition, product diversification, & entrepreneurship development must be the thrust areas of development departments of the region. In the north-east, large losses from farm to plate are attributed to poor handling, distribution, storage, and purchase/consumption behaviour. Huge resources that could otherwise be spent on more productive activities go into producing & transporting goods that only go to waste. Losses at almost every stage of the food chain can be reduced by using appropriate processing & packaging. Packaging being an essential part of a long-term incremental development process to reduce losses will have to employ a blend of both technologies and processors to yield maximum result. In a difficult terrain like north east, marketing of processed products is more remunerative than raw produces where logistics, seasonal crops and infrastructure matters most. Farmer & processor linkages are needed to add value as per the requirements and demands of consumers. Storage and handling technologies and infrastructure requirements needs to be assessed and designed in a manner that losses are minimized and the produce retains its original quality. Very often value addition & product diversification are easier said than done because of numerous constraints in micro scale rural enterprises. Lack of technological know-how, high cost of machinery, insufficient capital, & absence of hassle-free credit, taxation rules & food safety concerns create a fear psychosis.

The New Generation Cooperatives (NGC) model & FPOs are ideally suited since it binds both farmers and processors to honor commitments & agreements. Collective farming in clusters involving small farmers needs to be promoted including small cooperative processing / Self Help Group units in rural areas to undertake primary processing, grading and cleaning of produce for value addition Rural processing & value-addition group needs to be encouraged so as to allow small & marginal farmers to be part-time farmers & work in rural enterprises for enhanced income and returns on their produce.Infrastructural development is the most crucial factor for tapping the potential for industrialization. The State Governments in the region has to supplement effort by development of infrastructure and offer its participation in the form of Government share or partner in the PPP models of projects which are of prime importance considering the location of the State. In terms of FDI intention, the region has been given low priority by the foreign investors and there is a need to encourage foreign participation through simplification of its business environment. Region holds enormous potential to emerge not only as the main production and distribution hub but can also develop into a centre of cross-border trade. Broadly, the region needs to create dynamic institutional capacities for leveraging on its resource endowments and location advantage.

Economy of North Eastern Region being largely rural and agrarian, Agriculture is the principal occupation of majority of the rural population in the state in terms of employment and livelihood. Agriculture sector continues to support more than 75 per cent population directly or indirectly providing employment to about 50 per cent of the total workforce. North Eastern Region is traditionally rich in horticultural production due to its diverse and unique agro-climatic condition which is conducive for growing wide range of horticultural crops like various fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, nuts, tuber crops, medicinal and aromatic plants. To make the horticulture sector more viable and sustainable, due emphasis have been given in raising productivity of various commercially potential crops through use of better technology, management and planting materials. Similarly due importance has also been given on various aspects of facility like pre-harvest treatment, proper harvest, setting up of collection centers with grading facilities and transport facilities, marketing and processing etc. Despite significant growth registered through different scheme of Govt. of India region is faced with numerous problems such as good governance, unemployment, inadequate basic infrastructure and above all lack of agricultural and industrial infrastructure, sickness in the SME sector, environmental degradation issues etc.

Marketing of Agro-Horticulture produces is a serious problem for the farming community in the region. Lack of organized marketing facility, lack of storage infrastructure near the field, poverty and need of money after harvest for repayment of agricultural debt forced he farmers to dispose off their hard earned produces at the earliest and that too at low prices. Keeping in view of the interest of farmers there is a need to play proactive role to develop adequate facility for farmers by initiating the following on priority:

  • Setting up of high quality infrastructure in PPP mode for horticulture promotion. Undertake widespread promotion of horticulture and floriculture, as well as medicinal and aromatic plants and herbs including organic farming, to capture highly remunerative niche markets abroad.
  • Creations of new agri-markets, certification/ standardization centres and other post-harvest operations including food processing in PPP basis near the production centres may be given priority.
  • Establishing a network of cold storage facilities & information centres and organizing marketing and financial support through SHG will have to be initiated on a large scale.
  • Proper infrastructure for handling the post-harvest operations with limited wastage should be attached to production centres in PPP mode.
  • Government should invest in developing regulated markets and trading centers.
  • State should provide adequate storage facilities such as space where farmers, traders, and in a limited way even retail buyers can interact in the price discovery process .
  • Set up an Agricultural & Horticultural Marketing Board as a nodal agency for marketing, value addition and processing for north-east.

In the north-east, Mission on Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) is in practice in different form for long resulting to increase in production & productivity manifold. But it’s estimated that more than 40% of produces are wasted due to lack of post-harvest facility & that a very negligible amount of it is processed in the region. Loss of nutritional value & monitory loss on that count is huge. In order to boost farmers income, Govt. of India must review the provisions of National Mission on Food Processing (NMFP) for the development of food processing sector in the north east, which in turn would help in increase in farm productivity thereby increase in farmers' income as it will curbing the post-harvest loss of fruits & agricultural produce to a great extent. It is imperative that centrally, an Agricultural & Horticultural Marketing Board as a nodal agency for marketing, value addition and processing for north east is created soon to address the situation in the north east. This marketing Board once set up can run a Market Intervention scheme where the cost of procurement & transportation from farm gate level to the terminal markets could be supported by formalizing minimum support price (MSP) scheme for horticulture produces in the north east so that it would be in a position to pass on the benefit of higher price to the farmers and play a pivotal role in bringing horticulture prosperity in the region. It can focus on creating infrastructure for post-harvest & market linkages between producers and markets by establishing forward and backward linkages with farmers to provide assured market to their produce by generating rural employment and prosperity in the region through enhancement of farmers’ income. Region would also be able to carve a niche in the organic food market once the naturally grown organic production, certification & marketing can be done in an institutionalized manner with better post-harvest technology, supply chain, branding & certification of produce with appropriate aggregation model for marketing in the north-east.

Inputs from,

S. Bhattacharjee, Executive Director, NERAMAC Ltd, Guwahati

 

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