While it makes us feel good that India did not agree to something which they may regret later at WTO, we still have things to fix at home:
1. Pakistan uses cash transfer to farmers. It is agreed that we have issue related to Monsoon that they may not have. Still current scheme of MSP, stocking huge amounts of food where lot of it goes waste and again very inefficient distribution process needs to be changed. We should have only strategic reserves.
2. Modi Government should let some states experiment with FDI in multi-brand retail.
3. As a consumer I would love to have a Costco in India, where people can buy cheaper when they buy bulk. Currently we have Metro which is open only to shop-keepers.
4. E-commerce may become big in Retail space, including groceries. Amazon already is advertising about pet foods. A proper strategic plan can help expand the sector and assist through dis-intermediation.
5. Excessive focus on Rice and Wheat stocking have defied the following: Many regions use other items as part of their diet like Ragi, boiled Rice, So lot of quota for Rice and Wheat gets sold to shops. Also people want/need a wholesome diet that is protein and vitamin rich. The average consumption of rice/wheat has declined in the families, along with prosperity.
We should move from food security to nutritional security, using a mix of tradition and modernity.
6. Overall approach should be to bring down the prices of commodities. Get away from dual pricing and compensate poor through direct-benefit transfer.
7. There is a need to push organic farming and move away from fertilizer subsidy. We also need to relook at traditional agricultural practices of co-planting trees, agricultural forests, crops that utilize very little water, promote healthier living styles of yore of using grains that are not polished. Some of the experiments done by Navadarshan should be looked at. Keeping the eco-system alive, instead of killing pests and forests. These may be used in suitable regions of the country
8. Need to look at GM Crops with an open mind.There is also ongoing research in vertical agriculture – reduce dependence on weather and factory like methods for agriculture.
9. Scale up Govt units like SAFAL as a co-operative movement in the same lines as Amul for Milk. Have a “Greens Revolution”. Seeds can be distributed, empty plots can be leased for growing vegetables and fruits by co-operatives.
10. Even though unrelated topic here, countries like Bangladesh have prices for Kerosene much higher than Indian ones. Kerosene subsidy should be stopped except for homeless.
11. Markets should be freed further so that stocks are distributed much more widely.Further deregulation is necessary.
12. Part of food stocks should always be imported with forward trading commitments. This should help us in case of unanticipated drought. Same should go for vegetables and pulses. We also need to balance this by reducing palm oil imports, by increasing production in India. It is more important to keep prices stable within a band such that all eco-system players benefit and nobody gets hurt, basically things should work optimally. Price stability is more important than low prices. Price stability, even when prices are high may throw open competitive forces of more supply or substitutes. If prices are overly seasonal and fluctuate too much, it will not be attractive to invest.
13. Push for irrigation, power availability and phased approach to river linking.
14. Also why can’t we be leaders in Agriculture ? I mean Cost leaders, leaders in bio-diversity, Organic Farming and over time in smart manufacture. At one time India was known for skilled artisans. Most important thing is to aim for competitive advantage.
In summary, quite a lot of our problems are self-inflicted and we have lot to learn from other nations, including our neighbors. We are stuck in old practices for too long. We need to carefully review and make changes. We also need to experiment with new ideas.