Bihar’s agriculture: Three policy solutions for growth and diversification

How can we catalyse growth and improve diversification of the agricultural sector in Bihar? Dr Avinash Kishore from IFPRI New Delhi succinctly presented his views as part of a panel discussion with the International Growth Centre India. In his view, there are three ways to achieve these goals:

1.       Increase procurement of rice and wheat in Bihar as part of the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The NFSA is favourable to Bihari consumers, covering 86% of the population. However, the current high levels of supply through the NFSA coupled with low levels of procurement of rice and wheat from the state means that a net dumping of cheap grain is occurring. This depresses local prices and hurts farmers’ bottom lines. In the short to medium term, the goal should be to target 5.5 million tonnes of rice and wheat for procurement to ease pressure on Bihari farmers, although this may also contribute to less diversification.

 

2.       Electrify agriculture to increase affordable access to irrigation. Despite access to abundant groundwater resources, Bihari farmers currently use low amounts of irrigation and are hence very vulnerable to drought and extreme heat events. Full and efficient irrigation is prohibitively expensive due to the extensive use of diesel pumps. Electrifying agriculture can make irrigation affordable. In order to avoid the mistakes of others, this electricity should not be free or heavily subsidised. Providing a high quality, reliable power supply with good voltage, at full cost recovery means farmers will still reduce energy costs for pumping by around 80% compared to current levels. Importantly, this also means that farmers become clients, not beneficiaries, and as such are able to demand quality service just as any other client can. 

 

“Electrifying agriculture would be the most effective poverty reduction scheme that the Government of Bihar could implement, with far reaching consequences”

 3.       Build a network of market infrastructure of sufficient quality to support increased production and diversified products. The current quality and extent of market infrastructure is poor, and relying on private sector investment has not worked. Public infrastructure investments can support increased levels of production, and a diversified crop portfolio.

 

You can see Avinash’s full contribution to the panel here.

 For more information, please contact Dr Avinash Kishore (a.kishore@cgiar.org).

It is currently so expensive to pump groundwater in Bihar that farmers under-irrigate, despite an abundance of water resources. Electrifying agriculture would reduce costs by 80% even if farmers paid full price.

It is currently so expensive to pump groundwater in Bihar that farmers under-irrigate, despite an abundance of water resources. Electrifying agriculture would reduce costs by 80% even if farmers paid full price.

NewsTamara Jackson