World Economy

India to Double Farmers’ Income

India to Double Farmers’ IncomeIndia to Double Farmers’ Income

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to need a big rise in economic growth and a run of good weather to have a chance of fulfilling his promise to double farmers’ incomes by 2022.

He may also have to allow farm gate prices to rise fast, agricultural and economic experts said, jeopardizing a key policy of his first two years in office: keeping inflation in check to appeal to India’s swelling middle class, Reuters reported.

The 65-year-old made his bold commitment at a February rally in the eastern state of Odisha, hoping to shore up support among 263 million farmers who will have a major say in his party’s fate in upcoming state elections and a national vote in 2019.

“This is a government that thinks about farmers,” Modi told the rally.

To achieve this, the premier has launched a seven-pronged strategy including expanding irrigation, crop insurance, smarter marketing and incentives for farmers to grow new crops.

Some in the crowd that day were less than impressed. “It’s a political gimmick,” said smallholder Durbadala Pradhan, 54, who grows 6-1/2 acres of paddy in a rain fed area of Bargarh district. “All governments give such alluring assurances, but have they made any difference?

“If you want to survive, you have to find your own ways,” he said, as he ploughed a plot in front of his mud-brick home.

Pradhan’s last rice crop was rejected for sale because it was of poor quality. To get by, he keeps three oxen and two milch cows, and sells hand-rolled cigarettes and snacks from his small shop.

Experts also call Modi’s farm promise far-fetched.

To come true, output would, other things being equal, have to grow at an annual 15%. That compares with an average of below 2% over the past four years.

Under Modi, the guaranteed price the government pays for common grades of rice has risen at an annual rate of 3.7%. That’s less than inflation and below half the 9% rate under the Congress government that preceded him.

Officials at the farm and finance ministries and the prime minister’s office, when asked whether the promise to double farm incomes was backed by solid assumptions and costing, declined to comment on the record.