Goa’s agricultural sector needs to be boosted through the creation of value chains
Agriculture was the main occupation of our ancestors. However, agriculture in Goa has gone into passive mode focusing on more lucrative and less strenuous occupations like tourism, mining, construction in addition to the service sector. The Covid-19 outbreak and the resulting lockdown suddenly made Goa realize the need to be self-sufficient, create a value chain and get back to the basics of sustainable agriculture. Yet the value chain has not been created. The state also desperately needs to establish agro-food and fruit processing industries.
Goa’s agriculture is unique. Part of the Western Ghats and close to forest cover, agriculture is by default mostly organic. The geographical area of the state is 3,702 km2 and about 35% or 3,70,200 ha is agricultural. Some of the major income-rich crops in Goa are cashews, coconuts, and spices. Alsane, Tambdi Baji, Bhendi, Mancurad Mango, Khola and others peppers are unique to Goa and some have acquired geographical indication. The stage is set, but proper marketing and processing must be prepared for optimum utilization of the product, which will surely help farmers in Goa.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set out a vision for India to become Atma nirbhar (self-governing) and announced a stimulus package of Rs 20 lakh crore. The package should focus on four “Ls” (Land, Labor, Liquidity and Laws in addition to Location). These focus areas are also quite relevant for Goa. Goa can certainly tap into the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to take its agricultural products to the next level.
Goa relies heavily on neighboring states to meet its needs for vegetables, dairy products, meat and even fish. Yes, fish too, despite more than 100 km of coastline. The demand for fish in Goa is so high that they have to get it from other states. Of course, a large catch of fish from Goa is destined for the export market to earn good foreign exchange. The local potential for food production must be fully exploited. From a nutritional value perspective, it is best to consume locally grown foods where travel time from farm to fork is minimal.
Regarding land, land ownership in Goa and legal framework reforms in which Goa has unique patterns of land ownership, from independent ownership to comunidade share ownership, a Portuguese heritage, making most of the owners unable to prove absolute ownership of the properties they own. Therefore, they cannot access institutional loans or most state benefits. Agricultural land is left fallow.
The remedy is law reform. One of the recommendations of the Expert Committee (Economic Recovery Committee) set up by the state government to come up with measures to revive the state’s economy shortly after Covid-19 was to put in place sets up a committee of legal experts to recommend reforms to existing state laws. to ensure clarity of land titles and succession. Contract farming and land leasing laws should be passed in the state. In addition, many absentee landlords leave their land fallow rather than renting it out to cultivators for fear of not getting their land back.
The Government of India has suggested three model laws to the State Governments Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016; Agricultural Products and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Model Law 2017; and Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) of Agricultural and Livestock Products Act 2018. The legal expert committee may also review these model laws and suggest the state government to adopt the model laws appropriately to facilitate land leasing and contract farming. .
When we talk about liquidity and that through access to institutional finance, farmers or “agropreneurs” can access institutional loans in Goa through bank branches.
Institutional loans, combined with benefits under public schemes, would give farmers much-needed liquidity to realize the full potential of agriculture. NABARD has recently opened a special liquidity facility for cooperative banks and RRBs to meet the post-harvest needs of farmers for Rabi and Kharif harvest loans through Kisan Credit Cards (KCC). The working capital needs of the dairy and fisheries sector would also be financed by the banks under KCC.
Young people in Goa are very interested in getting into farming, but proper agronomic skills, guidance, infrastructure and ownership are needed and the government, especially the Department of Agriculture, needs to work more on this. rapidly.