Agri-enterprises for Atmanirbhar North-East

    21-Jul-2020
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Prof M Premjit Singh
Hon’ble Prime Minister declared Rs 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar package equivalent to 10% GDP on May 12, 2020 on 5 areas - Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant demography and Demand. There is provision for additional Rs 30,000 crore working capital funding for farmers through NABARD. 2 lakh crore concessional credit will be extended to boost economic activities amongst farmers through kisan credit card and Fisherman and A.H. farmers will also be included in this special drive. Under promotion of employment in tribal and adivasi areas for job creation and development activities there is provision of Rs. 6,000 crore CAMPA funds under which activities like afforestation & plantation, forest management, soil and water conservation, forest and wildlife protection and management can be done. Under Rs. 20 lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan there is provision of 1.75 lakh crore for Agriculture.
Eight percent of total geographical area of the country is in NE region. The region share 98% of its borders with 5 neighbouring countries having a good scope for import and export. About 70% of the region is hilly areas. However, the region is characterised by difficult terrain, small landholdings and different land tenure system, lack of assured irrigation, poor transport and communication system, acidic soil, aluminium toxicity in the hills, traditional practice of shifting cultivation in the hills. However, the region is rich in natural resources, one of the mega biodiversity hotspots, covered with dense forests and has highest rainfall in the country.
NE region has 7,000 species of flora out of 17,000 species of Indian flora. There are about 876 species of orchids which constitutes 70% of total orchid flora, about 1,700 species of medicinal and aromatic plants, about 17 species and 52 varieties of citrus and about 78 taxa of bamboo which constitutes 50% of country. There is tremendous opportunities for development of horticulture sector in high value crops like Pineapple, Mandarin orange, Kiwi, Avocado, wallnut, passion fruit, ginger, turmeric, chowchow, underutilized fruits and vegetables. The region has crops with GI tag like Black scented rice and Naga chilli. Not only crops, there are many high value fishes like pabda, pengba, reba and even high value animals like Mithun, Yak, Pig, Manipuri Pony.
In the region there is no big industries and agriculture is the mainstay of 80% population. Hence, agri-enterprises and agro-based industries are the only option for atmanirbhar North east. We have to start our journey in the region from rice cultivation since the people use to take rice twice or thrice in a day.
I would like to suggest some feasible Agri-enterprises for making self reliant North-east  and to provide job to the unemployed youth and migrant workers already returned to North-east from metropolitan cities. We have to change our strategy from Agriculture to Agri business and production to profitability and surplus management.
1. Quality seed and planting material production as enterprise:
Farmers in the region are not getting sufficient quality seeds and planting materials in time. If the FPOs, youth and migrant workers are involved in quality seed production and nursery production of vegetables, fruits, flowers, aromatic and medicinal plants, they can earn a lot and the problems of farmers can be solved. Hence, accreditated nursery, seed village concept and Farmers’ participatory seed production programmes should be prioritized as profitable enterprise.
FPOs in Manipur can earn Rs. 1,20,000-1,40,000 per ha from quality seed production of CAU Rice variety – CAU R-1.
2. Organic cultivation of selected high value crops:
Organic production with provision for production of organic inputs, collection, processing, certification and packaging of high value crops like ginger, turmeric, black scented rice, joha rice, king chilli, pineapple, oranges, passion fruit, kiwi, large cardamom, Assam lemon, Kachai lemon, orchids, anthurium, etc. for export are having good scope as agri-enterprise  since NE has borders with 5 neighbouring South Asian countries.
3. Protected cultivation and hi-tech horticulture:
Protected cultivation with speciality vegetable crops and flowers, Hi-tech horticulture by adopting micro irrigation, fertigation and mulching, roof farming, container farming, hydroponics, aeroponics, vertical farming etc. can attract unemployed youth for converting them from job seekers to job creators/job providers.
4. Post-harvest technology & value addition on cluster mode by unemployed youth and FPOs:
For retaining the profit of produce, PHT and value addition not only crops even for fishes and animals may be promoted at farmers door on cluster basis by unemployed youth and FPOs. Central Agricultural University, Imphal has developed many technologies and products on this aspect like
i) Pineapple titbits, osmodehydrated pineapple rings, organic pineapple pulpy juice with ginger flavour, organic pineapple pulpy juice with cinnamon flavour and pineapple powder.
ii) Jackfruit squash, chips, papad, and ready to cook tender jackfruit.
iii) Soy milk, soy paneer (Tofu), soy yoghurt, soy fortified biscuit, soy fortified papad, soy bari (Nuggets), fermented soybean and roasted soybean.
iv) Fish kurkure, fish paneer, ready to serve fish curry, fish pickle and fermented fish.
5. Dairy, piggery, poultry, goatary and rabbitary:
Animal Husbandry is more profitable that cultivation of cereals, oilseeds and pulses. Since most of the farmers in NEH region are marginal and landless farmers enterprises like dairy, piggery, poultry, goatary and rabbitary with provision of local resources of feeds and fodder are having good scope taking into consideration the food habit of NE people.
6. Fisheries & aquaculture:
Since the people of North-eastern states like Assam, Manipur and Tripura are consumed higher quantities of fish with per capita consumption of 22-24 kg of fish/year, there is huge requirements of fish in these states. Hence Fish culture in cage and pan culture, cold water fisheries, biofloc etc. with provision of locally available fish feed are having good scope as enterprise. Further, the agripreneurs may start rearing of high value fishes like pabda, pengba and reba for getting premium price.
7. Secondary agriculture as agri-enterprise:
Secondary agriculture like beekeeping for honey and other bee products, bees for migratory beekeeping and pollination services, sericulture for dual purpose, Mushroom cultivation including sittake mushroom are the promising agri-enterprises for landless farmers, unemployed youth and migrant worker.
8. Innovative entrepreneurship and agritech startups:
Artificial intelligence (Robots and drones), IT in agriculture (Mobile Agro Advisory), custom hiring centres, Farm Advisory services, Input dealers, Marketing skill and      E-nam, production of bio pesticides, bio control agents and vermicomposting for organic farming, soil health management through soil health cards etc. are the innovative entrepreneurship and agritech startups in modern agriculture.
9. Location specific farmer centric IFS modules and agrotourism:
Since land holding in the NE region is very small and scenic beauty is in every state of the region with diverse cultures, we can motivate and attract unemployed youth in agriculture by giving emphasis on small scale Integrated Farming System and agro tourism.
(The writer is Vice Chancellor, Central Agricultural University, Imphal)