Towards Special Agricultural Zone in Manipur for Food Self-sufficiency

Professor N Mohendro Singh
Look at your local economy where one finds a running phenomenon of inability to manage the rising marketable surplus and commercial expansion, the rare symptom of increasing returns on land. This is a highly engaging stage we have been looking forward to. Today the farming community in Manipur is at crossroads between the trend of higher production and utter lack of marketing infrastructures.
The outbursts of Madam I Bembem Devi, Secretary, Khoijuman, Toubul and Kwasiphai in being denied a space at Khwairamband Bazar for disposal of marketable surplus of the three promising villages gives an interesting message of lopsided policy of agricultural planning in the State when the whole country is fully prepared for a rosy scenario of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Confidence once lost cannot be restored easily. Market sentiment is highly delicate with cascading effect.
Looked at from the angle of production this area can now be declared as Special Agricultural Zone (SAZ). The investment of 1 rupee gives a return of Rs. 3. There is no rest on land. All the households are fully engaged throughout the year. Unemployment is a thing of the past. Poverty is not allowed to destabilise the socio-economic stability of the region. The rotating marketing system with full understanding and co-operation rooted in local institutions is amazing. As such there is a need for capitalizing the strong base of agricultural competence under a special policy intervention. We can now develop this cluster of three villages into a Model Village based on PURA (Provision of Urban Facilities in Rural Area).
The achievement so far made by the hardworking farming communities should be converted into a new system of productive force.
Higher farm production, higher marketable surplus, increased commercial expansion, better technical know-how, economies of scale, better sense of savings and investment normally go together. This institutional change could be a rare economic asset which needs to be nurtured and meaningfully capitalized with competitive standarisation.
To our utter surprise we are running the agrarian economy of Manipur with 119 Rural Periodical Markets, without a single Wholesale Regulated Market as against 228 Wholesale Markets in Assam and 21 in Tripura. Farmers per Market in Manipur is as high as 4828 as against 534 of Tripura and 2973 of Assam. This means heavy pressure of farmers on few Rural Markets. The farmers are running from pole to post for a small service.
Word of mouth and personal selling is cheap means of transaction,- not the market forces of demand and supply. Market imperfection has a free play. How far can we expect the benefit of both efficiency and justice in the present dismal scenario ? Is the State Government really farmer-friendly and sensitive to their grievances ? As a matter of fact when market fails Government should step in. Procurement of excess “marketable surplus”, if any, by the Government could be a rational strategy to keep the growing interest of farming community alive and strong.
Open market procurement is normally resorted to all over the world to maintain Effective Demand and momentum of production. Manipur Government, it appears, could not rise to the occasion.
Policy of food production and policy of marketing infrastructure should always go together. While the Central and State Governments have initiated new programmes for higher production, the State Government could not pay sufficient attention to the development of marketing infrastructures. Today Manipur is most underdeveloped in marketing infrastructures. The absence of collection centres, wholesale market, cold storage, warehouses and testing lab remains threatening accompanied by unreliable transport and communication. We must keep in mind that internally the State is marked by sub-standard networks of transport and communication, externally it is inadequately linked with the rest of the country.
Now the Government of Manipur should rise to the occasion to meet the challenges by putting in place a New Agricultural Policy to initiate a Productivity Revolution of Small Farmers with admissible benefits of National interventions such as;-
a) Expansion of Operation Green Scheme to cover 22 perishable commodities; not only the initial TOP (Tomato, Onion and Potato),
b) The SVAMITVA (Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improved Technology in Village Areas) to provide record of rights to both land owners and tenants,
c) The Rural Infrastructure Development based upon Area Specialisation Index,
d) Accelerated Micro Irrigation and
e) Integrated Policy of economic opportunities, increased empowerment and security against risks.
Today Manipur has to act on ‘Mission Food First’.