Farmers need income support: T Nanda Kumar

T Nandakumar, former secretary in both the agriculture and food ministries, as well as Chairman of the Spices Board and the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), speaks to businessline on how 10 years of NDA have been for the sector. Excerpts

How do you see the shift from food security to income security for farmers?

We have to have enough production of wheat and rice in the country to achieve food security and that has clearly happened in the last 10 years. I hope it will continue. If you remember, the BJP did not have doubling of farmer income in the manifesto, but it was Narendra Modi, who in a public meeting in Uttar Pradesh, announced he would double farmers’ income in six years.

Do you think that providing income will automatically generate food… make the country food secure?

No, I think you have to see it differently. Farmers need income support, they need higher income. You know, the problem is that whenever we talk about minimum support prices or prices of agriculture commodities, we also talk about food inflation. Now, it’s a very difficult task to give a higher price to farmers, and also manage food inflation within the expected limits.

How do you then increase the income of the farmers?

So give them some kind of an income support. The point is that PM-Kisan is a very good scheme, it is a game changer. It will stay for a long time, irrespective of which government is in power. I don’t think it’s going away soon. Income support is not a substitute for food security.

One section says that income support is not exactly meant for creating real growth in the agriculture sector. Your take on the issue?

We accept the fact that farmers need a higher income, maybe, for their own personal use. See this as a welfare measure, do not even link it with agriculture.

How do you see the flip flops in export policy of agriculture?

Export flip flops have existed for a long time. Putting stock limits or export curbs have been the standard tools for all governments. But any such restriction should be for one season.

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