'India lags far behind other nations in farm mechanisation'
New Delhi: India lags far behind other nations like Japan in farm mechanisation and efforts are being made to promote use of agricultural machineries to address labour crisis, a senior government official said Thursday.
"In farm mechanisation, we have not achieved much so far as compared to other major countries. Only 10-15 percent of sugarcane crop is harvested with machines. Big intervention is required in this area," said V N Kali, Additional Commissioner in the Agriculture Ministry at an event organised by Sugar Technologies Association of India (STAI).
In India, 15-16 tractors are used in 1,000 hectare, against 88 tractors in the UK and 461 in Japan. The use of farm machines is largely confined to Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu, he said.
The adoption of farm machineries is slow due to small land holdings. Also, banks are not willing to lend farmers to buy costlier machines due to low credit worthiness, he added.
Noting that individual ownership of farm machineries is not economical for small and marginal farmers, Kali said a 'sub-mission on farm mechanisation' will soon be launched with focus on such farmers during 12th Five Year Plan (2012-17).
That apart, efforts are also being made to set up a separate 'credit guarantee fund' and 'venture capital fund' to support entreprenuers and farmers for purchase of machineries.
Besides government's intervention, Sugar Technologies Association of India (STAI) Vice President R L Tamak suggested global farm machineries makers John Deere and New Holland to customise agri-machineries with local needs.
"Farm machinisation is only 10 percent in India. Farmers have small land holdings and mechanisation should meet farm needs. This is a big challenge before manufacturers," he said.
John Deere and New Holland, which have good presence in India, should develop localised sugarcane harvesters that have low capital and maintenance cost, user friendly and fuel efficient and operatable in variable row geometry, he said.
Asked if it could customise machineries to suit Indian needs, John Deere global Product Line Marketing Manager Jesse D Lopez said, "Unless cropping pattern is not changed, there cannot be massive farm mechanisation in India.
"There are challenges like row spacing in sugarcane fields especially in northern India. We cannot take machines in and out of field if row spacing is too narrow."
"However, others issues like sugarcane trash can be looked. There is a process to do it but have to undergo more cost," he said.
At presently, mostly sugarcane harvestors are being used in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat and not much in northern states, he added.
Echoing same views, New Holland Fiat (India) Pvt Head (Crop Solutions) Gaurav Sood said that farm mechanisation has not picked up in northern states because of lack of support from the state governments and sugar factories.
Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharasthra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are giving subsidy over 50 percent for purchase of farm machines and this has boosted adoption of agri machines in these states, he added.