The state government has decided to redraft its agricultural policy to give a boost to the farm sector. The thrust areas of the policy would be floriculture and organic and bio-organic farming. The government also has plans to give local farm produce a distinct identity by branding them as ‘Born in Goa’ to derive a marketing edge. Agricultural production in the state has been dwindling over the years as also the area under cultivation. According to the agriculture department data, the total yield of rice during kharif and rabi harvest seasons was 1.13 lakh tonnes in the year 2016-17 as opposed to 1.15 lakh tonnes in 2015-16 and 1.20 lakh tonnes in 2014-15. Finding agriculture unremunerative many farmers have given it up, which can be seen with many fields lying uncultivated. Besides, a sizeable area under rice cultivation, especially along the National Highways, has been acquired for road widening. Given the downslide in yield, the government needs to reinvent its policies to give a clear direction to agriculture and make it youth oriented and bring newer areas under cultivation.
While framing the new policy could take time, the government should focus on short-term policies to make agriculture remunerative and attractive to farmers and youth. One of the ideas should be to give thrust to mechanization of agriculture to a large extent. Many farmers gave up agriculture in Goa because it became uneconomical and sometimes impractical owing to non-availability of farm hands or because they could not afford to employ costly labour force. Given the fact that it is rather difficult to find agricultural labour in these days, besides whatever labour force is available being expensive, mechanisation can help in changing the agriculture scenario to a large extent. Though mechanization in the agricultural sector has been introduced in the state, it is limited to certain areas and in certain sections only. As the area under cultivation has been falling year after year innovative strategies need to be used to get optimum produce in the smallest area under cultivation, be it horticultural produce, floricultural produce, or any other activity.
Goa can learn a lot from Israel, which has not only acquired expertise in agriculture but also been able to produce maximum yields in limited semi-arid areas. The state can acquire mechanical implements manufactured elsewhere in the country or from overseas including Israel and make them available to farmers at nominal rates at least till the time agricultural activities are revived in a big way and become profitable. Besides, use of natural pesticides, herbicides, etc should be encouraged to give a distinct identity to Goan agriculture produce so as to make the Goan produce market oriented. The state could use the Israeli drip and micro-irrigation solutions for brining areas located at higher levels under cultivation. The newest models made in Israel are self-cleaning and maintain uniform flow rate regardless of water quality and pressure. Though a team from the state visited Israel in 2013 and held discussion on sharing knowledge in various fields nothing appears to have materialised since then. With the tourism sector growing in a big way and there is demand for agricultural produce; Goan farmers must be trained how to use organic base and develop horticulture to meet the rising needs of the food and tourism industry.
With food security becoming a major concern worldwide as resources dwindle and the population rises, the state needs to draw plans to not only promote agriculture in a big way but also to derive maximum yield from the least area. This could be done by using smart solutions for better agriculture, viz mechanisation and use of non-chemical pest control programmes. There is also need to have safer food storage facilities. Since mechanization increases the rapidity and speed of work, lowers cost of cultivation and increases efficiency of labour force, it should be the first choice of the government to promote agriculture. The government and its officials should also introduce newer agricultural techniques and train the farmers in the sphere of irrigation, land reclamation and the prevention of soil erosion. With the labour force becoming scarce in the state by the passing day, introduction of mechanised farming would not have any impact on anyone, unlike in other parts of the country. But with limited land holdings, Goa cannot afford to have large agricultural machines and authorities need to find out mechanical devices that were suitable for small land holdings and scattered at different places. Besides, the focus of the government also should be on encouraging research for improving the varieties of seeds for cultivation that could give higher yield in small areas to boost Goa production as well as Goa brand.