- Interventions in the agri-food supply chain post-COVID
When the lockdown started in India in March 2020, it was a peak rabi arrival (winter crop) season across the nation for wheat, rice, pulses, spices, fruits, and vegetables. Concerns, questions, fear, restricted movement, etc. led to uncertainty looming everywhere which impacted agriculture and food supply chain as well. Farmers were waiting with harvested commodity and looking for markets (Agricultural Produce & Livestock Market Committee - APMCs) to open, so that they could sell their produce.
Although agriculture and allied activities were treated as essential services and therefore exempted from lockdown, there was no activity at APMCs. Since agriculture is a state subject, the majority of state governments tried different ways to reach out to the farmers at the village level and facilitate the trade of their produce.
Few notable initiatives taken by states and private entrepreneurs:
Changing consumer preferences helped branded/packed staples make their way to the majority of consumer baskets. Private labels in food retailing gained prominence with the aggressive exploration on backward integration possibilities. Varied apprehensions, however, led to a decline in production and consumption of animal-based food products, which had a negative impact on farmers’ realisation.
Agriculture production and food supply chains have witnessed a significant transformation with technology enablement at the farmgate. Multiple pilots of technology interventions in agri-food supply chains across states by various stakeholders have paved the way for technology-enabled, data- driven agriculture and food supply chains in India.
Though there are multiple initiatives at various locations, they are still limited and restricted to specific geographies.
Conceptually, technologies in agri-food are seemingly scalable; however, diverse practices of Indian agriculture could be a bottleneck for a nation-wide impact. But the areas of importance need attention from all quarters for enhanced efficiencies in agricultural business environment along with technological innovations and adoption. Technology innovations can help transforming Indian agriculture from the current condition of subsistence farming to an enterprise level.
To tackle the current circumstances around the globe, all these solutions need to be implemented in an integrated way. At present all these initiatives are being implemented in silos in a geographical area or for a crop or by a start-up for a set of farmers. The real impact will be felt only by cohesive implementation of all relevant initiatives with clearly articulated scalable strategy. Agricultural e-marketplace can act as a fulcrum and integrate all the required solutions around to bring this thought to reality. Thus, helping to reduce the risks of farming and increasing farmer’s income to next level.
1. NABARD All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey – 2016-17, Report of the Internal Working Group to Review Agricultural Credit, 13-Sep-2019
2. Food loss and waste in India, The knowns and the Unknowns. (Working paper – WRI India) August 2021