MP starts to warm up to farming machines

Madhya Pradesh may have been a little slow on the uptake but farm mechanisation is finally happening, with the state claiming to have achieved an impressive agriculture growth rate of more than 18 per cent last year.

Straw reapers, rotavetors, disc harrows, and seed-cum-fertiliser drills are not yet household names. If and when they eventually become that, they will have acquired suitable local names.

"Many farmers have started embracing mechanisation, which has not only reduced dependence on labourers but also increased yields in MP," says Pritam Chandra, director of the Central Institute of Agriculture Engineering (CIAE), an Indian Council of Agriculture Research institute based in Bhopal.

Mirroring the recent growth in agriculture is the unprecedented rise in the sale of tractors in MP: 50,061 new ones in 2011-12. In 2010-11 it was 43,811, after 28,537 in the previous year.

No wonder companies have started introducing new lines of tractors in MP before other states, where sales have either reached the negative trajectory or stagnated. MP received good rainfall and the companies will remain interested in what they call a sizeable market.

Though 30 to 40 per cent tractors are generally used in non-agriculture activity, the sale of new tractors is an indication that several farmers are moving away from manual operations. Initiatives such as the Yantradoot Village Scheme, under which agriculture officers demonstrate the use of farm implements and make them available at nominal rents, have done their bit to promote mechanisation.

Ironically, MP was one of the few states to have had a separate directorate of agriculture engineering since the 1980s, yet the idea of mechanisation to improve productivity and to save wastage had never really taken off.

Despite its agricultural advances, Punjab does not boast such a separate directorate. Yet the northern state benefits from lack of mechanisation in MP. Every year, scores of combine harvesters from Punjab arrive in MP to be hired by small and marginal farmers, who cannot afford expensive machines like those.

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