Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Friday, March 12, 2010

mechanisation of the indian farm

NREGA is the national rural employment guarantee act.
read the primer here.

as a city based 'socialist', i was certain that, well implemented, NREGA is a superb scheme.
as a village based 'socialist', i am now less convinced.
let me elucidate in a simple manner for the sake of this post:
1. NREGA is setting a minimum wage-floor assuring people of a fixed income from the state.
2. This will increase the labour cost of the farmer as the floor price is already in place.

so who bears this extra cost?
is this part of the price rise we are seeing?

so as NREGA is being implemented, the simple mathematics indicates that there is less labour available for farming operations.
and farmers are completely frustrated by the lack of timely availability of labour.

so in such situations, mechanisation makes its entry.
like this:

this is a rice harvester (a mini-version of a combine harvester) manufactured by Kukje Co. - Korea. there is a larger more powerful one, which does automatic bagging of the grain.
the owner charges Rs 1500-Rs 2000 per hour or per acre (it takes approx an hour to harvest an acre).
here is the rice stalk before it enters the machine and after harvesting.

this has to go the the rice mill for de-husking and de-stoning to become rice, it will age for 3-5 months before it lands up on your plate.

these machines are available in the range of Rs 5 lakhs (second hand) to Rs 20 lakhs (japanese Kubota range of machines).
farmers are quite thrilled to move into such mechanisation as it saves significantly on time and labour.
the farmer is also interested in the hay (sold as cattle feed). these machines lays them out in a beautiful design.

here is the field before and after.

the tangent to explain the rice harvest process is to highlight something that could become irreversible. the mechanisation of the indian farm.
making the same american mistake of converting oil to food.
causing an energy imbalance of using lakhs of calories to create hundreds of calories.
tying the cost of food to the price of oil is very dangerous as those familiar with peak oil will vouch.

and the question we may struggle to answer...
what will happen once NREGA runs its course? (am presuming here that NREGA is time bound and will not become a fundamental right).


Vanessa said...

At least our farmers don't use a helicopter to spray pesticides :)
"Converting oil into food" is a nice way to put it. Not to mention that American soldiers are losing their lives for this oil. (supposedly)

Vanessa said...

Not directly related, just wanted to share.