Its time to focus on Agriculture Diplomacy
Diplomacy is rarely associated with agriculture. The skills of professional foreign policy practitioners of the diplomatic corps are usually seen in the management of political challenges or conflicts and maintaining international relations.
Diplomacy is rarely associated with agriculture. The skills of professional foreign policy practitioners of the diplomatic corps are usually seen in the management of political challenges or conflicts and maintaining international relations. Over the past years economic diplomacy has come into prominence. But the effort has been mainly to bring outsiders’ focus on the service and manufacturing sectors. The role that diplomacy could play in agriculture has hardly ever been discussed or highlighted. Most writers on foreign policy have also avoided reporting or commenting on developments in the agricultural sector. This is surprising for India, a largely an agrarian country. More than 60 percent of its population is engaged in this sector and depend on agriculture for a living.
Experts point out that a self-reliant agriculture is critical to the government’s policy of establishing an “Atmanirbhar” Bharat. Its importance lies not only in export of agricultural products that earn foreign exchange. But also, in the fact that by giving access to farmers and rural producers to the wider international market, it also helps in increasing their income.
According to WTO’s Trade Statistics, India’s share of agricultural exports and imports in the world trade in 2017 was 2.27 per cent and 1.90 per cent respectively. But exports showed an increase of over 23 per cent in 2020 in comparision to figures of last year. The agricultural exports in agricultural GDP also showed an increase from 9.4 per cent to 9.9 per cent from 2018 to 2019.
Official figures show that agricultural imports have declined from 5.7 per cent to 4.9 per cent, indicating decreased dependence on import of agricultural products in India.
Experts say that in the last 15 years there has been substantial increase in export of almost all agricultural items. But despite being one of the top producers of agricultural products, India is not among the top exporters of agricultural produce. For example, India is second in wheat production but ranks 34th in the list of exporters. Similarly, it is 3rd in production of vegetables but in export ranks only 14th or in fruits, where India is the second largest producer but ranks 23rd in exports.
Much of this id due to lack of knowledge, both, among Indian rural producers and for outsiders about them. India hosts over 180 foreign diplomatic missions in the country. Of which, most are staffed with diplomats looking at political and economic diplomacy. But many of them also have diplomats or officials looking after agriculture and related issues. Though various government agencies engage with them on agriculture-related issues, the rural producers are mostly depended on information about them through the official agencies.
This new news platform, proposes to act as a bridge between the foreign missions and their agricultural world with the Indian agricultural world and the rural producers. The platform could help the two sides to have better knowledge through regular exchange of information about each other. These exchanges could establish a deeper and stronger engagement between them. With better knowledge of the world agricultural market, the various guidelines individual countries have for agricultural produce, as well as knowledge about them when changes are brought to them, could create a pool of well-informed rural producers in Indian. This in turn could help them in improving not only their product with better technology that are environment friendly, but also increase their access to the international market while raising the demand for Indian agricultural products in the outside world. Mainstreaming ‘agri-diplomacy’ could prove to beneficial for the government as well as the rural producers in India.
(The writer is a consulting editor of RuralVoice.in)