As farm labour diminishes, mechanisation is key for India’s agri-sector growth, says Mahindra & Mahindra’s Sikka

With diminishing agricultural labour in the country, farm mechanisation has become one of the essential components for the growth of sustainable agriculture in India. Hemant Sikka, president, farm equipment sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, in an exclusive interview with The Hindusays the country’s farm machinery industry is expected to grow from ₹9,200 crores in the financial year-2022 to ₹15,000 crores in financial year-2026.

How important do you think is the role of automation technologies (self-driven tractors, automatic ploughing, sowing etc) in the agriculture sector to cater to future food needs?

I believe automation technologies are very important in farming, in order to reduce manual interventions and operator fatigue, which would ultimately enhance productivity, minimise costs for farmers to experience efficient farming, especially in compact field conditions. We recently launched our new OJA (tractor) range on August 15, with cutting-edge technologies addressing the needs of varied farming and non-farming applications, including crops like paddy, cotton, sugarcane, and hobby farming, besides landscaping, vineyard and horticulture . These technologies largely seen on larger tractors in some advanced farming markets, will empower smaller farmers to do much more.

Is Mahindra looking towards the introduction of self-driving tractors and new autonomous solutions for farming in India anytime soon?

We did showcase a driverless or self-driving tractor some years ago, but we feel it is too early to introduce a self-driving tractor in India.

What kind of growth potential do you see in India’s farm machinery business? Do you have any new plans to tap the machinery business sector?

Farm mechanisation is one of the essential components for the growth of sustainable agriculture in India, especially in the context of diminishing agricultural labour. While the global farm mechanisation industry is at about $100 billion, India’s share is roughly at about ₹9,200 crores in F’22. Having said that the farm machinery industry is expected to grow from ₹9,200 crores in F’22 to ₹15,000 crores in F’26. On the hind side, India’s share of the global tractor industry is $10 billion of the global tractor industry, which is at $60 billion, making India largely ‘tractorised’. With mechanisation skewed towards land preparation, for many other operations, simple implements are used or the tasks are done by manual labour, also varying greatly by region, with States in north India having high levels of mechanisation due to highly productive land in the region, as well as declining availability of labour force. In November 2022, we inaugurated our first-ever exclusive farm machinery (non-tractor) plant in Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh. We have invested about ₹200 crores in this facility. This plant will roll out products like Harvesters and Rice Transplanters.

How do you see growth of the tractor market in India in the coming years, and what are the key reasons behind it?

India is the largest tractor market in the world having crossed a milestone of 1 million with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 6% over the last 7-8 years. Some of the drivers for the growth of the tractor industry are under-penetration of farm mechanisation, farm labour shortage, and better availability of water due to five consecutive years of good monsoon. Also, governments focus on rural infrastructure in the form of dams, roads etc, to grow rural income and farm mechanisation, besides, the government’s push towards farm mechanisation and availability of tractor finance has led to the growth of the industry.

The plight of farmers has been a matter of concern across the country, how do you think technological mechanisation and advancement could help is reducing this?

Yes, farm mechanisation can definitely help solve several problems related to drudgery and for a quick turnaround in farmlands. Our purpose of transforming farming to enrich lives guides us to take technologies used on large landholding farms across the world and make them accessible and affordable for the smaller landholding farmer across the world. And to do this it is important that we make these products in India.

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