Do we really need a private extension system in agriculture?

Extension originally means application of scientific research and new knowledge to agricultural practices through farmer education. The approaches in agricultural extension to transfer the farm technology, has undergone spectacular changes over the years. In the changing scenario of the world many countries are now in the process of redesigning the existing public extension system, so as to meet the present challenges. The farmers these days need instant information which can hardly be met by the present system extension. To overcome this problem the concept of privatizing extension has been thought off.

An act of reducing the role of government or increasing the role of private sector in an activity or in the ownership of assets is called Private Extension. Privatization in agriculture refers to services rendered in rural area by private individual or organizations who manage the process of funding and delivering the extension services for which farmers have to pay a nominal fee. It may be through consultancy firms, producers’ associations, non-governmental organizations, media organizations and so on.

Need for Private Extension

Public extension systems continue to focus on educating  public / farming community as a whole  for transfer of technologies about crop production and protection, soil and water conservation strategies  and so on  while the private extension shall focus on exact needs of specific farmer group with exclusive needs like vegetable growers. In the current scenario there is a shortage of trained extension staff with professional skills and technical competence in the public extension system.

And when compared, the private extension agents have a better proximity to product markets hence they are able to give better marketing information to the farmers. They also constantly guide and motivate the farmers to cater the needs of the agriculture based market  and grow their crops accordingly. There should be provision for market opportunity information, including price information, technology transfer, forward and backward linkages for increasing market access to farmers and institutional set up for marketing extension

Thrust on Agricultural Marketing

For a balanced and effective sustainable agricultural development, thrust on marketing aspect  is very essential. Though the public and the private sector have made sizeable  investments for  developing the  infrastructure and facilities for marketing of agricultural produce, the pace of development of the agricultural marketing system is far below the desired level. Here comes the key role of private extension system whereby they can guide farmers to supply the produce at right time in right place and right quantity and quality keeping in view the demands of markets.

There should be provision for market opportunity information, price information so as to   increase the market access to farmers. Therefore, the need of a private institution to take care of specialized needs of marketing was realized to carry out economic and technical feasibility studies and cost benefit analysis in respect of investment made by government and public in agricultural marketing.

Role of Public and Private Extension System

Since the public extension system concentrates on developmental roles, so there is a need to  re-establish their role on socio-economic transformation of rural areas. They need to  emphasize on education oriented roles  of small and marginal farmers and other deprived sections of the rural area. On the other hand private extension system focuses  on  profit maximization roles through resourceful big farmers and commercial crop growing areas. However the central government has also taken some handsome initiatives for providing online marketing platform to the farmers across the country through portals/ Apps like e kisan, Kisan Rathto name a few. National Agriculture Market (eNAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.

Privatization of agricultural extension service should be experimented and implemented in a phased manner with utmost caution. Privatization for agricultural extension, service will facilitate to meet,the present needs and future challenges of the farming community. It is recommended that a balanced approach to take advantage of Private Extension System and thwarting  its  disadvantages is important.


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