With bumper paddy crop expected this kharif season, the tractor manufacturing companies are expecting to see the boost in sales by at least 15%, as compared to yearly average sales, after a lean patch of two years when four crops were damaged. Last year 23,000 tractors were sold in rural Punjab and this year manufacturers are expecting the joint sales to touch 26,500.
In the light of a study conducted by Punjab agriculture department that says the state’s agrarian economy is over dependent on tractors, with their number increasing with falling number of acres in a family, and tractors are utilised for work just 396 hours in a year, Viren Popli, chief operating officer of Mahindra and Mahindra, Swaraj division, spoke to HT. Excerpts from an interview:
The farmers in Punjab have more number of tractors than required. Your views on this?
Punjab’s agrarian economy is largely based on wheat and paddy crops, which are labour intensive, for 15 days to a month the crop has to be harvested, sorted and taken to mandis. With MNERGA scheme offering assured work to the labour, state faces labour shortage so dependence is on mechanised farming and tractor is a pivot for all the machines and implements used in agriculture. One can’t reject the role of tractors in the green revolution. Also it gives a sense of security and is a status symbol.
How do you plan to make your tractors more saleable?
I think farmers need better equipped tractors with more implements. Our challenge is also to bring more implements that make farming mechanised and easy. We are making our machines compatible to rotavators, cultivators, and other implements, powerful to pull loaded trolleys and also make them useable in running tube wells. Also with changing times we are coming up with devices and machines that help in precision farming.
What are the challenges a tractor manufacturer faces?
Our efforts to sell tractors are questioned. Yet I think the penetration of the machine is very low. Punjab comprises 10% market, in 2013-14, 6 lakh tractors were sold in the country but sales came down to 4.93 lakh the next year. Our challenge is to increase the utility of a tractor bought by a farmer and make it stronger and robust. Life of a tractor is 5 to 7 years, but farmers use it for much longer time.
Agricultural experts recommend cooperative usage of tractors and implements to cut down input cost. How are you helping the farmers?
We are launching Tringo scheme in Karnataka initially, in which we have spared 40 tractors to be offered to farmers along with operators. The farmers can fix appointment for a tractor, get his works done and very nominal charges would be taken from him. We will expand the scheme to other parts of the country.