Livestock entrepreneurship beckons educated youth
By G.H.P. Raju
Skill formation training programmes are readily accepted by the youth only when they know that employment is assured. Through the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), the Labour Department conducted skilling programs and taught conventional skills in the PMKVY listed job roles to about fifteen thousand local youths over the last three years. Although about two thousand youth got placements or were streamed into self-employment through the PMKVY 2.0 skilling programs, the success is not commensurate with the investments made under the Scheme. The existing “Employability gap” between skills learnt and job offers from the markets are critical when formulating future action plans under PMKVY 3.0. The Livestock Sector has enormous scope for skilling, reskilling and upskilling under PMKVY 3.0 and offers enormous employability scope for the trained youth of our State.
Livestock management and entrepreneurship is a window of opportunity that educated youth should explore seriously. I see ample livestock entrepreneurship opportunities in our State, which include: (1) meat production and export to the neighbouring countries under the Act East Policy of the Government of India; (2) creation of a class of para-veterinary staff to take care of the vaccination, insemination, and animal insurance needs of the farmers; (3) emergence of cattle and pig breeders; (4) Commercial Poultry and Goat breeding farms. (5). Cattle feed manufacturing mills; (6) meat Kiosks etc., to mention a few economic opportunities.
Livestock entrepreneurship requires professional skills, technology induction and capital. Unfortunately, there are very few professionally managed private Livestock Farms in our State. Conventional Livestock Farms are available mainly under the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department. The commercial Livestock and Breeding Farms for Cattle, Pigs, Goatery, Poultry, and meat processing units have not yet come up in good numbers in our State due to lack of awareness about the farmer-centric subsidy schemes introduced by the Government of India, non-availability of appropriate livestock-related skilling programmes, inability to raise capital from the banks, and expensive cattle feed etc.
The educated youth of our State have yet to tap into the Livestock related employment potential of our State. The estimated annual demand for animal products in Meghalaya is as below:
In Meghalaya range from Rs 2,200 crores at farm price and about Rs 5000 crores at market price. As of now, the ever-growing local demand for meat and meat products cannot be met with local production. The State has a substantial pent-up demand that will have to be provided for, pending which some imports are unavoidable. About one lakh piglets and about the same number of cattle are imported annually from other States like West Bengal, Bihar, UP, Punjab, and Assam. Although there is a huge demand for goats in Bangladesh, goat rearing for export has not yet been taken up by the State or private entrepreneurs.
Commercial meat production involves establishing livestock farms, constructing sheds, water and electricity supply, feed management, and financial literacy. Under the National Livestock Mission (NLM), the Government of India offers back-end subsidies for the construction of piggery, goatery, and poultry sheds to prospective entrepreneurs. Notice inviting Expression of Interest (EOI) is already given, seeking applications from the farmers and educated youth intending to venture into the commercial livestock business. Under the Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM), the Central Government also offers subsidies for the construction of Cattle Multiplier Farms for commercial production of cattle through Artificial Insemination (AI) with exotic cattle breeds such as Sahiwal, Gir, HF, Ongole bulls and others. The Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department procured exotic Holstein Friesian (HF) breed bulls from Germany and Ongole bulls from Andhra Pradesh for crossbreeding purposes with our local cattle. The HF cows yield ten to fifteen litres of milk daily and are inducted into the Dairy Cooperative Societies under the Milk Mission. The Ongole bulls gain about 500 kg weight in about 48 months and are known for disease resistance. With the capital expenditure subsidy schemes under the NLM and RGM, introduction of high-quality breeding bulls by the Department, the cattle-landscape of Meghalaya in milk and meat production is set to change in about three years. The educated youth must venture into livestock management and entrepreneurship to take full advantage of these rapid developments in the sector.
For starters, there is a convergence between two departments – Labour and Animal & Husbandry. Livestock management skilling programmes will be organized under the PMKVY-3.0 programme by the Labour department, and the financial support to establish the livestock farms, meat processing units, etc., will be provided by the Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Department. Thus, with adequate farm, livestock, and financial management skills, the youth will be ready to become meat producers and suppliers soon.
Women of the State manage about 85% of the rural backyard livestock farming in the villages. Backyard livestock farming can meet the immediate consumption needs of the rural households, but skilling, reskilling and upskilling of educated women will help augment local meat production and bridge the demand and supply gap. So that would be another vertical worthy of consideration.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister announced a 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan stimulus package for incentivizing investments by individual entrepreneurs, private companies, MSMEs, Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) and Section 8 companies to establish (i) the dairy processing and value addition infrastructure, (ii) meat processing and value addition infrastructure and (iii) Animal Feed Plants. In addition, the National Livestock Mission and Rashtriya Gokul Mission offer subsidies for construction of commercial livestock sheds, and the PMKVY 3.0 offers livestock entrepreneurship. With these positive and empowering livestock-related interventions, the livestock ecosystem is ready to take off in the State, but we need the educated youth to venture into commercial livestock farming.
Cattle feed manufacturing is another critical area that demands immediate attention. Under the NLM and AHIDF, adequate funds are made available for establishing feed mills by individuals, cooperative societies etc. Feed manufacturing offers ample self-employment opportunities for the youth in our State. Maize and soybeans being the main ingredients of cattle feed, the farmers will benefit. The feed cost for the livestock will reduce substantially if the raw material is locally available. At present, cattle feed is expensive and non-remunerative for the farmers.
The Cooperation Department is reaching out to the Dairy Cooperative Societies and Piggery Cooperative Societies to avail interest-free loans under the Milk Mission and Piggery Mission for enhanced milk and pig production in our State. As many as 102 Dairy Cooperative Societies and about 85 Piggery Cooperative Societies are already enlisted in these two Missions. It is heartening to know that over 60% of the members of these Cooperative Societies are women. Therefore, the local banks are being prodded to extend working capital loans to the Dairy Cooperative Societies.
The Animal Husbandry Department has several other initiatives in the pipeline: A Poultry Mission with a proposed investment of Rs. 121 Crore, a Goatery Mission with Rs. 75 Crore investment. Also, a proposal for establishing Goat and Sheep Breeding Farms at Saitsama, West Jaintia Hills and Nongshillong, West Khasi Hills district, at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crores, has already been moved.
The educated youth ought not to miss these opportunities to take up livestock-related entrepreneurship. But are they ready?
(The writer is Principal Secretary, AH & Veterinary, Govt of Meghalaya)