Mini-Tractors: Potential to transform Indian Farmer’s life

Rajkot is the birth place of mini tractors in India. Big players attract to Rajkot as manufacturing is cheaper here as compared to other places. Moreover more than 90 per cent parts are produced in Rajkot or surrounding areas which reduces the production cost”

  • A recent News items highlighting Rajkot’s thriving Min-Tractor industry (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/mini-tractor-trail-leads-big-players-to-rajkot/465329/) may have been a surprise for some people. But, a deeper analysis of the news item will surprise even more.
  • India has a stock of about sixty million work animals used in various agricultural operations, they are being used for agriculture purpose by farmers across India along with the manual labor by farmer, their family and additional hired laborers.
  • One pair of Bullocks provides at best 1HP  & 2 to 3 km/hour speed to the farmer for his agriculture operations. A Mini Tractor on the other hand can provide a minimum 10-15HP power & speed in excess of 10-15km/hour. In comparison with bullocks, a farmer can finish his job approximately 10 times faster by using a Mini-Tractor. Imagine the possibilities of enhanced productivity & rural transformation by unshackling the farmer’s potential power.
  • Mechanization of farm is the only way forward for the Farmer’s living in the Rural India to transform their life. The rich farmer’s who own large tract of lands were the primary beneficiary of the green revolution so far. They also tend to be the major beneficiary of most of the Govt. schemes for Rural India & Agriculture Development. Its the marginal/ small farmer, a huge % of India’s rural population, whose life has still not changed even after more than 60% years of Independence & billions of Govt. spending.
  • A Tractor seems to be a very insignificant machine, it doesn’t do anything on its own. But it is a critical enabler which actually changes the life of the farmer. The alternative to Tractor is manual labor & bullocks – which are time-consuming & actually turns out to be more expensive, resulting in generations of farmer remaining stuck in the vicious cycle of poverty. A tractor unshackles many chain, enables Farmer’s to use multiple devices/equipment/implements in the field to enhance productivity. Saves time, not only of the farmer’s but for the whole household, thus they can focus more on personal development activities to improve their life. Gives them faster & convenient mobility option to travel.
  • And most importantly, it makes them overcome, to certain extent, the psychological barrier vis-a-vis the rich/large landowners  in their villages.
  • A Mini-Tractos can be a game-changer (a highly misused word in media these days), at 50% of the price of an average Tractor available in India. Tractor prices are lowest in India compare to any country in the world. Technology wise India is at par with the global standards. The affordable price brings the benefit of farm mechanization within the reach of those farmers who never had the financials to buy a normal tractor.

Adoption of Mini-Tractors by Farmers

Economy of Usage, followed by Better Productivity emerge as the key factors driving Mini-Tractor adoption. The shift has already taken place especially in  Gujarat, more specifically in Rajkot, where a visible trend of hiring the Mini-Tractor &  the required implements on rent

  • The biggest trigger towards the adoption of small tractor is the rising opportunity cost of non-mechanization of tasks that could save time and add to increase productivity & yield
  • This gets coupled with the higher maintenance costs – both monitory & non-monitory
  • With bullocks, additional time is taken for the various activities, leading to unnecessary delays in the crop cycle, also leading to  productivity loss
“I decided to purchase Mini-Tractor because farming with bullocks used to consume a lot of time. Last year, there was so much growth of weeds and we were not able to complete the task of weeding, whereas our neighbors and cousins were able to work much faster because they had such a tractor”
  • The other is the rising cost of labor, worsened by the short supply when most needed
  • The Mini-Tractor is believed to reduce the farmers’ dependence on labor for many activities, thereby proving even more economical

Offers better maneuverability and added convenience on the farm

  • Mini-Tractor offers good maneuverability in  smaller farm areas and spaces between rows, making tasks like inter-cultivation lot more easier and effective
  • The smaller size of the tractor and that of the required implements make the hitching of implements easier and manageable by a single person
  • Especially useful for monsoon crop farming, since the soil is soft at this time and a Mini-Tractor  can easily replace bullocks with its lightness (though cannot be relied upon when the land is too wet and sticky, when bullocks generally get preferred)
Barriers to Mini-Tractor adoption
  • Low awareness of the specific benefits, & perception of its limited applicability are currently some  barriers for large scale adoption of Mini-Tractors in India.
  • For very small & economically weaker farmers, Financial barrier still exists, even though Mini-Tractor is half the price of a normal Tractor. These are the farmers who who wish to upgrade from bullocks to Mini-Tractor.
  • Even though the lower cost of Mini-Tractor makes it more attractive than a normal tractor & easy availability of finances & the government subsidies today is taking care of the financial barrier to certain extent
  • Since the Mini-Tractor phenomenon is relatively new, the key advantages of using it are not widely known
  • Most of the education is currently being done by the few existing users of Mini-Tractors, with the biases of their individual experiences coming into play
  • Dealers are also playing a role in educating the potential buyers, but there is a need to spread more awareness regarding its better suitability for row crop farming along with the other advantages that it offers, namely better fuel efficiency and a decent load carrying capacity

Mini-Tractors User’s Experience & Perceptions

  • Usage felt to be largely limited to farming, not as appealing from commercial viewpoint
  • The use of a Mini-Tractor is largely perceived to be limited to farming, not as appealing from a commercial point of view as is a big tractor (like majorly used for renting out for haulage or loading purposes)
“See, we cannot earn additional money from Mini-Tractor, like we can with big tractor by giving out for loading, unloading work, for transportation etc.”
  • Though the fuel efficiency and a decent speed and load carrying capacity does make it fit for covering short distances
  • Lower HP gets linked to less power & effectiveness
  • The lower HP of a Mini-Tractor is linked to lesser power– therefore seen as ineffective for carrying out heavy tasks on the farm like deep ploughing
  • Considered to be ineffective on hard and dry soil/ during summer because of the perception of lesser power
“When its 12HP, you know that this tractor will not be able to take any heavy load. So you cannot attach big implements to it”

Bullocks Vs. Mini tractor

Bullocks still hold a special place in Farmer’s household

  • Religious : Believed to be sacred
  • Part of family : Strong emotional connect
  • Emotional connect – Inability to let go : Generally bullocks are never sold off or rented out/ even post up gradation, some level of reliance remains. They form an An integral part of traditional farming. Farmer have a deep connect with them as they represent age old practice, followed by their father/ forefathers
  • Control in the hands of farmer : Bullocks Allows high involvement of the farmers which also means higher vulnerability as well.
  • But, Opportunity cost increasingly becoming higher day-by-day : Opportunity cost of non-mechanization or not adopting modern implements that can be used with a tractor, increasingly becoming higher
Tractors
  • A new age solution for their specific farming needs : Tractors holds promise, but Mini-Tractor yet to gain wider acceptance in the farming community. Mini-Tractor allows the first level of up gradation to those still operating at the basic level.
  • Mini-Tractor offers them an economical way to adopt mechanization. Thereby, overcoming the emotional barrier to some extent
  • To those who have already upgraded (big tractor owners), it offers them a customized solution for their specific needs instead of force fitting the existing solutions
  • Allows the farmer to effectively manage his farm work, with reduced involvement and efforts
Price Value Equation : Bullocks Vs Tractors

Bullocks

Mini-Tractor

Initial Investment
  • Rs. 20-60k (depending on the breed)
  • Rs. 1.75 to 2.5 lakhs (depending on the Brand & HP)
Maintenance
  • Used for 4 months, but needs to be looked after and fed for the entire year
  • One bullock requires approximately 20kg of fodder in a day (@Rs.150 per day Total Rs.54,000 p.a.)
  • Farmers generally keep around 1 bigha to 1 acre land separate for this purpose or grow crops like groundnut that gives out lot of fodder for feeding bullocks.
  • If purchased from outside, it costs Rs 120-150 per day or 60k for the entire year
  • Manpower cost – Labor charges vary from Rs. 200 to 300 per day + accommodation, etc. (approximately Rs.35,000 p.a.)
  • Medical expenses – generally a doctor is visited twice a year. Costs Rs.1000-1200 p.a.
  • 1-1.5 per litre per hour of usage (a variation of 0.25-.05 between on farm and on road fuel efficiency); considered extremely economical as compared to the big tractor
  • Repair & Maintenance – Rs.5000 p.a.
  • Manpower/Driver cost – Rs.5000 pm during the agri season (x4month in a year=Rs.20,000p.a.)
Working life
  • 12-15 years
  • 5-7 years
Resale value
  • Rs. 15-20k
  • ~75% of the new tractor
Other Benefits
  • A good source of natural manure that is useful to maintain soil fertility, which is otherwise costly to buy from outside
  • Reduced dependence on labor for multiple activities – Rs. 100-200 per day charge for hiring a labor
  • Can give out on rent – additional source of income.
Non-farming usage
  • Limited use for haulage purposes
  • Used for haulage, for covering short distances – Decent speed & load carrying capacity
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