1.     INTRODUCTION

            India has 56.6% of its population engaged in the field of
agricultural and allied activities (Census India 2011).  Agriculture sector contributes 17% to the country’s
Gross Value Added (GVA) (Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers
Welfare, 2017).  Even though majority of
people are employed in agriculture related activities, contribution to the GDP
by agricultural sector is only 17.4%, but higher than the world’s average of
6.1% (Central Intelligence Agency, US, 2017). 
India’s share in the global agricultural output is 7.68%, and placed
second position in the world agricultural producers’ countries list
(StatisticsTimes.com, 2017).   The contribution of agricultural sector to the
GDP has a decreasing trend, which is shown in the Fig. 1.  (Planning Commission, Government of India,
2014).

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Figure 1: Contribution to
GDP of India by economic sectors from 1951 to 2013.

            With a large percentage of population employed in the
agricultural sector and a decreasing trend in the contribution of agriculture
sector to the total GDP means that the per capita income will not show the
clear picture of the economic condition of the farmers and other people
involved in the agriculture sector.  Income
earned by farmers is very less such that they cannot even withstand a bad
period for their crops.  According to the
National Crime Records Bureau, Government of India, 9.4% of total suicide
victims (12,602 out of 1,33,623) are from farming sector in the year 2015,
which stands second to the daily wages suicide victims (17.8%).  Maharashtra is the state which has largest farmer
suicide victims (34.1%), followed by Karnataka (12.5%), Telangana (11.1%), Madhya
Pradesh (10.2%), and Chhattisgarh (7.6%) (National Crime Records Bureau,
Government of India, 2015).  This higher
rate of farmer’s suicide is attributed to bankruptcy or indebtedness and
farming related issues.  Central and
State Government have taken many steps to curb farmer’s suicides, which include
Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the crops and loan waiver.  These measures are only temporary and do not
encourage farmers to continue their profession in agriculture sector.  More and more farmers are now leaving the
farming jobs and shifting to daily wage jobs, especially in the construction
sector.  Reports of farmers destroying their
own crops are also common nowadays.  This
is due to the main fact that farmers are not getting right price for their
crops or produce.  Fresh vegetables like
tomatoes, cauliflower, coriander leaves and brinjal are used by villagers and
farmers to feed cattle, because of low price for these vegetable crops.  (Deep’s article, 2017).

            Government of India had established the Agricultural and
Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the Agricultural
and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act, passed by the
Parliament in December, 1985.  This act
came in to effect from 13th February 1986.  The authority is under Ministry of Commerce
and Industry, Government of India.  APEDA
has the responsibility of export promotion of fruits, vegetables and other
agricultural products.  It also covers
other products like dairy products, meat and meat products etc.  Since its inception APEDA has carried out
many activities in increasing the export of agricultural products and other items.  It has promoted export based production, and
for this many training programmes were also conducted to improve the production
to meet the international standards.  In
order to provide market intelligence for the Indian exporters and entrepreneurs
about the global market, an online trade portal – Agri Exchange, was started (http://agriexchange.apeda.gov.in/).  Trade leads both buy and sell are available
free of cost.  Once registered as member
in the portal, one can respond (offer or submit) to these leads and can buy or
sell items through this portal.  (Agricultural
& Processed Food Products Export Development Authority, 2015)

            Agri Exchange portal gives market access to more than 200
countries and territories.  The portal
gives statistical data related to approximately 612 products related to APEDA
and also host data related to products that do not come under the purview of
APEDA.  These statistical data are
derived from various reliable sources like UN Comtrade, Food and Agricultural
Organisation (FAO), Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and
Statistics (DGCIS).  The portal has given
its shape with a joint collaboration with United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD) and Ministry of Agriculture.  If farmers obtain a fair price for their
produce, farmers’ unrest and suicide can be reduced.  Agri Exchange portal is now utilized by the
companies and traders to import and export the various products.  If a good platform for farmers or cooperative
societies/organizations of farmers is given, they can trade their produce
through this portal.  As such the portal
will not be friendly for the farmers.  A
good negotiation support system (NSS) in the Agri Exchange for farmers will
enable farmers to directly trade through the portal.  The proposed project is aiming to build an e-negotiation
system (ENS) for farmers to execute trade directly and obtain a very good price
for their produce. 

2.     LITERATURE
REVIEW

            During 1970’s the need for a dedicated computerized
negotiation system was recognized, which paved the way for the evolution of
separate class of specialized software – Negotiation Support System (Nyhart and
Goeltner, 1987).  A negotiation support
system (NSS) should have all the capabilities of decision support system (DSS)
and also facilitate good communication between the negotiators (Lim and
Benbasat, 1992).  A negotiation support
system (NSS) can be defined as a software that implements models and
procedures, which has facilities for communication and coordination, and
designed to support two or more parties and or a third party (Lim and Benbasat,
1992; Holsapple et al., 1995).  The
internet revolution has transformed the standalone NSS to e-negotiation system
(ENS) which employed internet technologies and the systems are deployed on web
for the purpose of facilitating and / or automating activities taken by
negotiators (Bichler et al., 2003).  ENS
consists of several tools embedded in an environment or work bench which
provides the negotiators virtual space to undertake the negotiation
activities.  This virtual bargaining
table is termed as e-negotiation table (Strobel, 2003).  Software agent technologies are also used
widely in negotiation facilitation, support and automation.  Two types of such systems are commonly used –
Negotiation Software Agent (NSA) and Negotiation Agent-Assistant (NAA).  NSA is software that will act on behalf of
its human or artificial principal and will conduct the major part of the
negotiation (Kraus, 1995).  NAA is
software designed to provide human or third party negotiator support, critique
and timely and context specific advices (Chen et al., 2004).

            NSS for the farmers
should be able to provide lots of information. 
These information include demand for their products in various countries
and territories and their import tariffs. 
The price of their product is also another important data that farmers
want to know.  Some of the products like
seeds, fertilizers etc have derived demand and will depend up on the
commodities farmers will produce.  Proper
estimation of speculative demand of the products is also important for the
farmers while using the NSS.  Demand
elasticities like own-price, cross-price and income elasticities should also be
considered during negotiations.  Spatial
price relationships are other set of factors which are significant to the
agricultural products.  (Tomek and
Kaiser, 2014).

            Government of India, in the year 2003, amended the Agricultural
Produce Markets Act (APMC).  This
amendment provides the farmers with the freedom of selling their product to
direct users or any other agencies other than the regulated market.  This has evolved the idea of direct marketing
which avoids the mediation of private companies.  Studies conducted in the three states –
Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Punjab have shown that the direct marketing can be very
successful and improved the market efficiency. 
Assam and Punjab were using farmers’ societies and other organizations
in the direct marketing while in Andhra Pradesh it was directly marketed to the
consumer.  The study suggests that
serious short coming in such type of marketing is lack of training to the
farmers which has badly affected to maintain the customer relationship as well
as other aspects such as lack of infrastructural support for grading,
assessments of product quality and sorting. 
(Ghosh, 2013).  When a NSS is
developed these factors also should be considered for the success of the system
as well as gaining acceptance among the farmer community.

 

3.     NEED
FOR e-NEGOTIATION SYSTEM (ENS) IN AGRI EXCHANGE

 

The Agri Exchange portal is designed in
such a way that only traders and companies can use it properly for the trading.  The portal has many important information in
various pull down menus.  Farmers who are
not well trained won’t be able to use these menus by themselves to do a good
trading through this portal.  Agri
Exchange can use these vital information in developing a good ENS that can be
used by the farmers.  Farmers are given
the freedom for direct marketing, but to taut this benefit to the farmers,
assistance should be provided by the Government to the farmers.  Introduction of ENS in Agri Exchange would be
one of such initiative that will help farmers in executing the direct marketing
through the channel of Agri Exchange. 
ENS can be reserved for farmers and farmers’ cooperative societies/organizations.  Since India is a land with variety of
languages, for the successful ENS, language barriers of the farmers need to be
addressed.  AGMARKNET of the Ministry of
Agriculture and Farms Welfare links approximately 7000 regulated markets spread
across the country in order to collect market related information and prices
across the country (Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of
India, 2017).  This information can be
used by the Agri Exchange in the proposed ENS so that it give proper advice to
the farmers regarding whether exporting is profitable or not.

 

 

4.     PROPOSED
e-NEGOTIATION SYSTEM (ENS) IN AGRI EXCHANGE

 

A
computer-supported e-negotiation support system is more suitable for the
farmers or cooperative society using the Ari Exchange (Kersten and Lai, 2008).  Such a system will more appropriate for
farmers since they may not be well equipped with negotiations in international
market places.  Proactive system is more
suitable for the proposed e-Negotiation system, as this system is able to
access and process knowledge available in the various databases provided by the
APEDA (Kersten and Lai, 2008).  To
achieve proactive ENS, the four kinds of software (NSS, ENT, NSA and NAA) and
DSS to support individual negotiations will be using different models from
decision sciences, MS/OR an artificial intelligence.  Figure 2 shows the different software systems
in the ENS.

Figure 2: Software systems
in negotiation facilitation, support and automation

(Source: Kersten, G.E. and H.
Lai. 2008. p. 473)

 

4.1          
ARCHITECTURE

A loosely coupled federated
architecture is more suitable for the proposed ENS (Kersten and Lai,
2008).  Users of the system may be
performing some specific tasks such as translating a document and do the analysis
on financial information.  In such a
situation users may directly access the specific system in the federated system
and perform the required tasks.  This
type flexibility is not available in the traditionally tightly coupled
system.  The architecture for the
proposed ENS is shown in the Fig. 3.  The
components in the ENS can be implemented using the client-server architecture,
where client and server represent different tiers (Kersten and Lai, 2008).  In Fig. 3 three negotiators A, B and C are shown
as an example doing negotiations simultaneously.  These negotiators can be either farmers or farmers’
co-operative societies/organizations.  All
the negotiators use the client, here they are using the web browser provided by
the Agri Exchange.  Negotiators A and B are
directly communicating with the ENT and carrying out the negotiation
process.  For assisting these
negotiations the Agri-Exchange can provide the assistance to the negotiators by
way of providing a NSS.  The NSS can
provide the farmers/negotiators with important information like import tariffs,
international prices, country profiles etc. 
This can be easily achieved as APEDA is already having a huge database
of these important information and are periodically updating.  The farmers would also want details regarding
information regarding cold storage availability and logistics needed for the
shipment.  Other services like sourcing
of seeds, harvesting, storages, water treatment/ softening plant, barcode
labels and scanners, machinery services etc are also required by the farmers
for the final shipment of their products. 
Already Agri Exchange has good database for these services which can be
utilized for developing a successful ENS. 
These important services can be given in the form of NSS in the proposed
ENS.

 

 

 

                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                              

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3: Proposed ENS
Architecture

 

Negotiator B even though directly
communicating with ENT it takes help from a NAA.  NAA in the proposed system can give
assistance in the areas like other parties credibility in the trade and
process.  Thus NAA act as an analyst and
expert.  The NAA may be using big-data
analytics in establishing the credibility and other measures.  Thus negotiator B is given better service
than the other negotiator.  Negotiator C
is not directly communicating to the ENT, instead it uses the NSA to perform
the negotiation activities.  This type of
NSA is important because farmers in India may find it difficult to communicate
in English.  So NSA can act on behalf of
the farmers and do the major part of the negotiation.

 

4.2          
CONFIGURATION

In the proposed ENS the
negotiators can be farmers or organizations, a flexible configuration should be
incorporated in the ENS.  The most widely
used individual support with the use of DSS, NAA or some software tool can be
used in the proposed system.  Major
thrust will be on this type of configuration as farmers during initial
implementation period will prefer this type of configuration.  Sometimes it will be beneficial for farmers
in trading if a coalition is formed with other farmers or societies during
negotiation process.  In order establish
such coalitions, decision and negotiation support system should be provided to
a subset of negotiators.  When NSA are
involved in the negotiations, the system should be flexible enough to support
both partial and fully automated negotiation process.  Third party involvement may also be needed in
some situation where the configuration should be able to handle decentralized
negotiation process.

 

 

5.     EXPECTED
OUTCOME FROM ENS FOR AGRI EXCHANGE

 

The proposed project’s expected
outcome is to reduce the farmers’ unrest and suicide rates by introducing a new
opportunity for farmers in finding a better price for their produce.  While developing the ENS the other party
consideration should also be taken in to account, so that the process of
negotiation is truly professional.  The
success probability of the ENS can be increased if this facility is linked with
other Government initiative such as Kisan Suvidha app, APEDA farmer connect,
mkisan app etc.  These mobile apps are
already popular with the farmers. 
Farmers are already using toll free numbers provided by Kisan Call
Center (KCC) for clarifying doubts related to farming issues.  If this call center facility is also
utilized, trade link details (Buy or Sell lead) can be communicated to the
farmers rapidly.  Hence the existence of
such ENS and its benefits can be communicated to the farmers.  Building confidence among the farmers will be
a major issue in the success of ENS.  For
this training program among farmers should be carried out.  High production of the agriculture production
is due to the hard work of farmers and availability of natural resources.   Government has to take necessary measures so
that farmers efforts are not in vein.  The
ENS for Agri Exchange will be one of such measures that will ensure farmers get
fair price for their produce.  It will
not be able completely solve the problem of increasing rate of suicide among
farmers, but it can be one of the ways of reducing this rate.  There are other factors also which are the
causes for farmers suicide.  These issues
have to be addressed separately.