What do you do in agriculture? What is the point in pursuing it? These are stupid questions that I face incessantly from people. They simply don't find it fit for study or they just can't imagine what one does in it. Ignorant, uninformed fools! The food we eat comes from agriculture. The fabrics, cotton, wool, silk, jute, we wear come from agriculture. The medicines we take have many ingredients of an agricultural origin. Our homes require timber for construction and also the furniture that is made of wood. The paper we write on comes from wood and hence is a forestry product. Sanitary pads and diapers are also made from wood. But this irritates people.
Sometime ago, I got the precise answer to this question. This answer gets people interested and it also earns me respect. Plus, they find agriculture really, really cool. Now whenever some asks me why I took up agriculture, I simply say that people will give up everything but not alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Alcohol comes from sugarcane. Cigarettes come from tobacco and Drugs especially ones like marihuana and cocaine come from poppy. All of these are thus agricultural products. In fact, India is the leading producer and exporter of tobacco in the world. Overall tobacco production in India is about 700 million kilograms yearly. Rich and diverse Indian geographic and agro-climatic circumstances promote dependable availability of extensive array of tobaccos for export throughout the year. As a matter of fact, no matter how much tobacco addicts deny it, tobacco does lead to cancer and heart disease. Most tobacco users (or abusers?) being extremely careless about their health only diagnose their health problems very late, especially cancer. Those last stages of cancer are so painful that the only thing that relieves their pain is medical cannabis or medical marihuana as conventional pain killers simply don’t work; so most tobacco users are potential marihuana customers in the future. (That is, if their doctors are bold and fearless enough to prescribe medical marihuana). India and Turkey produce opium for medicinal purposes, making poppy-based drugs, such as morphine or codeine, for domestic use or exporting raw poppy materials to other countries. The United States buys 80 percent of its medicinal opium from these two countries. In the USA, California's highest grossing cash crop is poppy, with annual sales reaching $14 billion. Vegetables, the state's second highest grossing agricultural produce, win a measly $5.7 billion. The celebrated Californian grapes rake in only $2.6 billion. Such is the demand for marihuana. To talk about the contribution of the alcohol industry to India, let’s just say that alcohol is a noteworthy provider to government revenues in numerous states. In most states this accounts for more than 10 per cent of total state tax revenues, whereas in the Punjab this goes to more than one third.
I declare with utmost confidence to anyone who asks me the point of studying agriculture that I want to work either with a cigarette company or with an alcoholic beverages manufacturer. (Well I am not really sure if I would like to work with the highly bureaucratic poppy business guys. It is very difficult in India. The licences are never ending) People find that seriously cool. Even non-smokers, teetotallers and non-drug abusers (if that is a term) look up in awe.
It is ironical how talking about food, clothing and shelter, which are indispensable for keeping our body and soul together are frowned upon whilst alcohol, cigarettes and drugs that degenerate the mind and body are venerated.
P.S.: I got interested in the alcohol, tobacco and poppy trade after a family member’s death at a young age due to cancer last year. He was a chain smoker.