Monday, 12 May 2014

Bihar sees Maize revolution with use of hybrid seeds

Maize is the only agricultural crop in Bihar whose productivity is higher than the national average. Bihar produces 4.11 tonne of maize from a hectare compared to the national average of about 2.5 tonne. The state has witnessed a maize revolution over past few years with the help of hybrid seeds.

In the four years ending 2012/13, Bihar's maize production rose 66 per cent to 2.83 million tonne, productivity (output from each hectare) increased 51 per cent to 4.11 tones while the area under the crop rose ten per cent to 0.68 million hectares. Hybrid seed production and field demonstrations for farmers has triggered a maize revolution in the state.

With state productivity much higher than national productivity, area under cultivation is expected to rise as the availability of good quality maize offers significant opportunities for entrepreneurs in the state. However, the level of processing in the state is presently quite insignificant. There is thus a large opportunity for maize processing units which can be set up for making a range of products. Agribusiness giant Cargill's Indian arm procures 2,00,000 to 3,00,000 tonne of maize annually from Bihar, says B K Anand, the Director and Business Head (Grains and Oilseeds Crush) for Cargill India.

The Indian unit of Cargill handles a million tonnes of the grain annually.According to the Directorate of Maize Research, a body under the Agriculture Ministry, the quality of the maize produce has improved steadily over the last few years. "Increased participation of national players and a few multinationals has led to a structural change in the maize ecosystem in Bihar," it said in a report in 2012.

Leading agri commodity exchange NCDEX has also been active in the state. NCDEX had launched maize futures contract in 2005 with Nizamabad in Andhra Pradesh as a basis centre. However, with the growing importance of Bihar as a maize producer it recently launched maize rabi futures with Gulabbagh in Bihar as a basis centre. Samir Shah, MD and CEO at NCDEX said their operations in Bihar have improved price discovery for maize farmers.

Source: Business Today

Monday, 21 April 2014

Agriculture, a new story

The writer, a Congress MP from Haryana, is contesting for a Lok Sabha seat from Rohtak.

Contrary to the popular narrative, the second green revolution is underway.
A dramatic turnaround of agriculture, India’s most important sector, has gone largely unheralded. Contrary to the popular narrative, agriculture has been transformed in the last 10 years. The second green revolution is underway. At the end of the second tenure of the UPA and after a decade of persistent work, we are witnessing record agricultural outputs for every major crop — grains, oil seeds, pulses, cotton, vegetables and sugarcane. And more importantly, we are also seeing record profitability ratios for our farmers.

Today, we are not only self-sufficient but have also made steady progress in becoming a feeder to the world. Our farmers are the unsung heroes of this untold story. Life in a village is no longer a clichéd bundle of miseries, thanks to the inclusive growth policies of successive UPA governments. Emphasis on access to credit, higher farm productivity, road connectivity, debt write-offs and remunerative prices have transformed the face of agrarian India.
In 2014 alone, agriculture is expected to grow at 4.6 per cent. Our agriculture production of foodgrains this year is expected to break the 2011-12 record of 259 million tonnes. More importantly, agricultural profitability has increased over the last decade with record increases in MSPs (minimum support prices for agricultural produce) for all covered crops. MSP increases in the past 10 years, between 2004-05 to 2014-15, vary from about 125 per cent for foodgrains such as wheat and paddy to over 200 per cent for pulses like moong dal. These numbers represent the highest rate of MSP increase for any decadal period in our history. The substantial rise in farmland prices across India is proof that the profession of farming is back in vogue.

The situation was drastically different when the UPA formed the government in June 2004. Agriculture was in crisis. A government drunk on its “India Shining” propaganda had largely ignored the sector. From 1998-2004, agriculture grew by a paltry 2.9 per cent. This low growth adversely affected the livelihoods of farmers and posed a serious threat to national food security. There was the (incorrect) perception that the agricultural sector was crumbling. Farmers were getting uprooted. Unable to service debt, some even took their own lives. For the record, farmer suicides peaked in 2004.

A decade later, a sector once described as terminally sick is now a beacon of hope. The UPA’s inclusive policies have helped the farmer achieve this remarkable success. Such a transformation could only have been achieved by the methodical work and cooperation between the agriculture minister, finance minister, prime minister and the Congress party president, who has taken passionate personal interest in supporting this cause.

According to Ashok Gulati, the outgoing chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), investment in agriculture as a percentage of the agri-GDP has risen sharply from 10-12 per cent in the early 2000s to about 20 per cent by 2011-12. About 85 per cent of this investment has come from the private sector, driven primarily by an attractive price regime and rising profitability in agriculture.

Private borrowings, often at very high interest rates, had been a bane for our farmers as the doors of the financial institutions were never really open to them. Our inclusive growth policies have led to financial institutions lending more than Rs 7,00,000 crore in 2013-14, a seven-time increase from Rs1,04,500 crore in 2004-05. The interest on short-term crop loans has been systematically reduced from a record high of about 12-14 per cent in 2004-05 to a 4 per cent average in 2014-15. Not to forget, the largest one-time farm loan waiver scheme, worth Rs 52,000 crore, was delivered by UPA 1 to bring the poorest debt-ridden farmers back into the financial system. The UPA has managed to deliver easier and more credit to a higher number of farmers at a lower rate of interest than previous governments. The down the line effect of easier credit can be seen in indicators like annual tractor sales, which now exceed more than 3.7 lakh units, up from about 2 lakh units in the early 2000s. Similarly, the usage of NPK fertiliser has increased by 50 per cent, from 18.4 million tonnes (mt) in 2004-05 to 28 mt in 2011-12.

According to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, electricity consumption in agriculture was about 88.6 gigawatt hours (gwh) in 2004-05. In 2010-11 it had increased to 129.1 gwh, an increase of 45 per cent in six years.
Public sector research institutes and state agriculture universities have developed a large number of hybrid seeds since 2004. As a result, the share of public sector seeds has actually increased vis-à-vis the private sector. Bt Cotton is a prime example of advanced technology that can substantially benefit farmers. We now produce about 3.5 crore bales of cotton, as against 1.51 crore bales in 2003-5.
Till 2004-05, the net surplus of agricultural trade did not exceed $5 billion in any year since Independence. In 2012-13 alone, our net surplus from agri-exports stood at $21 billion with $41 billion in net exports. The two major national missions, namely the National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, launched in 2007, have also shown great promise. There is a substantial increase in farmers moving towards higher value agricultural products, such as horticulture and livestock.

The benefits of the UPA’s policies have not been limited to farmers. Farm labourers have also seen a record increase in daily wages in the last decade as MGNREGA set a base wage. The real farm wage in the last six years has increased at a record annual rate of 7 per cent per annum — showcasing the successful spread of our inclusive policies.
The development of rural India is essential for inclusive growth. Only inclusive growth can create a virtuous, self-sustaining economy by building a solid foundation for the future, without which there will be no equity, social justice and stability. We have been able to unlock the economic potential of that section of our population which was trapped in poverty. The revival of agriculture was not an option but an imperative — after all, about 60 per cent of our population depended on it.

In this last decade, we have been successfully able to change the economic discourse of our nation from the NDA’s “India Shining” to the UPA’s “Bharat Nirman”. And we are hopeful that this inclusive vision of growth pursued by UPA 1 and 2 will continue to be the vision of choice for our people when they go out to vote in this election season.

Source: The Indian Express

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Shri Pawar Lauds Contribution of Scientists in Success of Major Agricultural Programmes

ICAR Releases 104 Varieties, 11835 Tonne Breeder Seed, Opens 5 Kvks, Gets ISO Certification in 2013 

Agriculture and FPI Minister, Shri Sharad Pawar, recently lauded the contribution of agricultural scientists in the success of the recently launched programmes for fast growth in foodgrain production. Talking of the rise in foodgrain production achieved by the National Food Security Mission, the BGREI and Accelerated Pulse Production Programme, the Minister said, “I feel an important factor contributing to the success of these programmes is the active involvement of scientists and the officials of development agencies, right at the level of farmer’s field.” 

Shri Pawar was addressing scientists and policy makers at the 85th Annual General Meeting of the ICAR Society. 

Elaborating further, Shri Pawar said, “The efforts of scientists in developing high yielding, input efficient, disease tolerant varieties/hybrids alongwith their widespread adoption by the farmers are visible in increasing the farm productivity, quality and quantity. In the last 10 years, our foodgrain production increased from 198 million tonnes in 2004-05 to 259 million tonnes by 2011-12, at an average of about 6 million tonnes per annum. The two major staple cereals of the country, wheat and rice, registered an increase of nearly 50 million tonnes during this period. Overall it is important to note that the foodgrain production has continuously increased despite a virtual ceiling on cultivable area of 140±2 million hectares. Today, India is among leading rice exporters in the world. A single rice variety, Pusa Basmati 1121 has earned over Rs 18,000 crores through export last year. The active participation of ICAR in the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) enabled us to screen rust resistant wheat germplasm and develop high productivity wheat variety HD 2967 with resistance to yellow rust, leaf and black rust including Ug99. India’s export of agricultural and allied products has increased from Rs. 1,78,800 crore in 2011-12 to Rs. 2,01,000 crore in 2012-13, registering a growth of nearly 11%.” 

The Minister informed that in 2013, the ICAR released 104 new improved varieties/hybrids of different field and horticultural crops with potential for higher yields. These varieties also have enhanced tolerance/resistance to various forms of stress for cultivation in diverse agro-ecological regions of the country. India is amongst the leading exporters of Basmati rice and landmark varieties such as Pusa Punjab Basmati 1509 with moderate resistance to leaf blast and brown spot diseases and HD 3059, wheat variety resistant to all three rusts, including stem rust race Ug99 and its variants are helping the farmers for enhanced production. 

The Council produced over 11,835 tonnes of breeder seeds of major food crops. 

For the first time in India, a variety ‘Swarna Vaidehi‘ of makhana has been developed and released by ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region, Patna. This variety has a production potential of 2.8–3.0 t/ha in farmers’ field, almost two fold higher than the productivity of traditional cultivars. 

On the new major research initiatives taken by ICAR with a novel approach, ie. the National Fund for Basic, Strategic and Frontier Application Research in Agriculture (NFBSFARA) and National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP), the Minister informed that the NFBSFARA awarded 25 new projects in the last year with a total budget of Rs 50 crore on subjects ranging from climate change to use of nanotechnology for agriculture and RNAi gene silencing technology. The NAIP research and development activities resulted in filing of 72 patent/intellectual property protection applications; commercialization of 82 technologies/products and piloting 51 new rural industries. A first of its kind, Agri-Tech Investors Meet was organized in that brought inventors into direct contact with industry and investors. The investors meet was able to successfully commercialize 58 technologies and earning resources for the Council. 

Among other initiatives and achievements of the agricultural research and education system in India, the Minister highlighted the National Initiative for Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA). ICAR has developed the crop contingency plans for more than 450 districts in the country which were effectively used during 2009 and 2012 droughts moderating the impacts as compared to droughts that struck the country earlier. In the year 2013, states of Uttarakhand, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh were struck by natural calamities of differential, but severe intensities. The ICAR prepared doable and location-specific action plans of agriculture and allied sectors for rehabilitation and restoration of the affected areas through technological backstopping. 

Among the major achievements in animal research, the Minister mentioned of development of a crossbred pig and a dual purpose rural poultry variety, Srinidhi. Scientists produced world’s first mithun calf by embryo transfer, test tube yak calf ‘Norgyal’, calf from cloned buffalo mother, etc. Sea cage farming with seabass and cobia added a new dimension in fisheries towards enhanced utilization of coastal production potentials. 

On a need basis, five new KVKs, two in Jammu & Kashmir, and one each in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh, have been approved, thus raising their number to 637 in the country. 

To promote agricultural education in deprived areas, ICAR has moved a bill for establishing a Central Agricultural University in Bundelkhand region. 

The Department of Agricultural Research and Education (ICAR) became one of the first departments in the Government of India to obtain IS/ISO 9001:2008 certification by implementing Quality Management System, the Minister informed. 

Source: Ministry of Agriculture

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Major Boost for Zimbabwe’s Sustainable Agricultural Development & Food Security Efforts

FAO and DFID agree on a 4-year, $48 million project on climate-smart agriculture, training, market access and inclusive financing.

The United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and FAO have agreed on a four-year initiative to support Zimbabwe's efforts to address the root causes of poverty and food insecurity, and build resilience against climate change.

The innovative new programme will enable poor vulnerable farming households to improve food security, nutrition and income while strengthening their long-term resilience.

DFID is providing a $48 million (GBP 30 million) package of funding for an FAO-managed programme to increase sustainability of agriculture, contribute to rural employment and improve nutrition - from childhood to maturity - in Zimbabwe.

The programme will reduce poverty in many parts of the country by increasing incomes of poor farming households through climate-smart farming practices that will raise agricultural productivity, along with initiatives that will improve farmer access to markets.

FAO will be responsible for the overall management of the programme, including coordination of activities, technical quality and reporting on results. The programme will seek to help nearly 300 000 people in selected districts.
What makes this arrangement unique is the type of collaboration with the resource partner, in which FAO manages a programme, sharing implementation with a great number of partners. The large amount of resources put at FAO’s disposal underlines the trust and confidence that DFID has in FAO’s ability to deliver,” said Daniel Gustafson, FAO Deputy Director-General for Operations.

More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods, but they face a wide range of challenges, including low productivity; limited market integration; low soil fertility in some regions; the impact of climate change; limited irrigation systems; a lack of smallholder-oriented credit systems; and weak agricultural training and services.

The Livelihoods and Food Security Programme will focus on poverty reduction, but also on addressing specific constraints that smallholder farmers, particularly women, face in boosting agricultural productivity and gaining full access to market systems. It will aim, among other things, at:
  • boosting short-term employment opportunities through safety-net programmes that will help women and men improve nutrition and invest in their farms;
  • improving irrigation infrastructure;
  • linking smallholder farmers with markets;
  • providing enabling environments through policy support and encouraging public and private investments; and,
  • increasing agricultural production and productivity of nutritious foods.
Making farmers resilient against climate change is one of the objectives of the programme. To strengthen food production mechanisms, it will focus on promoting appropriate climate-smart technologies and farming systems, such as greater crop diversity, improved storage, processing and preservation, crop rotations, conservation agriculture and irrigation. Resilient livestock production approaches will be promoted, covering improved feeding strategies, fodder crop production, animal husbandry and breeding practices.

Source: Food & Agriculture Organisation

Saturday, 21 December 2013

National Crop Insurance Program being Implemented from Current Rabi Season

A new central sector scheme, ‘National Crop Insurance Programme’ (NCIP) has been introduced by merging Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS), Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) and Coconut Palm Insurance Scheme (CPIS) throughout the country from Rabi 2013-14.

Administrative Approval for implementing NCIP from Rabi 2013-14 has been issued on 1st November, 2013.

NCIP has been introduced to provide financial support to the farmers for losses in their crop yield, to help in maintaining flow of agricultural credit, to encourage farmers to adopt progressive farming practices and higher technology in Agriculture and thereby, to help in maintaining production, employment & economic growth. Besides, farmers are also benefitted due to: -

·         coverage of indemnity for prevented sowing/planting risk and post harvest losses (due to cyclone in coastal areas),

·         higher level of indemnity and more proficient basis for calculation of threshold yield,

·         faster settlement of claims due to provision for making  50% advance of likely claims under MNAIS component for immediate relief to the farmers, etc.

·         To encourage the State Governments to implement the scheme at village/ village panchayat level, a provision to reimburse 50% of incremental expenses on Crop Cutting Experiments has been made in the scheme.

Unit area of insurance has been reduced to the village/village panchayat level in the restructured scheme of ‘National Crop Insurance Program’ (NCIP). 

Continued efforts are made to create awareness about crop insurance schemes by the implementing agencies in coordination with implementing states.   The salient activities under awareness campaign, involve the publicity of features & benefits of the scheme through advertisements in leading National/local News Papers, telecast through audio-visual media, distribution of pamphlets, participation in agriculture fairs / mela / gosti , organization of workshops/ trainings and SMS through Kisan Portal, etc.

Source: Ministry of Agriculture

Monday, 9 December 2013

Steps to Support Small & Marginal Farmers

As per Agriculture Census 2010-11, land holdings of less than two hectare, cultivated by small and marginal farmers (many of whom are below poverty line), constitute about 85% of total land holdings in India. Considering the importance of this segment in agriculture sector, due attention has been given to it in formulation and implementation of various schemes/programmes of the Government. Government is taking all possible steps for the welfare of the farming community and to make agriculture sector an attraction vocation. Plan outlay of Centre for Agriculture for XII Plan period has been substantially increased to Rs.1,34,746 crore as against Rs.61,527.90 crore during XI Plan period. The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has budget provision of Rs.21,609 crore for the year 2013-14. During the year 2011-12 and 2012-13, the budget provisions were Rs.17,122 crore and Rs.20208 crore, respectively. 

Important schemes/programmes being implemented for the welfare of farmers, and particularly the small and marginal ones, are Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Mission, Integrated Scheme for Farmers’ Income Security (including covering risks through insurance cover), Price Support Scheme (PSS), Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), National Horticulture Mission, Funding of Farmer Producer’s Organisations, Self Help Groups of Small & Marginal Farmers for achieving benefits of economies of scale, Augmentation of Extension Services, Crop diversification etc. Small and marginal farmers are especially encouraged to form aggregates to avail the benefits of economies of scale in sourcing the inputs and for marketing their produce. Farmers are being provided inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, farm machinery and implements etc. at subsidized rates. Farmers are also provided Institutional Credit at concessional interest rate of 4% on farm loans provided they repay their loan in time. 

Government has approved, in principle, the restructuring of the schemes/programmes into five Missions, five Centrally Sponsored Schemes and one State plan Scheme for implementation from the year 2014-15 in order to have focused approach and to avoid overlap. 

Source: Ministry of Agriculture

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Indian Pesticide Market to Reach INR 229,800 million by FY 2018

According to the report 'India Pesticides Industry Analysis to 2018,' Indian Pesticide market is projected to reach INR 229,800 million with a CAGR of 14.7% from FY 2014-FY 2018.

The Indian crop protection market is expected to witness a growth in its consumption owing to factors such as growing farmer awareness, farmers prosperity, inclining demand for organic food, increased focus on R&D, expansion of the contract farming and GDP growth.

According to the report, several factors including rising population, inflating agricultural commodity prices, favourable rain pattern, increased adoption of new technologies and growing farmer preference towards high-value and high-quality products and others are some of the factors expected to drive the industry's growth in the future.

Pesticides industry in India has been broadly segmented into six categories including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, bio-pesticides, plant growth regulators and rodenticides. Of the aforementioned, insecticides commanded the highest share of around 45% in the overall pesticides market revenue. In spite of leading the market, the segment's market share has observed a steady decline over the last few years. Followed by the insecticides, the market share of herbicides was recorded to be the second highest. Herbicide is a swiftly growing sector in the overall pesticides market. Bio-pesticide was observed another important segment has an immense potential for growth in the years ahead primarily owing to government support and increasing awareness about use of non-toxic, environment friendly pesticides in the country.

The pesticides consumption in India has been unevenly spread across various regions. While the country's northern region forms majority of the pesticides consumption, the eastern and north eastern region constitute the lowest share. Some of the major pesticides consuming states in India include Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, West Bengal, Gujarat, Kerela and Tamil Nadu. 

Indian crop protection industry is capital intensive and highly regulated industry. The industry has been mainly composed of technical grade manufacturers and formulators. The technical grade producers usually sell premium quality chemicals in the bulk to the formulators, who then prepare formulations by mixing the carriers, solvents, surface active agents and other relevant compounds. 

Source: Agropages (