Agri News
Agri News
18, April 2018
Financial Chronicle, Mumbai
Agri-input stocks rise ahead of monsoon forecast

Agri-input stocks gained ahead of the Indian Meteorological Department’s first long-range forecast for South West Monsoon. The IMD has forecast a normal monsoon for the third year in a row. Stocks of fertilisers, pesticides, seed and farm equipment firms gained on the forecast, coming after private agency Skymet’s forecast recently of a normal monsoon. Most agri-input stocks saw a sharp rise in second half trading as the market anticipated a positive rain forecast by the IMD. Gainers among the fertilisers stocks were Tata Chemicals (1.43 per cent), Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilisers (1.10 per cent), Deepak Fertilisers (3.97 per cent), Coromandel International (0.81 per cent) and GSFC (0.47 per cent). Among the agri-chemicals, the gainers were Rallis India (0.52 per cent), Bayer Cropscience (2.44 per cent) and Insecticides India (0.43 per cent). Seed companies Monsanto India (0.24 per cent) and Kaveri Seed Company(1.70 per cent) also clokced gains. Among farm equipment firms, Jain Irrigation (2.83 per cent), Shakti Pumps (1.73 per cent) and M&M (1.66 per cent) gained.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre to distribute millets via PDS

The Central government has decided to distribute millets such as jowar and bajra through the public distribution system (PDS) to improve nutrition security of the poor, according to an official order. Under the Food Law, the government sells via PDS outlets wheat and riceat highly subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg to 81 crore beneficiaries. “A committee constituted by the central government for examination of inclusion of millets in the PDS for improving nutritional support has recommended inclusion of millets across the country and the same has been accepted by the central government,” said a notification issued by the Agriculture Ministry. The government also declared some millets, which have high nutritive value, ‘Nutri-Cereals’ for production, consumption and trade point of view, it said. These millets include sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), finger millet (ragi/mandua), minor millets such as foxtail millet (kangani/kakun), proso millet (cheena), kodo millet, barnyard millet (sawa/sanwa/jhangora), little millet (kutki) and two pseudo millets (Black-wheat (kuttu) and Ameranthus (chaulai). According to the Ministry, millets hold great potential in contributing substantially to food and nutritional security of the country and thus they are not only a powerhouse of nutrients, but also are climate-resilient crops and possess unique nutritional characteristics. The recent research findings also show that millets contain anti-diabetic properties and millet-based food have low glycemic index (GI) and reduces the postprandial blood glucose level and glycosylated haemoglobin, the Ministry added.

The Hindu, Panaji
Centre to help Goa turn agricultural hub

Commerce Secretary Rita A. Teaotia said the Union Commerce Ministry would support Goa government’s policy to develop the State as a ‘agriculture hub’. Ms. Teaotia was chairing an open house meet of over 100 exporters along with a team of senior officials. She held consultations with exporters and officials of the State government regarding measures to be taken to boost exports from the State. The grievances of exporters were also addressed at the meeting. Issues such as GST refund, export strategy for goods, agro products, services, logistics, and quality of products were dealt with. “Nearly 10% of the country’s pharmaceutical products are exported from Goa. The State is also doing well in the service sector,” said Ms. Teaotia. The provisions of foreign trade policy, export-related infrastructure, transaction costs were also discussed during the meeting.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Cooking oil imports up 10% in FY'18

India's cooking oil imports rose about 10 per cent to 15.57 million tonne (MT) in 2017-18 on higher palm oil shipments, industry body Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) said. The world's largest vegetable oil buyer had imported 14.21 MT during 2016-17 financial year, it said. According to SEA data, while the import of edible oils stood at 15.1 MT in 2017-18, non-edible oils took a share of 3,92,115 tonne. Over 60 per cent of the total cooking oil imports comprises palm oils, whose inbound shipment has grown after Malaysia withdrew the export duty. However, the government has tried to curb import of palm oils by raising in March customs duty on crude palm oil (CPO) to 44 per cent from 30 per cent and RBD palm oils to 54 per cent from 40 per cent to protect domestic growers. "This increase in duty is a welcome step. Yet, the government has missed the opportunity to provide a 20 per cent duty difference between crude and refined oils as requested by the Association to encourage domestic refining industry and promote 'Make in India," SEA said. As on April 1, total edible oils stock at ports and in pipelines is estimated at 2.11 MT, higher than the monthly requirement of 1.9 MT. India imports palm oil mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, and a small quantity of crude soft oil, including soyabean oil from Latin America. Sunflower oil is imported from Ukraine and Russia.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Financial help plan: HC notice to Telangana govt on farmer’s plea

The High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad has issued notice to the Telangana government on a plea by a farmer challenging the government denying tenant farmers access to a new financial assistance scheme. The Rythu Bandhu, which is being implemented this month, provides an investment support of Rs 4,000 an acre in rabi and kharif seasons. The petitioner questioned the guidelines which exclude tenant farmers, who form a significant number. “The court asked the government to submit its response within a week and posted the matter for April 23,” Rythu Swarajya Vedika, a non-governmental organisation, said in a statement. “The landless tenant farmer from Karimnagar district has been cultivating four acres of land on lease for the past several years. Since he doesn’t have any other land, he is solely dependent on this leased land for livelihood,” it said. He used to have a Loan Eligibility Card for 2015-16 but was not issued one in the subsequent years, which denied him loans from institutional sources. With the the Rythu Bandhu scheme out of his reach, he could be snared in a debt trap, he felt.

Business Line, Coonoor
Green tea scales new highs at Coonoor auctions

Two new price records, all-time high for entire South Indian auctions, were created at Sale No: 15 of Coonoor Tea Trade Association auctions. “Avataa Green tea fetched an all-time high price in South India when Golden Tips Tea Co., bought it for Rs 2,401 a kg,” Ravichandran Broos, General Manager, Paramount Tea Marketing, who auctioned the tea told. “By virtue of this, Avataa has broken its own record of Rs 2,086 a kg which it created last year,” he noted. The price record of Rs 2,401 is the highest price fetched by any tea in any auction in any year in any centre anywhere in South India. “We are happy over this new record because we manufactured it based on high demand from discerning consumers and tea connoisseurs for this grade. It had fetched Golden Leaf India award for three years,” Avataa Director G Udayakumar said. “This tea is known for its exotic winter characteristics leaving bright yellow liquor and soothing after-taste with favourable flavour. That is why it was able to create a price record,” he explained. The other price record was created by Vigneshwar Estate Tea Factory, a bought-leaf factory in the small hamlet of Aravenu, also auctioned by Paramount Tea Marketing. “Vigneshwar Broken Pekoe grade was bought by Vora Sons at Rs 322 a kg. This is a new peak for any CTC grade ever sold in South India,” Broos said.“For the past few years, this tea has been winning Golden Leaf India award in the entire Nilgiris category beating even entries from corporates,” Ramesh Bhojarajan, Managing Partner of Vigneshwar Factory, said. “This is the highest ever price we have realised for any of our teas since manufacturing started in our factory 30 years ago”, he disclosed.

Business Line, New Delhi
Up & down: Even as pulses exports rise 18% in April-February period...

Exports of pulses are beginning to look up after the Centre removed curbs on overseas shipments last November, after almost a decade. However, the pulses trade feels that Indian exporters may have to work hard to regain lost markets amidst a global surplus. Pulses shipments rose 18 per cent in volume during the April-February 2017-18 period at around 1.34 lakh tonnes against the corresponding previous year’s 1.13 lakh tonnes, per provisional data released by the Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA). In value terms, shipments for the period were up 15 per cent at $183 million against $158 million in the corresponding period last year. The export volumes are very low compared to the estimated production of 23.95 million tonnes. “A beginning (for exports) has been made. There has been some demand coming in from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,” said Suresh Agrawal, President, All India Dal Mills Association. Pulses such as chana dal and moong dal are being shipped, apart from kabuli chana, he said. However, exports are unlikely to help stabilise domestic prices in the near term as there is surplus supply in both domestic and international markets, Agrawal said. Bimal Kothari, Vice Chairman, Indian Pulses and Grains Association, said the government has allowed exports of all the pulses freely. However, that has not opened doors for Indian pulses overseas as they have been replaced in markets such as West Asia and Africa, due to the decade-long ban on pulses exports. Also, due to the higher minimum support price (MSP), Indian pulses are non-competitive in the international market. While the pigeon pea or tur from Myanmar is quoted at $300 per tonne, the Indian tur is quoted at $800 per tonne.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Wheat purchase by FCI set to stay below 20 per cent

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is likely to purchase less than 20 per cent of the total arrivals in Punjab during the ongoing wheat procurement season. Of a total wheat production of 166 lakh metric tonnes (LMT), 130 LMT is expected to arrive in various mandis of Punjab. The various state government procurement agencies and FCI are targeting to procure 119 LMT of wheat, most of which will be done by April-end. Officials in the FCI say though they have been given a target to procure 24 LMT of wheat this year, their own procurement will be much less. The agency is mandated to procure 20 per cent of the total arrivals, but over the past few years its maximum wheat procurement has been 15 per cent. “Since the past few years, wheat procurement is handled mainly by the state government agencies. Presently, our focus is on accepting the custom-milled rice from state government agencies and on moving the foodgrain stocks from Punjab to the recipient states,” a senior officer in the FCI, Punjab office told. The movement of foodgrains from Punjab to the recipient states has remained slow for the past one year. As a result, much less storage space is available to accommodate the new wheat arrivals for this year. It is learnt that Punjab has 26 lakh tonne wheat of the previous season and 90 lakh tonne rice, while the FCI is waiting to get 14 lakh tonne of custom-milled rice from the rice shellers. The covered storage space available is just 35 LMT. Wheat is generally stored in covered stores and thus the FCI is focusing on making this space available.

The Hindu, Nagpur
Yavatmal farmers pen their woes

Farmers in Yavatmal have started a month-long campaign to write over two lakh letters to the Maharashtra Governor and the President of India highlighting the apathy of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards their demands. The first letter was written and posted on April 14 by Jayashri Chayare, the eldest daughter of Shankar Chayare who killed himself by consuming poison on April 10 in Rajurwadi village in Yavatmal. In his suicide note, Chayare blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his death. For three days, his family members refused to accept his body and demanded that the Chief Minister visit them and hand over adequate compensation. Shetkari Nyay Hakka Samiti (Farmers’ Committee for Justice), headed by Congress leader Dewanand Pawar, is spearheading the campaign. Mr. Pawar said, “This is not the first case of a farmer in Yavatmal blaming the Prime Minister’s for his death in the suicide note. However, the government remains insensitive to the problems farmers are grappling with.” Mr. Pawar said the campaign was started after the Chief Minister refused to meet the bereaved family when he visited Yavatmal. He said, “We are sending letters to the Governor and the President to draw their attention to the woes of farmers and highlight the insensitive attitude of the Chief Minister and PM Modi.” Mr. Pawar said the family members of all farmers who had committed suicide in the district in the past few years were participating in the campaign. Jayashri, who wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, said, “My father took his life owing to rising debt burden and continued crop failure in the last few seasons. He was worried about my wedding and the education of my brother and sisters.” Jayashri said her father in his suicide note had clearly mentioned the ‘anti-farmer’ policies of the Modi government had forced him to commit suicide.

17, April 2018
Business Standard, New Delhi
Monsoon 2018 forecast: Relief for farmers as IMD predicts normal rainfall

The 2018 southwest monsoon is expected to be ‘normal’, brightening chances of recovery in the farm sector, which has seen fluctuating growth rates in the recent past. Monsoon rains were a tad below normal the previous year, though the weather department had projected those to be normal. Releasing its first forecast for southwest monsoon, India Meteorological Department (IMD) said rainfall in June-September was projected at 97 per cent of the long period average (LPA), with a model error of plus and minus 5 per cent. The LPA is average rain across the country from 1951 to 2000, estimated to be 89 cm. The monsoon is considered normal at 96-104 per cent of the LPA. A normal monsoon will not only aid growth in the agricultural sector but could also have a positive impact on the rural economy ahead of crucial state elections, followed by the general election in 2019. “El Niño, generally associated with low rainfall, is expected to be weak during the start of the monsoon season in June. The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), another critical factor influencing the monsoon, is also projected to be weak but will occur only at the later stages. Also, most global monsoon models are predicting ‘normal’ rainfall for India this year,” said IMD Director-General K J Ramesh. He said there was a 42 per cent chance of rainfall being normal this year, and a 30 per cent probability of it being below normal. The IMD will update its forecast in June, when it issues region-wise forecasts. Officials said the preliminary indications were that rainfall could be fairly distributed across most parts of the country, barring south and northeast India. The IMD also said there was ‘low probability’ of rainfall being deficient this season. Encouraged by the forecast, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said foodgrain production might surpass this year’s estimated record high of 277.49 million tonnes (mt).

The Economic Times, New Delhi
World Bank forecasts 7.3 pc growth for India this year

The World Bank forecast a growth rate of 7.3 per cent for India this year and 7.5 per cent for 2019 and 2020, and noted that the country's economy has recovered from the effects of demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax. "Growth is expected to accelerate from 6.7 in 2017 to 7.3 per cent in 2018 and to subsequently stabilise supported by a sustained recovery in private investment and private consumption," the World Bank said in its twice-a-year South Asia Economic Focus. In its report the World Bank said, India should strive to accelerate investments and exports to take advantage of the recovery in global growth. "Every month, the work force increases by 1.3 million people and India must create 8.1 million jobs a year to maintain its employment rate, which has been declining based on employment data analysed from 2005 to 2015, largely due to women leaving the job market," the bank said. In the India section of the report, the bank acknowledged that disruptions from demonetisation and events surrounding the implementation of GST led to a setback in economic activity and a potentially larger negative effect on the poor and vulnerable. Looking ahead, return to business as usual and subsequent rebalancing of growth drivers towards investment could support acceleration of GDP growth to 7.4 per cent by FY 2019, it said. As in the past, sustained growth is expected to translate to continued poverty reduction, albeit with heightened uncertainty because of the effects on the informal economy, it said.

The Times of India, Chandigarh
Only state govts can enact law regarding taxation on agriculture income, Centre to HC

Responding to a petition seeking directions to exclude rich and affluent farmers from the benefit of income tax exemption, the central government has clarified that tax on agricultural income falls under purview of state governments and only state governments are competent to enact any law imposing tax on agriculture income. In its detailed reply, filed by central government through Vivek Vardhan, deputy commissioner of Income Tax, it has been stated that item “Taxes on agricultural income” falls under Entry 46 in “State List” under the Constitution, and hence only the state governments are competent to enact legislations imposing a tax on agricultural income. Therefore, taxation of agricultural income, if any, has to be considered by the state governments only. Affidavit further stated that as regards the recommendations of Tax Administration Reforms Commission, in its third report, the tax on agricultural income can be imposed by central government only if the states pass a resolution under article 252 of the Constitution, authorizing the Centre to impose such tax on agricultural income. It is further stated that as per scheme of direct taxes at present, income of agriculture is utilized for rate of tax purpose only in cases where the income from other sources exceeds the income not chargeable to tax, and net agricultural income exceeds five thousand rupees. These submissions by Centre were submitted before a division bench headed by Justice A K Mittal during the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate H C Arora. According to the petitioner, the provision contained in Section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, providing total exemption of agricultural income from Income tax is highly arbitrary, as even the rich and affluent farmers have been given benefit of this provision. He alleged that big industrialists, transporters, liquor barons are taking benefit of this provision and causing huge loss to revenue.

The Tribune, Mumbai
M’rashtra loan waiver scheme in doldrums

Nearly a year after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis led government announced it’s much hyped farm loan waiver scheme, the state could waive less than half the total agricultural loans amounting to Rs 34,000 crore. The government extended the last date for farmers to submit their applications for loan waiver till May 1. According to the data available, only Rs 14,388 crores has been disbursed to 46.52 lakh farmers till March 31. Around 89 lakh farmers were eligible for loan waiver. The farmers were required to apply online at their respective district headquarters and officials were hired to assist in filing the applications. However, the entire process remained slow and numerous farmers’ groups complained about eligible applicants being left out. Officials say, farmers applying for farm loan waiver under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana (CSMSSY) won’t be directly given the funds. Instead the funds would be transferred to financial institutions from where they had availed loans. This would allow farmers to borrow afresh from banks without submitting additional collateral. The slow progress of farm loan waiver has heightened agrarian distress in rural Maharashtra. “I am committing suicide because of the loans and the Narendra Modi government is responsible for my suicide,” read a suicide note of a farmer named Shankar Bhaurao Chawre. He was under debt of nearly Rs 4 lakh. Chawre had lost his cotton crop to a bollworm attack. However, his farm loan was not waived off and the banks continued to levy interest.

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Punjab allows transport of foodgrains on tractors

The Punjab government’s decision to allow transport of foodgrains and other produce from market yards on tractor-trolleys has not gone down well with the truck operators in the State. Dismissing the allegation of cartelisation against them, the truck operators say the decision will badly affect their business and will not serve the long-term interest of farmers or transporters. “Our business is already reeling under the new policy framed by the government. The government has put a cap of 120% on basic rates for transporting wheat this year, which is unreasonable. They [government] assured us recently that our demands will be considered sympathetically next year. But now, this latest move will only add to our losses in the ongoing procurement season,” Happy Sandhu, president of Punjab’s truck union, said. Mr. Sandhu denied that truck operators were working as a cartel to exploit farmers. Following Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s approval for the use of tractor-trolleys, the Transport Department is all set to notify the guidelines and procedure for grant of permit-licence to them. “The decision has been taken to prevent any attempt by transporters to engage in cartelisation in the ongoing Rabi season,” an official spokesperson said. The department has decided to authorise Regional Transport authorities in the sub-divisions where their offices are located and SDO (Civil)-cum-SDM in the rest of the sub-divisions to grant permit to tractor-trolleys for the limited purpose of carriage of foodgrains, from any Mandi yard-purchase centre to a delivery point not farther than 25 km. Of this, a maximum of 12 km can be on a State or national highway, which shall be mentioned on the permit.

The Tribune, Sangrur
Truckers oppose ‘illegal’ lifting of wheat

Alleging attempts to start “illegal” lifting of wheat by officers from the Ubhiya purchase centre as the contractor who sent the trucks did not have the allotment letter of tender for wheat lifting, truckers from Dirba Truckers Association (DTA) prevented the same. Sangrur District Food and Civil Supply Controller (DFSC) Jaspreet Kahlon did not give any satisfactory reply when asked whether the contractor, who tried to start lifting from Ubhiya, had the tender letter. When some trucks reached Ubhiya from Sunam and Longowal areas, truckers from the DTA also reached there and asked the employees who accompanied the trucks of the contractor to show the tender allotment letter. However, they failed to do so and went back with their trucks after having arguments with DTA members. “All trucks sent by the contractor had the permit of private carrier, which allows their use only for rice mills and not a single truck had public carrier permit to lift wheat from grain markets. The administration has not issued the letter as yet and officers want to start illegal wheat lifting,” said Ajay Singla, member, DTA management committee. Singla, after a meeting with truckers, alleged that officers concerned had formed a nexus with some area rice millers and wanted to pocket “commission” by starting illegal lifting through private carrier trucks. Truckers requested the Chief Minister to look into the matter and demanded action against erring officers. Though the Sangrur DFSC is responsible for making all lifting arrangements, he was “unaware” about the letter. He said, “I am not aware if the tender allotment letter for wheat lifting in Dirba has been issued. Let me check,” said DFSC Kahlon. However later, he did not take any calls on his mobile.

The Tribune, Faridabad
Late payment, tardy lifting worry farmers

Around 4.26 lakh metric tonne wheat has so far arrived in the grain markets at Faridabad and Palwal. However, tardy procurement and poor lifting of wheat remains a major cause of concern here. “I am yet to receive payment for 100 quintal wheat sold at the mandi in Mohna,” claimed Sanjiv Kumar of Dayalpur village. He said it may take a weak as the commission agent had no money at present. Amar Singh of Mohna village claimed he was yet to receive Rs 50,000 from a commission agent, which would be paid once the procurement agency clears the dues. Sunil Bisla, a progressive farmer, rued small farmers were heavily dependent on commission agents, adding the move to make direct payment to the farmers won’t be easy to implement. Slow lifting of wheat is a major cause of concern as the procured stock has not been lifted for the past 5-7 days. Jagbir, an agent at Tigaon mandi, said the commission agents would have bear the loss, if the wheat got wet due to rain after the purchase. Sukhbir Singh, an agent at Mohna mandi, said shortage of gunny bags for stocking the produce was another problem. An official said no senior officer had visited the mandi even though the total wheat arrival had crossed one lakh quintal. At Ballabgarh, farmers claimed that procurement had been stopped. “I am forced to take back 200 quintal wheat, which I brought here. The officials told me that purchase had been stopped as the procurement target for the season had been achieved,” said Dayanand, a farmer of Jawan village. On the contrary, KK Goyal, District Food and Supplies Controller (DFSC) claimed the procurement was under way and there was no need to panic.

15, April 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
Farm distress: direct income support ‘less distortionary’, says ICRIER study

Giving direct income support (DIS) to farmers — similar to what Telangana recently launched — may be a better option than the price deficiency payment (PDP) scheme or higher minimum support price (MSP) to address farm distress, according to a new study. Paying higher MSP based on cost-plus pricing would lead to market distortion. PDP schemes such as Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), which was in force in Madhya Pradesh till March 2018, had only a limited impact as it covered less than a quarter of the produce, said a working paper authored by noted agricultural economist Ashok Gulati and his colleagues at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER). DIS is easier to implement, more transparent, equitable and crop-neutral. China also implements a sort of DIS, which it calls comprehensive input subsidy scheme that gives an aggregate input support to the farmer on a per acre basis, said the authors. They tabulated that if it is implemented across the country at Rs 10,000 per ha, the total funds required could be in the range of Rs 1.97 lakh crore. But the bill could come down significantly if the scheme were to exclude farmers whose wheat and rice are procured by government agencies; sugarcane growers who are paid by sugar mills and those farmers growing non-MSP crops. “The BBY scheme in MP could benefit only 23 per cent of production casting a shadow on how it will benefit majority of farmers if it is scaled up to all-India level,” the authors said. Besides, the scheme was prone to manipulation by traders and lower level mandi functionaries, and may end up helping them more than the farmers, they said. They were not in favour of higher MSPs which are based on cost plus pricing as they distort market seriously.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Farmers chalking out stir to corner govt

ven as the BJP-led NDA government is fire-fighting to address distress in agriculture sector, farmers organisations are chalking out agitation programmes, including collection of 10 crore signatures and a jail bharo, to coincide with Quit India Day. Farmers bodies have decided not to let off steam after bringing the government on the backfoot following the ‘Long March’ protest in Maharashtra and want to put pressure to enact farmer-friendly measures. The maiden protest by All India Kisan Sabha affiliates will be a signature campaign from May to urge the government to waive farm loans.

Business Line, Kochi
Kerala farmers plan conclave to thrash out pricing issue

Taking a cue from the Kisan Long March farmers’ rally in Mumbai, the Kerala Farmers Federation (KeFF) is planning a similar event. Joshy Joseph Maniparambil, General Secretary, KeFF, said the federation is organising a farmers’ conclave in Kochi on April 18 to raise various demands including fixation of minimum support price for all farm produce or sustainable pricing independent of treaties entered into at various government levels. Around 3,000 delegates from 14 districts across Kerala along with other farmer organisations from other States are expected to participate in the event. Koraput Farmers Association (Odisha), Federation of All India Farmers Association (Andhra Pradesh), Young Farmers Association (Punjab), Karnataka Rubber Producers Association, Consortioum of Pepper Association (Karnataka), Association of Planters of Kerala, Upasi, Banana Growers Association (Dindigul, Tamil Nadu), Kanyakumari District Rubber Small Growers Association, Cardamom Growers Association (Cumbum, Tamil Nadu) are some of the organisations attending the event. Joshy emphasised the need for educating farmers on trade agreements and lobby for conditions that enable local enhancements and oppose, if necessary clauses and conditions which are detrimental to farmers. KeFF also raised a charter of demands that included writing off farmers debt; implementation of fair value for agriculture produces as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission; introduction of farmers insurance along with crop insurance; correction of transnational agreement that affect plantation crops.

Business Line, Kottayam
Kochi to host India Rubber Meet in August

The Rubber Board and the stakeholder associations are jointly organising the India Rubber Meet 2018 (IRM 2018), the fourth edition in the series in Kochi on August 30 and 31. The meet will have representation from all segments of the rubber industry. IRM is a regular forum for interaction, networking and exchange of information. The theme of IRM 2018 is ‘Towards a sustainable rubber value chain’. The discussions will focus on topics related to the rubber scenario, present trends, challenges and strategic planning for sustainability and advancement. There will be invited talks by internationally renowned speakers. There will also be panel discussions involving experts and key stakeholders from different segments of the rubber industry. A national level organising committee under the chairmanship of MK Shanmuga Sundaram, Chairman and Executive Director, Rubber Board, with representation of all segments of rubber industry, will organise the event. IRM 2018 is targeted to attract around 700 delegates from India and abroad.

Business Line, Chennai
Sugar industry renews demand for subsidy support from Centre

The sugar industry is reiterating its demand to the Centre for production subsidy to sustain sugarcane payments to farmers and to support exports. The industry is hoping the Centre repeats the kind of support it had extended in 2015-16 anticipating a glut. The government had then come out with a factory-wise Minimum Indicative Export Quota in September 2015 and in December a production subsidy of about Rs 450 a tonne of cane to support sugarcane payments. Under the present circumstance, a repeat is needed in terms of export and sugarcane payment support. This has to be well on time for the industry and farmers to plan. In the current 2017-18 (October – September) season, surplus sugar production is pegged at over 300 lakh tonnes (lt) and in the coming season also the industry is expected to see a repeat performance, possibly even a slightly higher output. Against a domestic consumption of about 250 lt, a surplus of about 50 lt is expected in the current season and an equal amount in the coming season. According to industry sources, sugar prices have dropped to about Rs 27-28 a kg against the cost of production of about Rs 36. This means at ex-factory level sugar mills are losing about Rs 8/kg. Meanwhile, exporters are offering just about Rs 19 a kg (Rs 22 on FOB basis), according to an Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) representative. Mills will actually lose about Rs 17-18 over cost of production and about Rs 10-11 in terms of ex-mill price. The situation is desperate for mills which are facing a September 30 deadline for export of over 2 million tonnes of sugar. Mills will simply not be able to bear this kind of losses on exports, pointed out an industry representative.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Govt raises Nabard's authorised capital by six-times to Rs 30k cr

As part of the drive to double income of farmers by 2022, the government has raised the authorised capital of Nabard by six times to Rs 30,000 crore to help it increase its lending to the rural economy. "... the Central Government hereby increases the capital of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development from five thousand crores of rupees to thirty thousand crore rupees," said a April 10 notification of the finance ministry. A bill in this regard was approved by Parliament earlier this year. The increase in authorised capital will enable Nabard to respond to commitments it has undertaken, particularly in respect of the Long Term Irrigation Fund and on-lending to cooperative banks. Further, it will help Nabard (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) to augment its business and enhance its activities, thus facilitating promotion of integrated rural development and securing prosperity of rural areas, including generation of more employment. Nabard was set up in 1982 to promote sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural development through participative financial and non-financial interventions, innovations, technology and institutional development for securing prosperity. The development finance institution also aims to increase its long-term on-lending or refinance portfolio to about Rs 80,000 crore in the current fiscal as part of its effort to improve the rural economy. The institution's on-lending in 2017-18 was Rs 65,000 crore. The government in the Budget had enhanced the corpus of the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIFD) to Rs 28,000 crore with an overall objective of doubling farmers income by 2022. Nabard is the main agency for implementing RIFD scheme. It has also been for implementing several key funds such as Long Term Irrigation Fund (LITF), Minor Irrigation Fund (MIF), Agriculture Marketing Fund, Fund for rural housing (PMAY-G), and Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund (DIDF), for supporting rural sector.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
India needs robust exports, investment to achieve 8% growth: ADB Economist

India can achieve over 8 per cent growth rate in a sustained manner if it takes steps to revive investments and make exports competitive, said ADB Economist Abhijit Sen Gupta. Efforts will also have to be made to streamline agriculture marketing and improve supply chain, he said, adding that this is the area where there is scope for more reforms. "Right now, the investment and exports drivers are really not firing... Once those two engines fire up India can sustainably grow at 8 per cent," Sen Gupta told . In its Asian Development Outlook, 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects India's growth to pick up to 7.3 per cent in current fiscal and accelerate further to 7.6 per cent in the next financial year. Referring to exports, Sen Gupta said India is still a "marginal player" in global trade and there is a lot of potential to increase exports. As Chinese exports are becoming expensive because of rising wages, India can reap benefits by improving competitiveness. "We need to improve our Ease of Doing Business and state of infra to benefit from trade and be better integrated into the value chain," Sen Gupta, Economist at the ADB India mission, said. On whether India can achieve double digit growth, he said: "it is not totally unfeasible. But, I dont know if you can do that over a longer term period given the state of infrastructure and regulatory policies. Lot more reforms would probably be needed for that". Referring to investments, he said credit to infrastructure and industry is picking up, which is a positive sign. "But clearly a lot more needs to be done if the investment has to pick up," he added. Elaborating on the reform scope in farm sector, Sen Gupta said the government could revamp the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act and streamline the farm supply chain for free movement of goods. "We have to see that the APMC act is more regulated and more state follow it," he said.

The Times of India, Gandhinagar
Smriti Irani launches GNFC Neem Project in Uttar Pradesh

Smriti Irani, Union Cabinet Minister for Textile, Information & Broadcasting, Government of India launched the Uttar Pradesh Neem Project at Kathaura –Jagdishpur, District Amethi Uttar Pradesh initiated by the Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers & Chemicals Limited (GNFC). Addressing a large audience of rural women and farmers on this occasion, Irani appreciated GNFC’s efforts for implementing Neem project in many states across the country. She acknowledged that this Neem Project has generated additional income to lacs of rural poor, especially women. She lauded the efforts of Rajiv Kumar Gupta IAS, MD GNFC for expanding Neem Project in other states and generating employment to lacs of women. Considering large population of Neem trees in Uttar Pradesh, this project will generate significant additional income to rural women and will go a long way. This will be a significant step towards fulfilling Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of Neem coated urea in the interest of millions of farmers of the country, she said. Surya Pratap Shahi, Minister of Agriculture, Agri Education & Research, UP, also graced the occasion. He appreciated GNFC for implementing Neem Project in Uttar Pradesh for generating additional employment for women and thereby empowering them. This project has been appreciated by the Prime Minister & many other dignitaries nationally & internationally. Department of Fertilizers, GOI has issued an advisory to all fertilizer units to replicate GNFC Neem project in other states.

12, April 2018
The Tribune, Mansa
Admn accepts demands, farm unions end protest

The Punjab government finally buckled under the pressure mounted by seven farmers’ unions and agreed to all the demands of the protesting farmers. Following the compromise, the farmers ended their stir and announced that the last rites of the deceased farmers would be conducted in their respective villages after the post-mortem examination. Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Ugraha) state president Joginder Singh stated that on April 3, Surjit Singh of Khiva Kalan and Ajmer Singh of Kahangarh had lost their lives in a road accident on their way back from Chandigarh where they had gone to participate in an agitation. Two days back, the farmers had turned down the compensation of Rs 5 lakh. Then, Monday night’s meeting remained inconclusive. A meeting was convened on Tuesday by DC Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal in the presence of SSP Parambir Singh Parmar and other officials. Following a nod from the Mansa Deputy Commissioner, cheques of Rs 10 lakh each were given to the kin of the deceased. The families were also assured that cases for government jobs to a member of both the families would be sent to the government for approval and that the procedure for complete debt waiver of the affected families would also be initiated. Apart from bearing the cost of treatment of the injured farmers, the government will also give compensation of Rs 1 lakh to the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 each to the farmers who sustained minor injuries. Raising victory slogans, the farmers ended their five-day-long protest outside the District Administrative Complex. But they announced that in case, the government fails to fulfil the promises, the farmers would be back on the protest path.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Apeda eyes new markets to promote mango exports

After tapping the South Korean market last year, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) is eyeing newer destinations such as Iran, Kazakhstan and China for promoting mango exports in the coming season. Apeda has proposed to organise promotional events in these new markets and also in South Korea during May, said its Chairman DK Singh. “The idea is to carry-out wet sampling in these countries so that the consumers can have a taste of the Indian mangoes,” he said. Among the markets that Apeda is targeting, Iran has the brightest prospects, said Singh. “There is a liking for the Indian mangoes in Iran,” he said. Further, Singh said, Kazakhstan, which is a short haul from Delhi, has the potential to emerge as a gateway for tapping the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). With regard to prospects in China, Singh said that though the neighbouring country had granted market access to the Indian mangoes way back in 2007, shipments have not taken off for various reasons. While a couple of exporters have tried shipping mangoes to China, the quantity has not scaled up, Singh said, while adding that “the barrier has to be broken”. India’s exports to China last year stood at a mere 1.64 tonnes. China is among the large importer of mangoes, where the fruits from Malayasia and Thailand have captured the market. Last season, India shipped out 46,562 tonnes of mangoes valued at Rs 346.34 crore, statistics for the April-December 2017-18 period point out. Shipments to West Asian countries — the largest market for Indian mangoes — stood at 30,985 tonnes valued at Rs 233 crore during the year. In 2016-17, exports had touched a high of 52,761 tonnes valued at Rs 443.66 crore.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Cash Credit Limit: RBI clears Rs 18,124 cr for wheat purchase

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cleared a sum of Rs 18,124.85 crore towards the Cash Credit Limit (CCL) for Punjab for the purchase of wheat in the ongoing rabi marketing season (RMS). With this, the bulk of the total CCL of Rs 21,179.60 crore sought by the state government for the purchase of 130 lakh tonne of wheat in this season has been released. An official press note said the RBI clearance followed persistent personal efforts of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who had been pursuing the matter with the Central government for the past several days. A spokesperson for the state government pointed out that the Chief Minister’s personal intervention in the 2017 rabi season had led to the RBI enhancing the CCL for the state to Rs 20,683 crore from the previously sanctioned amount of Rs 17,994.21 crore. The release of the CCL would facilitate the state government in making timely payments to the farmers for the purchases made from them in the current season, which started on April 1 and will culminate on May 31, said the spokesperson. The Central government has fixed the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat at Rs 1,735 per quintal, hiking it by Rs 110 from last year’s Rs 1,625 per quintal. The state government has already made extensive arrangements for smooth procurement, with the Chief Minister issuing strict directives to the Food and Civil Supplies Department to ensure that the farmers do not face any hassles in the procurement of their grains. He has asked the civil and police administration to monitor the progress of procurement and lifting of wheat on a daily basis to ensure the completion of the gigantic task within the stipulated timeframe. The Chief Minister has also ordered the DGP to ensure strict enforcement of the ban on transport cartels.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Centre Wants States to Pay Cane Farmers Upfront

India sought to prevent farmer unrest involving one of its biggest cash crops, with the food ministry asking key sugar-producing states to issue strict directions to all mills to pay farmers upfront for the cane crushed in the 2017-18 season. Industry estimates show that mills making the sweetener, of which India is the world’s biggest consumer, already owed farmers about Rs 17,000 crore until March-end. In a strongly worded letter to the sugar producing state governments, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said: “…seek your intervention to issue strict directions to all sugar mills for immediately clearing cane price arrears of the sugar season 2017-18 and those of earlier years. You may also consider taking necessary action against the defaulter sugar mills where warranted.” A copy of the letter went on to add that “some of the mills in your state are still having arrears of sugar farmers for the previous years. Further, the arrears for the current sugar season (2017-18) for all the sugar mills have risen considerably.” According to ministry officials, the letter has been sent to CMs of AP, MP, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Gujarat, Puducherry, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Telangana, Karnataka, UP, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.

Business Line, Kochi
Cocoa output up 46% but meets only a fourth of the demand

Cocoa imports are on the rise as the country’s production of the bean is only at 25 per cent of the annual requirement. The demand is growing at 15 per cent every year but there is no corresponding growth in production. The production is estimated at 20,000 tonnes in 2018-19 from 87,000 hectares, Venkatesh H Hubballi, Director, Directorate of Cashewnut & Cocoa Development (DCCD) told. “Our imports in 2016-17 were at 63,613 tonnes valued at Rs 1,542.31 crore,” he said. In the same period, India shipped out 25,700 tonnes of cocoa and cocoa preparations valued at Rs 1,089.99 crore as against 16,679 tonnes worth Rs 175.98 crore in 2011-12, he said. From 1997-98 onwards, the non-traditional tracts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu started cultivating cocoa. During the implementation of 11th and 12th Plan programmes, there has been a large scale distribution of hybrids and high yielding varieties which has helped in pushing up the acreage and output. Consequently, the production has risen by 46 per cent to 18,920 tonnes in 2016-17 from 12,954 tonnes in 2009-10. The area under the crop has expanded by 79 per cent during this period to 82,940 hectares from 46,318 hectares, Venkatesh said. The world cocoa production forecast for 2017-18, according to the International Cocoa Organisation, is at 46.38 lakh tonnes (lt) as against the revised estimate for 2016-17 of 47.48 lt. In terms of quality, Ivory Coast is on top followed by Ghana. Hubballi said, according to experts, quality of Indian cocoa beans matches with that of Ghana. To reduce import dependence, the DCCD is planning to raise the area under the crop to 1.1 lakh hectares by 2019-20. During the current fiscal, 15,000 hectares will be covered under cocoa in four southern States.

The Tribune, Sangrur
Farmers told to harvest crop, make space for CM’s function

The farmers, whose land is near the venue of the CM’s state-level debt waiver function on April 12 at Rampura village of the district, have demanded financial compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre. The compensation is for the loss of their dry fodder as the administration has directed them to harvest their wheat immediately to make parking space despite the fact that the wheat has high moisture content due to the recent rain. Sources said that the administration has sent invitations to 35,000 farmers of different districts to attend the debt-waiver programme. The administration has been making arrangements for the programme at Rampura village grain market. For the 40 acres needed for parking, the land of farmers in the vicinity of the grain market is being vacated. The farmers said that Monday night’s rain had drenched their standing wheat. They started harvesting it after the administration assured them of its purchase. But the farmers are also demanding compensation for the loss of dry fodder. Officers are tightlipped about the purchase of wheat with high moisture content just to make space for the parking of vehicles for the CM’s function. Sangrur Congress MLA Vijay Inder Singla, who is supervising the arrangements, assured farmers that they would get the required compensation. “Their wheat will be dried first by officers after purchase. We will also pay the farmers financial compensation for the loss of their dry fodder. We are organising the function for the welfare of farmers and no farmer should suffer losses during the function,” said Singla.

Business Line, Mumbai
For RRBs, first uniform NPA norms then corrective action: Officers’ federation

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) should implement the prompt corrective action framework for Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) only after ensuring that they follow standardised non-performing asset norms, according to the All India RRB Officers’ Federation. Shyamal K Bhattacharjee, General Secretary, AIRRBOF, cautioned: “There is no standardisation in following regulatory guidelines among RRBs. Adoption of PCA in RRBs at this moment will have disastrous consequences on them. “Any hasty implementation without addressing the issue of standardisation will be fraught with inherent risk – the risk of faulty determination of the financial health of individual RRBs.” Nabard has come up with a PCA framework to enable RRBs that fail to meet prudential requirements relating to capital adequacy, net non-performing assets (NNPAs) and return on assets (ROA) to take self-corrective action so that further deterioration in their financial position is prevented and they are nursed back to health. PCA for RRBs will be invoked once they breach trigger points on three parameters – capital to risk-weighted assets (CRAR) ratio, assets (NPAs) and profitability (ROA). The PCA framework will be implemented based on the findings of Nabard’s inspection with reference to RRBs’ FY2019 financial performance. RRBs were established under the Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976, to ensure sufficient institutional credit for the rural and agriculture sector. They are jointly owned by the government of India and the concerned State government and sponsor banks, with the issued capital shared in the proportion of 50 per cent, 15 per cent and 35 pe r cent, respectively. Nabard is the supervisor of RRBs. Bhattacharjee observed that NPA norms are being interpreted and implemented differently in RRBs due to a lack of elucidation of the applicable norms. The same norms are implemented flexibly in one RRB, but stringently implemented in another RRB, producing widely different results, he added.

Business Line, Kochi
Kamco eyes small agri machinery market

Betting big on the Centre's initiative to mechanise farming operations, Kerala Agro Machinery Corporation (Kamco) aims to tap the small agricultural machinery market with its array of products. The State-owned company is catering to Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar, Assam, Uttar Pradesh with a slew of its products — power tillers, power reapers, mini tractors, pumpsets, etc. This small agricultural machinery market is expected to double in the next five years, thanks to the Budget allocation for mechanisation of farming operations, said P Suresh Babu, Managing Director, Kamco. Besides, the rise in small land holdings revival in interest among the youth for agriculture will boost the sale of farm equipments. To cater to the emerging demand, he said a proposal to install automated assembling line for tiller production under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana assistance of Rs 24 crore is under consideration. The project aims at doubling tiller production with a cost saving of Rs 10,000-15,000 per tiller which can be passed on to the farmers. Similarly, the demand for power reapers is expected to improve substantially especially for low floor reaping of soyabean dwarf variety. “We have already received advance bookings from Karnataka, Andhra Pradhesh and Madhya Pradesh,” he said. According to him, the market size of tillers in India is estimated at 55,000 units per year and of this, the company produces 15,000. According to P Balachandran, Chairman, the company has generated a net profit of Rs 4 crore on a turnover of Rs 156 crore in FY18. By widening the market, Kamco has set a short-term target of achieving a turnover of Rs 200 crore and a net profit of Rs 7 crore, he said adding that the long-term goal is to offer total solution to all mechanisation needs for farmers by 2025.

The Pioneer, Mumbai
MAHA WAIVES RS 14,388 CR WORTH FARM LOANS AS AGAINST RS 34K CR PLEDGE: RTI REPLY

The Maharashtra Government has so far waived farm loans amounting to Rs 14,388 crore as against the total promised loan waiver of Rs 34,022 under the much-discussed “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Krishi Samman Yojana”, according to a reply given under the Right to Information Act (RTI). Responding to queries raised by social activist Anil Galgali, a senior official of the Maharashtra Government's Ministry of Co-operation, Marketing and Textiles said tht the State Government had provided Rs 1,45,36,74,01,213.11 for disbursal among 46,52,810 beneficiary account holders in 33 nationalised banks and 30 District Central Cooperative (DCC) banks. The banks had in turn had disbursed Rs 1,43,87,72,99,150.04 to the beneficiaries up till now. According to the RTI reply, a total of 56,59,159 loan waiver applications were received by the State Government from parts of the State under the loan waiver scheme. Ahmednagar district accounted for a maximum of 3,34,920 loan waiver applications. While the State Government has approved a total of 19,88,234 accounts in nationalised banks, it has provided a total of Rs 77,66,55,13,440.76 to the nationalised banks. These nationalised banks have so far disbursed Rs 75,89,98,20,857.28 out the amount received by the them from the State Government.

The Financial Express, Pune
Oilmeal export earnings rise by 39% in 2017-18

The overall exports of oilmeals during 2017-18 has been provisionally reported at 2,839,623 tonne compared to 1,885,480 tonne during the same period last year. The rise is due to higher export of rapeseed meal (up by 26%), ricebran extractions (up by 27%) and castor seed meal (up by 51%). In terms of value, the total earnings has increased to Rs 4,489 crores compared to Rs 3219 crores, a raise to 39%, the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEAI) has said. In November 17 last year, government raised the import duty on edible oils to 15% across the board and increased MEIS (Merchandise Exports from India Scheme) on soybean meal from 5% to 7%. These steps resulted in higher export of oilmeals during the current year, BV Mehta, executive director of the association stated. As per the data, the export of oilmeals during March 2018 is provisionally reported at 75,393 tonne compared to 170,496 tonne in March 2017, i.e. a reduction of 56%. During April 2017 to March 2018, Vietnam imported 646,490 tonne of oilmeals from India (compared to 345,745 tonne), consisting of 42,897 tonne of soybean meal, 92,293 tonne of rapeseed meal and 511,300 tonne of de-oiled rice bran extraction. South Korea imported 752,799 tonne of oilmeals (compared to 545,092 tonne) consisting 263,213 tonne of rapeseed meal, 459,414 tonne of castor meal and 30,172 tonne of soybean meal while Bangladesh imported 145,293 tonne of oilmeals (compared to 230,588 tonne), consisting 27,127 tonne of rapeseed meal, 5,857 tonne of de-oiled rice bran extractions and 112,309 tonne of soybean meal. Thailand imported 196,850 tonne of oilmeals (compared to 23,517 tonne), consisting 129,619 tonne of rapeseed meal, 17,949 tonne of de-oiled rice bran extractions and 49,247 tonne of soybean meal. European countries were the major importers of Indian soybean meal.

Mumbai Mirror, Srinagar
Saffron production in the Valley nosedives

Kashmir’s prolonged dry spell has left saffron farmers worried yet again, as production of the world’s most expensive spice fell by almost 95 percent. Due to insufficient rainfall, the state is facing possibly the lowest saffron productivity in the past 50 years. Farmers are reportedly considering shifting to cultivating high-density crops such as apple, walnuts and garlic. As per data, farmers are not expecting a saffron output of more than a tonne this year as compared to an annual average of 15 to 17 tonne. The output is expected to go down due to a dry spell during the crop’s critical sprouting stage. The production was hit badly in 2014-15 crop year as well, when the yield halved to 8.51 tonne because of floods. Abdul Majeed Wani, President, Saffron Growers Association told, “This sector is facing one of its worst crop failures this year. Around 18,000 families across Kashmir are associated with saffron and now their livelihood is on the line.” A sensitive plant, the saffron crop requires two periods of rainfall in spring and post-monsoon for a sizeable harvest. The government had implemented a sprinkler irrigation project seven years ago to help combat sporadic rainfall when the saffron crop needed it the most, but farmers say the scheme is ineffective. “The Centre had approved Rs 412 crore for the National Saffron Mission in 2010 for the revival and rejuvenation of the prized crop, but the agriculture department failed to properly implement the scheme resulting in losses for us,” Wani said. Wani says many local farmers are now looking at other means of survival and may even take up cultivation of other crops. Saffron is focal point of Kashmir's economy, fetching anywhere between Rs 2 and 3.5 lakh per kilogram. A precious dried spice, the stigma of the flower is used in food and medicine, and is heavily exported all over the world.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Take steps against defaulters, Paswan to states

Expressing concern over elevated levels of cane arrears, Union food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan has written to chief ministers of producing states, including Uttar Pradesh, asking them to issue “strict directions to all sugar mills” and also to take necessary action against defaulters to ensure the dues are cleared at the earliest. Even food secretary Ravi Kant is learnt to have written to top officials of states on March 23, asking them to take measures to help clear cane dues. As of end-March, cane arrears across states touched Rs 17,000 crore, with Uttar Pradesh accounting for as much as Rs 7,200 crore, followed by Rs 2,500 crore each in Maharashtra and Karnataka, according to an industry estimate. The arrears in Uttar Pradesh have risen further to Rs 8,460 crore now. In the latest missive, Paswan said some of the mills still owe farmers for cane supplies made early in the last season that ended September 2017. “Further, the arrears for the current sugar season (2017-18) for all the sugar mills have risen considerably. This is a matter of serious concern for all of us,” Paswan said. “I, therefore, seek your intervention to issue strict directions to all sugar mills for immediately clearing of cane price arrears of sugar season 2017-18 and those of earlier years. You may also consider taking necessary action against the defaulter sugar mills where warranted,” Paswan wrote. The minister said the Central government has taken “a number of initiatives to improve the liquidity position of the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers”.

Business Line, Chennai
TN sugar output seen up a tad, but still at historic low

Tamil Nadu will continue to under perform in sugar output as planting acreages remain stagnant across major cane growing districts. This means the coming 2018-19 sugar season (October-September) will continue to be lacklustre though there could be a small improvement in output. It also means that the sugarcane pricing support from the government, while a welcome move, will be of little consolation. In the current season, the State is expected to hit a historic low in sugar output — likely to be close to 6.5 lakh tonnes including about one lakh tonnes of processed raw sugar. According to the available figures as of March, mills have produced over 4.5 lakh tonnes (lt) as compared with about 6.5 lt during the same period last year. For the coming season, output could improve a little to about 10 lt, but that would still be about one-third of the installed capacity, according to industry figures. A senior executive pointed out that the North-East monsoon last year had been deficient across most of the growing areas in interior Tamil Nadu. Rains had largely been restricted to the coastal belts which have contributed to the improvement expected in the coming season. Meanwhile, on the stock exchanges, stocks of sugar majors demonstrated small gains on reports of a possible government support on sugarcane payments to farmers. Industry representatives say this could be around Rs 55 a tonne of sugar cane, working out to about Rs 550 a tonne of sugar. But with international sugar prices hitting a low at about Rs 22,750 a tonne (FOB), and an additional Rs 1,600 for transport, the gap is huge with domestic prices at about Rs 28,000. The support is inadequate for any sugar mill. For Tamil Nadu mills, the situation is exacerbated as they face bigger losses.

11, April 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
‘Govt likely to pay cane growers to help sugar mills’

The Centre is likely to provide financial support to cane farmers for produce sold to sugar mills, two government sources said, in a rare move to subsidise the industry which is reeling under a glut and struggling to export because of low global prices. India, the world’s biggest sugar consumer, last month scrapped a 20 per cent export tax and made it compulsory for mills to export at least 2 million tonnes (mt) of sugar. But mills said they would incur a loss of at least $150 a tonne because global prices were near a 2-1/2-year low. The Centre is likely to approve a proposal to pay around Rs 55 for every tonne of cane sold to the mills, sources said, seeking anonymity in line with government policy. Mills say a sharp fall in sugar prices erodes their profitability, making it difficult for them to pay cane growers on time. Sugar mills now owe Rs 17,000 crore to farmers.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Bite this Mohini gingerly

Scientists at the North Bengal Agricultural University in Cooch Behar have developed a new variety of ginger called Mohini that they say has a " natural sweet aroma " and offers higher yields than conventional ginger. "The Union agricultural department announced the new product through a gazette notification in January after its performance was tested in Bengal and elsewhere, "vice- chancellor Chirantan Chattopadhyay told. B. Rajender, a joint secretary in the Union agricultural ministry, said: "The ministry has cleared it ( Mohini) for commercial production after the Central Variety Release Committee confirmed it has certain advantages over the traditional varieties. " Soumendra Chakraborty, who developed Mohini with his colleagues after more than a decade of research, said the new variety is more resistant to various plant diseases than ordinary ginger. "Its yield is almost twice that of traditional varieties --- 14 tonnes per hectare compared with 6 to 10 tonnes per hectare. More important, it has a natural sweet aroma, "he said. "We expect it to be ready for cultivation by farmers within a year or two. "Mohini was developed from a variety of ginger found in Morolpara, Alipurduar. The new research has been published in the International Journal of Science, Environment and Technology. Some 70 per cent of India's ginger comes from Kerala. The crop is grown also in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal, Bengal and Sikkim. "Mohini has been recommended for all the ginger- growing states, " said Ashok Choudhury, director of research at the university.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Cashew exports under pressure on Vietnam sale

Cashew exports are under pressure with Vietnam selling at a discount in global market coupled with revival of domestic demand from the impact of demonetisation and GST, which could support the Indian market. Besides, good supply of raw cashew is seen in India, Vietnam and Africa. India produces 6-7 million tonne of raw cashews per annum and was until recently the leading supplier of kernels to the global market. Pratap Nair of Vijayalakshmi Cashews, one of the oldest cashew exporting companies and chairman of the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) Congress said that there has been a small correction in cashew kernel prices due to discounted selling by Vietnam which is the market maker in cashew nut trade. “Vietnam is the biggest exporter of kernels and also the biggest importer of raw cashew. The processing charges in Vietnam are lower than other processors and they can sell at a discount when compared to India,” he said. Cashew kernel prices have gone down to $ 4.60-4.70 from $ 5.30 per pound a year ago, but is still at a premium to almonds selling at $3.50,Nair told. Demand is robust for cashew nuts despite competing nuts like Almonds and Hazel nuts selling at a discount, he added. According to Pankaj Sampat of Mumbai based Samson’s trading, the prices of substitutes almonds and walnuts have increased from the low levels seen in 2016 and early 2017. “Prices of other snack nuts are steady at the higher levels. Although cashew prices have been going up for last 18-24 months, current prices are below the peak of mid 2017 and close to the average of 2016,” he added. On the supply side, Sampat reports that all origins are reporting normal to good crops with Vietnam and Cambodia talking of bumper crop after two years of disappointing crops.

Mint, New Delhi
CENTRE PLANNING TO PROMOTE YOGIK, GOU MATA FARMING

The agriculture ministry plans to offer cash incentives to farmers who take up yogik farming, gou mata kheti and rishi krishi, obscure methods of cultivation that have little scientific evidence to prove they are beneficial. According to revised guidelines of the centre’s flagship scheme to promote organic farming, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), farmers will be eligible for an assistance of Rs 48,700 per hectare for a three-year period for adopting these traditional methods of cultivation. The guidelines were issued on 2 April and the government has budgeted Rs360 crore for the scheme in 2018-19. Some of these cultivation techniques were also displayed at the Krishi Unnati Mela organized by the ministry in March in New Delhi. An official from the National Centre for Organic Farming, an arm of the ministry that promotes organic cultivation, said that despite objections raised by it, the ministry included the non-scientific cultivation methods for financial assistance.According to the revised guidelines, farmers practising traditional methods of organic farming like yogik farming, gou mata kheti, Vedic farming, Vaishnav kheti, Ahinsa farming, Adhvoot Shivanand farming, and rishi krishi will be eligible for financial assistance, in addition to those adopting standard organic farming practices like zero-budget natural farming and permaculture. “We do not intend to take farming to the Vedic era but are promoting low-cost environment-friendly methods of farming which certain groups are already practising... it is too early to say anything more,” said an official at the integrated nutrient management division of the ministry who did not want to be named. While revised guidelines do not elaborate on the package of practices associated with these little-known methods of farming, yogik farming refers to a system where it is believed that farmers can channelize cosmic energy to their fields by performing yoga. Rishi krishi is based on pre-Vedic, Vedic and medieval texts like Vishvavallava, Kashyapiyakrishisukti, and Surapala’s Vrikshayurveda.

The Financial Express, Pune
Cotton acreage estimate down by 15% as farmers shift to lucrative soyabean

The area under cotton acreage is likely to decrease by around 15% with farmers shifting towards soyabean in the hope of better returns and after the Pink Bollworm infestation in Maharashtra and Telangana that damaged the crop reducing farmer incomes. The drop in cotton planting is likely to see a rise in soybean planting after farmers received good rates during the ongoing season and a rise in import duties, Cotton Association of India (CAI) president Atul Ganatra said. “The Kapas sowing is expected to reduce by 10-12% in Maharashtra and Telangana due to the Pink Bollworm attack. The area under cotton could fall to 108 lakh hectares in the 2018/19 marketing season that starts at the beginning of October, down from 122.6 lakh hectares in the current year, he estimated. On the other hand, soyabean prices have jumped by about Rs 1,000 per quintal in the last few months from Rs 28,000 per quintal to Rs 3,800 per quintal. Ganatra was speaking at the Cotton Meet on ‘Challenges Facing Cotton Trade’. Textile Commissioner Kavita Gupta said that the shift in area under cotton may not be significant. “There may not be much decline in total production as area under cotton in other states may compensate for any decline in area in pink boll worm affected states,” she said. The Commissioner suggested that Indian textile industry should strive to become world class on the lines of Egypt. Pasha Patel, chairman, State Agriculture Price Commission (SAPC) pointed out that if soybean prices rose, farmers would shift to soybean and there would be no takers for cotton. Earlier, he had stated that last year the area under soybean in Maharashtra was 39 lakh hectares and area under cotton was 26 lakh hectares.

Business Line, Mumbai
Cotton exports seen billowing to 70 lakh bales on Chinese demand

Cotton exports are expected to revive with China placing big orders with Indian traders. Moreover, Indian cotton prices are 10 cents cheaper at 80 cents per pound compared to the global price on the ICE. Atul S Ganatra, President, Cotton Association of India (CAI), said exports will touch 70 lakh bales (lb) as the country has already shipped out 55 lb till March-end and has 10 lb committed orders which will be executed by May-end. Of the overall exports, China has bought 6 lb so far and is likely to look to India as it is planning to levy 25 per cent duty on imports from the US, he added. China has almost exhausted its cotton inventory and will be in the market to import the fibre and India has a good chance especially with the new duty on imports from the US, said Ganatra. However, he said the acreage in Maharashtra and Telangana will reduce sharply as the farmers have suffered huge losses this year due to lower price and the pink bollworm attack reduced the yield sharply. Most of the farmers are planning to shift to soyabean, he said. The association has reduced cotton output estimate in March to 360 lb against 362 lb estimated in February. Last year the output was 338 lb. Mill consumption is expected to drop to 324 lb (330 lb), while exports may increase to 65 lb (60 lb). With overall supply expected to touch 410 lb, the closing stock by the season end is expected to be higher at 27 lb (22 lb). Kavita Gupta, Textile Commissioner, said Centre has been encouraging farmers to grow soyabean as an inter-crop to hedge against possible fall in prices or if there is a pest attack. CICR has also introduced new long staple cotton variety which is robust and also pest-resistant, she said.

Business Line, Mumbai
Nabard frames self-healing norms for RRBs

The National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has come out with a ‘Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) Framework’ framework for regional rural banks (RRBs), much like the revised one the RBI unveiled for scheduled commercial banks nearly a year ago. This framework is aimed at enabling RRBs that fail to meet prudential requirements relating to capital adequacy, net non-performing assets (NNPAs) and return on assets (ROA) to take self-corrective action to arrest further deterioration in their financial position. The PCA will be invoked if RRBs breach trigger points on three parameters: capital to risk-weighted assets (CRAR) ratio, assets (NPAs), and profitability (ROA). The PCA framework will be implemented based on the findings of Nabard’s inspection with reference to RRBs’ FY2019 financial performance. RRBs are jointly owned by the Central government, the State government concerned and sponsor (usually public sector) bank with the issued capital shared in the proportion of 50 percent, 15 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively. As at end-March 2017, there were 56 RRBs. Three CRAR trigger points have been set for invoking PCA for RRBs: less than 9 per cent but equal or more than 6 per cent; less than 6 per cent but equal or more than 3 per cent; and less than 3 per cent. For NPAs, two trigger points have been set: NNPAs over 10 per cent but less than 15 per cent (for RRBs having retained profit)/ Gross NPAs (GNPAs) over 10 per cent but less than 15 per cent (for RRBs having accumulated losses); NNPAs of 15 per cent and above (for RRBs having retained profit)/ GNPAs of 15 per cent (for RRBs having accumulated losses). Further, if ROA falls below 0.25 per cent, PCA can be set in motion. When an RRB is put on PCA, the bank’s management should identify the cause of deterioration and take corrective measures promptly.

Business Line, Mumbai
NCML sets up silo for maize in Bihar

The National Collateral Management Services Limited (NCML), a leading warehouse service provider, has inaugurated its public silo complex of 36,000 tonnes for storing maize at Purnia in Bihar. Designed in line with global best practices, the silo complex is equipped with facilities like dryer and chiller for safe and efficient preservation of maize, said the company in a statement. Inaugurating the silo, Prem Kumar, Bihar’s Agriculture Minister, said silo complex storage mechanism is the need of the hour in the State which has a large agrarian population. Sanjay Kaul, Managing Director, NCML, said technological advancement is playing a key role in stimulating growth with modern scientific facility gradually replacing conventional warehouses for agricultural storage. The storage of grain in a silo is possible for long period without quality loss and transportation is much easier compared to food grains storage in bags in conventional warehouses. NCML is building 13 silo complexes at an estimated project cost of Rs 780 crore in Bihar, Punjab, Haryana and UP in partnership with the Food Corporation of India.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Pesticide-makers oppose provisions of new Bill

Pesticide manufacturers and farmers are up in arms against the provisions of the Pesticides Management Bill 2017, which, they believe are detrimental to agriculture and agro-chemical industry. Allowing import of formulations without having to register technicals is contrary to the goal of Make in India campaign launched by the Union government, they said. They want an immediate ban on no-frill import of formulations, which are flooding the market, while Indian companies are forced to go through a labyrinthine process to sell their products. “Excessive powers mooted in Registration committee could lead to return of Inspector Raj. They should be made liable for punishments in case of mistakes,” the Confederation of All India Small and Medium Pesticides Manufacturers Association (CAPMA) said. “Punishments for violations prescribed in the Bill are disproportionate to the offences or violations. Even small mistakes could attract heavy penalties,” he said. The association felt that the actions of pesticides inspectors should be under scrutiny and aggrieved parties should be allowed to challenge their actions in an appellate authority, it said. The association estimated that the country was losing over Rs 7,000 crore in forex by permitting imports of ready-made pesticide formulations. “The policy guidelines created in 2007 gives total monopoly to importers, mainly multinationals to charge exorbitant prices from farmers for the imported pesticides, restricting entry of Indian manufacturers,” Raja Mahender Reddy of CAPMA said. The Bill has recently been released by the Union Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare for comments from stakeholders. The Bill, which seeks to replace the existing law (Insecticides Act, 1968), has a lot of shortfalls and loopholes, the association argues. “We did bring these issues to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, but there’s been no change,” the association said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Rain & Hailstorm may Cast a Cloud Over Rabi Crops

Unseasonal rainfall and hailstorms in north India over the weekend, along with a forecast of more showers and storms in the days ahead, have put at risk the rabi crop, especially wheat, mustard and mangoes, raising fears of increasing rural distress. Officials are monitoring the situation because rainfall and hailstorms on the eve of the harvest can damage crops severely. A series of hailstorms had destroyed crops three years ago, which added to farmer misery in a drought year. So far, the impact of rain and hail has been limited to a few pockets, but the India Meteorological Department has forecast “fairly widespread” rainfall in the next three days in north India because of a series of rainbearing weather systems. Farmers said they have already suffered some damage. “There is some damage to crops in Shamli, Meerut, Saharanpur and other places in western Uttar Pradesh. Rain has affected wheat, mustard and mangoes. We are assessing the losses. We will inform the state government Tuesday about the losses,” said Sudhir Panwar, president of the Kisan Jagriti Manch. Adverse weather is a risk, said Trilochan Mohapatra, directorgeneral of Indian Council of Agricultural Research. “Rainfall accompanied by hailstorm can affect the quality of grain. So far, we have not got any reports. It is too early to say how much the impact would be after the rain that is forecast,” he said. Agriculture ministry officials said so far there is no report from the states. It usually takes 10 to 15 days to report damage caused by weather, they said. Punjab State Farmers Commission chairman Ajay Vir Jakhar said so far there was no major impact of rainfall in the state. “If rain is followed by heavy wind then there will be damage to the crop,” he said.

Business Line, Coimbatore
TNAU devices a ‘pitfall’ for flour, millet pests

After the successful roll-out of Probe Trap for trapping insects in grains, the Tamil Nadu Agri University (TNAU) here has come up with another gadget, a ‘Pitfall Trap’ to do away with pests in flour, spice powders and minor millets. “This will bring huge relief to those who who store flour, spice powders and minor millets in bins or bag, and sieve the flour before use,” according to S Mohan, Professor, Department of Agricultural Entomology, TNAU. Insect problem in flour and powdered food items is a given. People usually discard the flour if they find it infested with insects or other pests. But the pitfall trap can help avoid waste. It works like a probe trap used in grains but is modified to trapinsects in flour and minor millets, he said. A perforated top lid is fitted to a cylindrical tumbler-shaped container with a fine sieve at the bottom. A rod is fitted to the top of the lid to insert the trap inside the flour or spice powder container. Insects generally surface for air, so the trap should be inserted into the container. The pest will fall through the perforation on the top of the tumbler and settled over the sieve portion at the bottom. Any spill over flour into the trap can be sieved by shaking the trap unit, he explained. The TNAU is yet to start commercial production of the trap but enquiries are coming from millers. The device is simple to use, chemical-free and helps in early detection of insects, he said and added that the device will be priced between Rs 140 and Rs 150.

10, April 2018
Afternoon, Mumbai
Agri Min to soon move Cabinet note to ensure farmers get MSP

The agriculture ministry will soon move a Cabinet note seeking approval for a new policy that aims to rope in both states and private firms in procurement of other crops than wheat and paddy, for ensuring MSP to farmers, a senior government official said. The objective of the proposed policy is to improve the speed of response and effectiveness of procurement in cases when prices drop below the minimum support price (MSP). The ministry has proposed three models -- Market Assurance Scheme (MAS), Price Deficiency Procurement Scheme (PDPS) and Private Procurement and Stockists Scheme -- after consultations with an informal group of ministers, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, as well as with state governments. "The agriculture ministry is preparing a Cabinet note on this. The policy aims to give liberty to states to implement either one of the models of procurement," the senior government official told. In case of MAS, the official said, it is to be implemented by state governments who can take immediate decisions on the basis of local conditions, to enter the market and begin procurement through their own state agencies or any other private agency authorised by states. States will be responsible for procurement and liquidation of the procured commodity. They would create a corpus fund for this purpose and make all logistics arrangements to handle the procurement. The central government will compensate the operational loss, if any, on value of MSP, up to a maximum 30-40%. The second model proposed under the policy is 'Price Deficiency Procurement Scheme (PDPS)' which is similar to the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana launched by the Madhya Pradesh government. Under the PDS scheme, if the sale price is below a model price then the farmers would be compensated to the difference between the MSP and actual price, subject to certain conditions and ceiling.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Natural Rubber Output may Fall Short of Target

Indian natural rubber production is likely to be 1 lakh tonnes short of the Rubber Board projected figure of 8 lakh tonnes for 2017-18 even as the consumption is set to reach a new peak. For 11 months to February 2018, the production clocked 6.49 lakh tonnes, just 2% higher from a year earlier. At the same time the consumption for the period has already crossed 1 million tonnes at 1,003,060 tonnes. In 2016-17 the output stood at 6.91 lakh tonnes and the consumption at 1,044,075 tonnes. “There is not much interest in tapping with the prices remaining in the lower range. With a fall in production, the deficit has widened to almost 4 lakh tonnes which is being met through imports,’’ said leading rubber merchant N Radhakrishnan. The import has been increasing in the last three years in tandem with the decline in production. The highest import at 458,374 tonnes happened in 2015-16 when the output plunged to 5.62 lakh tonnes, the lowest in the recent times. This fiscal, till February, the imports are up by nearly 5% at 418,944 tonnes from a year ago. It is expected to reach near 4.50 lakh tonnes for the year. “If the prices continue to remain low, then in future the dependency on import may go up to 60 or 70%,’’ Radhakrishnan said. The prices have remained in the range of Rs120 to 130 per kg for most of the months. The RSS-4 variety used by the tyre industry ruled at Rs122 per kg on Saturday, Rs 11 higher than the international price for the similar variety.“Though it is lean season now, we expect the prices to remain in the Rs120-125 per kg range as the demand is quite sluggish,’’ said G P Goyal president of Cochin Rubber Merchants Association.

Economic Times, New Delhi
India likely to pay cane growers to help sugar mills - sources

India is likely to provide financial support to cane farmers for produce sold to sugar mills, two government sources said, in a rare move to subsidise the industry which is reeling under a glut and struggling to export because of low global prices. India, the world's biggest sugar consumer, last month scrapped a 20 percent export tax and made it compulsory for mills to export at least 2 million tonnes of sugar. But mills said they would incur a loss of at least $150 a tonne because global prices were near a 2-1/2-year low. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration is likely to approve a proposal to pay around 55 rupees ($0.84) for every tonne of cane sold to the mills, two government sources said, seeking anonymity in line with government policy. Although India is not planning any direct incentive for sugar exports, rival suppliers such as Brazil, Australia and Thailand could still lodge complaints with the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying such support will help Indian industry to sell overseas. Brazil, the world's biggest sugar producer, has already expressed concerns over the policies that support overseas sales of the sweetener from India and neighbouring Pakistan. Government officials insist India's plans to directly pay cane growers would not contravene WTO rules. But it will boost the prospects of 50 million cane farmers, an influential political lobby, and 524 mills struggling with massive mounds of sugar. While the government plans to pay 55 rupees a tonne to cane farmers, mills would pay the rest of the state-set price, sources said. Every year, the federal government fixes the price that mills must pay to cane growers, but Uttar Pradesh state, the biggest producer, usually raises the rate to placate farmers. For 2017/18 season, federal government fixed cane floor price at 255 rupees per 100 kg, while Uttar Pradesh raised rate to 315 rupees per 100 kg.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
ILL-TIMED DOWNPOUR RAINS ON RABI’S PARADE

Untimely rain and thundershowers since Saturday night have caused extensive damage to the standing Rabi crops especially wheat, mustard and gram in several parts of the country, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. As per the reports, crops such as wheat, bengal gram, jowar, orange, grapes, mango, papaya, pomegranate, onion and other vegetables have also suffered huge damage. Meanwhile, Met Department has predicted that light to moderate rain and thundershowers will continue over many parts till April 11. According to Skymet Weather, these rain and thundershowers could be attributed to the western disturbance that can be seen over North Pakistan and adjoining Jammu & Kashmir. In association to this weather system, there is an induced cyclonic circulation, which is over east central Pakistan and adjoining northwest Rajasthan and Haryana. According to Met Department, Gulmarg recorded 28 mm of rain, Shimla 27 mm, Qazigund 18 mm, Una 14 mm, Jammu 8 mm, Mandi 6 mm, Dharamsala 5 mm, Bhuntar 3 mm, and Manali 2 mm. Traces of rain were also seen over Mukteshwar Kumaon, Dehradun, Tehri, and Pantnagar during the last 24 hours. “Higher reaches of Kashmir and Himachal may also witness isolated snowfall. Areas of Gulmarg, Keylong, Leh, Rohtang Pass may witness snowfall activity,” the Skymet weather said. The unseasonal rain over the Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, especially hailstorm, has earlier resulted in severe crop damage in February and March this year. So far, damage to rabi crops like wheat and mustard and chickpea has been reported from Punjab, Bihar, UP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in the past two three days. It could end up being a double whammy for farmers, given the additional burden of falling prices. Usually, the wheat harvest in northern India begins from April 1 while in Madhya Pradesh, farmers commences harvesting from middle of March.

Deccan Herald, New Delhi
420 million dollar project for Maharashtra farmers

In a big initiative to combat agrarian crisis, the Government of India, Government of Maharashtra and the World Bank has signed a $420 million project to help small and marginal farmers in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra. Project will increase climate resilient practices in agriculture and ensure that farming continues to remain a financially viable activity for them. Agreements for the Maharashtra Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture were signed by Sameer Kumar Khare, joint secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, on behalf of the Government of India; Bijay Kumar, additional chief secretary, Agriculture Department on behalf of the Government of Maharashtra; and Junaid Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank, India on behalf of World Bank. The Maharashtra Project for Climate Resilient Agriculture will be implemented in rural areas largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture. The project will take up a series of activities at the farm and watershed level. It will scale up climate-resilient technologies such as micro-irrigation systems, expand surface water storage and facilitate aquifer recharge, which is expected to directly contribute to a more efficient use of scarce water resources. By adopting climate-resilient seed varieties which have short maturity, are drought and heat resistant and salt tolerant, the project will help reduce the risks of climate-related crop failure and help enhance farmer's income. In recent years, climate variability has affected agriculture in Maharashtra, where farming is largely dominated by small and marginal farmers. Farmers have low crop productivity and a high dependence on rainfall. Severe drought in the past has affected the state's agriculture performance. For India to sustain its growth across generations and become one of the world's largest middle-class economies, the country needs to shift to a more resource-efficient growth path, which is inclusive. "This project will help rural poor, largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, use more climate-resilient farming technologies and conserve water, a scarce resource," said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.

The Quint, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala Govt Set to Launch ‘Community Radio’ for Farmers

Amidst concerns about the shrinking agricultural space and the distancing of people from farming, the Kerala government is getting ready to start a 'community radio' to update them of the latest developments in the sector. Significantly, it will be the first such community radio to get connected with the farming community under a government initiative in the country. The first farm radio of the state is expected to start broadcast from Kuttanad in Alappuzha district, once popularly known as the 'rice bowl of Kerala', from next month, marking the second year anniversary celebrations of the LDF government. Famed for its vast expanse of paddy cultivation, Kuttanad is one of the few places in the world where farming is carried out below sea level. The radio platform is envisaged to provide information to farmers on a host of subjects, including climate change and environment issues, agrarian crisis and alerts, tips and information on various aspects of agriculture. The Left government has plans to start similar community radios in places recognised as 'special agricultural zones' after evaluating the success of the 'Kuttanad farm radio', state Agricultural Minister V S Sunil Kumar told. "We are considering this as a platform to interact directly with farmers and get connected with them. It will be the first such community radio for farmers in the country under the government initiative," Kumar said. The 'kuttanad farm radio' is envisaged to serve farmers in a 20 square kilometre radius in Kuttanad region, he said. Stating that the procedures for the launch of the radio is progressing, the minister said the state government itself has applied for the sanction and an approval for the same is expected soon from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Cotton exports may touch 7 million bales

Cotton exports from the country are likely to touch seven million bales this marketing year started October 2017, up about 27% from the earlier estimate, due to a surge in demand, particularly from China, as Indian cotton is selling at discount. “Indian cotton is trading at huge discount not seen in many years. A lot of export inquires are coming mainly because of the discounts,” said Naveen Chaurasia, vice president at Olam Agro India Ltd, a Gurgaon-headquartered agricultural products exporter and distributor. With Indian cotton selling at discounts of 7-10 cents per pound, there is demand for all qualities of cotton, traders said. Traders have exported more than 1.5 lakh bales of cotton to China during last 10 days as China took counter actions after the US imposed trade restrictions on the Asian giant. “We started getting inquiries right from the day the news of US taxes on China was announced,” said Atul Ganatra, president of Cotton Association of India (CAI). He said the trade’s earlier target was to export 55 lakh bales of cotton, but India had already exported that much till March end. “Now we expect cotton exports to touch upwards of 65 lakh bales,” Ganatra said. “If exports continue at this speed, we can easily export 70 lakh bales.” As a result of this, India is expected to replace Australia as the second largest exporter of cotton after China by the end of the 2017-18 cotton season, experts said. Among other major exporters, the USA's cotton is sold out there are concerns about its cotton production as Texas region is facing drought like conditions. Pakistan is now buying cotton. India has the golden opportunity to gain the lost ground in cotton exports, feel exporters.

7, April 2018
The Tribune, Amritsar
‘Embezzled’ paddy bags found at govt godown

The district Food and Civil Supplies Department seized 5,376 bags of paddy from Central Warehousing Corporation godown in the Bhagtanwala area here. According to department officials, this was the paddy which was siphoned off from Veeru Mal Mulakhraj Jain Rice Mill in Jandiala Guru. However, two private firms, Bunty Enterprises and Ravindera Exports, came to the scene and claimed that it was their paddy which they had bought through banks. However, they failed to produce any document to establish their claims. They have sought time for showing the documents. The officials said they were assessing the worth of the paddy. “Roughly it appears to be between Rs 1.50 crore and 1.75 crore,” sources said. The department managed to locate the paddy after the raiding teams at Jandiala Guru rice mill stumbled upon two gate passes in the name of two firms. The officials conducting physical verification of the paddy at Jandiala Guru asked the district Food and Civil Supplies Department to conduct a raid at the CWC godown to recover the same. Raminder Singh Bath, District Food and Civil Supplies Officer, confirmed the confiscation and said the representatives of two firms had sought time till Friday morning. He said they were sure that the stored paddy was siphoned off from the Jandiala Guru rice mill. “We have asked the Central Warehousing Corporation not to release the stock of paddy without their permission. We have also informed the Director, Food and Civil Supplies, and other authorities about this. A complaint was also submitted to the Amritsar (rural) police for registering an FIR and taking further necessary action,” he said. Meanwhile, officials of different government agencies, including Pungrain and Punjab Warehousing Corporation, also reached the spot to claim that the paddy belonged to them.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Large poppy plantation found in Dhakuwakhona

Dhakuwakhona, known for its exotic muga silk, is in news again for all the wrong reasons – thanks to the discovery of a large poppy plantation camouflaged by surrounding ahoo rice plantations in a remote riverine area. The plantation site was discovered accidentally by Bipul Gogoi, a local journalist working for a vernacular news channel while browsing Google Earth on Monday. While browsing Google Earth about Dhakuwakhona, Gogoi spotted a flowery bed amidst a green patch of land of ahoo rice in the Bogoriguri Chapori on the banks of the Champora river under Mornoi-Bebejia Gaon Panchayat in Dhakuwakhona subdivision of Lakhimpur district. The following day he visited the site and took photos which were later proved to be that of poppy plants with flower. On Wednesday, a team of police led by Officer-in-Charge of Ghilamoroa visited the site and collected specimens of the plants. After preliminary investigation, it was learnt that the plantations have been made on the agricultural land belonging to one Basanta Saikia of Mornoi-Bebejia where a group of men from West Bengal planted the poppy seeds. It has also been learnt that the planters have already extracted the fluids from the poppy plants to be used in making narcotics worth several lakhs of rupees.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Niti Farm Expert in SJM Crosshairs for ‘MSP-Inflation’ Talk

RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) has hit out at Niti Aayog, this time for linking minimum support price (MSP) to inflation. Almost a year after it had castigated the government policy-making body for not articulating people’s aspirations in its policies, the SJM has said the Niti Aayog stand on MSP was ‘far from reality’ and not in line with report from experts. SJM co-convener Ashwani Mahajan wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that appropriate action should be taken against Ramesh Chand, member agriculture of Aayog, if he fails to produce empirical study or provide stakeholders consultations to substantiate his view linking inflation to the MSP hike. In the letter to Modi, Mahajan dubbed Chand’s assertion as “ill-informed and malicious”, and an “insult to the political leadership which has taken this great decision keeping the interests of farmers in mind.” The RSS outfit’s senior functionary argued that MSP keeps farmers and farming alive owing to its push towards encouraging production. Mahajan expressed reservation on the Niti Aayog report, Ensuring MSP Benefits for Farmers, for stating “the combined effect of the two Budget on farm-level prices will be about 15%. Transmission of this increase to wholesale and retail levels will have very strong implication for inflation and consumers”. “This is blatant lie and insult to the injury of farmers,” Mahajan wrote to PM. The SJM stated that the Niti Aayog report is “far from reality” since they could not arrive at similar conclusion during their discussion with various experts. Drawing the attention of Modi, Mahajan said there are papers from sector experts that nullify Ramesh Chand’s claims. Gopakumar KU and V Pandit’s findings was that “higher MSP hasn’t turned inflationary as many would have expected it”.

The Financial Express, Chennai
Palm oil prices to go up by 20% in India, says Crisil report

Palm oil prices are expected to rise sharply in India, against the global trend. A series of duty hikes on edible oils since August 2017 (to support prices and crushing of domestic oilseeds) and a sharper increase in import duty for refined palm oil (a move aimed at improving refinery utilisation) will make palm oil more expensive in India. Considering all the duty hikes since August 2017 and the 10% social welfare cess, and considering these will remain unchanged through OY 2017-18, it is expected average palm oil prices in the domestic market will by 18% -20% year-on-year, said a Crisil study. According to Crisil, palm oil has a large share of consumption, mostly imported. Consumption of major edible oils in India stood at 22 million tonne (MT) in oil year (OY) 2016-17, i.e. November 2016 to October 2017, and was valued at Rs 1.4 lakh crore. Domestic production met only 30% of that demand and the rest was imported. To promote domestic refining of palm oil, the government, in addition to the duty hikes, also raised the differential import duty between crude and refined palm oil. The differential, since August 2017, stands at 10% (11% since March 2018, including social welfare surcharge), up from 7.5% since 2014 and 5% since 2013. Palm oil is the most consumed edible oil by volume in India, with a share of 40%, followed distantly by soybean and mustard oils. However, domestic production of palm oil is limited, and over 95% of the requirement is imported, mostly from the world’s top two producers – Indonesia and Malaysia. The palm oil imports constitute over 60% of the edible oil imports basket in the country, Crisil pointed out.

Business Line, Kochi
Precision farming to double agri income, says expert

Farmers can come out of the vicious cycle of high costs and low income if they adopt market-led value-addition programmes and use appropriate technologies to cut costs and enhance production, said an agri expert. Doubling farmers income is today’s catch word even though there are constraints to achieve the goal. TP Sethumadhavan, a visiting research fellow of University of Reading, UK, said that the emergence of agriculture start-ups, promotion of agri entrepreneurship model, etc would definitely enhance production. The access to credit, water and market would also propel production growth. But it requires better storage and post-harvest technologies. However, he emphasised the need to make substantial changes in the farming practices by adopting precision farming using innovation and technologies. Sethumadhavan, who is the former Director of Entrepreneurship at the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, said that precision farming uses sensors, satellite images, drones, internet of things for soil analysis, monitoring, irrigation, etc with innovative farm management and appropriate extension network.

Business Line, Kochi
Raw cashew nut output to double by 2025-26 on improved acreage

The Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Development (DCCD) under the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, in a bid to reduce imports, has drawn up a plan to expand the area under the cashew and to double the production by 2025-26. The cashew industry with a processing capacity of two million tonnes per annum has been depending on other producing countries in Africa and South-East Asia for almost half of its requirement for several decades. Venkatesh N Hubballi, Director, DCCD, said that under the Centre’s Mission Integrated Development for Horticulture 1.2 lakh hectares would be brought under the crop by 2020. Already 20,000 hectares were brought under cashew last year and this year 60,000 hectares would be added with a cost of ₹50 crore, he said. He said the total production in 2017-18 is estimated at eight lakh tonnes from 10.42 lakh hectares. Throughout the country, 14 lakh hectares of land were suitable for cashew cultivation, but not ideal for other crops because of the terrain/soil conditions, he said. Choice of suitable cashew varieties for specific region and appropriate package of practices determines the final yield. More than 30 varieties, having exportable grade of cashew kernels, were released by different research institutes in the country, he said. Hubballi said 43 model cashew nurseries are functioning for planting material production in various States. Clones of high yielding varieties are the only planting material and generation of clones has reached 12 million per year. At present, area with clones of high yielding varieties has reached 3.92 lakh hectares, he added. Farmers, of late, have started showing interest in cashew cultivation as it is an economically viable crop because of its high commercial value. Cashew kernels are in great demand as whole and broken, apart from being used in confectionery and dessert.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Society must take a view on GM mustard: scientist

“The commercial release of genetically modified mustard wasn’t merely a scientific issue but a ‘socio-political one’ that required the understanding of a wide section of society,” K. VijayRaghavan, 64, Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) said. He was formerly Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, that had funded the development of the seed. While the transgenic plant has been cleared for commercial cultivation by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee — a scientific body — it is yet to be cleared by Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Environment and Science Minister. “There’s the scientific view [that it’s safe and useful] and another, in my view, a very small number but more vocal with a contrary view. Scientists argue that you are giving equal time to a rational view and an irrational view and so a hard decision must be taken. In case of GM, it’s important that society take a view. Science can bring evidence but the policy decision is a more complex process.” However India’s science academies needed to “speak more” and play a greater role especially in its advice to government on matters of science. “Indian science needs to get out from being intellectually not vibrant and exploring a vast space, into one which does. And India’s science academies need to play a special role,” said Mr. Vijay Raghavan, a biologist and member of India’s prominent academies. While Economic Survey in February said that India didn’t spend enough on science relative to its GDP, Mr. VijayRaghavan said resources would increase but fact that there weren’t significant budgetary cuts to science showed that the “Prime Minister was seeing value in science” and directly intervening in matters of science. “Our process of delivery of funds does need improvement,” he emphasised. Last month, 150 scientists signed a petition demanding that Indian science establishments take more stringent measures to punish scientists and senior researchers proved guilty of sexual harassment.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Trade war effect: India’s cotton exports to China may bloom

After the Chinese government’s move to counter US trade restrictions by putting cotton under the proposed tariff list, India — the world’s second biggest cotton exporter — eyes a promising proposition with the Dragon country. China is the second biggest market for Indian cotton (28.5 mm variety) after Bangladesh. India exported 154,857 tonnes of the fibre to China and 350,488 tonnes to Bangladesh in 2016-17. As per the DGFT data, during April 2017-January 2018, India shipped 57,549 tonnes to China and 296,805 tonnes to Bangladesh. Experts noted that India’s exports will surge amid trade war between US and China. “Currently, China is left with 25 per cent of its stock. Imports from the US may fall on higher tariff. In this situation, we can see Chinese demand opening up for India in January 2019 and there will be good opportunity for Indian cotton in the Chinese market,” said Atul Ganatra, President, cotton Association of India. The country’s cotton exports for the current marketing year (October- September) is estimated to cross 60 lakh bales (of 170 kg each). In the event of Chinese market creating more opportunities, exports may surge further. According to market sources, China bought about 2.5 million bales from the US in 2017 crop year.

Business Line, New Delhi
We were in the dark about Jordan’s new residue norms, claims rice exporters body

The All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) said it has taken up the issue of Jordan rejecting rice containers of an Indian exporter early this week with Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) and Jordan Chamber of Commerce. Jordan’s Agriculture Ministry has denied permission for offloading 12 containers carrying 270 tonnes of basmati rice from a North Indian exporter at its Aqaba port as Jordanian government laboratories found the pesticide residue in rice samples examined were higher than the maximum residue level (MRL). “The samples were found to have residue level (of fungicide tricyclazole) higher than it is now permitted. However, what is strange was that Jordan did not notify its decision to revise MRL and as a result, this information was not publicly available,” said AIREA Executive Director Rajen Sundaresan. “All of a sudden, Jordan has decided to adopt the European Union (EU) norms for tricyclazole residue, which stands at 0.01 parts per million (ppm). We had little knowledge about this,” he said, adding that the association has already written to Apeda and Jordan Chamber of Commerce. From January 1 this year, the EU decided to not allow the import of basmati rice whose tricyclazole levels exceed more than 0.01 ppm to its member countries, affecting most basmati exporters from India. Prior to the implementation of new norms, the MRL in Indian basmati was 1 ppm. The tolerance levels for tricyclazole in the US and Japan, interestingly, are much higher, at 3 ppm and 10 ppm respectively. Indian rice exporters have been lobbying with the Central government for getting the new norms relaxed by the EU for two years.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Wheat crashes below support price

MSP fixed at Rs 1,735/quintal for 2018-19 marketing year, Price in Saurashtra markets is Rs 1,550, in MP and Maharashtra it is Rs 1,650, MP forced to suspend its price deficit subsidy scheme or the Bhavantar Yojana, Fully blown agrarian crisis probably a matter of time. The country seems to be moving fast towards a major agrarian crisis with wheat becoming the latest commodity whose prices have collapsed well below the minimum support price (MSP). The early harvest data suggests that wheat prices have fallen below its MSP by 6-8 per cent in the last couple of weeks and is hovering around Rs 1,650 per quintal in central parts of the country. The MSP for the grain has been fixed at Rs 1,735 a quintal for 2018-19 marketing year that started April 1. The grain at present is priced in Saurashtra markets at Rs 1,550 per quintal, while in MP and Maharashtra mandis it is selling at a lower band of Rs 1,650. The drop in wheat prices is bad news for the country’s largely agrarian economy as it is coming at a time when farmers are already jostling to get remunerative price for several other rabi crops. Bumper production and lower demand have kept oilseeds, pulses and even cotton in some areas below their MSP levels, severely denting farmers’ income. In the case of wheat, the fall has begun from middle of March as the crop harvest started in central parts of the country, particularly in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Hailstorm and unseasonal rain early March has damaged a substantial portion of wheat produce, pushing the farmers to rush to the markets and sell the substandard produce at lower prices without waiting for the procurement to start.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Wheat, maize led global food price rise for a consecutive month in March

Wheat and maize led global food price increases for a consecutive month in March, due to forecasts of lower output this year following unfavourable weather. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations showed a 1.1 per cent rise in its Food Price Index in March to 172.8 points. At this level, it was 0.7 per cent above its value of the corresponding month last year. As in February, the month-on-month increase was driven primarily by stronger global prices of cereal and dairy products. Whereas the price of sugar and vegetable oils fell further and those of meat rose only slightly. “Prospects for wheat production in 2018 are more restrained, given less favourable weather conditions and lower prices. The latest forecast for world wheat production in 2018 stands at 750 million tonnes, down seven mt from the 2017 near-record level. Despite mostly favourable crop conditions in the European Union, the winter wheat output is forecast to fall, mostly on account of a reduction in sowings. In Asia, harvesting of the 2018 crop is underway. Outputs in China and India, the largest wheat producing countries, are foreseen to contract marginally from the record highs of 2017,” said the report. Maize output is likely to fall in South America from the record high of 2017, with bad weather in Argentina and a shift away from its cultivation towards soybean in Brazil. In southern Africa, although recent beneficial rains had partly reversed earlier concerns at dry weather, production is still forecast to fall from the high of 2017. A cut in area sown in South Africa, reflecting lower maize prices, further negatively weighed on production prospects.

6, April 2018
The New Indian Express, Hyderabad
Agriculture start-ups emerging a promising segment as IT sheen wears off

Agriculture start-ups, which were hitherto overlooked by investors, are finally emerging as a promising segment in the Indian start-up ecosystem. Springing up of several incubators focusing exclusively on agri start-ups, changing preferences of investors, initiatives taken up by government bodies like Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and other developments are giving a fillip to agri start-ups. “Increasing awareness among policy makers, financial planners and investors about the importance and potential of agriculture sector is helping agri start-ups to gain attention. Initially, the whole focus of incubators and investors was on startups related to IT and other allied sectors. Both start-ups and investors were chasing fancy valuations and glamour associated with start-up success stories. Mostly start-ups focused on copypaste models using IT, rather than getting on ground and trying to solve real problems of India. As a result, agri start-ups were neglected,” said Nagaraja Prakasam, who exclusively invests in social enterprises and acts as mentor-in-residence at IIM, Bangalore. While the failure rate among start-ups focusing on IT, e-commerce and other sought-after segments was huge and the investors started getting an idea of the real picture over the past two to three years, several start-ups in agri space have slowly but steadily grown and succeeded, thus drawing attention of investors towards them. Prakasam, who has invested in successful agri start-ups like Lumiere Organic Store, Fresh World and others, stressed that ICAR’s direction to more than 100 research and development institutes under its purview to offer technology transfer to startups has helped agri start-ups. Besides organisations like Acumen India and Villgro, initiatives of Central and several state governments is boosting the growth. Ministry of Agriculture has also launched Agriculture Grand Challenge.

The Financial Express, Lucknow
As cane arrears pile up, UP sugar millers seek reforms

With sugar prices sliding and the arrears of cane growers piling up, millers in Uttar Pradesh have approached chief minister Yogi Adityanath, seeking immediate measures to save the industry. The UP Sugar Millers Association (UPSMA) has suggested bridging the gap between the state advisory price and the paying capacity of the sugar mills by providing a cash assistance of Rs 40 per quintal directly to the farmers. Other measures suggested by the UPSMA include: creating a buffer stock of sugar similar to the one in Maharashtra at Rs 3,400 per quintal, having a two-tier cane price paying system due to non-availability of adequate working capital and constituting a committee to prepare a framework towards adopting a revenue sharing formula for pricing of sugarcane. Cane arrears have already touched Rs 8,000 crore. With more than a month to go before the sugar season ends, all the stakeholders— the farmers, mills as well as state government — are bracing to be singed with the prospect of the arrears rising further in the coming weeks. According to the latest data from the UP Cane Commissioner’s office, mills in UP were supposed to pay Rs 26,176.84 crore within the stipulated 14 days of taking cane delivery. Against this, they have paid only Rs 18,193.59 crore and the overdue amount now stands at Rs 7,983.35 crore. Stating that the cane price fixed by the UP government is the highest in the country, UPSMA president CB Patodia said that cane arrears in the state are double than that of Maharashtra and Karnataka. “This is the direct consequence of the eroded cane paying capacity of the mills,” he said, adding that on expenditure side, the cane and allied expenses are very high and on the revenue side, sugar prices are very depressed.

Business Line, Mangaluru
Coffee cargo handling up from New Mangalore port

Proactive measures initiated by the New Mangalore Port Trust (NMPT) in the recent years have helped attract more coffee cargofrom other ports in the recent years. Suresh P Shirwadkar, Chairman in-charge of the NMPT, told that the port handled 2.41 lakh tonnes (lt) of coffee cargo during 2017-18 as against 2.36 lt in 2016-17. The port shipped out 1.94 lt in 2015-16 and 1.59 lt in 2014-15. A senior port official said that more than 90 per cent of coffee cargo are being exported from the NMPT now. Had there been no lull in the international market, the coffee exports from NMPT would have gone up by another 10,000 tonnes, he said. Stating that a majority of coffee is located in the hinterland areas such as Kodagu, Chikmagaluru and Hassan districts of Karnataka, he said all of them are within 180 km distance from NMPT. The cargo can reach Mangaluru within in four-and-a-half hours from the hinterland. There is no inter-State transfer of the cargo. All these factors have helped exporters to save time and money, he said. Exporters now have the option of three ports for transhipment of cargo. If the transhipment is delayed for Colombo, the cargo can be taken to Mundra port. With this, transit time comes down. Ramesh Rajah, Coffee Exporters Association, says New Mangalore port has emerged as preferred choice for exporters due to improved infrastructure including a quick customs clearance and increase in number of sailings. As rising fuel prices add to the exporters’ costs, proximity to Mangalore has worked out to their advantage. To a query on the reduction in the cost when compared to Kochi, the NMPT official said the cost is less by around Rs 6,000 a container compared to the neighbouring ports.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Coffee exports hit a new record; up 12% near 4 lakh tonnes in 2017-18

India’s coffee exports set a new record in financial year 2017-18, both in terms of volume and rupee value terms. Robust demand from key buyers in Europe and Russia, higher domestic production and a continued increase in re-exports aided the shipment trend. Exports fell short of the 4-lakh tonne-mark in volume terms, registering a 12 per cent growth over last year. Of the export permits issued by the Coffee Board for 3.957 lakh tonnes during the year, the robusta variety accounted for 2.257 lakh tonnes (lt), while arabicas were 52,569 tonnes. The instant coffees continued to register an increase and accounted for 1.169 lt. Coffee imports for re-exports were estimated at 68,142 tonnes, sources said. In rupee terms, the shipments touched a new high of Rs 6,226 crore — a 11 per cent growth over previous year, despite rupee being stronger for large part of the year. In dollar terms, the exports stood at $965 million. But for the prevailing bearish trend in the global prices, the shipments in dollar terms could have exceeded the previous high of $999.7 million achieved during 2011-12. Ramesh Rajah, President of the Coffee Exporters Association, attributed the growth in exports to the increase in availability of coffees for shipments on good crop harvested in past couple of years. India’s coffee output stood at 3.48 lt in 2015-16 and 3.12 lt in 2016-17. “It may not be possible to sustain the growth trend in shipments as current crop is lower,” Rajah said. The exporters see coffee output for the 2017-18 crop year ending September at less than 3 lakh tonnes, while the Coffee Board is yet to release its estimates. “We expect the current crop to be between 2.9 and 3 lakh tonnes,” Rajah said.

The Financial Express, Pune
Grape exports to Europe set to beat last year’s figure

India has exported around 85,000 tonne grapes to Europe this season till date and is likely to cross last year’s shipment of 1.08 lakh tonne , exporters said. Last year, the country had exported more than 1.08 lakh tonne grapes to Europe, thanks to the favourable weather and good crop. Jagannath Khapre, president, All India Grape Exporters Association ( AIGEA), said that the country could either better last year’s exports or come close to it by the end of the season which is likely to last for another couple of weeks. However, the country has not been able to crack the issue of stricter residue monitoring plan norms by several countries. Like Europe, countries that import grapes from India, including China, Indonesia and Russia, have decided to issue stricter Residue Monitoring Plan ( RMP) norms to the country . India has been trying to make inroads into new export markets such as China, Russia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.However, these countries have now decided to come up with norms for Indian grapes, which may affect the export prospects of India this season. A couple of years ago, the EU had agreed to retain the residue levels of chlormequat chloride (CCL), a plant growth regulator, at 0.05 ppm (parts per million) for two years. In August the same year, EU had proposed to change the pesticide residue levels in grapes to 0.01 ppm causing unrest among Indian exporters. The relaxation by EU remains valid for the coming season as well. Khapre said that the approvals from the rest of the world are likely to come in by June by which time the season would be over. Bangladesh however continues to remain a good market and India may have exported some 35000-40000 tonne there so far.

Business Line, New Delhi
India may import1.5 mt wheat in 2018-19: USDA report

With the domestic production of wheat projected to dip by 3 million tonnes (mt) from the official estimates of 97 mt, India may import 1.5 mt of wheat in the marketing year 2018-19, a new report prepared for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said. “Despite lower planting, the (Indian) government’s preliminary estimate (2nd Advance Estimate released on February 28, 2018) forecasts 2018 wheat production optimistically at a near-record 97 mt; they expect a further increase in yield over last year’s record yield despite adverse planting conditions. However, most trade sources are currently estimating the crop in the range of 91-94 mt,” said India Grain and Feed Annual 2018 report prepared by USDA Foreign Agricultural Service staff in Delhi. According to the USDA officials, India imported 5.9 mt and 2 mt in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively. “Unfavourable late season weather conditions and consequent decline in the upcoming harvest may improve import prospects, while any further rise in import duty may push the forecast for imports lower,” the report said. In November last year, the Centre hiked the import duty of wheat to 20 per cent from existing 10 per cent, in order to discourage imports as the prospects of a good output looked up. India, which turned into a net importer of wheat in 2016-17 and continued importing in 2017-18, may import mostly quality wheat for south India millers, who may find imports more economical than buying from the domestic market as prices may go up after the marketing season is over in August this year, it said. The consumption of wheat in 2017-18 was revised lower to 92.3 mt on reports of poor offtake from South India on account of relatively higher wheat prices as compared to the previous year.

The Statesman, Chandigarh
No arrangement made for wheat procurement: SAD

With Punjab truckers boycotting the tender process for transporting grains from mandis to godowns, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) accused the Congress government of failing to make proper arrangements for the procurement season of the Rabi crops. In a Press statement, the SAD senior vice president and spokesman, Daljit Singh Cheema said the Amarinder Singh government is least bothered for the plight of farmers. He said it was most painful to see that the procurement of wheat has already started from 1 April and arrival of wheat has begun in mandis (grain markets) of the state but the government has miserably failed to make proper arrangements for the crop’s procurement. Cheema said that government has even failed to complete tender process for lifting of the produce from the mandis and same is the condition of labour contracts. He said it was surprising to see that the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) issued press releases on 3 April, three days after the procurement has begun, that the CM is visiting the national capital, New Delhi, for making arrangements for the procurement. The SAD leader said had the government been serious on procurement issue, it would have taken action at least 15 days before the beginning of the procurement process. He further said it was also unfortunate that government is silent on arrangements of finances for making payments to the farmers for their produce. Cheema further said that the way the government is moving for making arrangements after the beginning of the season also indicates how it is working on important issues.

Business Line, Mumbai
Phytelligence, Mahyco Grow group company in JV for horti crops

Seed major Mahyco Grow has formed a technology joint venture with US-based Phytelligence to provide planting material for horticulture crops. Mahyco Grow is the re-branded avatar of Barwale Group. All the brands of the Barwale Group are now grouped under the umbrella of Mahyco Grow. Seed, fruits and agriculture engineering businesses will be under Mahyco Grow. There is no change in the holding structure of the companies. A company spokesperson said that Phytelligence is a start-up company incubated from Washington State University. It has been in operations for the past few years and has special skills in creating material for fruit crops using an innovative technology, which will be used by Mahyco Grow, for developing better quality planting material for the Indian market. The spokesperson reiterated that the Phytelligence technology is based on conventional breeding technology. The technology will have to pass all the mandatory regulatory requirements of the government. A joint press statement said that the plants produced by Seven Star Fruits, a company of Mahyco Grow, using the Phytelligence MultiPHY process will support higher density planting systems, which results in higher yields per acre and more sustainable production. The partnership will also enable the delivery of new varieties of apples, peaches, plums, berries, grapes, nuts, oranges and other tropical fruits to the Mahyco Grow’s existing customers, and the region’s farmers, the statement said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Procurement: Govt clears transport bar

The Punjab government has finally been able to rein in transporters for the ongoing wheat procurement season. Besides bringing down the rates at which the wheat will be transported from mandis, the government has also roped in rice millers and labour and construction societies to lift and transport the procured wheat. It is for the first time that the government has capped the transport and cartage rate at 120 per cent of the scheduled rate. This will make the transport rates on a par with the charges given to the Food Corporation of India by the Centre. Since the rate of transport given in Punjab was much higher for the past several years, the state had been bearing the differential cost. Now, the government will save Rs 175 crore annually. The Food and Civil Supplies Department finalised the tendering process of 340 transport clusters (of total 413), while rejecting the bids for 10 clusters. While 100 per cent tenders had been finalised for the clusters in Amritsar, Barnala, Fazilka, Gurdaspur, Kapurthala, Muktsar, Mohali, Mansa, Pathankot, Rupnagar and SBS Nagar districts, the government was geared to ensure hassle-free procurement and lifting of wheat. In Mansa and Sangrur, the rice millers having their own trucks have been allotted contracts to transport wheat. This is also for the first time that penalty clauses have been introduced in the contracts to be signed between labour contractors and the government to ensure that wages are paid to labourers through RTGS and provident fund given to them.

Business Line, New Delhi
Profit margins of N. Indian tea producers to improve: ICRA

North Indian tea producers are set to register higher profit margins in FY2018, but are likely to experience pressure given the possibility of a sharp increase in wage rates. Profit margins of bulk tea players, particularly North Indian producers, are likely to improve in the current fiscal, but implementation of a new wage agreement for tea plantation workers, which is currently under negotiations, may hit their operating margins, credit rating agency ICRA has said. There is a possibility of a steep increase of around 25 per cent in wage rates over the next couple of years. If it happens, organised bulk tea players will witness a considerable deterioration in operating margins, said Kaushik, Das, ICRA Vice-President and sector head, in a statement. Although India recorded a 10.5 per cent decline in output during January, ICRA said domestic cropping trends were not indicative of the full-year pattern, since the full-year trend will primarily be determined by cropping levels during the peak production period June to October.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Respite for basmati growers

In a breather for basmati growers and exporters in Punjab and Haryana, the Geographical Indication (GI) Registry has dismissed the Madhya Pradesh Government’s plea for including 13 of its districts in the GI area for basmati. The MP Government has challenged the order in the Madras High Court. It is only after the issue is resolved can India initiate GI registration for this aromatic rice variety in other countries where there is a likelihood of name infringement. “The GI Registry order will help in maintaining the brand value of Indian basmati. We expect growers in Punjab and Haryana to get 20 per cent higher returns this year. The long-grained rice grown in Madhya Pradesh is of poor quality, and is used only for blending in basmati grown in the 77 districts of the Indo-Gangetic plains,” said Vijay Kumar Setia, president of the All India Rice Exporters’ Association. Basmati growers have been getting up to Rs 3,600 per quintal in Punjab. The rate of unbranded basmati in the export market is $1,150 (about Rs 75,000) per tonne, and that of branded variety, $1,300 per tonne. Basmati is grown in 77 districts of Punjab, Haryana, HP, Delhi, Uttarakhand, western Uttar Pradesh and J&K. It is also grown in a few districts of Punjab in Pakistan. “The GI mandate is to protect products of historical origin that have acquired a global reputation. Therefore, area expansion would be detrimental to basmati’s GI tag,” said Setia. Suresh Kumar, Chief Principal Secretary to the CM, said the state government would continue to protect the economic and legal interests of the state’s basmati growers. “We will oppose MP in the High Court too,” he added. The GI Registry observed in its judgement “…A mere plea not supported by any corroborative evidence has no gravity in the eye of the law... the oppositions are disallowed as lack of merit.”

Business Standard, Chennai
Rubber output falls 16% in Feb

Natural rubber (NR) production in India dropped 16 per cent in February. The tyre industry, which consumes nearly 70 per cent of the produce, has urged the government to relax import curbs. Rubber Board data shows NR production in February at 52,000 tonnes, as against 62,000 tonnes in 2017. NR consumption in India crossed a million tonnes (1,003,060 tonnes) in the first 11 months of 2017-18, a first. Production was 640,000 tonnes in the period, leaving a consumption gap of 360,000 tonnes. The tyre industry said a lean production period had already started, to last till September. This will add to the industry’s problems. Rubber Board officials were not available for comment. The industry has put in significant production capacities to meet growing demand from the automobile industry and the transportation and mining sectors. “However, production planning is undermined as domestic availability of NR is in short supply. As much as 35 per cent of the requirement needs to be imported,” said Rajiv Budhraja, director general of Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association. Domestic availability is in short supply despite average domestic NR prices ruling 11 per cent higher than international prices during the year. NR export has come to a halt and the entire domestic production is being taken by the industry. India levies the highest import duties on NR in the world, at close to 30 per cent, another complaint from the industry. They want duty-free import, equivalent to the projected domestic deficit. “The industry also wants removal of restrictions to import only at Chennai and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Terminal (Navi Mumbai),” said Budhraja.

5, April 2018
The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
AHSEC planning to introduce agriculture as vocational subject

The Assam Higher Secondary Education Council (AHSEC) is planning to introduce agriculture as a vocational subject in the HS level to open up self-employment opportunities for students. For this, the Council is in talks with the Assam Agriculture University (AAU). Confirming the development, a source in the AAU said it would take some time to prepare the modalities. “We intend to focus on the rural areas. We are aiming at conducting at least 80-100 classes for the students during an academic year, AHSEC Chairman Dr Dayananda Borgohain told. “There is a great potential of self-employment in the field of agriculture. We need to ward off the indignity that the youth tend to associate with the sector. We feel if we can give some basic hands-on training at this level, students would be attracted to it,” he said. Initially, the existing teachers would be trained, but, at a later stage, trainers may be hired on contractual basis. The AHSEC also plans to ask colleges to set up kitchen gardens on their campuses. “The students can be involved actively in the garden. They can also see how one can generate income from the sector by selling the produce in the garden,” the Chairman further said. As part of the project, the Council is also planning to set up handlooms in colleges in rural areas to attract girls to the trade. In urban colleges, it plans to introduce training on professions like plumbing, carpentry, welding, etc. “We are trying to rope in trainers and planning out other nitty-gritty like salaries. The intention is to help the youth stand on their own feet and become self-reliant,” the Chairman added. The AHSEC had earlier signed an MoU with The Art of Living, which will undertake a Faculty Development Programme in the HS institutes in the state.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Bulk edible oil exports unviable

Bulk export of edible oil is unviable for Indian exporters, as the country relies on imports to meet internal demand. Only a small quantity of groundnut oil can be exported. The government last week removed the decades-old ban on export of bulk edible oils, except mustard oil. Earlier, it had allowed export of 100,000 tonnes of edible oil in small packets. The relaxation, however, is unlikely to benefit exporters much. At present, India imports 9 million tonnes of crude palm oil annually for refining in local units or blending it with some other edible oils to make it cost effective. It also imports about 3 million tonnes of refined edible oil for direct consumption, in addition to another 3.5 million tonnes of soft oil and non-edible oil. About 55 per cent of domestic demand is met through imports. This can go up to 60 per cent in years when seed output is scarce. “As a nation, we rely on imports of edible oil. Hence, export of edible oil in bulk would not be possible, except perhaps a small quantity of groundnut oil occasionally,” said Atul Chaturvedi, chief executive officer, Adani Wilmar, the producer of the Fortune brand edible oils. India’s annual vegetable (edible and non-edible) oil import is about 15.5 million tonnes. It produces 6.5-9 million tonnes of oil from vegetables such as soybean, mustard seeds and sesame; of this a small quantity is used for medicinal purposes. Total consumption of edible oil in the country is 25 million tonnes. According to the data compiled by the Indian Oilseeds and Produce Export Promotion Council (IOPEPC), in 2016-17, India exported 29,000 tonnes of edible oil, earning Rs 3.39 billion. Some experts feel the removal of the export ban could help increase exports. Globally, about 97 per cent of oil trade takes place in bulk. Relaxation of the ban aligns India to international trade practices.

Business Line, Kochi
Cashew exports up 9% in April-Jan on strong demand

The cashew exports during April 2017-January 2018 have shown an increase of 9 per cent over that of the corresponding period the previous fiscal. Total shipments in April-January stood at 73,810 tonnes valued at Rs 5,131.73 crore as against 67,742 tonnes worth Rs 4,179.72 crore in the same period in 2016-17. The average unit value also rose to Rs 695.26 a kg from Rs 617.01. At the same time, the high prices of the Raw Cashew Nut (RCN) in the producing countries have reduced imports of the raw material during the period under report by 11 per cent, S Kannan, Executive Director and Secretary, Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI) told. Total RCN imports during April-January 2018 were at 5,86,663 tonnes valued at Rs 7,931.29 crore at the unit value of Rs 135.19 a kg as against 6,58,461 tonnes valued at Rs 7,338.69 crore at the unit value of Rs 111.45, he said. Strong global demand coupled with compulsion on the part of the exporters who have availed advance authorisation to discharge their export obligation to ship out before January 31 has raised the total exports during the period, he said. Meanwhile, in the world market “W320 was trading, of late, in the range of $4.50-4.75 per lb (fob). Not much activity is seen as the buyers are covering only limited quantities as and when required,” said Pankaj N Sampat, a Mumbai-based dealer. Prices for all whole grades have come down by about 5 per cent the same as W320. However, not much change in price was seen for broken grades because of demand, he said. Unprecedented rise in RCN price coupled with high processing cost has steered the industry into dire straits. As a result, nearly 50 per cent of the factories remain closed for about 18 months now, Kannan said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Crystal Crop buys Syngenta’s coarse cereal, fodder biz for undisclosed sum

New Delhi-based agrochemicals firm Crystal Crop Protection Ltd acquired Syngenta India’s pearl millet and sorghum seeds business for an undisclosed sum in order to strengthen its seeds portfolio, a press statement said here. “With this acquisition we will get a world-class breeding programme in sorghum and millets and will strengthen Crystal’s seed portfolio and improve market penetration in relevant markets,” said Crystal MD Ankur Aggarwal. The company didn’t reveal financial details of the deal as its initial public offer (IPO) is scheduled in the near future. As part of the deal, Crystal would buy out the coarse cereal portfolio, including seed brands such as Mahalaxmi (sorghum), Atheeva (pearl millet) and SX-17 (SSG). The divestment would help Syngenta focus more on its diversified field crop and vegetable seeds business, said KC Ravi, Syngenta India’s Vice-President for business sustainability. Crystal, backed by South Asia-focused private equity fund Everstone Capital, has, of late, been beefing up its bouquet of offerings. In January this year, it acquired a speciality chemicals manufacturing business in India from Belgian chemicals giant Solvay SA as the latter was winding up some of its businesses globally.

Mint, New Delhi
Dues to cane farmers cross Rs17,000 crore, says Isma

Dues to sugarcane farmers touched its highest in the ongoing crushing season and is estimated between Rs16,000 to Rs17,000 crore following surplus production and crashing wholesale prices, trade lobby Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma) said. According to Isma, in Uttar Pradesh, the largest sugarcane growing state, mills owed farmers Rs7,200 crore by end March, followed by Rs5,000 crore across Maharashtra and Karnataka, and Rs4,000 crore across states like Bihar, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Govt aware about poor lot of State rice growers

Confirming that the government is aware about deplorable socioeconomic condition of the rice growers in Assam, the Centre said that procurement of foodgrains, including rice by agencies, depends upon multiple factors like production, market surplus, minimum support price (MSP), prevailing market rates, demand-supply situation, participation of private traders, etc., to increase outreach of MSP and to devoid the farmers from distress sale in the eastern states, including Assam. Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said the State government is taking steps to ensure remunerative price for the paddy growers in Assam by way of introducing a paddy procurement programme since the kharif marketing season (KMS). The government has engaged the Food Corporation of India, Assam State Agricultural Marketing Board, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd, National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation of India Ltd and National Federation of Farmers’ Procurement, Processing and Retailing Cooperatives of India Ltd for paddy procurement in the State. The target for procurement in the current KMS was fixed at 1,10,000 metric tonnes and 28,783 metric tonnes have already been procured till March 26.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
India among nations to face food insecurity

India is among the countries which are at the greatest risk of food insecurity due to weather extremes caused by climate change, a global study suggests. Researchers led by the University of Exeter in the UK examined how climate change could affect the vulnerability of different countries to food insecurity — when people lack access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The study, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, looked at 122 developing and least-developed countries, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America. The countries at the greatest vulnerability to food insecurity when moving from the present-day climate to 20C global warming are Oman, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, researchers said. “Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world,” said Richard Betts, a professor at the University of Exeter. “Such weather extremes can increase vulnerability to food insecurity,” said Betts. “Some change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.50C, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 20C in approximately 76 per cent of developing countries,” he said. Warming is expected to lead to wetter conditions on average — with floods putting food production at risk — but agriculture could also be harmed by more frequent and prolonged droughts in some areas, researchers said. Wetter conditions are expected to have the biggest impact in South and East Asia, with the most extreme projections suggesting the flow of the River Ganges could more than double at 20C global warming, they said. The areas worst affected by droughts are expected to be southern Africa and South America — where flows in the Amazon are projected to decline by up to 25 per cent.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Millets to be bought at MSP for PDS sale

The Narendra Modi government has decided to include millets in the public distribution system for which it is procuring these grains at federally fixed minimum support prices, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said. The agriculture ministry has started a new programme to focus on millets or coarse cereal production, mostly grown by small and poor farmers. Millets are a naturally rich source of vitamins and micro-nutrients. Rajasthan is the top producer of coarse cereals in the country. Millets are mostly cultivated in low-fertile lands, mountainous terrain, tribal and rain-fed areas in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. Supply of cheap millets to poor households and through school mid-day meals will improve nutrition outcomes among the poor and also boost incomes of small farmers, the minister said. Area under millets has been declining. Despite growing demand for millets from urban consumer because of their natural high content of vitamins, proteins, oils and minerals, in 2016-17, the area under millet cultivation declined to 14.72 million hectares, down 60% compared to the previous year. India produces, on an average, over 40 million tonnes of coarse cereals. The ministry is rolling out a programme called “nutri-cereals” under the National Food Security Mission to increase output of millets, such as jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet) as well as indigenous indigenous “little millets” known as kutki, kodo, sawa, kangni and cheena. The government has declared 2018 as the “National Year of Millets”. Last July, Prime Minister Modi had called for inclusion of millets under the public distribution system. Following this, a meeting of the consultative committee on agriculture headed by NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand was held in October 2017. Based on the recommendations of NITI Aayog, the agriculture ministry has decided to create a sub-mission on “nutri-cereals”.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Portals to Make Farm Products Exports Easier

In line with the Digital India initiative, the government has developed three online portals to make it easier to export farm products from India and reduce transaction costs. “Potential for agricultural and food export will get a great boost due to these digital initiatives,” commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu said while launching the portals. The digital platforms, developed by the Export Inspection Council, have integrated the entire export food chain by linking primary production, chain catch, aquaculture pond, dairy farms and apiaries. The council is the official export certification body of the government and it has developed the portals for “credible inspection and certification and to strengthen the confidence on Indian produce”, as per an official release. “Promoting exports is very important...it will help promote and protect Brand India,” Prabhu added. Processing units, testing laboratories, official controls and exports will have complete traceability. One lab, one assessment portal provides unified approach to all stakeholders like accreditation bodies, regulators and laboratories by bringing them together on a common platform to aid simplified procedures. The Export Alert Monitoring portal monitors non-compliance raised by importing countries. The portal will enable monitoring of alerts and action taken by multiple organisations involved in initial certification in the food safety & biosecurity and analysing the trend, understanding the trade barriers to reduce the alerts and enhance the export trade. To enhance the country’s analytical capability, the council has provided accredited Proficiency Testing (PT) providers at Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai by reducing dependency on foreign PT providers and ease of access.

The Times of India, Gandhinagar
Rs 628 cr aid for groundnut farmers

The central government has announced an aid of Rs 628 crore for farmers cultivating groundnut in Gujarat. The amount shall be deposited directly in the bank accounts of the farmers in the next couple of days. The decision has come as a relief for the state government as several farmer organizations were protesting against delay in giving the amount to the farmers from whom the government had purchased groundnut at the minimum support price (MSP). The state government said that the amount will be deposited in the bank accounts of the farmers who had sold their groundnut at 254 centres across the state. The central government has also approved purchase of 90,000 tonnes of mustard and 80,000 tonnes of chickpeas. It was in January this year that on the request from Gujarat government for extending groundnut procurement by additional 4 lakh tonnes, the Union agriculture ministry had allowed one lakh tonnes of procurement under the price support scheme (PSS).

Business Line, New Delhi
Sugar output up at 28 mt; cane arrears soar

Sugar production in the country climbed to 28.18 million tonnes (mt) by the end of last month — nearly 9 mt more than output in corresponding period in the previous sugar season — a release from the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said. This was expected as the estimated sugar production in the current season is slated to be 45 per cent higher, it said. The glut in production, which brought down the price of the sweetener in the market, however, hit the farmers most. Ex-mill price of sugar is hovering around Rs 3,000 per quintal, which is Rs 500-600 below the cost of production. According to ISMA, cane price arrears of over 14 days across the country rose to an estimated Rs 16,000-17,000 crore by March-end. The arrears in UP stood at Rs 7,200 crore; Rs 2,500 crore each in Maharashtra and Karnataka; while mills in other sugar-producing States owed farmers a total of Rs 4,000 crore. Of the 524 sugar mills which were operating during the current season, 193 mills have stopped crushing and remaining 331 sugar mills were in operation till March 31. As many as 187 sugar mills which were in operation in Maharashtra produced 10.13 mt of sugar till end March. The sugar mills in UP, on the other hand, produced 9.54 mt. The sugar mills in Karnataka have produced 3.56 mt in the current season so far. Though the government has announced export of 2 million tonnes of sugar under the Minimum Indicative Export Quota scheme, the best FOB price at the port offered by importers is around $350 per tonne as the global sugar market is depressed, IMSA said.

DNA, Mumbai
Urea stocks may gain in long term

Over the last two decades, the fertiliser industry has hardly seen any major greenfield projects in the country. However, this industry experienced some brownfield projects and few major consolidations by the large standalone fertiliser companies through acquisitions. Zuari Group and Coromandel International were in the forefront in acquiring other fertiliser companies like in the last two decades. Recently, Tata Chemicals announced a sale of its urea plant (with a capacity of 12 lakh tonnes) to Yara Fertilizers India for a consideration of Rs 2,682 crore. There exists a huge gap between the domestic demand and production. The domestic production of urea in FY2017 was around 242 lakh tonne while the annual demand for urea stays around 300 lakh tonne. It is likely that the support to the farmers in terms of very high urea subsidy would stay for long due to political compulsions. Any major cut in the urea application by the farmers might happen by reducing the imports rather than keeping the domestic firms idle. India’s foodgrain production rose five times over nearly seven decades from 50.82 million tonne in 1951 to 252.22 million tonne in 2015-16. This is mainly on account of nearly fourfold jump in the productivity. This was made possible by ever-growing application of fertilisers. Since cultivable land is continuously shrinking and population keep growing, the prospects for the fertiliser business as a whole remain robust. It is most unlikely that the farmers would cut down the urea consumption substantially as the other fertilisers like DAP (Di-ammonium phosphate) and complex fertilisers costs remain higher. Expected steep increase in the gas output by Reliance Industries is also set to facilitate higher production of urea by the Indian companies in the long run.

4, April 2018
Millennium Post, New Delhi
Govt set to procure 50,000 MT potato

In a major move aimed at making available politically sensitive commodity potatoes at an affordable price throughout the year, the government has decided to procure 50,000 MT potatoes from farmers to stabilise the prices of root vegetable. According to a senior official, procurement of potatoes would be initiated under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF). "The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has asked Nafed and National Cooperative Consumers' Federation (NCCF) to procure the essential commodity from farmers. Both the Central agencies would procure 25,000 MT potatoes each," the official said. The official further stated that procurement of potato would start only after getting a detailed crop production data from the Union Agriculture Ministry. "It's not yet clear about the shortfall in the production of the crop. The quantity of procurement would be increased or decreased on the basis of production data," the official said. "We have sought production data from Agriculture Ministry and after evaluating the report, procurement would be initiated. We are hoping that production data would be submitted by Agriculture Ministry soon," the official said, adding that it's for the first time that the process to procure potatoes has been initiated. Hailing the decision, Ganesh Nanote, a farmer from Maharashtra, said, "It's a good move as it would not only help farmers in getting better price of their produce but also ensure the availability of the vegetable at an affordable price during the peak season when prices tough the sky." In another move, the government has also asked Nafed to procure about 30,000 tonne of onions from Nashik, the onion producing district in Maharashtra. Notably, the wholesale prices of potato in West Bengal have started rising as the state has witnessed a 14 per cent drop in production this year. Given the price trend, the Odisha government is also mulling to create a buffer stock.

Business Line, New Delhi
India at risk of food shortage due to climate change: study

India is among the countries which are at the greatest risk of food insecurity due to weather extremes caused by climate change, a global study suggests. Researchers led by the University of Exeter in the UK examined how climate change could affect the vulnerability of different countries to food insecurity — when people lack access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The study, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, looked at 122 developing and least-developed countries, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America. The countries at the greatest vulnerability to food insecurity when moving from the present-day climate to 2 degrees Celsius global warming are Oman, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, researchers said. “Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world,” said Richard Betts, a professor at the University of Exeter. “Such weather extremes can increase vulnerability to food insecurity,” said Betts. “Some change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 2 degrees Celsius in approximately 76 per cent of developing countries,” he said. Warming is expected to lead to wetter conditions on average — with floods putting food production at risk — but agriculture could also be harmed by more frequent and prolonged droughts in some areas, researchers said. Wetter conditions are expected to have biggest impact in South and East Asia, with most extreme projections suggesting the flow of River Ganges could more than double at 2 degrees Celsius global warming, they said. “Some areas are projected to see an increase in flood event lengths of four days or more, particularly India and Bangladesh, for which such increases are projected in all ensemble members to some extent, researchers said.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
Mango, maize crops hit by unseasonal rain

In less than a fortnight, scores of chilli, maize, paddy and mango growers bore the brunt of nature’s fury when yet another spell of unseasonal rain wreaked havoc in various parts of the district, taking a heavy toll on standing crops as well as the harvested produce. An unexpected spell of moderate to heavy rain accompanied by gusty winds lashed many parts of the district late on Sunday night compounding the woes of farmers, those already reeling under the impact of adverse climatic conditions and the unseasonal rain that battered several mandals in the third week of last month. The maize and mango growers are among the hardest hit by the sudden showers and high velocity winds that extensively damaged the crops ahead of the crucial harvesting season in Kusumanchi, Chintakani, Tirumalayapalem, and other mandals. Extensive damage to standing maize crops was reported from Venkatapuram in Mudigonda mandal, Basvapuram, Kistapuram and Lachagudem in Chintakani mandal, Jellacheruvu in Kusumanchi mandal and several other villages from across the district. Mango growers in Khammam and Sattupalli divisions, known for extensive mango plantations, suffered a major jolt with the latest bout of unseasonal rains dashing their hopes of at least recovering the cost of cultivation. “Sunday night’s rain caused extensive fruit dropping in our mango plantation leaving us in dire straits,” deplored Venkateshwarlu, a farmer of Basvapuram. “The raw mangoes those dropped from trees under the impact of strong gales will not fetch us remunerative price and we are bound to suffer losses this season,” he rued. Mango orchards suffered extensive damage at Lingala in Kallur mandal and standing paddy crop bore the brunt of rain in Kalluru, Thallada and other mandals in the district, said Sattupalli MLA S. Venkata Veeraiah.

Business Line, New Delhi
Slow start to wheat purchase by Govt for 2018-19 season

The government’s wheat procurement for the 2018-19 (April-March) marketing year was at 510,734 tonnes as of March 31, down from 785,406 tonnes a year ago, according to the Food Ministry data. Of the total quantity purchased, 491,278 tonnes were procured in Madhya Pradesh, sharply down from 781,871 tonnes bought a year ago, according to the data. The procurement was, however, nearly five-fold higher in Rajasthan at 13,584 tonnes and eight-fold higher in Gujarat at 5,859 tonnes. For 2018-19, the government has fixed the minimum support price of wheat at Rs 1,735 a quintal — higher than Rs 1,625 the previous year. While the higher support price has led to increased procurement in Rajasthan and Gujarat, government purchases were lower in Madhya Pradesh due to a smaller crop and high prices in open markets there. According to Madhya Pradesh government’s second advance estimate, wheat output in the State is seen at 15.9 million tonnes, down 27.6 per cent from a year ago as farmers switched to chana and pulses. The Centre has set a wheat procurement target of 32 million tonnes for 2018-19 compared with 30.8 million purchased in the previous year. According to the Agriculture Ministry estimates, farmers will likely harvest 97.1 million tonnes of wheat in 2017-18 crop year, down from 98.5 mt a year ago.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Soybean prices on rise, buck trend of most farm products

At a time when bumper production and lower demand are keeping prices of several agriculture commodities low, many factors have ensured that soybean prices remain high in the country, giving some hope to a section of farmers. Soybean prices rose by Rs 125 (or 3.33 per cent) to Rs 3,881 per quintal in futures trade on creation of fresh positions by participants amid positive overseas cues. The futures market has remained on the upside for the last few days with lower domestic production of 83.5 lakh tonnes and failure of the crop in Argentina, one of the biggest soybean producers, boosting investor sentiment. In the US market too, these is a big shortfall in production this year. The production shortfall is coming at a time when the demand is projected to rise sharply. “There is a severe constraint on production of soybean this year that is likely to keep the prices high. We are looking at NCDEX futures soybean to touch Rs 4,000 a quintal anytime now,” said a commodity trader tracking the developments. In Argentina, severe drought like conditions have failed soybean crop with production expected to fall to 500 lakh tonnes from earlier levels of 600 lakh tonnes. Argentina is the world’s top supplier of soybean meal (48 per cent of global production), used to feed livestock, and soy oil. But all don’t agree that the current rally would sustain. Global soybean ending inventories are still a record at 98 million tonnes, up 87 per cent from 10 years ago, according to the US Agriculture Department. In fact, there are fears that a glut like situation could develop with more farmers in US planting soybean this spring leading to a price crash.

The New Indian Express, Hyderabad
Agriculture start-ups emerging a promising segment as IT sheen wears off

Agriculture start-ups, which were hitherto overlooked by investors, are finally emerging as a promising segment in the Indian start-up ecosystem. Springing up of several incubators focusing exclusively on agri start-ups, changing preferences of investors, initiatives taken up by government bodies like Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and other developments are giving a fillip to agri start-ups. “Increasing awareness among policy makers, financial planners and investors about the importance and potential of agriculture sector is helping agri start-ups to gain attention. Initially, the whole focus of incubators and investors was on startups related to IT and other allied sectors. Both start-ups and investors were chasing fancy valuations and glamour associated with start-up success stories. Mostly start-ups focused on copypaste models using IT, rather than getting on ground and trying to solve real problems of India. As a result, agri start-ups were neglected,” said Nagaraja Prakasam, who exclusively invests in social enterprises and acts as mentor-in-residence at IIM, Bangalore. While the failure rate among start-ups focusing on IT, e-commerce and other sought-after segments was huge and the investors started getting an idea of the real picture over the past two to three years, several start-ups in agri space have slowly but steadily grown and succeeded, thus drawing attention of investors towards them. Prakasam, who has invested in successful agri start-ups like Lumiere Organic Store, Fresh World and others, stressed that ICAR’s direction to more than 100 research and development institutes under its purview to offer technology transfer to startups has helped agri start-ups. Besides organisations like Acumen India and Villgro, initiatives of Central and several state governments is boosting the growth. Ministry of Agriculture has also launched Agriculture Grand Challenge.

Financial Express, New Delhi
Rains Forecast: Skymet says 20% chance of above normal monsoon; higher agricultural output on cards?

Even as we move towards the monsoon season in India, Skymet Weather has forecasted a 20% chance of above normal monsoon, and a 5% chance of excess rain in 2018. This will come as a welcome relief, even as the Narendra Modi-led government looks to achieve an 8% GDP growth in FY19, especially in a monsoon reliant economy. Most parts of the country continue to witness warm and dry weather, with on and off pre-monsoon rains. According to the report, there is 5% chance of excess rain (seasonal rainfall more than 110% of LPA); 20% chance of above normal rains (between 105-110% of LPA); 55% probablity of normal rains and 20% chance of below normal rains. Further, Skymet says that there’s a 0% chance of drought ( less than 90% LPA). LPA refers to long-period average. According to a report by Skymet, a feeble cyclonic circulation is seen over the central and eastern parts of UP (Uttar Pradesh). Further, the report says that this expected rainfall will not have any impact on the currently high temperature in the state. Notably, India will be counting on above normal monsoon this year to achieve the ambitiously forecasted economic growth. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said last month that the Indian economy could achieve an 8 percent-plus growth if crude oil prices stay within manageable limits and the monsoon rains turn out to be normal this year. An above average monsoon could translate to higher growth. India’s economic survey has pinpointed agriculture as one of the major focus areas for Indian economy this year. Notably, while the Skymet has forecasted above normal monsoon, Maharashtra, a major monsoon-reliant state, has registered a decrease in farm sector output to 8.3% in 2017-18 due to a weak monsoon. This underlines the severe agrarian distress in India’s largest state economy.

3, April 2018
The Economic Times, New Delhi
Ankur Invests in Carmel Organics

India-focused venture capital firm Ankur Capital has invested an undisclosed amount in medicinal herbs supplier Carmel Organics. Founded in 2012 by Shailendra Dhakad and Rajesh Sagitla, Carmel helps small farmers increase their incomes by growing organic herbs and spices. The startup intends to use the funds raised to scale-up business, with a special focus on targeted global markets. “We were attracted by Carmel Organics’ positioning as a quality supplier of medicinal herbs and its traction in markets like Europe and Australia,” said Krishnan Neelakantan, senior investment director at Ankur Capital. “In the founders, we saw a great combination of strong on-ground connect with farmers as well as drive to build a global scale firm.”

Mint, New Delhi
Caution ahead

Financial markets will look forward to the assessment of the economic situation by the monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), as most analysts do not expect the committee to change policy rates this week. Although inflation in the January March quarter is likely to have remained softer than the 5.1% projected by RBI, it is expected to move up in the coming months due to the base effect and a pick-up in economic activity. Further, the fixing of minimum support price (MSP) at 50% above cost and ensuring that all farmers get the MSP, as promised in the Union budget, could significantly push up food prices. As it was reported, these measures could lift farm-gate prices by 15%, and its transmission to the retail level would significantly affect consumer price inflation. Higher spending in the farm sector would also have fiscal implications. Given these policy uncertainties and the fact that interest rates are firming up in global markets, it is likely that the MPC would maintain a cautious stance.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Venkaiah asks agri scientists to help make farming viable

Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu has asked the agricultural scientists to work on making agriculture viable, profitable and sustainable. They should also strive to ensure food security to meet “the needs of a burgeoning population.” Addressing agricultural scientists and researchers at the Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR) here, he asked them to come out with innovative and out-of-the-box solutions to meet the challenges faced by farmers. The focus of the discussion was on ‘Doubling Farm Income by 2022 in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana’. “A happy farmer makes a happy country,” he said. “Another issue that needed attention was raising input costs. Crop diversification and promoting allied farming activities such as backyard poultry are equally important to increase farmers’ income,” he felt. Asking scientists and researchers to spend time with farmers to understand their problems better, he felt that staying with farmers should be made mandatory for students pursuing agricultural courses. He said the most critical need was to establish a dialogue with farmers and provide them with knowledge and material resources to increase their incomes.

The Times of India, New Delhi
States allowed to set up crop insurance firms to execute PMFBY

The Centre has allowed states to set up their own insurance companies for implementing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), a senior Agriculture Ministry official said. The move comes after several requests from states as well as observations made by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its 2017 report that old crop insurances schemes which have now been merged with PMFBY, were poorly implemented during 2011-2016. "We have allowed the states to establish their own crop insurance companies to implement PMFBY subject to participation in bidding process," the official told. Presently, five public sector insurers and 13 private insurance companies are empanelled for implementation of the scheme, the official said. The public insurers include Agriculture Insurance Company of India (AIC), United India Insurance Company (UICC), National Insurance Company (NIC), Oriental Insurance Company (OIC) and New India Assurance Company (NIAC). Launched in April 2016 , PMFBY provides comprehensive crop insurance from pre-sowing to post harvest against non-preventable natural risks at extremely low premium rate of 2 per cent for kharif crops, 1.5 per cent for rabi crops and 5 per cent for horticulture and commercial crops. The balance premium is paid equally by the centre and state. Claims are settled on the basis of yield loss assessed at the end of the season. During the 2017-18 crop year (July-June), 4.79 crore farmers have been covered under PMFBY and the government is in the process of assessing the claims.

THindustan Times, New Delhi
India at risk of food shortage due to climate change, says study

India is among the countries which are at the greatest risk of food insecurity due to weather extremes caused by climate change, a global study suggests. Researchers led by the University of Exeter in the UK examined how climate change could affect the vulnerability of different countries to food insecurity — when people lack access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The study, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, looked at 122 developing and least-developed countries, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America. The countries at the greatest vulnerability to food insecurity when moving from the present-day climate to 2 degrees Celsius global warming are Oman, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, researchers said. “Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world,” said Richard Betts, a professor at the University of Exeter. “Such weather extremes can increase vulnerability to food insecurity,” said Betts. “Some change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 2 degrees Celsius in approximately 76% of developing countries,” he said. Warming is expected to lead to wetter conditions on average — with floods putting food production at risk — but agriculture could also be harmed by more frequent and prolonged droughts in some areas, researchers said. Wetter conditions are expected to have the biggest impact in South and East Asia, with the most extreme projections suggesting the flow of the River Ganges could more than double at 2 degrees Celsius global warming, they said. “Some areas are projected to see an increase in flood event lengths of 4 days or more, particularly India and Bangladesh, for which such increases are projected in all ensemble members to some extent, researchers said.

The Times of India, Panaji
Weather effect: Cashew harvest may be bleak

This year’s cashew season is expected to be bleak, as weather parameters have not been in favour of the crop, experts say. “The cashew crop is suffering in farmers’ fields all over the state,” said a fruit scientist at the Goa-based ICAR-Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute. “The yield this year may only be 60% of the usual, which will be a big blow to farmers.” He said that this year may see the cashew harvest at just 15 to 17 metric tones, down from 26 last year. He attributed the reasons for the same to sudden rain and cloudy weather when the crops were flowering. Dull weather results in the blackening of the flowers or the eruption of fungus, which then affects the final yield. It was earlier reported how the sudden downpours in Panaji and other parts of North Goa due to depression in the Arabian Sea has impacted the state’s agricultural sector. Cashew farmers feared that the crops which had started flowering in orchards would be susceptible to catching fungus, the paper had reported. “The erratic weather pattern has delivered a major blow to our crops,” said cashew farmer Shivram Arolkar. “There is dew due to mist in the morning and extreme heat in the afternoon. Of all my crops, only 30% may yield some results, while the rest are lost.” Attacks by insects and pests have made things worse, said director of agriculture Nelson Figueiredo. “There have been reports by farmers of attacks by the tea mosquito bug, which has led to the further decline of full fruition of the cashew crop this season,” he said. “There will therefore be a noticeably lower production this time compared to previous years.” On the other hand, experts from the ICAR-CCARI in Old Goa said that the ‘Goa cashew-2’ variety of the fruit developed by them hasn’t been hit by these weather parameters.

Deccan Chronicle, New Delhi
India among nations to face food insecurity

India is among the countries which are at the greatest risk of food insecurity due to weather extremes caused by climate change, a global study suggests. Researchers led by the University of Exeter in the UK examined how climate change could affect the vulnerability of different countries to food insecurity — when people lack access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The study, published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, looked at 122 developing and least-developed countries, mostly in Asia, Africa and South America. The countries at the greatest vulnerability to food insecurity when moving from the present-day climate to 20C global warming are Oman, India, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, researchers said. “Climate change is expected to lead to more extremes of both heavy rainfall and drought, with different effects in different parts of the world,” said Richard Betts, a professor at the University of Exeter. “Such weather extremes can increase vulnerability to food insecurity,” said Betts. “Some change is already unavoidable, but if global warming is limited to 1.50C, this vulnerability is projected to remain smaller than at 20C in approximately 76 per cent of developing countries,” he said. Warming is expected to lead to wetter conditions on average — with floods putting food production at risk — but agriculture could also be harmed by more frequent and prolonged droughts in some areas, researchers said. Wetter conditions are expected to have the biggest impact in South and East Asia, with the most extreme projections suggesting the flow of the River Ganges could more than double at 20C global warming, they said. The areas worst affected by droughts are expected to be southern Africa and South America — where flows in the Amazon are projected to decline by up to 25 per cent.

India Today, Balurghat
Aromatic rice Tulaipanji gaining popularity among farmers

An indigenous aromatic rice, grown in a small pocket of north Bengal, has gained so much interest among the farmers due to the state governments encouragement that its area of cultivation has increased by 45 per cent in just three years, district officials said. Tulaipanji is cultivated in Raiganj, Kaliaganj, Hemtabad and Karandighi blocks of Uttar Dinajpur district and Kushmandi block of Dakshin Dinajpur district. Earlier, the farmers were not very keen to cultivate Tulaipanji, but following the encouragement by the state government, more and more peasants are now engaged in farming this variety. "The yield of Tulaipanji was not enough in earlier years. But now the agriculture department helps us in various ways. We also get a better price for this," said Palanu Mohammad, a farmer of Bindol in Raiganj block. In Uttar Dinajpur, Tulaipanji was cultivated in 6,700 hectare in 2017-18, compared to 5,400 hectare in 2016-17 and 4,600 hectare in 2015-16, regisetering a growth of 45 per cent in three years, district agriculture official Srikanta Sinha said. The production of Tulaipanji has also been gradually increasing - 10,120 million tonne in 2015-16, 11,880 mt in 2016-17 and 14,740 mt in 2017-18 - in the district, Sinha told. "If Basmati rice can be marketed countrywide in packets, the same can be done for Tulaipanji. It has an excellent aroma. The government has taken the initiative to market this rice in and outside the country," said Uttar Dinajpur District Magistrate Ayesha Rani. The DM said the authorities have applied for GI (geographical identification) tag for Tulaipanji. A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory. Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin. The agricultural department of the district has been directed to help farmers grow Tulaipanji, Rani said.

2, April 2018
The Telegraph, Gangtok
Ban on non-organic produce in Sikkim

Organic Sikkim will not allow sale of non-organic agricultural produce but confusion exists among traders over how the ban will be enforced on consignments from other states and on existing stocks. "Officers will inspect markets throughout the state, and if any vendor is found selling the banned vegetables and fruits, his entire stock would be seized," state horticulture secretary Khorlo Bhutia said. The Sikkim government - which had announced the plan for such a ban earlier without specifying the date - has listed 27 items, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, spices and condiments which, if non-organic, would not be allowed to be sold. Some staples like potato and onion, however, have been exempted primarily because they are not cultivated on a mass scale in the state. The population of Sikkim is about seven lakh and the number of tourists visiting the state annually is double that number. State agriculture minister Somnath Poudyal sought the cooperation of the people in implementing the ban and promised government intervention if there is an exorbitant rise in the prices of organic items. Poudyal said the main reason behind the initiative was to ensure a healthy life for the people and protect the environment, which is being degraded by the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Vegetable vendors, however, voiced concern over the ban. "If companies and hotels are allowed to bring vegetables from outside, or the government does not keep a check on household or retail imports, the All Sikkim Traders Association (ASTA) and Lall Bazaar Traders Association will also bring vegetables from outside the state," warned ASTA vice-president Lakpa Sherpa, The two associations demanded that the state government stop the entry of vegetables at checkpoints along the border with Bengal. The government said it would not carry out checks at the entry points and only do so in vegetable markets across the state.

The Indian Express, Lucknow
Farmer claims bank debited waived loan, govt says not eligible

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav presented before the media a farmer from Sardana in Meerut district who claimed that banks were recovering the amount written off under the Adityanath government’s crop loan waiver scheme from the accounts of some beneficiaries. Later in the day, Meerut lead district chief manager said that SBI, in its audit, had found that the farmers were not eligible for a loan waiver. Gaurav Chaudhary, pradhan of Jamalpur, from where farmer Madan Lal hails, claimed that some farmers in his village had benefited from the crop loan waiver scheme announced by the state government. “But now the banks were recovering the waived amount from the accounts of some beneficiaries… Three days ago, when the farmers went to their bank, they learnt that the amount they were given had been recovered… Madan Lal is one such farmer,” he alleged. “For instance, for a farmer who has a Kisan credit card… Rs 58,682 was waived. But when he went to the bank, he found that Rs 58,682 had been debited from his personal bank account… from the Rs 65,000 that he had received as sugarcane dues,” claimed Chaudhary, adding that in 12 villages, loan amounts have been recovered from 35 farmers. “When we went to Lawat branch of SBI, the manager told us they are taking back the money the same way the CM had given it to them.” When contacted, Meerut Lead District Chief Manager Avinash Tanti said: “The SBI in its internal audit found these farmers were not eligible for waiver, thus it recovered the amount.” Asked why they are not eligible, he said: “Between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, these farmers had in their Kisan Credit Card accounts same amount of money the government was supposed to waive… or even more … Thus, they were not eligible for a loan waiver.”

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Triennial meet of small tea growers’ body from April 6

The 10th triennial conference of the All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA) will be held on April 6, 7 and 8, 2018 in Golaghat town’s public ground under the aegis of Golaghat district committee and with the support from the local public and other organizations. The central executive body meeting of the small tea growers’ body will be held a day before the start of the conference, a release stated. On April 6, the huge marquee named as ‘Soneshwar Borah Somadhi Kshetra’ will be inaugurated at 9 am followed by registration of delegates. The other events include sapling plantations, workshops, opening of the exhibition and delegates meeting. The second delegates’ meeting will be held the next day. International seminars, various competitions and cultural programmes are also lined up for the three-day event. On the last day, a colourful cultural programme has been planned followed by an open session, in which Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Agricultural Minister Atul are expected to attend, the release added.

The Tribune, Mumbai
Waiver fails to halt farm suicides in Maharashtra

Despite the Maharashtra Government waiving crop loans, the number of farmers committing suicide in the state continues to rise, according to official data. According to the Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM), a state government initiative to combat agrarian distress, 221 farmers committed suicide between January and mid-March in just the six districts of Marathwada region. The first two weeks of March alone saw 66 farmers ending their lives in this crisis-prone region, according to data put out by Kishor Tiwari, Chairman, VNSSM. Data available for the whole of Maharashtra indicates that 435 farmers committed suicide in January and February this year as against 414 cases of suicides in the same period last year. The increased number of suicides in the month of March comes after Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis announced compensation for cotton farmers who lost their crops to the pink bollworm attacks. Opposition leaders say the government has failed to ensure that farm loans are actually waived. “Not more than Rs12,000 crore worth of farm loans have actually been waived even though the waiver amounts to Rs34,020 crore,” Dhananjay Munde, Leader of Opposition in the state legislative council, said.

The Telegraph, Guwahati
Nasa plant data inspires Assam

The recent Nasa findings that ornamental plants release maximum oxygen seem to have prompted the Assam government to plan massive urban agriculture and vertical farming to grow such plants, fruits and vegetables. The draft agriculture policy, 2018, prepared by the state agriculture department, said outsourcing spaces available in urban and semi-urban areas can be utilised for gainful agricultural activities such as cultivation of fruits, vegetables, flowers and other animal farm products in mini-commercial scale. "Such farming can contain air pollution, improve micro climate of homesteads and contribute towards an aesthetic culture and landscaping and waste management through organic recycling. "As reported by Nasa recently, household ornamental plants like aloe vera, areca, ficula, ivy, basil ( tulsi) and snake plants are very dynamic in release of oxygen and hence named as oxygen plants. Spaces available under homesteads, roadside areas and dividers of highways in cities, rooftops, open areas of recreational parks, various institutional gardens and real estate can be ideally targeted for urban agricultural planning," the draft said, adding that this can be very conveniently taken up in newly developing towns and cities and other areas with creative interventions from the beginning. Vertical farming - which includes growing fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants and flowers in buildings and spaces in urban areas - is relatively a new concept and it is yet to pick up in states like Assam where agriculture is confined mostly to rural areas. An estimated 27.2 lakh families are dependent on agriculture. This comes amid growing concern against haphazard use of pesticides and insecticides mainly by fruits and vegetable farmers and urban peoples' growing crave for organic products. A PIL was recently filed in Gauhati High Court by a lawyer for restriction/ban on excessive use of pesticides, stating that this results in contamination of food items and can even lead to cancer. The draft policy revealed that banned chemicals are still used by farmers in the state.

Financial Express, Bengaluru
BJP brings out ‘chargesheet’ against Congress government

The BJP brought out a ‘chargesheet’ against the ruling Congress government in Karnataka in three booklets, listing its alleged failures on law and order, agriculture and ignoring Bengaluru. Among the charges mentioned was a three fold increase in crime in Karnataka, atrocities on Dalits, women and children, attacks on honest officials, killings of Hindutva activists, steep rise in farmers’ suicides in the last three years, drug mafia ruling the roost in Bengaluru and poor infrastructure in the city. Releasing the booklet, Union Minister for Law and Information and Technology, Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Karnataka government has nothing to show to the public when it seeks votes from them for the May 12 assembly elections. Speaking to reporters, he said “Let me tell Siddaramaiah that you have not even four-five outstanding areas of achievements which you can convey (to the public)… you go everywhere (portraying) a negative BJP and negative Yeddyurappa.” The Union Minister said Congress was losing its base across India due to ‘misgovernance.’ “The record of the Congress is that it could not win a single seat in Tripura or a single seat in Nagaland – a traditional pro-Congress bastion for the last 70 years.” “Congress could not perform in Nagaland and Meghalaya. Nagaland has 88 per cent Christian population, he said. On the other hand, BJP is in power in 15 states while its allies are Chief Ministers in seven states, Prasad said. State BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa, who also spoke, said the Siddaramaiah government has pushed Karnataka behind by at least 20 years in terms of development due to crumbling infrastructure and ‘pathetic’ law and order in the state.

The Times of India, Nagpur
Agri board vice-chairman appoints self as chairman

The chairman of the State Agriculture Scientists Recruitment Board (SASRB) Ram Kharche has appointed himself to the post even as he held the post of board’s vice-chairman. He also allegedly appointed an unqualified person, associate professor Uday Apte, to the post of secretary. The board is a part of the Maharashtra Council of Agriculture Education and Research (MCAER). Kharche is also the vice-chairman of the council. The appointments were made in September 2016. The issue has been raised now by professor VS Gonge, retired PDKV professor and a former director at MCAER. Gonge told that as per the Maharashtra Krishi Vidyapeeth Act, 1981, amended in 2014, a person cannot hold two posts simultaneously. “Kharche was not appointed on the two posts by the government. He issued a letter dated September 19, 2016, appointing himself as SASRB chairman and removed the then chairman of the board JV Patil,” he said. A letter was earlier written which says that as per directive of the agriculture minister, Patil should immediately vacate the post and Kharche will get additional charge of the post. Kharche could not be contacted for his remarks despite making several phone calls. “When a person is appointed by the government through a legitimate means, due processes should be followed for his/her removal. How can someone appoint himself to the vacated post? There is no provision in the Act for additional charge to a post,” said a retired senior professor from Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth (PDKV). Professor VS Gonge added that the board is supposed to appoint persons only above the post of professor. “The rule has been sidelined in the case of Uday Apte’s appointment,” he said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Bumper crop at these Hong Kong farms is happiness

High above downtown Hong Kong’s traffic clogged streets, a group of office workers toiled away, not on a corporate acquisition, but on harvesting a crop of lettuce atop one of the skyscrapers studding the city’s skyline. This rooftop farm is more about reaping happiness than providing food. “I enjoy it working here,” said Catherine Ng, a volunteer. The farm is run by Rooftop Republic, a three-year-old startup whose founders are tapping growing interest in organic food and taking advantage of unused roof space in the Chinese city. “We get enquiries from people who want to grow their own food,” said Michelle Hong, co-founder, Rooftop Republic. “It’s triggered by concerns about food safety.” Rooftop Republic has set up on average one farm a month since its founding and manages 36 covering 2,800sqm, Hong said. It also provides workshops for companies, building owners, schools, and community groups. Vegetables are donated to a food bank that distributes them to the needy. Other groups have started cultivating rooftop vegetable gardens, said Matthew Pryor, a Hong Kong University professor whose research found 1,500 rooftop farmers in the city. He set up a farm on top of a university building where staff grow fruit and vegetables. “The rooftop farms produce virtually nothing” compared to Hong Kong’s overall consumption, Pryor said. “What they do produce, however, is happiness, and this social capital that they generate is enormous.” The farms help overworked and isolated Hong Kongers by letting them hang out with friends and commune with nature. At a rooftop farm at airline Cathay Pacific’s headquarters, staff plant veggies. “We have great views of the harbour and airport,” said volunteer Prian Chan. “It’s great to be outdoors.”

1, April 2018
Business Line, Thiruvananthapuram
‘Only large farmers make business sense for commodity financiers’

Agri-commodity financing companies don’t see commercial sense ‘in dealing with most farmers’ since the latter fail to measure up to the required size and scale. “We fund farmers, aggregators, processors, and traders...anybody with a commodity to offer,” says Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Group Chairman, Inditrade Group of Companies. “Unfortunately, with most commodities, farm/crop sizes are very small,” Bandyopadhyay told in an interview. “But with commodities such as cardamom, there are large players from Kerala where we originally belong to. So we fund them. Wherever there are large farmers, we work with them.” Bandyopadhyay said that among clients, processors require the maximum loan facility and they are the biggest borrowers. “We don’t require any other security other than the agri-commodity itself. We do business in a structured manner. We ask the borrower to also fund the futures through our broking platform.” So, if somebody today wants to borrow against turmeric for three months, the company will ask him to sell the June futures through its broking platform. So, theoretically speaking, even if the borrower runs away or absconds or otherwise makes himself unavailable for business, the company need not bother. “We only work with exchange-accredited warehouses — though we do not differentiate between private or public warehouses — just in case, some quality-quantity issues crop up in future. So if you want to borrow, you’ve to put your commodity in exchange-accredited warehouses, and this is available online. Based on the stock, we ask you to make an online pledge and give you the money.”

The Hindu, Pune
Delhi apathetic to plight of farmers: Sharad Pawar

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar accused Delhi’s residents and political class of being apathetic to the plight of farmers, while stating that it was imperative that farmers receive a fair price for their produce if future agrarian crises were to be averted. Mr. Pawar was speaking at a farmers’ event organised at the Jain Valley in Jalgaon district. “For the last two-three years, farmlands in the state’s Khandesh and Vidarbha regions have fallen prey to a variety of pest infections and germination failures which have retarded production. The agricultural sector is in a state of grave disarray,” said Mr. Pawar. It was important that the Centre came up with solutions to prevent a full-blown disaster. and added that the ruling party needs to change its mindset to farmer problems. “If the political class does not pay attention to farmers at this critical hour, then we will have to eat imported food,” Mr. Pawar said. “In Delhi, things are only consumed, nothing is grown,” he said. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was scheduled to attend the event, cancelled it at the last minute due to ill health.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Dry spell in J&K to reduce saffron produce by 68%

Saffron production in the country is estimated to decline 68.15 per cent to 9.12 tonne in the current crop year because of a dry spell in the top growing state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to the government data. Saffron is also cultivated in Himachal Pradesh. Much of the produce is exported. As per the agriculture ministry data, saffron output is pegged at 9.12 tonne in 2017-18 crop year (July-June) as against 28.64 tonne produced last year. The output is expected to go down due to the dry spell in the critical stage of the crop’s growth, it said. The production was hit badly in 2014-15 crop year (8.51 tonne) because of floods. According to the ministry, the demand for Indian saffron has increased in the global market due to the presence of high quality active components like crocin, picrocrocin and safranal. Saffron cultivation and export is being promoted under the National Saffron Mission. A saffron park at Dusoo in Pulwana district has got the authorities’ nod to provide improved facilities of grading, packaging, e-auctioning and certification that would boost export of the spice. The Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu is implementing innovative practices to boost saffron production and productivity. According to the agriculture ministry, data, saffron output is pegged at 9.12 tonne in 2017-18 crop year (July-June) against 28.64 tonne produced last year. The output is expected to go down due to the dry spell in the critical stage of the crop’s growth

Business Standard, New Delhi
Govt disposes of 700,000 tonnes of pulses from buffer stock

The Centre has disposed of around 7 lakh tonne of pulses so far from a buffer stock of 20.50 lakh tonne, according to a senior food ministry official. The government, for the first time, in October 2015 decided to create a buffer stock of pulses through imports and later by domestic procurement to ensure better prices to farmers and to use the stock to augment local supply in times of price rise. "Around 7 lakh tonne of pulses including tur has been sold so far. The efforts are made in order to clear the old stock and create space for new crop," the official told. The government is disposing of stocks through e-auction to private traders, army and paramilitary forces as well as states besides for central welfare schemes like mid-day meal. While the rate at which pulses were procured initially was high, the prices are subdued now in view of a bumper crop. Therefore, the government is disposing of a major chunk of pulses below the market price, sources said. Pulses such as tur, urad, moong, masur and chana were mostly procured over last one year by three agencies cooperative Nafed, state-run Food Corporation of India and Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC). The country is expected to produce a record 23.95 million tonne in the current 2017-18 crop year (July-June), as against 23.13 million tonne last year mainly because of good rains and higher support prices.

Business Line, Mangaluru
Pepper output seen at 60,000 tonnes this season on scanty rain

While growers’ organisations are estimating black pepper production to be around 60,000 tonnes for the current harvesting season, many growers are not in a hurry to sell their stock. In fact, some of them are expecting better prices for the commodity in the coming months to sell their produce. Pepper prices are under pressure in the recent years on cheaper imports from countries such as Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Also a glut in Vietnam this year is seen adding to the price pressure. Harvesting of pepper, which is predominantly grown in the Western Ghats and coastal regions of Karnataka and Kerala is seen coming to an end. Vishwanath KK, Co-ordinator of the Consortium of Pepper Growers’ Organisations, told that though the growers were estimating around 65,000-70,000 tonnes for the current season, they may end up harvesting around 55,000-60,000 tonnes. On the reasons for this decline, he said pepper-growing regions in the country were hit by drought last year and the impact is being felt now at the time of harvest. Now growers are cultivating pepper in irrigated areas, and any change in weather condition totally hampers the harvesting situation also, he said. Patte Venugopal, a grower from Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, said that pepper production is restricted to two-thirds of last year’s output as far as coastal Karnataka is concerned. Expressing a similar view, B Gopalakrishna Bhat, a pepper grower from Kasaragod district of Kerala, said that there was no rainfall in May last year, and the flowering was not that good in his area. This had affected pepper production. He opined that the production will be 30 per cent less compared to that of the previous year. Inspite of these, many growers are not in a hurry to dispose of their stock.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Telangana, farmers’ union make a pitch for non-Bt cotton seeds

With the kharif season fast approaching, the Telangana government and farmers’ union have launched independent campaigns to discourage people from illegal bio-tech cotton seeds or Roundup Ready Flex seeds. The third generation seed technology developed by Monsanto gives cotton plants protection against glyphosate, which is sprayed to kill the weed. Though the technology doesn’t have permissions in the country, farmers have been using it extensively. The fact that a third of 45 lakh acres of cotton area in Telangana alone was covered by the illegal seed shows the depth of its penetration. Both Monsanto and private companies that sell bio-tech seeds denied any role in the production of these seeds. With unscrupulous players flooding the market with these seeds, the State government has begun a campaign across the State to spread awareness. It warns of Preventive Detention and arrest of those in possession of these seeds. “These seeds don’t have any permission for sale. Don’t buy them. The government holds no responsibility if you plant them. Glyphosate is not environment-friendly,” a government official warned the farmers. The district level officials are printing banners, informing the farmers about the ill-effects of the herbicide-tolerant seeds. The farmers’ unions too are advising the farmers to be careful about the illegal seeds. “To discourage farmers from using the RRF and Bollgard-II, which have become highly ineffective against pink bollworm, we need to promote non-Bt varieties such as Narasimha, Rythu Rakshana, Suraj and Nandhyala 5494 seeds,” T Sagar, Secretary of the Telangana Rythu Sangham, told BusinessLine. “Non-Bt varieties can give yields up to 15 quintals an acre, while the Bt varieties are leaving the farmers in losses,” S Malla Reddy, Vice-President of All-India Kisan Sabha, said. He demanded that the State government make enough stocks of non-Bt seeds available in the market well ahead of the season.

Business Line, New Delhi
Top cocoa producers fight to protect forests

Park rangers in the world’s top cocoa producer, Ivory Coast, are waging a campaign to protect national forests from the illegal farming of the raw ingredient in chocolate. Last year the governments of Ivory Coast and other top cocoa producer Ghana, along with food giants Nestle, Mars and Hershey, pledged to work together to end deforestation in the West African nations. The president of the World Cocoa Foundation, Rick Scobey, called it a landmark decision and an “important environmental achievement.” Last year an investigation by environmental group Mighty Earth found that many of Ivory Coast’s national parks and protected areas “have been entirely or almost entirely cleared of forest and replaced with cocoa-growing operations.” One of them, Mont Peko National Park, is home to endangered species such as chimpanzees and pygmy hippopotamuses. Chocolate producers should “really give customers peace of mind that chocolate eating isn’t contributing to killing chimps or elephants,” said Etelle Higonnet, a campaign director for Mighty Earth. “Let’s have total transparency all the way from the bar in your hand or the Nesquik that you drink or the Nutella that you spread on your bread, down to the farm.” On a recent patrol in Mont Peko National Park, it didn’t take long for park rangers to find cocoa growing illegally. Using machetes, the team set to work removing it. There has been limited progress, said Kpolo Ouattara, head of the Mont Peko sector for the Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves. “Roughly, more than 800 hectares (1,975 acres) of cocoa has been cut. Compared to the park’s total area of 34,000 hectares, that’s very little.” While mindful of tensions that have lingered in wake of country’s deadly political violence in recent years, Ivory Coast has turned to security forces to evict thousands of illegal cocoa farmers from parks. One farmer, Djaka Issa Ouatara, said he accepts government’s actions.

The Indian Express, Hyderabad
Focus on making agriculture viable, profitable: Venkaiah Naidu tells scientists

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said that the agriculture sector needs a great deal of attention as he called upon farm scientists to focus on making agriculture viable, profitable and sustainable. “I have always held that the agriculture sector needs a great deal of attention because a majority of Indians still rely on agriculture and allied occupations in the rural areas for their livelihood,” Naidu said. The Vice President said there is a situation today where despite phenomenal increase in food production,farmers are not able to get adequate returns from their investment. “Agriculture remains an unattractive vocation to many families. We must change this situation,” an official release quoted him as saying. Naidu was interacting with the Agricultural Researchers on ‘Doubling Farm Income by 2022 in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana’ at ICAR – Indian Institute of Rice Research here. He urged the scientists to come out with innovative and out-of-box solutions to meet the challenges faced by farmers. He pointed out that lack of quality seeds was one of the problems faced by farmers. Another issue that needed attention was rising input costs. Crop diversification and promoting allied farming activities like backyard poultry were equally important to increase farmers’ incomes, Naidu said. The Vice President also wanted the scientists to make e-NAM more popular with the farming community. Stressing the need for home-grown food security, he said both productivity and production have to be increased as the country cannot depend on ‘imported food security’. He wanted Krishi Vigyan Kendras to become hubs of activity for farmers. Asking scientists and researchers to spend ‘considerable time’ with farmers to come out with practical solutions, Naidu suggested that staying with farmers be made mandatory for students pursuing agricultural courses.

30, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
Centre lifts ban on bulk exports of edible oils

The CCEA lifted the ban on bulk exports of edible oils — except mustard oil — to help farmers get better price for oilseed crops. “Removing... restrictions on export of edible oils is likely to provide additional marketing avenues for edible oils and will benefit the farmers by way of better realisation for oilseeds,” said an official statement. Mustard oil can be exported only in consumer packs of up to 5 kg in weight and with a minimum export price of $900 per tonne, it said. The decision, taken on the basis of a proposal moved by the Commerce Ministry, will help utilise idle capacity in the country’s edible oil industry, the statement said. The panel also increased nutrient-based subsidy available for phosphatic and potassic (P&K) fertilisers in 2018-19 on account of the increase in their international prices. The subsidy is expected to cost the Centre Rs 23,007 crore — Rs 1,913 crore more than that in the current financial year. As per approved nutrient-based subsidy rates, nitrogen fertilisers will get a subsidy of Rs 18.9 per kg, phosphorus 15.26 per kg, potash Rs 11.12 per kg and sulphur Rs 2.72 per kg. The CCEA also approved an outlay of Rs 2,824 crore for 699 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) and 11 Agricultural Technology Application Research Institutes between 2017 and 2020. Another proposal of the Department of Fertilisers for continuing nutrient-based subsidy and city compost till 2019-20 at a cost of Rs 61,972 crore also received the CCEA nod.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre may make sugar exports mandatory

The government, jittery about the likely surplus sugar output this season, will soon mandate mills across the country to export 2-2.5 million tonnes (mt) of the sweetener under the Minimum Indicative Export Quantity scheme, senior Food Ministry officials told. Under the scheme, each mill is mandated to export a minimum stipulated quantity of sugar, proportionate to its production. “PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) favours the scheme,” one of the officials said. “We had sent our proposal there and PMO has given the nod. The Ministry is now finalising things.” The industry has been asking the government to facilitate subsidised exports of sugar as mills are likely to produce a record high 29.5 mt this season. As a result, prices of the commodity have been spiralling downwards, leading to higher sugarcane arrears. The government had in 2015-16 made sugar exports compulsory for mills across the country, to do away with surplus. It had later also approved cane subsidy of ₹4.50/quintal for sugar mills, provided the mills liquidate at least 80 per cent of the export quota allocated to them and supply at least 80 per cent of ethanol to oil marketing companies. The subsidy was revoked when prices shot up due to concerns over low output in 2016-17. Meanwhile, the Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution CR Chaudhary, in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, said adopting dual pricing policy for sugar is not “administratively feasible.” The minister said the central government had deregulated sugar in 2013, and prices of the commodity and related products have since been market driven and are not subject to any pricing policy of the government. The government of Maharashtra had suggested the Ministry to consider a dual pricing policy for the sweetener to aid its prices and benefit sugar factories and sugarcane growers, the minister said..

DNA, Mumbai
Farmers’ body, Oppn to discuss 2 bills

Four months after a massive Kisan Mukti Sansad was held at Parliament Street, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) is going to hold a round table with opposition parties on two Bills they prepared during the Kisan Sansad. The AIKSCC has invited most opposition parties ranging from Congress, Communist Party of India to Trinamool Congress (TMC) to attend the round table in a bid to push these Bills in Parliament. The two Bills are about clearing debts of farmers and on guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices for farm produce. Former NDA ally and farm leader Raju Shetti of Shetkari Sanghatana said that these Bills would be presented as Private Member’s Bills in both Houses of Parliament, mostly in the monsoon session. Shetti also met TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to extend an invitation to the round table and Banerjee said that TMC leader and former union minister Dinesh Trivedi will attend the meeting. She expressed her support for the cause of farmers, Shetti said. “These are Bills made by farmers of this country. I am only submitting them to the Parliament on behalf of the farmers of this country. It is important to note that this is the very first time that farmers’ movements have come up with statutory frameworks that will confer them legal rights on two very crucial issues which have become life-and-death issues for the farmers: freedom from indebtedness and guaranteed remunerative prices”, said Raju Shetti of Swabhimani Paksha, and sitting MP of Lok Sabha.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Harvesting Inc to plough remote sensing data, AI-backed algorithms to generate credit scores for farmers

Amid increasing farm distress, a US-based company has set up a subsidiary in India and plans to tie up with banks and financial institutions to help them generate credit scores for farmers, based on data collected from satellites, remote sensors and through Artificial Intelligence (AI) in an attempt to reduce farmers’ woes and banks’ NPA burden. “I come from a farmer’s family in Bhilari village, Moradabad district, Uttar Pradesh, and know that most of the issues related to farmers’ inability to repay their loans are linked to deficit data,” Ruchit Garg, Founder-CEO of Freemont, California-based Harvesting Inc told. The financial technology social enterprise is working with coffee farmers in Uganda under a World Bank initiative, to design their credit score for Pride, a leading microfinance institute. Harvesting works on projects in Brazil, Tanzania, Kenya and Turkey and is keen to work with financial institutions in Nigeria, Zambia, Nepal and Myanmar. Garg said farmers with small landholdings are like micro-entrepreneurs who need access to capital. “Nearly 500 million small farmers around the world, who feed 80 per cent of the human race, need $450 billion as loans. But only 3 per cent of their need is actually met. As a Silicon Valley technology company, we want to connect these farmers with finance and make their financial inclusion easier.” Harvesting set up a subsidiary in Bengaluru this month and has a registered office in Chandigarh for logistics purposes. “We are currently discussing with major banks and financial institutions for a tie-up to share actionable data with them,” he said. The company also plans to create a dedicated farmer’s KYC database to ease the loan process. The company, incorporated in May 2016 as a for-profit start-up, is facilitating agri-financing process as an interface between financial institutions and farmers.

Business Line, Kolkata
ITC eyes the health-conscious with millet flour

Having forayed into the ‘health-atta’ (flour) segment with Multigrain and Sugar Release Control Atta under ‘Aashirvaad’ brand, ITC is exploring the possibility of introducing millet flour to tap the health-conscious consumers. According to Hemant Malik, Divisional Chief Executive, Foods Divisions, ITC, the company is in the process of evaluating its offerings based on consumer choice and preferences. The market for health-atta, which is typically whole wheat atta mixed with other grains, is estimated to be around Rs 250 crore in terms of consumer spends. “We plan to enter the millets space soon and are in the process of evaluating our offerings based on consumer choice and preferences,” Malik said responding to an e-mail questionnaire sent by. Millets such as those including ragi, bajra and jowar among others, which till recently was termed as coarse cereals, are now being considered as nutri-cereals because of their micro-nutrient composition being better as compared to rice or wheat. This apart, millets are gluten-free and have a low glycemic index. In a bid to promote millets on a ‘mission mode’ to achieve nutritional security, the Agriculture Ministry has declared the year (2018) as the ‘Year of Millets’. ITC will look at introducing customised offerings based on consumer preferences in specific markets. For instance, ragi is preferred in certain geographies, particularly in the central, southern and western parts of the country, while jowar and bajra are more preferred in north India. “Based on the consumer understanding, we plan to customise our offerings for the respective markets,” he said. The company is also evaluating some ‘interesting’ and ‘unique variants’ and product offerings. These are under development and will be launched in due course. ITC had recently launched Aashirvaad Fortified ShudhChakki Atta, which is comprised of nutrients like iron, folic acid, and Vitamin B12, in Delhi and NCR region.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Karnataka seeds AgTech start-ups

Leveraging the technology prowess in the State, Karnataka is giving an impetus to start-ups in the agriculture technology (AgTech) space — a move that could help evolve innovative solutions to address the challenges in the agrarian landscape. The State has extended seed funding of Rs 3 crore to 21 start-ups and expects to scale up the initiative going ahead, said Gaurav Gupta, Principal Secretary, IT & BT, Karnataka. He was speaking on the sidelines of a workshop on “Technology in Agriculture,” organised under the aegis of “Bengaluru Tech Summit” that emphasised on how new and emerging technologies such as the IOT, drones, smartphones, GIS among others are impacting the agriculture sector. The deployment of emerging technology in agriculture sector is in nascent stages, but holds immense potential, Gupta said. Besides extending the seed funding for the start-ups, Karnataka is also financially supporting the ventures to take their solutions to the market and also patent their products by reimbursing the charges, Gupta said. “There’s a growing interest among entrepreneurs and we see an increase in enquiries,” he said. One of the main reasons for this growing interest has to do with better net connectivity, higher smart phone penetration and commoditisation of sensor technology among others. Green Robot Machinery and Yuktix Sensing Solutions are among the start-ups that have received seed funding from the Karnataka government. Green Robot Machinery Private Limited aims to bring in advanced robotic technology for cotton picking, while Yuktix Sensing Solutions provides real-time weather data over cloud and mobile. Happy Farmer Labs provides a software-based solution for organisations that are associated with milk procurement and extension services. Taslimarif Saiyed, CEO and Director, C-CAMP, said the Karnataka government’s push to allow experiments on the ground is what sets the initiative apart from other States.

Business Line, New Delhi
New way to arrest spread of rice blast found

In a breakthrough, scientists have found a way to stop the spread of rice blast, a fungus that destroys up to 30 per cent of the world’s rice crop each year. An international team led by the University of Exeter in the UK showed that chemical genetic inhibition of a single protein in the fungus stops it from spreading inside a rice leaf — leaving it trapped within a single plant cell. The finding is a breakthrough in terms of understanding rice blast, a disease that is hugely important in terms of global food security, researchers said. However, the scientists caution that this is a “fundamental” discovery — not a cure that can yet be applied outside the laboratory. The research led by Wasin Sakulkoo, who received his PhD from Exeter, revealed how the fungus can manipulate and then squeeze through natural channels (called plasmodesmata) that exist between plant cells. “This is an exciting breakthrough because we have discovered how the fungus is able to move stealthily between rice cells, evading recognition by the plant immune system,” said Professor Nick Talbot of the University of Exeter. “It is clearly able to suppress immune responses at pit fields (groups of plasmodesmata), and also regulate its own severe constriction to squeeze itself through such a narrow space. “And all this is achieved by a single regulatory protein. It is a remarkable feat,” Talbot. Rice blast threatens global food security, destroying enough rice each year to feed 60 million people. It spreads within rice plants by invasive hyphae (branching filaments) which break through from cell to cell. In their bid to understand this process, the researchers used chemical genetics to mutate a signalling protein to make it susceptible to a specific drug.

Business Line, New Delhi
Opposition looks to unite over agri issues

The Opposition’s common minimum programme seemed to be coalescing around farmers’ issues, as various parties came together on Wednesday to demand remunerative minimum support prices (MSPs) and a one-time, immediate loan waiver for “freedom from indebtedness”. The twin demands have been drafted as Private Members’ Bills by Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty and Rajya Sabha member KK Ragesh for the ongoing Budget Session. The Bills seek to include as legal rights for farmers a guaranteed remunerative MSP for all crops and an immediate and one-time loan waiver. The issues were discussed at length in the meeting attended by Sharad Pawar (NCP), Mallikarjun Kharge and Mohan Prakash (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Dinesh Trivedi (TMC), Kanimozhi (DMK), Sharad Yadav (rebel JD-U), Farooq Abdullah (NC). The parties, from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, clearly sensed the emotive import of the farmers’ demands and were keen on pushing them as the primary theme of their political programme. While Farooq Abdullah was in favour of more radical street action — “surround Parliament, attack those who block the farmers’ demands”, both the Congress and the NCP advised a more studied strategic approach. Both Pawar and Kharge urged the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the congregation of 193 farmers’ organisations responsible for the recent mammoth marches in Maharashtra, to prevent the demands from perishing as private members’ bills in the Lok Sabha. “ The government is managing one party to disrupt the House and even no-confidence motion is not being moved. In such circumstances, we need to figure out ways to not let these Bills perish. I would suggest that all of us discuss them further; we have a couple of suggestions. Rahulji (Congress President) has sent some of his suggestions. Let us push them more effectively,” said Kharge.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Organic product exports rise but certification a problem

At a time when India's overall agriculture exports have been stagnating since 2015-16, there is segment within it that has been growing by leaps and bounds. Export of organic foods has risen by almost 25 per cent between 2015-16 and 2016-17 from Rs 19.76 billion to Rs 24.78 billion at a time when overall farm exports grew by less than one per cent from Rs 1,074.31 billion to just Rs 1,084.26 billion, official data showed. Though it is a very small portion of India’s overall agriculture export basket (less than 3 per cent), organic food has shown a consistent increase the last few years. In fact, in the past decade, organic food exports have grown from around Rs 5 billion a year to almost Rs 25 billion. Soybean seeds and raw cotton make up almost half these exports while spices, tea, pulses, cereals and millets constitute the remaining. “US and EU, along with Canada, are the major destinations for India’s organic food exports, which have a lot of potential,” Pankaj Agarwal, co-founder of Just Organik, a Gurgaon-based organic firm says. He feels unless there is proper synergy between various agencies and bodies working for the promotion of organic products in India and abroad, the sector cannot grow. Certification by a multitude of authorities remains a big problem for the sector. Recently, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said in a notification that any product that hasn’t been certified by it and does not carry a label on its organic status can’t be sold. Organic food produced by small farmers and some that have been self-certified, in a process called PGS certification, are exempted from this. Activists have termed the notification retrograde and something that can impede the growth of organic produce in the country.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Regulate credit to farm sector: Panel

There is need to regulate and fix the per acre credit limit that banks sanction to loanee farmers and bring in a legislation to act against those banks and financial institutions that extend credit to farmers higher than the limit. These are among the 69 key recommendations made by the five-member fact-finding committee of the Vidhan Sabha, set up last year to find the reasons for high incidence of suicide by farmers and farm workers. The setting up of a debt settlement and reconciliatory commission, fixing minimum price for majority of crops, having an agriculture policy on the lines of industrial policy to help improve share of agriculture sector in state's GDP, strengthening the cooperative banking sector, which provides cheaper loans to farmers, by shifting all government bank accounts and salary accounts of government staff in cooperative banks are some of the other key recommendations. It has also been recommended that the government come up with a policy to restrict expenditure on social functions; set up agro industry; and provide better career opportunities to children of farmers. The committee, headed by Congress MLA Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, presented its report in the House on the last day of the Budget session. Akali Dal MLA Harinder Pal Singh Chandumajra, who was also part of this committee, demanded a debate on the issue. When Speaker Rana KP Singh overruled his plea on the ground that the MLA's dissenting note was included in the report, and that debates on the Vidhan Sabha committee reports are not held, Akali MLAs rushed to the well of the House and raised slogans against the government.

DNA, Mumbai
Slashed grain prices compelling farmers to sell below MSP

Slashed rates of pulses are forcing farmers of the state to sell their produce below the minimum support prices (MSP). The Maharashtra government-constituted Late Vasantrao Naik Sheti Swalambhan Mission’s chief Kishor Tiwari has written to CM Fadnavis in this regard. The total losses to farmers because of a crash in agriculture produce prices have been estimated over Rs 5,000 crore in 2017-18. “Soyabean has been sold at Rs 2,700 per quintal against the MSP of Rs 3,050 in the open market, while tur dal has been sold at Rs 4,100 per quintal against the MSP of Rs 5,450 and chana dal has been sold at Rs 3,500 per quintal against the MSP of Rs 4,400” said Tiwari in his letter to the chief minister (CM). He said on one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been pressing upon giving input cost plus 50% profit to farmers but on the other hand, farm produces are getting sold below the MSP. “The depreciation of costs will result in agrarian crisis leading to more farmers suicides in Vidharbha and Marathwada,” says the letter. He said that out of 38.86 lakh tonne of soyabean, government was able to buy only 26,000 tonnes. “Same with tur dal where out of 4.46 lakh productions, only 20% was bought. Chana’s total production has been expected at 20 lakh tonne, whereas the government has purchased only 3 lakh tonne chana so far,” he added. He said because of these losses, the government was unable to get the credit of loan waiver scheme. “Government should immediately begin its procurement scheme or it should try to pay the differences to farmers in order to prevent financial losses. The error in the system has to be addressed,” said the leader.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Big tea producers pan pan-India auction

Big tea producers in the country are unhappy with the pan-India tea auction, saying it has failed in fair price discovery for them. State-run Tea Board has mandated that 50% of the tea manufactured must be routed through public auctions. India is the second-largest producer of tea in the world and makes up 26% of the global tea production. Indian Tea Association (ITA) has called for a review of the auction system as it has not led to an increase in auction prices over the past few years. The association said that the increase in the numbers of small growers and bought leaf factories have brought a paradigm shift in the industry dynamics. Parimal Shah, vice president at MK Jokai Agri Plantations, said that under normal circumstances the tea auction is a great platform. “Unfortunately we don’t have a system like in Sri Lanka where all the tea has to go through a centralised auction system. In India, the bought leaf factories and farmers have a lot of flexibility compared to the big producers,” he said. He said that the phenomenal growth of bought leaf factories has changed the dynamics in favour of small operators. “In the last 10-15 years, there has been a phenomenal increase in the number of such factories which can process 5 lakh kg of leaves at an investment of just `3-4 crore. Whereas the large plantations with large tract of land and labourers the overhead costs are huge,” he said. Tea Association of India feels that price discovery for the tea producers is becoming a challenge in the current environment. The associations want the Tea Board to consider allowing ex-estate sales as part of the auction process to rationalise transaction costs in the immediate term and help to overcome severe constraints of warehousing space at the auction centres.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Cabinet lifts edible oil export curbs

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the Commerce Ministry’s proposal to remove any prohibition on the export of edible oils, except mustard oil. “Mustard oil will continue to be exported only in consumer packs [of] up to 5 kg and with a minimum export price of $900 per tonne,” the government said. “The CCEA has also approved empowering the (inter-Ministerial) committee… to review the export/import policy on all varieties of edible oils and consider measures such as quantitative restrictions, depending on domestic production and demand, domestic and international prices and international trade volumes,” it said.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Sugar export easing could drag prices

India relaxed rules on sugar exports allowing mills to sell abroad until the end of the current season in a move that could further drag down benchmark sugar prices. India, the world´s biggest sugar consumer, is struggling to manage overflowing domestic stocks. The government also said that millers that export sugar this season would be allowed duty free imports of raw sugar for the following two seasons through September 2021.

29, March 2018
Millennium Post, Thiruvananthapuram
'9 Kerala districts to be declared drought-hit'

The Kerala government decided to declare 9 of its 14 districts as drought-hit in view of scarcity of rains, shortage of surface and ground water and intrusion of saline water. A meeting of the state disaster management authority presided over by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan decided to declare the districts of Kannur, Alappuzha, Idukki, Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Thrissur and Waynad as drought-hit, an official release said. The official declaration in this regard would be made by the State Relief Commissioner, it said. Besides Vijayan, who is also the authority chairman, Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan, Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar and Chief Secretary Paul Antony were among those who took part in the meeting. It was also decided at the meeting that immediate steps would be taken for distribution of drinking water through tankers and kiosks to tide over the drought situation, the release added. According to the Central Meteorological Department, there was shortfall of rain during the 2017 North-East monsoon that sets in during October-December. In the hilly Idukki district, presently there was no drought situation. However, it had been included in the list of drought-hit as the main sources of water were expected to dry up as summer intensifies, the release added.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Cane arrears to farmers at Rs 13,899 cr as on Mar 21: Govt

Sugar mills owe Rs 13,899 crore to sugarcane growers as of March 21 of the current marketing year ending September, the government said. Mills in Uttar Pradesh have maximum cane price arrear at Rs 5,136 crore, followed by Karnataka - Rs 2,539 crore and Maharasthra - Rs 2,348 crore. "As on March 21, 2018, out of total cane dues payment of Rs 55,553 crore for 2017-18 season, an amount of Rs 41,654 crore has been cleared and Rs 13,899 crore is pending," Minister of State for Food C R Chaudhary said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. Liquidity position of mills has been affected due to downward trend in sugar prices in view of higher production in the 2017-18 marketing year (October-September). This has resulted in delay in cane payment to growers. "The mill owners are finding it difficult to pay the cane prices to the farmers on time due to decrease in sugar price," he said in a separate reply. The Maharashtra government has issued notice to 228 sugar mills for recovery of cane payment dues to farmers, he added. To stabilise domestic prices, Chaudhary said the government has doubled import duty on sugar to 100 per cent, scrapped the export duty and also imposed stock limits on sugar mills for two months. Sugar output is estimated to rise to 27.2 million tonnes in 2017-18 marketing year, as against the demand of 25 million tonnes.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Court notice to state on mustard procurement

The state government has made all arrangements for the procurement of 80 lakh tonnes of wheat at the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,735 per quintal. Farmers would be paid in two to three days after procurement. Ram Niwas, Additional Chief Secretary, Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, told this to the media here. Through the Finance Department, Rs 4,900 crore have been made available from the RBI for procurement, he added. “The department is expecting increased production as compared to 74.25 lakh quintal tonnes of wheat procured at the MSP of Rs 1,625 during the last rabi season. The Agriculture Department has estimated the production of about 117.8 lakh tonnes of wheat in the state for this year’s rabi season,” he said. He said all 383 mandis in the state had been allotted to procurement agencies. About 41 lakh metric tonnes of storage facility is available and applications have been invited from private firms for making more storage available. Almost all labour and transport contractors have been appointed in the mandis. “The Food Corporation of India will procure 12 per cent of wheat, while state procurement agencies will purchase the remaining produce,” Niwas said, adding that it would be the responsibility of DCs and procurement agencies to make sure that all wheat is procured at the MSP. He further said a case had been registered against For Fresh Rice Mill of Tarawadi mandi in Karnal. In all, nine persons, including the owner and guarantors, have been booked for not following the terms and conditions. “The government has started registering cases against all rice millers who had failed to return its rice for the years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2016-17,” Niwas said.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Govt relaxes apple import norms

Removing curbs on apple imports, the government allowed inward shipments of the fruit through any port in the country. Earlier, imports of the fruit were allowed through both sea ports and airports at Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai, and Cochin; land port and airport in Delhi; and at India's land borders only. "Port restriction for import of apples...is hereby removed," the directorate general of foreign trade said in a notification. The move could help in increasing availability of the fruit in the domestic market and ease its prices. Apple is the most heavily consumed imported fruit in India. India is world's third-largest producer of apples. The fruit's production in the country is limited to the hilly states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. India imports the fruit from the US, China, Chile, New Zealand, Italy, Iran and Afghanistan, among others. During April-January 2018, India's apple imports stood at $298 million.

The Times of India, Meerut
In tractor stir, thousands of farmers jam UP roads

Thousands of tractor-driving farmers blocked roads and laid siege of the offices of district magistrates in various districts of western Uttar Pradesh. Protesting the Centre’s “anti-farmer policies”, which, they said, were “pushing farmer to the brink of suicide”, the agitators demanded immediate withdrawal of the national green tribunal’s ban on more than decade-old diesel vehicles. “We can’t buy a new tractor every 10 years,” one of the farmers said. The protest caused massive jams in Meerut, Bijnor, Shamli, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat and other western UP districts. According to local residents, there were 500 tractors lined up on roads in Muzaffarnagar, 900 each in Bijnor and Baghpat, 600 in Meerut and over 200 in Shamli. National spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), under whose aegis the protest was held, Rakesh Tikait said, “We had earlier thought that agricultural machines were exempt from the NGT ban. Recently, we came to know that not only tractors, even diesel water pumps and any other equipment used by us were very much within the purview of this order.” “We are not against NGT and we honour the verdict. Our protest is against the government that should have created a fund to provide new tractors to farmers whose old ones were over a decade old,” Tikait added. Dharmender Malik, BKU’s media coordinator for west UP, said, “ If the government is concerned about pollution, it must provide farmers with new tractors.”

The Financial Express, Pune
Nafed to procure 25,000 tonne onion from Nashik

With onion prices sliding to an all-time low of Rs 806 per quintal at Lasalgaon, the country’s largest wholesale market for the bulb, Nafed will soon procure around 25,000 to 30,000 tonne from Nashik, Maharashtra’s onion belt. Sanjeev Kumar Chadha, MD, Nafed, told that the plan is to procure onions under the price stabilisation fund (PSF) from Nashik in view of falling prices. Onion prices fell to a modal price of Rs 806 per quintal with arrivals touching around 32,920 quintals. On Friday as well, modal prices of onions were in the range of Rs 620 per quintal. According to market committee officials, onion arrivals are heavy on the back of a good crop. “Procurement should commence anytime from Lasalgaon and Pimpalgaon. These onions will then be supplied to Delhi and neighbouring markets. There has been a demand for onions from Odissa and southern states. Some part of the procurement will be done through Nafed and some through Farmer Producer Companies ( FPCs),” Chadha said. MahaFPC – the federation of farmer producer companies in Maharashtra – has submitted a proposal to Nafed for the procurement of around 15,000 tonne. Chadha said that there is no dearth of funds at Nafed and therefore procurement should not pose a problem. Rabi crop arrivals have begun in the market from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra has reported an acreage of around 3.5 lakh hectares. The market committee sources said that the arrival of onion has increased in all onion-growing areas such as Pune, Ahmednagar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. As a result, demand for Nashik’s onions has decreased. Also, supply of both late kharif and summer onions have increased at Lasalgaon, which has led to a drop in prices. The decline in price is expected to continue for at least four to five weeks.

Business Line, New Delhi
No relief this fiscal for strike-hit Darjeeling tea growers

It is turning out to be a long wait for the Darjeeling tea growers who had been hoping for a financial package this fiscal to get over the losses suffered due to the Gorkhaland agitation. The strike resulted in the forced closure of gardens for 104 days, between June and September last year. “The Department of Expenditure had demanded a detailed information on the losses suffered by the tea growers including data from some specific affected tea gardens before deciding on the package. The Commerce Ministry has finally been able to submit all that was sought, but now it seems it is too late to get the package approved this financial year,” a government official told. Since the revised estimate stage for the financial year is also over, the tea growers will have to wait for the package to be provided for in the next financial year, the official added. The Commerce Ministry was trying for an extra budgetary allocation for the package which, as per Tea Board’s calculation, should be around Rs 100 crore. “Now that the whole thing would be moved to the next financial year, the wait for the package has just got longer for the tea plantation owners,” the official said. According to industry estimates, the forced closure of tea gardens led to a loss of 5 million kg (mkg) of tea worth Rs 700 crore. The Darjeeling Tea Association sought Rs 350 crore from the Centre, but the Tea Board pared down the demand to Rs 100 crore. “We don’t know what the final size of the package would be. It would depend upon what the DEA calculates based on the data on losses suffered by individual tea plantations that has been provided,” the official added.

Business Line, Mumbai
Rising mercury withers Maharashtra farms

The rising temperature levels across Maharashtra is seen affecting horticulture crops such as tomatoes and citrus fruits among others. While the day temperatures are as high as 40 degrees, nights are cooler by 15-20 degrees. Farmers are reporting drying of stems, leaves and premature fruit dropping due to excess heat conditions. Farmer Ashok Shendge from the northern Nashik district said that tomatoes on his one-acre farm have started wilting due to the excess heat. The leaves have dried, stunting the growth of the plants. Such heat will lead to a definite drop in the yield and impact the market prices. “The tomato crop will be ready for harvest by end of May or early June. Today, good quality tomatoes are fetching a mere Rs 400/quintal,” Shendge said. At the Nashik APMC market, the wholesale prices of tomatoes hover between Rs 200 and Rs 475 a quintal. DY Holkar, Secretary of Lasalgaon APMC market, said that vegetable crops such as tomato and cabbage have been affected due to excess heat and pest attacks but the impact is not yet felt in the market. As on date, there is enough vegetable supply in the market, he said. Orange farmer Rishikesh Sontakke from Amravati district said that until recently the orchards were facing hailstorm and now they are in the grip of an intense heatwave. The present crop would be harvested in September and the oranges have grown to the size of jujubes but the temperature difference has again triggered fruit dropping, he said. Underscoring that the farmers cannot fight with nature, Sontakke, who has a 15-acre orchard, said they are waiting for the weather to change. But some educated farmers have gone ahead with spraying the trees with potassium nitrate and some hormones, which helps prevent fruit dropping.

Business Line, Kochi
Rubber growers against Centre’s move to fix quality standards for cup lump imports

The Indian Rubber Growers Association has urged the Commerce Ministry to desist from fixing standards for imported cup lumps, saying that it is anti-farmer and against the interest of rubber industry. The move to fix standards and import of rubber cup lumps is unjustified since there is no standards with regard to its quality are available in the world, the association said in a memorandum to the Commerce Minister. Cup lumps are oxidised rubber, mostly contaminated with dirt and other extraneous material, and their import has been prohibited as a phyto-sanitary measure by India. According to Siby J Monippally, General Secretary of the association, it is not possible to fix standards for cup lumps since it is a natural material with variations, hetrogeneties and contaminates. Unlike RSS-4 and ISNR grades, he said cup lumps are not clean and it contains pathogens, disease carrying organisms. The import of this material will affect not only rubber but other crops too. It is pertinent to note that rubber cultivation in Brazil was wiped off due to import of inferior quality raw material, he said. The Association of Planters of Kerala also opposed the move saying that India is already importing 45 per cent of its rubber requirement by way of processed TSR made from these cup lumps abroad. Meanwhile, the first meeting of the joint task force — set up to study the problems faced by rubber farmers in Kerala — decided to work on increasing the production incentive for farmers and curbing rubber imports. There were also discussions to consider rubber as an agricultural crop rather than a commercial produce, paving the way for declaration of minimum support price and financial support under the income doubling scheme for farmers.

28, March 2018
Business Line, Rohtak
Boosting farm income: Haryana to set a target of Rs 1 lakh per acre

The Haryana government says it is exploring ways to increase the income of farmers in the State to Rs 1 lakh and above an acre. “We want to set a target of ensuring each of our 16 lakh farmers gets at least Rs 1 lakh per acre of land. The total area under cultivation in the State is around 90 lakh acres,” said State Agriculture Minister Om Prakash Dhankar on the sidelines of the 3rd Agriculture Leadership Summit here. “Farmers growing certain crops are already getting such returns. Sugarcane farmers, for instance, earn more than Rs 1 lakh per acre and so are those who go for the combination of rice, sunflower and potato. Even those farmers who grow vegetables on their fields are able to earn such income levels. But farmers who follow the rice-wheat cropping cycle, on the other hand, get only around Rs 75,000. The returns are similarly low for those farmers go for cotton and wheat combination as well as bajra and mustard combination,” Dhankar said, adding that the government may have to do something to lift the income levels of those whose returns are still poor. According to Dhankar, the government has been trying to protect farmers in the State from three types of risks – risks associated with inputs, climate change as well as those linked to market. Bhavantar Bharpai Yojana (which the State government launched in January this year to pay farmers of onions, potatoes, tomatoes and cauliflower price differential between market price and minimum support price) and the extension of MSP to most crops have helped protect farmers from market risk.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Chana prices rise on export sop, MSP procurement talk

Chana (bengal gram) April futures on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Ltd (NCDEX) rose by almost four per cent to close at Rs 3,727 per quintal over talk that Centre might further expand the seven per cent export incentive announced last month while there could be further revision in Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the coming months. Madhya Pradesh’s decision to exclude chana and masur, two major lentils grown in the state from the much-talked about Bhawantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY) also lead to the price increase, but it wasn’t big enough to warrant the rise. “The market seems to have been enthused by Centre’s decision to extend an export support scheme to chana. The inclusion of chana in BBY was also seen as a positive, but not big factor as market had already factored in the decision,” Anuj Gupta, deputy vice-president of Angel Commodities told. He said that there was also some talk in the market that Centre’s new MSP calculation mechanism could have positive impact on chana prices. Last week, Centre extended support to ‘bengal gram’ (chana) through the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS). The export support at the rate of seven per cent has been extended for a limited period of three months. Under MEIS, exporters get access to a scrip which they can invoke as and when they imports a similar quantity. But, despite the incentive, chana prices continued to rule below the Centre mandated MSP for 2018-19 season fixed at Rs 4,400 per quintal. “Futures prices would continue to remain under pressure due to heavy arrivals which are expected to peak in the coming weeks and any upside beyond Rs 4,000 per quintal shouldn’t be expected,” Gupta said.

The Tribune, Karnal
Karnal farmers burn cane to protest partial procurement

Farmers under the banner of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) burnt sugarcane outside the residence of Sugarfed chairman Chander Parkash Kathuria in Sector-13 to protest against non-procurement of entire crop. Farmers led by Prem Chand Shahpur, state vice president of BKU, and others assembled at old vegetable market and took out a procession towards the chairman’s residence. However, they were stopped by the police near the residence. Shahpur claimed the officials concerned had assured them that the crushing capacity at Karnal cooperative sugar mill would be increased from the next season. He said though farmers increased cultivation of sugarcane, the crushing capacity was not enhanced. He claimed that farmers were forced to sell their crop in UP at very low price. The state vice president said they would launch a state wide protest, in case the crop was not procured. Kathuria said the state government was serious about addressing the plight of the farmers and had laid the foundation stone of the sugar mill. He said the government had started the procurement one month prior to the fixed schedule and started the re-bonding process of the standing crop with an aim to purchase the entire yield. “Some farm leaders are misleading the farmers at the behest of the opposition leaders,” he alleged.

The Hindu, Chennai
M.P. stakes claim for basmati GI tag

Madhya Pradesh has filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court challenging an order passed by Assistant Registrar of Geographical Indications (GI) here on March 15 excluding the State from being granted the GI tag for basmati rice. It claimed that around 80,000 farmers who produce approximately 10 lakh tonnes of “basmati” rice in a single paddy season would be affected if they were not allowed to sell their produce as basmati rice. Justice M. Duraiswamy ordered notices returnable by three weeks to the Assistant Registrar of GI, the State of Punjab, All India Rice Exports Association, Daawat Foods and Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) functioning under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry since it was the authority which had filed an application for GI tag for basmati and obtained it for select States in the Indo-Gangetic plains. The judge recorded the submission of senior counsel P.S. Raman, representing APEDA, that he shall file a counter affidavit on the maintainability of the writ petition before going into the merits of the case.

Business Line, Mumbai
MCX brass contract records Rs 15-crore turnover on debut

Commodity bourse MCX has registered a trading volume of Rs 14.71 crore in its brass futures contract launched on Monday. The first deliverable non-ferrous futures contract had a volume of 429 tonnes and open interest of 91 tonnes in its debut session that ended at 6 p.m. The country’s largest commodity exchange offers three contracts ending in April, May and June for trading, with a lot size of one tonne. The price is quoted ex-warehouse Jamnagar (delivery centre) inclusive of taxes and duties, excluding GST. Mrugank Paranjape, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, MCX, said the contract will lead to the best price discovery for brass, which is of key relevance to its stakeholders including importers, exporters, manufacturers, refiners, and processors among others, who are looking to hedge their price exposure. Brass is an alloy, which primarily contains around 55-60 per cent copper and the rest is zinc, with small amounts of lead and iron. It finds its use in electrical appliances, marine engines, pump parts, switch gears, sanitary ware, automobiles and defence parts. Of the 5,000 small and medium units producing brass in the country, about 3,000 are located at Jamnagar, accounting for 80 per cent of the brass produced in India. The rest of the companies are spread across Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh and Jagadhari in Haryana.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
More crop per drop to save farmers

World Water Day is held annually on March 22 to advocate strongly sustainable management of freshwater resources the world over. In fact, an international day to celebrate freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). On the eve of World Water Day, Watershed Organisation Trust, popularly known as WOTR, made a significant presentation to the law makers of the Maharashtra legislature. It was part of an event titled “Tackling climate change in Maharashtra” presided over by chief minister, DevendraFadnavis. Speaking about Maharashtra’s flagship programme the Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan or JSA, Crispino Lobo, managing trustee and co-founder of WOTR, said that its fundamental principles were sound and aligned towards achieving its objective of making Maharashtra drought free. He, however, cautioned the government that JSA faces a major threat in climate change. Irregular and intense rainfall leads to intense and high volume runoffs. This will adversely affect all the major activities of the JSA such as stream deepening and training, small dams, farm bunding and farm ponds. Lobo, 61, who has been successfully fighting drought and helping farmers in drought-prone districts of Maharashtra for nearly 30 years in the field to conserve whatever amount of rains fall from the skies, impressed upon the legislators that the state needs to make its agriculture resilient to climate change. WOTR outlined steps to make JSA climate resilient and urged the government to include integrated soil and water conservation measures and initiatives to increase water use efficiency, effective crop-weather advisories and sustainable agriculture practices. It also shared with the government insights from the experience of its innovative Water Stewardship Campaign. This covered over 100 villages in Maharashtra. WOTR would also partner government in implementing the Maharashtra Groundwater Management Act throughout the drought affected districts.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
New way to stop spread of rice blast found

In a breakthrough, scientists have found a way to stop the spread of rice blast, a fungus that destroys up to 30 per cent of the world's rice crop each year. An international team led by the University of Exeter in the UK showed that chemical genetic inhibition of a single protein in the fungus stops it from spreading inside a rice leaf - leaving it trapped within a single plant cell. The finding is a breakthrough in terms of understanding rice blast, a disease that is hugely important in terms of global food security, researchers said. However, the scientists caution that this is a "fundamental" discovery - not a cure that can yet be applied outside the laboratory. The research led by Wasin Sakulkoo, who received his PhD from Exeter, revealed how the fungus can manipulate and then squeeze through natural channels (called plasmodesmata) that exist between plant cells. "This is an exciting breakthrough because we have discovered how the fungus is able to move stealthily between rice cells, evading recognition by the plant immune system," said Professor Nick Talbot of the University of Exeter. "It is clearly able to suppress immune responses at pit fields (groups of plasmodesmata), and also regulate its own severe constriction to squeeze itself through such a narrow space. "And all this is achieved by a single regulatory protein. It is a remarkable feat," Talbot.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Panel on doubling farmers' income to submit final report next month

An inter-ministerial panel formed by the Centre on doubling farmers' income by 2022 will submit its final report next month, its Chairman Ashok Dalwai said. The Dalwai Committee, set up in April 2016, has already written 14 volumes identifying ways to double farmers' 2015-16 income level, in real terms, in seven years. The committee points out that real income of farmers needs to register a compound annual growth rate of 10.4% in order to double by 2022. "The final report is more or less ready. We will submit it by next month," Dalwai told. Already, some of the panel's recommendations are being implemented by the government. For example, this year's budget announced upgrading of 22,000 gramin haats to facilitate small and marginal farmers to integrate with organised marketing structure, he said. This initiative can be expected to answer the current challenges of transacting small lots of marketable surpluses, at low cost and from a position of bargaining strength that comes from farmers collectives being transformed into Farmers Produce Organisations (FPOs), he added. "While we have to submit a final report, some of the committee's recommendations are parallelly being implemented by the government," said Dalwai, who is also the CEO of National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA). The government has also come out with a draft agri export policy following the panel's recommendation to revisit and reorient the trade regime from the national perspective of doubling farmers' income, he added. The panel has said agri-trade policy should aim to facilitate and promote ease in doing business, rather than be restrictive and disruptive to business planning.

The Hindu, Mumbai
State to pay tur farmers with Rs800 cr. NAFED loan

The State will soon pay farmers the pending Rs 800 crore for the red gram (tur dal) it purchased from them last year. Minister for Cooperation, Marketing and Textiles Subhash Deshmukh said that the government has paid Rs36 crore so far, and has asked for a loan of Rs800 crore from the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), a Union government agency. “NAFED has promised to process the loan in 15 days. We will make the payment as soon as that happens,” Mr. Deshmukh said in response to a question in the Legislative Council on why lakhs of farmers had not been paid. Opposition members raised the debate on the purchase of tur after a 65-year-old farmer died at Osmanabad last week while waiting in queue to claim the payment. “It is unfortunate the government has not made any payment so far this year. This has caused the death of an innocent farmer. Who is responsible for this death?” asked Nationalist Congress Party MLC Hemant Takle. There 89 tur kharedi kendra (tur purchase centres) in the State. The government procured 1,30,000 quintal of gram from 1,24,000 farmers through these designates centres last year.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Telangana agri varsity ties up with Canadian firm

Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) will work with the Ichaana Indo-Can Zeolite Corp (IIZC), a subsidiary of International Zeolite Corporation of Canada, for joint studies. They will jointly take up research studies by testing of natural zeolite for development of some farm inputs. “A Memorandum of Agreement was signed by the Registrar of the university, S Sudheer Kumar, and Balapratap Reddy of Indo-Can Zeolite Corporation,” a university statement said. “They will conduct research on agronomic, economic, social and environmental benefits of improved nutrient management practices in paddy, cotton, chillies and maize,” it added.

27, March 2018
The Tribune, Srinagar
After dry winter, farmers told to stay off paddy cultivation

With drought-like conditions persisting in the Valley amid scant snowfall and rainfall during the winter, the farmers in Kashmir have been advised not to grow paddy this year and switch to other crops. The district authorities have already prepared drought action plans in case the spring also remains dry, like the winter. Already, the divisional administration has issued directions for mapping of water resources in the region for conservation and directed efficient use of available water. According to government figures, 1,41,300 hectares were under paddy cultivation in the Kashmir division in 2015. “A majority of the areas in north Kashmir are dependent on rain for irrigation. This year, there has been scant snowfall and rainfall. Though officially it has not been announced, steps are being taken in north Kashmir districts to prioritise use of water,” Chief Engineer, Irrigation & Flood Control (IFC), Kashmir, Shahnawaz Ahmad Mir told. Painting a grim picture of his district, Kupwara Executive Engineer, IFC, Mushtaq Ahmad Untoo said his department had already issued notices to the deputy commissioner, tehsil officials and lambardars to inform farmers not to cultivate paddy this year owing to water scarcity. “In our district over 160 storage tanks, which are dependent on runoff are running dry. So the farmers have been accordingly asked to look for alternative crops this year,” Untoo said. Likewise, notices have also been issued to farmers in Baramulla district in north Kashmir, asking them not to plant paddy this season. Budgam Executive Engineer, IFC, Jatinder Singh said due to drought-like situation, they had already prepared and submitted a drought action plan. If there was no rainfall in coming days, they would also be forced to ask farmers not to plant paddy this year, he said. Situation in south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian is comparatively better as most sources of fresh water originate there.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Promise to farmers will be kept, says PM

A day after Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav accused the Modi government of sponsoring “looting of farmers” by failing to ensure that they actually received the minimum support prices (MSP) guaranteed by the government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged that he had received a large number of letters from farmers regarding the issue. In his monthly radio address, Mann ki Baat, Mr. Modi reiterated that farmers would be guaranteed an MSP of at least 50% above the cost of production. Farmers have recently expressed their concerns in a series of protests across the country, including a 180-km march by thousands from Nashik to Mumbai earlier this month. On Saturday, Mr. Yadav’s MSP satyagraha campaign countered the government’s claims with findings from agricultural markets across the country. According to Mr. Yadav, in nine different agricultural markets across five States, the campaign found that farmers were unable to get MSP rates. In fact, the campaign estimated that the difference between declared MSP and actual prices across the country for six major winter season crops (apart from wheat and paddy) would cause farmers a total estimated loss of ₹14,474 crore. “When the government makes a sovereign guarantee to farmers before they begin to sow that you will get at least this much, then when the farmer fails to get that much, the government must intervene. Otherwise, what can it be called except loot and grand theft,” he asked.

Deccan Herald, New Delhi
India seeks greater market access for its goods and services in China

Visiting Chinese Commerce minister Zhong Shan promised to address trade related issues including a large deficit with India after New Delhi sought greater market access for its agriculture and non-agriculture products and IT-enabled services in the neighbouring country. "Chinese Minister Zhong Shan welcomed Indian investment in China and promised to address the trade deficit between the two countries," commerce ministry said in a statement after India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology here. During the meeting, Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu had asked his Chinese counterpart for greater market access for agricultural products like rapeseed, soyabean, basmati and non-basmati rice, fruits, vegetables and sugar. "Another commodity which could be exported from India to China is the high quality pharmaceutical products. Export of India's IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS) to China and cooperation in the sectors of tourism and healthcare needs to be focused on," he said. The minister highlighted the important issues discussed in the meeting like two-way trade relations, preparation of an action plan, greater focus on regional comprehensive economic partnership (RCEP) and e-dialogue. India, China bilateral trade reached $71.45 billion in 2016-17 but most of it is tilted in Chinese favour.

The Hindu, New Delhi
New way to stop spread of rice blast disease found

In a breakthrough, scientists have found a way to stop the spread of rice blast, a fungus that destroys up to 30 per cent of the world’s rice crop each year. An international team led by the University of Exeter in the UK showed that chemical genetic inhibition of a single protein in the fungus stops it from spreading inside a rice leaf – leaving it trapped within a single plant cell. The finding is a breakthrough in terms of understanding rice blast, a disease that is hugely important in terms of global food security, researchers said. However, the scientists caution that this is a “fundamental” discovery – not a cure that can yet be applied outside the laboratory. The research led by Wasin Sakulkoo, revealed how the fungus can manipulate and then squeeze through natural channels (called plasmodesmata) that exist between plant cells. “This is an exciting breakthrough because we have discovered how the fungus is able to move stealthily between rice cells, evading recognition by the plant immune system,” said Professor Nick Talbot of the University of Exeter. “It is clearly able to suppress immune responses at pit fields (groups of plasmodesmata), and also regulate its own severe constriction to squeeze itself through such a narrow space. And all this is achieved by a single regulatory protein. It is a remarkable feat.” The results were published in the journal Science. Rice blast threatens global food security, destroying enough rice each year to feed 60 million people. It spreads within rice plants by invasive hyphae (branching filaments) which break through from cell to cell.

India Today, Gangtok
Sikkim help to be sought to make entire India organic: Maneka

Union minister Maneka Gandhi said she requested Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling to offer the resources and help to convert the whole of India into an organic farming country. Sikkim is the only state in the country where organic farming is initiated by the state Government, the Union Woman & Child Development Minister said after meeting Chamling. "I have sought his help in this regard so that everybody benefits. I will be very happy if I get help to turn at least my constituency organic, to start with," she said. Gandhi said she would discuss with the Central Government about seeking Sikkims technical support to impart training on organic farming to the rest of the states. The Union minister, who is on a three-day visit to Sikkim, also lauded the environmental initiatives of the state government such as ban on use of plastic, grazing and felling of trees, besides poaching of wild animals. The orchids of the state have a unique identity and should be propagated and spread throughout the country, she said adding that the youth should get into this field and more people should try greenhouse agriculture. Gandhi said her ministry is committed to provide all assistance to Sikkim government to strengthen and improve institutions related to women and child care. On the rise in human trafficking especially from the North Eastern states, she said a Bill on anti-trafficking has been introduced in the Parliament in the current session. The Bill in its present form is the best in the world and will give a huge respite to victims of trafficking, especially in terms of rehabilitating them, she claimed. On measures for rehabilitation of trafficked women, she said activities such as cooking and bakery have been experimented in places like Pune and they have been successful to rehabilitate these women.

The Tribune, Rohtak
Delegates from 14 countries attend Agri Leadership Summit

Foreign delegates from nearly 14 countries deliberated on “Future areas of International Cooperation and Understanding in Agriculture Business, Agri-Industry and Food Processing” on the third and concluding day of the 3rd Agri Leadership Summit here. Among those who attended the summit included Minister Economic from Nepal Krishna Hari Pushkar, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia Gonchig Ganbold, Agriculture Attache, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supplies Dalci de Jesus Banolin, Counsellor from Spain Dr Teresa Barras Benlloch and delegates from Zambia, New Zealand, Canada, Namibia, Germany, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Belgium, Ethiopia, Netherlands and Russia. Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar and Principal Secretary (Agriculture) Dr Abhilaksh Likhi spoke on how the session could help the state and the delegates benefit from each other’s experiences and adopt new technologies to improve quality of food. Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Dev Vrat highlighter use of cow dung to increase agriculture production. “Haryana has 90 lakh acres of agricultural land. The state supplies 14 crore quintals of food grains to other states after meeting its own requirements. We have to convert agriculture sector to agriculture service by use of improved technology. We need to work collectively on challenges like climate change, water scarcity and soil health. We have to work together to deliver good nutrient food to people,” said Dhankar. Governor Acharya Dev Vrat spoke about zero budget farming on 200 acres of land to get better yield using indigenous cow dung, urine, water and milk. Mandeep Singh Brar, Chief Administrator of the Haryana State Agriculture Marketing Board, translated their speeches into English for the benefit of foreign delegates. Much to the surprise of participants, Mongolian Ambassador Gonchig Ganbold, also delivered his lecture in Hindi. Inviting people to invest in Haryana, Principal Secretary (Industry) Sudhir Rajpal, said the Food Processing Policy focussed on processing fresh food.

Business Standard, Rohtak
Agriculture Minister pitches for a package of measures to boost Maize Productivity

Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Mr. Radha Mohan Singh has called for a package of measures to boost maize production and productivity and realise its potential as the 'future cereal crop'. Mr. Singh said that there was a need for a mix of strategies and interventions around technological innovations, promoting producer aggregation and linkages, enabling supporting infrastructure, forging public-private partnerships and appropriate policy measures. "Forging PPP opportunities for establishment of maize-based silage making units, Skill Development Centres and farm machinery banks are the prospective avenues for investment," he said. Mr. Singh added that these avenues need to be tapped and scaled up to increase mechanization in Maize production. Between now and 2050, the demand for maize in the developing world will double, and by 2025 maize will have become the crop with the greatest production globally and in the developing world. In India, most of the maize produced is used for animal feed and only a small portion utilized for human consumption. Its full potential, therefore, is yet to be realised, he said. The Minister pointed out that only 15% of cultivated area of maize is irrigated. It was time to link Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation (Har Khet ko pani), improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (More Crop per Drop) to increase the production, productivity and quality of the maize crop in the country. He said that Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare was focusing on reforms on agri-marketing and has made special announcements on developing and upgrading existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) with a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Panel on Farm Income Hike to Give Report in April

An inter-ministerial panel on doubling farmers' income by 2022 will submit its final report next month, its chairman Ashok Dalwai said. The Dalwai Committee, set up in April 2016, has already written 14 volumes identifying ways to double farmers' 2015-16 income level, in real terms, in seven years. The committee says real income of farmers needs to compound annual growth rate of 10.4% to double by 2022.

26, March 2018
The Tribune, New Delhi
50,000 farmers to get relief in April

The government would provide debt relief to the tune of Rs 200 crore to 50,000 beneficiaries of six districts in third phase at a state level function to be held in first week of April at Gurdaspur. A spokesperson said that beneficiaries from Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Hoshiarpur, SBS Nagar, Amritsar and Tarn Taran would get the relief. The scheme has been amended to obtain a self-declaration from the beneficiaries simplifying the disbursement procedure. At least 46,556 marginal farmers of Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar and Moga were provided relief of Rs 167.39 crore in January. So far, 75,748 farmers of 10 districts have been provided relief of Rs 329.55 crore, he said.

The Hindu, Shimla
‘Proposed schemes to help farmers’

The new schemes proposed by the Himachal Pradesh government for the agriculture sector in its 2018-19 budget will help farmers double their income, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said. He reiterated the commitment of the government to double income of farmers and said that to achieve the target new schemes have been proposed in the budget. The Chief Minister was addressing a public meeting at Pakhubela in Una Assembly Constituency. The previous Congress government in the State had neglect the Una constituency, but today schemes and projects worth Rs 20 crore have been inaugurated for its development, besides laying of foundation stone for new projects, he said. The main focus of the State government would be on development and welfare of the poor, downtrodden and underprivileged sections, the Chief Minister said. The previous government had pushed the State into a debt trap, but the BJP dispensation is dedicated to development, he said, alleging that opposition Congress was forcing non-issues to divert the attention of people from core development issues.

The Financial Express, Kolkata
Comprehensive legislation for organic foods?

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the autonomous body looking after food safety and regulations in the country said a comprehensive legislation should be in place for organic food products. “Presently, the agriculture ministry and APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) are having separate guidelines for organic foods. We feel there should a single legislation in this regard,” chairman of FSSAI Ashish Bahuguna said. Speaking on the sidelines of a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) event here, he said FSSAI has already prepared a draft regulation on organic food which has been put up in the public domain for seeking views from various stakeholders. Bahuguna also sounded caution on boro rice cultivation due to high levels of arsenic contamination in water. Bangladesh had already reduced boro cultivation for this purpose, he said, adding that use of drought-resistant paddy variants and long stem crops were desirable.

DNA, Mumbai
Diva farmers wary of Bullet Train route

Residents of Diva have come together in opposition to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail corridor, popularly called the Bullet train project, that passes through Diva. Claiming that the route would affect their farming land of up to 300 acres, the residents have suggested an alternate route through Vasai-Thane Creek instead. Ever since it became known that the route would go through one of their villages, farmers in Diva have been wary of the project rendering them without land and homes. “More than 100-acre land will be required for the rail line and 300 to 400 acre for the car shed,” said Govind Bhagat, president, Aagri Yuvak Sanghatna, Maharashtra. “This means thousands of people, particularly farmers, will lose their lands and homes as the bullet train makes its way through Diva.” Farmers from Palghar, Bhiwandi, Mathardi, Betawade, Aagasan, Desai, Padle, Dawle, Shil and Ghansoli have opposed the state government’s land acquisition for the project. They refused to co-operate with the land survey done by the Thane Tehsildar office. “During the land survey in February, none of us were present and we do not want to give our land,” added Bhagat. However, the farmers have instead suggested an alternate route to the government for the project which would not affect anyone. Bhagat explained, “They can take the route from Vasai and Thane Creek, passing through Mulund and end at Bombay Port Trust (BPT). Vasai and Thane Creek are under the green zone and the government has enough land at BPT for a car shed. Then why are they bothering us?” The farmers wrote to Thane District Collector Dr Mahendra Kalyankar last week opposing the land acquisition. “If our demands are not met then we will protest against this forceful acquisition,” warned Bhagat. Meanwhile, Dr Kalyankar said that he does not know about any protest as yet.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Farmers could lose Rs 145 billion this rabi season

Farmers stand to lose around Rs 145 billion this rabi season as market prices of major crops, excluding wheat and rice, have dropped below the state-mandated Minimum Support Price (MSP) in most parts of country, a ground assessment of 14 major mandis of the country showed. The assessment was done by a team of farm activists lead by Swaraj Abhiyan President, Yogendra Yadav, based on the expected marketable surplus, as arrivals are still on in several places. The crops which have been considered for this include gram, groundnut, mustard, masoor, rabi maize and barley. In most of these crops, the prevailing average prices are Rs 200 to Rs 600 lower than the state-fixed MSP. “In each of these locations, the team visited the Mandi and interacted with farmers, traders and mandi officials. We also visited the closest procurement centres, wherever operational. The data cited was obtained from local mandi officials and the Agmarknet website,” Swaraj Abhiyan said in a statement released. It said that in none of the mandis their team visited were farmers able to sell their produce at MSP, as prices have crashed sharply. In the case of chana and mustard, the team found prices had crashed over 20 per cent due to bumper harvest. Also, in most places, the Centre or state’s own procurement operations were not visible on the ground and there was an urgent need for market intervention and effective procurement at the earliest to prevent a crisis. The farmer leaders also demanded that growers should be able to sell their entire crop at the MSP rate, and the government should take all steps to ensure this happens, while there should be quantitative restrictions based on the upper end of expected yield for each district.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Horticulture key to J&K’s economic growth: Kohli

Terming horticulture as the backbone of State’s economy, Minister for Animal, Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries Abdul Ghani Kohli said the Government is paying focused attention to rejuvenate the horticulture industry in the State. He further said that the horticulture sector has a vast potential of changing the socio-economic condition of the people and providing employment opportunities to the youth of the State. The Minister was speaking after distributing saplings of various varieties including apple and walnut among progressive farmers in a function organized by Horticulture Department at Ghaibass in Kalakote. He urged the functionaries of the department to be proactive and synergize their efforts to ensure frequent farm visits and explore the possibilities to promote production of high quality fruits in Rajouri. The Minister directed them for holding awareness camps at Panchayat level for disseminating information and sharing expertise with the orchardists. Stressing that there is need to reach out to the farmers and take the technological innovations and research to the field, the Minister said it is vital that the farmers are kept well abreast with the advancements in the agriculture, horticulture and floriculture sectors to enhance their produce.

The Indian Express, Bhopal
MP govt to give Rs 100 bonus above MSP for gram, mustard, lentil

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal over and above the respective minimum support prices (MSP) of gram, mustard and lentil. On Friday, the three commodities were removed from the state’s Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, a direct benefit transfer scheme for farmers. After returning from Delhi, Chouhan said that the Centre was positive about the state’s Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana and had appointed a committee under Union Home Rajnath Singh to study the price deficiency payment scheme. He said the procurement would begin from April 10 at 257 mandis and continue till May 31, however, he did not spell out the estimated volume and the cost of the bonus on exchequer. MSPs for gram, lentil and mustard are Rs 4,400, Rs 4,250 and Rs 4,000, respectively, but they are currently selling at much lower rates. While the Centre will pay the MSP, the state will pay the bonus that will be paid after May 31. The CM said even farmers, who sell premium wheat varieties fetching more than the Rs 1735 MSP and those selling below fair average quality (FAQ), will be eligible for bonus. Leader of Opposition, Ajay Singh accused the CM of taking farmers for a ride. “He should come clean on why he suddenly decided to remove gram, mustard and lentil from BBY after spending crores on advertisements,” Singh said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Power subsidy, debt relief eat up funds

Allocation to the farm sector has been increased by 39 per cent, but committed liabilities like servicing power subsidy and implementing politically sensitive debt relief scheme will leave little for the government to utilise on capital expenditure in this sector. This Budget, too, focused on providing short-term benefits to the hapless farmers instead of focusing on long-term strategies needed for a turnaround of their fortunes. Finance Minister Manpreet Badal hiked the outlay for this sector from Rs 10,581 crore (2017-18) to Rs 14,734 crore in 2018-19, an increase of 39 per cent. A major allocation of Rs 6,256 crore is for free power. Similarly, Rs 4,250 crore is for executing debt relief. This sum would be duly enhanced to fulfil state’s commitment on this count, Manpreet Badal affirmed. A special project of Rs 750 crore will be started to improve diversification infrastructure in the state. As many as 7,000 farmers and 10,000 acres will be brought under diversification with special emphasis on horticulture, marketing of produce and food processing. Disease-free potato and other vegetable seeds, 6.5 lakh fruit plants and approximately 41,500 mushroom spawn bottles will be provided to farmers this year. In addition, approximately 80,000-kg fruit will be processed at six departmental fruit preservation laboratories. An allocation of Rs 55 crore has been made under the National Horticulture Mission. Citrus cultivation will be diversified by introducing 12 new sweet orange and five mandarin varieties that can be processed with the assistance of PAU at Jallowal (Jalandhar) and Khanaura (Hoshiarpur) nurseries. A centre of excellence for floriculture is being established at Doraha under the Indo-Dutch work plan.

DNA, Mumbai
Stop cultivation of methi at beach: Activists

The rampant cultivation of methi (fenugreek) at Versova beach has got several wildlife activists concerned for the life of Olive Ridley Turtles, who are at the risk of falling into the pits dug for methi cultivation. Activists have demanded that this activity be completely stopped. What has worried wildlife experts as well as officials from Mangrove Cell is the presence of several hundred pits dug by the methi cultivators, where incidentally the hatchlings were found close to one such pits. Resident organisations from Versova have long been fighting to rid the beach of this activity but with no success. Meanwhile, Sunish Subramanian Kunju, Honorary Wildlife Warden — Mumbai City sent letters to various officials, including Mangrove Cell as well as Collector, stating that these pits were a clear threat to marine life who could get stuck in them. "We have realised that these pits are quite dangerous and need to be removed from this location. We are planning to talk to officials to understand the ground realities and legalities involved," said Afroz Shah, who has been spearheading the citizens movement of cleaning up the Versova beach. Some experts who visited the site from where the hatchlings were found said that most cultivators even stay on the beach itself and have made temporary structures. This, they said, has led to a rapid rise in the stray dog population, who could be threat to marine life. "It was fortunate that the dogs did not find these hatchlings or else not one would have survived amongst the 92 released into the sea on Thursday," said a marine enthusiast, adding that if this beach has to be made turtle-friendly for the future, the area will have to be cleared off and all the pits will have to be filled during the nesting season from next year onwards.

The Sunday Standard, New Delhi
Punjab ensures smooth procurement of wheat

The Punjab Cabinet approved a policy for “smooth and hassle-free” procurement of 130 lakh MT of wheat during 2018-19 season besides ensuring timely payment of the minimum support price to farmers. This decision was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by the CM.

25, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
‘Need to raise maize production to 45 mt by 2022’

India has to increase maize production in the country by 75 per cent to 45 million tonnes (mt) by 2022 to meet the increasing domestic requirement, a report by FICCI and Pricewaterhouse Coopers said here. By 2022, India would need 30 mt of maize for feed and another 15 mt for food. For this to happen, the maize production has to grow at a CAGR of 15 per cent, the report released by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said. Inaugurating a maize summit organised by the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the minister said there was a need for a mix of strategies and interventions around technological innovations, promoting producer aggregation and linkages, enabling supporting infrastructure, forging public-private partnerships and appropriate policy measures to boost maize cultivation in the country. “Forging PPP opportunities for establishment of maize-based silage making units, skill development centres and farm machinery banks are the prospective avenues for investment,” he said. According to him, currently irrigation is available for only 15 per cent of maize cultivation. It was high time farmers tapped different irrigation-related schemes announced by the government to increase the production and productivity and improve the quality of maize produced in the country. The domestic production of maize stands at 26 mt, but productivity is one of the poorest in the world at 2.54 tonnes/ha as against the global average of 5.82 tonnes/ha. FICCI Director-General Dilip Chenoy stressed the importance of promoting maize cultivation as it was one of the most climate-friendly crops. “By cultivating maize, farmers can save 90 per cent of water and 70 per cent of power as compared to paddy and earn far more than what they are earning through paddy and wheat,” he said.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Farmers owe Maha Rs 17,000 cr in power bills, says CM

Farmers owe the Maharashtra exchequer Rs 17,000 crore in the form of outstanding power bills for the agriculture pump sets, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told the Legislative Assembly. Fadnavis also said though the government had initiated the process to recover the pending dues, it has stopped the drive temporarily taking into consideration various hardships being faced by the farmers. “The state government was directed by the MERC to recover the amount from farmers and the process had begun. However, considering the hardships faced by the farmers, the recovery process has been stayed,” the CM said.

The Statesman, Shimla
Farmers’ economy in HP under serious distress: CPM

The Himachal Pradesh Communist Party of India (Marxist) has drawn the attention of the state government on farmer distress in state and demanded for farmer friendly policies. In a written communique to the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, CPIM lone Member of legislative Assembly (MLA) Rakesh Singha said that the farmers economy in the state is under serious distress. He blamed the policies of the successive governments and terms of the trade. “In Himachal also the growth rate from agriculture, Horticulture and animal husbandry in relation to the state gross domestic product is on the decline. It has fallen to a frightening figure of minus 5.3 for the financial year 2018- 2019 as revealed by the economic survey,” he said, adding that this decline needs to be checked by framing farmer friendly policies and also the pro farmers mindset of the government and it’s delivering agencies. The farmer friendly policies in the state of Himachal was lacking, he alleged. Apple economy plays an important role in the states Horticulture economy. The apple production for this season will be determined by several factors, one of them being of post buds well orchard practices by the farmers. As there has been a long dry spell followed by rain showers in the last two days there is an eminent danger of drought and insects destroying the flower bud which will reduce the fruit setting percentage, he said, adding that this will reduce the apple production. Singha said that the destruction of flowers can only be controlled by spraying appropriate insecticides, however, there is no insecticides, pesticides, fungicides available with the horticulture extension offices in different parts of the apple growing areas.

Business Line, Chittoor
Industrialisation, agriculture to help AP achieve double-digit growth

Along with a focus on industrialisation, Andhra Pradesh will stay as the State with double-digit growth in agriculture and allied sectors, according to the Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. “Ours is an agriculture-oriented State. In the last four years, Andhra Pradesh has been the only State that has achieved double- digit growth in agriculture. The average growth in the past four years is about 10.5 per cent,” he told after laying the foundation stone for the new factory of Hero MotoCorp in Chittoor district. He also said the agricultural income growth in the State will be about 18 per cent this year as against the all-India average growth of about three per cent. “We have more or less stabilised agriculture and allied sectors. It will grow by about 15 per cent over the next 5-10 years,” he said. Naidu said the State will also go in for an industrialisation in a big way by attracting investments from across segments in order to create more jobs. He vowed to make Andhra Pradesh a major auto hub. His confidence stems from the fact that the State can attract investments to the tune of about Rs 35,000 crore in the automotive sector during the past three-and-a-half years of his latest tenure. “This is the biggest investment we have attracted in any segment,” he said adding that those investments had been brought into the backward areas of the State — Anantapur, Chittoor and Rayalaseema. “We are able to provide adequate water to industries apart from 24/7 power assurance. This is our major USP,” he said. Highlighting the investments across sectors, Naidu said that his government was working towards making Andhra Pradesh a distant No 1 in terms of ease of doing business by benchmarking it with other States, which the State has already achieved.

Business Line, New Delhi
MSP hike alone won’t help farm sector, shows ICRA study

The NDA government’s proposed plan to give minimum support price (MSP) at 1.5 times of cost of production in kharif 2018 may lead to a relatively healthy increase in support prices of some crops such as paddy, cotton, jowar and maize. But in pulses such as tur and urad, the formula is unlikely to have any impact for farmers, as their support prices are already higher than 1.5 times, said a report from ratings agency ICRA. In recent years, the hike in MSP has remained modest. While the growth in MSP remained healthy between 2012 and 2014, with double digit increases in many cases, the increase in MSP remained modest between 2015 and 2017, with the Central government targeting to keep the food inflation under check, said ICRA Vice-President for corporate ratings Anupama Arora, who authored the report along with others. Explaining the mechanism to guide MSP revision for each crop season, the ICRA report outlined two different estimates of cost of production for crops are prepared by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices for recommendations: a) actual paid out cost and imputed value of family labour, which could be referred as gross margin and b) comprehensive cost including imputed rent and interest on owned land and capital, which can be referred to as net margin. The indications are that the government is considering the gross margin estimate, it said. As of now, procurement at MSP is largely limited to paddy (kharif season) and wheat (rabi season), with procurement operations for other crops remaining limited. The procurement of both paddy and wheat at MSP has remained range-bound at 30-35 per cent of the production levels in the past six years.

Mint, New Delhi
MSP policy soon: Radha Mohan

The government will soon come out with a policy to ensure that farmers get the support price 1.5 times higher than the production cost, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said. Government think tank NITI Aayog has come out with a draft policy after discussion with states and it will be finalized soon after further deliberations, he added. The minister promised that the notified crops whose minimum support price (MSP) is not 50% higher than the cost of production will see an upward revision before the 2018-19 kharif season starting June. He noted that MSPs of some crops are already 50% higher than the cost of production.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
Policy ensuring MSP 50% higher than production cost soon

The government will soon come out with a policy to ensure that farmers get the support price 1.5 times higher than the production cost, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said. Government think tank Niti Aayog has come out with a draft policy after discussion with states and it will be finalised soon after further deliberations, he added. The minister promised that the notified crops whose minimum support price (MSP) is not 50 per cent higher than the cost of production will see an upward revision before the 2018-19 kharif season starting June. He noted that MSPs of some crops are already 50 per cent higher than the cost of production. In Budget 2018-19, the government had announced fixing MSP 1.5 times higher than the cost of production. The centre fixes MSP of 22 agri-commodities. Singh assured farmers that the government will intervene when prices fall below MSP and protect their interest even if it hurts the government exchequer. "It is true, it will put burden on exchequer. The prime minister is not worried about the exchequer. ...The country's farmers and labours have first right over the government exchequer," he said at a Ficci event. Holistic efforts are being made to reduce the cost of production as also strengthen market and post production infrastructure to achieve the target of doubling farmers' income by 2022, he said. Stating that MSP is just a safety net and the government is taking steps to put in place a competitive agri-market, National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) CEO Ashok Dalwai said remunerative price is not MSP, it is more than MSP. "We should not get stuck with MSP. MSP is the last resort. It is a social safety net. Farmers have to be offered a chance to discover prices," he said.

Business Line, Kolkata
Potatoes to turn costlier in Bengal as output drops

Wholesale prices of potato in West Bengal have risen over two-fold on account of a 14 per cent drop in production this year. The wholesale price of the tuber (Jyoti variety), is currently ruling at around Rs 9.5-10 a kg, as compared with Rs 4 same period last year. Retail prices have gone up by 20-30 per cent across both the varieties — Jyoti (mass variant) and Chandramukhi (premium) — over this week. The Jyoti variety is being sold at Rs 12 a kg (Rs 10/kg) in the retail market, while Chandramukhi is fetching close to Rs 18 a kg (Rs 15/kg). Potato production in the State is at 95 lakh tonnes (lt) this year against a bumper production of 110 lt last year. According to Patit Paban De, President, West Bengal Cold Storage Association, disincentivised by lower prices last year, farmers reduced the area under cultivation of the crop this year, thereby impacting production. “The area under potato cultivation is lower by close to five per cent (or around 4.4 lakh hectare) this season,” De told. Potato cultivation in Bengal is spread across 4.6 lakh hectares and the key growing areas include districts like Hooghly, Burdwan, Bankura and Medinipur. Delayed sowing of the tuber on account of late harvesting of kharif paddy due to post-monsoon showers also impacted the output. In fact, other key potato producing States too have been witnessing a drop in production this year. Across Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar, production is down anywhere between 20 and 30 per cent. According to Mahendra Swarup, President, Federation of Cold Storage Association of India, Uttar Pradesh — the largest potato growing State — recorded a 19 per cent drop in production at 130 lakh tonnes this year (160 lt).

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Pulses production in Gujarat up by 50%

The production of pulses in Gujarat was around 8 lakh tonnes in 2016-17, registering a growth of 50% over the figure of 2015-16. The country’s total pulse production was 2.31 crore tonnes in 2016-17, accounting for the growth of 41% over the previous year’s production of 1.63 crore tonne. Union minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat presented these figures while replying to a question of Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani. Shekhawat said that because of deficient rainfall, unseasonal rains, and adverse temperature conditions, the production of pulses in 2014-15 and 2015-16 had declined to 1.72 crore tonnes and 1.63 crore tonnes, compared to the record production of 1.93 crore tonnes in 2013-14. He said that normal monsoon in 2016 and the measures taken by the government helped boost production. Nathwani wanted to know about the impact of drought on the production of pulses and the steps taken to increase production. He also sought to know the allocation made for increasing pulse production during the financial year 2018-19.

The Times of India, New Delhi
River revival enters key phase in Maha, K’taka

Rally for Rivers, launched last year as a movement to rejuvenate India’s rivers through riverside plantation, has entered the implementation phase with two states, Maharashtra and Karnataka, coming on board by taking multiple measures and creating a template for similar action elsewhere. Since the support of farmers will be an integral part of saving rivers, the Sadhguruled Isha Foundation is now preparing a separate proposal on agriculture, with detailed solutions to address the farm crisis. Sadhguru said the proposal would be “revolutionary” and emphasised the need for farmers to move away from a ‘subsistence farming mindset’ to a ‘professional approach’ by joining hands—an aim that can be achieved by empowering farmer producer organisations (FPOs). “There will be no market competence of any kind without scale. Scale is needed and that’s why FPO is most important. It can get farmers better price for their produce and even help them get inputs (water for irrigation, fertilisers, seeds) at lower prices,” said Sadhguru. Elaborating on specific points, he said, “We want the government to have a nodal agency to handle and empower FPOs like we have the National Dairy Development Board. “Besides, we will list out the things that do not allow farmers to organise. There are too many rules which have become obstructions and prevent farmers from becoming a collective force.” Since irrigation needs heavy investment, he emphasised on how it would be a boon for farmers if they cooperated to hire professionals for managing irrigation and marketing in the manner of private companies. The Isha Foundation has already made plans to have one FPO each with 25,000 farmers in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Shivraj renews claim for basmati’s GI tag

With Madhya Pradesh going to polls in the next few months, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has launched a strong defence of his state’s claim for GI tag for basmati rice grown in the state, which was rejected few days back by the Central Registry. Chouhan who has been camping in the national capital since the last two days met with host of senior ministers of the Narendra Modi government including Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to seek central intervention on an issue which can impact the livelihoods of almost 80,000 farmers largely concentrated in 13 districts of Morena, Bhind, Sheopur, Gwalior, Datia, Shivpuri, Guna, Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur and Jabalpur. Madhya Pradesh has claimed GI tag for rice grown in these districts as basmati on par with that from Punjab and Haryana and five other northern states largely concentrated on the foothills of Himalayas. But the Geographical Indicator (GI) Registry last week rejected the state’s claim on the grounds that Madhya Pradesh does not fall within the ‘Indo-Gangetic Plain’ and it does not enjoy popular perception with respect to basmati cultivation. The immediate fallout of the decision was that basmati rice grown in around 200,000 hectares by almost 80,000 farmers in the state lost the premium it commanded in the market which could erode their incomes. With MP facing a slew of protests from farmers due to fall in prices of agriculture commodities, this was a decision the state could ill-afford, more so when it faces a tough electoral battle in few months. The state government has decided to challenge the order in Madras High Court where the GI Registry operates under the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks.

The Financial Express, Pune
Solvent extractors prepare to fight campaign against refined oil

Terming the recent media campaigns about the side effects of refined oils as ‘maligning’, the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEAI) has prepared a document to clear the allegations with scientific facts and figures. The SEAI reportedly took the step following criticism raised by various media organisations on the side effects of refined oil consumption, In a letter to the members of the SEAI, Atul Chaturvedi, president of the association said, “If the propaganda is not countered effectively, the whole sector would suffer grievous and irreparable harm. We need to nip this in the bud. During last few months, we are witnessing a sustained campaign in social and electronic media targeting refined oils.” Terming the campaign is only a propaganda, Chaturvedi said, “These allegations are directed only to malign the goodwill and reputation of the edible oil industry for pecuniary gains by unscrupulous elements. To give credibility to their nefarious designs, the campaigners have even roped in doctors.” Meanwhile, the SEAI’s legal panel is conceptualising a short video message to dispel the alleged rumours initiated by the media, he added. “For the campaign, we propose to create a fund to counter this propaganda by collecting a nominal contribution from the all stake holders,” Chaturvedi said. The SEAI, however, hailed the March 1 announcement on substantially increasing the import duties on crude palm oil from 30% to 44% as well as refined palmolein and refined palm oil from 40% to 54%. While welcoming the increase in duties, the association expressed surprise at singling out palm oil only for increase in duties. The current duty hike is only on palm oil. This may encourage the import of other oils like rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil which will be detrimental to the interest of the domestic farmers as oilseeds of these are also produced in India, he added.

Business Line, Kochi
Spices exporters upset over curbs on pepper MIP

Resentment is brewing among spices exporters over the recent amendments in the import policy that puts black pepper on the restricted list of items and prohibiting its import below the MIP. Expressing disappointment over the notification, the All India Spice Exporters Forum said the move would affect export of value-added black pepper products from India. Exporters will now have no option but to shift their base outside India, which will affect the prices of other spice items and pave the way to source from the cheapest landed cost. “This is happening at a time when the Prime Minister is aggressively promoting Make in India”, Prakash Namboodiri, Chairman of AISEF, said citing the $2.5-billion forex revenue earned by the industry from value-added spices exports last year. The global pepper market is now way below Rs 200/kg and the industry was barely able to meet its obligation by importing and paying fine as it has to be re-exported against ALA/EOU/SEZ. With the latest notification, the customer contracts cannot be further fulfilled as the raw material prices globally are at Rs 175/kg and to import at Rs 500/kg and then re-export is totally un-viable. Gulshan John, past President of India Pepper and Spice Trade Association, said that there are about 20 exporting units operational in the country and with the recent amendments in the pepper import policy, they are now exploring options to set up units in countries like Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc. He said the quantum of pepper exports stood at 20,000 tonnes valued at Rs 1,000 crore on the basis of an average price of $5,500/tonne in 2017. Of this, exports of value-added pepper was Rs Rs 950 crore (95 per cent value-added products is in the form of oleoresin oils, cracked and ground pepper steam, sterilised).

24, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
A conclave on challenges faced by cotton textiles sector in Coimbatore

India’s high suicide rate among farmers – a national problem attributed to agrarian distress and debt traps – fell 10% in 2016, suggested figures revealed by the government in Parliament. The number of farmers who committed suicide in 2016 was 11,370, compared to 12,602 the previous year. According to the 2011 census, the suicide rate among farmers is 47% higher than the national average. Overall, more land-owning farmers than farm labourers took their lives, minister of state for agriculture Parshottam Rupala said. Maharashtra accounted for the highest number of farmer suicides in 2016, at 3,661. This was a fall from 4,291 in 2015. In Karnataka, the second-worst-hit state, the number of suicides rose from 1,569 in 2015 to 2,029 the next year. The National Crime Records compiles data on suicides, including that of farmers, in the country. Reports on suicides are available up to 2015. The report for 2016 has not been published yet. “The drop could be because of several interventional policies over the years. But I’d say this decline is only marginal,” said professor AV Manjunatha of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, who authored an all-India study on farm suicides. Agriculture contributes just 13.7% to India’s GDP but employs two-thirds of its population. This points to ‘disguised employment’ and low productivity in the sector. The data cited in the reply showed that Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka continue to be farmer-suicide hotspots. Together, they account for almost 80% of all suicides. “The data is questionable. In many states such as West Bengal, there are zero suicides. There is inconsistency, from what one gleans from grassroots work. This could be because of underreporting or convenient classification,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture. A farmer’s suicide can get under-reported if it is attributed to a non-agricultural cause, she said.

The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Centre drops plan to increase levy on import of wheat’

India has dropped a plan to double a wheat import tax to 40%, two government sources said, in a sign it expects imports to make up for a shortfall in domestic production for the third year in a row. As late as a few weeks ago, the food, trade and finance ministries were considering raising the tax to 40% to ensure that local prices remained steady and millions of domestic farmers got good returns for their harvest. The government tries to keep local wheat prices steady until at least May/June, by when farmers would have sold their wheat crop. The grain is grown only once in a year in India, with plantings in October and harvests from March. The three concerned ministries have decided against raising the tariff for now, the two government officials told. The officials, who are directly involved in decision making, declined to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to the media. Traders said the decision to avoid raising the import tax implied that the crop could be lower than forecast. “We can now infer that production will be less than expected, and in my view, it’s going to somewhere between 91-92 million tonnes,” said Tejinder Narang, a New Delhi-based analyst who advises some leading global trading companies. In February, the Agriculture Ministry forecast that this year’s harvest would reach 97.11 million tonnes against a target of 98.51 million tonnes. Local media quoted two government officials as saying output would even cross 100 million tonnes. Wheat demand in India, the world’s second-biggest producer and consumer of the grain, is estimated at about 100 million tonnes, with consumption rising by 1-1.5% a year.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Dal mills stare at brink despite lower prices of pulses

The prevailing bearish price trend in pulses such as tur and chana has brought no cheers to the processing units across the country. On the contrary, the low prices of the pulses coupled with drop in demand amidst rising operational costs have hurt them financially, forcing many units to either operate at a lower capacity or stop their operations, millers claimed. Prices of pulses have been steadily coming down over the past two years as supplies have increased due to rise in domestic production and increase in imports. “In a bearish market, millers — by the time they purchase, process and sell their produce — are forced to take losses due to a downward price trend,” said Santosh Langar, a dal miller in Kalaburagi. The rural demand has also taken a hit largely due to increase in supplies through the public distribution system, he said. According to the Dal Mills Association in Kalaburagi, a large tur growing region in South India, about 200 of the 297 units have stopped their operations, while the remaining are operating half their capacity. Total outstanding by mills in Kalaburagi is estimated at around ₹600 crore. “Those who are operating are processing on a need basis and are mainly doing the job works for the government agencies,” said Langar, who has also pared his capacity by half. The fear of intervention by the government, which is holding huge stocks of pulses, is keeping prices under pressure affecting trade sentiment. Lack of interest by stockists in a bearish market has also added to the woes of the millers apart from the impact of demonetisation and roll-out of GST. “The demand for pulses is getting worse. This dip in demand has hurt the processing units and many of them are facing losses,” said Suresh Agarwal, President of the All India Dal Mills Association.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Database of agri input sales on cards

The Punjab State Farmers’ Commission has come up with a plan under which dealers selling seeds, fertiliser, insecticides and pesticides will be required to provide the purchaser’s (farmer’s) name and mobile number, input purchased, quantity, price etc. on a central server created by the state government. “We are in the process of finalising modalities for the registration of retailers so that they should log all agriculture input sales onto state government servers,” said Ajay Vir Jakhar, commission chairman. He was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar, ‘Policy and Technological Options for Doubling of Farmers Income’, organised by CRRID (Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development) here. He said the proposed database will help companies and research institutions in providing extension services to farmers. The database is also expected to help in awarding compensation to farmers in case of spurious seeds, fertilisers or pesticides. “Through the database, we can spot the movement of a product from the factory to the purchaser, so it will also help in regulation.” he added. According to experts, the lack of farm-related information is one of the major problems farmers have been grappling with for the past many years and it was important to provide the same to them.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt promoting millets on mission mode: Minister

The Centre is promoting cultivation of millets like ragi and jowar on a mission mode to achieve nutritional security, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said. Millets, also called ‘nutri cereals’, are being procured at the support price and also being included under midday meal scheme and public distribution system (PDS), he said. Addressing MPs in a consultative committee meeting here, Singh said the government has also decided to declare 2018 as ‘National Year of Millets.’ Efforts are being made to promote cultivation of millets to achieve nutritional security because acreage has declined to 14.72 million hectares in 2016-17 crop year from 36.90 million hectares in 1965-66, he said. Millet cultivation has declined due to change in consumption pattern, dietary habits, unavailability of millets, low yield, less demand and conversion of irrigated area for growing rice and wheat, he added. “As a result of this, level of nutrients like protein, Vitamin-A, iron and iodine fell in women and children.”This has led to a special focus on millets, which are being promoted under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) following recommendations by a committee headed by NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand. Production of millets will definitely help in providing nutritional value, especially to the poor, he said.

The Times of India, Rajkot
Groundnut purchased at MSP piles misery on Gujarat govt

Purchasing groundnut at minimum support price (MSP) is fast becoming a headache for the Gujarat government. Even as the government has purchased 8.40 lakh tonne of groundnut worth Rs 378 crore this year, the old stock of 88,000 tonne of last year lying in the godowns has been completely damaged and unfit for use. Disposing this stock, which is worth nearly Rs 37 crore, will again cost the government more money as there are no buyers for this stock that was procured by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED). Another problem is selling this year’s 8.40 lakh tonne stock. Sources said the federation and the government are staring at huge loss this year too. NAFED V R Boda chairman told: “The stock of old groundnut procured at MSP last year is completely damaged. We are not in the position to sell this stock because of its poor quality. Even the oil that would be extracted from this groundnut will be red and useless. The government will have to pay to dispose of this stock.” Last year government procured 2.1 lakh tonne groundnut at Rs 844 per 20 kg, while market price was between Rs 550 and Rs 600 per 20 kg. Last week, NAFED representatives discussed the issue with Saurashtra Oil Millers Association (SOMA) and traders. SOMA president Samir Shah said, “Government has not decided if they want to sell the stock or extract oil. Our millers will buy the stock at competitive rates if government decides to sell the groundnut.”

The Financial Express, Pune
Maharashtra GoM to address sugar sector concerns

The Government of Maharashtra has set up a group of ministers (GoM), to be chaired by state finance minister Sudhir Mungatiwar, to recommend measures to address concerns of the sugar sector. The GoM includes cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh, rural development minister Pankaja Munde, minister for food & civil supplies Girish Bapat, opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, MLA s Ajit Pawar & Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse Patil (chairman, National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories), Rajesh Tope, Hasan Mushrif and Jayprakash Dandegaonkar (vice chairman, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation) among others. With fair and remunerative price (FRP) arrears for the sugar season 2017-18 piling up to Rs 2,228 crore, the sugar commissionerate had recently issued show cause notices to 136 factories in the state for not completing their FRP commitments to farmers. FRP payments have become a contentious issue in Maharashtra with sugar prices falling in the recent past. Even after a rise in prices, millers are saying it is difficult to make payments. Representatives from sugar industry, including the ministers who are part of the GoM, and a delegation led by the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will soon meet the Prime Minister seeking Centre’s intervention. This was decided at the meeting chaired by Fadnavis in Mumbai with the concerned parties. Sugar industry representatives, who were present at the meeting, said the industry has called upon the state government to allow sugar factories to pay FRP in two installments and the government needs to purchase sugar for its sale under the public distribution scheme (PDS). According to the representatives of the industry, sugar production of Maharashtra has already recorded 46% rise as compared to last year. Furthermore, 147 mills are still crushing cane to produce more sugar. The sugar production in the state is poised to hit 106 lakh tonne against consumption is 24 lakh tonne.

Business Line, New Delhi
Make your ice cream ‘melt-proof’ with banana plant extract

Adding tiny fibres extracted from banana plant to ice cream could slow melting, increase shelf-life and potentially replace fats used to make the tasty treat, scientists say. “Our findings suggest that cellulose nano-fibres extracted from banana waste could help improve ice cream in several ways,” said Robin Zuluaga Gallego from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana in Colombia. “In particular, the fibres could lead to the development of a thicker and more palatable dessert, which would take longer to melt. As a result, this would allow for a more relaxing and enjoyable experience with the food, especially in warm weather,” said Gallego. Despite its popularity, ice cream does have some drawbacks that food scientists have struggled to overcome. Most obviously, it can melt when exposed to heat. The researchers wanted to determine if they could slow down melting and extend the shelf life of ice cream using a fibrous extract from banana fruit stems, or rachis. Working in collaboration with researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada, the team extracted cellulose nanofibrils (CNFs), which are thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair, from ground-up banana rachis. They mixed the CNFs into ice cream at varying concentrations, ranging from zero up to three-tenths of a gramme per 100 grammes of the dessert. Using a variety of analytical tools — including a rheometer, which measures how much force is needed to move a fluid, as well as a texturometer, which measures the hardness of ice cream — the researchers evaluated the effects that CNFs had on the popular frozen treat. They found that ice creams mixed with CNFs tended to melt much more slowly than traditional ice creams. They also determined that CNFs could increase shelf-life of ice cream, or at least decrease its sensitivity to temperature changes that occur when moved to and from the freezer.

Mint, New Delhi
Modi calls for swift APMC reforms to benefit farmers

A free and open market is “a must” for better price realization by farmers and states must, therefore, “unshackle” the existing market ecosystem at the earliest in the interest of farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told states amid farmer protests sparked by low crop prices. In a letter to chief ministers sent on 9 March, the Prime Minister said that “it is imperative to swiftly undertake market reforms of our decades old and restricted agriculture produce and marketing committee (APMC) architecture.” He added that the model Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLM) Act circulated by the centre to states last year “encompasses the desired changes to unshackle the existing market ecosystem.” “Many states have already made good progress in this regard. I request you to complete the desired set of reforms at the earliest in the interest of the farmers of the country,” the letter said. The letter said that the centre’s “emphasis is to help farmers produce more at a lesser cost and simultaneously get higher price...this will help our ambitious goal of doubling farmer’s income by 2022.” The model APLM Act was put out by the government in April last year in an attempt to revamp agricultural markets. It proposes to replace existing fragmented and over-regulated markets where local trader cartels limit the wholesale prices received by the farmer, to a pan-India market where farm produce can move freely and farmers have a wider choice of avenues and buyers to sell their produce. States are free to adopt the model APLM Act or parts of it. The centre can only propose a blueprint to states as agriculture marketing is a state subject. Among reforms proposed under the model APLM Act are: allowing the setting up of private markets; direct sale of produce by farmers to bulk buyers; and capping market fees and commission charges payable by farmers.

Business Standard, Chennai
No pepper imports below CIF

The central government has prohibited all import of pepper below a CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value of Rs 500 a kg. Import under the Advance Authorisation Scheme is exempt from the minimum price condition when done for extraction of oleoresin, for re-export or by manufacturer exporters, subject to conditions. Konkodi Padmanabha, convenor, Consortium of Pepper Growers Organisation, says cheaper quality pepper, mainly from Vietnam, has been a challenge for farmers here. While the domestic price is around ~390akg, imported pepper is offered at even ~170akg. Cultivation cost, he contended, is ~490500akg. Rohan Colaco, a former executive committee member of the Karnataka Planters Association, said he thought the price would rise only after the Karnataka assembly election later this year. Growers said the government needed to be vigilant on enforcing the import conditions and on smuggling from other countries. Domestic demand for pepper is estimated at 60,000 tonnes a year at present, rising by around four per cent annually. Around 14,000 tonnes was reportedly imported in 2017, almost half from Vietnam.

The Shillong Times, Shillong
Organic tea growers seek clarity in central schemes

The Arsla Organic Tea Growers’ and Producers’ Cooperative Society has sought greater clarity in regard to central schemes for organic tea growers in Meghalaya. The society comprises 37 organic tea growers in Ri Bhoi district, where bulk of the state’s tea is grown along with West Garo Hills district. “We had approached the ministry of agriculture and farmers for availing of schemes. But it was pointed out that tea, unlike other farm products, falls under the ambit of the Tea Board of India which is under the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. However, the schemes of the Board have ceased to exist with the end of the 12th Plan last year. Till date, there is no clear-cut guideline or new policy from the Board,” KW Chyne, the co-promoter of the society told. Tea Board sources here, however, told that the Board was actively pursuing the matter with the ministry of commerce and industries. “We are actively pursuing the matter with the ministry as organic farming is a priority area for us. The new guidelines from the Board will be out soon,” an official source confirmed. The society, Chyne said, has since its formation in 2013, been supported by the state agriculture and horticulture departments. There are special provisions for non-traditional tea growing states like Meghalaya. “There is a special package under the Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region, which tea growers like us have not been able to avail because tea, like we were told, is not under the agriculture ministry. This is a problem for us as so far we have not been able to avail of benefits under government schemes,” Chyne, who is also the secretary of the Ri Bhoi Tea Growers’ Association, said.

DNA, Mumbai
Maharashtra forms GoM to solve woes of sugar industry

Amid rapidly falling prices and the sugar industry’s mounting arrears towards payment of fair and remunerative price (FRP) to cane growers, the Maharashtra government set up a group of ministers (GoM) chaired by finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar to prepare a set of measures for providing relief to the industry. Representatives from sugar industry will be involved in the GoM, and a delegation led by the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will soon meet the Prime Minister seeking the Centre’s intervention. This was decided at the meeting chaired by Fadnavis on Wednesday with the sugar industry, members of various political parties and ministers of concerned departments. Former minister and the chairman of National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Industry Dilip Walse Patil told,’’ Maharashtra sugar production has already recorded 46% rise as compared to last year. Furthermore, 147 mills are still crushing cane to produce more sugar. State is poised to attain 10.6 million tonne though the sugar consumption is 2.4 million. The industry made a strong plea for providing transport subsidy by the state government for helping sugar factories to send sugar outside.’’ Further, the industry also emphasized the need to incentivise exports to physically move sugar stock out of India as was done in 2015 when Minimum Indicative Export Quota (MIEQ) was successfully implemented by the Centre. Walse-Patil informed that the issue of diversion of sugarcane for the production of ethanol also discussed at the meeting and it was decided to take it up with the Prime Minister and concerned union ministries.

Business Line, New Delhi
Vegetable seeds industry to double to Rs 8,000 cr in 5 years: ICRA

Domestic vegetable seeds industry is expected to grow by 100 per cent to around Rs 8,000 crore in the next five years on account of demand for higher vegetable production and greater use of hybrid seeds, according to ratings firm ICRA. “Given the constraints on increasing the area under cultivation, the growth would come through productivity augmentation, of which a major part has to be driven by greater adoption of hybrid seeds in cultivation of vegetable crops. ICRA estimates that with the growth in volumes as well as value (on the back of hybridisation), the size of the vegetable seeds industry would double from the current levels to around Rs 8,000 crore in the next five years — registering a CAGR of around 10 per cent, “ said Sachin Sachdeva of ICRA. Over the last 25 years, vegetable crops output has nearly trebled to an estimated 181 million tonnes (mt) in 2017-18 from 59 mt in 1991-92.

23, March 2018
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
10% drop in farmer suicides, says govt citing interim data

India’s high suicide rate among farmers – a national problem attributed to agrarian distress and debt traps – fell 10% in 2016, suggested figures revealed by the government in Parliament. The number of farmers who committed suicide in 2016 was 11,370, compared to 12,602 the previous year. According to the 2011 census, the suicide rate among farmers is 47% higher than the national average. Overall, more land-owning farmers than farm labourers took their lives, minister of state for agriculture Parshottam Rupala said. Maharashtra accounted for the highest number of farmer suicides in 2016, at 3,661. This was a fall from 4,291 in 2015. In Karnataka, the second-worst-hit state, the number of suicides rose from 1,569 in 2015 to 2,029 the next year. The National Crime Records compiles data on suicides, including that of farmers, in the country. Reports on suicides are available up to 2015. The report for 2016 has not been published yet. “The drop could be because of several interventional policies over the years. But I’d say this decline is only marginal,” said professor AV Manjunatha of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, who authored an all-India study on farm suicides. Agriculture contributes just 13.7% to India’s GDP but employs two-thirds of its population. This points to ‘disguised employment’ and low productivity in the sector. The data cited in the reply showed that Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka continue to be farmer-suicide hotspots. Together, they account for almost 80% of all suicides. “The data is questionable. In many states such as West Bengal, there are zero suicides. There is inconsistency, from what one gleans from grassroots work. This could be because of underreporting or convenient classification,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture. A farmer’s suicide can get under-reported if it is attributed to a non-agricultural cause, she said.

Mint, New Delhi
Bayer clears EU hurdle for Monsanto deal

Bayer AG cleared one big hurdle for its $66 billion takeover of Monsanto Co., winning European Union (EU) approval for the deal after agreeing to bolster BASF SE by selling vegetable seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture technology to the world’s largest chemical company. Buyer and seller “need to provide further evidence” of BASF’s ability to build an important competitor for the enlarged Bayer in order for the seed transaction, worth more than €6 billion ($7.4 billion), to gain approval, the EU said. The EU didn’t specify a buyer for Bayer’s vegetable-seeds unit. Bayer has suggested BASF should take it over.

The Financial Express, Pune
Bt cotton seed firms in Maha to submit samples to labs for licence

Maharashtra has made it mandatory for Bt cotton seed companies in the state to submit seed samples, which they wish to sell in the market, to government- approved laboratories for getting them tested in order to obtain sale licenses. According to top officials, seed companies will need to get the DNA and DUS tests done and submit the acknowledgement from the laboratories to the agriculture department for obtaining licenses. The step has been taken to prevent the sale of illegal varieties in the market, according to MS Gholap, director of agriculture, inspection and quality control (I&QC). Gholap pointed out that there are three agriculture universities in the state that conducts such tests in addition to the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune. “Seed companies should submit the samples which they wish to bring to the market for testing and obtain acknowledgments from the laboratory since this is a time consuming procedure. Once the acknowledgement is shown to the department, the seed companies are eligible to receive a license to sell these varieties in the market,” he told. DUS testing is a way of determining whether a newly bred variety differs from existing varieties within the same species (the distinctness part), whether the characteristics used to establish distinctness are expressed uniformly (the uniformity part) and that these characteristics do not change over subsequent generations (the stability part). DNA markers are used for assessing the genetic purity. Around 30 seed companies in the state sell 100 varieties of Bt cotton seeds worth around Rs 1,000 crore. The government intends to keep a strict check on seed companies with this step following several pesticide poisoning related deaths in Yavatmal district since July last year and the pink bollworm attack on the crop.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt prohibits pepper imports below MIP of Rs 500/kg

The Centre prohibited the import of pepper below the minimum import price of Rs 500/kg, heeding to a demand by domestic pepper growers. According to a notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, under the Commerce Ministry, moved import of pepper and its derivatives from “Free” to “Prohibited” if the import price is Rs 500 or less per kg. The decision comes on the heels of the complaint by pepper growers that importers have been exploiting a loophole in an earlier notification. As pepper was defined as “free” in the December 6 notification, importers were able to get their consignments cleared by paying a small fine on invoiced value, they had said. Now that it has now been moved to the “prohibited” list, the Customs will be able to take a stricter action.

HBusiness Line, New Delhi
National rubber policy in the making: Prabhu

The Commerce Ministry is developing a national rubber policy to address various issues concerning the sector with a view to boost shipment and productivity, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu has said. “This policy is necessary because there are so many challenges the sector is facing. We want to make sure that all issues are addressed through this policy. We have already had one meeting on this,” the Minister told. He said the aim of the proposed policy would be to boost export and production of rubber, “keeping in mind farmers’ interests.” A task force comprising representatives of State and Central governments has been constituted for suggesting short term-solutions and long-term strategies to address the issues, he added. Major issues related to the sector include minimum support price for natural rubber, restriction on import, minimum import price, categorisation of natural rubber as an agricultural product, import of cup lumps, safeguard duty and increase in the Budget allocation to Rubber Board. Import of natural rubber is allowed only through sea ports of Chennai and Jawaharlal Nehru Port at Nhava Sheva, Mumbai. There are around 13.2 lakh rubber small holdings in the country, out of which around 9 lakh are in Kerala. Consumption of natural rubber has increased from 9.95 lakh tonnes (lt) in 2015-16 to 10.45 lt in 2016-17 on rise in demand from auto tyre sector. Rubber production in 2016-17 was 6.91 lakh tonnes. Import of natural rubber has declined to 4.27 lt in 2016-17 (4.58 lt). Exports jumped to 20,920 tonnes in 2016-17 (865 tonnes).

Business Line, New Delhi
New cashew variety promises yield in first year

In what could be a boon to cashew farmers, the Directorate of Cashew Research (DCR) at Puttur, Karnataka has come out with a new hybrid, H-130, which starts yielding from the first year itself. MG Nayak, Director-in-charge of DCR, told that H-130 starts setting seeds in first year itself, while other varieties start setting seeds in second or third year. Asked about the likely yield in the first year, he said the yield per plant in the first year may be around 100-200 grams of cashew nuts. “Though it is not a big yield, still we can expect something in the first year as this variety is taken up under ultra-high density (UHD) plantation,” he said. He said that the earlier concept was that the yield should be harvested after three years. Under UHD plantation, where around 400-600 plants are planted on acre of land, it will make a big difference. Around 80 plants are planted in an acre of land under the normal methodology. He said the variety that has been released may yield one kg of cashew nuts in the second year. After third year, two-three kg of yields are likely depending on the management of the plantation. He handed over the new variety to farmers for evaluation at farmers’ fields at the ‘Cashew Day’ in Puttur. This particular variety has characteristics such as early flowering and long fruiting season. The flowering starts during November-December, and fruiting takes place till April-May. Each nut in this variety weighs around 12-13 grams on an average. Seeds of this variety are black in colour, and the variety is suited for ultra high density planting. However, he said that H-130 is prone for tea-mosquito attack.

Business Line, New Delhi
Organic market may touch Rs 12,000 cr by 2020

The organic products market in India has been growing at a CAGR of 25 per cent and it is expected to touch Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000 crore by 2020 from the current market size of Rs 4,000 crore, according to a report produced jointly by Assocham and Ernst & Young. Even though India has the highest number of farmers currently engaged in organic farming at 8,35,000, the country accounts for less than 1 per cent the global organic market pie which is valued at $90 billion in 2016, the report said. In terms of total area under organic cultivation, India ranks at 9th position with 1.49 million hectares. Australia, which tops the list, has more than 27 million hectares under organic farming, it said. Inaugurating a national conference on organic farming organised by Assocham along with others, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said organic farming should be promoted with the same spirit as Green Revolution as India was the country with maximum number of organic farmers. The minister said there was a limit what the government can do to promote organic farming. “The government cannot promote organic farming alone. There are many NGOs and organisations that have a crucial role to play,” he said, adding that data needs to be systematically collected through scientific methods in order to improve certification process. However, many experts who spoke at the event subsequently stressed upon challenges faced by the organic farming sector. “One of the major challenges faced by consumers who buy organic products by paying so much premium is that whether they can trust the product to be authentic or not,” said Amit Bajaj of Ernst & Young.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Rain brings cheer to wheat growers

The rain, of late, has brought cheer to wheat growers in Fazilka district, one of the largest wheat-producing belts in the region. Chief Agriculture Officer, Fazilka, Beant Singh said the showers have brought down the temperature and rainy conditions are good for the wheat crop. He said that if the low temperature continues for one or two weeks, the yield could increase. Bagh Chand and Lal Chand, wheat growers of Alamshah village, said due to the sudden rise in temperature to 33°C in the past few days, the farmers had been a worried lot, but now, the rain is likely to prove a boon for the crop. Chief Agriculture Officer Beant Singh said barring few cases of crop flattening at some places where the farmers had supplied excess water, the rain would be beneficial in Fazilka district. A section of farmers has reported flattening of the wheat crop in some pockets of the region due to rain though the showers have been largely beneficial for the wheat crop. Buta Singh, a farmer from Kotshamir village, said, “Strong winds had accompanied the rainfall last night. That led to the lodging of the crop.” Jagtar Singh, farmer from Kotfatta village, said, “Wheat crop on a sizable chunk of my 12 acres has witnessed lodging. Now, I will have to shell out more for harvesting.” Chief Agriculture Officer, Bathinda, Gurditta Singh Sidhu, said there have been very few instances of flattening of crop.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Scientific organic farming to double farmers' income: Singh

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh pitched for scientific organic farming to double farmers' income and sought stakeholders' support to bring a revolution in this area. India is the world's largest organic farming country by default. Efforts are being made to ensure farmers adopt organic cultivation in a more scientific way to get better production and higher returns, he said. Government's target is to double farmers' income by 2022. The Dalwai Committee is looking into it and will soon recommend ways to achieve the target.

22, March 2018
The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Move out, move up approach could ease India’s farm crisis’

Indian must adopt policies that facilitate sections of farmers to ‘move out’ of rural areas to urban areas and the remaining ones to ‘move up’ in the farming sector to tackle the current agrarian crisis, the head of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) said. “India needs a ‘move out, move up’ approach to deal with the agriculture crisis,” Shenggen Fan, Director General, IFPRI told ahead of the release of the annual global food policy report. “It is important to address farmers’ problems. Most of the hungry people in the world are farmers. The first response is to increase productivity and production. But there is a problem there. When every one is producing more, the prices will go down and we have seen that in India, China and everywhere…For India, some farmers have to move to cities and urban centres. Those who stay behind will be able to increase the holding and move to producing high value food, that will create new opportunities. That is the ‘move out, move up’ approach,” he said. Mr. Fan said non-farm opportunities in rural areas must also increase if farmers have to come out of poverty. “We have statistics showing that the higher the non-farm income, the lower the poverty rate,” he said, naming food processing, input supplies, trade and marketing, making construction materials for urban centres etc. as such non-farm opportunities that are possible in rural areas, where farmers could work part-time or seasonally. “Policy makers in India do not appreciate this much, it appears to me. They want to keep people in rural areas. This is not fair to them as they would continue to struggle. The policies should facilitate move out and move up,” he said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Agriculture & Skill Development Ministries Sign Training Pact

The ministries of agriculture and skill development signed an agreement to conduct training programmes for agriculture and allied sectors at 690 Krishi Vigyan Kendras across the country. “We have entered an MoU with the skill development ministry to intensify the pace of skill development in 690 Krishi Vikas Kendras country-wide by training agricultural workforce,” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said. The minister said due to the low presence of agro-based industries in rural areas, it is important to increase the ratio of self-employment to employment to 100%. He said there is a need to study the skill gap analysis in agriculture sector by the Agriculture Skill Council of India. The minister added that the government believes that agriculture must be developed as a private enterprise so that it attracts more youth.

Millennium Post, Mumbai
Basmati rice exports may cross Rs 26,000 crore mark this fiscal

The strong demand revival, especially from Iran, may help Basmati rice exports to close the year with a 20 per cent growth at Rs 26,000 crore. It is estimated that basmati exports may cross Rs 26,000 crore in FY18, clipping at 20 per cent over the past fiscal year and at Rs 28,000 crore in FY19, Icra said in a report. The report however noted that export volume has largely remained stagnant, which though is in line with the past few years. Basmati export has witnessed strong revival in the current fiscal with 22 per cent growth in value in the first nine months, after having been on the downward trajectory between FY15 and FY17. "This buoyant export growth has been fuelled by a 23 per cent surge in average realisation of Rs 64,594 per tonne in the first nine months of FY18 as against Rs 53,985 per tonne a year ago. Historically Saudi Arabia and Iran have been the largest importers from India, accounting for 40-45 per cent share. However, Saudi's share has declined in recent years - it stood at 14 per cent so far in FY18. But this was largely absorbed by Iran, whose share has surged to 28 per cent. Iran had imposed a temporary ban on imports around August 2017 which was lifted in January 2018. While this development is likely to support the industry growth in the last quarter of the current fiscal, greater dependence on Iran as a major export destination could spell volatility. For the second year in a row, paddy prices have firmed up by 20-25 per cent in 2017 procurement season, largely due to 10-15 per cent lower paddy sowing after a moderate monsoon; and improved demand for Basmati rice in international markets. Increase in paddy price is likely to provide a fillip to Basmati prices in FY19.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre scraps duty on sugar to boost exports

In a move that will help the domestic sugar industry which is staring at a surplus production in the current season, the government scrapped the export duty on sugar, giving mills a better way to deal with the glut. A notification issued by the Central Board of Excise and Customs said export duty on raw, white and refined sugar has been reduced from 20 per cent to nil. The 20 per cent export duty was in force since June 2016. Industry bodies such as the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) and National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories have been seeking the scrapping of the export duty as the total production in the 2017-18 season is estimated to be around 29.5 million tonnes (mt) — 40 per cent more than the previous season’s 20.3 mt. The glut has been hurting the interests of sugar mills as it has led to prices falling much below the cost of production. India’s average annual demand for sugar is around 24-25 mt. “The sugar industry welcomes the move, it is first step towards creating a system for sugar exports from India. We hope that the government would come out with export quotas soon,” said ISMA Director-General Abinash Verma. “We hope to export 2 mt of white sugar over the next 6-7 months. This could go up to 3-5 mt in the next sugar season,” Verma said. When asked wont’ prevailing low global prices affect exports from the country, he said: “The quantum of exports would be 6-7 per cent of the total production. Even if we export it at a price, say, Rs 10 lower than the global price, we would be able to compensate the loss if the price of sugar sold in domestic market is marginally higher, say, by Rs 1.”

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Farmers affected by Feb hailstorms given Rs 313 cr: Min

The Maharashtra government has provided financial assistance of Rs 313.58 crore to farmers who were affected by hailstorms and unseasonal rains that lashed several parts of the state in February, revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said. In a written reply to a question in the Legislative Assembly, Patil said that hailstorms and rain damaged agriculture crops over an area of 2.54 lakh hectare and multi-crops on an area of 38,046 hectare. The damage was spread over 19 districts in Vidarbha, Marathwada and north Maharashtra and it included the death of six persons and several head of cattle, he said. Patil, in his written reply, stated that those who were affected were given Rs 313.58 crore as compensation as per the guidelines of the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF). The process of providing compensation to the kin of those who died and the owners of dead cattle was currently underway, he stated. He denied the loss of foodgrain stored in paddy procurement centres and agriculture produce market committees.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Hafoos and kesar to become dearer this summer

This summer, both the Valsadi hafoos and luscious kesar could burn holes in your pocket. Drastic weather changes such as unseasonal rainfall in winter, heavy dew and less heat are expected to result in nearly 30% less production of these fruits in Saurashtra and south Gujarat. In Valsad district, which grew nearly 14 lakh tonnes hafoos in Gujarat last year, bouts of rain in November, February and March affected flowering. Dr D K Sharma, in-charge of Navsari Agriculture University’s (NAU) Pariya farm, the biggest research centre of mangoes in south Gujarat, said, “We had nearly 65-70 mm of unseasonal rains in November 2017. Mango trees had just started flowering and rains led to big vegetative growth on the trees. This took away nutrition from the flowering. Adding to this problem, we had sudden rise in temperature that resulted in the flowering and small fruits withering away.” “It is only the first flowering where fruits are little big now that would survive. But the fruits from the second flowering which are still small will wither away. We estimate 30% decrease in the production,” said Sharma. Rakesh Nayak, a mango farmer from Pardi in Valsad, said, “We had very good crop last year but this season it would be 25-30% less due to withering of flowers.” Nearly 34,000 ha land is under mango cultivation in Valsad district. Last year, good quality hafoos sold at Rs 800 per 20 kg in early part of season to settle at Rs 700 per 20kg later. Kesar was sold at Rs 750 per 20 kg and settled at Rs 550 per 20 kg. This year, consumers will have to shell out at least 15% more. In Gir, famous for kesar, mango production is expected to reduce by 33,000 metric tonnes compared to last year.

Business Line, Bengaluru
MktYard.com to tie up with State supply agencies

MktYard.com, the agri-marketing portal and subsidiary of NCML, proposes to tie-up with various State supply corporations and marketing federations across the country as part of expansion plans in the second year of operations. The portal, in its first year of operations, has seen more than 40,000 farmers sell their produce worth over Rs 500 crore through its marketing platform which has enrolled over 2,000 buyers. “The aim is to establish a pan India open and transparent marketing platform for agri commodities. This would radically transform the opaque decade old trade practices in the agri-sector,” said Sanjay Kaul, MD & CEO of NCML. MktYard.com’s e-auctions have been held across a myriad of agri-commodities, including pulses, rice, chilli, turmeric, groundnut, coriander, wheat.

The Shillong Times, Shillong
Organic tea brand to hit markets by mid-2018

Meghalaya will soon have another premium organic tea brand catering to niche markets across the country and the world. Yes, after the success of Meg Tea, an organic brand developed and promoted by the state agriculture department since 2012-13, the Arsla brand of green, black and Oolong orthodox teas will hit the outlets by mid-2018 and add more cheer to the cuppa. The Arsla Organic Tea Growers’ and Producers’ Cooperative Society comprising 37 organic tea farmers in Ri Bhoi district has battled fund constraint to set up its own factory at Nongjri in Umsning. The plant to be run by the society is likely to start production by June. It will have a capacity of producing 40,000 kg tea per annum. “We joined hands to form the cooperative society after our plantations were certified organic in 2013. This was facilitated by the state Horticulture Department. However, since there was no plant to process organic tea in the district, we decided to set up a factory of our own,” KW Chyne, the co-promoter of the cooperative society told. The plant will cost about Rs 25 lakh while the equipment about Rs 45 lakh. The transformer has been installed at a cost of Rs 10 lakh. “There are other components such as land development, approach road, power distribution on the part of MeECL,” Chyne, who is also the secretary of the Ri Bhoi Tea Growers Association, said. In the absence of financial assistance from the government, the planters had to approach the banking system for loan. The organic tea farmers in the district, it is pertinent to mention, had since 2013 been selling their premium tea leaves at a loss to factories making conventional teas.

Business Line, New Delhi
Outlook is bearish for NCDEX guar seed

Guar seed prices has been under pressure since February. The Guar Seed futures contract on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) recorded a high of Rs 4,737 per quintal on February 2 and has been falling sharply since then. The contract has tumbled over 11 per cent from this high and is currently trading at Rs 4,187/quintal. A weak spot market demand coupled with an increase in arrivals from the growing areas has dragged the commodity prices lower. Also, sluggish demand from the guar gum makers is adding pressure on the guar seed prices. The outlook for the NCDEX Guar Seed futures contract remains bearish. The price action since January on the chart indicates the formation of a head and shoulders reversal pattern which is a bearish reversal pattern. The fall below neck-line of the pattern at Rs 4,200, gives an initial confirmation of this bearish reversal pattern. The level of Rs 4,200 is likely to act as a strong resistance thereafter and it can cap the upside in the contract. As such, there is a strong likelihood of the current down-move extending towards Rs 4,100 – the 50 per cent Fibonacci retracement support level, in the coming days. However, a subsequent bounce-back move from Rs 4,100 to Rs 4,200 cannot be ruled out. Inability to breach Rs 4,200 during this relief rally can continue to keep the contract under pressure. But a fall below Rs 4,100 will bring renewed downside pressure on the contract. In such a scenario, the contract can tumble to Rs 4,000 and Rs 3,950 – the 61.8 per cent Fibonacci retracement support level over the medium-term. The region between Rs 4,300 and Rs 4,350 is a crucial resistance. The outlook will turn positive only if it breaches above Rs 4,350 decisively. But such a strong up-move looks less probable at the moment.

Business Line, Coimbatore
Tea exporters in a fix over delayed refund of GST claims

“It is not just non-refund of GST amount but the paper work and documentation that is putting the tea traders under pressure. We are in a spot. At this juncture, the situation looks grave,” a leading tea exporter told, voicing concern over the mounting claims. The GST refunds, due to the members of the South India Tea Exporters Association (SITEA), are estimated at over Rs 50 crore, as on date. “The refunds have been pending since July last. We paid 5 per cent GST on the value of the teas purchased at auctions and filed refund claims online. We have not received any sum so far by way of refund. Officials of the State GST and the Central Board of Excise and Customs — at various levels — are demanding multiple sets of hard copies of tax invoices, shipping bills, bill of loading, etc for verification, defeating the very purpose of online filing of GST returns,” said Rony Elias Tharakan, Vice-Chairman, SITEA. He further said that the exporters had availed loan from banks and their working capital situation is squeezed at present as the refund amounts have been locked for many months. “If this situation continues, a good number of exporters will be forced to slow down export operations or exit from business. This will have an adverse affect on the tea auction sales. Volumes on offer may not be taken up fully for want of funds and the competition on the auction floor will go for a toss. The resultant impact would be on the price. When the price drops, it will affect the small growers in Tamil Nadu, who depend on the auction system for their livelihood. It is a vicious cycle,” Tharakan said, appealing for early settlement of refund claims.

21, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
‘New FSSAI norms will curb organic farming growth’

A pan-India advocacy organisation that promotes ecological agriculture has said the recent notification on organic farming by Indian food safety regulator would be detrimental to the growth of organic farming in the country. The Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), in a letter to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), said the notification on organic foods issued on December 29 last year, which makes certification mandatory for all barring a small set of farmers, would serve as a major impediment that deter farmers from shifting to organic farming. “As the Food Safety regulator, you are aware of the all-pervasive contamination by agro-chemicals, including of groundwater. We believe that organic farming has to be supported in all ways possible for it to spread to larger areas in a short span, given the need of the hour, the ASHA letter said. The regulation could deter farmers to shift to, and pursue safer food production systems, because it will involve higher burden on farmers, beyond their financial and other capabilities, it said. “This, in a way, self-defeating to the very mandate of FSSAI,” it added. This is missing the present notification and in the absence of that, FSSAI rushing in with its unreasonable regulation is an impediment. “FSSAI should have waited out the implementation of its new regulations until something like this is put into place by State agriculture departments and Union Agriculture Ministry, it said. It further said that there was no justification for giving the exemption to only “small” producers – this exemption should be extended to all organic farmers of the country, and their collectives. ASHA also proposed that the regulator should exempt all those organic producers whose stocks are getting marketed through retail outlets that have directly sourced the produce from such organic farmers, without any intermediaries and are directly selling to end consumers (B2C).

Business Line, New Delhi
Cane price arrears inch to record high; top Rs 14,000 crore

Restrictions on sugar sales, low prices and bumper sugar production have pushed cane arrears towards a record high and the arrears have already crossed Rs 14,000 crore till the end of January, according to a statement issued by the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). “As per the figures available from Cane Commissioners of major sugar producing States and the Centre, cane price arrears of farmers across the country were about Rs 14,000 crore as on January 31, 2018. With the crushing season in full swing in most of the States, considering the trend of cane price paid by the sugar mills in February and March in the last five sugar seasons, and the fact that only 30 per cent of sugar produced in these months get sold and the rest get stocked as unsold inventories, it is estimated that cane price arrears at the end of March 2018 may touch record levels and become uncomfortable,” the ISMA statement said. Sugar mills in the country have so far produced 25.8 million tonnes (mt) of sugar till March 15, which is nearly 47 per cent more than sugar output during the corresponding period last year, ISMA said. Nearly one-fifth of total 523 sugar mills – 106 mills – have already completed crushing operations. While Maharashtra has so far produced nearly 9.4 mt of sugar, followed by sugar mills in UP which produced over 8.4 mt and Karnatala mills with 3.5 mt of sugar, the statement said. The mills in other States contributed around 4.5 mt during the same period. According to ISMA, ex-mill sugar prices have once again started plummeting and are now hovering between Rs 2,900 per quintal in western and southern States and Rs 3,000 per quintal in northern States.

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Congress, Akalis all set to spar over farm debt waiver

Debt waiver for farmers is all set to be the key issue of confrontation between the ruling Congress government and the Shiromani Akali Dal in the budget session of the Punjab Assembly beginning. The SAD has announced that it will “gherao” the State Assembly on March 20 to protest against the alleged "betrayal" of farmers by the Congress government, which they say has taken a U-turn on the “complete farm loan waiver” — a key 2017 Assembly election promise. Reacting to the announcement, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh termed it as “theatrics” and dared the Akalis, led by Sukhbir Singh Badal, to “gherao” Parliament instead so as to pressurise the Central government into waiving off farmers’ debts. “Akalis are now shedding crocodile tears for the farmers after failing to do anything for them during the 10 years of SAD-BJP rule. Not only had the Akalis failed to extend even an iota of support to Punjab’s distressed farmers during their regime, they also could not persuade the BJP-led Central government in the past four years to come out with a debt waiver scheme for the farmers," said Capt. Singh, adding, “If Sukhbir Badal was really concerned about the plight of the farmers, he would have taken up the issue with the Centre and managed to secure some relief for the aggrieved community.” Meanwhile, Mr. Badal reviewed arrangements for the party’s rally in Chandigarh ahead of proposed “gherao” of the Assembly. “Party workers were determined to reach the State Assembly to make the Congress government hear the voice of the farmers, who are in a state of despair and frustration at the government’s turnaround on the loan waiver promise,” he said.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Continental Seeds and Chemicals SME IPO opens on March 21

Delhi based Continental Seeds and Chemicals Ltd engaged in the business of developing, processing, grading and supplying of all kind of agricultural foundation and certified seeds and trading of Mentha Oil, is all set to launch its maiden IPO offering 16,20,000 equity shares at issue price of Rs. 10 each making the issue size of around Rs. 4.21 crore. The shares of the company will list on NSE Emerge. The sole lead manager to this issue is Navigant Corporate Advisors Ltd and Registrars to the issue are MAS Services Ltd. The main objectives of the issue is to reduce its debt, To part finance working capital requirements of the company, to meet General corporate purposes and to meet the expenses of the issue. Talking on the context of utilizing funds raised through the IPO, Praveen Rastogi, Chairman and Managing Director, Continental Seeds and Chemicals Ltd, said, “The Company is on growth path and anticipated growth will push requirements of extended working capital and adequate working capital is required for smooth and uninterrupted operations of the Company and will enhance the turnover and profits. Seed processing is a vital part of the seed production needed to move the improved genetic materials of the plant breeder into commercial channels for feeding the rapidly expanding world population. The farmer must get the quality seed that is free from all undesired materials because farmer’s entire crop depends on it. Company which has its state of art,ultra modern manufacturing unit situated at Bazpur district in Uttarakhand also obtains seed certification certificate from Uttarakhand State Seed and Organic Production Certification Agency.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Draft agri export policy to boost farm income

The draft agriculture export policy has recommended providing an assurance that the processed agricultural products and all kinds of organic products will not be brought under the ambit of any kind of export restriction even though the primary agricultural product will be subject to such policy measures. The draft agriculture export policy was put in the public domain by the Commerce Ministry just as the informal WTO Ministerial meeting commenced. Providing a stable policy regime for agri exports is among the main strategic recommendations of the policy, which has been framed in consonance with the government’s call for “doubling farmers’ income”. The policy document says it is Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu’s initiative in the larger interest of farmers and agriculture exports. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has come up with a draft “agriculture export policy” aimed at doubling the agricultural exports and integrating farmers and agricultural products in the global value chain. The policy will initiate the consultation among the relevant stakeholders and ministries to identify the commodities essential from food security perspective and barring such identified commodities, the effort would be to ensure that other agricultural products would not be brought under any kind of export restrictions. The policy has also called for reforms in the APMC Act and streamlining of Mandi fee. The policy notes that the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) Acts across states have not been able to achieve the farmers’ welfare envisaged in these Acts. “Some APMC market yards or mandis which have bred inefficiency and cartelisation are a classic case in point,” the policy said. “Since decades farmers have been under compulsion to sell their produce in official market yards which may or may not offer the best remunerative prices. Monopoly of the APMC prevents private players from setting up markets and investing in market infrastructure,” it noted.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
Farm assistance payments from April 20

Telangana Agriculture Minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy has announced that crop investment assistance of Rs 4,000 per acre for Kharif season will be given from April 20 to May-end. Replying to a query in the Legislative Council here, Mr. Srinivas Reddy said that 1.42 crore acres of land were under cultivation in the State and over 72 lakh farm accounts, which were clean. Bearer cheques would be given to the farmers. For Rabi season, the amount would be distributed from November 20 onwards. The four per cent of lands — forest, shikam and lands involved in disputes and legal cases were being resolved under Part-B survey and cheques would be issued as and when those cases were resolved and records updated. The cheques would be issued to farmers in villages as per the pre-announced schedule in the presence of people’s representatives. The farmer could go to any bank and encash the cheque depending on the extent of agricultural land he has and can withdraw the money at once or in instalments as per his requirement. The government is confident that the State would get enough cash in the banks before April for disbursement. The Minister told Council member Bhupati Reddy that cheques would be issued only in the name of pattadars and not in the name of tenant farmers. It was for the pattadar and tenant farmer to decide on how they would share the amount. Several TRS members appreciated the scheme and some already gave up the investment assistance of ₹ 4,000 per acre and that would be used for the welfare of farmers and construction of proposed meeting halls for Farmers Coordination Committees. Mr. Sinivas Reddy said that meeting halls (Rythu Vedikas) would be constructed in 2,638 clusters and they would serve to mobilise farmers and increase their bargaining power for minimum support price.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
FCI Planning to Set Up Pulses Silos

The Food Corporation of India is evaluating the possibility of setting up pulses silos to drive modernisation and technology adoption. “A feasibility study to assess the storage requirement and technology for silos for storage of pulses is being done by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (PwC). The report is likely to be submitted by March-end,” said an FCI official who didn’t want to be quoted. He said the idea to have pulses silos has been mooted and work has started. “The centre has been procuring pulses from farmers since the past two years. Last year, it even created a buffer stock of 20 lakh tonnes through local procurement and imports. Hence, we think pulses can be the new commodity where we can enter for storage and procurement,” said an FCI official. Pulses production has been increasing since 2016-17. In its second advance estimate for crop year ending June 2018, the Agriculture ministry projected pulses production at 239.5 lakh tonnes compared with 231.3 lakh tonnes the previous year. National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) officials said that once a pilot project was made it could be scaled up. In 2017, Nafed procured 14 lakh tonne pulses for buffer and around 10 lakh tonne for MSP scheme. It is currently procuring tur and chana pulses.

Mint, Mumbai
Godrej eyes palm oil biz, may join race to acquire Ruchi Soya

Godrej Agrovet Ltd plans to bid for Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd, which is undergoing bankruptcy resolution, with an eye on its palm oil business, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said. Since Godrej is not interested in Ruchi Soya’s other businesses, it may tie up with others keen on those businesses, this person said on condition of anonymity. To be sure, Godrej Agrovet is yet to formally approach Indore-based Ruchi Soya, India’s largest edible oil maker. A bid would mark Godrej joining the race for Ruchi Soya, in which companies such as Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, ITC Ltd and Emami Ltd have evinced interest. According to the report, the company, which is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, has received as many as 26 applications from Indian and foreign conglomerates to acquire a 51% stake. “They have some beautiful assets. We want to buy their oil palm business. The problem is we cannot just bid for one part of the business,” said the person cited above. “We would like to see if some other companies can also come together to bid for their assets,” the person said. Responding to queries from Mint, Balram Singh Yadav, managing director, Godrej Agrovet, said his company continues to explore growth opportunities. “Godrej Agrovet is a diversified, research and development focused agri-business company, dedicated to improving the productivity of Indian farmers by innovating products and services that sustainably increase crop and livestock yields. We continuously explore growth opportunities at an appropriate valuation,” Yadav said. Ruchi Soya is also India’s largest company in oil seed extraction, with a capacity of 3.72 million tonnes per annum capacity. As of 31 December, it had a debt of around Rs12,000 crore. The company sells brands such as Nutrela, Mahakosh, Sunrich, Ruchi Gold and Ruchi Star.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Intensify efforts to double farmers’ income by 2022: Hanjura to Agri Deptt

Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Agriculture, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura exhorted upon department officers to intensify facilitating efforts for welfare of farming community and work in targeted mode to achieve doubling of farmers’ income by year 2022. The Minister said this after jointly inaugurating the one day Exhibition cum Kisan Mela with Minister for Industries and Commerce Chander Parkash Ganga. The Exhibition cum Kisan Mela was organized by the Agriculture Department Samba under “Support to State Extension Reforms Mission on Agriculture Extension” (ATMA) with the active participation of agriculture and other allied departments. The Mela saw participation by more than 1000 farmers. Stressing on the importance of such events, Hanjura said that these events play a major role in sensitizing farmers about new technologies, high yielding variety of seeds and other innovations being introduced in the sector besides providing better market exposure to the agriculture produce of the State. The Minister said the Government is making all efforts for sustained growth of agriculture sector by introducing several innovative measures to enable farmers to get maximum returns from their land. Hanjura stressed upon the officers to ensure effective implementation of Government sponsored schemes meant for socio-economic transformation of farmer’s community. “This will help in achieving the target of doubling the income of farmers by 2022”, he asserted. He maintained that agricultural marketing reforms are being worked out and stress is being laid on farmer-producer organizations for value addition and increasing farmers’ income. Minister for Industries and Commerce Chander Parkash Ganga, addressing the gathering praised the department for organizing the Mela in Samba. He said that these initiatives will help the farming community to get aware about the new agri technology that is available at their door step.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Lowest interest among millennials in agri-jobs: Survey

The millennial generation has lowest interest in agriculture career because of lack of job security, poor awareness about the scope of the sector and dearth of entrepreneurial spirit, a latest study said. During the 2017 calendar year, there was 25% drop in the average number of agriculture related job searches per week, it said. However, there is promising growth in the agriculture sector given the rapid rate at which Indian farmers are adapting to mechanisation, which experts believe is in line with the government's ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022, it added. According to the study, conducted by a job website Indeed, job seekers in the age group of 21 to 25 year old – the millennial generation comprising fresh graduates, newcomers to the industry and interns – show the lowest level of interest in agriculture jobs. Lack of job security, poor awareness about the scope of the sector and dearth of entrepreneurial spirit are perceived to be hindering new entrants, it said in a statement. However, the age group of 31 to 35 year old exhibits a higher than average interest in this category of jobs, presumably having acquired the requisite knowledge and skills to overcome these hurdles, it said. The study also indicated that the number of youth engaged in the sector has increased by 4% since 2007. "All these statistics point to a prospective rise in employment in the sector; provided the jobs created can be formalised". Given the government's impetus towards the development of the agricultural segment and strengthening the rural economy, the need of the hour is to encourage job seekers to venture into the farming and agriculture-related market, it added.

Business Line, New Delhi
Millennials least interested in agricultural jobs, finds survey

The millennial generation has lowest interest in agriculture career because of lack of job security, poor awareness about the scope of the sector and dearth of entrepreneurial spirit, a latest study said. During the 2017 calendar year, there was a 25 per cent drop in the average number of agriculture related job searches per week, it said. However, there is promising growth in the agriculture sector given the rapid rate at which Indian farmers are adapting to mechanisation, which, experts believe, is in line with the government’s ambitious goal of doubling farm income by 2022, it added. According to the study, conducted by a job website Indeed, job seekers in the age group of 21-25-year-old — the millennial generation comprising fresh graduates, newcomers to the industry and interns — show the lowest level of interest in agriculture jobs. Lack of job security, poor awareness about the scope of the sector and dearth of entrepreneurial spirit are perceived to be hindering new entrants, it said in a statement. However, the age group of 31-35 year old exhibits a higher than average interest in this category of jobs, presumably having acquired the requisite knowledge and skills to overcome these hurdles, it said. The study also indicated that the number of youth engaged in the sector has increased by 4 per cent since 2007. “All these statistics point to a prospective rise in employment in the sector; provided the jobs created can be formalised.” Given the government’s impetus towards the development of the agricultural segment and strengthening the rural economy, the need of the hour is to encourage job seekers to venture into the farming and agriculture-related market, it added. “Today, the agriculture sector in India is a promising place to build a career, given the government’s efforts to enhance India’s production capabilities,” Indeed India Managing Director Sashi Kumar said.

Business Line, Indore
Millers seek ban on futures trade in chana

Concerned over declining chana prices in the physical market and losses being incurred by small-time traders and farmers on account of falling prices, the All India Dal Mill Association has demanded a ban on futures trading. In a separate memorandum to both the Prime Minister and the Union Agriculture Minister, the association President Suresh Agrawal has urged the government to ban futures trading in chana, keeping the interests of small farmers and traders in mind as the prices have been ruling lower than the minimum support prices for the past few months. Agrawal alleged that currently the future trading on the NCDEX is being monopolised by selected companies and big businessmen. The way these companies and big businessmen are running chana trading in the futures market and causing impractical price movement which is hampering the interests of small businessmen and farmers, he said. The Association last year also had urged the government to exempt chana from future trading keeping in view the excessive domestic production . Agrawal said majority of farmers are marginal farmers who own very less chunk of agriculture land and it appears to be illogical to presume that those farmers who produce 20 tonnes of chana, will engage themselves in the trading of thousands of tonnes of chana. Chana output this year is expected be around 111 lakh tonnes against last year’s 93.8 lakh tonnes. Currently, chana in the physical market is ruling at Rs 3,700 a quintal, down Rs 700 from its MSP.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Minister launches plantation prog at AEC

Environment and Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma inaugurated a mass plantation programme on the premises of the Assam Engineering College at Jalukbari as part of a Swachh Bharat initiatives of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) Ltd. Under the initiative the Guwahati Refinery will plant 1,000 saplings at various locations on the college premises involving teachers and students of the premier engineering institute. Addressing the students and teachers of AEC and officers from the Guwahati Refinery on the occasion, Brahma said, “It is a very good step taken up by IOCL Guwahati Refinery. This will generate a very positive message for the public.” She further disclosed that the Government of Assam has been working on a plan to carry out massive tree plantation in and around Guwahati city and that such initiatives from Guwahati Refinery would make a huge contribution towards success of the plan. Appreciating Guwahati Refinery’s earlier efforts of planting 5,000 saplings along the NH-37, the minister said the State government is keen to associate with IOCL Guwahati Refinery to further carry out such plantation drives on both sides of the national highways which enter Guwahati city. She added, “We must carry out planned afforestation and stop encroachments inside forests in order to provide our wild animals peaceful habitats. It can only be done with cooperation from all of us.” Jogen Barpujari, Executive Director (Guwahati Refinery) in his speech, highlighted the refinery’s activities over the years towards a better environment and society carried out through its CSR initiatives. At the programme, AEC Principal Dr Atul Bora shared his vision of transforming the college premises into a clean and green campus and sought everyone’s cooperation in this regard.

Business Line, Bhubaneswar
Odisha to spend Rs 100 crore to expand millets mission

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said that Rs 100 crore would be spent next year to expand the State’s millets mission for the benefit of around five lakh small and marginal farmers. The Chief Minister also said the fund will be scaled up in future. “The State government will procure millets to provide remunerative price to the farmers and to improve the nutritional security,” Patnaik told reporters after holding a meeting here on Odisha Millets Mission. The Odisha Millets Mission is being implemented in 30 blocks across seven districts, a senior official said. The seven districts where the mission is being implemented are Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Kalahandi and Nuapada, the official said. Under the mission, millet cultivation is undertaken on around 7,444 acres of land across seven districts during kharif 2017-18 and the State government plans to take this programme to another 55 blocks in four new districts, he said. The farmers will be incentivised for growing millet, an official statement said.

The Financial Express, Pune
Raisin auctions go online in Maha for the first time under eNAM

For the first time, auctions of raisins went online at the Sangli Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Maharashtra. Sangli is a key producing region for grapes and raisins in Maharashtra. The online auctions have commenced as part of the Centre’s ambitious eNAM project. Sangli from Maharashtra was selected among the five APMCs across the country for the demo project to the PM, said Sunil Pawar, MD, Maharashtra State Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC). Sangli is known for the production of raisins and turmeric, he said, adding that Sangli has been selected for the first phase of the eNAM project. The region does a total trade of nearly Rs 500 crore in raisins annually, Pawar said, adding that around 25% of the auctioning at Sangli has gone online and an effort is now being made to familiarise both traders and farmers to get onto the electronic platform. Maharashtra’s grape export is as high as two lakh tonne annually. Grape growers export it to the Netherlands, Germany and other European Union countries. Raisins’ export is also nearly 50,000 tonnes and demand for both the commodities is growing.More than 50,000 farmers are associated with raisin production in Sangli and the region gets raisins from Karnataka, Bijapur, Nagpur and border regions in the state. Pawar pointed out that out of 60 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in Maharashtra, 30 have switched to digital transactions and have begun e-auctions.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Rice exporters in fear as move to hike MSP will make it expensive in global markets

Rice exporters, mainly of the non-basmati variety, are getting jittery as the talk of ensuring a higher minimum support price — 50 per cent over the cost of the production gains ground. They fear that any sharp increase in the MSP would push up the prices of the cereal to that extent making the Indian rice uncompetitive in the world market. India is the largest exporter of the rice in the world. Shipments in the current financial year have already crossed 10 million tonnes (mt) for the April-January period and are poised to scale a new high, exporters said. “We are not against the farmers getting a higher MSP. In fact, in the long run, a better price through an increase in MSP would encourage farmers to produce more and that, in turn, would make more grain available for exports benefiting the exporters,” an exporter said. The government, while increasing the MSP for paddy, should keep the exporters’ interests in mind and formulate the policy accordingly or else it could lead to distortion in the market, trade sources said. “The government can look at extending the price-deficit compensation scheme to paddy procurement so it does not carry on with the burden of maintaining the stocks while allowing exporters to purchase from the markets,” trade sources said. Exporters said that a price increase of four to five per cent is manageable, but anything beyond that would make the Indian rice uncompetitive in the world market. Moreover, bulk of the non-basmati exports are destined for countries in Africa and neighbours such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which cannot afford any steep price increase, they said. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have resorted to higher imports from India this year due to a lower domestic crop.

The Financial Express, Lucknow
UP sugar industry seeks cane price rationalization

Sugar millers in Uttar Pradesh are feeling the pressure with cane dues inching upwards to Rs 6,500 crore already. Industry watchers see it rising to around Rs 10,000 crore by season end, thus forcing the topic of introducing revenue sharing formula back on the negotiating table. According to industry insiders, the downward spiral of sugar prices, coupled with a bumper sugar production year, distressed molasses lifting, a better yield and recovery and cogeneration dues piling up, the millers are in trouble. And since UP is a land-locked state, it’s unable to reap the benefits of exporting sugar. “What is being seen by the layman as a ‘good crop year’ is actually a bane for us. With so much adversity in play, it’s a difficult preposition to run the industry. And hence, it brings us back to the core issue of rationalision of cane pricing, as is already been done in Maharashtra and Karnataka. And now Tamil Nadu has become the first state to move away from SAP and adopted the revenue sharing formula and has made adequate provision in their current budget,” said an industrialist, requesting anonymity. Another miller said it’s now a question of survival for a large number of sugar companies in the state, and said the government should treat it as an SOS call to save the largest industry in the state, which not only supports around 5 crore farmers and their families but also contributes over `20,000 crore of taxes and duties to the state exchequer directly and indirectly.

20, March 2018
Live Mint, New Delhi
FDA-like agency needed for agriculture: commerce ministry

India needs to form a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-like agency to have an integrated approach to both agricultural production and trade, to double agri-exports to $60 billion by 2022 from $30 billion now, according to the draft agri-export policy released by the commerce ministry. “It may be worthwhile to work towards a similar agency in India which is all encompassing in nature, covering both domestic and international market, so as to have a calibrated approach in export and imports,” the report released for stakeholder consultation said. Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu, who had announced the need for such a policy on his first day in office, had said that a stable agri-export policy is needed to fulfil Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double farm income by 2022. India’s domestic agricultural policies are largely aimed at food security and price stabilization and often put export restrictions to control food inflation. For example, the three-year (2008-11) ban on non-basmati rice exports to control retail inflation despite sufficient stocks led to a notional loss of $5.6 billion to the industry and forex losses to the government. “Over the three years, 14.6 million tonnes of non-basmati rice could have been exported,” the report said. India’s agricultural exports basket is a diversified mix led by marine products ($5.8 billion), meat ($4 billion) and rice ($6 billion), which together constitute around 52% of its total agricultural exports. India’s share in global exports of agriculture products has increased from 1% a few years ago to 2.2 % in 2016. The draft policy also advocated promoting export-oriented clusters and agriculture export zones (AEZs) in partnership with private exporters who will have a natural incentive to promote such clusters. This will be key to ensure surplus produce with standard physical and quality parameters which meet export demands.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
‘Farmers to get MSP from Rabi season’

Rajiv Kumar, vice-chairperson of NITI Aayog, visited Gandhinagar and conducted a meeting with Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani and senior bureaucrats including chief secretary J N Singh. After taking charge, it was Kumar’s first official visit to the state. He, however, had come earlier as part of delegation for high-speed rail corridor. Talking to reporters, Kumar said that one of the issues discussed was minimum support price (MSP) provided to the farmers. “It has been the central government’s policy to ensure at least cost plus 50 per cent for the farmers. I got to know about the procurement of 8.5 lakh ton groundnut in Gujarat. We are providing choice to every state - they can choose from support price, payment of difference between procurement and market price or the model where traders are incentivized for the procurement. We want to ensure that the farmers get MSPs from this Rabi season and the system functions smoothly from Kharif,” said Kumar. He added that they are not in favour of a uniform national policy in the matter and have given freedom to the states to choose the right amount to be disbursed at the right time for procurement. Kumar said that Rupani told him about the state’s demand of setting up Coastal Economic Zone (CEZ) between Kandla and Jamnagar. “The issue was discussed with my predecessor. I have assured him of the support from our side to take the issue to relevant ministries,” he added. Talking about the current water crisis - which he attributed to about 50 per cent cut in Narmada water supply - Kumar said that he got to know about the state government’s water desalination plant with daily capacity of 100 million litre potable water. He said that he is pushing for such projects in each coastal state.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Maharashtra agriculture census stalled due to no data from eight districts

Finalisation of the Maharashtra Agriculture Census, the cornerstone of policy decisions of the state government, has stalled because some officials have not filled up data, a revenue officer said. He said that a section of talathis (village-level revenue officials) had not filled up data for eight districts in the state. This has halted the finalisation of the census which should have been ready, as per schedule, by June last year, the official informed. There has been no inputs from Thane, Amravati, Buldana, Yavatmal, Aurangabad, Sangli, Ratnagiri and Chandrapur districts,” the official said. “The census comprises information such as number of farmers, categories of farmers according to their land holding, the cropping pattern, state of the agricultural infrastructure of every region and the like,” he explained. The agriculture census is prepared every five years and the official said that this delay would not only affect the state but also the Centre as the latter bases its policies on census inputs received from the states. Officials said that the delay comes despite the state government coming up with time-saving data templates in 2015 for the census. “The simplified format greatly saved on time while making data entries. However talathis have not filed it in these districts as they have some demands pending with the government,” he said. Dnyandev Dubal, chairman of Maharashtra State Talathi Mahasangh, however, deflected the blame by saying that preparing the census was the responsibility of the Agriculture department. Dubal said, “Talathis were only asked to complete digitisation of revenue documents including 7/12 receipts. The census work is to be done by the agriculture department. None of the issues we have raised with the government have been addressed.”

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Procurement of Wheat may Cross 32 MT

Wheat procurement has started in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan with state and centre agencies procuring for central pool and in a fortnight will begin operation in Punjab and Haryana. Food Corporation of India officials expect procurement figure to cross the target of 32 million tonnes for 2018-19, with state governments ensuring that agencies procure wheat ensuring farmers get minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,735 per quintal. “Wheat procurement has commenced in a few states from March 15 and in the rest of the states we will start from April 1. We will easily be able to procure 31 mt wheat and figures may cross the target. State governments are taking active interest in marketing operations this year,” said an FCI official adding that the procurement exercise will get over by June. The FCI official said that a major increase in procurement can be expected from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh this year. “FCI and state agencies can easily procure and store 33-34 million tonnes wheat as it has done in the past, but can create challenges of shortage in the market in near term. It can also lead to an upside in wheat prices,” said Tejinder Narang, a grain analyst and former director of state-run trading company PEC.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Rs 3.8-cr paddy missing, 2 managers suspended

The Punjab government has suspended Sunil Kumar, district manager, and Yadvinder Singh, branch manager, Markfed, allegedly for misappropriation of custom milling paddy stored in a local rice mill. Sources said Markfed had supplied about 1.51 lakh bags of paddy (each bag weighing 37.5 kg) to Ganpati Foods in Fazilka for custom milling. On checking, at least 53,095 bags amounting to Rs 3.8 crore were found missing last week. Arshdeep Singh Thind, Managing Director, Markfed said: “Both managers have been suspended for failing to discharge their duties.” The department has also recommended police action against the rice millers. Refuting the charge, Sunil Kumar claimed that he had reported the matter regarding missing paddy to the authorities concerned on March 14, and had also brought the matter to the notice of the Fazilka SSP. Manav Jindal, District Manager, Punsup, has been suspended for alleged mismanagement and lack of supervision, said Amarpal Singh, Managing Director. Sources said about 30,000 bags of paddy worth crores of rupees went missing from a rice mill in Jalalabad town of the district. “The matter is being investigated. Action will be taken against the officers concerned in case paddy is found missing from rice mills in the district,” said the MD. Jindal could not be contacted despite repeated attempts. Sources said a Punsup inspector had also been suspended for the same reason.

Business Line, New Delhi
Russia wheat headed for new record

Russia’s wheat stockpiles are set to swell to the highest levels since at least Soviet times, keeping its prices low in a blow to European Union rivals hoping their exports will be able to compete against Black Sea grain in the months ahead. Despite exporting more wheat than any other country in a quarter of a century, Russia’s inventories are still projected to leap almost 50 per cent to a record 20.6 million tonnes (mt), according to Moscow-based consultant SovEcon. That may make it harder for France, the EU’s biggest exporter, to rebuild share in overseas markets even after Russian prices rose to an almost three-year high of $208 a tonne, $4 more than French wheat. High levels of Russian stockpiles may restrain its prices in coming months, while a weaker rouble in recent weeks means the nation’s wheat is cheaper in dollar terms. High stocks and relatively low rouble prices will ensure that Russia will stay competitive versus EU exports through this season end, SovEcon Managing Director Andrey Sizov Jr said. EU farmers have been struggling to compete with a deluge of cheap Russian exports into world markets, with the trade bloc’s outbound shipments down by more than a fifth from last year. The euro’s rise to more than a three-year high against the dollar also hurt competitiveness. That’s reflected in sales to Egypt, which vies with Indonesia as the world’s biggest wheat buyer. Just one 60,000 tonne cargo of French wheat has been sold to the country in government tenders this season. In contrast, Russian grain accounted for 79 per cent of sales. The Moscow-based Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, or IKAR, raised its export forecast for the current season this week. IKAR sees flat Russian wheat export prices, given prospects of another bumper Russian harvest ahead.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Small tea growers sign MoU with ITA

In a bid to improve the quality of tea, the Tinsukia district committee of the All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Tea Association (ITA) at the Maniram Dewan Bhawan here. For AASTGA, its Tinsukia district committee president Punnya Rajkhowa and secretary Majid Moran, and for ITA its Assam branch (ABITA) Zone - I secretary Madhurjya Baruah and Doomdooma Circle chairman Rajib Lochan Gogoi signed the MoU. The small tea growers of Assam have been contributing around 40 per cent of the total tea production in India. However, they have been facing a plethora of problems. The challenge before the small growers is to produce leaf in conformity with internationally certified standards. With the sole objective to improve and sustain quality standards of the small tea growers of Assam, the ITA’s Sustainability Cell agreed to extend full cooperation to the small growers. Through the terms of the MoU, the members of AASTGA would be associate members of ITA’s Sustainability Cell. The ITA will organise training and orientation programmes for the small tea growers, promote trade between ITA members and the small tea growers, advocate Government bodies and stakeholders on policy and legislative issues as and when required and any other area of collaboration which is in the mutual interest of big tea gardens as well as the small tea growers for betterment of quality of Assam Tea and its national and international presence. A five-point action plan was also included in the MoU. The ITA’s Sustainability Cell will jointly frame programmes with the Tinsukia district committee of AASTGA and implement the same with the ABITA branch office in Guwahati and zonal offices located at Dibrugarh, Jorhat and Tezpur. It is expected that this MoU will bring about significant change for the small tea growers of the state.

Business Line, Raipur
Agri science centre bags award

The Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district has been recognised as the best such centre in the country for its initiatives like developing nutrition gardens and promoting integrated farming techniques. SK Patil, Vice-Chancellor of Raipur-based Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (IGKV), and Kanker Krishi Vigyan Kendra’s coordinator Birbal Sahu received the ‘Pt Deendayal Upadhyay Krishi Vigyan Protsahan Award-2017’ from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The award carries a cash prize of ₹25 lakh for infrastructure development along with a citation certificate.

Business Line, New Delhi
Air cargo support to boost farm exports

Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said that he has directed civil aviation ministry officials to prepare a plan for providing air cargo support to agricultural hubs to promote farm exports. The Commerce and Industry Minister, who also holds additional charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry, said that a draft policy to increase agricultural exports is ready and is being circulated for inter-ministerial views. Efforts would be made to provide air cargo support to the sector to promote exports of agri commodities with a view to fast-track the movement of farm commodities.

19, March 2018
The Telegraph, Kolkata
Bengal brew for Darjeeling tea

Close on the heels of the first business summit in Darjeeling, the Bengal government has said it is keen to work with major tea gardens in the hills to develop a strategy to bolster the Darjeeling tea brand. "The state government had a discussion with the stakeholders during the Hill Summit on how to improve the branding of Darjeeling tea further. It should not be perceived as a bulk commodity, but a niche product. "Darjeeling tea is popular in overseas markets such as Europe, the US, Japan and has consumers in the domestic market. We will work closely with the stakeholders to device a strategy to further promote the brand," said WBIDC managing director Vandana Yadav on the sidelines of a CII organised summit. At the summit, government officials along with industry associations and tea garden owners deliberated on ways to boost the tea brand at a time the industry was hit by strikes and the influx of Nepal tea. While Yadav said the details were being worked out, the strategy is expected to focus on how the brand could attract more premium in the domestic and export tea market. As demand far outstrips supply, Darjeeling garden owners hardly had to bother to sell tea in the past. But this is slowly changing. Now, several companies have taken steps to brand and package tea and make it available to consumers through modern retail or online portal. Goodricke Group, which owns celebrated gardens such as Castleton and Margaret's Hope, were one of the early birds in branding Darjeeling tea. They were closely followed by Chamong and Ambootia Group, two of the largest producers of premium Darjeeling tea. After the 104-day closure of gardens last year damaged the priciest second flush tea, garden owners are hoping for a bounce back this year. But the worst is still not over.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Bengal rice row brews

The Mamata Banerjee government is set to order an inquiry into allegations that some rice mills from Nadia supplied inferior rice for the chief minister's pet project Khadyasathi, but units in Birbhum facing similar charges have been spared. Sources said the government was forced to take a soft line on the Birbhum mills after it was found that most of them belonged to close relatives of a "powerful" Trinamul leader. "A CID inquiry has been recommended by the food and supplies department after the chief minister expressed displeasure in Nadia during a recent meeting. But there is no such plan in case of Birbhum where 12-odd rice mills supplied 26,000 tonnes of poor quality rice," said a senior official. In Nadia, the figure for such poor-quality rice is about 1,000 tonnes. Unlike Nadia, the government has decided to give a chance to the mills in Birbhum to replace the poor-quality rice. According to the reports with the food and supplies department, such rice for Khadyasathi - the scheme through which the government supplies cheap rice to two crore people in the state - was given out through seven to eight ration shops spread across four panchayats in the Karimpur block of Nadia. But the allegations appear more serious in Birbhum where the mills supplied rice to a larger area that included the Purulia, Bankura and West Midnapore districts from where complaints were lodged with the department. "The allegation is more serious in Birbhum as the allegations have been levelled against several rice mills and it appears a pre-planned conspiracy," said an official. Food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mallick visited Birbhum and rapped officials. "But nobody in the government tried to identify the mills and blacklist them," said an official in the district.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Compensate hail-storm hit farmers: Rana

National Conference Provincial President Devender Singh Rana sought compensation for the farmers, whose standing crops were damaged due to recent hail-storm across Nagrota Assembly constituency. “According to preliminary reports 40 to 80 percent crops have been damaged in various areas”, Rana said during his extensive tour of the hail-storm hit areas in Marh this afternoon, adding that the actual damages can be ascertained only after thorough survey is carried out in the affected areas. He interacted with the sufferers and was given first-hand account of the damages, which ranged from 40 per cent in Dung and Bamyal, 50 per cent in Marh and 80 per cent in Gambhir. The MLA Nagrota sought deputation of an empowered team of revenue and agriculture officers to carry out the survey at ground zero. He said the recent hailstorm has been unprecedented in terms of timing and intensity. Rana, accompanied by the officers of Agriculture Department, said the hard toil of farmers stand ruined and they have nothing to look for, except assistance from the government. Till the time damages are worked out, interim relief and free rations for minimum three months is needed to be provided to affected farmers, he said, hoping that the government will rise to the occasion and come to rescue of farming community. The MLA Nagrota said that such of the farmers, whose crops are not insured, need to be compensated fully. However, interim relief should be provided to all, he said, adding that the affected farmers should also be provided inputs for the next cropping season liberally. The Provincial President called for an institutional mechanism so that the extent of damages due to natural calamities can be assessed in routine, without farmers feeling compelled to agitate. This is the least the government can do for the farming community and incentivizing agriculture that is backbone of rural economy.

The Asian Age, New Delhi
Confusion being spread about MSP for crops: Modi

With the Opposition parties targeting the government over farmers’ unrest, Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi hit out saying “critics were trying to confuse and demotivate farmers on the new MSP policy”. He tried to assure rural India that the “government will calculate costs in a way which will include expenses on hired and family labour, irrigation, inputs, interest on working capital, land revenue paid by farmers to state governments, and rent on machinery and leased land”. Addressing a “Krishi Unnati Mela”, an annual event of the Agriculture Ministry, Mr Modi said that doubling of farmers’ income is one of the key focus areas of the government. The Prime Minister’s comments came in the context of continuous farmers’ protests since June last year. Farmers across the country are demanding remunerative prices and loan waiver after consecutive years of record harvest led to a sharp fall in commodity prices which hit farm revenues and incomes. “Reforming agriculture markets is a focus area and the government is trying to connect farmers from local to global markets,” Mr Modi said. He added that the Centre is trying to ensure that farmers receive better prices for their crops mentioned about the budgetary provision under which MSP will be determined in a way which will ensure 50 per cent returns over costs borne by the farmer. In the Union Budget 2018-19, the government took a decision to ensure right prices to farmers for their produce, he said. Despite the challenges in farming, the Centre has set a goal to double farm incomes by 2022 and the government is making progress through steps like providing soil health card and mandating 100% neem coating of urea to raise production and cut costs, the Prime Minister said.

DNA, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala to declare jackfruit as state fruit on March 21

After the state animal, bird, flower and fish, Kerala is all set to get its “official fruit” now. And it is none other than the jackfruit, the largest tree borne fruit known for its distinctive taste and aroma. The state government will make an official declaration in this regard on March 21, based on a proposal of the Agriculture Department. The government also plans to promote the ‘Kerala Jackfruit’ as a brand in markets across the country and abroad, highlighting its organic and nutritious qualities. State Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar said that the core objective of the government was to give a fillip to the production and sale of jackfruit and its value-added products. A total revenue of Rs 15,000 crore is expected through sale of jackfruit and its allied products through the branding of the fruit, he said. “We are planning to declare the jackfruit as the state fruit on March 21. I will make an announcement in this regard at the state Assembly also,” Sunil Kumar said. “Though jackfruit is one of the most widely produced fruits in the state, we are yet to tap its potential completely. Crores of jackfruits, that also of different varieties, are produced in Kerala every year,” he said. Detailing the qualities the ‘Kerala jackfruit’, he said it is more organic and tasty as it is produced in a very natural way without using any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. “We do not use any fertiliser for production of jackfruits. They are grown in a very natural way in villages without any special care. So our jackfruits are more organic, natural and tasty than those from other states,” he said. The government plans to distribute maximum jackfruit tree saplings among the public to grow it in their backyards as part of plans to expand the cultivation.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Lies being spread on MSP for farmers: PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an indirect attack on the Opposition parties, saying that confusion is being spread about the Budget decision to fix MSP for crops at least 1.5 times the production cost and assured farmers that all major costs incurred will be included while declaring the support price. The Centre is already working with state governments to ensure that farmers get the benefit of the declared Minimum Support Price (MSP), he said. Addressing the three-day Krishi Unnati Mela here, Modi also appealed to farmers not to burn crop residues so as to curb pollution. Besides, he asked farmers to grow more oilseeds to reduce dependence on import of cooking oil as also to cut urea consumption by at least half by 2022. In the Union Budget for fiscal 2018-19, the government took a decision to ensure right prices to farmers for their produce, he said. It has decided that for all notified crops, MSP will be at least one and a half times the cost, Modi said. Many people are "spreading confusion and creating atmosphere of despair" regarding the government's MSP decision, he said while sharing the detail of components to be considered while determining the cost of production for fixing the support price. "The cost of production will include elements such as hired labour, expenses on their own or rented machinery as well as livestock, cost of seeds and fertilisers, expenses on irrigation, revenue being given to state government, interest on working capital, and rent of leased land among others," he said. It will also include labour put by farmers and their family, he said. "This is an important decision related to income of hardworking farmers."

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Revenue sharing will crush us, say farmers in Tamil Nadu

A day after Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam announced that revenue sharing price fixation formula would be introduced for sugarcane, farmers associations opposed this move and threatened to stage agitations across the State until the move was withdrawn. D Raveendran, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Sugarcane Farmers Association, told that the revenue sharing formula (RSF) was being introduced as demanded by the sugar mill owners and it will not do any good to the sugarcane farmers in Tamil Nadu. “We have been opposing this at the national level already. If the government fails to withdraw this unfair move, our association will stage demonstrations across the State,” Raveendran said. He explained that since the recovery rate for sugarcane in Tamil Nadu stood only at nine per cent, according to the RSF, the farmers would get much lesser price than the price to be fixed by the Central government. At a time when production cost of sugarcane has gone up, introduction of RSF would further affect the farmers. He said sugar production, which stood at 21 lakh tonnes in 2012, had come down to 9.5 lakh tonnes in 2016-17. As such, if RSF is introduced now, farmers will have no other option but to opt for other crops. Further, at a time when farmers across the country are fighting for implementation of M S Swaminathan Committee recommendations, the move to introduce RSF would indeed “crush” the farmers. S Vimalnathan, advisor to Thanjavur District Sugarcane Growers Association, is of view that farmers would not benefit from this RSF anyway. “How can we expect that private sugar mills which failed to implement the state advised price (SAP) since 2013 will implement this RSF?” he said. Explaining how the sugarcane crushing has been gradually coming down in Tamil Nadu over the past few years, Vimalnathan gave the statistics to bring home his point.

Business Standard, Kolkata
West Bengal plans to make Darjeeling tea brand hotter

The West Bengal government would draw up detailed plans to enhance the brand value of Darjeeling tea for higher realisation of exports, a top official said. "We are planning for enhancement of the brand value of Darjeeling tea along the lines of champagne, which has acquired iconic proportions across the globe," MD of West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation Vandana Yadav told on the sidelines of a CII event here. WBIDC would work out the details and make the necessary investment towards this end. Yadav said that the matter came up for discussion at the business summit held in Darjeeling recently. She said that at present, the Darjeeling tea, which had already got the GI tag and a special logo, was being sent to the export markets in bulk form. "We want to package it into a very premium format to get highly discerning realisation in the export markets of UK, US, Europe and Japan," she said. The state government would also facilitate B2B meetings between exporters and buyers, Yadav added. over.

18, March 2018
Daily Excelsior, Jammu
9 years on, Saffron mission yet to be completed, growers suffer huge losses

he Centrally sponsored National Saffron Mission, a Rs 400.11 crore project, launched 9 years ago to tackle the problems faced by Saffron cultivators has failed to take off and farmers are still dependent on rains for irrigation. The mission was launched after the area under Saffron cultivation decreased from 5,707 hectares in 1996 to 3,715 hectares and traditional cultivation methods as well as the uncertainties of weather and disease made saffron cultivation less profitable. The mission was to be completed in 2014 and so far despite two extensions granted to it for 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 the project is yet to be completed. Under the Saffron Mission, 126 wells were proposed for irrigation of saffron fields and they were to be connected with sprinklers. The Mechanical Engineering Department, was tasked with the work, and Rs 1,885 lakh was sanctioned to them for procurement of required material. Sources said that so far only 12 sprinkle systems have been handed over to the department and only one is functional. The Well Number 72 was made functional by the local farmers and it has led to increase in the saffron yield. The well is in the farm land of Ghulam Mohidin Rather of village Munpara in Pampore area in Pulwama district and he got an yield 4 kilogramme of saffron per hectare this year. The farmers said the delay in the implementation of the project led to losses worth crores of rupees during past few years. They are still apprehensive about the functioning of the project and they demand that the project should be checked for quality before it is made functional. They said there was delay in the supply of the material that was procured from a firm and the department issued two more supply orders to the same firm despite delay which led to loss to the farmers.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Awareness programme on wheat cultivation held

A day-long awareness-cum-training programme on wheat cultivation was held recently at the Biotech Hub of Biswanath College of Agriculture in Biswanath Chariali. The programme was sponsored by ICAR-Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Karnal, Haryana. The training programme was attended by a team of scientists from the Haryana-based institute led by Dr G Singh, Zonal Coordinator of North Eastern Plain Zone. The inaugural session of the programme was presided over by Dr RN Barman, Associate Dean of the college and thanked the authorities of the Indian Institute of Wheat Research for organising such a programme at the college. It is to be noted that the programme was organised in connection with the wheat research programme being undertaken at the college under the aegis of the Central institute. Dr MK Sarma, collaborating scientist of the wheat research programme in the college and coordinator of Biotech Hub, enlightened the trainees on the objective of the programme. The training was also attended by a group of faculty members from the college, development officers of the State Department of Agriculture, representatives of NGOs and a group of experienced farmers. Dr Amit Kumar Sharma from the Indian Institute of Wheat Research enlightened the trainees on the problems and prospects of cultivation of wheat in the North-east. Participating as experts, the team of scientists deliberated on various issues related to the pros and cons of wheat cultivation in the State. MG Sahoo, Sub-Divisional Agriculture Officer of Biswanath, elaborated the attempts of the State government in accelerating the wheat production and highlighted on the local issues related to the bottleneck of the cultivation in the State. Farmers and various stakeholders present in the meeting also shared their experiences on wheat cultivation in the past.

Business Line, Kochi
Climate change and price instability are biggest challenges in commodities sector: experts

The Agri Conclave promoted by MCX has recommended holistic solutions for pepper and cardamom that would balance the interests of growers and consumers and at the same time promote value addition for exports. The focus of the session was on growers. The panellists were unanimous in their view that growers should get remunerative returns to continue in farming. However, issues such as fluctuating production, volatile prices due to climate vagaries discouraged processors and exporters from taking a long-term view. It was also argued that the sector needed investments to develop climate-resilient varieties. There are also contrasting views on the imposition of minimum import price (MIP) on pepper. While this may have been intended to support domestic prices, there is a view that it actually distorts the market and prevents natural price discovery. Suggesting farmers to look at net farm returns rather than price per kilo, Philip Kuruvilla, an industry veteran, urged scientists to take efforts to increase net farm returns. To achieve this, he said innovation has to take place at farm level with local technology for selection and multiplication of high-yielding varieties. There is a need to shift the focus from commodity to manufactured product to reduce price risks and gain high value-addition. With direct selling opportunities in online sales platforms, he said farmers should be in a position to value add and sell directly to consumers. Shaji Varghese, President of Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry pointed out that besides pepper and cardamom, other related commodities like cashew, tea, rubber, etc too are passing through a difficult phase due to price drop. To achieve competitiveness and revival of the sector, he suggested captive farming, digitilisation in different stages, increasing productivity, enhancing transparency, developing in-house marketing as well as attracting younger generation to farming.

The Times of India, Rajkot
Farmers see red as white onion prices plummet

Hundreds of farmers growing white onion in Bhavnagar district have stopped the sale at Mahuva market yard, the biggest onion trading centre after Lasalgaon in Nashik, following drastic fall in prices. This is the third consecutive year that prices of white onion, which is mainly exported, have plummeted. Nearly 20,000 tonne of white onion is lying at farmers’ end. White onion is dehydrated and exported in European countries. Out of the nearly 100 dehydration plants in Mahuva, 70 are in dysfunctional condition. Currently, farmers get Rs 60 to 70 per 20 kg, however, their production cost is Rs 140. According to farmers, they are booking losses in the prices for the last three years as a result of which the production this year has reduced by 25% compared to last year. This year, the production of white onion is nearly 45,000 tonne, which was 60,000 tonne last year. Chairman of Mahua market yard Ghanshyam Patel said, “White onion is only exported and there is very little domestic consumption. The owners of dehydration plants compete with each other and sell onions at lowest price in the international market, which is US $900 to US $1200 per tonne. However, the onions from other countries fetch between US $1,500 and US $1,800. We want government to fix minimum export price (MEP) for onion for the benefit of farmers.” India exports 40% of world’s requirement of onion and it’s the second biggest exporter of onion after America, which sends out 45% of its produce. The export business of onion is centralized in Mahuva and white onion of Nashik also come to dehydration plants here.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
GOVT MEETS FARM CREDIT TARGET

To improve farmers’ income, the public sector banks (PSBs) have given farm credit to the tune of Rs 34.50 lakh crore in the last four years of the Narendra Modi regime. The disbursement is closed to the target of Rs 35.50 lakh crore set by the Government. The banks have already disbursed Rs 6.25 lakh crore to 3.63 crore farmers (till September 2017) as the target is of Rs 10 lakh crore set by the Government. In other words, an average of Rs 1.63 lakh disbursed to each farmer having account in the bank. The Government data further showed that the banks have disbursed loan to farmers to the tune of Rs 10.65 lakh crore in the fiscal 2016-17. The Government had targeted to distribute Rs 9 lakh crore as farm credit while the actual disbursal was almost 118.42 per cent more at Rs 10.65 lakh crore. Similarly, the Government had targeted to distribute around Rs 8.50 lakh crore to farmers while the actual disbursal was Rs 9.15 lakh crore in 2015-16. This means the actual distribution was almost 108 per cent more during the same period. In 2014-15, the banks distributed Rs 8.45 lakh crore as farm credit while it had targeted Rs 8 lakh crore. Sources said the Government fixes agriculture credit disbursement targets for the banking sector every year. In 2017-18, the target was fixed at Rs 10 lakh crore. The amount was increased to Rs 11 lakh crore in 2018-19 Budget presented by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in February this year. The data further stated that over 3.63 crore farmers having accounts in public sector banks and nationalised banks have been benefitted from agriculture credit in 2017.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
HC brings farm debt waiver under ambit

A year after the Congress promised farm debt waiver, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has brought the issue under its ambit by asking the government to specify the methodology it intended to adopt. Taking up the issue, the Division Bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal asked the state counsel to file a tentative proposal “as to how the waiver of loans for small farmers shall be carried out”. The Bench also set a date in the fourth week of March for the state to come out with the details of its plan. The case has its genesis in a petition filed by Mohit Kapoor in September last year, when farmer unions were planning to assemble outside the Patiala residence of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The petition against the protest call given by several farmer unions in Patiala was seeking, among other things, imposition of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Patiala and neighbouring districts to prevent untoward incident. The High Court, at that time, had ruled that assembly in the absence of requisite permission would not fall within the domain of legality. The Bench had also called the Director-General of Police before making it clear that it did not want “repetition of Panchkula episode in the district”. As protests by different farmer unions across the state continued, the Bench subsequently made clear its intent to look into the “wider issues” resulting in agitation by smallholders.

ly Excelsior, Indore
No clarity on bonus payment even as M.P. begins wheat procurement

The Madhya Pradesh government has begun wheat purchases from farmers in Indore and Ujjain division paying the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,735 per quintal. However, there is no clarity on the payment of bonus of Rs 265 announced by the State in addition to the Centre’s MSP. “Currently we are purchasing wheat on the MSP as announced by the Union government and so far we have not received any official information from the State government on payment of bonus to the farmers,” said an official in the Food and Civil Supplies Department here on the condition of anonymity. The official further said that the payment of bonus on wheat purchase will be made to the farmers after they receive the official notification. L Mujalda, District Food and Civil Supplies Officer, Indore, confirmed that they are currently purchasing wheat from farmers in Indore division on the MSP only. Payment of bonus to the farmers will be credited to their accounts later on after the government’s notification. The State, sometime back, had announced that it would pay a bonus of Rs 265 per quintal to each farmer in addition to purchasing of wheat on the MSP. Accordingly, the State government was supposed to purchase wheat from Madhya Pradesh farmers at the rate of Rs 2,000 per quintal. AK Parmar, Joint Director, Procurement, on being contacted also corroborated the fact that currently, they are purchasing wheat from farmers in Madhya Pradesh only on the MSP. Parmar said the government has not fixed any target for procurement of wheat in Madhya Pradesh this year. “The government will keep on purchasing wheat as long as farmers approach us through our e-uparjan portal,” he said.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Rain in Darjeeling Raises Hopes of Good Quality First Flush Tea

After a prolonged dry spell since end December, Darjeeling tea estates have received rains in the past two days raising hopes of production of good quality first flush teas that are largely exported. First flush teas, which are mostly sold through private sales, comprise 20% of Darjeeling’s total annual production of 9 million kg. However, despite the expectation of a better crop size this year, the importers of Darjeeling teas from Europe, the USA and Japan are yet to enter into forward contracts with planters for first and second flush teas. First flush teas are produced between March and April. While some planters say that foreign buyers are watching the political developments in the hills, others say that these buyers are keeping a close watch on the quality of new season teas before setting for a price. The 2017 price of Darjeeling tea cannot be taken as a benchmark because a prolonged strike had affected production of this premium tea. But the mood in the hills has certainly improved. Sanjay Bansal, chairman of Ambootia Group, the largest Darjeeling tea producer, said, “It has rained this week after a dry winter. The temperature is low. The weather is very conducive for good quality first flush. Most of the workers who had taken up jobs outside Darjeeling following the strike are now returning back to work.” In 2016, the average price of Darjeeling tea was about Rs 500 per kg. Last year, Darjeeling tea production suffered a major setback after the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) shut down operations in the hills for four months demanding a separate Gorkhaland. Tea production in 87 tea estates in Darjeeling came to a halt during the peak season with planters losing out on their exports. Tea bushes had overgrown and there was no production even though the gardens reopened in end September.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Rains in Karnataka seen good for next coffee crop

For the beleaguered growers of robusta coffees in Karnataka, the largest producer of the bean, the ongoing spell of rains has raised the hopes for next crop year starting October 2018. The low pressure and depression off the West Coast has brought rains to several parts of the key coffee growing regions of Kodagu, Chikmagaluru and Hassan among other districts in Karnataka, which accounts for over 70 per cent of the coffee produced in the country. The pre-monsoon showers are crucial for blossoming of the coffee floral buds. The blossom showers and the subsequent backing showers are crucial for a good crop. Traditionally, the robusta and arabica areas should receive pre-monsoon showers by April 15 for a good blossom, growers said. “For the growers who had taken up irrigation through sprinklers for robustas from late February and where coffee has blossomed, the current spell of rains are acting as backing showers,” said HT Pramod, Chairman, Karnataka Planters’ Association. The rains will be of some help for the growers, who have harvested a poor robusta crop this year. “The current spell of rains are good for the coffee sector as a whole. However, the rainfall has not been uniform and several robusta areas in Kodagu have not received the rains. The forecast is that it would rain for the next two days and we are hoping for some good showers,” said N Bose Mandanna, a grower in Suntikoppa. Coffee growers have suffered from a poor crop and bearish price trend this year. Robusta growers have seen their crop shrink by up to 40 per cent in several areas on account of erratic rainfall last year.

The Hindu, Chennai
Revenue-sharing model to be adopted to pay cane farmers

The Tamil Nadu government has decided to abandon the system of State Advisory Price (SAP) for sugarcane and instead, it will follow the revenue-sharing price fixation model from this year. The new model would be based on the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee. Under the proposed system, cane farmers would be assured of the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) and a share in profits, which would accrue to sugar mills. Until now, at the beginning of every sugarcane cultivation season, the government announced the SAP over and above the FRP. Announcing a major policy change on the farmers, Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam pointed out that major States – Maharashtra and Karnataka – had migrated to the revenue sharing model. He also touched upon the state of the sugar industry, which, Mr. Panneerselvam said, was “currently going through” an “extended phase of distress” due to a variety of factors. To protect the interests of the farmers during the period of transition, the government would pay the difference between the present SAP of Rs 2,750 per tonne and the price to be received by the agriculturists under the new system. Also, the transportation cost would continue to be borne by the sugar industry. The budget had earmarked an amount of Rs 200 crore towards “transitional production incentive.” The Deputy Chief Minister added that a special scheme would be implemented over 55,000 acres in consultation with the sugar mills for improving sugarcane productivity and sugar recovery.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Stop import and sale of GM foods: Activists

Noting illegal import and sale of genetically modified (GM) food in India, a group of farm activists lodged their complaint with the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and demanded urgent action. In their written complaint, they alleged that certain brands of imported packaged food were openly being sold in various stores in many cities across the country including Bengaluru, Noida and Mumbai. “As mentioned by Union health minster, J P Nadda, in Parliament on December 29, 2017, various companies have been illegally importing and selling genetically modified soybean and canola oil for human consumption. Whilst these have the permission from environment ministry, they do not have the permission from the health ministry’s FSSAI”, said Kavitha Kuruganti, co-convenor of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, in her complaint to the FSSAI.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Tamil Nadu budget: Delta farmers unhappy over no loan waiver

The farmers of the Cauvery delta districts of Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam were disappointed after the State Budget was presented with no schemes in place for loan waivers. “The Budget did not take into account the gravity of the agrarian crisis in Tamil Nadu,” said P S Masilamani, a leading farmer from Mavoor and the state deputy secretary of Tamil Nadu Farmers Association. Besides the absence of a loan-waiver scheme, the Budget did not pave way for an ambitions water harvesting plan. He also said that till such time that the Centre fixes minimum support price (MSP) for the agriculture commodities at 50 per cent over and above the production cost as prescribed by the M S Swaminathan commission, the State government could come forward to provide incentives above the MSP by Centre. Welcoming the announcement in the Budget on the pulse crops like toor dal, black gram and green gram, he said that this would stabilise prices. Sundara Vimalanathan, district secretary of the Cauvery Farmers Protection Association said that even as many state governments have started waiving loans for farmers, the Tamil Nadu Budget did not give any information about this. He said that instead of procuring the pulses singularly through regulated markets, which are located in far off places, the government should come forward to procure them in the direct procurement centres (DPCs) which are now procuring paddy. He pointed out that the Budget did not allocate funds for constructing a barrage across Kollidam near Papanasam as promised by former chief minister J Jayalalithaa. Vimalanathan said that the farmers are also disappointed over the absence of a price announcement for sugarcane and a tripartite meeting for the same.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Wheat Output Estimate May be Revised to 98 MT

The government may revise wheat crop production estimates for 2017-18 higher to over 98 million tonnes, expecting yields to be higher following good growth conditions. “Wheat production will match last year’s level,” agriculture secretary SK Pattanayak said at the venue of the three-day Krishi Unnati Mela. In the second estimate released in February, the government projected wheat production at 97.1 million tonnes. Output was at a record 98.51 million tonnes last year on better yields. Although the acreage of wheat cultivation was 4% lower this year, higher yields and good crop conditions in the major producer states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan would ensure production was high, Pattanayak said. “The Karnal-based wheat research institute has pegged wheat output at 100 million tonnes considering field reports, but the ministry is keeping a conservative estimate as of now,” he said, adding that food grain projections are revised at every stage. The first advance estimate of food grain production was issued in September 2017.

Business Line, Kochi
Blenders’ buys lift tea prices at Kochi sale

Active participation of regional blenders lifts prices of good liquoring varieties at Kochi auctions. The market for good liquoring and popular marks in CTC dust was fully firm to dearer by Rs 2-5 a kg and sometimes more. Mediums were steady to firm and occasionally dearer following quality. The quantity on offer in sale no 11 was 8,00,000 kg. There was a fair participation from upcountry buyers and exporters confined to medium and planer ones, the auctioneers Forbes, Ewart & Figgis said. The market for orthodox dust was firm to dearer and the quantity on offer was 10,500 kg. A small quantity on offer was absorbed by exporters and upcountry buyers. In Cochin CTC dust quotation, good varieties fetched Rs 120-175, mediums quoted Rs 93-138 and plain grades stood at Rs 81-98. In the leaf category, the market for Nilgiri brokens in orthodox grades was higher by Rs 5-7 and sometimes more following quality. Whole leaf appreciated by longer margins of Rs 10-15. The quantity on offer was 116,000 kg. In CTC leaf, the market for good liquoring teas was firm to dearer. The quantity on offer was 61,000 kg.

17, March 2018
The Sentinel, Guwahati
Central team lauds initiatives of Darrang farmers

A high-level team of central observers recently visited the cultivation of hybrid maize and summer paddy in Darrang district and expressed their satisfaction over the cultivation with total involvement of the farmers under the guidance of the District Agriculture Department of Darrang. A total of 190 village farmers of Niz Rangamati village under Banglagarh Agriculture Circle, with all assistance and guidance from the District Agriculture Department here, have started the cultivation of hybrid maize under the National Food Safety Mission (NFSM) in 75 hectares of land. The six-member high-level team headed by Dr. K Manoharan, Director of Jute Development Corporation, Kolkata and Dr. R Bhagawati, chief scientist of Paddy Research Centre at Geua in Assam, during their visit closely interacted with the village farmers and offered their valuable suggestions. The team of visiting agricultural scientists were highly overwhelmed to taste the delicious curd made of buffalo milk and the traditional gur made of sugarcane in the field along with the village farmers. The visiting team also visited the cultivation of summer paddy at village Bhaluk Khowapara by 110 farmers in 40 hectares of land and highly appreciated the initiative of the village farmers. They also appreciated the programme implementation system and maintenance of all the data and information by District Agriculture Officer Nila Kanta Deka. A team of District Agriculture Office led by District Agriculture Officer Nila Kanta Deka and Agriculture Development Officer Deba Kumar Sarma accompanied the visiting team. Earlier, the visiting team held a discussion with all the officers of the District Agriculture Office and took the stock of the progress in the agricultural sector in Darrang district.

Business Line, Mumbai
Debt-laden Ruchi Soya attracts bids up to Rs 10,000 cr for 51% stake

Debt-ridden Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd (RSIL), which is currently undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, has received a whopping 26 applications from Indian and foreign conglomerates to acquire a 51 per cent stake in the company. The bidders, according to sources, are quoting anywhere between Rs 8,000 crore and Rs 10,000 crore for the majority stake in India’s largest edible oil-maker. This could be perhaps the largest number of bidders for a company that is undergoing the process of debt restructuring under the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). RSIL was expecting to complete the deal by June, one of the sources said. A number of Indian and multinational companies have shown interest in the beleaguered firm. They include firms such as ITC, Patanjali Ayurved, Emami Group, Sakuma Exports, Phoenix ARC, AION Capital Partners, 3F Oil Palm Agrotech and Singapore-based Musim Mas. Global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), Indian subsidiary of US-based Cargill Corp, Singaporean palm oil company Golden-Agri Resources and Malaysia’s Sime Darby Bhd are in the race. While a mail sent to RSIL went unanswered, all the companies in the list could not be immediately contacted. According to sources, the sheer number of investors interested in the company has led to an increase in optimism among bankers, who now hope of recovering their entire loans. The bidders are bullish on the sector, especially after the government raised import duties on certain vegetable oils to check their shipments into the country. The government in its Budget announcement on February 1, hiked the import duties to 30-35 per cent from the earlier 20 per cent. Ruchi Soya, the largest player in oil seed extraction in the country with a 3.72-mtpa capacity, had a total debt of about Rs 12,000 crore as of December 31, 2017. Its brand portfolio includes Nutrela, Mahakosh, Sunrich, Ruchi Gold and Ruchi Star.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Fertiliser stocks gain up to 10% as stagnant urea prices will benefit firms

Shares of fertiliser companies gained up to 10 per cent, following a three-year extension in the existing urea policy. The share price of Nagarjuna Fertilisers surged the highest, by 10 per cent to Rs 18.45. National Fertilizers gained five per cent to Rs 59.25 and Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers soared 4.1 per cent to Rs 79.80. Scrips of Chambal Fertilisers and Deepak Fertilisers, also moved up by two per cent and 1.7 per cent, respectively. “The upsurge in share price of fertiliser companies can be attributed to the Cabinet’s decision to extend the urea policy by three years, without any increase in prices,” said Himanshu Binani, an analyst with Emkay Global. Reports of ‘no unusual’ indication so far for this year’s monsoon are positives for kharif sowing and user of fertiliser. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the proposal of the department of fertiliser to continue the urea subsidy scheme up to 2019-20 at a total cost of Rs 1,649 billion and for disbursement of subsidy. The decision implies there will be no increase in the price of urea till 2020. Continuation of the subsidy scheme will ensure timely payment to urea manufacturers. Urea subsidy also includes imported urea subsidy, which is directed towards import to bridge the gap between assessed demand and indigenous production. It also includes freight subsidy for movement of urea across the country. “These steps have ensured continued easy availability of urea to the farmers at an affordable price. Today’s decision reiterates the commitment of the present government towards the welfare of the farmers,” CCEA said in a statement. The fund allocated under the extension in the urea policy would be used for clearing subsidies through Direct Benefits Transfer (DBT).

Business Line, Indore
M.P. begins wheat purchase; to pay Rs 2,000/quintal

Procurement of wheat by government agencies in Madhya Pradesh has begun, mainly in the divisions of Indore and Ujjain, where the cereal crop ripens early. Official sources in the State Food and Civil Supplies Department said wheat purchases will commence in the Narmadapuram division from March 20 and across other parts of the State from March 26. The MP Government is purchasing wheat from the farmers at the rate of Rs 2,000/quintal, by offering a bonus of Rs 265 over and above the Centre’s minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,735. Madhya Pradesh is targeting a wheat procurement of 10 million tonnes (mt) and expects to open about 200 procurement centres across the State. Meanwhile, the government has included crops like chana, masur, onion and garlic under the Bhawantar Yojana, under which the State will pay the difference rate between the existing market prices and MSP for the particular crops. For chana growers, the State has fixed March 26 as the last date of registration. Registration for garlic growers too has begun in all districts of Indore and Ujjain division, Rajgarh, Sehore and Sagar districts respectively.

Business Standard, Chennai
Sugarcane price Tamil Nadu to follow revenue sharing formula

After Maharashtra and Karnataka, Tamil Nadu has decided to switch to the revenue sharing formula to fix sugarcane price. The Rangarajan panel had recommended that sugarcane price be determined at 75 per cent of the revenue realisation from sugar and some by-products. Industry representatives believe the major relief would be that the price won’t be based on political compulsion. In his Budget speech, Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister O Paneerselvam said the sugar industry is going through an extended phase of distress and "this has, in turn, affected timely payments to farmers". Adding, “The state has decided to switch over to the revenue sharing price fixation model from the current season under which farmers will be assured of fair and remunerative price” (FRP) and will also receive a share in the profits over and above the FRP. FRP and state administered price (SAP) are prices set by the different governments at which mill-owners will reimburse farmers. This is the minimum price they pay to the farmers for the sugarcane. Under FRP, the Centre decides the price, but it is not binding, while SAP is the price fixed by states to be paid to farmers; generally, SAP is higher as sugarcane farmers are seen as a large vote bank. Palani G Periasamy, president, The South Indian Sugar Mills Association, said, the revenue sharing formula would alleviate the fundamental difficulty of farmers getting the remunerative price. Abinash Verma, director general, Indian Sugar Mills Association, agreed. Under the new system, farmers would know what they are going to get, while mills would know what they were going to pay, he said, adding the state could play the role of a facilitator.

India Today, anarivo
India offers USD 80.7 ml LoC to Madagascar for agriculture and mechanization

India has offered Madagascar a USD 80.7 million Line of Credit for agriculture and mechanisation during the visit of President Ram Nath Kovind to the island nation - the first ever by an Indian president. President Kovind, who arrived on the second leg of his two-nation state visit to Africa and the Indian Ocean Region, held delegation-level talks with his counterpart Hery Rajaonarimampianina in Madagascar. India offered Madagascar a USD 80.7 million Line of Credit for agriculture and mechanisation, according to an official statement. After the delegation-level talks, President Kovind was conferred the Grand Cross of the Second Class by Solonandrasan. This is the highest honour Madagascar bestows on a non-citizen. Addressing students and academic community at the University of Antananarivo before concluding his visit, Kovind said, "Our primary shared resource is the ocean ? A vast expanse of water that holds within it many riches, much hope and sometimes hidden challenges as well. We need to explore the sea and we need to help fishing communities here in Madagascar". "We need to ensure maritime security and guard against environmental degradation. Above all, we need to be prepared for humanitarian disasters and the unpredictable moods of the ocean. Malagasy and Indian Navies are close partners and Indian ships have made several friendly visits to Madagascar," he said. Earlier, President Kovind interacted with members of the India-Madagascar Business Forum and urged them to further trade and business opportunities.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Services, agriculture sectors key to make India $5 trillion economy, says Suresh Prabhu

The Commerce Ministry said the country can become a USD 5 trillion economy in the next seven to eight years with the major contribution by services, industries and agricultural sector. It said that of the USD 5 trillion figure, services sector could contribute about USD 3 trillion, while industries and agricultural sectors could account for USD 1 trillion each. This was discussed during the first meeting of the Working Group on making India a USD 5 trillion economy. The meeting was chaired by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, who pointed out that the present USD 2.6 trillion Indian economy will become a USD 5 trillion in due course. “The key was the timeline within which it will be achieved. The objective of constituting the Working Group was to chart out this timeline, along with suitable strategies to achieve the same,” the ministry said in a statement. It was decided to set up smaller groups to work out the sectoral targets and the roadmap ahead, it said. It added that the key points highlighted in the meeting include that India has the largest population of millennials and it was crucial to fulfil their aspirations by creating appropriate physical and social infrastructure. Several tier-II cities need to be created to make growth more inclusive. “Growth of GDP will come from four items — Government expenditure, Private Expenditure, Investment and Exports, ” it said adding Strategies under each need to be carried out on the ground. Greater private investment in infrastructure and asset recycling by moving towards private ownership of assets like ports, airports, bus operations needs to be encouraged, it said adding the growth needs to come from the Indian States and further below from the districts too? It was emphasised in the meeting on the need to strengthen institutions including the regulatory framework.

16, March 2018
The Hindu, Guwahati
Assam warns tea estates against selling leased lands

The Assam government warned tea estates against selling land leased out to them, but said planters may be allowed to diversify by using such land for other industries. There had been reports of major tea estates and small tea growers selling leased land. Officials said about 20% of 3,07,080 hectares of land under tea plantation had been leased out by the government over the years. Replying to a question by BJP legislator Sanjoy Kishan in the Assembly, State Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said the government would consider proposals from planters to set up other industries on such land. “We will not tolerate sale of the land leased out to them specifically for tea cultivation. But we may approve proposals for diversification by the planters,” Mr Patowary said. Other BJP legislators demanded a probe into the allegations that tea estates had been selling land illegally. Speaker Hitendra Nath Goswami too sought steps to protect the tea industry, which has been under pressure from increasing input costs and falling prices. Illegal sale of land was one of the factors why the government had last year toyed with the idea of de-leasing an acre of land in each of 792 registered tea estates for setting up schools. Another factor was the estate management’s indifference to a request for land to set up high schools for tea plantation workers. Tea estate owners were unhappy with the State government for not heeding their plea to increase the lease period to 10 years from one year now.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Bonus blush in first flush

A small batch of first flush tea from Namring Tea Estate in Darjeeling has fetched Rs 12,500 a kg even as the delay over payment of puja bonus to workers continue to affect production of the first harvest of the season in many gardens. The Poddar family owned Namring, the single largest garden in the hills, sold the consignment to Subodh Brothers, a leading retailer of Darjeeling tea in Bengal. The contract was made through Contemporary Brokers (P) Ltd. "It is a good start to the season even as the condition is challenging. We are hoping the export sales will be able to do even better," Prateek Poddar, director of Poddar HMP Group, owner of Namring, said. First flush contributes around 20-25 per cent of Darjeeling tea production and 35 per cent of the value. On an average it fetches 80 euros a kg (Rs 6,500), making up for low yield and high cost of production of 87-odd gardens in the hills. Despite the heady price the small batch (25 kg) fetched, industrial relations remain grim as several gardens reported agitations and stop-work on Tuesday, a day after the Bengal government tried to diffuse the tension by holding a tripartite meeting at state secretariat Nabanna. Though the union, representing the workers, had agreed to extend the March 10 deadline for final instalment of puja bonus on the request of garden owners, there is a sense of disquiet in the gardens. Kaushik Basu, secretary-general of the Darjeeling Tea Association, said workers continue to be affected despite the assurance from Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labourers' Union at Nabanna. "Many gardens are paying bonuses by arranging funds. But not all will be able to," he said. Kishorilal Agarwal, owner of Poobong Estate, said he had approached local administration, labour commissioner to resolve the impasse at his garden.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Cabinet decisions: Urea subsidy to continue till 2020

The Cabinet has approved continuation of the urea subsidy till 2020 at an estimated cost of Rs 1,64,935 crore. The government also approved implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for disbursement of fertiliser subsidy. Retail price of urea has not been changed from Rs 5,360/tonne or Rs 268/50-kg bag (excluding central/state tax and charges towards neem coating) since 2012. Prices vary from state to state and on an average farmers get urea at about Rs 300/bag. The Centre subsidises the difference between the cost of delivered fertilisers at retail store (both cost of production and freight) and the MRP paid by farmers. The subsidy is paid to fertiliser manufacturer/ importer by the government. The continuation of the urea subsidy scheme will ensure that adequate quantity of the fertiliser is made available to farmers at statutory controlled price, the government said in a statement. The implementation of DBT in the fertiliser sector will reduce diversion and plug leakages, it said. Urea subsidy is projected to be Rs 45,000 crore for the 2018-19 fiscal, as against Rs 42,748 crore for this year. Generally, the fertiliser ministry takes approval for the urea subsidy on an yearly basis, but this time, it has received clearance for three years. In the statement, the government said it is in the process to roll out DBT in fertiliser sector nationwide. DBT would entail 100 per cent payment to fertiliser companies.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Cotton output estimate down 10% on pest attack

India's cotton output is likely to decline by 10 per cent from the pre-harvest forecast of a bumper production of 37.7 million bales (170 kg each) for 2017-18. This is due to extensive attack of the pink bollworm in major growing states. Industry veterans gathered at the 9th Asian Textiles Conference, organised by the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry, estimated a massive impact on output this year, due to the infestation across Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra and Karnataka. With this, India's cotton output for the ongoing season is likely to remain flat at around 34.5 million tonnes from 2016-17, despite a significant increase in sowing during the kharif season. The decline in overall output has prompted the government to reconsider its dependence on the widely used Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) seed. Central Institute for Cotton Research has developed a variety of medium and long staple varieties to withstand heat and flood, to get commercialised in the next season. "We are expecting at least a 10 per cent decline in output this year from the initial estimate of around 38 mn bales at the beginning of the season," said an industry veteran. Cotton Association of India (CAI) has revised its fibre output forecast downward for the second time in two months to 36.2 mn bales, as compared to 37.5 mn at the beginning of this season. "This forecast is based on the current situation, including arrivals in mandis (wholesale markets) and estimated availability with farmers. We might cut our output forecast further if either of these decline," said Atul Ganatra, president of CAI. The Maharashtra government has estimated at least a 17 per cent decline in the state's output, due to the pink bollworm impact on the 4.2 mn hectares sown.

Business Line, Kolkata
India to become self-sufficient in silk production in four years

India’s dependence on China for the import of high-quality silk is likely to come down in the next 3-4 years, with the country striving to become self-sufficient in silk production by 2022. In 2016-17, India imported close to 3,700 tonnes of high-quality silk from China, compared to close to 7,000 tonnes in 2013-14. According to KK Shetty, Joint Secretary, Central Silk Board, the decrease in import volumes has been primarily on the back of an increase in production of the ‘better quality’ bivoltine silk. “While the total production of raw silk recorded an annual growth rate of around 5 per cent, that of bivoltine silk [which is considered to be superior quality] has grown by 12-13 per cent. With the production of indigenous high-quality silk increasing, our imports are likely to come down,” Shetty told. The production of bivoltine, which is also an import-substitute-quality silk, increased from 2,559 tonnes in 2013-14 to 5,266 tonnes in 2016-17. Bivoltine production is likely to touch 6,200 tonnes in 2017-18. Once the production touches the targeted 12,000 tonnes by 2022, the country would no longer need to import Chinese silk, he said. The country’s total raw silk production increased to 30,348 tonnes in 2016-17 (around 26,480 tonne in 2013-14), and is expected to touch close to 33,000 tonne in 2017-18. Central Silk Board estimates total production of raw silk to touch 45,000 tonnes in 2022. The government has allocated close to Rs 2,000 crore for a period of three years (FY’18-FY’20) under the Central Sector Scheme for undertaking development activities for silk. A portion of the funds would be utilised for improving production of high quality silk, he said.

Business Line, Kochi
Minimum import price: Commerce Ministry to take up with FinMin exploitation of loophole by pepper dealers

The Union Commerce Ministry – having been convinced of a loophole in its notification dated December 6 when it decided to impose a minimum import price (MIP) for pepper, which is being blatantly exploited by importers – has decided to take it up with the Union Finance Ministry for initiating necessary measures in the interest of the country’s pepper growers. Despite the imposition of an MIP of Rs 500 per kg, imports were taking place unhindered, and upon inquiry with the Customs authorities, “it has come to our knowledge that imports are being allowed below MIP as pepper is defined as ‘free’ item under the definition policy, and hence these importers are being allowed to clear the goods under adjudication proceedings by collecting a small fine on the invoiced value. The Commerce Ministry, having realised this fact, has decided to take it up with the Finance Ministry”, Kishor Shamji Kuruwa, Convener, Kerala Chapter of Consortium of Pepper Growers Organisation told. “The Finance Ministry has to change pepper from the present classification of ‘free’ item to ‘prohibited item’, and only then the Customs would be able to enforce the rule strictly,” he said. According to K K Vishwanath, the consortium’s co-ordinator, “as of now, imported pepper is adjudicated, and the stipulated officer will review the file and allow the import by levying a meagre fine of 10 per cent on the invoiced value much below the MIP andin the range of about Rs 250 and Rs 350 a kg. Exploiting this loophole, black pepper is still imported from different destinations unabated”.

The Statesman, Chandigarh
No move to withdraw free power to farmers: Captain

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ruled out any move to withdraw free power for agriculture. Addressing the farming community at a programme to issue debt waiver certificates at Nakodar, the CM said the Shiromani Akali Dal is spreading brazen lies and indulging in blatantly false propaganda against his government on the issue of tubewell meters. Ruling out any proposal to withdraw free power for farmers, Amarinder said his government had only provided meters to 900 of the 13.5 lakh tube wells in the state as part of a research project aimed at saving groundwater while ensuring that the farmers also get an incentive in the form of cash savings for their personal use. He further explained this by pointing out that if a farmer is given Rs 10,000 against his tubewell power consumption and ends up spending Rs 7000 then not only will the remaining Rs 3000 go into his pocket but he will also contribute to saving the declining groundwater level in the state. The Akalis were trying to create misconceptions in the mind of the people by making false allegations against the Congress over the issue, said Amarinder, asserting that there was no question of anyone making money from these meters. The CM said he was totally committed to implementing the promise of debt waiver, which he had made ahead of the Assembly elections after hearing of farmer suicides in every place he visited. He distributed debt waiver certificates amounting to Rs. 162.16 Crore to 29,192 farmers at the Dana Mandi in the second stage of waiver of loans for the state’s 10.25 lakh small and marginal farmers. Eligible farmers from the five districts of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Ludhiana, Fazilka and Ferozepur got their loan waiver certificates. In the third stage, another 50,000 farmers will get their debt waiver certificates in the Majha area, said the CM.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Palm oil imports seen climbing on demand

India’s palm oil imports probably advanced in February as rising demand before the summer season outweighed higher prices. Imports in the world’s biggest buyer climbed about 8 per cent to 795,000 metric tonnes from a year earlier, according to the median of four estimates in a Bloomberg survey of processors, brokers and analysts. Total vegetable oil purchases decreased 5.4 per cent to 1.2 million tonnes. The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India is likely to release monthly trade numbers this week. Palm oil prices on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives rose 2.7 per cent in February, after falling for three straight months on higher stockpiles, muted demand from key buyers and expectations of a surge in supply later in the year. Palm has fallen 5.7 per cent this month after India increased import duties. Still, prices in India are about $25-$30 a tonne lower than imports, prompting some buyers to delay shipments for about 15 days, Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive officer of Sunvin Group, a Mumbai-based broker and consultant for the oilseeds industry. February palm oil imports seen climbing on strong summer season demand Soybean oil purchases dipped about 23 per cent to 193,500 tonnes in February, the survey showed. India buys soybean oil mainly from the US, Brazil and Argentina. Sunflower oil imports fell around 7.4 per cent to 194,000 tonnes. Canola oil imports were seen at 19,000 tonnes.

Business Line, Kochi
Pepper output likely to fall

India’s pepper production during 2017-18 season is likely to be much below the projections made earlier due to unfavourable weather conditions in the main growing States of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Growers estimated the total output during the current season at between 55,000 and 59,000 tonnes. Exporters have projected the total production at 70,000 tonnes, while the Spice Board’s projection, at the recent International Pepper Community Session late last year, was at 64,000 tonnes. K K Vishwanath, Coordinator, Consortium of Pepper Growers Organisation, which constitutes 14 prominent grower bodies from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu serving the farming community told that the total output in Karnataka will be around 30,000 tonnes. He has attributed the decline to drought conditions that prevailed last year. The total production, he claimed, might touch 55,000 tonnes.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Pesticide Management Bill fails to address active regulation PAN

Pesticide Management Bill 2017 is not comprehensive enough to address the multitude of concerns about pesticides in India, according to toxicity watchdog Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India. India is one of the world’s largest food producers and the fourth largest global producer of pesticides with an estimated market size of around $4.9 billion in FY17 after United States, Japan and China. Deaths of farmers due to pesticide poisoning in Maharashtra grabbed public attention in 2017, with the state government banning five pesticides in October, including an organophosphate chemical called monocrotophos. The Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare made the draft bill available to stakeholders and public during the second half of February 2018 and sought comments within 15 days. D Narasimha Reddy, director of PAN India says, “This draft 2017 bill is almost similar to the 2008 version, which was rejected by farmers groups. The core principle of active regulation is missing in this draft, even while it ignores the need for price control, knowledge-based, participatory and sustained monitoring of toxicity and impacts. It merely lays down steps of registration that transition from paper-based procedure to digital system, without adding any facilitating provision for transparency, consultative and sharing mechanisms.” Process of registration and review of pesticides must have to undergo a comprehensive public health risk and environmental risk assessments, need assessment, efficiency assessment, assessment of alternatives, etc. as per the respective guidelines. “Pesticide Management Bill 2017 is not inclusive and does not take cognizance of horrible experiences of Indian farmers and general people who are impacted by the toxicity, which is growing in tandem with the profits. Indian government representation in international conventions such as Rotterdam and Stockholm is at best based on adhocism. The proposed Central Pesticides Board does not have any function that links it to this process,” Jayakumar Chelaton, director of PAN India said.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Price-cut move may force us out of cottonseed: manufacturers

Seed makers have raised the issue of non-viability of cottonseeds in the midst of shrinking prices. Following the government’s latest announcement to cut down cottonseed prices, seed players are contemplating alternative crops instead. Seed makers claim that the reduction in prices will impact their margins and force them to move away from cottonseed production. According to seed producers, the cost of production involves farmer’s share, labour and research costs, besides logistics and distribution channel expenses. Ahmedabad-based Navbharat Seeds Pvt Ltd – a cottonseed maker – believes that the reduced margins will prompt them to shift focus from cottonseed production to other crops such as castor and vegetables. “The overheads and costs for seed production have been going up for past 4-5 years. And this is the second time the government has cut down the prices, which has further reduced the margins. This is demotivating for seed companies, and many will consider pruning down the production of cotton seeds and focus on other crops,” said Vinay Dhanavat, from Navbharat Seeds. Also, the seed companies have raised questions on the over dependence of foreign technology for Bt seeds. N P Patel, the promoter of Gujarat-based Western Agri Seeds, expressed concerns over excessive dependence on foreign technology for domestic seed production. “The government needs to encourage research for new gene technology. The current Bollgard-2 has failed as we have seen pink bollworm attack in multiple states. If the government wants to control the price at both ends of the cotton value chain, then it must be done by direct transfer of subsidy to the farmers. The companies can’t survive on thin margins,” said Patel, adding that companies facing losses in cottonseeds will not produce seeds in the next season. As per an estimate, overall cottonseed consumption stands at about 45-50 millon pouches, of which, Gujarat alone consumes about 10-11 million pouches.

The Statesman, Chandigarh
Punjab farmer unions threaten indefinite stir

Even as Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh promised total implementation of his party’s election promise on farm debt waiver, the state’s farmer unions have termed the move a ploy to cheat them and warned of an indefinite protest from 22 March in Chandigarh. The state Assembly’s budget session starts from 20 March. The farmer leaders alleged that the promises being made by the state government on loan waiver have remained just on paper. They said that neither the Union government nor the state government has been able to implement total farm loan waiver. “The Punjab government is making an eyewash by announcing first and second phase of farmer loan waivers. The claims are just on paper while the ground reality is something else. We are gathering in Chandigarh on 22 March to highlight state government’s failures on farm loan waiver. Even the Union government has failed to do so. The government had promised to implement the Swaminathan commission’s report in its election manifesto which yielded no results till date,” Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU-Rajewal), president, Balbir Singh Rajewal told. On the other hand, BKU (Ekta) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokari said they will start the agitation in Chandigarh from 3 April while showing unhappiness towards the state government’s move on farm loan waiver. “We are giving time to the state government to take a solid step during the upcoming budget session. The steps being taken by the state government on farm loan waiver are insufficient and just on paper. Over three lakh debt ridden farmers have committed suicide in the country”, he said. The major unions participating in the nationwide protests are BKU (Ugrahan), BKU Ekta (Dakonda) and BKU (Krantikari). The Punjab government’s farm loan waiver scheme in its first phase envisages waiving loans of marginal farmers, having land up to 2.5 acres with a loan up to Rs 2 lakh.

Business Line, New Delhi
To hasten implementation, Centre mulls two-part farm export policy

The Commerce Ministry is examining the possibility of coming up with an early edition of the proposed Agriculture Export Policy with measures to stabilise exports and imports — such as minimising export restrictions instead of waiting for approvals for the financial component of the proposal. “Since consultations with stakeholders for financial measures take a lot of time, one line of thought in the Ministry is that we leave that for later and put out a draft only on the non-financial component. “A final call on the matter will be taken by the Commerce Minister,” a government official has said. Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu had earlier indicated that his Ministry will put up the draft Agriculture Export Policy online at the earliest so that all stakeholders can give their comments on the matter. This would ensure the final policy includes the best suggestions. “If it is decided that the policy will be segregated into two, we will waste no time in circulating the draft of the first part of the policy that will not contain fiscal measures. The idea is to do all that we can as soon as possible,” the official said. Once the financial measures get the nod from all the relevant departments and ministries, the second part of the policy could be announced, he added. Some in the Ministry feel an Agriculture Export Policy without any fiscal announcements will not be very attractive and the government should wait to announce the entire policy as a whole. However, other officials argue that there are some reforms that do not need any expenditure but can result in gains if implemented well. For instance, the government is actively looking at doing away with imposing export restrictions in the form of minimum export prices (MEP) for non-essential items such as onions, tomatoes and potatoes.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Urea subsidy to continue

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) okayed continuation of urea subsidy scheme from 2017 to 2020 at a cost of around Rs 1,64,935 crore. The approval came at a meeting chaired by PM Narendra Modi. Implementation of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) for disbursement of fertiliser subsidy was also approved. The continuation of the urea subsidy scheme will ensure that adequate quantity of urea is made available to farmers at controlled price. Implementation of the DBT in fertiliser sector would reduce diversion and plug leakages, an official statement said. The Department of Fertilisers is in process to roll out DBT in this sector nationwide. It would entail 100% payment to fertiliser companies on sales to farmers at subsidised rates. Urea subsidy is part of a scheme of the Fertilisers Department. It is wholly financed by the Centre.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Winter Rains Scanty, Reservoir Levels Drop

A winter rain shortfall of 63% in January and February across India has led to reservoir levels dropping in the major river basins of the Sabarmati, Kaveri and Tapi. While agriculture ministry officials said this will not impact the rabi crop significantly, farmers in Gujarat--where water level in the Sardar Sarovar dam is below normal--are worried about cotton sowing. “In the current situation, there is deficient water in the country’s reservoirs—11% less than a year ago and 9% less as per the 10-year average. States need to show prudence in water management,” said S Masood Husain, chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC), which keeps tabs on 91 major reservoirs that feed hydropower plants and irrigate fields. It may be too early to assess the impact on the summer crop as pre-monsoon showers between March and May could help redeem the situation. India Meteorological Department (IMD) director general KJ Ramesh told that it was “too early” for any kind of prediction about the June-September monsoon. Some influencing factors, however, are taking shape. Australia’s national weather office on Tuesday said that La Nina had officially ended and Pacific Ocean surface temperatures were rising. El Nino, associated with warming of the Pacific Ocean surface, is regarded as being detrimental to the southwest monsoon in India. According to Indian weather forecasters, La Nina is to continue for a few more months before it becomes neutral and allow for formation of El Nino. La Nina is associated with cooling of the surface. “Things are looking fine as of now,” said DS Pai, director for long-range forecasts at IMD. “Some models are predicting formation of El Nino in the second half but it will be neutral, and is unlikely to impact the southwest monsoon.” The hot, dry spell in parts of the country has got some farmers worried through.

15, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
‘Secondary agriculture can enhance farm income’

Creating avenues for farmers to utilise their idle resources, such as spare time and fallow land to add value to their primary produce, could help augment their income, according to a new report prepared by a top-level government committee constituted to double farm income by 2022. A farmer’s yield need not be merely a measure of output per area, but income returns per man-day. To make this happen, the primary activities may not be enough, but a farmer should be able to make use of the resources available to him for the next level or secondary stage activities, it said. Agricultural production is not the sole output from the rural economy. Agriculture, in turn, leads to other near-farm and non-farm economic activities in the rural landscape. The overall wellbeing of the rural population, therefore, depends on agriculture as a primary sector, and various associated secondary and tertiary sector activities that either support agriculture or are supported by agriculture. “Since a large section of manufacturing activity relies on agriculture as a resource base, the near-farm activities to feed such industry can be developed in the hands of farmers to add to their ability to capture greater value as suppliers to such industry,” said the report prepared by the Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI) committee headed by Ashok Dalwai, CEO, National Rainfed Area Authority. Terming it “Secondary Agriculture”, the report cited a number of activities as examples. A cotton-ginning unit, which separates lint and seed or a cashew processing unit that shells, salts packages the cashew sourced from local growers, for instance, could be good examples of secondary agricultural activities, it said. Farmers can also engage in lac cultivation, mushroom cultivation and bee keeping, besides exploring the potential of agricultural tourism, the report said, citing case studies from different parts of the country.

Mint, New Delhi
Bt cotton seed price cut to Rs740 per packet

In a move that will benefit over eight million cotton growers in India, the agriculture ministry slashed the price of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds to Rs 740 per packet from Rs 800 per packet earlier. The ministry also reduced the trait or royalty fees payable by domestic firms to technology developer Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt. Ltd to Rs39 per packet from Rs49 earlier. A packet of Bollgard II Bt cotton seeds weighs 450g. The new prices will come into effect from the forthcoming kharif crop season beginning in June. Last week, Mint reported on the likely government move to offer some respite to cotton farmers battered by repeated pest attacks and crop losses. The domestic seed industry pegs the losses arising out of the price cut at around Rs300 crore, as 50 million cotton seed packets are usually sold in a year. Falling margins in cotton seed production will definitely impact seed supply and availability for farmers, said Kalyan Goswami, director general of industry lobby National Seed Association of India. In March 2016, the agriculture ministry, on the recommendation of a nine-member panel, slashed prices to Rs800 per packet, compared with Rs830-1,000 charged earlier—and cut royalty fees sharply by over 70%. Last year, prices were kept unchanged. “Latest price cut and reduction in royalty fees is a huge setback for responsible research-based seed companies who will be demotivated to spend on R&D,” said Ashwani Yadav, executive director of Federation of Seed Industries of India, a lobby of research-focused seed firms. India approved genetically modified Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in 2002. Following the introduction of Bt cotton and its efficacy in resisting bollworm pest attacks, India became a leading exporter of cotton globally. However, in recent years, Bt cotton fields have seen repeated pest attacks and crop losses—in Punjab in 2015 and in Maharashtra last year.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Dir Horticulture flags off exposure tour of farmers

About 30 farmers were today flagged off on an exposure tour to Punjab from the office of Directorate of Horticulture, Jammu. The tour was flagged off by Director Horticulture, Jammu, Anuradha Gupta along with Kirtan Singh, Chief Horticulture Officer, Jammu and other senior officers of the department including HDO Khour, Sandeep Sharma. The tour has been organized by Department of Horticulture, Jammu district under MIDH scheme and ATMA scheme. Anuradha Gupta, while interacting with the farmers on the occasion, said that the tour has been organized for acquainting the farmers with modern techniques for Commercial Horticulture, emerging trends in horticulture farming and cultivation of different fruit trees on scientific lines. She impressed upon the farmers to interact with the scientists, experts and extension functionaries to get up to date methodology in cultivation of trees on scientific lines. She asked the farmers to enhance their technical skills in the field of Integrated Horticulture Farming and to adopt the advanced technology for cultivation of latest, hybrid and high yielding fruit trees. Giving details of the three-day tour, Kirtan Singh said that the group of 30 farmers from different blocks of Jammu district will visit Litchi and Mango orchards in Gurdaspur and Jalandhar districts of Punjab and also interact with local farmers. After that, farmers shall attend the training and guest lectures at Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana, regarding latest techniques being developed and implemented in subtropical horticulture farming. He said that three officials of the department including Horticulture Department Officer, Khour, Sandeep Sharma, are accompanying the farmers on the tour.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt plans air cargo support to boost farm exports: Prabhu

Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said that he has asked the Civil Aviation Ministry officials to prepare a plan for providing air cargo support to agricultural hubs to promote farm exports. The Commerce and Industry Minister, who also holds additional charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry, said that draft policy to increase agricultural exports is ready and is being circulated for inter-ministerial views. He said efforts would be made to provide air cargo support to the sector to promote exports of agri commodities. “I have asked officers [of Civil Aviation Ministry] to prepare a plan to provide this support with a view to fast-tracking the movement of farm commodities,” the Minister said.

The Financial Express, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala plan to lease Andhra Pradesh land for cashew fails

Kerala’s much-touted initiative to lease 50,000 acre for cashew cultivation in Andhra Pradesh for cashew processing industry in Kerala has drawn a blank. Because of acute shortage of raw cashew nuts (RCN), nearly 900 processing factories in Kerala are non-functional. “After the initial round of discussions in February 2017, Andhra Pradesh officials have been lukewarm about proceeding with the agreement,” Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan told. He was candid that “the plan is unlikely to work out.” Plan sponsored by the National Horticulture Mission was envisaged as a win-win situation for both states when the joint initiative was spelt out last year. Kerala, through its agency for expansion of cashew KSACC, would lease 50,000 acre in Andhra Pradesh at Rs 700 crore for five years to cultivate cashew nuts for the cashew processing industry in Kerala. For Andhra Pradesh, the potential job opportunity was the main attraction. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had expressed enthusiasm about the collaboration and especially about the 75 lakh man-days of employment that the project would create for Andhra farmers. According to sources in cashew industry, there was no dissonance between the two states as the detailed project report was prepared for rolling out the project from 2017-18 to 2021-22 in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam and the two Godavari districts. “As the procedures were on to train the farmers in AP in the procedures for growing the high-yielding cashew grafts, AP demanded that the harvested nuts could not be taken to the processing industry in Kerala. Instead, the growing state sought that the processing industry should migrate to AP and create more industrial jobs too. This was not acceptable to Kerala as the whole point of the collaboration was to feed the raw nut shortage in the cashew industry in Kerala,” chief executive of a cashew unit told on condition of anonymity.

The Times of India, Mumbai
Maha farmers left out of ’08 scheme to get waiver: CM

Farmers in Maharashtra who were left out of the 2008 loan waiver announced by the then government would be brought under the ambit of the last year’s scheme, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis told the Legislative Assembly. “Farmers who failed to repay loans during 2001-09 and could not avail the benefit of the 2008 loan waiver scheme will be included in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana — CSMSSY (announced in June last by the BJP-led government),” he said. Fadnavis was making a statement in the lower house on the outcome of the talks between the state government and leaders of farmers. He also said a list of farmers who could not repay their borrowings in 2016-17 would be reviewed, and steps would be taken to provide them a relief. “A committee will be formed for implementation of the CSMSSY ” he said. He said apart from crop loan, a term loan to the tune of Rs 1.5 lakh availed by farmers for the purpose of agro shade nets would be included in the 2017 loan waiver.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maharashtra govt bets big on export of fruits, vegetables

The Maharashtra government has taken a slew of measures to promote the export of fruits and vegetables. In the last three months, the state has shipped around 2761.41 tonne fruits and vegetables valued at Rs 2,655.34 lakh through various export facilitation centres set up by the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB). Maharashtra has exported mangoes, grapes, pomegranates, oranges, bananas, onion as well as vegetables such as lady finger, bitter gourd, drum sticks, green chillies among others to the European Union, Thailand, Netherlands, Doha, Bahrain and the US. Sunil Pawar, managing director of MSAMB, said that the marketing board has established 44 facilities across the state, which include cold storage units, pre-cooling units and ripening chambers to encourage exports. “At least 20 facilitation centres have been opened for fruits and vegetables and three centres for flower exports,” he said. According to Pawar, these centres are run on PPP mode by farmer producer companies, farmer groups, cooperative societies and agriculture produce market committees. The centres are also used for transportation of fruits and vegetables within the country. In the last three months, MSAMB has facilitated the sale of 796.10 tonne of agri products valued at Rs 188.11 lakh to Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bengaluru, he said, adding that these centres have generated employment for more than 1,900 people. With the mango season just beginning, MSAMB has set an export target of more than 52,000 tonne through these facilities. The first consignment of 12,000 kg of alphanso has already left for Italy and more exports are expected as the season progresses. Pawar said that last year around 52,000 tonne was exported to various countries, and as a good season is expected this year, a 15% rise is expected in mango exports. This year, total production is expected to touch 4 lakh tonne.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Plantation under JFM in Jonai RF making progress

The much-hyped afforestation policy formulated by the Department of Environment and Forests, which is being implemented in Poba Reserve Forest (RF) under Dhemaji Forest Division (Territorial), has reportedly made considerable progress since its inception. The Environment and Forest Department is taking up a plantation scheme under the Joint Forest Management (JFM) covering degraded portions of Poba Reserve Forest (RF) which falls under Jonai Forest Range in order to protect its greenery and natural ecosystem. Thus, the department has involved the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC)s and allotted them plantation work. It has involved the JFMCs at Abor Leku and Rigbi villages under JFM projects, which have achieved around 60 hectare plantation in the RF during the last two years. Forest Department sources informed that it has set a target to develop plantation in 150 hectare area under the JFM scheme covering degraded forest portions within a period of ten years. It has developed a one-hectare nursery at Leku Beat Office of Poba RF for the work and has been supplying seedlings of different species of trees to JFMCs, EDCs, NGOs and school children for plantation activities. The department also grants sanction under Entry Point Activity (EPA) head of the JFM scheme for construction of roads and bridges, community hall and provides mechanised weaving sets to JFMC members and fringe area villagers. Thus, Abor Leku village located along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh boundary has received an amount of Rs 18 lakh for construction of multipurpose community hall, while another such scheme for Rigbi village is still awaiting sanction. Meanwhile, the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) and Rashtriya Grameen Vikash Nidhi (RGVN) in collaboration with the Environment and Forest Department conducted a month-long skill development training programme on electrical house-wiring and mechanised weaving meant for JFMC members and rural entrepreneurs, who have been presented certificates after completion of the training.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Poor Crop, Falling Rates Hit Coffee

It may be a double whammy for the export-dependent coffee sector in the coming fiscal due to a slump in output and meltdown in global coffee prices. Robusta beans, which account for 70% of Indian coffee production, may hit a record low if growers are to be believed. The shortfall ranges from 20% to 40% in various regions of Karnataka, the biggest producer of the beverage, according to growers. Exporters are worried about the long-term impact of the low crop in the country. “Vietnam is trying to target Italy, one of our strongest markets. Till now, we have been able to prevent Vietnam from penetrating Italy in a big way,” said Ramesh Rajah, president of Coffee Exporters Association of India. “On an average, we can take the shortage to be about 20% in robusta. The arabica crop is also short but could be just sufficient,” said a major grower Marvin Rodrigues. The Coffee Board robusta estimate for 2017-18 is 2.47 lakh tonnes. But as per growers’ calculations, it could be around 2 lakh tonnes. This, along with weak world coffee prices, in anticipation of record output in Brazil, the largest producer, have put exporters on the back foot. “They are reluctant to take new orders afraid that sellers could demand higher prices as the crop is short,” said MP Devaiah, general manager of Allanasons, a major exporter. The higher export figure for the first two months in 2017 is from the shipments contracted earlier. From January 1 to February 27, 2018, exports stood at 60,117 tonnes, almost 19% higher from a year earlier. Crop arrival into the market tapered off after February. “We don’t know whether it is due to genuine shortage or if sellers are holding back,” said Ramesh Rajah. Global prices have turned southward with prediction of a record crop in Brazil.

The Hindu, Chennai
State mulling law on contract farming

This follows a revised text of the model law prepared by the Central government and sent to all the States recently. In December 2017, the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare sent the initial text of the legislation, called the Agricultural Produce & Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion & Facilitation) Act. After incorporating views from different sections, the Ministry, a few weeks ago, circulated a fresh text of the proposed law to all the States. Defining the concept of contract farming as a “pre-production season agreement between farmers (individually or collectively) and industry, the Union Ministry, in its communication, says the provisions of the proposed law have been aimed at “building a win-win framework” for the two principal parties. Once contracts are entered into between the parties, the risk of post-harvest market unpredictability will get transferred from the farmers to the industry. The contract will also enable greater partnership between the two parties with the latter professionally managing inputs, technology, pre- and post-harvest infrastructure and services, among others as per mutually agreed terms. The Union Agriculture Ministry is of the view that contract farming holds the potential of pooling of parcels of land belonging to small and marginal farmers by mobilising the owners into collective farming. The advantage of scales of economy can be harvested to benefit such farmers. Among the salient features of the model law is the constitution of an “appropriate and unbiased state level agency,” which will consist of officials, experts in agriculture, representatives of farmers and constituents of the industry such as food processors, seed processors, exporters, bulk buyers linked with retail chain and those engaged in the poultry/broiler sector. At the level of district or block or taluk, there will be a committee to have registration of contract farming sponsors or the industry.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Suzlon installs ‘largest’ wind turbine generator

Suzlon Group has announced installing the largest wind turbine generator ever manufactured in India with rotor diameter of 128 metres. The S128 wind turbine generator (WTG) is being offered in 2.6 MW to 2.8 MW variants and offers hub heights up to 140 metres. JP Chalasani, Group CEO, Suzlon Group, in a statement said: “The S128 wind turbine is going to be a revolutionary product. It has been our continuous effort to reduce the levelised cost of energy (LCoE) and we continue to invest in R&D with an aim to develop technologically advanced and innovative products.” “It is a proud moment for us to manufacture, install and commission the largest wind turbine generator in the country. With its reduced levelised cost of energy, cost effective design and superior performance S128 will unlock unviable sites and set new benchmarks in the Indian wind industry,” he said. Duncan Koerbel, Chief Technology Officer, Suzlon Energy, said: “Our focus is on developing efficient turbines that ensure higher ROI to our customers. The prototype of the S128 is delivering close to conventional fuel competitive Plant Load Factor (PLF).” “We are leveraging the S128 technology to further grow our portfolio to bring offshore size technology onshore to India and other developing markets,” Koerbel said.

The Assam Tribune, Dibrugarh
Tea industry stakeholders to work jointly

In order to get to the bottom of the wide range of problems of the plantation workers, Socio Educational Welfare Association (SEWA) with support from ‘Save the Children’ organized a consultation meeting with all the stakeholders of the tea industry in an effort to form a multi-actor working group to push for a healthy environment conducive to holistic growth of children and women in plantations. ‘Save the Children’, is an international organization, which works for the rights of the children across the globe. SEWA is a city-based non-governmental organization working in multi areas ranging from health, children, civic issues, nutrition, education, rights of children and women etc. The consultation meeting backed by ‘Save the Children’ was organized by SEWA at Hotel Tea County here. The consultation was attended by representatives from Bharatiya Chah Parishad (BCP), district administration, Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS), Assam Tea Tribes Students’ Association, Chah Jonogustiya Jatiya Mahasabha, BJP-affiliated Chah Morcha, Small Tea Growers, scholars from Dibrugarh University. Presentations on various issues plaguing the tea industry particularly pertaining to children, women and the workers like health, education, child labour, child marriage, drinking, gambling, domestic violence, trafficking and other issues were made by Titus Bhengra, HoD, Department of Political Science, DHSK College, Nabin Keot, secretary, ACMS, Dibrugarh branch, Gautam Borthakur, Faculty, Centre for Management Studies, Dibrugarh University, Dolly Prabha Kalita, Secretary, Bharatiya Chah Parishad, John Paul Tirkey, Programme Officer, SEWA and several others. All the speakers endorsed the need for collective effort. The consultation meeting was conducted jointly by litterateur Padma Shri Prahlad Chandra Tasa and Dr Sewali Borbora, Chairperson, District Child Welfare Committee as the panelist. Arfan Hussain, assistant general secretary and programme coordinator of SEWA anchored the proceedings.

14, March 2018
The Economic Times, New Delhi
Central Schemes Only Helping Rich Farmers, says BKS

The Centre’s schemes are helping only the rich farmers and the ones who deserve help don’t even qualify for loans, RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has told its parent organisation and the government. The farmers’ union expressed its unhappiness at a meeting of the highest decision-making body of RSS in Nagpur, even as farmers in Maharashtra held a long march to the state capital Mumbai to make the government listen to their demands. BKS, which has 20 lakh registered members, submitted a report on the general condition of farmers on the final day of a three-day high-level RSS meeting. It urged the Centre to directly transfer benefits under the proposed Operation Green scheme to the farmer, as is done for LPG subsidy, as otherwise only the rich farmers would benefit from it. It also asked the government to think twice before announcing any loan waiver because it was of little help to the deserving farmers. FM Arun Jaitley in his budget speech last month had announced a Rs 500-crore Operation Green scheme to enhance the production of tomato, onion and potatoes. All RSS-affiliated organisations were asked to present a report of their observations and details of the activities they conducted. Expressing concerns over growing rural distress and worsening of farmers’ situation, BKS said the government needed to implement the policies for farmers properly. Very few farmers get the right price for their produce and the calculation of MSP needs to be done “honestly”, the report said. A specific mention was of mustard crop — the harvest is already over but because of delayed procurement, farmers, particularly in Rajasthan, may have to sell their produce to traders at a price much lower than MSP. The organisation praised MP CM Shivraj Chouhan’s efforts to appease farmers, but raised doubts over the implementation of his schemes that might benefit traders more.

The Financial Express, Pune
Cotton production estimate slides to 362 bales for 2017-18: CAI

The Cotton Association of India (CAI) has lowered its estimated cotton production for the 2017-18 crop year to 362 lakh bales of 170 kg each from 367 lakh bales estimated in February. The lower production outlook is due to lower estimate of 2 lakh bales each for Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, while production in other states is estimated to be lower by 1 lakh bales of 170 kg each. The CAI has lowered its estimate mainly due to the crop damage triggered by severe pink bollworm infestation and the scarcity of water in some states. The projected balance sheet drawn by the CAI has estimated total cotton supply for the season at 412 lakh bales, which includes the opening stock of 30 lakh bales at the beginning of the season. CAI has retained estimated imports at 20 lakh bales as in the previous month. The CAI has estimated domestic consumption at 330 lakh bales, which is 10 lakh bales higher than that estimated in February. The increase in consumption estimate is on account of the fact that several new textile mills in Gujarat and other states have already started operations resulting in 35 lakh new spindles, Atul Ganatra, president, CAI said. The CAI has also estimated an increase in exports for the season from 55 lakh bales to 60 lakh bales because of surge in demand for Indian cotton and increase in ICE futures prices. The carry-over stock at the end of this season on September 30, 2018 is estimated to be 22 lakh bales which is lower by 20 lakh bales than the previous closing stock of 42 lakh bales estimated in the previous month.

The Tribune, Mumbai
Demands met, Maha stir called off

Maharashtra farmers, in Mumbai to gherao the state Assembly to press for their demands, called off their protest after a written assurance by the state government that their grievances would be addressed. Marching under the banner of the All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) for six days, the farmers descended on the country’s financial capital in the wee hours today. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis set up a six-member committee that began talks with a 12-member delegation of farmers. The latter put forth 13 demands. After deliberations, which lasted two hours, the CM announced that the farmers had called off their protest as the government had accepted all their demands. “Their main demand was the transfer of forest land to tribals who cultivate it." On the demand to complete pending irrigation projects in and around Nashik district, where most of the protesters hailed from, Fadnavis said: “We have promised to meet their demands in six months. A six-member committee, headed by the Chief Secretary, has been formed for the purpose.” The CM said tribals who furnished proof that they had been cultivating forest land before 2005 would be given the land title. In the evening, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil addressed farmers in the presence of CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. He said the government had accepted “all demands”. The farmers undertook the six-day-long march to press for a complete farm loan waiver and for implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations. It is unclear whether the government gave the protesters any assurance on these two demands. The Maharashtra Government had in June last year announced a cap of Rs 1.5 lakh for waiving crop loan. Though the waiver is pegged at Rs 34,000 crore, less than Rs 14,000 crore has been disbursed so far. "It's now the duty of the government to work towards fulfilling the farmers' demands," veteran social activist Anna Hazare said in a statement.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Farmers to get Rs 5-lakh life cover from June 2

The Rs 5-lakh free insurance scheme for farmers announced by Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao recently will be implemented from June 2 on the occasion of Telangana State Formation Day. Agriculture minister Pocharam Srinivas Reddy held a meeting with LIC officials to finalise the modalities for the scheme. The CM announced that there was no need for farmers to pay any premium to avail this scheme and the government itself will bear the premium on their behalf. As per revenue records purified by the state government recently, there are nearly 72 lakh farmers in the state. The families of deceased farmers will get Rs 5 lakh compensation in case of the death of a farmer covered under the scheme for any reason. Though the premium amount for each farmer is yet to be finali-sed, the government exp-ects it to be nearly Rs 1,000. With this, the government needs to spend around Rs 720 crore every year towards payment of premium on behalf of farmers. The funds required for the purpose will be allotted in the Budget 2018-19.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Loan waiver no solution, make farming viable: M S Swaminathan

From Mandsaur to Mumbai, farmer agitations have repeatedly invoked recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission to press their demands, including waiver of loans. Political leadership across states — Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Punjab — have come out with their versions of farm loan waivers to stop unrest among farmers from turning into an electoral backlash. Yet Professor M S Swaminathan, author of the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) which is better known as his panel, does not see farm loan waiver as a solution to challenges being faced by farmers. “The demand for loan waiver is indicative of non-viability of farm economics. Every step should be taken to make farming economically viable,” Swaminathan told from Chennai before chastising “short-term strategies” like loan waivers. “I am sorry to say that very simple and short-term strategies like loan waiver are adopted. Writing off the loan is not the best way to tackle the distress in the farming sector,” he said, adding, “loan waiver is only an easy way to get a new farm loan. But writing off does not guarantee repayment of the next loan unless farming is made viable.” “I am not against loan waiver. But loan waiver is not a solution to the problem. I am all for loan waiver if it is part of a strategy to revive the economic health of farming,” Swaminathan said, suggesting that “apart from writing off loans, the focus should be to ensure how the loan is repaid. For this, farming economics needs to be fixed.” The agriculture expert underlined the need for sustained attention towards technology, trade and training-related requirements of the sector to shield farmers from the grim situation they face.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha begins online farmer registrations to buy chana at MSP

The Maharashtra government has started online registration of farmers for the purchase of chana at the minimum support price (MSP). Chana prices have been sluggish and hovering between Rs 3,300 per quintal and Rs 3,500 per quintal in the market, while the MSP has been fixed at Rs 4,250 per quintal with a bonus of Rs 150 per quintal taking the total price to Rs 4,400 per quintal. The government has set up around 185 procurement centres in the state. The Centre has decided to procure some 3 lakh tonne chana under the Price Stabilistation Scheme ( PSS) from the state and begun the online registration process for farmers from last week onwards. Chana procurement is expected to continue till May 29. The Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) at Latur however said that the process has not begun yet in latur, a key pulse producing region. According to Lalitbhai Shah, chairman, Latur APMC, no official notification has come yet for bookings from farmers.

Business Standard, Mumbai,
Maharashtra farmers, across all crops, have much to complain about

Most agricultural commodities produced in Maharashtra are trading at much lower prices than earlier and, in many cases, is not remunerative enough for its farmers, currently on a public agitation for more favourable policies. The principal crops in the state are rice, jowar, bajra (both millets), wheat and various varieties of pulses. The state is also a major producer of oilseed — groundnut, sunflower, soybean. Among the cash crops are cotton, sugarcane and turmeric. Among vegetables, onions. There has been some improvement in prices of oilseed and gram after the central government increased their import duties. However, small and marginal farmers have generally not got much relief. The state's sugar production is estimated to increase from 4.2 million tonnes last year to 10.1 mt this year. However, sugarcane payment arrears to farmers had risen to Rs 23.7 billion as on end-February, from Rs 26.2 million last year at the same time, according to official data. With sugar prices falling, the situation will worsen. Onion is another commodity whose price falls when output rises. At the major Lasalgaon wholesale market near Nashik, it traded at Rs 7.6 a kg; poor quality was Rs 3 akg. A few months earlier, the price was Rs 35 a kg. The state's directorate of onion and garlic research has advised growers to store onions, to only sell when the supply season starts drying from May onward. Maharashtra produces a fourth of the nation's output. Cotton is another major crop where Maharashtra is the country's second largest producer. Output is estimated to be lower than last year, at 8.1 million bales of 170 kg each; last year's was 8.8 mn bales. The loss is due to pest attack; farmers say it has affected the genetically modified variety, too. And, though outout is down, farmers complain of lower realisation here, too.

The Telegraph, Darjeeling
Morcha to halt tea pluck

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated trade union for tea estate workers has decided to stop plucking of lucrative first flush tea leaves in the Darjeeling hills to protest the planters' failure to clear workers' bonus. Bharat Thakuri, the general secretary of the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union, said: "We had asked the management of respective tea gardens to clear last year's bonus by March 10 but only 14 of 87 hill estates have cleared the dues. We have, therefore, decided to stop plucking of green leaves in the hill gardens." The 87 gardens producing Darjeeling Tea had agreed to pay bonus at 19.75 per cent of the worker's earning of the 2016-17 financial year. The bonus is usually cleared before Puja but most gardens have only cleared 50 per cent of the amounts because of resumption of the Gorkhaland movement last year. The Morcha union has already enforced a ban on dispatch of made tea from the gardens. If green leaves are not plucked, there is every possibility of the crop getting damaged and the quality deteriorating. The 87 gardens produce around 8 million kg of made tea annually. However, production was less than 60 per cent last year because of the unrest. The first flush production has started in gardens at lower elevations but the peak season would begin from the third week of March and continue for around 45 days. Sandeep Mukherjee, the principal advisor to the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), said: "No management in senses would want to disturb the first flush. The management is not asking for any compensation and we are duty bound to pay the agreed amounts. We are only asking for some time as the industry is facing a severe economic crisis."

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Pest effect: Cotton body prunes crop size by 5 lakh bales

Lowering the crop projection, the Cotton Association of India (CAI) has reduced the output to 362 lakh bales for the crop year October 2017-September 2018, down 5 lakh bales from the February estimate of 367 lakh bales. “The CAI has lowered its cotton crop estimate mainly due to the crop damage on account of severe pink bollworm infestation in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and water scarcity in some States,” said Atul Ganatra, president, CAI, in a statement. “This lower production estimate of 5 lakh bales consists of 2 lakh bales each in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, while production in ‘other States’ is estimated to be down by 1 lakh bales,” Ganatra stated. The projected balance sheet drawn by the CAI estimates the total cotton supply for the season at 412 lakh bales, which includes the opening stock of 30 lakh bales and the imports, which the CAI has retained at 20 lakh bales as in the previous month. The domestic consumption is estimated at 330 lakh bales — higher by 10 lakh bales than estimated in February. The CAI has also estimated an increase in exports for the season from 55 lakh bales to 60 lakh bales because of a surge in demand for Indian cotton and increase in ICE futures prices. New York ICE Futures quoted at 84.19 cents for July 2018 contract. Indian cotton prices hovered at Rs 41,200 per candy. The carry-over stock at the end of this season on September 30, 2018, is estimated to be 22 lakh bales which is lower by 20 lakh bales over the previous closing stock of 42 lakh bales.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Slide in sugar stocks as prices slump

Shares of sugar companies have fallen by up to 75 per cent over the past year, due to a sharp fall in prices of the commodity in physical markets. Mills have been making distress sales since the beginning of the current season in October 2017 to clear farmers' cane payment arrears. A minimum storage limit and lack of export initiatives have been other problems in coping with overproduction. The share price of Riga Sugar is down 74 per cent to Rs 10.2 since its peak of Rs 39.9 in April last year. Simbhaoli Sugar, Mawana Sugars and Dwarikesh Sugar have lost 66.8 per cent, 65 per cent and 64.6 per cent since their respective peaks last year. Industry leader Bajaj Hindusthan posted a 46.5 per cent decline in its share price as of Monday, at Rs 10.08. Shree Renuka Sugars has lost 31.2 per cent in stock value to Rs 15.4. Record cane yields in Maharashtra and north Karnataka have boosted output estimates for sugar and depressed prices. "Sugar output is expected to remain surplus even in next season. Government needs to allow export of 1.5 million tonnes of white sugar for the current season and over four mt of raw sugar for the next one," said Abinash Verma, director-general, Indian Sugar Mills Association. Industry body's estimate of India output was 25.1 million tonnes of sugar at the start of the crushing season, revised to 26.1 mt in February and to 29.5 mt this month. In 2016-17, country's sugar production was 20.3 mt. Estimated domestic consumption is about 25 mt. There is also four mt of carryover stock from the previous season. "This means five mt of surplus sugar is expected (at the start of) next year as well. This needs to be reduced by all means for survival of the industry and smooth payment to cane farmers," said an industry veteran.

The New Indian Express,Chennai
Southern Rly welcomes visitors to expo with free organic fertilizer

An eco-friendly gift is what awaits visitors at the railway exhibition stall at Island Grounds in Chennai. The Southern Railway, which has introduced integrated solid waste disposal system at the Golden Rock Central Workshop in Tiruchy by converting waste into energy sources such as organic fertilizers and alternative fuels, is gifting 500 grams of organic fertilizer produced at the workshop to the visitors of the expo. Every visitor is given a cotton bag, which contained 500 grams of organic fertilizer that can be used for raising plants in pots. The fertilizer is a by-product of the integrated solid waste management solution introduced at the workshop recently for disposing of solid wastes collected from various railway premises, including residential areas, stations, hospitals and offices. The waste management involves organic waste treatment, through which solid wastes are converted into energy products in two stages - vermi-composting and briquette. The vermi-composting yard will collect biodegradable waste, after segregating solid waste from the source. “Dry leaves, waste papers, coffee or tea powder goes into the compost yard. To avoid bad odour and to quicken composting, we spray microorganisms every day for 15 to 20 days. Worms were put into the composting bin then and water sprayed for 15 days to get the fertilizer from the top layer of yard,” said an official. The workshop produced 50 kg of fertilizer from the waste collected per week. In addition, another energy-efficient briquette has also been made using waste papers collected from railway offices. “The soaking of waste papers requires minimum of 24 hours. Then slight pulping is needed to make it into a slurry. After screening it to remove the excess water, the product should be kept in sunlight for seven days, which produces the stove fuel. It can be used as an alternative fuel in boiler,” added officers.

The Economic Times, Pune
Trade Wants Complete Ban on Pulses Imports as Glut Hits Prices

With prices of most pulses ruling below the minimum support price levels, processors and traders have demanded the government to stop even the restricted imports by end of March. India has imposed a quota of 5 million tonnes on annual import of pulses, which if not terminated, will add to the already mounting stocks in the country. “We have requested the central government to immediately terminate the quota of 5 million tonne pulses import before the end of March,” said Suresh Aggarwal, a leading processor of pulses. A delegation of the industry representatives met Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan requesting him to not allow import of another 5 million tonne pulses beginning April, 2018. Domestic prices of most pulses such as tur, moong and chana, which are being currently harvested, are ruling below the MSP levels, leading to continuing farmer unrest in the growing areas. In August 2017, the government restricted import of tur, moong and urad. The free import of tur, moong and urad has been restricted by imposing quota of 2 million tonne import on tur and 3 million tonne on moong and urad taken together. Export of pulses, which was not allowed for more than a decade, was also freed up last year. However, both measures did not help much to support domestic prices.

13, March 2018
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Govt to use MNREGS, soft loans to build 22k agricultural markets

The government will use a mixed funding pattern involving the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) and subsidised loans to develop 22,000 agricultural markets as part of its strategy to fulfil one of the key rural initiatives spelt out in the Union budget. These new markets, essentially village ‘haats’, will serve as aggregation points and increase the number of selling points where farmers can bring their produce with minimal rules. The aim is to provide an alternative to rigged farm-to-fork supply chains that drive down farmers’ profits. It was reported on March 12 that the agriculture ministry and the finance ministry-administered National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) have both pitched proposals with differing approaches to set up these markets. While Nabard proposed loans at subsidised interest to panchayats and sought Rs 360 crore for the purpose, the agriculture ministry wanted to utilise money available under existing schemes to partially fund the project. A part of the fund will also be used to modernise the middlemen-controlled agricultural produce market committees (APMCs). The new markets are expected to be kept outside the APMC system in a bid to liberalise farm trade. “There are no differences. We will now send a revised proposal that will take a convergence approach,” M Thangaraj, the agriculture ministry’s joint agricultural marketing advisor, said. The “convergence” approach provides for the merger of proposals touted by both Nabard and the agriculture ministry, and the establishment of a mixed funding pattern. Part of the funds will be drawn from MNREGS provisions. According to initial projections, each market will need Rs 20 lakh. In most of these, half the amount will come as soft loans to panchayats. In markets where some facilities have already been built, the loan amount will be Rs 7.5 lakh. The remaining funding will come from 17 different components of central sector schemes.

Live Mint, New Delhi
India cuts Bt cotton seed prices to Rs740 per packet

In a move that will benefit over 8 million cotton growers in India, the agriculture ministry slashed the price of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds to Rs740 per packet from Rs800 per packet earlier. Alongside, the ministry also reduced the trait or royalty fees payable by domestic companies to technology developer Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (India) Ltd to Rs39 per packet from Rs49 earlier. A packet of Bollgard II Bt cotton seeds weigh 450 grams. The new prices will come into effect from the upcoming Kharif crop season beginning in June. Last week, it was reported on the likely government move to offer some respite to cotton farmers battered by repeated pest attacks and crop losses. The domestic seed industry pegs the losses arising out of the price cut at around Rs300 crore, as 50 million cotton seed packets are usually sold in a year. The falling margins in cotton seed production will definitely impact seed supply and availability for farmers, said Kalyan Goswami, director general of industry lobby National Seed Association of India. In March 2016, the agriculture ministry, on the recommendation of a nine-member panel, slashed prices to Rs800 per packet, compared with Rs830-1,000 charged earlier—and cut royalty fees sharply by over 70%. Last year, prices were kept unchanged. India approved the genetically modified Bt cotton technology for commercial cultivation in 2002. Following the introduction of Bt cotton and its efficacy in resisting bollworm pest attacks, India became a leading exporter of cotton globally. However, in recent years, Bt cotton fields have seen repeated pest attacks and crop losses—in Punjab in 2015 and in Maharashtra last year.

Millennium Post, Mumbai
50,000 farmers reach Mumbai for debt waiver

After walking with blistered feet for about 180 km in the blazing sun over the last five days, between 35,000 and 50,000 farmers from Maharashtra's Nashik district have entered the capital city. They camped at the Thane-Mumbai border before heading for the KJ Somaiya Ground in Sion. The traffic police say they are prepared and have also issued a traffic advisory to avoid jams in the city. Elaborate security arrangements are also in place, police said. The adivasis, who have joined the movement in huge numbers, say it is a matter of life and death. Ashok Dhawle, president of the AIKS, said they met Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan who had assured them that he would take their demands to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray also met with the farmers. Some of the demands of the farmers include a complete farm loan waiver, transfer of forest land to tillers, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre to farmers hit by hailstorm and pink bollworm, and putting a stop to sharing the state's water with Gujarat. Apart from middle-aged farmers and youngsters, a large number of women and senior citizens are part of the march.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Central team reviews agriculture schemes in Mangaldai

A high-level Central team is currently in Assam to review the progress of different centrally-sponsored agricultural programmes, including the National Food Safety Mission (NFSM) in various districts of the State. The six-member team headed by Dr K Manoharan, Director of the Jute Development Corporation, Kolkata and Dr R Bhagawati, Chief Scientist of Paddy Research Centre at Gerua in Kamrup (Rural) district, visited the farmers’ fields who are involved in hybrid maize and summer paddy cultivation in Darrang district. While visiting the field of the community farming of around 75 hectares wherein 190 local farmers are involved in modern farming at Rangamati under Banglagarh Agriculture Circle of the Agriculture Department, they interacted with the farmers to know their grievances regarding technical support provided by the department in order to boost their income.The farmers explained before the Central team that they have received adequate support from the authorities concerned to double their income. “In fact, the agriculture officials have been providing high-quality seeds and proper scientific inputs to us for which the production of maize and paddy has been satisfactory,” the farmers’ opined during the brief interaction. The team members assured the farmers of all necessary support from the government side to improve their production. The team also visited the cultivation of summer paddy at Bhaluk khowapara village in which around 110 farmers are cultivating paddy. They also appreciated the programme implementation system and maintenance of all the data and information maintained by the district agriculture Office. A team of the District Agriculture Office led by District Agriculture Officer Nila Kanta Deka and Agriculture Development Officer Deba Kumar Sarma accompanied the visiting team. Earlier, the visiting team held a discussion with all the officers of the District Agriculture Office and took stock of the progress in the agricultural sector in Darrang district.

The Tribune, New Delhi
In Palwal, govt yet to procure mustard

Government agencies are yet to procure sarson (mustard), forcing farmers to sell the crop below the MSP to private companies. “I brought 50 quintals of mustard to Hathin mandi here, hoping to fetch Rs 4,000 per quintal (MSP). I have been waiting for three days, but no government agency has come forward to buy the crop,” said Ramesh of Kondal village in Hathin subdivision. He said he would have to sell the crop for Rs3,500 to Rs3,600 offered by private buyers as it could not be kept in the open for long. Another farmer Sunder from Gahlab village said he had sold his crop for Rs3,550 on Friday. About 340 quintals of “sarson” were brought to Palwal mandi on Saturday, while nearly 1,700 quintals arrived at Hodal mandi. Till Saturday, the arrival at Hathin was about 1,000 quintals. Dayal Sharan Zaildar, former chairman of the Palwal market committee, claimed Hafed and Nafed were unlikely to procure sarson. “Farmers will have to sell their crop at a rate offered by private buyers in view of the absence of government agencies. The first lot of wheat crop that arrived at Hathin mandi on Saturday was sold for Rs1,625 per quintal against the MSP of Rs1,735,” he said. Local MLA Karan Dalal said official agencies would be directed to procure the crop only after private agencies had purchased the stock. “I have moved a calling attention motion in the Assembly on the matter,” he added. A spokesperson for the district administration admitted only private buyers had been procuring the crop till now. “Official procurement orders are likely to be issued soon,” he said.

The Tribune, Fatehgarh Sahib
Rice millers resent shortage of staff, space at FCI depots

Rice millers in Punjab are likely to face huge financial loss due to the failure of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to depute sufficient technical staff to inspect the quality of the milled rice and to provide space to store it in FCI depots. The last day as per the agreement with the procurement agencies to deliver the milled rice — March 31 — is nearing, said Nakesh Jindal, press secretary of the Rice Millers Association. He said that rice millers have a written agreement with procurement agencies that the paddy stored in their mills would be milled and the rice would be delivered to the FCI by March 31. If the miller fails to deliver the rice, he would have to pay heavy penalty. He said that there was an acute shortage of technical staff and space with the FCI. On the other hand, the millers have milled the paddy and the rice is lying in the mills. But due to shortage of technical staff and space, the FCI has accepted few consignments. He warned that if any miller is fined, the FCI would be held responsible. He urged the higher authorities to immediately sort out the problem.

Business Line, New Delhi
Trapping insects in stored grain

S Mohan, Professor of Agricultural Entomology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), developed an insect monitoring device in the mid-90s for cleaning worms in a bag of stored grains. There were few takers back then, but two decades later, when some French nationals visited the TNAU in December last year and purchased 25 units of the insect probe trap to monitor insect pests in stored corn, the locals too started showing interest in the device. The device, which is one foot in size, is made of stainless steel and consists of three parts — a main tube, an insect trapping tube and detachable plastic cone at the bottom. When insects creep towards the air, they make their way through the small holes in the device and fall into the detachable cone at the bottom. The cone can be unscrewed and cleaned once a week or so. The device runs without power and the maintenance cost is nil. According to the Professor, two units of the device are needed for a bag containing 25 kg of grains, and every household could have one or two units. The device costs ₹100.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Hooda hits out at CM

Former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda alleged the BJP government was not providing the MSP on mustard. He alleged mustard crop was being purchased for between Rs 3,200 and Rs 3,400 per quintal though the MSP was Rs 4,000. He alleged that in the Panipat grain market, the crop had been purchased for Rs 2,900. “Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar gave an assurance in the Assembly that mustard would be purchased at the MSP, but the scenario is different in grain markets,” Hooda added.

Business Line, New Delhi
Cottonseed companies against price cuts

The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) does not want the Centre to reduce the price of cottonseed for the upcoming kharif season. Any reduction in price could lead to a severe shortage, it said. Earlier, a committee set by the Centre recommended reduction in the Bollgard-II cottonseed price to ₹740 on a packet of 450 gram — a drop of ₹60. The NSAI wrote a letter to the secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Shobhana Kumar Pattanayak, stating “We request you to increase the seed value of Bollgard-II cottonseeds considering the increase in costs.” Cottonseed prices have been declining in the past few years. However, the fuel, labour, chemical and supply chain costs have been increasing sharply. This, in turn, has squeezed the margins of most seed makers. For instance, the minimum wages for labour went up to ₹342 in 2017 from ₹176, resulting in increase in the cost of production.

Business Line, New Delhi
Dip in robusta production to hit coffee

Coffee production is expected to fall below 3 lakh tonnes for the crop year 2017-18 ending September, due to decline in production of robusta in the top two States, Karnataka and Kerala. Consecutive droughts and erratic rainfall last year have impacted the production of robusta variety. “In most of the regions, growers have harvested only 40 per cent of the crop,” said Pramod HT, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association.

12, March 2018
The Hindu, New Delhi
Farmers worried over dip in pepper price

A drastic fall in the price of black pepper price, coupled with low production owing to climate vagaries, has put farmers in Kerala and Karnataka – the two major pepper producing States in the country – in distress. The spot prices of pepper in Kerala’s Wayanad and Karnataka’s Coorg markets was Rs 360 a kg and Rs 350 a kg respectively as against Rs 570 and Rs 580 a kg respectively last year. The price in Kerala was Rs 490 a few weeks ago. “The influx of imported pepper from Vietnam via Sri Lanka was the major reason for the fall in prices in the Indian market,” M.C. Abdu of Ideal Spices, a pepper dealer in Wayanad told. The cheaper pepper from Vietnam continues to flood the market through Sri Lanka, aided by a low-duty structure under the ASEAN (Association of South-East Nations) trade agreement, SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) and ISFTA (Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement). Under SAFTA, India could import 2,500 tonnes of pepper a year from Sri Lanka without duty, and above the quota, a duty of 8% would be imposed as per the ISFTA, Mr. Abdu said. But direct pepper import from Vietnam attracts a duty of 52% under the ASEAN trade agreement. Close to 20,000 tonnes of Vietnam pepper was imported to India in a few months via Sri Lanka, and this was the major reason for the decline in price, he said. Since most of the pepper-producing countries are in the ASEAN region, there have been apprehensions of pepper from these countries being routed through Sri Lanka, taking advantage of the lower duty under SAFTA and ISFTA, he alleged.

Business Standard, New Delhi
More needed to curb GM soybean import

The Union Environment Ministry's directive to the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to stop any import of genetically modified (GM) soybean and seed without its approval could have limited impact unless curbs are also placed on the plant quarantine authority and the customs department, business sources said. Officials and industry sources said though import of soybean and soy seeds attract a high import duty of around 45 per cent, traders have over recent years been routing their consignments through African nations, particularly Ethiopia and Benin, to take advantage of a nil tariff on that avenue. India allows duty-free import of some commodities from a few African nations in the category of Least Development Countries. "In a year, around 80,000 tonnes of soybean and seed have been imported into India illegally through this method but just asking the DGFT to seek permission before allowing these won't solve the problem," a senior industry official said. India does not permit cultivation of GM soybean. Trade sources said that unless its import is checked, the seeds might pass on to farmers, who will then cultivate it. "Then, its proliferation can't be stopped," an official said. The new restriction will not impact soy oil import, already exempt from GM rules. India imports around 15 million tonnes of edible oils in the 2016-17 oil marketing year that ended in October. Of this, soybean oil was around 3.4 mt.

The Times of India, Mumbai
Mumbai on edge as 12,000 farmers reach its doorstep

Unmindful of the scorching heat, nearly 12,000 farmers scaled 180km over more than four days and landed at Mumbai’s doorstep, Thane. The farmers on Monday will troop into south Mumbai and gherao the Vidhan Bhavan to demand a complete loan waiver, remunerative prices for agricultural produce and implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations among others. The budget session is underway at the state legislature. While the Mumbai police have made elaborate security and traffic arrangements, citizens could experience some inconvenience along the morcha route, especially since HSC, SSC, CBSE (Class X as well as XII), ICSE and ISC exams are underway. “There are currently no instructions but students must take care to leave earlier than usual depending on the situation on Monday morning,” said Subhash Borse, in-charge secretary of the state board’s Mumbai division. The morcha caused massive snarls on roads connecting Thane and Mumbai to Nashik. Several vehicles, including an ambulance, were stuck in snarls for many hours. The organisers claimed that number of protestors had swollen to 34,000. The police however maintained that the number was 12,000.

The Sunday Standard, Thoothukudi
Thoothukudi chilli farmers bitter over poor crop yield, price fall

Gundu chilly farmers are an upset lot here as neither the yield nor the purchase price as quoted by the traders are as per their expectations. The farmers have urged the Tamil Nadu government to help tide over the crisis.Chilly cultivation is extensively carried out in Vilathikulam, Ottapidaram and Ettayapuram taluks in Thoothukudi district. According to officials, chilly cultivation is spread over 12,385 hectares as per the 2017-18 records, with 11,150 hectare in Vilathikulam and 831 hectare in Ottapidaram. There are two kinds of chilies - long and stout. The long chilly, otherwise called samba, is cultivated in irrigated areas whereas the stout one is raised at rainfed stretches. The farmers cultivate chillies either as an inter-crop in onion fields or as the main crop. Stout chilies are cultivated in Vilathikulam and Ettayapuram areas for its spicy taste and also for its good price. However, that’s not the case this time around. The cultivation of chillies, especially the stout one, had been largely affected due to weather condition and poor price quotation. The farmers, who cultivated chillies last October and September, had started harvesting for once a week from mid-February. However, the harvest left a bitter taste in the mouth of the farmers as they could reap only one quintal per acre, instead of the normal yield of four quintals. Agrarians say that poor rainfall and pervasive leaf curl disease is the reason for the poor yield. Sporadic rains during Northeast monsoon resulted in withering of plants. Also, poor showers and cold climate became conducive for pest attacks, mainly whitefly, which spread the leaf curl disease rapidly across the chilly fields, they added. Adding fuel to the fire, the traders too quote a very low price for the stout chilies. One quintal of chilli that sold for Rs 27,000 last year, is currently sold for only Rs 12,000.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Agri market reform hit by differences between farm ministry, Nabard

Two government arms have simultaneously pitched proposals to the finance ministry to develop 22,000 agricultural markets — critical rural infrastructure aimed at raising farmers’ incomes. Now, the two can’t agree on how to get going. These new markets, essentially village ‘haats’, are conceived as aggregation points for farmers with minimal rules. The aim is to provide an alternative to rigged farm-to-fork supply chains that drive down farmers’ profits. The agriculture ministry and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), administered by the finance ministry, have both offered to set up these markets. “But they aren’t exactly on the same page. In fact, the approaches are quite opposite and we need to determine a way out,” a government official said on condition of anonymity. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Narendra Modi government is seeking to address widespread farm distress caused by drought-induced crop failures and a decline in agricultural commodity prices in recent years. The proposed new markets are a part of the effort for which the latest budget created a Rs 2,000-crore agri-market infrastructure fund. A part of the fund could also be used to modernise the existing wholesale market network, the agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) controlled by middlemen, a legacy of the so-called licence raj. The new markets are proposed to be kept outside the APMC system in a bid to liberalise farm trade. The agriculture ministry has begun a national survey of these village markets strewn across states, which mostly operate on panchayat land. Nabard’s proposal is to give subsidised loans at 4.75% interest, for which it has sought an interest subvention grant of Rs 360 crore under the agri-market fund. It wants the states to guarantee these loans. The agriculture ministry’s proposal, which does not mention any of the costs, merely states that mechanisms are being explored to develop these markets, a second government official said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Work for ‘comprehensive justice’ to farmers, says House panel

A parliamentary panel has appreciated the government’s decision to fix minimum support price (MSP) of 22 crops at minimum one-and-a-half times the production cost but suggested the government consider its earlier recommendations so that farmers can get “comprehensive justice”. Those recommendations include need of region-wise MSP, broad-basing of data used by the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices (CACP) to fix support price and enhancement of farmers’ representation in this body. “The committee are of view that issue of fixation of MSP needs a comprehensive reorientation in order to ensure remunerative prices of agriculture produce,” said the parliamentary standing committee on agriculture, headed by BJP Lok Sabha MP Hukmdev Narayan Yadav and comprising of members from all major political parties. The committee’s report, tabled in Parliament last week, appeared to be fine with the A2+FL (actual paid out cost plus imputed value of unpaid family labour) formula for calculating cost of production for fixing MSP. It, however, flagged demands and suggestions from various stakeholders, including farmers and eminent scientist M S Swaminathan, to fix MSP using C2 formula which takes into account rental value of owned land and interest on fixed capital apart from A2+FL.

The Times of India, Coimbatore
Centre plans to make NEET mandatory for agri courses

This could be the last year for those aspiring for a seat in agricultural courses based on Class XII marks. According to academicians, the Centre is planning to make the National Entrance cum Eligibility Test (NEET) mandatory for admission to agricultural courses from 2019. In 2018, the Centre has included veterinary sciences along with medical and dental courses. Engineering courses will remain outside the purview of NEET in 2018, confirmed higher education minister K P Anbalagan. Vice-chancellor of Tamil Agricultural University K Ramasamy said 13 agricultural courses were considered professional. In Tamil Nadu, there are 14 constituent colleges and 24 affiliated colleges that offer agricultural courses. Currently, a common entrance test is conducted by the Centre for 15% of the seats in all colleges. Unlike the Medical Council of India (MCI), which is a statutory body, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is only a suggestive body and it can only propose, sources said. Parliament has to decide on this which is highly unlikely to happen this year. Of the total available 3,080 seats in Tamil Nadu in 2017, 1,220 were for constituent colleges and 1,860 for affiliated colleges. The number of seats was increased from 2,820 in 2016 to 3,080 in 2017 after 21 private colleges applied for more seat allotments. “The standing committee inspected these colleges and based on its report, the number of seats was increased,” he said. The number of seats is all set to increase as many colleges have applied for affiliation this year too. According to academicians, mandating NEET for agricultural courses has come as a cultural shock to parents and students of the state. “Currently, girls are doing much better as 67% seats allotted in arts and science, 87% in agriculture and 70% in medicine are girls. So, money spent on their education and parents will be the most affected as they would want their children to pursue higher education,” said a senior academician.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Now, Noida farmers demand loan waiver

Even as over 30,000 farmers reached Mumbai to press for their demand of a complete loan waiver from the Maharashtra government, farmers group Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, which represents the farmers’ community from the NCR, made a similar demand and pressed for a complete annulment of any pending dues against them. “We demand a complete nullification of all pending loans against farmers- be it for urea, seed or credit card loans- as the returns from agriculture have not been able to suffice for the farmers because of inadequate pricing of crops,” Dushyant Nagar, convenor of Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, said. Naagar further said that a meeting was held with the All India Kisan Mahasabha in Delhi where the Mumbai protests were discussed. “We have supported the Mumbai movement. Irrespective of the political banner, we are supporting the cause of the farmers there,” Naagar added. Explaining that the loan continues to affect the life of farmers in the country, Naagar said, “Presently, the farmers who are worst affected by the issue of loan, are in Madhya Pradesh. Loans are a major reason for suicide among farmers. The government should immediately announce a waiver.” The farmers in Mumbai are pressing for complete loan waiver, remunerative prices for agricultural produce and implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations. “These demands are representative of the farmers’ demands from all over the country. We have also written to the Prime Minister’s Office on these issues. We are all awaiting a resolution on these long pending issues,” Naagar added. According to Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, the official count of farmers who committed suicide in India between 2015-16 is 12,602. “We are awaiting the figures of 2017, but according to our estimates, the number of farmers suicide may have shot up,” Naagar added.

11, March 2018
Business Line, Mangaluru
‘Cluster approach is the key to expanding oil palm crop in Karnataka’

Cluster approach by growers will help in the expansion of oil palm crop in Karnataka, according to HS Shivakumar, Additional Director of Horticulture (Oil Palm Development Programme), Karnataka. In an informal chat on the sidelines of an interactive meeting with oil palm growers of Dakshina Kannada district at Puttur (55 km from Mangaluru) on Friday, he said Karnataka produces around 15,000 tonnes of fresh fruit bunches (FFBs) of oil palm from 10,400 hectares of land. Stressing the need for adopting cluster approach for expanding oil palm cultivation in the State, he said the districts such as Bagalkot, Vijayapura and Bidar have seen good increase in the area under oil palm cultivation in the last two-three years because of this approach. If the cultivation of this crop is given a boost under the cluster approach, it will help in the easy procurement and processing of FFBs in the processing units. (FFBs can not be used directly. Processing units are needed for the production of palm oil.) He said that three companies are assigned the task of collecting FFBs from farmers in the State. They procure FFBs from growers for every 15 days. Though the margin is less compared to other crops such as arecanut, oil palm assures regular income to the farmer. It is advisable for farmers to take up oil palm cultivation at least on a minimum of 1 acre of land, he said. Padmaraj J Vardhaman, Assistant General Manager of 3F Oil Palm Agrotech Pvt Ltd, said that his company was given the task of procuring oil palm in 13 districts of the State in April 2017. These districts are spread over northern and coastal Karnataka region.

Business Line, Hyderabad
‘Include tenant farmers under financial aid scheme’

The Telangana Rythu Sangham has said that no farmer should be excluded from the proposed financial assistance scheme announced by the State government. The association alleged that the government is trying to exclude tenant farmers and those practising ‘shifting cultivation’ from the purview of the scheme, which will be implemented from next kharif. The State has decided to give ₹4,000 each for kharif and rabi seasons for every acre a farmer owns to take care of input costs. It, however, excluded tenant farmers from the scheme. “About one-third of the 56 lakh land holdings will not be covered by the new scheme. There are about 14 lakh tenant farmers in the State who will be left out. They need financial assistance too as cost of production for them is higher than others,” Telangana Rythu Sangham Secretary T Sagar told. “The scheme is also not covering about one lakh farmers practising shifting cultivation. Besides, about 20,000 farmers are cultivating 50,000 acres are also not included,” he said.

Business Line, Mumbai
‘Indian farmers need support to face the vagaries of climate change’

Though India’s National Action Plans on climate change are effective blueprints to deal with the vagaries of weather, it is time for the private sector in India to find new ways of doing business, said a top executive from Ingersoll Rand. Global warming has taken centre stage, and it is estimated that $22.1 trillion to $41.6 trillion will be required between 2020 and 2050 to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to hold average global warming under two degrees Celsius. “Global warming is slowly but gradually making inroads across business verticals, with the first victim being the agri commodities sector,” says Randal Newton, Vice-President (Enterprise Engineering), Ingersoll Rand, a diversified industrial company. “Specifically to India, climate change could adversely affect farmer incomes by 20-25 per cent in the medium term, as also noted by the Economic Survey of India. This is amplified further by the current problems of water shortage and food spoilage,” he told. The need of the hour, according to Newton, “to counter farming uncertainties is to marry effective crop insurance, latest farming techniques, better logistic support, cold storages and transportation, to support farmers in facing the vagaries of climate change.” Newton was in the country to attend the World Sustainable Development Summit session, TERI’s flagship event and a platform to accelerate action towards sustainable development and climate change. Noting that the phenomenon of climate change is not limited to the Indian sub-continent alone, he says the pattern is already visible in other Asian and African countries. The average global temperature is thought to have increased by 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Extractors’ body wants import duty hiked on all edible oils

Expressing concerns on the country’s mounting dependence on imported edible oils, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA) has requested the Centre to hike the import duty on other edible oils — soft oils — in line with palm oil duty structure. Recently, the Centre had increased import duty on crude palm oil to 44 per cent from 30 per cent starting March 1, 2018. Import duty on refined bleached deodorised (RBD) palmolein was also hiked to 54 per cent from the earlier 40 per cent. Although, the trade body has welcomed the move, it also flagged the looming crisis for other edible oils, which will witness increased imports as a result of discouraged imports of palm oils. “We welcome increase in duties (for palm oils), (but) we are surprised at singling out palm oil only for the increase in duties. The current duty hike only for palm oil will rather encourage the import of other oils like rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and soyabean oil, which will be detrimental to the interest of the domestic farmers,” said Atul Chaturvedi, President, SEA, in his letter to the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Chaturvedi termed the singling out of palm oil for duty hike ‘unfair’ and defeating the objective of doubling farmers’ income by allowing value increase for domestic oils. In his request to the Centre, Chaturvedi raised the concerns of keeping farmers interested for oilseed cultivation amid challenges posed by the mounting imports. Meanwhile, Indonesia prefers bilateral talks over retaliation, the latter’s Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita told reporters today. “The Indian commerce and industry minister has asked me for a letter on the issue so that it would be discussed by the cabinet,” Lukita said.

The New Indian Express, Raipur
Farmers got benefits, but on paper

A third-party audit has exposed a “big fraud” in the distribution of subsidised equipment to poor farmers under schemes approved by the Chhattisgarh agriculture department. According to documents accessed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act by social activist Uchit Sharma, most of the farmers got the benefits only on paper. Huge subsidies and distribution of agriculture equipment under welfare schemes like Shakambari and Harit Kranti were broadly given under three categories, namely drip/sprinkler irrigation, agriculture equipment and irrigation pumps. The RTI application specifically sought information on two districts (Bilaspur and Kanker). Random verification of the information given in the documents by the audit team revealed that out of the 3,239 farmers contacted by them, 2,152 had been deprived of the subsidised equipment and facilities. However, the records showed that the equipment and benefits worth `30 crore had reached the farmers.“The benefits of the schemes and their huge subsidy amounts to the tune of over `30 crore, just from the two districts, were siphoned-off in collusion with the department officials,” said Uchit Sharma. However the authorities in the agriculture department shot down the findings of audit that had been done by agencies enlisted by the government. “Another physical verification process is being carried out. The earlier findings of the third-party audit were flawed and imperfect. We don’t accept that (earlier findings),” said Director, Agriculture, MS Kerketta. When asked who would be conducting the second physical verification process, Kerketta told, “Our own department staff.”The official’s response suggests that the department no longer trusts NABARD and two private agencies SRD Agro Private Limited and IR Class System & Solution Bhopal.

Business Line, Mumbai
Maharashtra allots Rs. 432 cr for drip irrigation

The Finance Minister of Maharashtra, Sudhir Mungantiwar, presented the State Budget for fiscal 2018-19 with a revenue deficit of Rs. 15,375 crore. The economic growth rate in the State is also huffing with 2.7 per cent expected dip for the current fiscal. Mungantiwar, while presenting his fourth budget for the Fadnavis government, said that during the year 2018-19, a revenue income of Rs. 2,85,968 crore and revenue expenditure of Rs. 3,01,343 crore is being projected. Consequently, there will be a revenue deficit, which the State government will try and minimise by reducing avoidable expenditure and effective recovery of revenue. In spite of the tight monetary situation, the State government has not withheld money for its pet project for reducing water scarcity and drip irrigation. Mungantiwar said that Jalayukt Shivar Abhiyan (JSA) is an ambitious project of the State government. The government considers this as an attempt to find a permanent solution to the recurring challenge of drought in the State. In the last two years, over 11,000 villages have become water-sufficient. For the year 2018-19, a special provision of Rs. 1,500 crore has been proposed for JSA, he said. Mungantiwar pointed out that drip system is the solution for effective utilisation of available water for irrigation. The area under drip irrigation has substantially increased using Israeli technology. A sum of Rs. 432 crore is being earmarked in 2018-19 for drip irrigation. Further, for the development of wells and farm ponds an amount of Rs. 160 crore is being provided. For the development of infrastructure and services at agriculture markets, Mungantiwar said that grain grading machines in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) of the State will be installed. A new scheme with a subsidy of 25 per cent will be implemented, and an outlay has been reserved in the 2018-19 budget.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Niti Aayog discusses three concepts on farm MSP

In the light of the Budget announcement to ensure the minimum support price (MSP) for different agricultural crops, three concepts, including procurement and stocking by private parties, were discussed at a consultative meeting held in the NITI Aayog. “The third option of private procurement and stockist scheme offers great promise as it reduces the fiscal implications for the government, involves private entities as partners in agriculture marketing and improves the competition in the market,” NITI Aayog said in a statement. The first option is related to the Market Assurance Scheme, which proposes procurement by states and compensation for losses up to a certain extent of the MSP after procurement and price realisation out of sale of procured produce. The second option is related to price deficiency procurement scheme. Under this scheme, if the sale price is below a modal price then the farmers may be compensated to the difference between MSP and actual price subject to a ceiling which may not exceed 25 per cent of the MSP. No compensation would be due if modal price in neighbouring states is above the minimum support price. The meeting was chaired by the aayog vice-chairman. Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat along with senior officers of the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Finance, NITI Aayog and Food and Public Distribution, Prime Minister’s Office and various state governments participated in the meeting. Shekhawat said in the statement that more than one options may be adopted by the States depending upon their conditions. The MSP for 24 agricultural commodities of kharif and rabi season are announced by the government based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices in the country. However, the Aayog noted that the procurement by central and state agencies is limited to rice and wheat and some amount of coarse cereals.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Renuka Sugars MD quits as Wilmar raises stake

Narendra Murkumbi, founder promoter of Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd (SRSL), has resigned as vice-chairman and managing director after foreign partner Wilmar International increased its stake in the company to 39 per cent from 27 per cent. Wilmar will now have to make an open offer at Rs 16.29 per share, 5 per cent higher than Friday’s closing price. Wilmar first picked up stake in Shree Renuka Sugars four years back at Rs 20.08 per share. The company’s board has accepted Murkumbi’s resignation. Murkumbi will continue to retain his post till the stipulated notice period of 90 days or completion of open offer by Wilmar, whichever is later. “On completion of these transactions and allotments, however, our stake would come down to 13.43 per cent,” Murkumbi told. As of December 31, 2017, Shree Renuka Sugars had a consolidated loan book of Rs 98.75 billion. The company is the largest sugar refiner in India and sells both packaged and loose sugar. In February 2014, Wilmar International Ltd announced the acquisition of 27.24 per cent equity shares in Shree Renuka Sugars at an investment of $83 million through its 100 per cent subsidiary Wilmar Sugar Holdings (WSH). Wilmar Sugar Holdings has announced a total investment of $200 million, including acquisition of additional stake and rights issue. The terms of agreement also gave Wilmar Sugar Holdings options to receive allotment of 481.84 million, 0.01 per cent, preferences shares at a price of Rs 16.27 per share, which can be converted into equity shares. Last month, the Competition Commission of India had approved the company’s acquisition of additional stake in Shree Renuka Sugars.

The Asian Age, Bhubaneswar
Retired teacher seeds organic farming in Odisha

A retired school teacher in Odisha has turned an icon for millions of farmers in the country and abroad for his passion to collect native variety of paddy seeds and encouraging peasant communities to undertake organic farming, not only to save huge money spent on buying high-cost chemical fertilisers and pesticides but for keeping good health. The 85-year-old teacher, Natabar Sarangi, so far collected over 647 varieties of paddy seeds from states like Odisha, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. Mr Sarangi’s tryst with native seeds collection began after his retirement in 1992 when he felt that the new agriculture practices followed since 1960s had dire effects on small farmers and the biodiversity of crops. “In 1960s, increase in crop yields was much-needed in India as the country always battled famine. However, the new agriculture practices had dire effects on small farmers and the biodiversity of crops. The high yields were the result of monocultures — planting just one cash crop each year and using irrigation techniques to grow crops even in the dry season using huge volumes of chemical fertiliser and chemical pesticides. Later, genetically-modified crops were introduced, endangering the already dwindling number of native plant species. Such a lack of biodiversity also made Indian farmers more susceptible to the effects of changing weather patterns,” says the teacher. Mr Sarangi adds that it’s not so important how many varieties of paddy seeds one has conserved, but seeds need to be conserved through regular agricultural practices for maintaining our rich biodiversity. “All these native varieties have got their own adaptability potentials. They can withstand different climatic conditions in the country. Farmers in India need to be taught how to use these seeds to guard themselves against famine, flood and other calamities, besides reaping rich harvests,” says the teacher.

9, March 2018
The Statesman, Shimla
Apple growers advised to use urea to combat CAN shortage

The agri-scientists of the Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni advised to use urea instead of Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) fertilizer to combat its shortage. Over the past few years, the apple growers of the state are facing a situation where the Calcium Ammonium Nitrate (CAN) fertilizer, commonly used in the apple is not available due to less production at most places. “Many apple growers are presently using Calcium Nitrate but the nitrogen content in it is a mere 15.5 per cent, which is far less than that in urea and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate. To fulfil the nitrogen requirement, every full-size tree requires around 4.5 kilograms of this fertilizer, which is a costly alternative to the above problem,” Dr JC Sharma, Head of UHF’s Soil Science and Water Management Department said. He said the Calcium Nitrate is a soluble fertilizer that is largely used in the poly-houses and in fertigation. Most apple growers, mostly use it in low volume (500-1,000 gram per plant) which is insufficient to meet the nitrogen requirement of the tree. “In the research conducted by the University, it has been found that urea can be used as a substitute for calcium ammonium nitrate. When used within recommended quantity and with correct application method, no adverse effects were recorded and the health of the soil also remained good,” Dr JN Sharma, UHF’s Director of Research said. Sharma said for a full-grown apple tree of 10 years and above, the scientists recommend 1.5 kilograms of urea. This quantity needs to be applied in two equal splits. “The first application that is 750 gram should be done three weeks before flowering and the second after one month of flowering. Based on the soil requirements, lime (1,200 gram) can be mixed in the soil at the tree basin in the months of October-November,” he said.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Cachar tea industry incurs loss of 4 million kg crop in 2017

With an overall production of 46.79 million kgs, the tea industry in Barak Valley has incurred a loss of 4 million kg crop in 2017, said Ishwar Bhai Ubhadia, chairman of the Surma Valley branch of the Indian Tea Association,(SVBITA). Addressing tea planters at the 117th annual general meeting of the SVBITA held here, Ubhadia said “the All India production stood at 1279 million kgs in 2017 as against 1239 kgs in 2016 and 46 per cent of the output has come from the small tea growers. Barak Valley has recorded production of 46.79 million kgs in the bygone year as compared to 51.18 million kgs in 2016. Because of inclement weather, 4 million tea crop was damaged.” The branch chairman attributed the loss to severe rainfall which had damaged the crop to a great extent. “In 2017, we have had 4000 mm rainfall which is the reason behind the mammoth crop loss,” he maintained. On the other hand, Ubhadia informed that average auction price obtained for Cachar tea at Guwahati auctions stood at Rs 118.77 for the year 2017 as against Rs 114.12 in 2016. Realising the need to lay thrust on the quality of tea, Ubhadia said that meticulous efforts need to be pitched in to improve the quality of tea from the gardens of Barak Valley in order to reach out to the consumers in the international market. Also, in the wake of rising competition, tea has to be placed as a favourite beverage for the youths, he said. Vijay Singh Panwar, manager of Chandighat Tea Estate threw light on the constraints affecting the tea industry to flourish saying that lack of adequate investments is by far the biggest hurdle in this regard.

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Cong. MLAs bat for Haryana’s sugarcane farmers

Congress legislators staged a symbolic protest outside the Assembly complex against the Haryana government, accusing it of ignoring the plight of sugarcane farmers in the State. The MLAs shouted slogans against the State government while holding sugarcane stems in their hands. “Sugarcane farmers are forced to sell their produce in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand because the State-owned and private sugarcane mills in Haryana are not purchasing their produce at the assured price,” alleged Congress leader Kuldeep Sharma. Later in the House, while participating in the debate on the Governor’s Address, Mr. Sharma raised the issue to which Agriculture Minister O.P. Dhankar reacted sharply, saying that the Congress was trying to create an issue. Separately, Mr. Dhankar said that the government has been working actively for the past three years to develop an international horticulture and vegetable market over 600 acres at Ganaur.

The Tribune, Bathinda
Dealer booked for selling fake Bt cotton seed

The police booked a dealer of a Gujarat-based company for allegedly selling spurious Bt cotton seed to six farmers of Talwandi Sabo area. The farmers suffered huge losses after purchasing the costly seed as their crops did not generate the yield as per the commitment made by the dealer. A case was registered after the Economics Offences wing of the Bathinda police conducted an inquiry into the matter. Accused Ram Singh of Singo village is absconding. The district administration had already issued directions to farmers a few days ago, telling them to be wary of Bt seed dealers who sell varieties that are not recommended by the PAU. The Bathinda police registered a case against Ram Singh under Sections 19 of the Seed Act, 1966, and 7 of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. A joint complaint was lodged by Balvir Singh, Jagseer Singh, Makhan Singh, Kulwant Singh, Karnail Singh, Amritpal Singh and Ajaib Singh, all residents of Singo village, at the SSP Bathinda office.

Mint, New Delhi
Farmers’ bodies to carry out public audit of MSP system

Holding the government accountable for its budget promise of ensuring minimum support prices (MSP) to farmers, a host of farmer organizations flagged that the winter harvest of gram, lentils and mustard, which has started arriving in wholesale markets, is selling at rates significantly lower than announced support prices. The farmer organizations including Jai Kisan Andolan, Ryathu Joint Action Committee-Telangana, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti-Madhya Pradesh, and National Alliance for Peoples Movement also announced that beginning 14 March, they will carry out a public consultation and audit of the MSP system in mandis in eight states, and raise the demand to make MSPs a legal entitlement for farmers.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Govt plans to protect farmers from price crash

The government proposes to fully compensate farmers in case market rates of a crop fall below the minimum support price (MSP), as it looks to address the deepening agrarian crisis in the pulses sector where bumper production and lower demand are keeping prices low. Sources said Centre has asked Niti Aayog to quickly put in place an institutional mechanism that would facilitate nationwide introduction of a new ‘Price Deficiency Payment’ system or PDP in agriculture sector that would give direct subsidy to farmers to bridge the gap between market price and MSP for a particular crop. This will also help address the problem of lower prices in the oilseed and pulses segment that have also been impacted by the Price Deficit Subsidy Scheme, or the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yogna of Madhya Pradesh, as its localised operation is creating a glut-like situation in other states resulting in crashing prices. “Once all states come on board for a similar scheme and a modal rate (the average sales price of the crop in three markets) is adopted to a certain market price of a crop, manipulation by traders to push down prices in states with PDP could be curbed,” said an agriculture sector expert. A combination of factors such as a bumper harvest last year, export controls and stocking limits imposed by the government on private trade, and record imports have resulted in a sharp decline in prices for pulses and oil seeds. Government fears current crises will fuel widespread agrarian protests of the kind witnessed last year in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh, that forced the state government to quickly launch the Bhavantar scheme. According to the government’s latest data, production of food grain is estimated to reach record levels at 277.49 million tonnes with the output of pulses too touching a new high of 23.95 million tonnes (MT) during the 2017-18 crop year (July-June).

Business Line, New Delhi
Import duty effect: Buyers set to cancel upto 1 lakh tonnes of palm oil cargoes

Indian importers are seeking to cancel up to 100,000 tonnes of crude palm oil cargoes as costs have risen since the country raised import duty on the product last week, three trade sources said. “After the increase in duty the cost of imports has gone up by $107 a tonne for crude palm oil but the domestic price has risen by around $60 a tonne,” said a palm oil broker, speaking on the sidelines of an industry conference in Kuala Lumpur. India, which buys about 800,000-850,000 tonnes of crude palm oil a month, last week raised import tax on crude and refined palm oil to the highest level in more than a decade in a move designed to support domestic farmers. “In April imports would be substantially lower,” a Mumbai-based broker said; “Most people are trying to cancel or renegotiate April shipments.” Malaysian palm oil futures declined as traders feared the prospect of cancelled shipments to India and after forecasts made at an industry conference in Kuala Lumpur. The benchmark palm oil contract for May delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange was down 1.4 percent at 2,443 ringgit a tonne. Indonesia will impose higher import duties on several Indian products in retaliation to the latter’s high import duty on palm oil, Danang Girindrawardana, Executive Director of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association or GAPKI, told Cogencis. Starting March 1, India raised import duties on crude palm oil and refined, bleached and deodorised palmolein to 44 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively, from 30 per cent and 40 per cent previously. Indonesia is the biggest supplier of palm oil to India.

The Tribune, New Delhi
ITC to work closely with Punjab-based farmers

Kolkata-based conglomerate ITC will work closely with farmers, especially wheat and fruit growers, in Punjab to improve their yield and quality of products. S Sivakumar, Group Head — ITC’s Agri Business, said the company would be looking to increase its intake of wheat and fruits from Punjab for the flour and juices that it manufactures. For the purpose, the company has also started a new facility at Kapurthala from where it would be helping the farmers across the state to improve their yields with better quality seeds and other techniques. Spread over nearly 71 acres, this state-of-the-art food processing facility entails an initial investment outlay of Rs 1,500 crore. It will create large-scale livelihoods across sustainable agri-value chains. This world-class facility will manufacture ITC’s popular food brands such as ‘Aashirvaad’, ‘Bingo!’, ‘Sunfeast’, ‘YiPPee!’ and ‘B Natural’ among others. It has set a target of procuring around 60,000 tonnes of wheat from farmers in Punjab in 2018-19. Sivakumar said ITC’s investment in the food processing sector in Punjab will add significant value to the state’s agriculture potential. ITC believes that the food processing sector, being at the intersection of agriculture, industry and services, can make a multi-dimensional contribution to the state’s economy by enhancing the competitiveness of the food-value chain, adding value to manufacturing and helping create sustainable livelihoods along the entire value chain. This facility will also include a wheat mandi which will enable ITC to procure directly from farmers, reducing transaction costs, improving efficiency and thereby raising income of farmers.

DNA, Mumbai
More funds for agri, irrign sectors

In a serious bid to counter growing disenchantment especially in the farming community and rural population, the Maharashtra government is all set to provide higher fund allocation to agriculture, cooperation, marketing, roads, skill development in the annual budget for 2018-19. State finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar will present the annual budget on March 9. State’s annual scheme for 2018-19 will be in excess of Rs 80,000 crore compared to Rs 77,184 crore in 2017-18. The government, which is currently struggling to implement the much ambitious crop waiver scheme to cover 53 lakh farmers, may allocate Rs 8,000 crore alone for the same. So far, the state government has transferred Rs 12,381 crore into bank accounts of more than 31 lakh farmers under the farm loan waiver scheme. The government has claimed that it could weed out ghost accounts which has saved Rs 9,000 crore. However, the pace of implementation of crop loan waiver has been attacked due to technological glitches. The government, which is under attack for rising farmers suicides, may allocate over Rs 2,000 crore for agriculture sector compared to Rs 1,441.12 crore in 2017-18, Rs 250 crore for marketing (Rs 221 crore), Rs 250 crore for textile (Rs 232 crore). This apart, the government may allocate Rs 8,500 crore for roads (Rs 7,000 crore) especially when it has put on fast track the implementation of Mumbai Nagpur Super Communication Express way and laid emphasis on further increasing the road network across the state. The government will allocate Rs 8,200 crore for the irrigation sector especially when it has launched a time bound plan to complete more than 258 pending projects. It has also lined up Rs 12,773 crore loan from the National Bank Agriculture and Rural Development.

Business Line, New Delhi
NITI Aayog to meet States to discuss new MSP formula

The government think-tank NITI Aayog will hold consultations with the States today to discuss a mechanism for fixing minimum support price 50 per cent more than the cost of production, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said. The government in the Budget for 2018-19 last month announced that it will fix the MSP of kharif 2019 crops at least 1.5 times than the cost of production. The Agriculture Minister last month had said that the Centre and NITI Aayog will hold deliberations with States to come out with a new mechanism to ensure that farmers get 1.5 times of the production cost of their crops. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the government would take into account the actual input cost plus unpaid value of family labour while fixing the support price of crops at 50 per cent higher than the cost of production. On genetically modified crops, the minister said, “We are neither in favour nor against it. Without adopting GM crops, we have increased production of pulses and become almost self sufficient in it.” Similar efforts would be made in oilseeds, he said.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Noted planter suggests ways to bail out crisis-hit tea industry

Increase in the price of tea at farm gate, steps to resolve the demand-supply mismatch, promotion of Assam Tea, alternate economic activities and extension of flagship schemes of the Union Government for the benefit of the employees of the tea sector have been suggested by noted tea planter Bidyananda Barkakoty to bail out the crisis-ridden tea industry of the State. Barkakoty, also a member of the Tea Board of India, while speaking on the ‘Issues and challenges facing the tea industry in the State and the road ahead – plantation and production perspective,’ at the State Innovation and Transformation Aayog (SITA), Assam-organised two-day tea conclave here, maintained that economic sustainability has been a challenge for the Assam tea industry for various reasons. He argued that one of the major factors that will help in the economic sustainability of the Assam tea sector is increase in price of tea at the farm gate level. The price of tea at the farm gate level has remained stagnant over the last few years and has not been able to keep pace with the increase in cost of production. Moreover, he maintained, economic uplift of its workforce and survival of Assam tea industry has a direct relation with economic sustainability of Assam tea sector. Like any other commodity, price of tea is also determined by interaction of supply and demand. To attain demand-supply equilibrium, the State will either have to restrict tea production, or it will have to increase consumption of its tea. Demand of tea can be increased by having a two-pronged approach – increase in exports, and, increase in domestic consumption, he said. Arguing that increase in its demand is crucial for survival of Assam’s tea sector, he suggested that the State Government, through its Tourism Department and Tea Directorate, should aggressively promote and brand ‘Assam Tea’ in domestic and international markets.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
SC upholds order against UP govt

In a setback to the Uttar Pradesh government, the Supreme Court upheld the Allahabad High Court’s order that had termed the state’s abrupt suspension of incentives under a policy in 2004 to attract investments in the sugar sector “arbitrary” and done “without the application of mind”, in a case filed by Bajaj Hindusthan. Although Bajaj Hindusthan – which accounted for a third of investments worth Rs 9,000 crore under the scheme — would be the biggest beneficiary, the verdict could have ramifications on cases filed by a dozen-odd sugar mills against the state for the abrupt policy withdrawal. A bench headed by justice AK Goel rejected the Uttar Pradesh government’s appeal which stated that “rescinding the benefits under the Sugar Policy of 2004 was valid in law” and the HC ought to have considered that the state government’s order of July 7, 2007, was a policy decision and hence was not amiable to the HC’s jurisdiction. It also rejected rival sugar company LH Sugar Factories’ plea that sought level playing field with other 30 mills which had invested in terms of the policy. The firm argued that the policy was tailor-made to suit certain companies. To lure investors, the Mulayam Singh Yadav-led UP government had firmed up the policy in 2004 under which eligible mills were entitled to incentives, including exemption from entry tax on sugar, trade tax on molasses, stamp duty and registration charges on purchase of land, purchase tax on cane and reimbursement on transport of sugar, and a capital subsidy of 10% on the investment made. However, just within a week of Mayawati coming to power in 2007, the policy was “scrapped” through an executive order, leaving the mills that had taken huge loans to fund the expansion strapped for funds.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Sugar output for 2017-18 seen at record 29.5 mt: ISMA

A substantial increase in sugarcane yields in Maharashtra and North Karnataka has forced the sugar industry to revise upwards the production estimates of the sweetener to a record 29.5 million tonnes (mt) for the current 2017-18 season. The latest projections by the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) are 13 per cent higher than the previous estimate of 26.1 mt. Maharashtra and Karnataka are seen reporting one of the highest ever sugarcane yields of around 100 tonnes per hectare and 91 tonnes per hectare respectively this year. This is mainly on account of extended rains during the latter half of the monsoon season. Last year, these States — reeling under the impact of drought — had reported yields of around 60 tonnes/ha. “Sugar production till end February stood at 23.05 mt. Considering that 479 sugar mills are still crushing and also taking into the account higher yields reported from two States (Maharashtra and Karnataka), ISMA has revised its estimates for the current season to 29.5 mt of sugar,” the association said in a statement. Uttar Pradesh is expected to produce 10.51 mt, while the output in Maharashtra is likely to be around 10.1 mt. Karnataka is seen producing 3.54 mt in the current season. ISMA’s latest projection of 29.5 mt in current season will be 4.5 mt higher than the estimated domestic consumption of 25 mt. “A part of this needs to be exported in the next 6-7 months within this sugar season itself, to reduce the burden of surplus sugar in the country. This, in turn, will give extra cash flows to the sugar mills to ensure better payment to the farmers and reduction in the cane price arrears, which is accumulating very fast to uncomfortable levels,” ISMA said.

The Assam Tribunen, Guwahati
Training on aromatic crops farming

A one-day kisan mela on ‘prospects of cultivation of aromatic crops’ was jointly organised by the Fragnance & Flavour Development Centre (FFDC) Project for MSME-Technology Centre Imphal & District Agriculture Office, Goalpara at the District Agriculture Training Centre (DATC). Inaugurating the training programme, Deputy Commissioner Ghanshyam Dass in his brief speech, while reflecting on the soico-economic status of the people engaged in agriculture in the rural areas said they should dedicate themselves for their own development. He also urged the farmers to adopt new technologies and agricultural practices like taking up multiple cropping for improving efficiency and enhancing productivity, which will lead to an increase in income. Moreover, Dass mentioned that the future of cultivation of aromatic crops is bright as the demand for essential oils is increasing day-by-day. He urged the Agriculture department to set up a centre from where the technology those who want to take up cultivation of aromatic crops can effectively utilize the available technological inputs. Meanwhile, the District Agriculture Officer, Budhindra Nath Hazarika said that the cultivation of aromatic crops in the district has remained unexploited. “Even though there are many hindrances while taking up the cultivation of these crops, but with proper planning and management these can be grown profitably. The DAO also urged the Government to take up a project under Aroma Mission in this ‘inspirational’ district of Goalpara where a cluster of farmers can take up cultivation on 50 hectares with support from the government in the form of planting materials and other inputs including a distillation unit. Resource person, Mousumi Bhuyan, a senior technical assistant (Horticulture) KVK, Dudhnoi, gave detailed information on the packaging and the farming of aromatic plants in Assam and the prospects and problems of cultivation of aromatic plants in Goalpara district. She also apprised the farmers on doubling of income through agricultural-related activities.

Business Standard, Lucknow
UP govt to open agro market for private investment

The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to allow private investment and participation in the state´s organised farm produce market, estimated at Rs 600 billion a year. The cabinet approved a Bill to amend the UP Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, 1964, to allow private wholesale markets (mandis), giving competition to the government run ones, operated by UP Mandi Parishad. The amendment would allow private companies to set up procurement markets/centres outside the periphery of existing mandis, for direct purchase of produce from farmers. This is aimed at giving more selling options to growers. Plus, a provision for mandi status to designated agro warehouses, silos and cold storages. Aggregate turnover in the 250 centres operated by UP Mandi Parishad across the 75 districts is pegged at about Rs 600 billion a year. The state is among the top agricultural and horticultural producers in India. Annual foodgrain production is in excess of 50 million tonnes. Actual annual turnover of farm produce is estimated at several times the volumes at the Mandi Parishad, since a substantial quantity never gets there. At the recent UP Investors Summit 2018 in Lucknow, the government received 236 proposals from companies evincing interest, to investa total of Rs 187 billion in the agricultural and food processing sector. The APMC Act amendment should further boost the sector. And, Prepare the way for contract farming.

TThe Economic Times, New Delhi
Wheat-based Products’ Price Set to Go Up: ITC

Consumers will have to pay a higher price for wheat-based products owing to lower wheat output expected this crop year and higher minimum support price (MSP) announced by the government, said S Sivakumar, group head, agriculture, ITC Limited. As per the second advance estimate, wheat output in the crop year ending June 2018 is pegged at 97.11 million tonne, a decrease of 1.42% over the previous year. The government has set a target to procure 32 million tonne of wheat and the private sector is expected to procure a similar amount. ITC procures close to 2 million tonne wheat per season for its own brand and for commodity trading. He said that the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana –– the price deficit financing scheme ––will be an ideal solution to ensure that farmers get MSP apart from ensuring that price discovery and procurement are left to market forces. The ITC agri business division is planning to expand to the fresh fruit and vegetable market under the ‘Farmland’ brand of products and sell it across seven metros in the next three years. It also plans to launch green vegetables and may come out with millet-based products apart from launching mangoes and pomegranates in the domestic market. With millets being imported in India –– in some instances at Rs 1,000 a kg as in quinoa –– there was a need to rediscover some of these nutritional products, he said. “Our multigrain Ashirwad atta already has some millets but more (products) will come in,” he said.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
3 officials held in agri scam

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) arrested three more government officials in connection with a multi-crore-rupee electronic motor supply scam in the Agriculture department. Those arrested are executive engineer Jayanta Sarma, assistant executive engineer Bhaskarjyoti Das and junior engineer Mukul Chandra Dev. After being produced before the Court of Special Judge, Assam, the trio was remanded in three-day police custody. The trio, according to sources, connived with several other government officials and contractors to create fictitious names who were later shown as beneficiaries of the electronic motor distribution scheme. The scam took place during 2010-11 in Nalbari district. A number of government officials and private contractors have already been booked in this connection and part chargesheet has been filed. The case was filed with the CID police station by the Assam Public Works, a voluntarily organization. Sources said more arrests could follow in the near future.

8, March 2018
The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
‘Impact investors’ urged to make meaningful investments in State’s tea sector

The Tea Board of India and the Directorate of Tea, Assam have jointly made an appeal to the ‘impact investors’ to come forward with their bids to make meaningful investments in the State’s tea sector. The areas they identified for the purpose are – improving the quality of life of millions of people dependent on the tea sector of the State and also in conserving the environment in this part of the globe.In the document ‘Glorious Assam Tea Industry and Investment Opportunities,’ jointly prepared by them, the Tea Board and the Directorate of Tea have said the investment opportunities in the State’s tea sector also include – packaging and value addition, creation of infrastructure facilities, crop diversification and food processing, tea tourism and wellness. Besides, the document also named budget retail chains by opening shops in the towns of the tea producing districts of Assam as a prospect, stating, if needed, the prospects of joint ventures with tea estates could be explored for the purpose. Product diversification, setting up private banks or providing internet services in the tea-growing areas have also been named as the other opportunities. It said a strategy needs to be formulated by the Government, in partnership with the industry, to promote investment for the tea sector. In this era of global cooperation, it is important that all stakeholders work in partnership to ensure creation of wealth for the State, said the Board and the Directorate in the document. The tea sector-related investment opportunities in value addition, packaging, crop diversification, tea and golf tourism, budget retail chains need evaluation, they further said. Giving details of the infrastructural support the State has for the promotion of the tea sector, in the document they referred to the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC), the proposed Rs 120-crore tea park at Chaygaon, Tocklai Tea Research Institute, Jorhat.

Business Line, Kochi
‘Semester at Sea’ team to study home-stay in Kerala’s rubber plantations

The rubber growers’ demand for remunerative prices may not have received the attention that it deserves from the policy makers. But the life of the people in Kerala’s plantations seems to have emerged as the preferred topic of research for the Semester at Sea outreach programme of the Colorado University titled “Home-stay and Land of Early Indian Rubber Programme”. This is evident from the visit of a group of students to the spice plantations in Kootickal near Mundakkayam in Kottayam district as part of their project — their second visit in the past two years. As many as 17 students from the US, Finland, Mexico, Denmark were at Colonial Stay, a plantation home-stay in Kootickal last week, not only to familiarise with the issues connected with the rubber plantations including the recent price crash, but also to look into the growing popularity of plantation home-stays. George Abraham, proprietor of Colonial Stay, told that students interacted with rubber farmers about tapping and latex processing. “They also wanted to know more about the welfare measures adopted by small holdings for the workers. We have also made arrangements for visit to a nearby factory which produces pale latex creep, a high quality rubber used for defence and aircrafts equipments,” he said. Semester at Sea is a multi-country study abroad programme on a ship open to all students of all majors emphasising global comparative study.

Business Line, Hyderabad
BG-II cottonseed prices set to drop this season

The price of cottonseed with Bollgard-II is set to be reduced from Rs 800 last season to Rs 740 for a packet of 450 gm. The panel set up by the Centre to recommend cottonseed prices for the upcoming kharif season has felt that the BG-II seed needs to be sold at a lower price point. The reduction will happen on two components — while for dealers and seed producing firms there will be a drop of Rs 50, the Mahyco Monsanto Biotech Limited will take a reduction of Rs 10 in the trait value. The trait value or royaltee fee will now be reduced to Rs 39 from Rs 49. This is the third meeting of the panel which was formed after the government decided to regulate the price through the Cottonseeds Price (Control) Order, 2015. While the first meeting two years ago reduced the trait value to Rs 49 from Rs 130, the second meeting had left the prices unchanged. The recommendations of the panel are generally accepted by the government. B Sugunakar Rao, a farmer’s representative in the panel, said that the State governments have been asked to ensure a payment of Rs 330 for seed producers from the total price of Rs 740. “The panel has recommended a reduction of research and development costs to Rs 20 from Rs 30, dealer margin to Rs 60 from Rs 75,” he said. The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) is upset over the move to reduce the price of cottonseed with Bollgard-II technology. The association said that the seed price has remained stagnant for over seven years. “In fact, it has come down in the last two years as cost of production is going up,” he said.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Cane arrears swell to Rs 140 bn

Sugar mills owed nearly Rs 140 billion to sugarcane farmers at the end of January in the ongoing marketing season, the government said. Sugar marketing year runs from October to September. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution C R Chaudhary informed that cane price arrear stood at Rs 139.31 billion as on January 31 in the current 2017-18 marketing season. Uttar Pradesh millers owed highest at Rs 55.55 billion, followed by mills in Karnataka at 27.14 billion and Maharashtra at Rs 26.36billion. The arrears for 2016-17 stood at ~9.03 billion and earlier years at Rs 16.86 billion. “Payment of sugarcane dues to farmers in an ongoing process. The Sugarcane (Control) Order 1966 stipulates payment of cane price within 14 days of supply, failing which interest at the rate of 15 per cent per annum on amount due for the delayed period beyond 14 days is payable,” the minister said. The power to enforce this provision is vested with the state governments, he added. "The state governments have issued notices to all the defaulting sugar mills for clearing the balance cane price dues. State governments of UP, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh have reported to have issued recovery certificates also to defaulting sugar mills," Chaudhary said.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Centre planning to levy cess on sugar

Brace yourself to pay more for sugar as the government proposes to levy a cess on the sweetener to compensate cane farmers who are being paid below fair and remunerative price (FRP) by mill owners. Sources said after being prodded by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution is exploring the option to load sugar prices with an additional cess between Rs 1 and Rs 1.25 per kg. It has also written to ministries of finance and law for advice on whether a cess can be levied on sugar under the new goods and services tax (GST) regime that has merged all surcharges and cesses in a four-slab tax rate. The Centre is exploring newer options to provide better compensation to cane farmers. Farmers are unhappy that they get lower payments and cane arrears have also built up. Discontent among farmers could be politically suicidal for the government ahead of 2019 general elections in large states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The Centre has also not been able to convince cane-growing states to check their arbitrary pricing mechanisms. This has created inconsistencies in pricing and has affected both farmers and sugar mills. Under the proposed mechanism, collection from the cess would go towards a central fund that would finance any gap between the cane price mills can pay to farmers in accordance with the Rangarajan panel’s revenue-sharing formula and the benchmark rate fixed by the Centre under fair and remunerative pricing (FRP) mechanism initiated in 20091-10. Once the cess is able to fund the gap between FRP and Rangarajan formula, there would be certainty over the pricing of sugarcane making it difficult for states to justify arbitrary pricing and forcing mills at times to pay even more than FRP.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Exclude brokers from MSP schemes: Panel

The government should exclude brokers and adopt a liberal financing pattern for the implementation of its proposed schemes to ensure that farmers get the MSP for their crops, a parliamentary panel has recommended. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, headed by Hukm Deo Narayan Yadav, presented reports on ‘Demand for Grants’ of three departments under the Agriculture Ministry — agriculture & cooperation; agriculture research and education; animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced that the NITI Aayog would put in place a foolproof mechanism to ensure farmers got the benefit of MSP. “The committee desires that the government incorporate measures to exclude brokers during the implementation of the schemes,” the report said.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Godrej sees palm futures rising to 2,700 ringgit by June

Godrej International's Dorab Mistry is turning slightly bullish on palm oil. Benchmark palm oil futures may gradually rise to 2,700 ringgit ($690) a tonne by June, the highest level since November, Mistry said at an industry conference in Kuala Lumpur. He trimmed his production estimates for top growers Indonesia and Malaysia by 500,000 tonnes each to 37.5 million tonnes and 20.5 million tonnes, respectively. Crude palm oil prices in Rotterdam may rise to $750 a tonne, he said Palm oil climbed 2.7 per cent in February to close the month at 2,559 ringgit a tonne as a drought in Argentina sent soybean prices surging. However, palm prices have fallen about four per cent this month after top buyer India increased import duties, triggering concerns of a reduction in appetite for the oil used in everything from cooking oil to shampoo. In January, Mistry saw palm trading in a range of 2,500 ringgit and 2,700 ringgit until August. In an alternative bullish scenario, oil palms could suffer tree stress as haze returns to Southeast Asia this year, leaving Malaysian output unchanged in 2018 and Indonesian production up by just 2 million tonnes, Mistry said. Consumption of an extra 1 million tonnes of palm-biodiesel in Indonesia could be a game changer, he added. In that scenario, combined stockpiles in the two countries could be well below 4.5 million tonnes, or even nearer to 4 million tonnes, by July, Mistry said. Although such "fireworks" aren't expected, Rotterdam prices of crude palm oil may reach $800 a ton, he said. High import duties on palm oil in India is a temporary solution, Mistry said.

The Financial Express, Pune
Good demand for Indian cotton in overseas markets on depreciation

There is good demand for Indian cotton from overseas markets this season. Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Indonesia and various other countries are buying cotton from India heavily this season. Around 40 lakh bales of cotton have been exported from the country so far and another 15-20 lakh bales are expected to be exported by the end of this season, top officials of the Khandesh Ginning & Pressing Factory Owners & Traders Association said. Interestingly, there are market reports of the likelihood of export of some 10 lakh bales to China this season. Alongside exports, imports have also gone up this season because of the Pink Bollworm infestation, according to industry people. There is good demand coming from these countries for Indian cotton, according to Pradeep Jain, president of the Association. Around 14 lakh bales have been exported to Bangladesh so far, 9 lakh bales to Pakistan and the remaining to Turkey, Vietnam and Indonesia. Exports from India this year have received a fillip thanks to the rupee depreciation, he said. Industry experts pointed out that China has not been importing cotton for the last two to three years and has been using its buffer stock of some 1 crore bales and may soon tap overseas markets for some 20-25 lakh bales in the next 7-8 months. In addition to exports, the country has also imported around 10 lakh bales so far and there is the possibility of imports touching 35-40 lakh bales, industry experts pointed out. The Cotton Association of India (CAI) has lowered its crop estimates for the ongoing 2017-18 crop year at 367 lakh bales. The association has released its January 2018 estimate of the cotton crop for the year 2017-18 beginning from October 1, 2017. The CAI has lowered its estimate for the ongoing season by 8 lakh bales.

Mint, New Delhi
Govt: GM soybean imports only after regulator’s approval

The Union environment ministry has asked the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) to stop imports of genetically modified (GM) soybean for food or feed without the approval of the regulator for transgenic products. A 23 February letter from the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, reviewed by Mint, said that the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has received a complaint regarding “illegal/unauthorized import of GM soybean into India from countries like the US and Ukraine, (where cultivated soybean is mostly GM soybean)”. “In this context, it is informed that the GEAC, which is the regulatory body for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and products thereof, has not authorized or approved GM soybean or any other products derived from GM soybean seeds for import or cultivation in India,” the letter to DGFT said. “You are requested to consider taking appropriate action, and also issue suitable directives to concerned agencies and officers not to allow import of any GM soybean (seeds/grains or products derived from GM soybean) for use as food/feed or any other purpose without approval of GEAC,” it added. The issue of GM foods has been controversial in India, with cotton being the only transgenic crop which is allowed to be cultivated. The environment ministry is yet to take a final call on allowing the commercial cultivation of GM mustard. The ministry’s letter was prompted by a complaint by the Coalition for a GM-free India to GEAC about the illegal imports. The group had demanded a thorough investigation and requested GEAC to ensure that soybean seed imports at ports must be tested to ensure that they are non-GM in nature. According to the complaint, every year, India imports thousands of tonnes of soybean seeds for sowing and crushing. Illegal import of GM food has been taking place for year, said Kavitha Kuruganti, a member of the coalition.

Mint, New Delhi
Govt likely to slash Bt cotton seed price to Rs 740 per packet

In an attempt to offer some respite to cotton farmers battered by repeated pest attacks and crop losses, the centre is likely to slash the price of genetically modified Bt cotton seeds as well as trait fees payable by domestic seed companies to technology developers. The maximum sale price of a Bt cotton (Bollgard II) seed packet weighing 450g is likely to be reduced from Rs800 to Rs740, said a person familiar with the development, requesting anonymity. The person added that the trait or royalty fee included in the sale price (which domestic seed companies pay to the technology developers) is likely to be reduced from Rs49 per packet to Rs39 per packet. The committee has unanimously recommended that the government slash seed prices to Rs740 per packet and the agriculture ministry is expected to take a final call soon, said a member of the price control committee, who did not want to be named. With 50 million packets usually sold in a year, the losses to the industry will be around Rs300 crore (at a revenue loss of Rs60 per packet). In March 2016, the agriculture ministry, on the recommendation of a nine-member panel, slashed prices to Rs800 per packet—compared with Rs830-1,000 charged earlier—and cut royalty fees sharply by 74%, from Rs163 per packet to Rs43 (excluding taxes). Last year, prices were not changed. While the move will benefit nearly 8 million cotton growers in India, domestic seed companies will see their earnings fall by at least Rs50 per packet. Technology developer Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (India) Ltd will earn Rs10 less for each packet of cotton seeds sold in India.

Business Line, Kochi
Indonesian imports, slack corporate buying shred copra

After hitting Rs 15,000/quintal, copra prices in the key producing States of South India have reversed their trend over the past few days due to slack corporate demand amidst reports of imports from Indonesia. The drop in prices in the last 4-5 days was around Rs 1,500/quintal and the Cochin Oil Merchants Association (COMA) attributed this to the decision of corporates dealing in coconut oil exports to abstain from the market. Thalath Mahmood, President, COMA, told after touching a record Rs 15,000 in the last one month, copra prices have dropped to Rs 12,000 per quintal in Tamil Nadu and Rs 13,000 in Kerala. In Karnataka, the modal prices for the ball copra have dropped by around Rs 2,000 since mid-February to around Rs 11,000 at Tiptur, the key market. Part of the domestic demand, Mahmood said, has shifted to copra from Indonesia imported under the advance license scheme by exporters even though the government did not allow copra imports under OGL to avoid a slump in domestic prices. Having put the market under pressure, Mahmood alleged that corporates have started colluding to bring down the prices further. With the starting of the harvest season in Kerala, Mahmood said the rates are likely to fall in the coming months with more availability of raw nuts. Bharat Khona, former Board member of COMA, said that the sudden fall in prices and the method adopted by companies to fix the rates have virtually impacted the market in the recent period, resulting in a subdued demand. The fall in prices was also reflected in coconut oil prices which were at Rs 17,300/quintal in Kerala and Rs 16,800 in Tamil Nadu.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Thoothukudi chilli farmers bitter over poor crop yield, crash in prices

Gundu chilly farmers are an upset lot here as neither the yield nor the purchase price as quoted by the traders are as per their expectations. The farmers have therefore urged the State government to help tide over the crisis. Chilly cultivation is extensively carried out in Vilathikulam, Ottapidaram and Ettayapuram taluks in Thoothukudi district. According to officials, chilly cultivation is spread over 12,385 hectares as per the 2017-18 records, with 11,150 hectare in Vilathikulam and 831 hectare in Ottapidaram.There are two kinds of chilies - long and stout. The long chilly, otherwise called samba, is cultivated in irrigated areas whereas the stout one is raised at rainfed stretches. The farmers cultivate chillies either as an inter-crop in onion fields or as the main crop. Stout chilies are cultivated in Vilathikulam and Ettayapuram areas for its spicy taste and also for its good price. However, that’s not the case this time around. The cultivation of chillies, especially the stout one, had been largely affected due to weather condition and poor price quotation. The farmers, who cultivated chillies last October and September, had started harvesting for once a week from mid-February. However, the harvest left a bitter taste in the mouth of the farmers as they could reap only one quintal per acre, instead of the normal yield of four quintals. Agrarians say that poor rainfall and pervasive leaf curl disease is the reason for the poor yield. The sporadic rains during the Northeast monsoon resulted in withering of plants. Also, the poor showers and cold climate became conducive for pest attacks, mainly whitefly, which spread the leaf curl disease rapidly across the chilly fields, they added.

The Sentinel, Guwahati
Three terminal marts to boost agri-marketing

In a bid to give boost to agricultural marketing the Assam Government has decided to set up three 'Terminal Marts' in the state. Revealing this, the Chairman of state Agricultural Marketing Board Palit Kumar Bora said that steps are being taken to set up such marts at Silchar, Jorhat and Guwahati. Bora further said that each terminal mart will create at least 5,000 employment avenues. Referring to the largest banana market of Asia which is situated at Darangiri in Goalpara district of Assam, Bora said that an MoU has been signed. The chairman informed that six new 'Krishi Vigyan Kendras are being set up in Assam which will help the farmers in various agricultural-based sector. Bora said that the Board has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of paddy so that the farmers get maximum benefit. He said that stress is being given to organic cultivation and necessary step has been taken in this direction with the help of the Centre.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
VC JAKFED calls on Dr Jitendra, discusses key agri issues

Vice Chairman, JAKFED Munish Sharma called on Union Minister of State in PMO with Independent Charge for development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), Dr Jitendra Singh here and discussed various issues related to youth who want to take-up farming and the problems being faced by the farmers of the J&K State. Vice Chairman, apprised Dr Jitendra Singh that majority of youth expressed that their future is not safe in agriculture, the Government needs to come up with schemes so that youth are given a license to market and supply various agricultural inputs to farmers. Youth should be taught about organic farming as it doesn’t require heavy investments and it is more profitable farming. Both the Government and Corporate Sector need to increase the number of scholarships for agricultural students to enhance research and development. This will also help them become better professionals and improve their earning capacities. Showing concern for the welfare of farmers, Vice Chairman briefed Dr Singh that to boost farmers and agriculture of the State, JAKFED is planning to come up with Kissan Seva Kendras outlet across the various locations of Jammu & Kashmir wherein various products related to farmers and agriculture like hybrid seeds, organic fertilizers and other agricultural equipment will be sold under one roof, which will provide a major boost to the farmers. The objective of opening Kissan Seva Kendras is to provide all agricultural inputs under one centre as farmers and villagers are suffering a lot to buy these agricultural products, he added. Vice Chairman informed that these centres will be developed only for the welfare and development of farmers so that they could get fertilizers seeds and organic urea of high quality at reasonable rates. “We are focussing on the goals set by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s vision to double the income of farmers by 2022.

7, March 2018
Business Line, Bengaluru
Dip in robusta production to pull down coffee output

Coffee output is set to fall below 3 lakh tonnes (lt) for the 2017-18 crop year ending September on account of decline in production of robustas in Karnataka and Kerala, the top two States producing the variety. The harvest of robustas is almost complete and growers have witnessed a drop in output as high as 40 per cent in parts of the key producing regions of Kodagu, Chikamagaluru, Hassan and Wayanad. “There appears to be a set backs for robustas this year. We expect average decline to be around 20 per cent over the earlier (post-blossom) estimates,” said Y Raghuramulu, Director-Research of the State-run Coffee Board. The Board, in its post-blossom estimates, had projected an output of 3.5 lt for 2017-18 with the robusta crop at 2.47 lt and arabicas at 1.03 lt. Robustas account for 70 per cent of the India’s coffee output, while the milder variety Arabicas account for the rest. Raghuramulu said the robusta crop has shrunk by around 25-30 per cent in some areas of Kodagu and Chikmagaluru, while in Wayanad, the decline is about 15-20 per cent. The production of arabicas was largely intact at over one lakh tonnes. “The Board is making an assessment of the crop and we expect the overall output this year to be between 2.9 and 3 lakh tonnes” Raghuramulu said. The coffee trade, led by exporters, said the Coffee Board estimates are largely in line with their projections. However, the growers feel that the decline in robusta output is much lower than the initial expectations. “In most of the regions growers have harvested only 40 per cent of the crop,” said Pramod HT, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association. The impact of consecutive droughts and erratic rainfall last year has hurt the output, he adds.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Ease transfer of technology to farmers, says former VC

More than 50,000 dedicated agricultural scientists are working to address field-level problems and to evolve technological solutions in the country. However, all technologies developed by these scientists don’t reach all farmers. Transfer of technologies from research institutions to the doorstep of farmers is important to increase efficacy. This was stated by Dr Manjit Singh Kang, former Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University. Kang was addressing the 11th Progressive Farmers’ Meet with focus on Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) here. The meet was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Mehram Publications. He added that the role of agricultural institutes was of paramount importance in improving the efficacy of farmers. Highlighting uncertainty looming over agricultural growth, especially in view of climate change, water crisis and technology fatigue, he said besides certain policy intervention by the Centre and state government, agricultural institutes have to play a proactive role for transforming peasantry community by facilitating easy technology transfer. He added, “The extension services provided by the agricultural university to the farmers should give real-time information on weather and market trends. Similarly, it should alert the farmers in case of pest attacks or any crop disease.”

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Gujarat adopts ‘transparent’ agri-procurement through video, CCTV monitoring

In a first for the agri-procurement mechanism in the country, the Gujarat government plans to make videography and CCTV monitoring mandatory for the procurement of agricultural produces through State agencies. According to top government sources, the State, which is currently procuring tur and groundnut under the price support scheme at the minimum support price (MSP) level, will videograph the entire process at all the procurement centres and install CCTVs at all the warehouses to keep a close vigil on the commodities. “This is going to be a big booster for the farmers’ confidence as it will ensure fair practices. After online registration and fund transfer through Aadhar-linked bank accounts, now videography of the procurement process will discourage illegal activities and unfair practices,” said Bhagavandas Patel, Director, Gujarat State Warehousing Corporation (GSWC). According to top government officials, initially, the videography will be done for the current procurement that is being done for 1 lakh tonnes of groundnut and 1.2 lakh tonnes of tur (pigeon pea) beginning first week of March. “We will also conduct videogrpahy of the samples, to help in monitoring of right quality. Although we are being careful in current practices, we want to be extra careful. In immediate basis, CCTVs will be installed at the warehouses where the immediate unloading is taking place, and in due course other warehouses will also be covered,” said a senior State government official. The State is preparing itself for a mammoth task of procuring record groundnut at about 9 lakh tonnes after witnessing record crop of 32 lakh tonnes in the kharif 2017-18. However, Patel informed that nearly 60 per cent of the stored tur of previous year has already been sold to the mills and there is excess capacity with the warehouses to store additional 1.2 lakh tonnes of tur as announced by the government.

The Hindu, Jaipur
Hailstorm damages rabi crops

Unseasonal rain and hailstorm have damaged rabi crops in some parts of Rajasthan, while the harvest of wheat, mustard and barley is barely a fortnight away. The showers and hailstorm have hit the farmers in Jaipur, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Alwar and Sawai Madhopur districts. The harvested mustard crop lying in the open fields in Neemrana region of Alwar district was also damaged in the rains. The rainfall led to decline in temperature, with a dip of 4 degrees Celsius in the minimum and maximum temperatures, while cloudy conditions prevailed in Jaipur and elsewhere. The unseasonal rainfall has caused losses to the farmers in the Shekhawati region, who have been protesting against discrepancies in the State government’s offer for loan waiver announced in the 2018-19 budget. Farmers have rejected the one-time relief restricted to those who obtained loans from cooperative banks and have demanded a blanket farm debt waiver. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has expressed concern over the situation and ordered a survey of crops at the earliest in order to assess the extent of damage. The District Collectors and Disaster Management Department will shortly submit a report to the State government in this regard. The Congress MLAs staged a walkout in the State Assembly while accusing the government of ignoring the plight of farmers whose standing crops have been damaged.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Less licence free possible For Bt cotton seed

After a gap of two years, the central government might revise the ‘trait value’ (licence fee) of genetically modified (Bt) cotton seed for the 2018-19 crop season. The current price is Rs 800 for a 450g packet; this might also be changed. Of this, Rs 49 is the ‘trait fee’ and this could be cut by Rs 20-25. The Centre sets both rates. The trait fee is what seed companies have to pay to the licence holder. In this case it is, global giant Monsanto’s joint venture partner in this country, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMBL). For the 2017-18 season, the Centre had retained the trait value at Rs 49, which included all taxes. It had also kept the price of Bt cotton seed unchanged at Rs 800 per 450g. Bt cotton seed prices were first lowered in 2016, by a panel constituted by the Centre under the Cotton Seeds Price Control Order of December 2015. Brought down from Rs 830-1,030 earlier; trait value was lowered about 70 per cent, from Rs 163 a packet. The move was followed by a guideline issued in May 2016, which capped the trait value at 10 per cent of the seed sale price and thereafter lowered it periodically. This was much criticised by multinational seed companies. Monsanto said it would “re-evaluate” all its business in the country; it took the biggest hit. It had also petitioned against the order at the high court in Delhi. MMBL has sub-licensed Bt cotton seed technology since 2002 to 50-odd domestic companies. First sub-licensing BG-1 technology, which went off-patent in 2006. It now sub-licenses BG-2. Seeds produced using this technology occupy 95 per cent of the Indian cotton market. A third technology, BG-3, is in the pipeline but commercial use has not yet been approved.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha millers seek MSP for sugar on bumper output

Maharashtra’s estimates for sugar production this season seem to have gone awry. While initial estimates were 650 lakh tonne of cane to be crushed to produce some 72 lakh tonne of sugar, the state has already crossed 779 lakh tonne of cane crushing to produce 87 lakh tonne of sugar and is expected to crush more, an excess of some 30 lakh tonne of sugar. Sugar millers in the state are now saddled with the problem of plenty. Millers are now seeking a minimum support price (MSP) for sugar. Not only are the millers seeking government intervention to stop the further downslide in prices but also want removal of the export duty to be able to export sugar to international markets. According to Harshavardhan Patil, a senior member of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF), sugar prices for the season of 2017-18 had dropped to a low of Rs 2,850 per quintal after which the government had increased import duties to 100% from 50% and stock limit restrictions were announced. While this temporarily stopped the downslide in prices, the rates have begun reducing again, he said, adding that sugar prices are currently in the range of Rs 3,000 per quintal to Rs 3,050 per quintal. The government should therefore plan for a buffer stock of 25-30 lakh tonne of sugar, he said. More importantly, the government should declare a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Rs 3,200 per quintal for the season of 2017-18. “The sugar sector is in deep trouble with rising production costs, increasing Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) rates which has increased the burden of cane payments to farmers, the downslide in sugar prices. The government therefore can decide the MSP taking these factors into account as sugar also comes under essential commodities,” he said.

Business Line, Mumbai
Maharashtra farmers go on march seeking loan waiver

The farmers associated with All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS) are participating in a 250-km Nashik-Mumbai march, demanding a complete loan waiver for the farmers of State. The march commenced on Tuesday and hopes to arrive on March 12 in Mumbai. The AIKS, which is affiliated with CPI (M), wants loan waiver to be provided to all the farmers in the State. It also wants cotton farmers, who have suffered crop losses due to pink bollworms attack to be adequately compensated. About one lakh farmers are expected to participate in the march, which will pass through major agriculture and tribal belts of Nashik and Thane district before arriving in Mumbai. General Secretary of AIKS Ajit Navale told that the farmers in the State were promised a loan waiver package of Rs 34,000 crore by the Fadnavis government but in reality much lesser amount has been deposited in the farmers accounts. “The Centre is talking about farmers getting the sale price, which is 1.5 times the cost of cultivation. This formula should be immediately implemented in the State. Cotton farmers have also faced massive crop losses due to pink bollworm attack. The cottonseed companies are actually liable to pay to the farmers. But they have not provided the compensation, therefore, the State government must compensate the farmers adequately. If the demands are not met, then the farmers will surround the Maharashtra State Assembly (gherao) building, he said.

Business Line, Hyderabad
No separate agri budget in Telangana

The Telangana government dropped its idea to introduce a separate budget for agriculture for the financial year 2018-19. The reason for deciding not to present a separate agriculture budget is the absence of provision for “separate department-wise Budget in the Constitution”, a release from the Chief Minister’s office said. The legislative procedures also do not permit a separate budget for any department, it said. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, who held a meeting with officials on Budget-related issues, said the State government has been giving top priority for agriculture.

Mint, New Delhi
Punjab objects to centre’s draft pesticide management bill

Punjab, among the largest users of pesticides per unit of cultivated land in India, has objected to the draft Pesticide Management Bill, 2017, put out by the centre for a public consultation. The state has not only demanded more powers for state governments to regulate and control the use of agrochemicals, but also sought penalties on companies selling spurious pesticides to be raised to 2% of their total sales in a state. “In the past 13 years, Punjab has never been nominated to the central pesticides board and states should be represented (in the regulatory body) according to their per-hectare usage of pesticides,” state agriculture commissioner Balwinder Singh Sidhu told a conference discussing the draft bill in Delhi. The conference was organized by the Bharat Krishak Samaj, a Delhi-based policy advocacy forum. Sidhu said “states should be empowered to stop the sale of any pesticide based on quality and need parameters”. “We also told the centre that to ensure quality, the responsible person should be among the top five highest paid employees of a firm and the fine for sale of spurious pesticides should be 2% of total sales in a state in the past year, subject to a minimum penalty of Rs1 million,” Sidhu said. The centre released a draft of the bill, intended to replace the existing Insecticides Act of 1968, on 19 February. Among other things, the bill raised penalties on the sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides to Rs50 lakh and up to five years’ imprisonment, from the current Rs2,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Sugar output up 42% in Oct-Feb: ISMA

India's sugar output increased 42 per cent to 23.05 million tonne (MT) in five months to February of the 2017-18 marking year, industry body ISMA said, emphasising upon the need to export 1.5 MT in the next few months. Sugar production was 16.26 MT in the October-February period of last marketing year. The total output for the 2016-17 marketing year stood 20.3 MT — the lowest in last 7-8 years. The sugar marketing year runs from October to September. "Considering that there is reportedly a larger sugar production in the current year as also expected in the next 2018-19 season, there is a need to export at least 15 lac tons in the current season itself over the next 6-7 months," the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said. This will give extra cash flows to the sugar mills, which in turn, will improve cane price payments to the sugarcane farmers and will reduce the cane price arrears, which is accumulating very fast to uncomfortable levels, it observed. As per the ISMA, sugar production till February of this marketing year is higher by 6.78 MT in the year-ago period due to higher availability of cane. "This year, the sugarcane availability is better due to better rainfall and also that sugar mills in almost all the states across the country, started crushing operations much earlier and at full capacity than last year," it added. Mills in the top three sugar producing states Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka have manufactured 7.39 million tonnes, 8.42 million tonnes and 3.34 million tonnes -- during October-February period of this marketing year. The ISMA said 479 mills were operating till February-end, while 43 mills have shut crushing operations in the current year.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Urea to be sold in 45-kg bags from this month

Urea, the commonly used and highly subsidised fertiliser, will be sold in the market in a 45-kg bag instead of 50-kg from this month, a move aimed to cut its consumption and promote balanced use of fertilisers. A 45-kg urea bag will be sold at Rs 242 excluding taxes, a government notification said. The price is determined on the basis of government's fixed price of Rs 5,360 per tonne. The Centre bears the difference between the maximum retail price (MRP) and cost of production. A senior fertiliser ministry official said fertiliser companies will be allowed to sell the old stock of 50-kg bags for next two months. The purpose is to reduce urea consumption and promote balanced use of fertilisers. Since urea is cheaper than other fertilisers, farmers are using this product widely, he said. "Normally, farmers use urea by counting number of bags for each hectare of land. When farmers are told to reduce the number of 50-kg bags, they do not listen. So, the government has decided to promote use of 45-kg bag as a trick to reduce consumption," he added. As per the notification, the sale of 45-kg bag is effective March 1, 2018. The government has also permitted dealers to sell urea in smaller quantities not exceeding 25 kg. Dealers can charge Rs 1.50 per packing of 2 kg urea, Rs 2.25 for 5kg, Rs 3.50 for 10 kg and Rs 5 for 25 kg urea. Annual urea subsidy is around Rs 40,000 crore. The country is producing over 24 million tonne of urea since last year and importing around 6 million tonne to meet the domestic demand.

The Tribune, Moga
Weed threatens wheat yield, herbicides prove ineffective

The widespread growth of “phalaris minor” (gulli danda), a wild weed, on wheat fields in the Malwa belt has left the farmers worried. They fear that the weed may lead to decline in crop yield. Some farmers alleged that the spray of herbicides failed to work effectively to root out the weed, which had put a question mark on its quality. A couple of years ago, a similar situation was faced by cotton growers during the SAD-BJP government when they could not save their crop from whitefly attack despite the spray of insecticides recommended and sold by the state Agriculture Department. BKU (Ekta) general secretary Sukhdev Singh Kokri alleged that the farmers had sprayed herbicides recommended by the government to kill “phalaris minor” and other weed, but it had proved ineffective. Gurwinder Singh, sarpanch of Daata village in Moga district, said farmers were facing a tough time in controlling the weed. The sudden rise in temperature after the recent rain had led to humid weather conditions, which were ideal for the growth of weed. The farmers have demanded a probe to check the quality of herbicides sold in the market. Parminder Singh, a farmer of Patto Hira Singh village, has reportedly ploughed the standing wheat crop on 5 acres last week due to the problem of weed. Dr Jaswinder Singh Brar, a farm scientist of the Agriculture Department, claimed that the herbicides recommended by them were of good quality. The problem was irrational and excess spray due to which weed developed resistance, he claimed. “There is no need for multiple sprays. The farmers must spray it on time as per the expert advice,” he added. Interestingly, the farmers, who had not burnt paddy straw before the sowing wheat, have not faced the problem and the herbicides sprayed by them have shown good results.

Business Line, Kochi
Cardamom loses aroma on weak demand

Small cardamom markets witnessed an easier trend following weak demand due to holidays in North India coupled with anticipation of summer rains. However, the trend has shown a reversal at the auction conducted by the Cardamom Planters Association (CPA) Santhanpara, in Bodinayakannur. Of the 19 tonnes arrived, 11 tonnes were traded. The maximum price stood at Rs 1,177 a kg, while the individual auction average was at Rs 935.92 — slightly up from last week’s average of Rs 931.23. The slip in prices can be attributed to a decline in demand as the buyers had slowed down following forecasts of rains in the region last week, PC Punnoose, General Manager, CPMC Kumily told. Exporters have also slowed down last week and they have bought an estimated 65 tonnes, he said. Total arrivals last week decreased to 594 tonnes from 653 tonnes the week before. The individual auction average has dropped to Rs 947.18 a kg from Rs 980.05 the previous week. It was vacillating between Rs 917-930. Total arrivals during the current season as on March 3 were at 19,162 tonnes and sales were at 18,654 tonnes. The individual auction average of the season was at Rs 963.18 a kg. Prices of graded varieties (Rs /kg): 8mm green bold 1,300; 7-8 mm: 1,040-50; 6-7 mm: 940-950. Good bulk was being traded at Rs 1,000 a kg.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Duty hike lifts oil palm price to Rs 9,000/tonne

The Oil Palm Developers and Processors Association (OPDPA) has welcomed the Centre’s decision to increase import duty by 14 percentage points each on crude palm oil and RBD (Refined, Bleached and Deodorised) palmolein. This is the third hike in the last six months. The move would benefit oil palm farmers as it would get them better realisation. As a result of the hikes, the price per ton of fresh fruit bunches supplied by the farmers has gone up from Rs 6,781 per ton in July 2017 to around Rs 9,000. The government last week decided to increase the duty on crude palm oil to 44 per cent from 30 per cent. On the RBD palmolein, the duty has been hiked to 54 per cent from 40 per cent. “The net effective duty on crude palm oil after social welfare surcharge is 48.4 per cent and the same on RBD palm olein, it will be 59.40 per cent,” the association has said. Sanjay Goenka, President of OPDPA, said that the move would help farmers earn higher returns on their produce. “This has translated to a net increase of 33 per cent in the take home income for the farmers. We hope that the government will continue their progressive outlook towards indigenisation of oil palm and announce a fixed MSP for the benefit of the farmers,” he said here in a statement. The OPDPA is a consortium of companies that include 3F Oil Palm Agrotech, Godrej Agrovet, and Ruchi Soya Industries.

Business Line, Coimbatore
Golden leaf tea tasting: First level of screening held in Coonoor

The first level screening of teas for the 14th edition of the Golden Leaf India Awards (TGLIA) took place at the UPASI, Coonoor. A 5-member panel represented by leading tea brokers evaluated the teas. There were 156 entries from 50 estates for this edition of TGLIA as against 123 entries at the last edition. Arun Kumar, Convener-Organising Committee, TGLIA, said that the competition was becoming intense year-after-year with the participating estates striving to produce better teas. The teas that qualify the first level screening will be screened for pesticide residue and heavy metals in the NABL accredited laboratory of the UPASI Tea Research Institute. The final tasting session would coincide with the 7th Global Dubai Tea Forum, scheduled in Dubai on April 25 and the results would be announced the following day, he said. The competition is organised jointly by the Tea Board of India and the United Planters Association of Southern India (UPASI).

5, March 2018
The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Drought has affected sugar production in Tamil Nadu’

Sugar output in Tamil Nadu is expected to be the lowest this season despite a bumper harvest reported by major sugar-producing States, according to the South Indian Sugar Mills Association (SISMA). There is bumper harvest in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka during the current season (2017-2018), Palani G. Periasamy, president, SISMA, told. However, Tamil Nadu is expected to produce just six lakh tonnes. “We used to produce 25 lakh tonnes six or seven years ago. Last year, we did 10 lakh tonnes. This year, it will be just about six lakh tonnes,” he said. Tamil Nadu had been experiencing drought for almost four years leading to low availability of cane and affecting sugar recovery. “Usually, we crush cane for nine months in a season. This year, most mills in the State are expected to stop crushing by the end of this month. Capacity utilisation is just about 20 %,” he said. According to data available on Indian Sugar Mills’ Association website, in January this year, the association estimated sugar production this season (October 2017 to September 2018) to be 261 lakh tonne. Till February 18, about 500 factories have been in operation across the country and produced 203.14 lakh tonnes. Mr. Periasamy said since Tamil Nadu mills were under stress, SISMA sought a revival package from the State government.

The Sunday Standard, Chandigarh
Punjab government to go for its own crop insurance policy

Punjab will form its own crop insurance policy for which the Amarinder Singh-led Congress government has already sought suggestions from the state farmers’ commission. The northern state, in the process, gave a thumbs-down to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). While banks have declared 1.39 lakh farmers as defaulters in Punjab, non-performing assets of these banks due to farm loans run into Rs 6,611 crore. The outstanding amount to be paid to the Punjab farmers is Rs 83,316 crore. At a meeting of state agriculture ministers with their Union counterpart Radha Mohan Singh in July last year, Punjab had informed the Centre of its plan to set up its own agriculture insurance corporation — a proposal which was accepted. The government, then, held a meeting with insurance companies but nothing turned up. Subsequently, a committee was formed to find out the possibilities of forming an insurance corporation. The agriculture department is now likely to submit a draft of the agriculture insurance policy to the-government after the budget session in March. “The draft of the insurance scheme is being prepared along with the agriculture policy,’’ a senior official said. Sources said Punjab made some suggestions to the Centre for amending some sections — including the clause that the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is applicable only if there is 40 per cent crop damage in a village — of the insurance scheme. But, the suggestions were neither adopted nor the Centre gave any response to the state. Sources said some 5,000 cases for insurance claims are lying with crop insurance companies. The Congress government has already given an ultimatum to these companies to clear the claims of farmers on time and release payments.

The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi
Seven sugar companies are under ED scanner

As many as seven sugar companies, including Simbhaoli Sugars Ltd (SSL), against which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already registered a case on 22 February for fraudulently diverting bank loans, are under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), sources have said. An ED source close to the investigation told: “Besides SSL, there are six companies which have failed in repaying loan amounts ranging from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 110 crore and are under the ambit of ED’s investigation. It was revealed that most of these sugar companies are based in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra and have not paid loan instalments to the banks for more than five years.” “After receiving pleas from the banks concerned for carrying out investigation against all these sugar companies, including SSL, earlier this month, ED officials started investigation and have found sufficient evidence of fraudulent diversion of loan amounts done by these companies,” the source quoted said. On the complaint of the Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC), the CBI has already registered a case against officials of SSL and raids were conducted at premises linked to SSL; the ED is yet to start its action in the case. The CBI had registered a case against top officials of SSL on 22 February, including its Deputy General Manager Gurpal Singh, who is the son-in-law of Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, for an alleged bank loan fraud of Rs 97.85 crore and default of Rs 110 crore. According to the CBI, the agency has also conducted searches at the offices of the company and residences of its officials at eight places, including one location each in Hapur and Noida, and six locations in Delhi. As per the OBC’s complaint, loan was sanctioned for financing 5,762 sugarcane farmers under the cooperative farming scheme from 25 January 2012 to 13 March 2012.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Strawberries sweeter in sugarcane belt

Amid sprawling acres of standing sugarcane crop in west Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, a small patch of strawberry plants laden with ripe fruits adds a dash of colour. Even as debt-ridden cane farmers in the area continue to wait for their turn at the local crushers or for the payment of their dues, 26-yearold Yogesh Saini, a Class X dropout who claims to have stumbled upon the unique idea of strawberry farming on the internet, is earning a fortune. Neatly laid-out baskets laden with strawberries coming out every morning from the farm he took on rent and being loaded on to vans have become the talk of the town. The six-fold rise in Saini’s income is tempting other farmers to look at this as an alternative to sugarcane. In this part of the country, farmers continue to be obsessed with sugarcane — a water guzzler — and consider growing it a matter of pride despite poor payment schedule. Though the crop hardly requires any care, it doesn’t pay more than Rs 20,000 for a bigha. Saini, a landless farmer, has earned Rs 3 lakh from his seasonal crop on the 2.5 bigha of rented land. So it makes sense for others to break tradition and switch to strawberries, a crop generally sown in hilly regions. I studied about it on the internet and saw a programme on TV as well. I read a bit about the local climate all the year round and then thought of trying it out, Yogesh Saini, a resident of Muzaffarnagar’s Bhopa village told. He discussed his out-ofbox idea with his father, Gopal Saini, 55, a vegetable farmer, and they decided to give it a try. “My son is a man of bright ideas. He couldn’t study much but has an innovative mind,” Gopal said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Centre comes out with a model act on contract farming to protect farmers

Taking a step towards agriculture sector reforms to ensure remunerative price of farm produce to farmers and protect them from price volatility and distress sales, the Centre has come out with a model act on contract farming - an improved version of its earlier draft - which provides for sponsors to get into a contract with an individual or group of farmers not just for production but also for marketing of produce and farm services. The contract farming is a pre-production season agreement between farmers (either individually or collectively) and sponsors. It transfers risk of post-harvest market unpredictability to sponsors (individual or company) who have to pay agreed prices to farmers under an advance agreement. Besides covering the market risk, the sponsor under the contract farming also agrees to professionally manage inputs, technology, extension education, pre and post-harvest infrastructure and services as per mutually agreed terms. As a result, small and marginal farmers get to enjoy additional benefits of operational efficiency. “Keeping in mind the spectrum of agricultural activities that Indian farmers practice, the Model Act has been tailored comprehensively to include all categories of agronomic & horticultural crops, as also the diverse universe of livestock, dairy, poultry and fishery”, says the statement of objects and reasons of the State/Union Territory Agricultural Produce & Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018. This model act is expected to be cleared by the Union cabinet this month. The states will subsequently be urged by the Centre to enact their respective legislations, taking the Model Act as their guide. The model act, framed by a committee of the agriculture ministry in consultation with the Niti Aayog, has broadened the ambit of proposed contract farming legislation by bringing marketing and services into it.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Congress to focus on agriculture, employment to challenge BJP

Ahead of polls in some states and the 2019 general elections, the Congress has decided to up the ante over issues related to agriculture, employment and poverty as it prepares to take on the ruling BJP, party sources said. For The Grand Old Party’s plenary session, to be held between March 16 and March 18 in the national capital, a separate resolution will be passed on issues related to agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation. During the last plenary session in 2010, agrarian and employment issues were part of the economic resolution. The Congress has also formed a nine-member sub-group on ‘agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation’ under the chairmanship of former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Party leader Meenakshi Natarajan is the convener of the sub-group. “Farmers are under distress in the country currently. Given that the agrarian crisis has deepened, it warrants passage of a separate resolution that will guide the party’s future activities on this line,” a senior leader said, requesting anonymity. This, however, is not the first time that the party will have a separate resolution on agrarian and employment-related issues. The leader added that the Congress had passed a similar resolution in 2001. “We had taken enough measures to see these problems do not surface when we were in power (till 2014). The situation was better when we had the last plenary session,” the leader claimed. Another party insider said the issues of employment and poverty alleviation have become “acute” over the past three years. “The economy has been paralysed due to the government’s double blow of demonetisation and GST. We will have to reach out to the people on the issues,” the insider added. The leader said that the party has already started reaching out to the youth and first-time voters on issues concerning them, including that of employment.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
India, Vietnam emphasise on freedom of navigation in South China Sea

Amid increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region, India and Vietnam have underlined the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, while calling for peaceful settlement of disputes without threat or use of force. After delegation-level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, the two countries also resolved to deepen cooperation in the field of defence and security. The Vietnamese side reiterated its consistent support for India’s permanent membership to United Nations Security Council (UNSC), a joint statement said. The two sides had also inked pacts for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, trade and investment, and agriculture following Modi-Tran talks. India and Vietnam also agreed to further cooperate in the maintaining peace, stability and development in the Indo-Pacific region as well as in the world at large. “They also reiterated the importance of, and the need for complete compliance with international law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS), including the implementation of international legal obligations,” the statement said. The two sides also underlined the importance of the “maintenance of freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea, full respect for diplomatic and legal processes, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force, and in accordance with international law”, it said. Both sides support the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and look forward to an early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Prime Minister Modi and President Tran shared convergence of views on various bilateral and international issues, including the regional security situation in Asia, the statement said.

4, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
Farm scientists protest over delay in 7th Pay Commission roll-out

Over 4,000 scientists working in the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) across the country held a silent protest against non-implementation of the 7th Pay Commission among other demands. “There are currently 4,760 working scientists in 128 ICAR research institutions across the country. Out of these, over 90 per cent of scientists participated in the silent protest and wore a black badge even though all of them attended work,” S Manivannan, General Secretary, Agricultural Research Service Scientists’ Forum told. The agricultural scientists also wanted the government to implement the system of ‘5 working days’ a week in ICAR institutes. “We would give the government a fortnight for sympathetically considering our case. If no notification has come by March 15, we may have to chart out the next course of action, which may include even hunger strikes at different locations,” Manivanna said.

The Financial Express, Ahmedabad
Guj to buy 1.28 lakh tonne tur at MSP

In view of the slump in tur prices which are down nearly 25% from the MSP, the Gujarat government announced that it will procure 1.28 lakh tonne tur (pigeon pea) from farmers at the rate of minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 5,450 per quintal. The state agriculture minister R C Faldu made this announcement in the state assembly and informed the house that the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) would be entrusted with the task of procurement. “Government of India has allowed Nafed to procure 1.28 lakh tonne tur in Gujarat and the nodal agency would start the procurement of tur dal at MSP through 40 of its centres in 22 districts from 12 March. Farmers who wish to sell need to first register at the procurement centres,” said Faldu. Online registration for farmers will start from March 5 and Nafed will inform farmers about the beginning of procurement through SMS. According to the state government, sowing of tur have been done on 2.72 lakh hectare and it is expecting 3.14 lakh tonne production of tur this year. Currently tur prices are ruling at Rs 4,100 per quintal which is nearly 25% lower than MSP. To cover maximum farmers under the procurement benefits, the state government has fixed a limit of procurement of 1,200 kg per hectare per farmer. The Gujarat government has already procured 8 lakh tonne groundnut at MSP of Rs 4,500 a quintal till mid January this year. In February, the central government has allowed Nafed to procure 1 lakh tonne more groundnut from Gujarat. However, as the state is not having sufficient storage capacity, Nafed has not begun the additional groundnut procurement yet.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Pepper Exports may Fall 50% as MIP Turns Disastrous

The minimum import price (MIP) of Rs 500/kg imposed on pepper to protect domestic farmers is turning counter-productive with the spices industry expecting a 50% drop in pepper exports from India in the current fiscal if this levy is not withdrawn immediately, feel exporters. Exporters have already faced a loss of Rs 75 crore in the last three months following the levy of MIP in December. The All India Spices Exporters Forum said MIP had a cascading effect on other spices as well as value-added pepper, which is mostly exported in combination with other processed spices. Indian business has become unviable which could result in closure of business and loss of employment and forex earnings, it said. “Exporters with contracts to export pepper would have to default because they cannot import pepper at a high price of Rs 500/kg as global customers will not buy it at over 40% of the international prices,” forum chairman Prakash Namboodiri said. Forum has asked for value added exporters to be exempted from the purview of the notification. They also want pepper imports through FTA and by unregistered traders to be restricted and smuggling of pepper from neighbouring countries to be controlled. As MIP is applicable on value-added exporters in SEZs, EOUs and those operating under advance licence agreement, India could lose its position as the global spices processing hub. “Already, pepper exporters in Vietnam (the largest producer) are trying to source chillies from China to create a basket of spices for export,” he said. Pepper prices have dropped after rising for a few days. “Indian pepper price fell from Rs 428/kg at the time of MIP levy to Rs 390 at present,” Namboodiri said adding that prices fluctuate based on global demand and supply. Vietnam pepper which is usually imported for value-addition has become cheaper during time moving down from Rs 225-210/kg.

Business Standard, Ahmedabad
Rapeseed-mustard output projection lowered

The latest production estimate for rapeseed-mustard during the current rabi season is down 3.7 per cent at the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA), with a decline in sowing and productivity. While acreage fell 0.06 per cent, yield in terms of kg per hectare decreased 5.7 per cent. As against total production of 6.57 million tonnes in the country during 2016-17, that for the current year is 6.33 mt. The area sown is estimated at 6.412 million hectares in 2017-18. Yield, from 7,399 per kg last year, is an estimated 6,979 kg in 2017-18. Rapeseed-mustard production estimate dips marginally by 4%, says SEA According to G G Patel, convenor of the SEA's oilseeds estimate committee, seven survey teams of about 50 members went out. They toured the major growing districts of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, among others, during February 21-27. "The teams visited a large number of mandis (wholesale markets) in these states, had a number of meetings with traders, commission agents and farmers, and carried out a number of field visits to arrive at a provisional estimate," he said. Among the growing states, UP, Punjab/Haryana and West Bengal saw an increase in production estimates by 15.1 per cent, 12 per cent and 30.8 per cent, respectively, with a rise in area under the crop. Rajasthan, the largest producer, is estimated to see a decline of 16.9 per cent in production, from 2.95 mt in 2016-17 to 2.45 mt. The result of a 17 per cent fall in sowing from last year, to about 2.13 mn ha.

The Financial Express, Mumbai
Sugar output to grow; mills profits to be hit

Even as sugar production is estimated to grow by 33 percent in the sugar year 2018(SY), beginning from October 1, the operating profits of mills are likely to take a hit this fiscal due to higher cost of cane production, ICRA said in a report. "Based on current trends, domestic sugar production for SY18 is anticipated to increase by at least 33 percent to around 27 million tonne against the earlier estimate of 26 million tonne, although it can even be higher," ICRA senior vice president and Group head Sabyasachi Majumdar said. This has been driven principally by a recovery in production in Maharashtra, North Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh (UP), he added. The domestic sugar consumption is expected to increase to around 25 million tonne in SY18 from 24.5 million tonne in SY17, he said. "As the production will be higher than consumption in SY18, we expect a closing stock of around 6–6.5 million tonne," he said. However, the upward revision in sugar production estimate, along with the liquidation of sugar stocks, has resulted in a decline in the sugar prices during December 2017 - February 2018, the report said. Sugar prices declined from Rs 37,000-37,500 per tonne in October 2017 to Rs 34,000 per tonne in December 2017 and further to Rs 31,500 tonne in February 2018 (first week). The prices of the sweetener picked up in the recent weeks following the government initiatives including doubling of import duty to 100 per cent and the imposition of limits on sugar sales by sugar mills and prices are currently hovering around Rs 34,500 - Rs 35,000 per tonne. However, ICRA said, there might be renewed pressure on the sugar prices, especially if the final production would be higher than the current estimates of around 27 million tonne.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Value-added spice exporters slam move to impose MIP on pepper

Value-added spice exporters have been facing a crisis and are likely to shift to other countries with the Union government fixing a minimum import price (MIP) for pepper from December, 2017, the All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) said here. Members of AISEF said that exporters have lost nearly Rs 50-75 crore in the past three months due to the new development, and this would eventually lead to exporters, engaged in shipping value-added spice products, relocating their base. Pepper exports from India is also likely to decline by 50 % in the current fiscal as India has been largely re-exporting pepper after value addition. The Union government approved the proposal of the state-run Spices Board to impose a minimum import price of Rs 500 per kg ( CIF value) on the basis of reports that cheaper imports of pepper were seen putting pressure on the domestic market. India is the largest consumer of pepper in the world and the second largest producer after Vietnam. Indian pepper prices are mostly seen at a premium over the global prices. “MIP imposed in the name of protecting local farmer interests has practically resulted in a ban on the entry of pepper in all forms. This has been done with no discussion with the export industry, that are the major importers of pepper for 100% exports with value addition. In order to compete with global prices, the government has provided the exporters various options of operating through SEZ, EOU and advance licence agreement (ALA) . The EOU and SEZ work under customs bond with complete supervision of customs or central excise,” Prakash Namboodiri, chairman of AISEF told. The notification neither classifies the different types of pepper nor does it confine the restriction on imports meant for domestic consumption or for trading in the local market.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Centre hikes import duty on crude, refined palm oil

Aimed at safeguarding the interests of the domestic edible oil crushing industry and oilseed farmers in India, the Ministry of Finance increased the import duty on refined and crude palm oil to the highest levels in recent years. In a late night announcement by the Department of Revenue, the government hiked the import duty on Crude Palm Oil (CPO) to 44 per cent from 30 per cent and on Refined Bleached Deodorized (RBD) palmolein from 40 per cent to 54 per cent with effect from March 1, 2018. The apex trade body, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA), which has been vocal in demanding safeguards for the domestic crushing industry and farmers by imposing import duty on edible oils, welcomed the move but with some displeasure. “We had been representing to the government to increase duties on imported oils as our dependence on them was reaching at the alarming levels of almost 70 per cent of our consumption. While we welcome this increase in duties we are surprised at singling out palm only for increase in duties. This looks grossly unfair and may defeat the purpose of doubling farmers income by raising domestic values of all oils,” said Atul Chaturvedi, President, SEA. He further added that the move will disappoint oilseed farmers, especially when the mustard crop is in harvesting stage. “Our farmers will feel cheated if import duties on soya, sunflower and canola oils are not increased in same proportion as palm oils. Needless to mention it would be difficult to encourage oilseed farmers to grow more oilseed and augment their income if duties on these oils are also not raised,” he added. The industry also feels unhappy that our long-standing demand of raising the differential between CPO and Palmolein to minimum 15 per cent from existing 10 per cent has still not been acceded, SEA informed.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Centre raises import duty on chana to 60%

Even as the growers have begun harvesting a record crop of chikpea or chana across key growing region, the government has increased the import duty on the pulse to 60 per cent from the earlier 40 per cent. The move is expected to help restrict cheaper imports from Australia and Canada, among other countries, and stabilise the prices of chana, which are currently ruling below the minimum support price of Rs 4,400 per quintal (including a bonus of Rs 150) in various mandis. The Centre also imposed a 40 per cent duty on Kabuli chana, another variety. The latest duty hike on chana is the third since December last year, when the government imposed a Customs duty of 30 per cent to curb cheaper inflows. In early February, the government, in anticipation of a bumper crop, had increased the import duty on chana to 40 per cent. The Agriculture Ministry, in its second advance estimates, had pegged the chana crop at an all-time high of 11.10 million tonnes on a surge in acreages and increase in yields. The current crop is around 18 per more than last year’s final estimate of 9.38 million tonnes. Market arrivals of chana, the largest among pulses crops, have begun in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and are expected to gain pace in the days ahead. The total production of pulses in the country is set to touch 23.95 million tonnes this year, mainly driven by a surge in production, especially of black gram. Though the government has taken various measures to curb cheaper imports while opening up the exports, the rise in production this year and carry-forward stocks continue to influence the prices of pulses, which have been in a bearish trend since last year. Prices of almost all variety of pulses continue to hover below the support price levels in various States.

Business Line, Kolkata
Ganesh Grains to foray into South; eyes 25% jump in turnover next fiscal

Ganesh Grains Ltd, maker of Ganesh branded flour products including atta, sooji and maida, is expecting a 25 per cent growth in turnover in FY’ 19. According to Manish Mimani, Managing Director, Ganesh Grains, the company, which is likely to close fiscal 2017-18 with a turnover of Rs 600 crore, is likely to clock a turnover of Rs 750 crore by FY’19. Nearly 60 per cent of its sales come from atta; while the remaining comes from maida, sooji, besan and sattu among others. “We hope to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,500 crore by 2020-21; post which we could explore the possibility of tapping the capital market through an initial public offering,” Mimani told. The Kolkata-based company had raised an investment of Rs 100 crore from Motilal Oswal Private Equity in 2016 to fund its growth and expansion plans. Ganesh plans to spend close to Rs 25 crore on marketing, distribution and advertising in the coming fiscal. The funding would be done through internal accruals. The growth in turnover will be supported by the company’s foray into the southern and northern markets. Nearly 90 per cent of its sales currently come from West Bengal. The company has already set its footprint in eastern States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and the north-eastern States of Assam and Tripura. The company, which has eight factories in all, four in Kolkata and one each in Hyderabad, Siliguri, Varanasi and Agra, has a total manufacturing capacity of 1,400 tonnes per day. Its current capacity utilisation is around 60 per cent. Ganesh also plans to diversify its product portfolio. Plans are afoot to add spices and edible oil among others. It would also consider coming up with more ‘premium’ variety offering in atta such as sharbati atta, diabetes control atta and gluten free atta among others.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Higher levy on import of chickpea

The government has hiked the import duty on chickpea, or Bengal gram, to 60 per cent from 40 per cent to protect domestic farmers. The move comes within days of the visit of Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the country. India and Canada had agreed to jointly work on foodgrain fumigation that would enable the import of Canadian pulses free from pests. The hike in duty is seen as an attempt to protect domestic farmers who could face lower prices because of a bumper production in global pulses and an increase in domestic output. Traders expect this rabi season's chana production to be around 10 million tonnes (mt) up from 9.33 mt last year, considering sown area has gone up by 8 per cent over last year. The bumper production could result in the prices coming down further as the crop reaches the mandi. For the rabi season, the government had set the minimum support price for chickpea at Rs 4,250 per quintal along with a bonus of Rs 150, taking the total to Rs 4,400 per quintal.

Business Line, Shimla
HP crop diversification project

Himachal Pradesh, country’s off-season cash crops bowl, has sought additional funds of Rs 1,000 crore from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for extending a crop diversification project, an official said. The state is aiming to expand the Himachal Pradesh Crop Diversification Promotion Project in all 12 districts of the state. The demand to extend the project was raised by Additional Chief Secretary Shrikant Baldi at a meeting here with JICA-India Principal Development Specialist Subroto Takuldar. The latter was here along with a delegation of 13 Afghan officers

Business Line, Kochi
Pepper exporters want Govt to end MIP regime for the spice

Reiterating their demand for withdrawing MIP (minimum import price) notification on pepper imports, the spice export industry maintains that the continuing situation is going have a cascading impact on other spice exports from India. According to Prakash Namboodiri, Chairman, All India Spices Exporters Forum, pepper is always exported in combination with other processed spices out of India and rarely in isolation. Customers will prefer to buy the entire basket of the spices comprising pepper, turmeric, paprika from a single source. “Already we have seen pepper exporters in Vietnam trying to source chillies from China to create a basket,” he said. It is roughly estimated that the export industry has directly or indirectly lost business worth Rs 50-75 crore in the last three months due to policy changes, forcing customers to move directly to the origin where it is available cheaper, he said. The emerging situation has made the Indian spice industry uncompetitive in the international markets. “If we import pepper at a high price of Rs 500/kg, our export obligation would neither be achievable nor will the global customers buy from India at over 40 per cent of the international market prices,” he said. He cited the instance of the government banning export of CTC tea during 1977-78 that led to importers change their blends from Indian tea to East African and till this date, the loss has not been bridged. It may be recalled that the Centre, as per DGFT notification, had fixed MIP on all forms of pepper at Rs 500/kg ($7,875/tonne) when the global market prices are $3,500-3,600/tonne cif India. According to exporters, the government imposed MIP without any consultation under the guise of protecting local farmer interests, which had resulted in the ban on entry of pepper in all forms. India this year is expected to produce close to 70,000 tonnes.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Price dip leaves onion dehydration units in tears

Saddled with higher inventories and a dip in international prices, onion dehydration units in Gujarat are finding it difficult to commence production in the new season beginning February. This is even as the prices of the bulb have been on a declining trend over the past few weeks as the harvest of the late kharif season crop has begun in the key producing regions. Trade sources revealed that out of the 110 onion processing units located at Mahuva in Bhavnagar district, over 70 have either closed or reduced their operations due to piling up of stocks and reduced international prices. Of the total dehydrated onion production of about 75,000 tonnes last year, about 25,000 tonnes is still left with the industry as the carryover stock this year, leading to reduced plant utilisation. “There is no parity in the international markets as the prices have dropped to about $900-1,000 a tonne for the dehydrated onions in different varieties. Last year, the prices had touched $1,200. We are heavily dependent on the export market because about 85 per cent of the overall dehydrated onion is exported,” said Vitthalbhai Koradiya, President, All India Dehydration Association. Koradiya further mentioned that the association and the stakeholders of the trade have also raised demand to introduce minimum export price (MEP) for dehydrated onions too. “We have represented to the Union Commerce Ministry and also to the Finance Ministry. But there has been no assurance from them,” said Koradiya. To make each kg of dehydrated onion, about 8-10 kg of raw onion or fresh onion is consumed. “Of the overall 75,000 tonnes of production last year, only 55,000 tonnes were shipped last year and we have about 20,000 tonnes of carryover stock. The prices have declined in the international market, therefore export isn’t viable.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Red chilli prices crash 40% in two weeks

Red chilli prices in Telangana have crashed by over 40 per cent to Rs 7,000 a quintal in a span of two weeks, leaving farmers reeling — and bracing for more sharp falls if the government does not intervene. Arrivals of red chilli at the Khammam market yard, one of the biggest chilli markets in the country, have increased, on average, to 50,000-60,000 bags (of 40-50 kg each) a day. “Prices of the Teja variety were Rs 12,500-13,000 about two weeks ago. Now, they are Rs 7,000 a quintal,” Ramesh Madineni, District Secretary of Telangana Rythu Sangham, told. “Some lots get a token price of Rs 9,000, but the bulk of the farmers get far less.” The situation much the same in Andhra Pradesh. In the Guntur market, chilli sells for Rs 7,000-8,000 a quintal, and in Kurnool, for about Rs 7,110. This price is unviable for farmers. With production costs of about Rs 1.30-1.50 lakh an acre, only a price of at least Rs 10,000 a quintal on an average production of 20 quintals can help them recover the costs. The yields this year, however, are less than 15 quintals. The tenant farmers’ production costs are even higher as they have to pay a rent of Rs 20,000 an acre. Farmers’ unions are planning protests from March 6 at the yard to demand that the government ensure a price of Rs 15,000 a quintal. “We are planning to meet the District Collector on Saturday to discuss the challenges and seek a solution,” Ramakrishna said. The area under red chilli has come down in the kharif season as farmers have shifted to cotton after prices fell to as low as Rs 2,000. Consequently, chilli output is expected to come down. Farmers grew chilli on 1.18 lakh acres and expect a production of two lakh tonnes.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Higher output by small growers could disrupt market: Tea Board

A quiet disruption has been brewing in the tea industry, which has now become manifest. Small tea growers collectively produce as much as, or even more than, what established players do. According to Indian Tea Association (ITA), the contribution of small growers in the context of overall tea production has touched 50 per cent. While this looks harmless at first sight, the Tea Board feels the trend does not augur well for the industry. According to Tea Board chairman P K Bezbaruah, unless the demand goes up, this trend would destabilise the entire industry and cause disruption. To buttress his point, Bezbaruah said the production cost of the bought leaf factories and the small growers was low compared to the established composite gardens. Besides, the BLFs were paying pittance to the small growers for purchasing green leaf, making them to sustain at subsistence levels, Bezbaruah added. The rub-off effect is that small growers resort to plucking bigsized leaves and a bud to ramp up production. This, according to Bezbaruah, will reduce the overall quality of tea. Bezbaruah said that it is important to pluck good quality green leaf – something hardly practised by small growers and some composite gardens at the moment. He said the Tea Board is seized of the matter and has been trying to sensitise the growers on plucking good quality tea leaves and also finding means to raise internal demand. Total tea production during January-December 2017 was estimated at 1,348.84 million kg, while the estimated contribution of the small growers was 631.69 million kg. According to ITA data, the proportion of small growers’ contribution has been the highest in south India, followed by West Bengal and Assam.

Deccan Herald, Kolkata
Small tea growers’ contribution rises to 50%

Contribution of small growers in the context of overall tea production has been growing to touch almost 50% as per 2017 estimates, according to Indian Tea Association (ITA). The Tea Board feels the trend does not augur well and could cause “disruption” in the market. In 2017, total production during the January-December period was 1,348.84 million kg, while the estimated contribution of small growers was 631.69 million kg. Tea Board Chairman P K Bezbaruah said that unless the demand goes up, this trend would destabilise the entire industry, while the production cost of the bought leaf factories and the small growers was low, against established gardens.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Hanjura meets Union Agriculture Minister

Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Agriculture, Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura called on Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh to discuss the measures underway for revamping agriculture sector in Jammu and Kashmir. The Minister was accompanied by Commissioner Secretary, Agriculture Production Department (APD), Secretary APD, Directors Agriculture Kashmir and Jammu and Command Area Development Directors and MD AGRO’s. During the meeting, Hanjura informed that under Paramparagath Krishi Vikas Youjana State Government is in the process of setting up Vermi Composite Units for all farmers of four districts of Jammu and Kashmir. He also projected the demand for setting up of Saffron Park in Kishtwar and continuation of National Saffron Mission for five more years, development of Central Insecticide Lab and Fertiliser Laboratory Unit besides setting up of Soil Testing Labs in all Sub-Divisions of the State. The Minister further sought setting up of 87 Integrated Farm Management Systems in the State during the current financial year. He also told the Union Agriculture Minister that setting up of new two Bio-Pesticide Labs and provision for 10 Refrigerated Vans would greatly help the farmers of the State. The Minister sought the involvement of National Insurance Companies in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bema Youjana. The Union Agriculture Minister assured to extend adequate financial help to the State to successfully implement various schemes and projects to achieve the set target of doubling the farmers’ income by the year 2022.

3, March 2018
Mint, New Delhi
Govt nod to Rs5,000-cr plan to promote service industries

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government announced a Rs 5,000 crore scheme to promote key services industries, doubled the guarantee given to lenders financing procurement of pulses and oilseeds and extended a scheme supporting non-farm self-employment by another three years. The cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided to promote 12 sectors, including information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services, tourism and hospitality, medical value travel, logistics and transport, financial, accounting and legal services and construction services so that their full growth potential is realized. Services now account for more than half of India’s close to $2.6 trillion economy. The idea is to increase the competitiveness of the services sector, add jobs and step up services exports. The cabinet doubled the government guarantee for procurement of pulses and oilseeds at support prices by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED). The guarantee to lender banks for providing credit to NAFED was raised from Rs9,500 crore to Rs19,000 crore. As the market price of almost all pulses and oilseeds are currently below the minimum support price (MSP), the government guarantee will help in protecting farmers from resorting to distress sales, said an official statement. Farmers have been battered by low crop prices following record harvests in 2016 and 2017. The situation is worse for farmers growing pulses and oilseeds because government procurement is not significant enough to raise wholesale prices. The cabinet committee on economic affairs, which also met on Wednesday, decided to continue the Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) for another three years to 2019-20 with an outlay of Rs5,500 crore. The extension of the scheme is expected to add 15 lakh jobs. The cabinet decided to table in Parliament a new Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018. Bill seeks to prevent trafficking as well as to rescue and rehabilitate victims.

Business Line, New Delhi
Ivory Coast loses 125,000 tonnes of cocoa to smugglers

Ivory Coast lost an estimated 125,000 tonnes of cocoa this season through the smuggling of beans to neighbouring countries, where farmers and traders are paid better prices, according to people familiar with the matter. The industry regulator of the world’s biggest cocoa producer estimates that the country lost as much as 100,000 tonnes through its eastern border with Ghana and another 25,000 tonnes through the western boundary with Liberia and Guinea. Ivory Coast is struggling to contain cocoa smuggling this season after the country lowered the minimum price for farmers by more than a third to the equivalent of $1,314/tonne as international contract prices declined. The change opened an unusual payment gap with Ghana, the second largest cocoa producer, which left its price unchanged at $1,700.

The Indian Express, Bhopal
Madhya Pradesh offers pro-farmer schemes in Budget

The BJP government’s last Budget before the Assembly elections, and the first since the farmers’ unrest rocked the state in June last year, focused mainly on the agricultural sector and rural voters, allocating around Rs 37,498 crore for agriculture and allied sectors. Although Finance Minister Jayant Malaiyya did not make any new announcement while presenting the Rs 2,04,642-crore Budget, he made provisions for pro-farmer schemes such as Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY) and incentive over MSP on wheat and paddy announced by CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in recent months. The annual exercise has come a long way for BJP since it wrested power in 2003. Comparing the proposed expenditure of Rs 1,86,685 crore in the 2018-19 budget with the Rs 21,647-crore Budget in 2003-04, presented by the then Congress government, Malaiyya said it had amounted to an increase of more than nine fold. Praising BBY, he argued that the scheme was devised in 2017 after prices of agricultural commodities dropped in international markets, thereby impacting local markets. He said the scheme cushions farmers from price fluctuations in mandis. Calling it Krushak Samruddhi Yojana, he allocated Rs 3,560 crore for paying Rs 200 incentive to wheat and paddy growers above the MSP announced by the Centre. The CM said the Budget keeps all sections of the society in mind and aimed at women empowerment, employment, farmers, poor and children. Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh said the last Budget had proved that the BJP was on its way out. He said the BJP government was trying to take people for a ride by referring to figures in 2003 “but voters are smart and know that the government has failed to provide good governance in last 14 years.’’

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Modi launches farmer outreach campaign

Davangere: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the state BJP’s ‘mushti akki abhiyana’ by symbolically handing over fistfuls of rice collected from a couple of farmers to party state president B S Yeddyurappa. Addressing the Raitha Bandhu Samavesha to mark Yeddyurappa’s 75th birthday, Modi gave a call to the BJP workers to travel from village to village during March 1 to 15, and collect fistfuls of rice from each household. Drawing a parallel between the donations of iron scraps from farmers for the Statue of Unity in Gujarat, Modi said this “mutthi bhar ka chawal” would help create a “new Karnataka” and also change the lives of the farmers. Yeddyurappa, in his speech, took a vow to dedicate his life for the welfare of farmers. He also promised to resolve the Mahadayi river water dispute soon after his government comes to power. “The people of Karnataka have given me everything. I will now dedicate my life towards addressing farmers’ issues. It’s my duty to ensure their welfare,” he said. Yeddyurappa said that if his party came to power, he would see to it that no farmer in the state committed suicide. “The responsibility of turning Karnataka into a model state is on me,” he added. Before participating in the rally, Yeddyurappa visited the residences of farmers Rangaswamy of Kereyagalahalli village and Shivakumar of Kandanakovi village near Mayakonda, who recently committed suicide. He is learnt to have provided a compensation of Rs 50,000 each to both the families.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Nafed credit limit doubled for procuring pulses, oilseeds

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has doubled the credit limit of agri cooperative Nafed to undertake procurement of pulses and oilseeds amid market rates of tur and chana crops ruling more than 20% below their MSP. The CCEA approved an increase in government guarantee to Rs 19,000 crore from Rs 9,500 crore, which is provided to lender bank to extend the credit to the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed). The agency undertakes procurement operation of pulses and oilseeds under the Price Support Scheme (PSS) of the government to help farmers when market rates fall below MSP. The government guarantee will be valid until 2021-22 and the CCEA has waived 1% government guarantee fee. Apart from enhancing the credit limit of Nafed, the CCEA has also approved Rs 45 crore to the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) for meeting their existing liability and settlement of extant claims. As the market price of almost all pulses and oilseeds are ruling below Minimum Support Price (MSP), the provision of government guarantee will help in protecting the farmers producing these commodities from making distress sales during the peak arrival period, an official statement said. The move will also help provide remunerative prices to encourage higher investment and production and also to safeguard the interest of consumer by making available supplies at reasonable prices, it said. Apart from procuring under the PSS, Nafed also had purchased 11.95 lakh tone of pulses under the Price Stabilisation Fund scheme for the buffer stock during 2016-17 (October-September). The government has allocated Rs 200 crore for both PSS and market intervention scheme (MIS) during FY2018-19. The MIS is utilised for compensating losses to state governments up to 50% while buying and selling vegetables like onion and potato to help farmers when market rates dip.

The Assam Tribune, Dibrugarh
Plantation bandh brings tea industry to standstill

The tea industry in Assam came to a standstill following the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) call for plantation bandh in support of their various demands, including revised wage for plantation workers. The tea estate workers refrained from works to stage demonstrations and processions to attract the attention of the State government towards their burning problems. The workers of the tea estates located alongside the NH-37 and state highways like Lepetkata, Borborooh, Ghooronia, Dikom, Nahartoli, Sealkotie, Lahoal, Chabua, Desam, Dirai, Pithagootie, etc., took to streets with placards and banners. As the workers marched in the procession, they raised slogans demanding immediate revision of the minimum wages and its implementation. The workers among others also demanded increase in the house rent allowance, increase in the leave travel allowance of the sub-staff workers from Rs 1,500 to Rs 5,000 and installation of individual meter for consuming electricity. ACMS president Paban Singh Ghatowar said the shutdown was total and peaceful. He thanked the workers in general and the president and secretaries of 22 ACMS branches in particular for making the bandh peaceful and successful.

The Tribune, Shimla
Rain deficit 72% in Himachal, fruit growers jittery

Himachal Pradesh has witnessed one of the driest winters in the last five years with a mere 55.1 mm rain, which was 72 per cent less than normal in January and February. The months were not only the driest but also relatively warm with the temperatures over the mid and high hills remaining above normal. All 12 districts received deficient rain with tribal districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti being the worst hit at 82 per cent and 81 per cent. The deficient rain and above normal temperatures are giving anxious moments to apple and other fruit growers as these are not beneficial for good crop. “In January and February, the total rainfall received in the state was 9.2 mm and 46 mm, which was deficient by 91 and 53 per cent,” said Manmohan Singh, Director of the local Meteorological centre. He disclosed that the highest rainfall/snowfall in the season was recorded at Salooni in Chamba, 54mm on February 25, 2018. He said the winter months in 2017 had surplus rain of 4 per cent at 203.9 mm. Even in 2015, the rainfall in winter was 9 per cent surplus. This winter was quite like 2016 when the rainfall deficiency was 71 per cent with only 57.1 mm rainfall being recorded over a span of two months. In 2014 winter, the rain was close to normal with surplus of a mere 4 per cent as there was 187.2 mm rain. The relatively warm winter this year saw sunny days. During this winter season, the average minimum temperature of Shimla in January was 4.7 degree Celsius which was 2.1 degree more than normal and in February, it was 5.5 degree Celsius which was 1.9 degree more than normal.

Business Line, Coimbatore
Tender coconut gets a fair and lovely makeover

The idiom “old wine in a new bottle” seems more apt to what this young agri start-up Nature Bowl has set out to do, by giving the tender coconut a nice makeover, a neat look. Thennavan, an MCA graduate and team member of this 6-month-young start-up, told that there was nothing new about the venture except for the fact that they wanted to focus on the appearance of the nut. “We realised that buyers go by the look of the fruit more often and decided to give the tender coconut a premium feel. So we shave off the outermost layer around the middle with an electric peeler, retain the green/ yellow layer as a border on either side, drill a small hole on the top with a drilling equipment and offer it with a paper straw and tissue. It is offered fresh from farm,” he added. The team has bought implements such as cutters and drilling tools from China. “We don’t use billhook (an implement used by roadside vendors) to cut the top of the nut,” he said. The makeover has drawn lots of attention. The team is in talks with local hospitals here for supply of the tender coconut to patients. “We have an outlet at PSG Institute of Medical Research and at the management institute as well. We undertake home deliveries too,” said Sangamesh, another member of this venture. “We have orders for 200-250 nuts a day at present. We source around 2,000 tender coconuts every week from farms in Pollachi and Sathyamangalam. Orders have started to pick up over the past week with the onslaught of summer, including home deliveries,” said Sarathkumar. The investment on this venture is estimated at Rs 15 lakh, towards implements and tools, a warehouse and a vehicle for transportation of the nuts.

The Financial Express, Pune
Wholesale onion prices drop below Rs 10 per kg

Average wholesale onion prices at Lasalgaon — the country’s largest wholesale market — crashed to Rs 981 per quintal, the lowest this season, due to huge arrivals. Prices dropped as low as Rs 1,101 per quintal when the market re-opened after a long weekend. According to Jaydutt Holkar, chairman, Lasalgaon APMC, prices have dropped by Rs 1,000 per quintal in a span of 10 days despite the removal of MEP. The summer onions have started coming in the market. Farmers are ready to sell at lower prices since they cannot store the onion for long now, he said. The average wholesale onion price declined by 22% to Rs 1,150 per quintal due to rise in supply as compared to demand, against Rs 1,470 per quintal on February 23, the previous day of trading. The average wholesale onion price has crashed by 51.29% in just three weeks from Rs 2,361 per quintal on February 6. Farmers stopped auctions for a while in some markets of Nashik after prices fell below Rs 10 per kg. Around 20,000 quintal of fresh onion arrived in the market and another 23,739 quintal a day before with modal prices touching Rs 1,030 per quintal. Huge arrivals in the market have led to the drop in prices, Holkar said. The late kharif crop is now flowing to the market. The new crop has a shelf life of less than a month and therefore farmers are disposing off stocks. Since another long weekend is coming up on the occasion of Holi and labourers will not be available then, the arrivals are heavy at present, he said.

2, March 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
‘Sugar industry may need government support to tide over glut, price problems’

Domestic sugar industry, reeling under an anticipated higher production, may need the government support to tide over the glut and drop in prices, said a release from rating agency ICRA. “Based on current trends, domestic sugar production for sugar year 2017-18 is anticipated to increase by at least 33 per cent to around 27 million tonnes (mt) (as against its earlier estimate of 26 mt), although an even higher production cannot be ruled out at this stage. The consumption is expected to increase to around 25 mt in SY2018 from 24.5 mt in SY2017,” said Sabyasachi Majumdar of ICRA. The glut in production is mainly due to a recovery in yield in Maharashtra, northern Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. The increase in production — together with the liquidation of sugar stocks to meet cane payments — had resulted in a correction is sugar prices during December-February, when it plummeted to Rs 31,500 per tonne before climbing back to Rs 35,000, thanks to the government initiatives like doubling import duty to 100 per cent on imported sugar and capping sugar sales by mills. Currently, the ex-mill sugar prices hover around Rs 34,500-35,000 a tonne. But a renewed pressure on prices cannot be ruled out if the final production happens to higher than the current estimates, the ICRA statement said. “Given the increase in production levels and fall in prices, govt support will be critical for the financial performance of the sugar industry in the near-term,” Majumdar said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Bayer open to selling more assets as Monsanto deal drags on

Bayer AG said it may sell more businesses in addition to its seeds unit as its existing units struggle and the process of closing its $66-billion acquisition of Monsanto Co drags on. Without Monsanto, Bayer said sales and profit growth will grind to a halt this year. The shares dropped as much as 3.7 per cent, the most in seven months. The Leverkusen, Germany-based company, which previously had expected to conclude the Monsanto purchase early this year said it needs more time though is confident it can allay the concerns of EU antitrust regulators by divesting or out-licensing businesses. The company said it will divest its entire vegetable-seed unit, aiming to complete the deal in the second quarter. European Union merger regulators have until April 5 to make their decision, and farming technology and the seed portfolio have emerged as key final details in the talks. Even without Monsanto’s help, the company predicted its agriculture unit will grow again this year after seeing sales and profit drop last year due to a tough business environment in Brazil. On a group level, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortisation this year will probably be in line with 2017, while sales will be little changed at about €35 billion ($43 billion), Bayer said. The prescription-drug division, still Bayer’s biggest unit, was a bright spot last year. Unit sales climbed 4.3 per cent to €16.8 billion, driven by a spike in revenue from blood thinner Xarelto, eye medicine Eylea and the cancer drugs Xofigo and Stivarga. This year, however, profit from prescription drugs will probably fall, Bayer said. That’s partly because of remediation measures needed after the US Food and Drug Administration found manufacturing practice violations at its Leverkusen factory. Addressing the FDA’s concerns will drive Ebitda down by about €300 million, Bayer said.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Castor production in Gujarat projected to hit 12 lakh tonnes

Increase in area under cultivation and higher yield is expected to push up castor seed production in Gujarat in 2017-18. The production in the state, which accounts for more than 80% of castor output in India, is estimated to be 12 lakh tonnes, states a castor crop survey 2017-18. The castor production in 2017-18 will rise by more than 30% as compared to nearly 9 lakh tonne of castor output in 2016-17. The increase in production is largely attributed to higher yield and acreage. Total area under castor in Gujarat for the year 2017-18 stood at 5,95,600 hectares as per the government’s estimates, which showed a rise of 5% over last year’s estimate of 5,65,400 hectares. “The major reasons for increase in area are crop rotation, expectation of higher price and lower cost of cultivation,” said the crop survey conducted by Indian Agribusiness Systems Ltd and released by the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA). Castor yield in Gujarat is expected to be much higher at 2,050 kg per hectare in 2017-18. Estimates of SEA had pegged the yield at 1,524 kg per hectare in the previous year. Across India, castor seed production is likely to be over 14 lakh tonnes and average yield is expected to be 1,738 kg/hectare. The castor output was around 11 lakh tonnes in 2016-17. Apart from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are the major castor growing states in India.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
CCEA OKAYS PROPOSAL OF DOUBLE GUARANTEE TO NAFED

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a proposal to double the guarantee from Rs 9500 crore to Rs 19,000 crore to cooperative NAFED to help it obtain credit from banks for procurement of pulses and oilseeds at the support price. The CCEA also approved the government guarantee up to Rs 45 crore to the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) for meeting its existing liability and settlement of extant claims. According to a press statement, “these Government guarantees are provided for a period of five years i.e. Till 2021-22 by Government of India and with waiver of 1 per cent Government guarantee 0fee”. The government guarantee to Nafed has been doubled to Rs 19,000 crore from Rs 9,500 crore for undertaking procurement of pulses and oilseeds under the Price Support Scheme (PSS), it said. “As the market price of almost all pulses and oilseeds are ruling below Minimum Support Price (MSP) as notified by Govt. of India, provision of Govt. Guarantee will help in protecting the farmers producing these commodities from making distress sales during the peak arrival period and to provide remunerative prices with a view to encourage higher investment and production and also to safeguard the interest of consumer by making available supplies at reasonable price with low cost of intermediation,” it said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Centres doubles guarantee for procurement of pulses, oilseeds at MSP

The Centre approved doubling of government guarantee, provided to lender banks, from Rs 9,500 crore to Rs 19,000 crore for procurement of pulses and oilseeds at minimum support price (MSP) by Nafed, a farmers’ cooperative. The move will help in protecting farmers from making distress sales of these produce during the peak arrival period. Procurements of pulses and oilseeds by Nafed will be done under the existing Price Support Scheme (PSS) which is implemented at the request of the state government concerned. The decision to double the government guarantee was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). It also approved the government guarantee up to Rs 45 crore to the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) for meeting its existing liability and settlement of existing claims. It comes just a day after release of the agriculture ministry’s estimate of record production of foodgrain (277.49 million tonnes) with the output of pulses too touching new high of 23.95 million tonnes (MT) during 2017-18 crop year (July-June). The estimated production of pulses during current year is likely to be is higher than the five years’ average production by 5.10 MT. The decision also includes waiver of 1% government guarantee fee. “In view of fall in prices of pulses and oilseeds below the MSP, the provision of government guarantee will help in protecting the farmers from making distress sales during the peak arrival period,” said a government statement. The basic objectives of the PSS are to provide remunerative prices to the growers for their produce with a view to encourage higher investment and production and to safeguard the interest of consumers by making available supplies at reasonable prices with low cost of intermediation.

The Hindu, Bhopal
Chouhan government budgets for harried farmers

The poll-bound Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh has presented a please-all budget that mostly focuses on quelling the rising discontent in villages with a slew of sops to farmers. The FY19 budget presented by Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya in the Assembly does not propose any increase in levies, but allocates Rs37,498 crore for the agriculture sector, a 17% increase over the past budget. Besides, Rs10,928 crore has been earmarked to rev up the irrigation facilities. The Rs 2,04,642.44-crore FY19 budget estimates a fiscal deficit of Rs26,780.25 crore, and a net expenditure of Rs1,86,685.24 crore, which will leave a revenue surplus of Rs262.55 crore. He also said Rs3,650 crore has been earmarked for launching the Krishak Samridhi Yojana (farmers’ betterment scheme). The Minister has also offered a slew of sops to the working class. It seeks to raise the limit on levying professional tax to Rs2.25 lakh per annum from Rs1.80 lakh, and brought down the levy from Rs2,500 to Rs1,500. But for those with Rs3 lakh annual income, the levy would be Rs2,500. Mr. Malaiya has also offered relief in the range of Rs500 to Rs1,000 in professional tax to other salaried groups. The budget has not announced any increase or decrease in other levies as well. The State, which is going to the polls by the year-end, has been witnessing violent protest by farmers for some time. Last June five protesting farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur district. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and senior BJP leader and former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Singh have taken part in farmers’ protests in many parts of the State. On the Rs3,650-crore Krishak Samridhi Yojana, Mr. Malaiya said under the scheme, around 9,00,000 farmers will be paid Rs200 a quintal for their paddy and wheat. “The scheme is aimed at encouraging cultivators to boost paddy and wheat production,” he said.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Farmers urged to avail benefits of govt schemes

Assam PWD Minister Parimal Suklabaidya has urged upon the farmers to avail benefits of various agro-based schemes floated by the government.Addressing farmers at the Krishi Mela and exhibition held at the Regional Agriculture Research Centre at Akhbarpur area of Karimganj district, the PWD Minister said, “The government has taken up elaborate plans to enhance productivity by using better technology. Experts from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra will be roped in to share their know-how.” Later, the Minister visited the stalls and exchanged views with the officials of the department in improving agricultural productivity. He also said that if bureaucrats and public representatives engage in foul means, farmers will be deprived of better roads and better facilities.

The Financial Express, Thiruvanathapuram
Global NR production growth slower by 1.2%

India is not alone while facing the slowdown in the growth of natural rubber (NR) production. Analysis of NR trends and statistics in January 2018 by the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC) predicts a slump in the growth of NR production as well as its demand in the current year. Growth of NR production is down by 1.2%, according to ANRPC secretary general Nguyen Ngoc Bich. Eleven member countries of ANRPC accounts for as much as 92% of world’s NR output. “The slower production growth in 2018 is mainly attributed to a lower production anticipated by Thailand at 4.375 million tonne, down by 1.2% on a year-to-year basis,” Nguyen Ngoc Bich writes in the latest news bulletin. At the same time, the global outlook of NR supply is anticipated at 13.784 million tonne in 2018, up 4.5% from 13.196 million tonne recorded in 2017. In January 2018, an early winter season faced by rubber farmers in China has slowed down its production. “This seasonal phenomenon will soon happen in other major producing countries. Slowdown in NR supply may be expected, and this may lead to a much-balanced supply-demand NR market in the coming months,” says the secretary general’s note. However, the good news for growers is that the price may improve. The global demand for NR is set to grow at 2.8% in 2018, higher than 1.2% observed during 2017. In the bulletin, the ANRPC has predicted that demand would grow from 12.964 million tonne in 2017 to 13.327 million tonne in 2018. The report is optimistic that “increase of global growth momentum” and the expected impact of recent US tax policy changes would improve the outlook on commodity markets during 2018. It also hints that the efforts of agreed oil production cut by OPEC would be supportive to better outlook.

1, March 2018
The Financial Express, Pune
30 Maha APMCs join eNAM

Out of 60 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) in Maharashtra, 30 have switched to digital transactions and have begun e-auctions. These 30 APMCs were part of the first phase of the Union agriculture ministry-promoted electronic platform National Agriculture Market (eNAM). Soon, 15 more mandis are expected to begin e-auctions as well. Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh, who reviewed the functioning of the 60 market committees in the state, said that directives have been issued to completely stop cash transactions in these 30 committees and move on to digital transactions. He stated assaying laboratories have been set up in 28 market committees for quality control of the agricultural produce. Under eNAM, harmonisation of quality standards of agricultural produce and provision for assaying (quality testing) infrastructure in every market is mandatory to enable informed bidding by the buyers. Common tradable parameters have so far been developed for 69 commodities. In Maharashtra, 1,008 lots have been tested and checked in some 17 market committees, the minister added. Assaying services will begin in another 11 market committees soon. According to Deshmukh, e-payment services have commenced on a pilot basis in Daund and Wardha market committees. Till date, 2,24,487 farmers, 7,570 traders and 6,991 commission agents have registered under eNAM. Maharashtra has also declared awards for mandis that perform well in eNAM, the first state to do so. The National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. The NAM portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services. This includes commodity arrivals & prices, buy and sell trade offers, provision to respond to trade offers, among other services. The Centre has allotted around Rs 30 lakh per mandi, which means the state has received Rs 9 crore for the project.

Business Line, New Delhi
At Erode, turmeric loses ground to maize

Erode, which used to produce nearly 40 per cent of India’s total turmeric output a decade back, is gradually transforming itself into a maize hub as declining water availability in Tamil Nadu has compelled farmers to dump the spice crop. Located on the banks of the Cauvery, Erode was the hub for the production and trading of the bulb-variety of turmeric, largely used in processed spices. But two straight droughts since 2016 had hit turmeric farmers, who were also lured by growing demand for maize crop from booming poultry sector around the district. In 2017-18, the district’s share in the country’s turmeric production had fallen to just three per cent. The output of turmeric in Erode is seen declining 57 per cent to 15,600 tonnes in 2017-18 (July-June), said Nakkeeran, an official at the Department of Horticulture, Erode. He did not give an estimate for the 2015-16 crop but traders put the number at 78,000 tonnes. “Turmeric (a six- to nine-month crop) requires good rains for growth and discouraged by drought for two years, farmers shifted to short-duration crops, requiring lesser water,” said Pamil Selpi, Deputy Director at the Erode Horticulture Department. A number of poultry units fall within a 70-km radius of Erode, such as Namakkal and Tirupur, where demand for maize feed has been on the rise for the last six-seven years, traders said. Since Namakkal, 60 km away, is a major cattle feed consumption centre, Erode farmers are increasingly growing short-duration feed crops. Namakkal produces around 38-40 million eggs per day and production has been rising nearly 5 per cent every year. The district’s emergence as maize trading centre was reinforced by Ithe National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange, when it shifted the maize delivery centre from Nizamabad in Telangana to Erode.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Centre estimates record food grain output in 2017-18 crop yr

Backed by higher production of winter-grown crops, India’s foodgrains output is estimated to reach a record 277.49 million tonne in 2017-18 while the crucial wheat harvest might see a marginal decline. According to second advance estimate released by the agriculture ministry, wheat production may slip to 97.11 million tonne in 2017-18 crop year (July-June) compared with 98.51 million tonne in previous year. Fall in wheat production is mainly due to 4.27 per cent drop in acreage at 30.42 million hectare this season as many farmers in Madhya Pradesh shifted to chana crop. Foodgrains production in rabi season is seen at an all-time high of 139.02 million tonne and kharif grown cereals and pulses at 138.46 million tonne this year. Last year, the country had produced a total 275.11 million tonne foodgrains comprising rice, wheat, pulses and coarse cereals. Record production of foodgrains has been due to the efforts of the farmers who responded positively to various schemes while the country also received near normal rainfall last year, a government official said. Rice production is estimated at record 111.01 million tonne, including 96.48 million tonne in kharif and 14.53 million tonne in rabi, as against 109.70 million tonne during 2016-17. The kharif (summer) crops are harvested from October while rabi (winter) crops have already started arriving in mandis and arrival will increase from April onwards. Pulses production is pegged at a record 23.95 million tonne this year, up from 23.13 million tonne last year, the data showed. The government has forecast chana output to be 11.10 million tonne as against 9.38 million tonne in 2016-17. Production of coarse cereals such as maize, jowar, bajra and barley is estimated at record 45.42 million tonne this year as against 43.77 million tonne in 2016-17. The maize output may be highest ever, 27.14 million tonne, up from 25.90 million tonne.

Business Line, New Delhi
Contract farming Bill to also cover services, marketing

The Agriculture Ministry has broadened the scope of the proposed Contract Farming Bill by bringing marketing and services into its ambit and cutting back on States’ role in regulating the sector, paying heed to a multitude of responses that the planned piece of legislation elicited. “On the basis of the great response it received from stakeholders, we have made many changes to the Bill. There is a substantive change between the first draft and this one. The most important change is the expansion of its scope. It has now become a Model Contract Farming and Services Act,” said Ashok Dalwai, CEO of the National Rainfed Agricultural Authority, who led the committee that drafted the Bill. The change in the nomenclature makes it possible for sponsors to get into a contract not just for production, but also for marketing as well as services. The modified Contract Farming and Services Act 2018 is available for comments till the coming weekend and will subsequently be put up before the Union Cabinet, Dalwai said. Acknowledging that the draft Bill received a good response from stakeholders from different sections of society, he said these observations — both positive and critical — helped in making it forward looking. Another change brought in the Bill is curtailing the role of the authorities. “It is no longer calling for setting up of an authority, but only a board, as the role of the State is only a facilitating one. We want less bureaucracy in it and want to give more freedom to stakeholders to decide among themselves. The State’s role will be limited to protecting the interests of farmers and others who enter into contract with sponsors,” Dalwai said. Similarly, the modified Bill doesn’t call for notification of commodities for which farmers and contract sponsors can get into a contract as envisaged in the previous draft.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Doles can’t help double farm income: Former CACP chief

Amid growing clamour over farm distress from different parts of the country, the government’s price-support measures that aims to boost agri income may not turn out a sustainable solution. Terming it a ‘dole’ model, noted agri-economist Ashok Gulati, who is also Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), underlined the need to boost investment for value-addition, agriculture research and processing and adopt a ‘development’ model instead. The former Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) projected a mere 2-2.5 per cent agriculture growth for 2017-18, far less than the 10 per cent desired to achieve PM Narendra Modi’s aim of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 amid lack of attention towards strengthening agri infrastructure. “The existing real income of the farmers are growing at the rate of 3.6 per cent per annum, which is required to grow at 10.4 per cent to double farmers’ income. Providing subsidies, loan waivers and cost-plus MSP rates isn’t a sustainable solution as that will put excessive financial burden on the government. Even if the nominal income has increased, the real income growth remains sluggish, resulting into a primary reason for farm distress,” said Gulati on the sidelines of the Global Castor Conference 2018 in Ahmedabad. Gulati underlined the need to cut supply chain and create a direct linkage between farmers and the market through reform measures. In order to protect consumers’ interest by way of food subsidies, the government is choking the farmers by capping the prices of agri-produces. Commenting on the e-National Agriculture Market (eNAM), “in absence of robust monitoring mechanism for assaying, grading, sorting, delivery, quality check and dispute settlement mechanism, the eNAM model can’t become meaningful,” he said.

Mint, New Delhi
Farmers’ protest to hit Gujarat next month

Farmer organizations in Gujarat plan to hold a five day protest in Gandhinagar next month to voice concerns over the allocation of Narmada waters and demands on issues such as crop insurance and minimum support price. “Despite repeated written presentations to Gujarat government, our issues have not been addressed. At a recent meeting attended by 30-35 leaders of various farmers’ organisations, we decided to stage a protest in Gandhinagar from 12 March to 15 March when the assembly session is on,” said Sagar Rabari, general secretary, Khedut Samaj, a farmers’ organisation. “To avoid difficulties in getting police permission to hold our protest, one representative each from three different farmers’ organizations will sit on a dharna,” Rabari added. The farmers of the state, he said, are also demanding waiver of farm loans. Farm debt in Gujarat is estimated to be about Rs70,000 crore. Over the last three to four years, farmers in the state have been facing production as well as price losses. “We want the government to waive farm loans of Rs70,000 crore. The BJP government has done this in other states so why not in Gujarat where farm distress is severe,” Rabari said. Farmer groups are also demanding accounts of the Narmada waters. Rabari said during the election months of October and November, the Sardar Sarovar project authorities had unnecessarily released water from the dam for inaugurations of schemes. “From September to November, the agriculture sector uses monsoon water and does not utilise much of Narmada waters. Hence our repeated query has been that where has the water vanished,” Rabari said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Fertiliser subsidy: Govt starts drive to identify farmers for cash transfer

Aiming to roll out cash transfer for fertiliser subsidy to farmers directly in place of the current practice of paying this to the manufacturers, the government has started the exercise to identify the actual “farmers”. This is the most critical aspect to start this reform in the agriculture sector considering that in many cases the actual land owner and tiller are different persons. Sources said work has also started to zero down on how to transfer the subsidy amount to farmers. “There are two options; either we transfer the subsidy amount to farmers after they buy the fertiliser or we pay their in advance so that they can buy the nutrient at market rate,” said a government official. He added both the options are tricky since the government will have to devise a norm for how many subsidised bags of fertiliser can be provided for a particular size of farm land. Secondly, farmers may also complain that they don’t have enough cash to buy the fertiliser at market rate and wait for the subsidy to be reimbursed. Such reimbursement would take at least a week, sources said. Moreover, to ensure that the right person or tiller gets the benefit, the government will have to create an online system that will link the Aadhaar number of the beneficiary, land record and the soil health cards. Urea, the commonly used and highly subsidised fertiliser, will be sold in the market in a 45 kg bag instead of 50 kg bag from the kharif season. The government has decided to fix the price at Rs 242 per bag, which is lower than Rs 268 plus taxes charged for a 50 kg urea bag.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Govt may double import duty on wheat

In a last ditch step to save wheat farmers from steep fall in prices, the government plans to immediately double the import duty on the grain to 40 per cent, the second hike in just over three months. The plan to hike duty has fast gained momentum even as global rates have jumped due to a fall in production. Increasing the duty, however, would be a tricky issue for the government as domestic output is seen falling. The wheat output in India, the world’s second biggest producer, is estimated to drop by 1.42 per cent to 97.11 million tonnes (MT) in the current crop year ending June, according to the latest government estimate. The fall in wheat production in the country is mainly due to a 4.27 per cent drop in acreage at 30.42 million hectares in the current rabi season. Farmers have shifted to pulses in many states including Rajasthan. Import duty on wheat was doubled last in November to 20 per cent to prevent domestic prices from crashing amid rising wheat import, particularly of the Australian variety, used by flour millers in south India. It had earlier been reported that farmers are suffering because the prevailing market prices for many crops, including wheat, are much below the minimum support price (MSP) announced by the government. Wheat is being sold in the market at Rs 1,650 per quintal whereas the minimum support price is Rs 1,735. Even though global wheat prices have increased, the domestic price has remained subdued that has made even the recent exercise of the Madhya Pradesh government to pay Rs 200 bonus to farmers over an above minimum support price ineffective.

Business Line, Kochi
Modify MIP notifications to plug loopholes: Pepper growers to govt

The Consortium of Pepper Growers Organisation, which constitutes 14 prominent grower bodies from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, has urged the Commerce Ministry to modify its recent notifications imposing MIP for pepper in order to plug the loop holes in them. “We are requesting the Ministry to modify its notification on the MIP of December 6, 2017 and February 5, 2018 (a) to allow import when the domestic market price is above MIP ofRs 500 a kg; (b) at the time of loading (export to India) the average price (7 days before loading-at the on board vessel) should be above MIP as per the domestic market prices mentioned in the Spices Board website”, Konkodi Padmanabha, the consortium convener, and KK Vishwanath, Co-ordinator of the consortium, said. The price to be considered by the Customs, as per the formula suggested by the Chairman of the Spices Board, should be the average of garbled and un-garbled as mentioned in the Board’s website. “It has come to our knowledge from Customs officials that there is still an option to import pepper when the prices are below the fixed Rs 500/kg from different country of origin,” Vishwanath told. As of now, he said, black pepper price in Sri Lanka is around Rs 300/kg as against our domestic price which stands at Rs 390.

Business Line, Chennai
Nabard lists agrarian crisis factors in TN

Agriculture in Tamil Nadu continues to face the challenge of shrinking acreage, over-exploitation of groundwater, diversion of agriculture land to non-agricultural uses and disparities in yield rates of crops, according to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development. Nabard, in its annual exercise of assessing the credit flow potential to the priority sector, has pointed out in the document for 2018-19 that these factors have contributed to a steep fall in the contribution of agriculture to GSDP. In 2011-12, it was 14 per cent and it has dropped to 5 per cent (at current prices) in 2016-17. Inadequate availability of water for agriculture is a major cause for farmers’ distress in the State, according to Nabard. The Potential Linked Credit outlay for priority sector in 2018-19 is pegged at Rs 2,06,683 crore, an 8 per cent increase over that of the previous year. Projections for crop loan is estimated at Rs 82,287 crore. Estimates of sectorwise credit projections are: farm credit Rs 1,13,929 crore; agriculture infrastructure Rs 7,610 crore; Ancillary activities Rs 7,507 crore; MSME Rs 38,696 crore; Export credit Rs 5,715 crore; Education Rs 7,417 crore; Housing Loan Rs 11,524 crore; renewable sources of energy and waste management Rs 2,145 crore; others Rs 10,107 crore; and social infrastructure with bank credit Rs 2,029 crore. In 2016-17 the ground level credit flow was Rs 1,52,405 crore which was 7 per cent higher than that in the previous year.

Business Line, Mumbai
Textile firms increasingly using MCX to hedge cotton price risks

High volatility and global price fluctuations have made textile companies take to active price risk management to protect their incomes. Textile majors such as Mafatlal, Welspun and Arvind are already hedging the price risk on the MCX. A new entrant is Vardhaman Textiles. The other leading brands that hedge on the Exchange include Louis Dreyfus, Manjeet Cotton, SportKing, and Gill & Company. The average daily volume of cotton traded on the MCX has increased to 1.31 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) in the last two months compared to 87,025 bales a day in the same period last year with increased participation by ginners, spinners, mills, traders and exporters. The increase in corporate participation has led to higher delivery of cotton stock at the exchange-accredited warehouses at Rajkot, Kadi, and Mundra in Gujarat; Yavatmal and Jalna in Maharashtra; as also Adilabad and Warangal in Telangana. The stock in MCX-approved warehouses increased five-fold to 82,300 bales in January from 12,000 bales in the same period last year. IJ Dhuria, Director (Raw Materials), Vardhman Textiles, said the company just started hedging on the platform to de-risk its business and has so far traded 150 contracts of 25 bales each. Though the liquidity is good in the near month contract, it has to improve in far month contracts for the company to further firm up strategy on hedging on the platform, he said. The regulator should also increase the trading limit for genuine corporate hedgers to boost volume and enhance participation by allowing institutional investors and banks, said Dhuria. Mrugank Paranjape, Managing Director, MCX, said increased corporate participation will enhance the quality and the process of information convergence in MCX cotton futures and make the contract a benchmark of choice, besides taking price signals to other major global markets in cotton trade.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Turmeric Falls 14% in 2 Months in Hope of Record Harvest

Turmeric prices are falling sharply in expectation of a record harvest for the second consecutive year. As the arrivals have started, reports indicate a good crop in main growing regions of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. In Tamil Nadu, however, output is likely to be low as it was last year thanks to insufficient rainfall. “Turmeric prices have crashed over 14% in two months in National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Ltd,’’ said Ritesh Kumar Sahu, fundamental analyst at Angel Commodity Broking. April futures prices hovered around Rs 67 per kg. Sahu said prices could drop to around Rs 60 per kg level in the short term. “Right now there is pressure from arrivals and exports are not picking up,’’ he said. Exporters seem to be waiting for a further fall in prices before they undertake bulk purchases. “We expect prices to fall to Rs 55-57 per kg level,’’ said Ajit Tahiliani, partner, Asian Food Industries. Exports are weak at present, with main buyers such as Bangladesh staying away. “Bangladesh has its own crop. But it will start buying once the stock is over,’’ Tahiliani said. Malaysia and the Gulf countries are the other chief buyers. Exports begin well in the ongoing season but slackened gradually.

The Hindu, Chennai
Wholesale prices of vegetables hits 3-year low at Koyambedu

Prices of some vegetables continue to remain at a three-year low at the Koyambedu wholesale market for over a month now. Good yields in neighbouring states are bringing in more trucks to the wholesale market and have pushed the prices down. But the sale has not picked up, say traders. Lack of cold storage facilities has worsened the issue of price fluctuations, and traders urged the government to set up such facilities in the market. Many vegetables cost around Rs 10 a kg in the wholesale market as it receives nearly truckloads of produce daily. Tomatoes are priced at a minimum of Rs 6 per kg. Broad beans was priced the lowest of Rs 3 per kg in the market until a couple of weeks ago and the cost has climbed to Rs 10 a kg now. This was the lowest price in the past three to five years, traders said. While cabbages are priced at Rs 4 per kg, beans and capsicum too cost around Rs 12. P. Sukumar, treasurer, Koyambedu Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers Merchants Association, said as prices have fallen small farmers may stop cultivation, and this would lead to price fluctuation in the coming months. Moreover, cost of vegetables usually begin to escalate around summer. “We may be able to supply vegetable at a stable price if there are cold storage facilities. Surplus produce could also be exported to other countries,” he said. The association has also represented to the Chief Minister about establishing cold storage facilities.

28, Feb 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
‘Rs 11-lakh crore agri credit flow achievable next fiscal’

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley expressed confidence that the banking sector will be able to achieve the agriculture credit flow target of Rs 11 lakh crore for 2018-19. This will add to the momentum in doubling farmers’ income by 2022, Jaitley said while addressing the NABARD board here. He also reviewed the funds announced in the Union Budget 2018-19 and stressed the need for all stakeholders to collaborate to improve farmers’ income. Further, he emphasised that the banking sector must invest in long-term assets to improve capital formation in the farm sector. Jaitley also said that investments in financial technology over the past few years have brought in efficiency, speed and transparency in the rural financial ecosystem. Rajeev Kumar, Secretary, Department of Financial Services, stressed the need for financial inclusion and adoption of technologies to make use of the opportunities arising out of higher GDP growth. He urged the banking system to concentrate on geographies such as the North-East, East and Central India, where formal credit can give a fillip to growth. Kumar also said his department is actively engaged with other ministries to create an enriching ecosystem. Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD, said that the organisation has operationalised the funds announced in the previous Union Budget. The Prime Minister’s Grameen Awas Yojana is about to be supported through Rs 9,000 crore shortly, he added.The Rs 5000-crore Micro Irrigation Fund, which will promote water conserving and productivity enhancing technologies, will also be operationalised shortly, he said. Bhanwala emphasised the need for the formation of robust Farmer Producers Organisations.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Castor prices head south as SEA projects 34% higher crop in 2017-18

The country’s castorseed crop is set to jump 34 per cent to 14.3 lakh tonnes (lt) on a record 37 per cent increase in yield at 1,738 kg/ha. A field crop survey, commissioned by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA), revealed that Gujarat’s acreage under castor edged up 2.9 per cent from 7,99,540 hectares in 2016-17 to 8,22,790 hectares for the 2017-18 kharif season. The higher crop estimates was directly reflected on the prices as castorseed futures tumbled on the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) by about 2 per cent to touch a low of Rs 4,116 per quintal for March delivery. The estimates of the SEA survey, conducted by Indian Agribusiness Systems Ltd (Agriwatch), in the castor growing regions of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, has exceeded the government’s first advanced estimate, which stands at 13.96 lt for 2017-18. A higher crop estimate will further swing the prices, which have been volatile over the past one month. Castorseed futures had reported a 5 per cent jump in last one month due to improved domestic demand from the stockists and oil mills, coupled by robust export demand hopes. Market data revealed that castor oil exports for first 10 months of the current fiscal (April-January) were 16.7 per cent higher at 4.85 lt (4.15 lt). Castormeal exports hovered at 5 lt — up by 49 per cent compared to last year’s exports of 3.38 lt. State-wise crop estimates suggested Gujarat — the largest producer — reported a 5.3 per cent increase in the sowing area to 5,95,600 hectares (5,64,400 hectares). The production in the State is estimated to be at 12.21 lt — up 42 per cent over last year’s estimate of 8.61 lt. The yield is expected to be 34 per cent higher at 2,050.23 kg/ha.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Dhubri farmer succeeds in cultivating strawberries

Strawberries, which are hardly seen in any market of Dhubri district, are now growing in hundreds in one of the farms in Rabontari village under Sapatgram PS of the district. Pranab Kalita, a youth is not only producing strawberries that usually grow in hill stations, but is also making a good profit out of it. Pranab, started planting strawberries in November, 2017 and by February this year his strawberry garden has flourished in such a way that it has become a centre of attraction for people from far-off areas. Moreover, people are buying the fruit from him not only because it is rare but also because it is fully organic. Enthusiastic farmers from many parts of the State have also been visiting him to learn his techniques. “As strawberry is a fruit of hill stations, all I do is to control the intensity of sunlight by 60% or less by using a low cost special green cover effect,” said Kalita, who is a graduate in Arts. He opted for farming a few years back. He also added that he has not used any chemical fertilizer to grow them but has used only the traditional manure in a scientific way. “I am still doing research on the plants so that I can generate maximum fruits. Hopefully next season I will cultivate them i n more areas,” said Kalita while adding that from November to March these plants grow with the exotic fruit but he started planting them in November only last year. Therefore, he was late in getting the fruits. He informed that demand of his strawberries have grown so much that he is selling them at a rate of Rs 600 to Rs 1000 per kg. And if someone can’t afford this price, he is selling them at Rs 10 to Rs 20 per piece.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Exhibition of organic vegetables

A large number of farmers from the three districts of Barak Valley attended an exhibition of organic vegetables organized by local NGO Seva Kendra at Sonai Road.“The initiative is to promote organic farming in North East and the vegetables exhibited here have been cultivated sans use of chemical fertilizers,” claimed Sister Nirmala of Seva Kendra. Further, she added that people have the urge to consume organic products but our farmers here have insufficient know-how regarding the process of organic farming. “We have been promoting it among poor farmers of this part of the state since the past two decades. We formed farmers’ groups in villages and arranged land for them where they cultivated vegetables together,” Sister Nimala maintained. Dr P Choudhury, chief scientist and project coordinator from Krishi Vigyan Kendra in Barak Valley assured positive assistance to the efforts to augment the practice of organic farming. N Singh, the DDM of NABARD, Abhijit Bhattacharjee, the zonal manager of Piramal Swastha Management Research Institute Assam along with City Development Officer of Silchar Municipal Board Parijat Bhattacharjee also attended the function.

DNA, Thiruvananthapuram
Farming may soon be an ‘assured’ activity

In a major initiative to apply disruptive technology in agriculture, a consortium of researchers has been formed in partnership with 3 leading institutions in the country, with the aim of turning farming from an ‘uncertain’ to ‘assured’ activity. The platform, the Consortium of Researchers for Disruptive Technologies in Agriculture (CDTA), is a joint venture of the academic-cum-research scientists of IIITMK, Thiruvananthapuram, GB Pant University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Pant Nagar (Uttarkhand) and Indian Institute Space Technology, a press release said. The team will advocate and implement application of technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Analytics (DA), Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing (CC), Aerospace Observation and Miniaturised Sensors in the agriculture domain. They together present the untapped potential to overcome challenges facing Indian agriculture and to transform it from an Uncertain to Assured one. Assured agriculture represents a scenario where individual farmers are guided at every stage of crop growth and provided with timely advisories and physical or fiscal assistance, to ensure beneficial returns for investment; without compromising on biological diversity in the immediate vicinity. Having seized the need for tapping the tremendous potential of disruptive technology in agriculture, it was considered necessary to create a platform for advocating, creating, applying and sharing the new knowledge for the benefit of the Indian farming sector. Dr R Jaishanker (Associate Professor, Ecological Informatics, C V Raman Laboratory of Ecological Informatics, IIITM-Kerala), Prof Ajeet Singh Nain (Head, Department of Agro-Meteorology, GB Pant University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, (Uttarakhand) and Dr V K Dadhwal (Director, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram (Mentor) are the lead role players of the initiative. The CDTA envisions to become a platform to share knowledge, good practices and support training in disruptive technologies to scientists and researchers, focusing on agriculture.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
FM: Target of lending Rs 11L cr to farmers in FY19 achievable

The target of delivering loans worth Rs 11 lakh crore to the farm sector in 2018-19 is achievable by the banking sector, which will add to the momentum towards doubling the farmers’ income by 2022, finance minister Arun Jaitley said. The volume of institutional credit for agriculture is projected to rise from Rs 8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15 to Rs 10 lakh crore in 2017-18. Delivering the annual address to the Board of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) in New Delhi, Jaitley emphasised that the banking sector must invest in long-term assets to improve capital formation in the sector. He said investments in financial technology over the past few years have brought in efficiency, speed and transparency in the rural financial economic system. Speaking at the same event, financial services secretary Rajeev Kumar requested the banking system to concentrate on geographical areas like northeast, east and central India, where formal credit could give a fillip to the growth potential these areas offer. Nabard has operationalised the funds announced in the previous Union Budget and specifically, the Prime Ministers’ Grameen Awas Yojana is about to be supported through Rs 9,000 crore shortly, said Nabard chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala. The Rs 5,000-crore micro irrigation fund to promote water conserving and productivity-enhancing technologies would also be operationalised shortly, he added.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt working on balanced rubber policy to protect growers, consumers

The Centre is weighing the demand of rubber growers for higher prices against the needs of user industries in order to come up with a balanced rubber policy which is long over-due. “Officials from the Commerce Ministry have had detailed stakeholder consultations with both rubber growers and the manufacturing industry like tyre producers. It is a complex situation as the manufacturing industry is highly dependent on rubber and sensitive to any price increase, whereas rubber farmers are not getting remunerative prices,” a government official told. The government will weigh a lot of factors, many of them clashing with each other, before it comes up with an appropriate policy response, he added. “While rubber growers need to get a price which would make it feasible for them to continue growing rubber, the manufacturing industry can stay competitive in both the domestic and export markets only if the price of the raw material is in tandem with global prices,” the official said. Commerce & Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, who met Kerala Agriculture Minister VS Sunil Kumar last week to discuss the problems being faced by rubber growers in the State, said a task force consisting of Central and State government officials will be constituted where all stakeholders would participate. Kerala accounts for more than 90 per cent of rubber grown in the country with the rest produced in the North-East, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. “The recommendations of the task force will also be used as inputs by the Commerce Ministry for the rubber policy,” the official added. Rubber growers are facing a distress situation as prices have crashed to around Rs 125 per kg as opposed to a high of Rs 210 about four years ago.

Business Line, Kochi
Kerala planters urge State to scrap farm income tax

With the West Bengal government exempting agri-income tax for tea gardens for the next two fiscal years, Kerala planters are expecting a similar gesture, saying that various forms of taxes had already hampered the sector’s ability to re-invest. Considering the hardship faced by the tea sector, the West Bengal government had recently abolished AIT. In South India, Tamil Nadu (in 2014) and Karnataka (in 2016-17) abolished the Act itself, but Kerala is the only State where the AIT is levied at 30 per cent, besides various other forms of taxes. Also, Kerala levies a plantation tax of Rs 700/hectare. N Dharmaraj, former President, Upasi, told that the Krishnan Nair committee had studied the issue of higher taxes and suggested scrapping AIT or declare a five-year moratorium coupled with waiving of plantation tax. The tax rationalisation will encourage more investment in replanting, leading to a substantial increase in yield levels. However, levying various forms of taxes is impacting the industry’s ability to re-invest in replanting and new technology. Kerala’s plantation industry is one of the highest taxed industries and the scrapping of various taxes is a long-pending demand of the planters’ body. The industry is one of the major contributors to the exchequer through GST, plantation tax, agriculture income tax, basic land tax, professional tax, income tax, etc. Maintaining that the tax structure affected the sector’s ability to compete with neighbouring states, the Association of Planters of Kerala said that the move to further enhance the rates including land tax would be detrimental when prices of tea, rubber, cardamom are on the decline. Around 7.11 lakh hectares in Kerala are covered under the plantation crops, which is nearly 27.5 per cent of the total cultivated area. The total value of production is Rs 9,751 crore, which is nearly 41.82 per cent of the gross State value added by economicactivity of all crops.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Month-long training for farmers under way

A month-long training programme on ‘Green House Operator’ as per the guidelines of the Agriculture Skill Council of India got under way at the Precision Farming Development Centre, Horticultural Research Station (HRS) located at Kahikuchi here. The training is sponsored by the National Committee on Plasticulture Applications in Horticulture (NCPAH) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and intends to sensitise, orient and build the capacity of entrepreneurs/farmers in the field of green house construction, cultivation, maintenance, etc. Welcoming the participants, Dr Sarat Saikia, chief scientist, HRS, Kahikuchi, mentioned that green house cultivation technologies are a step ahead of the conventional agricultural technologies, it thus becomes imperative for farmers to familiarise themselves with these technologies for their own benefit. Underlining the significance of the training programme, Dr Pradip Mahanta, principal scientist and principal investigator of the PFDC Centre, mentioned that in this age of globalisation and market competition, farmers can sustain themselves by adopting green house cultivation technologies for producing high-quality, high-value crops at minimum long-term costs. Prabin Hazarika, Director of Horticulture & Food Processing, and Dr NK Mohan, former Chief Scientist and Director of Extension Education, AAU, Jorhat, in their speeches mentioned that green house cultivation is the need of the hour and after undergoing the training the participants would be able to establish themselves as entrepreneurs apart from acting as service providers in the related fields. The participants, besides being given theoretical orientation, would also be introduced to hands-on training so as to enable them to apply the technologies in their own farms. Altogether 31 farmers representing from 14 districts of Assam are attending the training programme.

DNA, Mumbai
Sugar mills owe Rs.2.5 cr to Maha farmers

The crashing of sugar prices in the wholesale market, and lower sales, has resulted in mills owing Rs 2,500 crore to cane cultivators across Maharshtra, an official from the state cooperation department said. “As per the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) formula to calculate the purchase price of sugar, a mill has to pay Rs 2,550 per tonne if the recovery of sugar from every tonne was 9.50 per cent. For every increase of this recovery rate by one per cent, a premium of Rs 280 has to be paid,” said an official from the Maharashtra State Federation of Cooperative Sugar Mills Ltd (also known as Sakharsangh in the state). He added that falling prices in the wholesale market had meant that mills were unable to pay the farmers as per the formula. He informed that a sugar mill had to pay the first instalment to the farmer at the time of sugarcane purchase and, generally, mills were expected to complete the cycle in two to three instalments. Explaining the mathematics, he said, “There are 183 cooperative and private sugar mills which commenced crushing from November last year. By mid-January, the mills had to pay Rs 10,500 crore for 480 lakh tonne sugracane that had been crushed. However, mills have so far paid only Rs 8,150 crore to sugarcane farmers.”

Business Standard, Lucknow
Will pay dues to farmers, says Simbhaoli Sugars

With the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registering a case against Simbhaoli, on a complaint from Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) on fraudulent diversion of over Rs 1 billion, the Uttar Pradesh government is keeping its eyes open. “We are aware of the Simbhaoli development and are keeping an eye on the emerging situation. Even otherwise, we monitor sugarcane payments,” UP cane commissioner Sanjay Bhoosreddy told. He said the state government had no direct link with the CBI case, adding that if promoters and other senior officials are arrested in such cases, mills’ operations could come to a halt. Meanwhile, a senior executive of the company, on condition of anonymity, said the CBI case would not impact its capacity to pay sugarcane farmers. “We have ample amount of sugar stock with us and as and when the sugar is sold in the market, we would pay farmers.” Centre-owned OBC, it is alleged, had sanctioned a loan amounting to Rs 1.48 billion in 2011 to the company for financing individual/joint liability groups, self-help groups and cane farmers in a tie-up under a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scheme. However, the money was diverted to other heads. The company’s share prices fell 15.7 per cent on the BSE to close at Rs 14.2 a share. The exchanges have sought further clarification from the company on the case. In the ongoing crushing season, Simbhaoli Group, which operates three mills in UP, has a sugarcane payment percentage of 44. The aggregate in the current season stands at 75 per cent. Against the total payables of Rs 4.98 billion, Simbhaoli has paid Rs 2.2 billion. Without the 14-day payment window, total liabilities stand at Rs 5.67 billion.

27, Feb 2018
The Tribune, New Delhi
8 booked for selling spurious fertilisers

Eight firm owners have been booked for allegedly selling fertilisers of sub-standard quality on the complaint of the Sangrur agriculture department. Samples from the firms were taken around three years ago, but the mandatory process was completed last week and finally FIRs were lodged. According to information, after getting complaints of sale of sub-standard fertilisers in different parts of the district from farmers, agriculture department teams had collected samples of fertilisers from various firms around three years ago. During testing of samples in both state agriculture labs at Faridkot and Ludhiana, all eight samples could not pass the test. “However, firms demanded retesting and samples were sent to Fertiliser Control Laboratory, Villupuran (Tamil Nadu). Samples failed the retest too. After getting final reports of re-testing, we wrote to the Sangrur SSP this week for the registration of cases against eight firms for selling sub-standard fertilisers,” said Dr Amarjit Singh, Agriculture Development Officer (ADO), Sangrur. The cases were registered under the Fertiliser Control Order, 1985. No arrest was made till the filing of the report. “The SHOs have started investigations and I have directed them to start immediate raids to arrest the accused,” said Sangrur SSP Mandeep Sidhu. BKU Ugraha Lehragaga block president Dharminder Pashore alleged that many shopkeepers were selling spurious fertilisers. “The state government must take strict action as the sale of spurious fertilisers is still going on,” he alleged.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Agricx Lab raises $500,000 from Ankur Capital

Agricx Lab, an agritech startup that uses smartphone imaging to assess the quality of agricultural produce, has raised $500,000 led by India focussed venture capital fund Ankur Capital. IIM Ahmedabad´s Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) also invested in the company. The agritech startup has developed mobile app that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence on images to yield objective, accurate and faster quality assessment of agriproduce. Agricx Lab was started to createaquick, accurate, portable and easytouse quality assessment tool for agricultural produce.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Banks struggle with farm loan target due to waivers, may lean on PSL certificates

With agriculture lending growth remaining muted, banks are struggling to meet year-end targets in this department. So far this year, growth of farm loans by banks has remained flat at 0.6 per cent, compared with 3.2 per cent last year. Banks are facing a peculiar situation in which, on the one hand, the loan outstanding in their books has come down after a series of debt-waiver schemes, while on the other, fresh loan approval has been slow on the back of higher delinquencies. Under the latest debt-waiver scheme announced by Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje this month, the government has provided Rs 80 billion for one-time crop loan waiver of up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers, apart from land revenue exemption. "Banks may have difficulty in meeting agriculture lending target, as the loan outstanding has come down on account of debt waiver. However, banks may achieve the overall priority sector lending target, as corporate loan growth has been very slow and banks are focusing on retail loans," said an official of a public sector bank. According to priority sector norms, scheduled commercial banks have to extend 40 per cent of their loans or Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) to identified priority sectors. Of this, 18 per cent is earmarked for agriculture sector within which, a target of 8 per cent of ANBC is prescribed for small and marginal farmers. Banks that fail to meet targets need to deploy amounts equal to the shortfall in the low-yielding Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF). In April 2016, RBI had introduced Priority Sector Lending Certificates, which banks can trade too meet sub-targets. "A lot of banks may have to rely on trading PSL certificates to meet the sub-targets, but much also depends on their availability in the market," said an official of a public sector bank.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Castor seed likely to trade under pressure

Oil mills and stockists across the country expect the demand for castor seed derivatives to go up significantly in near future. On the basis of this positive expectation, domestic demand for castor seeds has been on the rise for the last one month. With domestic demand for castor seed from the stockists and oil mill owners moving up, castor seed futures have also been on a high. This coincides with the arrival of the new crop in mandis of Gujarat, albeit in limited volumes. The pace of arrival of the new crop has also been much lower against last year, which can be attributed to farmers going slow on moving crop to mandis. “Castor seed futures jumped 5 per cent in last one month due to improved domestic demand from the stockists and oil mills on expectation of improved export demand for castor seed derivatives. But earlier, the prices on National Commodities and Derivative Exchange (NCDEX), dropped to one year low in January mainly on slowdown in physical demand due to wait for new season crop,” said Ritesh Kumar Sahu, fundamental analyst (agri commodities), Angel Commodities Broking. As per available data, castor seed prices increased by Rs 36 to Rs 4,230 per quintal in futures trade around February 21 after short covering by traders on upbeat physical sentiments. If market players are to be believed, the pickup in industrial buying by soap, paint and lubricant industries, sparked by tight arrivals from growing regions in spot markets mainly helped to boost trading sentiments in castor seed futures prices. At NCDEX, castor seed delivery for March contracts regained Rs 36 or 0.86 per cent to Rs 4,230 per quintal with a business turnover of 60,110 open lots. The delivery for April contracts also revived by Rs 27, or 0.63 per cent, to Rs 4,290 per quintal, with an open interest of 9,400 lots.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
State-level panel to purchase farm produce

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao said that the State-level farmers coordination committee will be mandated to purchase agricultural produce from farmers if they are not guaranteed minimum support price by traders at market yards. The State government will give a bank guarantee of Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 7,000 crore for the corpus for the State level panel to let it purchase the produce and, also permit it to sell the stocks anywhere in the country, Mr. Rao told a regional conference here of the recently constituted farmers coordination committees from villages to State level. He officially announced Nalgonda MP Gutha Sukhender Reddy who was also present on the dais as the chairman of the State committee. Expressing dismay at the collusion of commission agents and traders at market yards, Mr. Rao asked the committees to gear up farmers to sell their produce at MSP ‘on demand’. The panels should ensure that farmers in clusters of only three villages shifted the stocks to market yards to avoid heavy arrivals. Seamless transactions and better price to farmers can be ensured if the arrivals were regulated by the committees by allotting dates village-wise. Later on, he said the government will sanction Rs 12 lakh each for construction of permanent ‘Rytu Vedikas’ over an acre of land in each village. The committees will be responsible for all agricultural activities from cropping to marketing for every 5,000 acres. Mr. Rao announced an incentive for committee members if they did well like the revenue staff who got one month basic salary for successful updation of land records. They will also be given priority in the tour of Israel planned by government for agricultural officers to study farm extension activity. The immediate task for them was to distribute demand drafts of Rs 4,000 per acre per farmer as investment support of government in kharif.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
Maha Sugar Mills Owe Farmers Rs 2,500 crore

The crashing of sugar prices in the market, and lower sales, resulted in mills owing Rs 2,500 crore to cane cultivators across Maharshtra, an official from the state cooperation department said. “As per the FRP formula, a mill has to pay Rs 2,550 per tonne if the recovery of sugar from every tonne was 9.50%," said an official from the Maharashtra State Federation of Cooperative Sugar Mills.

Business Line, New Delhi
Online marketplace for spot sugar launched

The Indian Sugar Exim Corporation (ISEC) and NCDEX eMarket Limited (NeML) have jointly launched an online platform for spot selling of sugar and allied products. Called the Indian Sugar eMarket (ISeM), the electronic marketplace was flagged off by Food and Public Distribution Secretary Ravikant. “This online spot selling market for Indian sugar can help in better price discovery for mills and buyers alike,” said ISEC Chairman Gaurav Goel. Though the ex-mill price of sugar had come down in the last few months, no such benefit was passed on to retail buyers of sugar in Delhi, Goel said, as an example.

26, Feb 2018
The Hindu, Hyderabad
‘RICH’ technology awaits Telangana farmers

A tinkering lab for farmers is one of the projects the Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH) will establish as part of an emphasis on pushing technologies from laboratories to farmland. Tissue culture lab, aquaponics, vertical farming unit, green houses for biotechnology research, farm machinery demonstrations as well as plots for incubatees are among the facilities planned at the Agri Tech Park, for which various locations are under consideration. “I don't think it will cost us more than ₹20-25 crore,” RICH Director General Ajit Rangnekar said. It already has an informal funding commitment from the Centre, he said, adding the land for the project would be sought from the Telangana government. About 70-75 acres is the estimated requirement for the project that will serve as a forum showcasing technologies from various institutions to farmers. The idea is to create a facility that will serve as a hub for farmers to learn more about the technologies and get an opportunity to work on them. Besides agri-tech park, RICH, a government of Telangana initiative and made up of a lean, six-member team, has lined up a host of other projects to pursue as it steps into second year. These include a Regulatory Guidance Cell; Advisory Boards; CEO Circles; Finishing School; collaboration with international like-minded institutions, and creating a directory of resources. Mr. Rangnekar was speaking on Saturday at an event to celebrate the first anniversary of RICH, a programme in which IT and Industries Minister K.T. Rama Rao and various stakeholders participated. In an interaction with media, he said the Agritech park is expected to be ready well ahead of the 2nd anniversary of RICH. On the target beneficiaries, he said through farmer cooperatives and start-ups, they would be identified. The target is to benefit 50,000-1 lakh farmers over two years.

The Sentinel, Aizawal
Agri centre with Israeli collaboration in Mizoram

Various issues of common interest including start-ups, food processing, innovation and technology were discussed during the meeting Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon had with the Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) and MoS PMO Jitendra Singh in New Delhi. The Israeli Ambassador informed that a Centre for Agriculture, with collaboration of Israeli expertise, is going to be inaugurated in Mizoram on March 7 this year. This will be the first such centre in the North East region of India that is being established with Israeli collaboration, he added. Set up at a cost of Rs 8-10 crore, the centre is exclusively for processing of citrus fruits. The project has been set up with the tripartite collaboration of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India, the Government of Israel and the Government of Mizoram. Israel will provide expertise knowledge and professional support. Though located in Mizoram, the centre will cater to the whole of the North-east. There are 22 such operational centres in India in the States of Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab. The first centre was established in 2008 in Haryana. The Israeli envoy said that in the long run, Israel wants to establish one such centre in each State. DoNER Minister Jitendra Singh said that centre would be a beginning of larger collaboration between the two countries in this area. The DoNER Ministry will coordinate wherever required, he said. He further said that it would benefit the farmers of the North-eastern region in the long run and would also encourage the farmers from other regions. It would serve as a model of learning for other countries in Indian sub-continent, he added. He said that the Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given priority to the development of North-eastern region of the country.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Cane dues: Private mills bitter, tell govt to first pay subsidy

With pending payments of Rs 310 crore towards the cane growers in Punjab, seven private sugar mills owned by politicians cutting across party lines have “threatened” that they cannot pay the State Advised Price (SAP) of cane unless the state government bails them out with a subsidy of Rs 55 per quintal of cane crushed by them. The seven private sugar mills are owned, among others, by the family of now ousted minister Rana Gurjit Singh, Akali leader Jarnail Singh Wahid, UP-based politician DP Yadav and family of Ponty Chaddha, the late liquor baron. The representatives of these private sugar mills were to meet Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh with their demand for the state government subsidy but the meeting was postponed owing to the Chief Minister being indisposed. Interestingly, the state government’s “precarious fiscal health” has led to the government not being able to clear dues worth Rs 45.06 crore for the last cane crushing season (2016-17) towards cooperative sugar mills. Even for this ongoing crushing season, the government is yet to clear dues worth Rs 208 crore. It thus remains to be seen how and if the government will succumb to the “powerful” private sugar lobby by giving them some subsidy. The seven private sugar mills are demanding that since the Union Government has kept a Fair Remunerative Price (FRP) of Rs 255 per quintal at the rate of 9.50 per cent recovery of sugar, it was unfair that Punjab was forcing them to pay Rs 310 per quintal of cane. Official sources say that these millers have already made it clear that they are not in a position to pay the arrears, especially as sugar prices have crashed.

The Hindu, Jaipur
Congress pushed farmers into debt during its rule, says Patra

BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra accused the Congress of having pushed farmers into debt during its rule and claimed that the BJP governments in the Centre and Rajasthan were working to free peasants from farm loan. He said Congress leaders “who are deep-rooted in corruption” would not understand the importance of crop loan waiver of up to ₹50,000. The Centre was working on strategies to double the income of farmers by 2022, whereas the Congress is politicising farmers’ issues, Mr. Patra said on the sidelines of a BJP media workshop. ‘People trust Modi govt.’ “People did not believe in the previous UPA dispensation, but they trust the Narendra Modi-led government and believe that India’s economy is growing fast under this rule,” the BJP leader said.

The Sunday Standard, New Delhi
Loan write-off: Banks prefer corporate sector over agriculture

A wide divide between the agriculture and corporate sector has surfaced in public sector banks’ response, with ‘write-off’ of loans or ‘restructuring’ loans for the latter being easier than the former. A government data shows that public sector banks restructured loans worth Rs 6,09,661 crore in last three years (2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17) meant for the industry sector. In the agriculture sector, the restructuring of loan was done for Rs 38,646 crore, 15 times lesser than for the corporate sector. In banking parlance, restructuring of loans is done when the borrower faces financial stress and cannot repay loans. In that condition, it asks for relaxation of original terms and conditions. In such cases, banks ease certain terms like reduction of interest rates, moratorium on interest repayment and so on. During 2014-15, restructuring of loans worth Rs 2,95,065 crore was done in the industry sector by public sector banks. The corresponding amounts for 2015-16 and 2016-17 were Rs 1,78,602 crore and Rs 1,35,994.On the other side, the amount of loan in agriculture sector and allied activities for restructuring in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 were Rs 17,771 crore, Rs 11,808 crore and Rs 9,067 crore respectively. Similarly, in the ‘write-off’ of loans, the industry or corporate sector is seven times ahead of agriculture. Reduction in NPA due to write-off in the agriculture and allied activities was Rs 7,091 crore; the corresponding amount in the industry sector in the same period was Rs 48,435 crore. Sources from the banking sector say public sector banks generally write off of bad loans of bigger amounts. A bank official said that declassifying a loan as an ‘asset’ in balance-sheets is termed as a write-off. It does not mean that the bank will not try to recover money—they might try to continue to recover the money themselves or sell the loan to a recovery company.

The Sentinel, Jorhat
Use of advanced technology in farming sector underscored

“Due to decrease in farm labour, there has been increase in labour wages for which research and process is going all throughout the country under various projects whether to use machines or to sustain manpower in the farming sector. For this we are holding such type of technology and machinery demonstration mela for farmers to know about the latest machinery using less manpower,” said Dr KM Bujarbaruah, Vice-Chancellor of Assam Agricultural University (AAU) during his inaugural speech at the AAU Jorhat campus. The Vice-Chancellor said, “When we look back a year or two, we find that farmers have started preferring using machines more than manpower and that is why, new models with latest technology and methods have been pouring in the agricultural sector for which every year we are holding such technology and machinery mela to make the people aware about the latest machines.” Citing the example of Netherlands, the Vice-Chancellor said Netherland was doing farming using advanced technology and methods and that was why the farming sector in Netherlands was so advanced and developed. In India, Maharashtra and Punjab were two States where machines were being used extensively in the farming sector. But in Assam, only the tractor and power tiller were used and hence the farmers of the State were lagging behind in terms of production. Others who spoke on the occasion were Dr. Bhabesh Sharma, Head of the department of Agricultural Engineering, Dr. Abhijit Bora, Principal Investigator, Department of Agricultural Engineering and other heads of the departments.

25, Feb 2018
The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Give farmers cheap technology’

Biomass burning, including seasonal burning of crop residue in Punjab, Haryana and parts of Uttar Pradesh, continues to contribute to 20% of annual average particulate matter in the urban air of the region, read an estimates by the government. While banning crop burning appears to be the straightforward solution, it is far from being easily implementable, said experts, while noting that cheap and easily available technology should be made accessible to farmers to prevent the situation. “Burning crop residue is the easiest option for farmers. Since it gets done in a very short span of time and in large quantities, there is public debate over the fact that it contributes to poor quality of Delhi’s air during winter. However, public discussion tends to rapidly taper off, even as air quality remains consistently bad,’’ said M.L. Jat, senior cropping systems agronomist. He was speaking at a discussion on “Crop Burning as Source of Air Pollution in NCR”. The topic is part of a seminar series “Clearing the Air” put together by Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment (ICEE) at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR). The series is aimed at promoting sustained and informed public understanding about data, impacts, sources and policy challenges involved in clearing Delhi’s air. Also present at the discussion was Rajbir Yadav, principal scientist, division of genetics, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). Without cost-effective alternatives to harvest and dispose crop residue in time to sow for the next season, burning residue is still the most viable option for many farmers though it significantly worsens air quality, noted experts. The panel also explored the genesis of the problem, why it has become a particularly thorny issue over the last few years, and what are the possible technological interventions available.

Business Line, Mumbai
Extended rains, long winter upset mango rhythm

The erratic weather pattern of extended monsoon and winter season may result in a prolonged mango season this year, mainly in the Southern parts of the country, while it has hurt the crop prospects in the Western regions. While the mango flowering has been staggered in the key producing regions of Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu due to an extended winter, in Western Maharashtra — which is better known for the Alphonso variety — the crop has been affected to a certain extent by the Cyclone Ockhi, which passed through the region late in November. “The cyclone had induced fruit dropping in a number of orchards in the Konkan region that had the early varieties,” said Vivek Bhide, mango farmer and former member of the Mango and Cashew Board of Maharashtra government. But the bigger culprit has been fluctuations in day and night temperatures in January this year, which has also affected the flowering in the crop. The India Meteorological Department has also sounded a warning of rains in Maharashtra in the next few days, therefore farmers are also worried about its impact, Bhide said. Bhide pointed that usually by mid-February about 60,000-80,000 cases of mangoes reach from Konkan to Mumbai but this time only about 20,000 cases have been dispatched. “It is not a bumper season but a regular one. The arrival position would be clear in a few weeks when the deliveries pick up speed,” he said. Vijay Dhoble, a mango trader from the Vashi Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), said that the season is yet to pick up pace. There have been reports of losses from Konkan, therefore, arrivals are very slow. Depending on the quality of mangoes, a case (60 pieces) fetches between Rs 1,500 and Rs 5,000 in the wholesale market.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Govt using Rs 929-cr SC funds for farm loan waiver: BSY

Karnataka BJP president B S Yeddyurappa accused the government of utilising Rs 929.41 crore meant for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes (SC) to fund farm loan waiver. He called upon the BJP cadre to launch an agitation against the state government. The former chief minister was addressing a rally of the SC communities in Haveri. Launching a diatribe against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, he addressed the latter in the singular and demanded that the chief minister should bring out a White Paper on the use of the SC funds. Yeddyurappa termed the Congress government as 50% commission government, much more than the 10% commission as charged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing a rally at Hosadurga in Chitradurga district, he said Siddaramaiah was creating a situation favourable for murders, rape, corruption and divisions among castes and faiths. He said the BJP would give back self-respect to people of all faiths if it comes to power in the coming Assembly elections. It would grant Rs 1 lakh crore for irrigation projects.

Business Line, New Delhi
Online marketplace for spot sugar launched

The Indian Sugar Exim Corporation (ISEC) and NCDEX eMarket Limited (NeML) have joined hands to launch an online platform for spot selling of sugar and allied products. Called the Indian Sugar eMarket (ISeM), the electronic marketplace was declared open by Food and Public Distribution Secretary Ravikant. The first deal happened within a few minutes when an unknown buyer bought 10 tonnes of sugar from Bulandshahr-based Anamika Sugar Mills. “This online spot selling market for Indian sugar can help in better price discovery for mills and buyers alike, apart from offering transparency in operations and ease in settlement of post trade formalities,” said ISEC Chairman Gaurav Goel. The e-marketplace would benefit both the industry and buyers alike. “Currently, there are five layers of intermediaries between the mill and the final consumer. Even if we can eliminate at least two layers, there will be a lot to gain for consumers,” Goel said. The ex-mill price of sugar had come down in the last few months, no such benefit was passed on to retail buyers of sugar in Delhi, Goel said, as an example. The e-commerce platform will provide trade options on continued market basis as also forward and reverse options as per the requirements of the buyer or the seller, according to a release. The digital marketplace is being set up at a time Indian mills are anticipating a glut in sugar production (which is expected to top 25 million tonnes) and exploring options of bilateral trade with neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, which are net importers of sugar. “This is a platform of the sugar mills for the sugar mills. NeML is just helping them to set it up,” said Rajesh Sinha, Managing Director and CEO of NeML.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Only 4 of 50 invitees to meet on pesticide draft law farmers

Only four farmers representing three farmer groups, including Bharatiya Krishak Sangh, which is affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, were invited to a stakeholders meeting on the draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 held on February 11. Rest of the 50-odd participants were state government officials and pesticide industry representatives. The draft bill was not shared with the farmers before the meeting, leaving them unprepared to scrutinise and present their comments, said farmers who attended the meeting. Stakeholders can send in their comments on the bill to the ministry before March 5, 2018. However, farmers groups and safe food activists have raised a number of concerns — the bill doesn’t focus on reducing pesticide usage; doesn’t talk about rigorous bio-safety testing and periodic review of health and environmental impacts of pesticides; not put in place a mechanism to trace retailers or brands responsible for producing and marketing toxic or spurious pesticides. Senior officials in the agriculture ministry said, “Four farmer organisations participated, which is adequate representation. We will not be able to comment on any other clause until we get comments from stakeholders.”

The Shillong Times, Guwahati
Sonowal stresses on scientific approach to agriculture

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal laid stress on the use of advanced scientific technologies for enhanced agricultural production in the state. He also urged the farmers to take a pledge to adopt new scientific methods of farming for strengthening their economic condition. Inaugurating the 4th Assam International Agri-Horticultural Show, 2017, here, the Assam chief minister put focus on scientific study of soil and asked the agriculture department to support the farmers with valuable inputs for increasing their production without disturbing the ecological balance. “We want to grow economically without destroying the ecology. Government of Assam will give priority on organic farming to maintain the ecological balance,” the Assam CM said. He added that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also outlined his vision of making North East India as an organic hub. The chief minister also pointed out that the Government of Assam has recently launched Chief Minister’s Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana to double the agricultural income in the State by investing Rs. 1.2 cr. in each revenue village. Pointing that the state is endowed with very fertile land for cultivation, the Chief Minister said Assam can overtake the agriculturally advanced states like Punjab and Haryana in terms of production if the available resources are properly exploited. The chief minister also mentioned that the government is committed to strengthen the agriculture sector to attract the new generation to take it up as a calling and assured the farmers that the government would ensure Minimum Support Price for their production. Considering the limitation of cultivation period in the State, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal asked the Assam Agricultural University and agriculture scientists to discover new variety of seeds that can be harvested twice during the post monsoon season. Earlier delivering his speech, State Agriculture Minister Atul Bora said Agri-Horticultural Show would help in growth of export and investment in agriculture sector in Assam.

Millennium Post, Hyderabad
Telangana CM says farmers' land will be declared benami if records are not linked with Aadhaar

In a major move, Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao warned farmers who do not link their Aadhar details with their agriculture land records will face the risk of their lands being declared benami. The Chief Minister sounded the warning after observing that many farmers were not coming forward to link their Aadhaar with that of land records prepared by the officials during the recently concluded purification of land records. "We took up land records purification to maintain complete record of the lands in the State and urged farmers to link their Aadhaar details with their farm lands. But some farmers especially those in the districts of Medchal-Malkajgiri and Rangareddy have not linked the same," the Chief Minister observed. He asked the officials to set a deadline for farmers to link their lands with Aadhaar as a last opportunity and declare the lands without Aadhaar linkage as benami lands to initiate necessary legal action against them. Reviewing the progress of the proposed distribution of pattadar passbooks at Pragati Bhavan here, Chandrashekhar Rao said there should not be any further confusion on ownership of lands in the State. Though the State government decided to distribute the new passbooks to farmers commencing March 11, it is likely to be postponed following the Chief Minister's diktat to officials on Friday to ensure that there are no factual errors in the newly printed passbooks being readied for distribution on March 11. The Chief Minister pointed out that the land records purification was taken up with utmost dedication by the revenue employees and the details are being uploaded into the land records website 'Dharani'. "The records should be examined two-three times before printing the new passbooks to ensure that there are no factual errors in them.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Trudeau gets promise on Canadian pulses

A promise by the Indian government on easing of quarantine rules for import of pulses from Canada might be the best policy achievement for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after his week's trip to this country. Both sides committed to 'finalise an arrangement within 2018 to enable the export of Canadian pulses to India, free from pests of quarantine importance, with mutually acceptable technological protocols', according to the statement issued after Trudeau met counterpart, Narendra Modi. Food safety regulators of both nations would work closely in this regard, it said. India is the world's largest producer, processor, importer and consumer of pulses; its production has risen over recent years, affecting major shippers such as Canada. And, Delhi has continued to demand that pulses from the nation be fumigated with methyl bromide; Canada doesn't permit chemical fumigation agents. Of the $4.1 billion of import from Canada in 2016-17, shipment of pulses - yellow peas, green peas and red lentils (masur) - amounted to $1.1 bn. This constitutes a little over a quarter of pulses imported by India. The second largest lot of shipment was from Australia, another country that has complained of stocks piling up as India has stopped buying. "Farmers will look at other crops as prices have fallen dramatically and there will be a 15-30 per cent reduction in pulse cultivation in Canada," recently said Gordon Bacon, chief executive of Pulse Canada. While Canadian provinces which grow it becoming concerned, pulses became an agenda item on the visiting officials' trade list. Several ministerial delegations, including that of Canadian trade minister Francois Champagne, had raised it in 2017. Securing the new promise by India will be helpful for the Trudeau administration, facing some media criticism back home for the lengthy tour at taxpayer expense. Delhi doesn't expect to be adversely affected by a possible quarantine arrangement.

22, Feb 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
Bihar farmers look at minting money; acreage of the crop seen up 25%

A sharp rise in mentha oil prices to a near six-year high in December seems to have encouraged farmers in Bihar to try their luck with the short-duration mint crop this summer. As a result, acreage under mint, from which mentha oil is derived, is expected to increase 25 per cent in the current season. Sowing of mint, largely concentrated in Uttar Pradesh for long, began early February and will continue for 4-6 weeks. The crop will be harvested from April. “The acreage under mentha (mint) in the country is likely to rise at least 25 per cent this year from about 300,000 ha last year, with much of the increase coming from farmers in Bihar,” President of Mint Growers Association Tekram Sharma said. Mentha oil is used widely in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food, and chemical industry. In the benchmark market of Chandausi in Uttar Pradesh, prices of mentha oil rose a whopping 110 per cent in the second half of 2017 to top the Rs 2,000/kg-mark in December.Though prices have softened to Rs 1,400-1,500 now, growing mint remains an attractive option. Over the last few years, acreage under the crop has been on a gradual rise in Bihar, but this time the extent of increase is significant, State government officials said. In many areas in Bihar, mint is cultivated during the two-month gap after the harvest of rabi wheat crop and before the sowing of kharif paddy. “Earlier, they used to leave the fields fallow, but now they have learnt to cultivate mentha (mint),” Ranveer Singh, an official with Bihar’s farm ministry said. According to market experts, conducive weather and a 25 per cent rise in acreage can result in production of 40,000-41,000 tonnes of mentha oil in 2018 compared with 30,000-33,000 tonnes produced last year.

Mint, New Delhi
Farm sector makeover on the cards, says PM Modi

The government is working to overhaul the farm sector ecosystem and ensure income security for farmers by taking steps to reduce the cost of cultivation, ensure fair price, reduce wastage and create additional sources of income for growers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a national conference on doubling farm incomes. Following two days of deliberations, the national conference placed several recommendations before the prime minister—such as bringing agriculture marketing into the concurrent list, making purchases below minimum support prices (MSPs) illegal, and a farm-centric trade policy. Modi said the proposals will be considered seriously by the government. “We have already announced steps like fixing MSPs at 50% over costs of cultivation and are working with state governments to ensure that higher MSPs benefit farmers,” Modi said. The PM listed several initiatives taken by the government in the past four years, including neem coating of urea, issuing soil health card to farmers, completing pending irrigation projects and launching a new crop insurance scheme for farmers. “Using soil health cards has reduced fertilizer costs by 8-10% and increased crop productivity by 5-6%,” Modi said, adding, “settlement of crop insurance claims has doubled over the past year and the scheme is saving many farmers’ lives.” Modi further said that in a move to create a market architecture the government has proposed a model law on agriculture marketing to states and that for raising farm incomes the centre and state governments need to work together. The Prime Minister’s speech comes in the backdrop of the government’s stated goal to double real farm incomes between 2015-16 and 2022-23, amid stagnant revenues due to a collapse in crop prices. On the recommendations from the focused groups of academicians, farmers, officials and state government representatives, Modi said that his government will take them forward.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt focus on cutting farm input costs, raising prices: PM

Giving a detailed account of various measures taken by his government to improve the plight of farmers in the country, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government was committed to improving the income security of farmers who have been working hard to ensure the food security of all Indians. Addressing a two-day conference on doubling farmers’ income which concluded here, he said the NDA government has been working hard to reduce the input costs, to increase productivity of farmland, to ensure fair price and better market access for the produce, and to create alternative sources of income for farmers. He said the government has drawn up plans to computerise all 63,000 agricultural co-operative societies in the country within the next three years to smoothen credit flow to farmers. He also informed the gathering, that comprised farmers, economists, scientists and policy makers apart from ministers from his cabinet and officials from different ministries, that the latest Budget has increased credit available for agriculture to Rs 11 lakh crore. The use of neem-coated urea, for instance, he said, reduced the fertiliser use and improved the efficiency of farmland. Similarly, the government has so far issued 11 crore soil health cards to farmers which not only cut down the fertiliser use by 8-10 per cent, but also increased the productivity by 5-6 per cent. According to the Prime Minister, as many as 99 irrigation projects across the country have been stuck for 25 to 30 years, but the NDA government took necessary steps in earnest to complete them under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana. As many as 50 projects would be completed by the year end, he said, adding that Rs 80,000 crore has been allocated for improving irrigation.

The Financial Express, Chennai
Import duty hike, stockholding limits spell relief for sugar sector

A raft of government measures earlier this month including increase in import duty on raw and white sugar to 100% and restriction on sugar sales by imposition of stockholding limits for February and March have come as a relief for sugar mills and sugarcane farmers alike. Domestic sugar prices fell nearly 18% between October 2017 and January 2018 in anticipation of surplus production. That, along with higher cane prices – the fair and remunerative price is up 11% for the ongoing sugar season (October 1 to September 30) – have piled up pressure on the profitability of sugar mills. The twin government moves are expected to prop up falling sales realisations, support the profitability of mills by enabling them to tide over the supply glut, and keep their credit profiles stable, said Crisil in a note. For farmers, this would mean timely payments for cane and curbing fresh build-up of arrears on this count, the note added. Good monsoons and higher cane acreage are expected to boost sugar production in the ongoing season to over 26 million tonne (mt) – a good 6 mt higher than that of the previous season – even as the demand remains unchanged around 25 mt.The sales restriction for 2 months – requiring mills to keep at least 83-86% of the closing stock of the previous month, and forbidding sale of quantities produced in February and March in the same month – will restrict supply in the interim. Notwithstanding higher inventory holding costs, controlled supplies should restrict further declines in sugar realisations before production closes by April. That’s in contrast to the lower stockholding limits imposed on mills and traders towards the end of last season, which led to faster stock liquidation by mills and restricted traders from building speculative positions.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Not a year for Canadian-Agro

For 2016-formed Canadian Agro India, 2017-18 was packed with a lot of surprises. After witnessing a good amount of growth in 2016-17, the company saw a slump in their major and only product sold by the company in India—Canola oil. This drop in the Canola oil market was due to negative reports about the oil. But Canadian Agro India believes the demand has started to pick up. Canadian Agro India, CEO, Namankumar Jain said, “The market was growing good. The quality of Canadian Canola oil is of high-quality so our products were priced slightly higher. But we still have and had takers. But post the negative research by Temple University which was carried by all the leading media houses in India, there was a decline in sales. People who placed the order started cancelling.” The research stated that Canola oil can worsened memory, decrease learning ability and increase weight gain in Alzheimer’s disease. The industry has been growing for last one and half year for this oil, stated Jain. There has been competition coming from companies getting oil from UAE, Ukraine and Australia. After negative publicity of Canola oil, Jain believes competitors should come together to build a different image of the oil. This is critical for the industry, he opined. Jain pointed out one should look at the efforts taken by Olive oil companies to change the mindset among Indians about the oil. Canadian Agro India has contacted Export Development Canada (EDC), Canola Council of Canada (CCC) and Trade Commission in order to find a solution to their on-going problems around the oil. Jain is hoping to raise these concerns to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his trade council informally during his visit to Mumbai. With strong presence in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and New Delhi, Jain is optimistic of gaining the lot ground.

The Assam Tribune, Shillong
Prasad lays stress on cotton farming

Meghalaya Governor, Ganga Prasad termed cotton as a “miracle fibre” and said cotton has been spun, woven and dyed since ancient times. Inaugurating the four-day International Congress on Cotton and other Fibre crops organised by Cotton Research and Development Association, Hisar in Haryana and Indian Council for Agricultural Research Complex for North East Hill Region in Ri Bhoi district, the Governor said, cotton has not lost its importance and is still the most widely used fibre for cloth. Prasad said cotton can be turned into clothes, bedding, tabletop, furniture, even art. “India is a place of pride, as it is the number one country in the production of cotton,” Prasad said. he also appealed to the people to encourage cotton farming.

The Financial Express, Pune
Pulse prices continue to remain sluggish

The weak demand and sluggish trend continue for majority of pulses with tur in Maharashtra declining to Rs 4,400-4,475 a quintal, while tur in Madhya Pradesh ruled at Rs 3,950 per quintal. Although the government has procured some 1,12,900 quintals of tur from around 10,919 farmers, industry sources feel that the sluggish trend is likely to continue. The government has declared a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 5,400 per quintal for tur and has begun procuring pulses from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana. In Maharashtra, till date, more than 1.12 lakh quintals have been procured from some 161 procurement centres, according to senior officials. The Centre has procured over 5.60 lakh tonne of urad and moong at the support price worth Rs 3,077 crore under the price support scheme (PSS) in the 2017-18 kharif season so far, according to official data. Under the PSS, procurement is undertaken to protect farmers when market rates fall below the minimum support price (MSP) level. These pulses have been procured at the MSP from seven states – Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. The maximum quantity of 3,93,059 tonne of urad and moong has been purchased from Rajasthan under the PSS, followed by 64,098 tonne from Maharashtra and 35,085 tonne from Karnataka. Only urad has been procured in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh and the quantities purchased stood at 19,550 tonne and 17,434 tonne, respectively. Nitin Kalantri, a major pulse trader from Latur – a key pulse producing region in Maharashtra – says that while prices may firm up by Rs 300-400 per quintal, the bearish trend is likely to continue.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Rice exports surge on strong demand, dip in Thai stocks

Strong demand from neighbours Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and steady off-take from traditional buyers in Africa has led to a surge in the country’s non-basmati rice exports, which are likely to rise to new highs this financial year. Besides, the depleted stock levels in Thailand — a major exporter — has helped India gain and consolidate its share in the global market, trade sources said. For the first nine months of the current fiscal, the non-basmati exports have registered a growth of 40 per cent in volumes at 63.38 lakh tonnes (lt) and 46 per cent increase in value terms at Rs 16,803 crore over corresponding period last year. Non-basmati rice shipments, after reaching a record 82.74 lt in 2014-15, had dropped in the subsequent year to around 64.64 lt. However, over the past couple of years, the Indian shipments have staged a rebound. Steady growth in domestic output of over 100 million tonnes annually, has resulted in a surplus aiding the shipment trend since 2011-12, when the exports curbs were removed. For current 2017-18 year, the government is targeting a rice production of 108.5 mt , marginally lower than the fourth advance estimates of 110.15 mt during 2016-17. Rice stocks with the Food Corporation of India stood at 198.93 lt as on February 1 this year against 170.28 lt in the corresponding period last year. Similarly, unmilled paddy stocks in the Central pool stood at 210 lt as on February 1 this year (183.14 lt). “The liquidation of old stocks by Thailand has led to the increased demand for Indian white rice. As a result, we expect the shipments to be over 8 million tonnes this year,” said BV Krishna Rao, President of the Rice Exporters Association. Further, the decline in Thai rice stocks has led to a firming trend in prices, resulting in better realisation for the Indian exporters.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Starving simians’ saved by tomato crop

Tomatoes have become the favourite food of monkeys in the Kerameri and Mahaboob ghats and the Gandi Pochamma temple after Bheersaipet in Kadam mandal in the old Adilabad district. The simians can be seen sitting on the walls and trees around the temples devouring tomatoes that have been offered to them by devotees or dumped on the roadside by farmers. With depleting forest cover in these areas and diminishing minor forest produce, the hungry monkeys wait on the roads hoping for passers-by to feed them; there have even been incidents of hungry monkeys attacking people to get food. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation releases the monkeys it catches in Hyderabad and its surroundings, in Kerameri and Mahaboob ghats. Apart from pilgrims who consider monkeys to be a form of Lord Hanuman and thus feed them, the monkeys benefit from the dumping of tomato crop by distressed farmers. The drastic fall in tomato prices in the last one month has made it unprofitable for farmers to transport the crop to the market and so they just leave it to rot in the fields or on the roads. As K. Ramkishan of Kerameri said, it’s a good thing that devotees think it is auspicious to feed monkeys, and the rotting tomato crop is also being put to some use.

The Hindu, Jaipur
War of words over loan waiver

The Opposition and the ruling BJP locked horns in the Rajasthan Assembly over the crop loan waiver announced by the Vasundhara Raje-government in its budget for 2018-19. As the House took up a question raised by Congress legislator Nand Kishore Maharia on the issue and procuring farmers’ produce at the minimum support price, the entire Opposition cornered the government on its intent on crop loan waivers. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had in her budget announced a one-time crop loan waiver of up to Rs 50,000 taken by small and marginalised farmers, and land revenue exemption. The waiver was for marginal farmers in the overdue and outstanding category of short loans provided by cooperative banks. This would cost the State exchequer nearly Rs 8,000 crore. Ms. Raje had announced the constitution of a farmers’ debt relief commission as a permanent institution. Farmers would be able to get relief on merit basis after presenting their case before the commission, she had said. In a supplementary question during the Question Hour, Mr. Maharia demanded the minutes of the meeting of the commission. He said out of the Rs 8,000 crore, Rs 3,000 crore comprised penalty, interest, etc., and Rs 5,000 was for crop loan waiver. The government had put riders and waived loans taken from cooperative banks by the small and marginalised farmers only, he said, and asked if the government intended to announce a complete loan waiver. State Cooperative Minister Ajay Singh Kilak said it was first time in the history of the State that a waiver of crop loans was announced. This one-time waiver would benefit 20 lakh farmers, he said. Mr. Kilak said the government had constituted a permanent institution to categorise farmers, decide on relief type, limit and process, and include farmers, who had taken loans from non-cooperative banks and other banks.

21, Feb 2018
Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Blue print to double farmers income to be placed before PM

The government discussed with farm experts and stakeholders practical solutions for doubling farmers’ income by 2022 and they will be presented before Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. Modi, who is scheduled to attend the final session of the two-day national conference being organised by the agriculture ministry, will address on farmers issues. The recommendations will also benefit the government’s inter-ministerial panel on doubling farmers income. At the inaugural session, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh called for “implementable solutions” from various stakeholders while sharing that the government has already reoriented its initiatives to transform farm sector from production centric to income centric. The government has enhanced budget allocation for the farm sector to Rs 58,080 crore for the 2018-19 fiscal, from Rs 51,576 crore in 2017-18, and sufficient funds have been made available for programmes aimed at raising farmers income, he said in a statement. The conference deliberated on seven themes: agriculture policy and reforms for higher and sustained farmers income; trade policy; marketing and agri-logistics; R&D and start ups in agriculture; capital investments and institutional credit; promotion of allied farm activities like dairy and poultry; and sustainable and equitable development and efficient delivery of services. Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat and Junior Agriculture Ministers Parshottam Rupala Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Krishna Raj, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar and Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak were among others present at the event. Senior officials from the central and state governments, scientists, economists, trade industry, professional associations, representatives of corporate and private sector companies & farmers, NGOs and academics were also present.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Fresh from the Farm: Ankur Cap Puts Rs 3 crore in Agricx Basket

Ankur Capital has made a fresh investment of $500,000 (about Rs 3.2 crore) in Agricx, adding to its portfolio of agricultural technology- focused startups. IIM Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship also participated in the funding round. Thane-based Agricx has developed a user-friendly mobile application that uses computer vision and artificial intelligence on images to yield objective, accurate and faster quality assessment of agricultural produce. Its technology is being used in warehouses and paid pilots have been initiated with large buyers. The company is looking to expand its crop range and quality parameters to deliver an easily accessible, quantifiable and affordable solution for food produce quantification.

Mint, New Delhi
Higher MSPs could spur inflation in FY19: Nomura

Widespread rural discontent and its electoral implications prompted the government to promise higher support prices to farmers in the Union budget, which could push up retail inflation by 0.6% year-on-year in 2018-19, Nomura research said in a note. Nomura estimated that the weighted average hike in kharif minimum support prices (MSPs) could double to 12.9% year-on-year in 2018-19, while the rise in rabi (winter crop) MSP could be lower at 6.6%. The one-time upward adjustment to MSPs could add 0.6% to headline consumer price inflation in 2018-19, the report said. While MSP for paddy could rise 11.6%, that of wheat is likely to rise by 3.2% year-on-year in 2018-19, the report said. In his budget speech, finance minister Arun Jaitley had promised fixing of crop support prices in such a way as to provide a return of 50% over costs to farmers. However, according to Nomura, the fiscal cost of higher MSPs is expected to be less than 0.1% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and the inflationary shock is likely to dissipate by the second year unless cultivation costs rise sharply. The report added that higher MSPs and increased food-linked fiscal costs are an upside risk to the inflation outlook, due to which the Reserve Bank of India is likely to keep policy rates on hold through 2018. On the possible impact of higher MSPs on cultivators, the report observed that farm incomes are likely to rise at a faster pace than in the recent past, but “it is not clear the current policies will be sufficient to significantly lift rural incomes.” Sluggish growth in real rural wages and lower demand for rural workers in the construction sector will have political ramifications as “while the budget appeared to indicate a big tilt towards farmers, the actual impact on their incomes may not be as large,” the report said.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Jeera under pressure on higher production

Jeera prices are under pressure on reports of higher production and arrivals in the terminal market. The market is likely to remain bearish until some support is seen in the form of export orders, traders said. India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of jeera. While India consumes 75-80% of the commodity produced, the other producing countries export most of the production. Sunand Subramaniam of Kotak Commodities told that the market will be under pressure on higher production and consequent higher arrivals in the market. “Production is estimated to be higher by 35-40% than last year with both Gujarat and Rajasthan reporting increase in acreage. The climate was also conducive and the output is likely to be high. Arrivals are as high as 18,000-20,000 bags per day from Gujarat. More jeera will come into the market when harvest starts in Rajasthan,” he added. Angel Broking reports that the jeera may trade sideways to down as new season jeera hit the market with high volumes. “Market is expecting higher production from new season may pressurise prices further. However, export demand from lower levels may support prices,” Angel sources said. On Monday evening, jeera closed lower at Rs 18,683.35 per quintal at the spot market of NCDEX counter. “The acreage is higher by 37% in Gujarat and 15-20% in Rajasthan. Production in 2016-17 is estimated to be 70 lakh bags while some put it lower at 60 lakh bags. Carryover stocks are also on the higher side and the support may come only by March-end in the way of export demand,” Subramaniam said. Besides India, jeera seed is cultivated in Iran, Turkey and Syria, mainly for exports. The new crop in Syria and Turkey is harvested during August-September. The harvest period in India for jeera starts around February-March.

Business Line, Kochi
Spices Board resumes e-sale of small cardamom

The Spices Board held e-auction of small cardamom at Puttady Spice Park in Idukki, where the operations were temporarily suspended for technical maintenance and upgrades. Though the maintenance work is yet to be completed, one e-auction will be held every week at the Puttady’s Park till the maintenance work is completed, said A Jayatilak, Chairman, Spices Board, dispelling rumours that the facility has been shifted to Tamil Nadu. Meanwhile, the Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (Kinfra) has obtained in-principle approval from the Centre to set up a spices processing cluster at Thodupuzha. The Rs 12.50-crore project will have integrated operations for encouraging cultivation, post harvesting, processing for value-addition, packaging, storage and exports of spices and spice products. Spaces will be allotted to spice/food processing units in the SME sector on the 15-acre project. According to Kinfra officials, Kerala’s spice industry has a rosy future with the rise in demand for spices from the emerging nutraceutical segments.

Business Line, Chennai
States must work with Centre to increase DBT in agriculture: CEA

State governments should work with the Centre to think more towards Direct Benefit Transfer in agriculture than just minimum support prices and procurement, according to Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor, Government of India. Interacting with industry leaders and diplomats he said his preferred approach to supporting farmers is through DBT. Subramanian said he will also discuss such a proposal with the Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao. Telangana is the first State that is implementing a DBT scheme in agriculture, he pointed out. Cooperative federalism is the way forward in increasing DBT in agriculture which is a State subject. But many subsidies, such as for fertiliser and food, are driven by the Centre. DBT is also a variant of the Universal Basic Income envisaged in the previous Budget, Subramanian said. Minimum Support Prices primarily benefit cereal farmers and, in the last couple of years, those in pulses cultivation. But others benefit less. Another option is the price risk support being tried in Madhya Pradesh. But both these mechanisms pose specific challenges such as the need for elaborate infrastructure for procurement and in the case of price support, the possibility of collusion in prices, he said. Responding to a question from A Vellayan, former Chairman, Murugappa Group, he acknowledged that in the pilot scheme tried out for DBT in fertiliser subsidy, payments to companies were delayed. He was open to suggestions on the issue, he said. Vellayan pointed out that nearly Rs 70,000 crore has been provided in the Budget towards fertiliser subsidy, including 80 per cent subsidy for urea and 30 per cent for phosphatics. The whole process was set out over seven months ago but subsidy had been delayed.

20, Feb 2018
The Times of India, Hyderabad
Agriculture should be state subject, K Chandrasekhar Rao to chief economic advisor

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao made a strong case for 'growing states' to be given liberty by the Centre to take decisions that would benefit them. He said subjects of agriculture and rural development should be totally handed over to states. "Disincentivising a growing state (sic) by the government is a not a wise thing. The growth of a growing state implies growth of the nation. The states should be allowed to play a bigger role," KCR told the chief economic advisor to Government of India, Arvind Subramanian, at a meeting he had with him at Pragathi Bhavan. "It can be implemented in one state and this case study should be taken by the Centre to arrive at a decision," he said. The CM also said CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority) funds that were collected from states should be rolled back to the respective states as per their entitlement for green cover development. During the two-and-a half-hour meeting, Subraniam was briefed by the chief minister about various programmes undertaken by the government. Lauding the land records updation undertaken by the Telangana government, Arvind Subramanian said it was something Harvard University should look as a case-study. Subramanian described the land records updation programme as being the "heart of good governance". Subramanian, who also took keen interest in the KCR kits programme, said details of such a beneficial programme should be provided to the Government of India. "It should become a learning point for other states as well as to the whole country," he said. KCR kits are provided to mothers at the time of delivery of a baby in a government hospital. It compromises various things the mother and child need. On being told about the investment support scheme for agriculture which would be launched on April 20, 2018, Arvind Subramanian showed interest in being present at such an event.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
Telangana CM announces separate agriculture budget

The regional conferences of the mandal level farmers’ coordination committees would be held on February 25 and 26. The conferences are aimed at giving orientation to FCC members about the role they should play in creating awareness among farmers in various programmes and schemes launched by the government for their welfare. The regional conferences would accordingly be held at the Agriculture University here on February 25 and at Ambedkar stadium in Karimnagar the next day. The decision was announced following instructions from Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao to senior officials. The government would soon constitute the farmers coordination committee at the State level with representation from all the districts as well as agriculture scientists, specialists and experts. The Chief Minister who interacted with the senior officials directed them to prepare draft budget for agriculture sector as the government was planning to introduce a separate budget from the next financial year. The government was committed to provide financial support to farmers under the Farmers Investment Support Scheme and the assistance would be paid through cheque in two phases. The Chief Minister wanted officials concerned to ensure that cheques of ₹4,000 each as assistance per acre for rainy season were handed over to farmers from April 20 and the disbursal of the second instalment would commence from November 18. The government was planning to supply rice planting machines to farmers as part of efforts to introduce mechanisation in agriculture. FCC members from Jangaon, Medak, Sangareddy, Mahabubnagar, Wanaparthy, Nagar Kurnool, Jogulamba Gadwal, Nalgonda, Suryapet, Yadadri Bhongir, Vikarabad, Medchal, Rangareddy districts would participate in the conference on February 25. The conference to be held in Karimnagar would be attended by the members from Adilabad, Mancherial, Nirmal, Komaram Bhim Asifabad, Karimnagar, Jagtial, Pedapalli, Warangal urban, Warangal Rural, Jayashankar Bhoopalpally, Mahabubabad, Khammam, Bhadradri Kothagudem and Siddipet districts.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Centre ‘ignores’ state’s plea to cut CCL interest rate by 1%

The state’s plea to the Union Government for parity in payments with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for foodgrain procurement has failed to cut ice with the Centre. A high-level delegation of Punjab Government, which met with top officials of the Union Ministry of Food and Secretary, Expenditure last week, did not get any assurance from the Centre. The state government wants that the Centre should charge from Punjab the same rate of interest that is being charged from FCI on the cash credit limit (CCL) for procurement. At a time when Punjab is finding it difficult to meet its committed liabilities, this relief from the Centre could help the state, which is in deep fiscal crisis. While the FCI pays 9.05 per cent interest on CCL, the Punjab Government is forced to pay 10.05 per cent, but historically too there has been 1 per cent difference in the interest rate. If allowed, the lower rate of interest could bring down the state’s interest payments by almost Rs 1,000 crore per annum. Along with this, if Punjab’’s demand for a retrospective release of 1 per cent higher interest paid by it vis-à-vis FCI (since 1993) were to be accepted, Punjab could get a relief of Rs 2,500 crore on its loan of Rs 31,000 crore taken for settling the legacy food credit account. However, the Centre has failed to come to the state’s rescue. Official sources say though “the Union Government agreed that Punjab needs relief, there is reluctance to commit to the state’s demand.” Officials told that just as the Centre gave a sovereign guarantee on the CCL for the FCI, the state too gave a sovereign guarantee on its CCL. “Thus, our contention is that the same rate of interest be charged by banks to both loanees giving guarantees,” explained an official.

TThe Hindu, Meerut
Farmers told not to use polluted Hindon water to grow vegetables

Farmers in western Uttar Pradesh have been asked not to use the water of the Hindon river for growing vegetables, which are also sold in the National Capital Region markets, as it has been found to be polluted and contaminated by various official laboratories. Several NGOs along with the administration have been creating awareness among the local farmers. According to Raman Tyagi, director of Neer Foundation, a non-governmental organisation associated with cleaning water bodies in western Uttar Pradesh, farmers living on the banks of the Hindon use polluted and contaminated water of the river to grow vegetables. “Several independent tests have shown that extremely high content of heavy metals and compounds like mercury, lead, zinc, phosphate, sulphide, cadmium, iron, nickel and manganese have been found in the river water. This makes the river water extremely dangerous to use for growing vegetables. But despite that a large number of farmers use the river water due to a variety of reasons to grow vegetables. That poses a major health risks to people,” said Mr. Tyagi, who is also a member of Nirmal Hindon Abhiyan, a cleaning drive of the Hindon river which flows in areas surrounding Meerut. The cleanliness initiative of the river is led by Prabhat Kumar, the Divisional Commissioner of Meerut. “Hence, we are creating awareness among farmers not to use the river water and instead use alternative sources of water. We are also in touch with the village heads and local administration discussing ways to come up with alternative sources of water. Several meetings have been organised for the purpose,” he added. Mr. Tyagi said farmers were being made aware of organic farming and its long-term benefits both for the grower and the consumer.

The Assam Tribune, Gangtok
Floriculture to boost rural economy: Sikkim Minister

Amid concern over climate change, floriculture is a potential sector which may help rejuvenate rural economy in Sikkim and other North- eastern States, a State Minister said. Speaking at the inaugural function of a three-day National Conference on ‘Floriculture for Rural and Urban Prosperity in the Scenario of Climate Change’, Minister for Horticulture Somnath Poudyal said here that floriculture was the most potential sector which could improve the rural economy given a conductive climate. “Sikkim, in particular, has a highly conducive climate, tradition of growing flowers, market opportunities, peaceful environment, stable and pro-active government and policy support giving a strong edge to floriculture in the State... It is seen that floriculture is becoming an attractive venture,” Poudyal said. He expressed concern that melting of ice cap in the Himalayan region and climate change had endangered existence of some of the indigenous species of flowers as it did not get favourable agro-climatic conditions for proliferation. “Some of the Himalayan regions may be deprived of normal precipitation due to unusual monsoon and erratic rainfall pattern. To minimise the effect of climate change, use of green-house technology, hi-tech horticulture are some of the solutions,” Poudyal said.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Govt has no policy for farmers: MLC

MLC Balbir Singh criticized the coalition Government in Jammu and Kashmir for not having any sufficient policy for the development of farmers. “Our border farmers are facing number of problems due to Pakistan firing from Poonch to Kathua, as they are not able to cultivate their field in such circumstances. When the farmers could not stay in their homes, how they will cultivate their fields”, Balbir Singh said while addressing a crop seminar organized by IFFCO at village Khokhyal. The MLC said that the Kashmir centric Government has only focus on apple production in Kashmir and the farmers of Jammu are continuously being ignored. He asked the Government to frame export policy for RS Pura Basmati rice, which is world famous. “Our farmers face loss in basmati production when they do not get any buyer on international level”, he added. Meanwhile, Balbir Singh inaugurated a bio-toilet constructed by IFFCO with estimated cost of Rs 2.50 lakh for Government High School, Khokhyal. During the seminar, IFFCO Zonal Manager, Nirmal Singh, IFFCO delegate, Karan Singh and scientists from KVK briefed the farmers about the utilization of bio fertilizers and usage of other fertilizers in better way for better and low-cost crop production. On the occasion, a number of successful farmers were awarded and given certificates of appreciations.

Business Line, Kolkata
Tea prices to strengthen further as first flush arrives by March-end

Tea prices, which have been on an upswing since the beginning of this fiscal, are likely to firm up further by the end of March when the first flush crop starts arriving in the market. Tea prices have already inched up by Rs12-14 a kg since the beginning of FY-18 on the back of a drop in production of North Indian tea and a steady export demand from markets such as Kenya. Average selling price of orthodox tea is ruling at around Rs167.28 a kg, higher by nearly Rs14.88 a kg compared to the same period last year, said J Kalyan Sundaram, Secretary-General, CTTA. According to KK Baheti, Chief Financial Officer, McLeod Russel India, the carry forward stocks are likely to be lower which could lead to shortages in the market in March. It is to be noted that the first flush tea or the new season tea begins to arrive only by mid-March or early April. “Prices are up by Rs14-15 a kg at present, carry forward stock is low, so our estimate is that the opening level will be strong and could be higher by around Rs20 a kg,” Baheti told. CTTA plans to drop two sales due to lower offerings. As per data available with the Tea Board of India, production in North India dipped by nearly 46 million kg (mkg) to 997 mkg during the April-December 2017 period compared with 1043 mkg in the same period in 2016. The country’s provisional tea exports during April-December 2017 period stood at 180 mkg compared with 167 mkg in the same period last year, an increase of nearly 8 per cent, the Tea Board data suggested. Higher exports was primarily supported by a crop- loss resulting in lower production in Kenya.

Business Line, New Delhi
With smartphone apps, Myanmar farmers reaping a rich harvest

A free app on farmer San San Hla’s smartphone is her new weapon in the war against the dreaded stem borer moth that blighted her rice paddy in southern Myanmar for the last two years. As she watches her workers haul in this year’s harvest, the 35-year-old is in a triumphant mood, ascribing her victory over the seasonal scourge to advice received via the app about effective pesticide use. “We used to just farm the way our parents showed us,” she said, in her village of Aye Ywar west of Yangon. “But after getting the app, I now see how we should be doing it... it’s better to use proper techniques rather than just working blindly.” San San Hla is among a growing cohort of farmers who are turning to tech to address the knowledge gap in a country where two- thirds of the workforce are employed in agriculture. The sector accounts for some 28 per cent of the country’s GDP, but yields are low with farmers cut-off from modern technology under decades of isolationist junta rule. For people like San San Hla apps could be the answer. They are providing farmers with up-to-date information on everything from weather, climate change, crop prices to advice on pesticides and fertilisers. Chat forums are connecting farmers, allowing them to swap tips while experts are on hand to answer queries.

19, Feb 2018
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Debt-ridden farmers can seek interest cut

Farmers unable to repay loans due to failure of crops or natural calamities will be able to approach courts for a cut in interest rates for their agricultural loans, provided his/her state has a local debt relief law to protect the farmers’ community, the country’s top court has said. The Supreme Court said the Banking Regulation Act, which bars courts from re-examining the terms and conditions between a bank and its client, will not be applicable to agricultural debts in states where State Debt Relief Acts are in force. Farmers can now make pleas to revise interest rates on the ground that they are excessive in the event of a default due to agricultural crisis. There are many instances of farmers committing suicide after being unable to repay their loans. In the past one year, five states – Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra – have announced farm loan waivers. The SC rejected the Centre and Reserve Bank of India’s argument that neither the judiciary nor states can have any say on the Banking Regulation Act. A bench of justices RF Nariman and Navin Sinha said on Friday that section 21A of the Act would not be applicable because states have exclusive power to legislate on “land improvement and agricultural loans”. The constitutional scheme, insofar as agriculture is concerned, is that it is an exclusive state subject, said the court. The judgment was delivered on a five-year-old PIL filed by activists who said that section 21A denied protection to agricultural loans from excessive interest rates, leading to severe rural indebtedness, resulting in over 2.5 lakh farmers committing suicide between 1995 to 2010. An amendment was brought into effect on February 15, 1984 in the Banking Regulation Act to include section 21A.

Free Press Journal, Sikar
Farmers bury themselves in pits to protest in Rajasthan

A group of farmers in Rajasthan's Sikar partially buried themselves in pits to protest the acquisition of their lands for a toll road. “We are demanding the government to compensate for the losses,” Narendra Batad, member of the Sangharsh Samiti told. If our demands are not accepted by the government our protest will intensify day by day, added Batad. He said that the depth of the pits would be increased by one foot each day and the protest would be carried out during the daytime. Batad said on Monday a rally will be taken out to continue the protest.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
POLICY ON AGRI MARKETS AFTER TAKING STATES’ VIEWS: MINISTER

The NDA government will frame a policy in consultation with states to ‘intervene’ in agricultural markets whenever prices of farm produce plunge below federally fixed minimum support prices (MSPs), agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said, articulating a plan to alleviate one of the main causes of agrarian distress that could have serious electoral implications for the government. To follow through on a key budget proposal promising 50% returns for 23 crops and compensation for market losses, the Centre will hold a meeting with all states in the first week of March, Singh said in an interview. Letters have already been sent out to all chief ministers, he added. Prices of key commodities falling below MSPs – a floor price to prevent distress sales – led to a wave of protests last year by farmers in many states, including some large ones ruled by the BJP. To fix 50% returns, the Centre will use a “prevailing method” called “A2+FL” to calculate cultivation costs; this includes all outof-pocket expenses of farmers plus the value of family labour. Farmer organisations have been demanding the use of a more complete measure called “C2”, which includes imputed costs of capital and rent on land. NITI Aayog, the government’s policy think-tank, and the agriculture ministry will discuss the details with the states when they meet, Singh said.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
SC: Courts can review interest on agri loans

In a decision with far-reaching consequences for agricultural indebtedness, the Supreme Court has held that the courts can review the rate of interest where the state debt relief laws covered banks and other lending institutions. The top court said Section 21A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 would not apply to such states where debt relief laws were in force. Section 21A interdicts courts to reopen a loan transaction between a bank and debtors on the ground that the rate of interest charged by the banking company is excessive. A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha ruled that Section 21A would not be applicable to agricultural debts in states where state debt relief laws were in force. The court passed its judgement on a writ petition filed by Jayant Verma and others, challenging the constitutional validity of Section 21A. The petitioners led by advocate Sanjay Parikh relied upon Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Agriculture 2006-07 to contend that Section 21A should be abolished in so far as it applied to rural indebtedness. They contended that 2,56,913 farmers committed suicide between 1995 to 2010. This is because of usurious rates of interest being charged by banks, which courts cannot interfere with under Section 21A. The court said agriculture as a subject matter is entirely and exclusively left to the states in all its aspects. Any argument that has the effect of making relief of agricultural indebtedness a concurrent subject by which Parliamentary legislation ousts state legislation must, therefore, be rejected, it said.

The Asian Age, New Delhi
Reliance to invest Rs 60,000 Cr in Maharashtra over next 10 yrs: Ambani

Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited, Mukesh Ambani said that his company will invest 60 thousand crores, in a collaborative initiative, over the next ten years, in the state of Maharashtra. "I am happy to announce that Reliance will establish India's first-ever integrated industrial area for the fourth Industrial Revolution in the state of Maharashtra. Reliance will invest with a coalition of global companies more than 60 thousand crores over the next ten years in this collaborative initiative. More than 20 global companies, including Nokia, Dell, HP, Cisco, Siemens have already agreed to co-invest with Reliance," Ambani said in the Magnetic Maharashtra Global Investors Summit. Further elaborating on his vision, Ambani said that the fourth Industrial Revolution will help Maharashtra and India solve difficult problems including education, healthcare, water security, and also boost agriculture. "The fourth Industrial Revolution is a convergence of disruptive technologies in the physical, digital, and biological spheres. It is going to transform the world and our society in unimaginable ways. There is a global race to harness Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, blockchain, Internet of things (IoT), virtual and augmented reality technologies, life sciences, new materials and new sources of energy and other technologies of the future. India cannot afford to lag behind in this race. India has an opportunity based on its large market to be a global leader," he added. Ambani also revealed that post Jio's launch in India, the country ranks number one in the world in mobile data consumption.

Live Mint, New Delhi
Import of growth drug oxytocin may be banned to curb misuse

The Indian government is likely to ban the import of controversial growth drug Oxytocin in a bid to curb its misuse by dairy owners and farmers who use it to boost milk production and increase size of vegetables. The government’s top drug advisory board—the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB)—in a meeting on 12 February recommended various measures to check widespread misuse of the hormone boosting drug. Oxytocin is a controversial hormonal injection that is used widely in the dairy industry, agriculture and horticulture. Authorities are also concerned that the misuse of this growth booster is reported among trafficked children, injected to accelerate puberty among girls. “The members of DTAB agreed to prohibit the import of oxytocin and its formulations for human use as well as animal use under section 10 of the drugs and cosmetics act 1940,” according to the minutes of the DTAB meeting, reviewed by Mint. Oxytocin is a uterine stimulant hormone, prescribed for the initiation of uterine contractions and induction of labour in women as well as stimulation of contractions during labour. It is also used to help abort the fetus in cases of incomplete abortion or miscarriage, and control bleeding after childbirth. It may be used for breast engorgement. In India it’s available in various brand names including oxytocin. Studies in Karnataka have shown that Oxytocin is being misused to speed up deliveries for pregnant women in overcrowded government hospitals. The drug has been under scrutiny for long, with its retail sale by pharmacies already banned. However, the drug cannot be banned for its beneficial medical use. It is used for induction and augmentation of labour, control post delivery bleeding. Considering its wide misuse and its harmful effects, the DTAB also in principle approved that barcoding systems be adopted by manufacturers of the drug, in order aid tracking.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Kohli honours progressive, innovative farmers

The two-day long Kisan Mela at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu (SKUAST-J) concluded here. Minister for Animal, Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries Abdul Ghani Kohli was the chief guest at the valedictory function. The theme of this year’s Kisan Mela, “Technology Driven Agriculture for Doubling Farmers’ Income” was chosen to educate farmers for multiplying their farm income in light of Prime Minister’s endeavour to double the farmers’ income by 2022. Abdul Ghani Kohli visited the stalls being set up by Punjab Agricultural University, Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Departments of Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Sheep Husbandry and Fisheries, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry, Private Industry and farmers in the Kisan Mela and appreciated the displayed technologies. In his address to the farmers, the Minister laid emphasis on the importance of the Mela and said that in a green State like Jammu and Kashmir, we import the sheep from arid states like Rajasthan and eggs worth Rs. 80-90 crore annually from neighbouring States. The Minister informed that the Government has formulated a proposal for poultry and fisheries development in the State to make the State self-sufficient. He further said that the State departments of these sectors and the university should do strategic planning for making the State self-sufficient in meat and meat products. He also distributed awards among the selected progressive cattle/ buffalo/sheep and goat/ poultry farmers whose animals were adjudged as the best animals in the Mela. The awards were also distributed to the best technological stalls set up by Government sector institutions/universities, private sector agriculture industry, farmers and non-government organizations. In the crop production and horticulture, the awards were given to various categories of stalls installed in the exhibition. Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-J Dr. Pradeep K. Sharma enumerated various salient achievements of the university in developing technologies for the region.

The Sunday Standard, Mangaluru
College students grow own mid-day meal

Students of Government First Degree College, Car Street, Mangaluru, had their mid-day meal, with a great sense of achievement. They were eating what they had sowed and reaped, literally. About 200 students of the college had toiled in the fields of Konaje village for over five months to grow about 14 quintals of rice in rainwater. The college had taken on lease four acres of land that had become fallow after five farmers had stopped cultivating it for more than a decade. In return, the land owners would get a share in the crop and paddy straw besides the fallow land being repaired at the end of a three-year-lease period. The students had made more than a dozen trips to Konaje starting last August 15 in order to level the field, till it, plant seedlings, de-weed and finally to harvest the crop last month. Some villagers and Manohar Shetty, a farmer leader, joined the students. Dr Naveen Konaje, a lecturer and NSS officer of the college, said the idea was mooted jointly by college principal Rajashekar Hebbar and lecturers-cum-NSS officers Prof Jeffry Rodrigues, Dr Nagaveni and himself, keeping in mind the agriculture scenario wherein it is becoming less attractive to the people day by day. A quintal of rice will be given to the two farmers who had leased out the land. The remaining 13 quintals will be enough to feed students till the end of the academic year, which is less than two months. Initially, apart from 200 NSS volunteers, 50 other students will be fed. The college plans to increase the numbers gradually as it expands the area of cultivation, Over 100 acres of land is available in Konaje and Belma GP limits and farmers are eager to lease.

17, Feb 2018
Millennium Post, Mumbai
1,000 rubber units face closure due to carbon black shortage

The All-India Rubber Industries Association has urged government to remove anti-dumping duty on imports saying around 1,000 small and medium rubber units are facing closure due to the acute shortage of carbon black, the major raw material used in rubber products. "Carbon black imports from China, Russia and other countries face anti-dumping duties. Due to this, small & medium rubber units are facing shortage of carbon black and resultant price hike," association senior vice-president Vikram Makar told here. Carbon black shortage is so severe since the past few months that over 1,000 units are on the verge of closure, which will lead to loss of nearly 2 lakh jobs, while the industry is losing about Rs 750 crore every month, Makar said. Carbon black is the most preferred reinforcing material and filler in rubber products, both in tyre and non- tyre segments, comprising 25-30 per cent of the product by weight. It is also used in plastics, paints and inks as colouring pigments. The domestic rubber industry is seen growing at 8.42 per cent CAGR during 2016-2020. However, the carbon black capacity has not grown in the past couple of years, commensurate with the demand.

Business Line, New Delhi
‘Price deficiency payments to ryots will cost Rs 25,000 cr’

If the Central government wants to implement a price deficiency payment scheme, as proposed in Budget 2018, to help farmers, it may need to shell out around Rs25,000 crore, according to Hetal Gandhi, Director, Crisil Research. Under a Price Deficiency Payment programme — Madhya Pradesh’s Bhavantar Bhugtan scheme is an example — farmers are paid the difference between the government-announced minimum support price (MSP) and the actual market price. Gandhi, participating in a panel discussion at The Pulses Conclave–2018, organised by the India Pulses and Grains Association here on Thursday, said she arrived at this estimate after taking into account all 15 kharif and rabi crops for which the government has announced an MSP. “I used last year’s production numbers, average mandi prices and MSP for the calculation,” Gandhi said. With regard to pulses, she said the farmers would not benefit much from a higher MSP as less than 5 per cent of the output is procured by government agencies. She said it would be better for the government to invest more in infrastructure, particularly on irrigation and warehousing. Similarly, India, which has trade agreements with many countries, should manage its export-import restrictions in a better manner, she said. “There is nothing wrong in having trade regulations to protect the interests of farmers and consumers. But they should be done in a time-bound manner, so that the partner countries have clarity on such issues,” Gandhi said. She cited the example of Iran, which banned rice imports from India for a specific period and lifted the restriction subsequently. Nirav Desai, director of Mumbai-based Nikhil Commodities and Derivatives, stressed on the need to have a market intelligence unit at the Agriculture Ministry. Such a unit can help the Centre ascertain its export and import requirements, he said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre targets procurement of 320 lt of rabi wheat, 55 lt of paddy

The Centre wIll procure 320 lakh tonnes (lt) of wheat during the rabi marketing season (starting April 1) 2018-19 — 10 lt lower than the previous season’s 330 lt, an official statement from the Food Ministry said. A decision on rabi procurement targets was taken at a meeting of State Food Secretaries, chaired by the Department of Food and Public Distribution Secretary Ravi Kant here. The overall wheat procurement in the previous season was at 308 lt. The reduction in wheat procurement target is despite the government’s expectations of a bumper crop in 2017-18 (July-June). The sowing of rabi crops this year is reported to be 4.27 per cent lower than last year. As per the Agriculture Ministry data, for the week ended February 9, wheat had been sown on 304.29 lakh hectares (lh) as compared to an acreage of 317.88 lh covered for the corresponding week last year. The Centre will procure an estimated 119 lt of wheat from Punjab, 74 lt from Haryana, 67 lh from Madhya Pradesh, 40 lt from Uttar Pradesh, 16 lt from Rajasthan, 5 lt from Bihar and the rest from other States including Uttrakahand and Gujarat, the statement said. The Centre has also decided to procure an estimated 55 lt paddy grown in rabi season of the kharif marketing season (KMS) 2017-18, which is 5 lt more than the previous rabi season. Of the total 55 lt, 19 lt of paddy will be procured from Telangana, 18 lt from Andhra Pradesh, 7 lt from Odisha, 5 from Tamil Nadu, 4 lt from West Bengal and the rest from other States including Kerala, Assam and Maharashtra. This is over and above the estimate of 375 lt set for kharif crop paddy for KMS 2017-18, the statement said.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
CENTRE TO CONSULT STATES ON FARMERS INCOME, MSP

The Ministry of Agriculture will consult State Governments early next month to set up a mechanism for protecting farmers’ income when market prices fall below the minimum support price (MSP). At the same time, in a move that could help the farmers, the Centre has fixed wheat procurement target at 32 million tonne (MT) for the year 2018-19. Last year Food Corporation of India (FCI) had procured 30.82 MT from the farmers during 2017-18. Union Agriculture Secretary SK Pattanayak said that the Ministry of Agriculture will call a meeting of State Governments early next month to discuss a mechanism so that farmers get enhanced MSP. He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference on food security organised by the Vivekanand International Foundation. In his Budget 2018 speech, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced that Niti Aayog in consultation with Central and State Governments will put in place a foolproof mechanism to ensure farmers get benefit of MSP. Stating that the Centre is open to all suggestions from stakeholders, Pattanayak said the Ministry is studying the model adopted by Madhya Pradesh and Telangana Governments. While Madhya Pradesh is paying farmers difference between the MSP and the market price, Telangana Government will offer fixed amount to farmers on per acre of land. Earlier, Union Food and Consumers Affairs Secretary Ravi Kant held a meeting with State Governments to finalise the wheat procurement target for the year 2018-19. The move will also help the farmers get MSP for their crops and stop them from distress selling of their crops to middle men. With this decision, the Centre and the State Government agencies will procure more wheat and rice from farmers at the prevailing market rates.

The Economic Times, Hyderabad
Indian Agrochemical Sector Expects Uptick in Exports to Latin American Nations Next Fiscal

The Indian agrochemical industry expects an uptick in export revenue next fiscal after suffering slowdown in two successive fiscals caused by lower usage of agrochemicals by farmers in key export markets like Latin America on the back of unremunerative prices for agri produce. Latin American nations, which account for large exports from Indian agrochemical firms, reported a fall in growth rate to 4% against 10% growth reported earlier. This has led to higher inventory levels of agrochemicals in those markets. With agro-commodity prices looking up in Latin American markets, coupled with fall in exports from China, sectoral analysts now expect a growth of 10-14% in export revenues for Indian agrochemical sector next fiscal. Further, new product launches could help in improved business volumes. India is the fourth largest global producer of agrochemicals after the US, Japan and China with an industry size of around $4.9 billion in FY17 with exports accounting for nearly half of it, says rating agency Icra. Latin American markets, which account for nearly a third of Indian agrochemical exports, suffered slowdown in both the last fiscal and ongoing fiscal, said Rahul Veera, assistant vice-president, Elara Capital. This, he said, was mainly due to low agro-commodity prices arising out of a deflationary trend in the global markets. “Also, rupee appreciation from Rs 70 in FY17 to Rs 64-65 currently to a dollar also contributed to subdued export revenue growth.” United Phosphorous (UPL), one of India’s largest agrochemical companies with nearly 80% exposure to exports, saw its growth in Latin America slowdown to 5% in nine months of the current fiscal, down from 31% growth reported during the same period in the last fiscal. It began to see improvement from third quarter onwards and anticipates improved exports to these markets next fiscal.

The Hindu, Bhubaneswar
Odisha govt. rejects Centre’s paddy offer

The Odisha government rejected the Centre’s offer to relax the quality norm for procuring paddy from districts affected by unseasonal rains, saying it will “adversely affect” the farmers. The Central government has reduced the minimum support price (MSP) for discoloured paddy from ₹1,550 to ₹1,410 per quintal, State Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister S.N. Patro said. “This is not acceptable to the State as it will cause serious loss to the farmers. I have requested the Chief Minister to seek the intervention of the Prime Minister for the benefit of the farmers,” he said. The Centre has also relaxed the fair average quality (FAQ) specifications for paddy procurement in 15 districts affected by unseasonal rains, Mr. Patro said. FAQ is used to describe food products that are of good enough quality to be sold. FAQ norms for paddy is laid out by the Centre every year before the start of the procurement season. “There is no meaning to relax the FAQ when the farmers will not get the appropriate MSP,” he said. The State government and Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who hails from Odisha, separately wrote to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution to relax FAQ norms for the paddy produced in the 15 unseasonal rain-hit districts. Mr. Patro said the Centre had in 2010 relaxed the FAQ norms for three districts without changing the MSP. Mr. Pradhan said that by rejecting the Centre’s offer, the State has been forcing the farmers to get a price which will be at the whims of rice millers.

Business Line, New Delhi
Oil drifts towards $64 as US output, higher stocks weigh

Crude oil slipped towards $64 per barrel as record US production and rising inventories outweighed a weak dollar and Saudi Arabia’s comments that OPEC and other producers were committed to their pact on cutting supplies. US crude output hit a record 10.27 million barrels per day, the Energy Information Administration said, making it a bigger producer than Saudi Arabia. US crude and gasoline inventories rose last week, US data showed. Brent crude, the global benchmark, fell 32 cents to $64.04 at 1208 GMT, US crude was up 1 cent at $60.61. Crude inventories rose by 1.8 million barrels in the week to February 9, the US Energy Information Administration said, an increase that was less than analysts’ forecasts. Oil had climbed on Wednesday and early on Thursday after Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said OPEC would do better to leave the market tight than end the deal on cutting output too soon. Under the deal, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to cut output by 1.8 million barrels per day, almost 2 per cent of global supply. The cuts started a year ago and will run until the end of 2018.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Organic farming has huge potential in A&N islands

Andaman and Nicobar Islands has huge potential to scale up organic farming, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said. Currently, organic farming is being taken up on a small scale in about 321 hectares of the Union Territory. "The island has immense potential and is favourably placed for organic farming due to less use of chemical fertilisers and abundant species," Singh said in Port Blair. The aim is to convert the UT into an organic farming island and therefore efforts are being made to create more awareness among farmers and consumers, he said in a statement. Highlighting the measures being taken, the minister said the Central Island Agricultural Research Institute (CIARI) has developed model coconut organic farms to showcase to farmers. Since identifying authentic organic produce in the islands is a major challenge, the authorities have been working to train employees and implement a partnership guarantee model, he said. The minister further said organic markets are being developed through local marketing programmes so that organic produce can be made available to household consumers. In order to ensure sale of organic produce, the administration is working to develop Andaman Bazaar.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Panel set up in Punjab to help farmers market produce

Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh set up a three-member committee to work out a marketing strategy for the benefit of maize and potato farmers in the state. March 1 has been set as the deadline for submitting its report. The committee members included the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) (Cooperation), ACS (Development) and Chairman of the Punjab State Farmers Commission. The move has been initiated for saving the wastage of commodities when farmers are forced to throw their produce when they are unable to get marketing support. Setting a benchmark for providing remunerative prices to farmers was the motive of the move.

Business Line, New Delhi
Pulses body sees imports halving to 2.5-3 million tonnes in 2018-19

The country’s pulses imports are likely to nearly halve to 2.5-3 million tonnes (mt) in the financial year starting April due to ample stocks and uncertainty over the government’s policy, Indian Pulses and Grains Association Vice-Chairman Bimal Kothari said. “In April-December, 5 mt of pulses had been imported. By the end of March, the figure should be 5.5-5.7 mt,” Kothari told on the sidelines of Pulses Conclave 2018. India produced a record 23 mt of pulses in the 2016-17 (July-June) crop year and output could be close to that figure in the ongoing crop year as well, according to trade estimates. A rise in output over the last couple of years, record imports, and a large government buffer stock are keeping markets well-supplied and local prices depressed. To stem the fall in prices and ensure higher returns to farmers, the government has imposed quantitative restrictions on import of tur and levied duties on import of chana, yellow peas, tur and masur. India is unlikely to import chana as domestic crop is seen fairly large this year, at about 8.5 mt, higher than 7.5 mt in 2016-17, he said. Traders would not look at tur imports either, as the government is sitting on large stocks. Of the near 2 mt pulses in the government’s buffer, nearly 1.1 mt is tur, Kothari said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Punjab sees huge decline in farm credit

The lack of awareness among farming community and banks is severely hampering the asset creation in agriculture and allied activities in Punjab, thus affecting the farmers’ income. As a result, the share of long- term investment credit (term loan) to agriculture in Punjab has significantly gone down in comparison to all India average. From 37% in 2013-14, the share of investment credit has come down to 18% in 2016-17 in Punjab whereas the all India average of investment credit was 35%. This indicates that greater emphasis needs to be laid on capital formation in agriculture in the state. Deepak Kumar, CGM, Nabard, Punjab Regional Office, Chandigarh, said, “This is a disturbing trend. The need of the hour is to sensitise bankers and farmers to increase awareness if the state government really wants to increase the income of farmers.” Deepak added, “Banks may adopt Area Development Schemes (ADS) prepared by Nabard. To give a fillip to credit flow for investment credit in agriculture, we have prepared area- based plans for the entire state with an outlay of Rs 1,298 crore.” The ADS agriculture allied activities include dairy, vegetable growing and bee-keeping etc.

16, Feb 2018
Business Line, Bengaluru
Coffee growers want MSP to tide over price crisis

Hit by low prices and faced with a poor crop this year, coffee growers want the Government to consider a minimum support price (MSP) or a price compensation scheme for the commodity to alleviate their distress. Coffee price movement in India are in tandem with the London and New York terminals, and have been volatile in the recent years, hurting growers’ earnings here. Farmgate price of robusta cherry, which hovered around Rs 3,700 per 50-kg bag last year is now at Rs 3,000 levels — about 19 per cent lower. Similarly, the prices of Arabica parchment, which ruled at Rs 9,900 levels per 50-kg bag last year are now at around Rs 7,300 levels. “We urge the Centre to look at an MSP or a support price scheme for coffee to help rescue the growers,” said BS Jairam, President, Karnataka Growers Federation, a body of coffee producers. Representatives of the beleaguered plantation sector are expected to meet the Commerce Minister and officials on Thursday in New Delhi to present their case. In addition to the low prices, the output — mainly that of robusta — has turned out to be lower than initial expectations in Karnataka, which accounts for around 70 per cent of India’s coffee output. Growers estimate that the current robusta crop, which is harvested in last stages, could be lower by about 30-35 per cent over last year’s 1.5 lakh tonnes. “The price is below the cost of production and as a result the growers are finding it difficult to service their debts. We want the government to consider interest waiver on loans till the current year and extend loans on a concessional interest rate for 2018-19,” said HT Pramod, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association.

The Times of India, Gandhinagar
Gujarat govt moves to amend APMC Act

The ruling BJP, which recorded a dismal performance in rural Gujarat in the 2017 assembly elections, has proposed a major change in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act to allow the committees to engage in large scale contract farming and to start farm product value-addition industrial units. The state cabinet, led by chief minister Vijay Rupani, approved a primary draft bill to amend the APMC Act. The amendment will be introduced in the assembly session starting from February 19. “The state cabinet has approved the amendment to allow APMCs to engage in contract farming, build cold storages, godowns, and to sort, grade, and process produce,” said a key source aware of the development. “Private sector companies have been allowed to engage in contract farming since 2007 in Gujarat. However, few companies do that.” The source said it has been observed that farmers are more comfortable dealing with the APMCs than with companies. “To improve the quality of the yield in the state as well as to avoid the current crisis-like situation, the government has decided to empower the APMCs by enabling them to adopt the farm to-finished-product approach,” the source said. “The state and central governments have several schemes for cold storages, godowns, food processing units, and exports. So engaging the APMCs will help in the improving the quality of farming and in ensuring the best possible prices to farmers. Direct and indirect employment will also be generated.” The source said that the APMCs are financially sound and have technical capabilities too. “The move will help balance the yield and prevent excessive production and price falls,” he said. R C Faldu, the state agriculture minister, did not offer a comment.

Mint, Mumbai
Maharashtra govt seeks Rs 200 cr compensation for hailstorm-hit farmers

The Maharashtra government will seek a financial assistance of Rs200 crore from the centre to compensate farmers whose crops were damaged by hailstorms last week. State agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar said that according to preliminary surveys, crops over 190,000 hectares (ha) were damaged in Vidarbha, Marathwada and North Maharashtra due to unseasonal rains accompanied by hailstorms. Reports of final surveys were expected in the next two days, Phundkar said, adding farmers would be compensated as per the criteria fixed by the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). Farmers who have not opted for the crop insurance scheme would also be compensated, up to Rs18,000 per hectare, he said. The final surveys are likely to reveal more extensive damage to the crops because the preliminary assessment covered only those 16 districts which were hit by the rains and hailstorms on 10 and 11 February, Phundkar said. Another five districts in Vidarbha faced hailstorms on 12 February and the final surveys would cover these districts, he added. As per preliminary surveys, Buldhana district in Vidarbha suffered the maximum damage with crops over 32,700 hectares ruined. Jalna district in Marathwada and Amravati in Vidarbha suffered extensive damage to crops over 32,000ha and 26,598ha, respectively. Compensation for horticulture farmers would range from Rs40,000 per hectare for banana, Rs36,700 for mango, Rs23,300 for orange and sweet lemon, and Rs20,000 for bitter lemon.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
RAIN, HAILSTORM DAMAGE RABI CROPS, 1.08L HA IN MAHARASHTRA AFFECTED

Untimely rain and hailstorm have caused damage to the rabi (winter) crops in over one lakh hectare in Maharashtra, especially in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. As per estimate received by the agriculture Ministry, the rabi crops –chana and wheat –have been hit. The MeT department has also warned farmers about bad weather and advised them to start harvesting early. According to officials of the agriculture Ministry, they have received a report from Maharashtra. About 1.08 lakh hectare has been damaged due to unseasonal rains and hailstorm. “This is just a preliminary assessment of the damage, the full report is yet to be received from the State Government”, officials said Besides Maharashtra, the official said, there were reports of some damage to rabi crops in Madhya Pradesh. The rabi crops will be ready for harvest from next month. In some states like Gujarat, wheat harvesting has begun. Officials said that in madhya Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha, the farmers have been asked to complete harvesting of matured rabi crops at the earliest. The State Government has also asked farmers to collect and cover harvested produce by plastic sheet, store threshed crops in warehouse, complete harvesting of matured fruits and vegetables at the earliest and cover orchard with hail net in Madhya Maharashtra and Marathwada. As per reports, districts which were most hit in Maharashtra included Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded, Parbhani, Hingoli, Dhule, Nandurbar, Aurangabad among others. Sehore, Vidisha, Hoshangabad, Guna, Rajgarh, Harda, Betul and Raisen districts were among the badly hit districts of Madhya Pradesh.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
PM CALLS NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FEB 19-20 TO BOOST AGRICULTURE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called a national conference on February 19-20 to discuss short and long-term solutions to give a fillip to the agriculture sector and address the farm sector issues to achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Sources said that the national conference 2022’, will to be held at the Pusa complex in the national Capital. Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, senior officials of Niti Aayog, farm price advisory body CACP, State varsities, farmers and farmers’ bodies will be among others who will be part of the meeting. On the first day of the conference, farm experts and officials will brainstorm issues that are confronting farmers as well as the overall agriculture and allied sectors. They will submit the recommendations next day before the PM for firming up the policies. Farmers distress has aggravated in view of sharp fall in prices of most agri-commodities like pulses and oilseeds due to bumper crop last year. Poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have already announced sops to help farmers come out of the rural distress. Even the Central Government in the Union Budget for 2018-19 has announced fixing MSP 1.5 times higher than the cost of production. The Opposition and farm experts demanded the Government spell out that formula to be adopted to determine cost of production. Presently, the Government decides the MSP based on the recommendation of an expert body the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP). The Government fixes MSP for 14-15 kharif crops. Last month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the country’s s economic growth is not justifiable and equitable unless the benefits are clear and evident in the farm sector. Therefore, the Government’s priority is to ensure the gains reach the farmers and the growth is visible even in the farm sector, he had said. The CSO has pegged.

Mint, Hyderabad
TJAC to highlight farm distress in Telangana

Cooking food on streets and serving it right there, a novel form of protest to highlight agrarian distress first witnessed in 2011, is making a comeback to Telangana. The Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC) will take up the “Vanta Varpu” (cooking and serving) programme to highlight agrarian distress in the state, committee officials said. As part of the protest, activists and farmers will cook food on the streets across districts in early March, and stage dharnas at village, mandal and district levels later in the month. Such protests were first held seven years ago before the state was bifurcated from Andhra Pradesh in 2014. Vanta Varpu was a success then, especially in some districts wherein people from different walks of life came on to the streets and cooked food. The protests are being organized after the conclusion of its recently held village-level surveys on farmer issues across the state to understand their problems, TJAC chairman M. Kodandaram said. The organization took up the study in all 119 assembly constituencies in Telangana mainly due to the pink bollworm pest attacking the cotton crop this year. The organization had chosen two villages from each constituency for the survey. In its study, the results of which were released earlier this month, the TJAC found a lot of cotton farmers had suffered losses due to untimely rains in October and an attack by the pink bollworm pest, said Kodandaram. “Pesticides could prevent the pest attack. Though the crop was better in the subsequent days, many farmers suffered monetary losses and were getting less rate for their produce,” he added. When contacted, a senior official from Telangana’s agriculture department denied there was any agrarian distress in 2017-18. He added that the pink bollworm pest’s influence was limited just to a few districts, including Adilabad and Warangal, at best.

DNA, Mumbai
US, Spain, Argentina keen to invest in agri

In the run up to the ‘Magnetic Maharashtra’ summit, countries like the US, Japan, Spain, Argentina, UAE, Netherlands have so far indicated keen interest to invest in Maharashtra’s agriculture sector. Some of the country representatives and companies have already held talks with the state agriculture department for technical collaboration and financial investment in an array of agriculture sectors. These include warehousing, cold chain, poly houses, fisheries, logistics and export oriented terminal infrastructure. Some MoUs are expected as early as the Magnetic Maharashtra summit slated to begin from February 18. An officer from the state agriculture department told, “US companies desire to join hands with the pulse producers from Vidarbha so that it can be processed to meet the Indian demand. Similarly, Argentina has shown interest to tie up with farmers’ federation from Vidarbha to market variety of pulses grown here. Companies from Spain have identified land in Chakan, Pune district to grow fruits and vegetables. Besides, UAE companies want to produce and export fruits and vegetables in their own country. ’’ He informed that government offers both fiscal and physical incentives through proper policy framework to attract investments in the agriculture and allied activities which has average share of 11.8 per cent in the total gross state value added and it is growing at an average annual rate of 1.7 per cent. The officer said investors are keen to invest in warehouses, cold chains and post harvest plants and logistics parks in many state locations especially those connected to ports and airport in particular. “About 70 to 100 acre of land is available near Bhiwandi which offers suitable site for such ventures. Besides, investors can invest in food processing parks as long as it is binding for overseas and domestic investors willing to set up units in Maharashtra to procure farm produce directly from the farmers and not traders,’’ he said.

15, Feb 2018
Business Line, Hyderabad
AP issues notice to Nuziveedu, Kaveri for HT cotton seed use

Even as sales of herbicide-tolerant (HT) cotton seeds are being reported from across the country, the Andhra Pradesh government has served show-cause notices on Nuziveedu Seeds Limited and Kaveri Seeds for reported use of the illegal gene in some of their seed samples. The State’s Additional Director of Agriculture (Seeds) has asked the two companies to explain why, having violated regulatory protocols, the government should not cancel their licence to sell the seeds. The report cited investigations by a taskforce, which was set up to look into alleged violations in a few villages in Guntur and Kurnool districts in October 2017. Along with Telangana, Gujarat and Maharashtra, AP has widespread plantations of HT cotton, which is the third-generation cotton seeds technology developed by Monsanto. In fact, a third of the 45 lakh acres of cotton area in Telangana is under illegal HT cultivation. The Roundup Ready Flex contains a third gene (CP4-EPSPS) that imparts herbicide tolerance to the plant. When herbicide is sprayed on the crop, it kills the worms, while the plant, protected by the gene, can withstand the chemical. “It doesn’t have the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) permission for commercial release of the technology and is hence illegal and unapproved,” the notice observed. NSL contended that the government’s charge was baseless and “bad in law”. “The samples mentioned in the notice are neither collected from our company premises, offices or fields nor [were they obtained] from our distributors or dealers,” a company executive said. Mahyco- Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) said it will cooperate with the investigation. “We had brought the issue of such illegal proliferation to the notice of regulators in 2008. These seeds are being sold without regulatory approval and leave farmers vulnerable to exploitation,” an MMBL spokesperson said.

The Hindu, Jaipur
Farmers reject loan waiver

Farmers of the Shekhawati region, who staged a 13-day-long agitation in Sikar and elsewhere in September last year, have accused the Rajasthan government of dishonesty in its budgetary announcement on farm loan waiver. The government’s action on an 11-point charter of their demands is still awaited. The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) announced its plan to lay an indefinite siege to the Assembly from February 22 during the ongoing budget session and has sent the first batch of farmers from Jhunjhunu to Jaipur. The group, led by former deputy zila pramukh Vidyadhar Gill, will march on foot to reach the State capital and join the protest. AIKS president and former CPI(M) MLA Amra Ram said Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had misled the farmers by announcing a one-time crop loan waiver in her budget speech on Monday. “This is a dishonest announcement. It has not only ignored our demand for blanket loan waiver, but will also exclude the majority of farmers from its purview,” he said. The AIKS has been mobilising small and marginal farmers, cattle rearers and agricultural labourers for a major protest against the government. After the State government’s move to refer the loan waiver issue to a committee, it had decided in December to stage a march to the Assembly during the budget session and lay siege to the building for an indefinite period. Layer, more batches will be sent from Nagaur, Sikar and Kota districts to Jaipur. The last and the biggest group, led by AIKS-Rajasthan president Pema Ram, will leave from Mandota village in Sikar on February 17. The AIKS leaders intend to sit outside the Assembly until the State government addresses agricultural distress. Mr. Ram pointed out that the budgetary announcement of loan waiver would be applicable only to those farmers who had obtained loans from cooperative societies and whose debts had become overdue.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Jeera farmers on high alert for Alternaria blight

Climatic fluctuations coupled with isolated instances of disease has become a cause of concern for the jeera (cumin seed) farmers in Gujarat. According to farmer sources in Saurashtra, a disease ‘alternaria blight’ has surfaced in select pockets of Rajkot and Jamnagar districts. Farmers, fearing the spread of the blight, were forced to destroy the crop, which couldn’t face the temperature fluctuations over the past one month. Sources confirmed that multiple instances surfaced, where jeera farmers in Jodiya taluka of Jamnagar and parts of Rajkot district reportedly destroyed their crop suspecting the disease. “There were reports from isolated places of Saurashtra about alternaria blight disease in jeera crop. At present it appears to be a minor issue at select few farms as no widespread incidence is reported. By-and-large the jeera crop remains safe and in good condition,” said a district agriculture official. According to farmer sources, the cloudy weather and a rise in moisture in climate since mid-January has affected the crop. Analysts, however, maintained optimism about jeera crop, which is likely to cross 400,000 tonnes this year. “There is no remarkable impact of the climatic extremities on jeera crop. The crop will be better than last year, hence there is not likely to be any sharp rally in prices in short-term,” said Jagdeep Garewal, an independent commodity analyst in Ahmedabad. Bhavesh Patel, a trader from Unjha, confirmed that jeera prices have remained under pressure due to rising arrivals. “Currently, the arrivals are in the range of 10,000-12,000 bags (of each 40 kg) a day. There is likely to be further downward pressure on the prices as the arrivals peak later in March,” Patel said. A report by Kedia Commodities reported higher prices for jeera on short covering after prices dropped following increased arrivals of new crop.

Millennium Post, Bhopal
MP Govt offers sops for farmers, incentive on MSP for crops

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced several measures under the "Chief Minister Agriculture Productivity Scheme" to ensure farmers get fair prices for their produce. "Under this scheme farmers will be given Rs 200 per quintal incentive in the support price for wheat and paddy crops. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a support price of Rs 1,735 per quintal for wheat. After adding this incentive to it, it will be about Rs 2,000 per quintal," Chouhan announced while addressing a convention of farmers here. He said a bonus amount of Rs 200 per quintal would also be given on paddy next year. The CM said that e-procurement of 67.25 lakh metric tonnes of wheat on support price was made in the Rabi season of 2016- 17, and Rs 1,340 crore was paid to 7.38 lakh farmers. Similarly, the state e-procured 16.59 lakh metric tonnes of paddy on support price in Kharif 2017 and Rs 330 crore would be paid to 2.83 lakh farmers, he said. The chief minister also announced that gram, masoor and mustard crops would be included in the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in 2017-18 and onion in 2018-19. Chouhan also announced a slew of measures for farmer welfare, including spending Rs 1,200 crore to turn the Chambal ravines into cultivable land and opening of customized processing and service centres in each block which will be run by farmers.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Power use in agri sector to reduce: Discoms

TS power utilities have claimed that through the implementation of 24x7 power supply to farmers, consumption of electricity can be reduced as the farmers can pump water in any time of the day at their comfort. Due to this, it is expected that the farmers will judiciously pump water, only according to requirements, thereby reducing the consumption of electricity. The TS Electricity Regulatory Commission (TSERC) had conducted a public hearing at Hyderabad on Power Distribution Companies (Discoms) tariff proposals for 2018-19. During the hearing, the TS power utilities said the average growth in consumption in units with 24x7 power to farmers during July-August 2017 in Nalgonda, Medak and Siddipet circles was 33.36 per cent. The circle-wise per month consumption was projected for the year 2018-19 by applying the average growth of 33.36 per cent to the circle-wise per month average consu-mption in the year 2016-17 and by multiplying the same with the circle-wise details projected for 2018-19 which came as 12,285 MUs of agricultural consumption. They said that the total projected consumption for agriculture has been reduced to 9,765 MU as the entire estimated total capacity for 2017-18 and 2018-19 is considered for projecting the consumption. It was said that in reality, the new connections will be released in a phased manner over months. An additional sale of 941.92 MUs for lift irrigation schemes have been projected for the year 2018-19 under TS Southern Power Distribution Company Ltd (SPDCL) and this will reduce the burden on agricultural pump sets to an extent. TS government is actively campaigning for removal of auto starters for pump sets. This will avoid wastage of water and electricity. The benefits due to 24x7 supply are flexibility of farmers to utilise power whenever the consumer wants, avoiding accidents when power supply is during night hours and judicious usage of water by farmers.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Roadmap to control prices of veggies soon: Harsimrat

Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the Centre would soon draw a roadmap to control the soaring prices of tomato, onions and potatoes (TOP). Briefing the media on “Operation Greens” summarised in the Budget, she praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for doubling her ministry’s Budget this year. The minister said her department would hold a meeting with stakeholders on March 20 to put on ground the framework for the preservation of tomato, onion and potato by promoting farmer produce organisations, agri-logistics processing facilities and professional management. “We may also look at incentivising the production of TOP. A sum of Rs 500 crore has been earmarked for the purpose in the Budget,” she said, adding that the FDI was “constantly increasing” for the sector. The project aims at addressing price fluctuations of tomato, onion and potato, helping farmers and consumers both. It will be implemented on the lines of “Operation Flood”, a dairy development programme launched in sixties. Meanwhile, the FDI in the food processing sector is expected to rise by 38 per cent to $1 billion this fiscal, driven by recent reforms, she said. The minister said efforts were being made to translate the proposals worth $14 billion signed during the “World Food India 2017” in November last year into actual investment. Already, 17 companies, including the ITC, have started the ground work, she said. “The FDI in food processing is increasing. It stood at $727 million in 2016-17. In the first seven months of this fiscal, the FDI in the sector had reached $500 million. It will touch $1 billion by the end of this fiscal,” she said. “This will help improve food processing level to 20-30 per cent in the next two or three years from the current 10 per cent and decrease wastage,” she said.

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Straw management now mandatory in Punjab

In an attempt to check the dangerous trend of stubble burning, the Punjab government has decided to make attachment of super straw management system to combine harvester machines mandatory while harvesting the paddy (rice) crop. “These instructions are aimed at saving the environment from air pollution caused by stubble burning,” said Punjab Pollution Control Board chairman K.S. Pannu, adding that the owners of combine harvesters desirous of undertaking the harvesting of paddy in the State would now have to attach super straw management system with the harvester combine. “We have also instructed that no harvester combine shall be allowed to harvest paddy in Punjab without a functional super straw management system,” said Mr. Pannu. He added that the instructions have been issued under section 31 A of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. Mr. Pannu said that Punjab has been declared air pollution control area. “Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, has also recommended that super straw management system be attached to self-propelled combine harvesters, which cuts the paddy straw into small pieces and spread the same. With this method, farmers are not required to burn paddy straw before sowing the next crop,” he said.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
WEEDS A LEADING CAUSE OF DAMAGE TO CROPS

Weeds, insects and diseases are the three main biological factors for losing crop yield and causing economic loss to farmers. As per data of the Agriculture Ministry, India had lost agricultural produce worth over $10,000 million - (Rs 6424,00000000) more than the Centre's budgetary allocation for agriculture for 2017-18 - between 2003 and 2014 to weeds in 10 major crops in different districts of 18 States. This means agriculture crops worth over $ 910 million (Rs 9090909090909) loses annually due to weeds across the country. The Jabalpur-based Directorate of Weed Research (DWR), estimated the economic losses using data generated by an all India co-ordinated research project (AICRP) on weed management, which carried out 1,580 on-farm research trials on 10 major crops at different locations in 18 States over a decade. The NITI Ayog had also revealed in its paper on "Raising Agricultural Productivity and Making Farming Remunerative for Farmers," that crops yield losses in India due to pests, which include all biotic stresses such as weeds, insect-pests, diseases, nematodes and rodents, range from 15 to 25 percent depending on the source of estimates. In monetary terms, the figure ranges from 0.9 to 1.4 lakh crore rupees annually. Weeds do enormous damage to the wheat, rice, groundnut and soyabean crops. They directly deplete the soil nutrients and moisture and compete with crop plants for light and space thus, reduce the crop yields. Indirectly, they cause damage to the crops harbouring pests and disease agents. In a reply pertaining to 10 major crops suffer huge economic losses due to weeds every year in the country, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has said that weeds lead to the loses of agricultural produces worth over $ 10k million every year.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Wheat crop faces weather setback in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat

Hailstorm in the past few days in central and western India has created uncertainties for the wheat crop and quality even as the bonus announcement by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) has raised concerns about similar demands coming from other states. It has been estimated that 97.5 million tonnes (98.38 million tonnes last year) of wheat will be produced in the country, and this could be a bumper crop. It was expected to touch 100 million tonnes. Chilly weather later in the season is good for wheat but the hailstorm proved to be a dampener. As a result, the “quality of wheat which arrives early in MP and Gujarat will be affected and despite the better-quality wheat sown in these regions farmers will not benefit”, a trade analyst said. The Union food ministry has called a meeting last week to chalk out grain procurement strategies, by which a target for wheat procurement may also be set. Food Corporation of India will start procurement after a month but farmers in MP have started selling early wheat despite the state declaring a bonus of Rs 200 per quintal for the 2018 rabi season. It is likely that the price deficit or the bhavantar scheme may be applied to wheat and procurement may remain low in MP, according to trade circles. Flour mills are, hence, on a stronger wicket because they will continue to get wheat of the quality they need for milling. A miller said they were getting offers to buy wheat at lower prices but “we will wait till moisture dries before placing orders at low prices”. Devendra Vora of Navi Mumbai-based Friendship Traders said, “There are several uncertainties due to the high bonus in MP, the hailstorm, and the bumper crop. It will be a challenge for government to keep a balance between farmers’ interests without hurting the fiscal situation.”

The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Wheat acreage declines 4.27% in 2017-18’

Area sown to wheat has declined 4.27% to 30.42 million hectares in the current rabi season of 2017-18, which may lead to a fall in production from last year’s record 98.38 million tonne (MT). According to official data, wheat acreage has fallen because of lesser area coverage in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand.

The Hindu, Coimbatore
‘Plantation staff can buy subsidised fertilizers’

The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers clarified that registered companies and partnership firms engaged in plantation work can authorise any of their employees to purchase subsidised fertilizers. The clarification said the employee can purchase any specified quantity and type of subsidised fertilizers on behalf of the company using his or her Aadhaar number and produce the authorisation letter at the retail outlet at the time of purchase. However, a plantation sector source said this might not benefit the plantations as they cannot take GST input credit on fertilizers if an employee purchases it in his or her name.

14, Feb 2018
The Hindu, New Delhi
Centre’s help sought after jute prices fall

The jute industry has sought the intervention of the Textiles Minister to stem the decline in raw jute prices. In a letter to Smriti Irani, Manish Podddar, chairman of the apex industry body, the Indian Jute Mills Association (IJMA) said a crisis was prevailing in raw jute with prices ruling at several notches below the minimum support price. In the letter, dated February 8, IJMA said for the TD 5 variety, the price was lower by about Rs7,000 per tonne, and by Rs10,290 per tonne for the TD 6 variety. “This is almost 20% and 35% below the MSP for TD5 and TD6 respectively,” it said, adding the total loss to jute farmers had been estimated at about Rs1,000 crore. Raw jute is produced mostly in West Bengal (74%) followed by Bihar and Assam. The industry sought Ms. Irani’s intervention to raise purchases by the Jute Corporation of India as an immediate measure. The Centre is gearing up to announce the MSP for FY19. Government documents indicate the price would be about 5% higher than this year’s MSP. Data also showed that between FY13 and FY18, area under jute cultivation shrank to 6,84,3000 hectares from 7,56,000 hectares. Raw jute output fell to 98.3 lakh bales from 110 lakh bales.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Cloud-based irrigation system doubles crop yield, cuts water use by 80%

Scientists from the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (UK) have developed a cloud-based micro-irrigation system, which when tested on a farm in south India helped cut water use and doubled crop yield. The system combines a highly localised weather forecast with local know-how on irrigation needs and soil conditions. Local farmers’ knowledge on irrigation and soil conditions for each of these crops were scheduled on the cloud-based system, an official statement said. Trials were conducted under the Innovate UK-funded Smart Control of Rural Renewable Energy and Storage (SCORRES) project. “We tested eight crops with our precision irrigation system,” said Eddie Owens, director of Heriot-Watt University’s Energy Academy. “The results of our initial trials were extremely encouraging. Our irrigation system reduced water and energy use by up to 80 per cent and in some of the trials, the crop yield doubled, enabling farmers to grow bigger vegetables and fruits, faster,” Owens added. At the trial farm in Tamil Nadu, eight vegetable crops were grown using the precision irrigation system. These included okra, lettuce, basil, pumpkin, corn and long beans. The next step would be to expand the trial across India and into China, Owens added. “Existing irrigation control systems in India are typically manual, or rely on time clocks that have a lack of monitoring oversight…. This project removes the need for costly hardware, and creates a more affordable, cloud-based solution for smart irrigation,” Martin Scherfler from Auroville Consulting, a SCORRES partner that oversaw the installation of the irrigation, said. Agriculture accounts for 90 per cent of India’s freshwater usage. Fifty-four per cent of India faces extremely high water stress.

The Times of India, Rajkot
Gir’s Kesar to give tough fight to UP’s Dussheri

In a first-of-its-kind move, Kesar mango farmers from Talala taluka in Junagadh are all set to directly sell their famed produce in Delhi and also explore possibilities of marketing it in other states across the country. Uttar Pradesh’s Dussheri mangoes, which has a huge market in Delhi will get tough competition this year from Gujarat’s Kesar mangoes. Over 300 farmers have come under the banner of Gir Krishi Vasant Utpadak Sangh (GKVUS) and begun the process of developing a logo and registering the trademark for Kesar mangoes. Since last couple of years the Talala farmers have been selling mangoes directly only in Ahmedabad. The luscious Kesar, largely grown around the foothills of Girnar mountains in Junagadh, has attained global recognition as ‘Gir Kesar’ mango after receiving the Geographical Indication (GI) tag. Kesar is the second variety of mango in India to get GI tag after the Dussheri variety grown in Uttar Pradesh. In 2015-16, mango production in Gujarat was 12.41 lakh tonne, of which nearly 2 lakh tonne was estimated to be of Kesar mangoes grown in Junagadh, Gir-Somnath and Amreli districts. The Kesar mangoes are cultivated in 20,000 hectare area and its peak season starts from April. In May this year, around 30 farmers from Talala will be going to Delhi to sell Kesar mangoes under the banner GKVUS which is registered as Farmers Producers Organization (FPO). A state-level autonomous company Gujarat Agribusiness Consortium Producers Company Ltd (GUJPRO) will provide the platform for farmers in Delhi and help them market the mangoes in association with the Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), a firm promoted by the central government.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Hailstorm hits standing crops on 1.25L hectares in Maharashtra

Unseasonal rain and gusty winds with hailstorm hits 11 districts in Marathwada, Vidarbha and North Maharashtra. According to primary punchnama, agriculture crops on more than 1.20 lakh hectares badly affected. The hailstorm and unseasonal rain badly hit Buldhana, Amravati in western Vidarbha and Jalna in Marathwada region. The primary report of the punchnama was submitted to the revenue department on Monday. Pandurang Fundkar, minister for agriculture took review of the crop loss. According to the minister, total 1086 villages comprising 50 talukas and 11 districts come under loss by the natural calamity. “As of now, total crop on 1,24,294 hectares land lost partially or completely. Punchnama is still incomplete and we fears the loss will be more than expected,” said the minister. Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, leader of opposition has demanded to complete the process of punchnama immediately and farmers should be given the amount of compensation before the budget session. The session is scheduled from February 26. The farmers are yet to receive the the loan waiver amount. It indicates opposition will take on ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena over loan waiver and compensation during budget session of the state legislature.

Business Line, Kolkata
Import duty on pulses to hit Canada acreage

The Centre’s decision to impose import tariffs on pulses is likely to affect plantation in Canada. India, which accounts for nearly 48 per cent of the world pulse consumption, is a major importer of pulses from the US and Canada. According to Oneil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Government of Alberta, Canada, the farmers might opt for sowing of wheat, barley or oats as alternative to pulses for the upcoming 2018 planting season (beginning April). “Alberta has been a (key) supplier to India. (But) with this tariff imposed, I think it might be a possibility that Canadian farmers may sow less of pulses this year,” Carlier told on the sidelines of the 6th Agro Protech 2018 organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Pulses production in India witnessed a spike at 22.95 million tonnes (mt) in 2016-17 as compared with 16.35 mt in FY’16. With a view to support local farmers and give a boost to domestic prices, the government imposed a 50 per cent import tariff on peas and 30 per cent on lentils and chickpea. Despite the domestic demand there, a small population and larger land base (for cultivation) means a vast majority of its pulses are exported. Apart from pulses, Canada also sees a potential for exporting its canola oil to India. According to Carlier, Canadian and Indian companies can collaborate in the areas of food processing and farm mechanisation. “There is a lot of co-operation existing between the two countries in a number of areas including agriculture,” he said. Alberta can share with India its expertise with regards to advancements in genetics, fertilisers and maintaining soil health among others.

Business Line, New Delhi
M.P. announces Rs 200/quintal bonus for wheat, paddy

Madhya Pradesh announced a bonus of Rs 200/quintal over and above the minimum support price for purchase of wheat and paddy in the upcoming procurement season. The Centre had fixed minimum support price for wheat this year at Rs 1,735. The State is estimated to produce 15.9 million tonnes (mt) of wheat during 2017-18 (July-June), down 27.6 per cent from a year ago, according to the State farm department’s data. The Centre had fixed a minimum support price of Rs 1,550 a quintal and Rs 1,590 for common grade paddy and fine grade paddy, respectively, for 2017-18. Paddy is the grown in kharif, rabi and summer season in the State, while wheat is grown only in rabi season.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Rahul woos farmers, promises sops if voted

Congress president Rahul Gandhi went all out to woo Karnataka farmers, even as he launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to tackle India’s agrarian distress. As part of the Janaashirvad Yatre, Rahul interacted with farmers and gave a patient hearing to their questions that were asked in Kannada, Hindi and English. “Farmers are not getting the right price for their crops because the BJP has stopped protecting you,” Rahul told the audience. “The Congress considers farmers India’s backbone. If we come to power in Delhi, we will establish a revolving fund to help farmers in distress, provide the right minimum support price and waive farm loans,” he said. Reviving his ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’ jibe, Rahul said the NDA government had last year written off loans of “India’s richest”, worth Rs 1.30 lakh crore. “I went inside Modi’s office only once to ask if he will waive farmers’ loans. He didn’t answer. The Centre will write off the loans of the top 10 capitalists within minutes, but not farmers’ loans,” he said, adding that the Congress-ruled Karnataka and Punjab had waived farm loans. “Neeyat (intent) is most important in politics. And the Siddaramaiah government’s intent is right.” He said the Congress was fighting the 10-15 capitalists that he said the BJP is working for. “That’s the BJP agenda: farmers, small businesses and labourers should work and capitalists should simply enjoy,” he said. Farmers grilled Rahul and Siddaramaiah with specific questions on the problems they faced, including reduced storage capacity of the Tungabhadra dam and increasing power supply for farmers.

The Tribune, Moga
Rain raises hope of bumper wheat crop, farmers rejoice

With rain lashing various districts of Malwa and other parts of the state, farmers’ hopes of a bumper wheat yield have got a boost. Farm scientist Dr Jaswinder Singh Brar said the rain at this time would be beneficial for the crop. He advised the farmers to check waterlogging in their fields and visit the fields on a regular basis to ward-off any fungal infection in the plants. “If the rainy spell prolongs, there could be chances of yellow rust (fungal disease on wheat crop) attack on the crop,” he said. Farmers, who have been waiting for rain for the past many weeks, said the showers were like a tonic for wheat and mustard crops. Balwinder Singh of Daroli Bhai village in the district said the rain had provided a big relief to them. He said: “We have irrigated the crop around two weeks ago. The timely rain will help in the second irrigation.” It may be mentioned that during the rabi season, most parts of Malwa had missed rainfall in December and January. There are also reports of winds blowing along with rain in some parts of Moga, Ferozepur and Fazilka districts, but there is no report of any damage to wheat and other crops, agriculture officials say. Dr Brar said: “The late-sown mustard crop will also benefit from the current spell, but there can be some adverse impact on the early-sown crop, which is nearing maturity.” There are reports of cyclonic winds causing damage to property and vehicles at Fatehgarh Panchtoor and its adjoining villages in Dharamkot sub-division of Moga district. Boundary walls of a few houses collapsed and tin sheds blew away. Some trees on the roadsides were also uprooted. However, no loss of human life and livestock was reported. The district authorities have sought a report on property damage.

The Economic Times, Pune
Unseasonal Showers and Hailstorm Flatten Rabi Crops

After suffering losses on kharif crops due to subdued prices and a pest attack on cotton, unseasonal rains and hailstorm have damaged standing rabi crops such as wheat, chana, jowar and bajra, besides high-value horticulture crops such as mangoes and citrus fruits, in several parts of Marathwada and Vidarbha. As the western disturbance is moving eastward, the weather office has issued warnings to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya for possible thunderstorms accompanied by hailstorm. As per preliminary estimate of the state government, crops on 1.24 lakh hectare area spread across 11districts of Maharashtra have been affected by Sunday’s hailstorm. “The hailstorm-affected areas are likely to increase as the field survey is going on,” said state's agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar. The unseasonal rains over most districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha, especially the hailstorm, damaged harvest-ready crops such as tur, jowar, bajra, gramand and high-value horticulture crops like grapes, oranges, bananas and mangoes, which are in the flowering stage. “The farmers had not received remunerative price for their kharif crops. They didn’t even get the benefit of the state's loan waiver scheme. The hailstorm has now led to a total collapse and I fear that farmers' suicides, which are already on the rise, could increase further after this natural disaster,” said Akola-based Prashant Gavande, convener, Shetkari Jagar Manch. “The hailstorm and thunderstorm happened because of a very strong western disturbance. It was so deep that it reached up to the central parts of the country,” said K Sathi Devi, Director General of Meteorology, (IMD, Delhi). Rain/thundershowers lashed most places over Punjab, East Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Chhattisgarh, besides many places over Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi and West Uttar Pradesh. It rained at a few places over East Uttar Pradesh and West Madhya Pradesh as well. The mountain regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand received snowfall due to the western disturbance.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Water Commission Rings Alarm Bell over Looming Crisis

A water crisis could occur in some parts of the country, especially in Gujarat, if state governments don’t plan for judicious use of water available in reservoirs, officials from the Central Water Commission (CWC) have warned. In the coming month, low reservoir levels can delay planting of pulses, cotton, paddy and millets in western and central states where water levels have fallen, they said. "In the current situation, there is deficient water in reservoirs — 11% less than a year ago and 9% less as per the 10-year average. As in the past, we will be sending advisories to state governments to plan for judicious utilisation of water from reservoirs," said S Masood Husain, chairman of CWC, which monitors the country's water situation. Husain said Gujarat is facing a crisis. "The water level in Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat is very less owing to poor rains in the previous year and less inflows. The Narmada Control Authority has allowed the state to draw water from the reservoir, which is at minimum draw down level (the level below which the reservoir will not be drawn down so as to maintain a minimum head required in power projects)," said Husain. Water levels in reservoirs of central India, including states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, are not good, the officials said, but added that Madhya Pradesh is sharing some water with Gujarat. The commission, which keeps a watch on 91 major reservoirs that feed hydropower plants and irrigate fields, advises the central and state governments on use of water for drinking, irrigation and industrial purposes. According to CWC, rainfall received this year till February 8 was 85% below normal across the country. "The reservoir situation can improve if rain continues to lash catchment areas. However, current rains are covering parts of north, north west, central and south India," said Husain.

13, Feb 2018
The Times of India, Jaipur
Rajasthan announces loan waiver for farmers, to cost Rs 8,000 crore

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje announced one-time crop loan waiver of up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers and land revenue exemption. The loan waiver is for the marginal farmers in the overdue and outstanding category of short loan provided by cooperative banks. This will cost Rs 8,000 crore to the state exchequer. Raje also announced constitution of a farmers debt relief commission that will work as a permanent institution. Farmers would be able to get relief on merit basis after presenting their case before the commission. She also announced land revenue (lagan) exemption that would benefit almost 40-50 lakh farmers. To promote agro-based industries and services, Raje announced to increase maximum limit of interest subsidy in a year from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 7.5 lakh. Interest subsidy for women, disabled, SC/ST and entrepreneurs who are bonafide residents of Rajasthan and are up to 40 years of age, was enhanced to 6 per cent from 5 per cent. Infrastructure support subsidy with maximum limit of Rs 5 crore was also proposed for first unit established in most backward area investing more than Rs 50 crore under each sector of agro-processing and agri-marketing, bio-technology and IT sector. In rural areas, valuation of agriculture land up to 1,000 sq mt will be done at the rate of agriculture land instead of the rate of residential land to help farmers sell or buy the land for agriculture purposes. The chief minister also announced to allot 2 lakh agriculture electricity connections which were pending till January 2012. Other announcements for the agriculture sector included interest subsidy of Rs 384 crore for short-term crop loan to farmers through central cooperative banks, increase in the capacity for storage of additional 5 lakh metric tonne at the cost of Rs 350 crore for the produce procured at MSP.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre hikes import duty on sugar to 100%

The Centre has raised the import duty on sugar to 100 per cent from 50 per cent, and on chana to 40 per cent from 30 per cent, in a bid to curb a fall in prices of these commodities. Chana futures on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange rose over 1 per cent on the news. While trading in sugar futures has been negligible due to low volumes for the past few months, spot prices rose in key wholesale markets following the hike in import duty. The Centre had, in December, imposed 30 per cent duty on chana imports to restrict the fall in domestic prices. The bearish sentiment in the chana market, however, had continued due to the expectation of a bumper output this Rabi season at a time when supplies from last season are already high. The hike in import duty on chana will restrict purchases, boost domestic prices and safeguard the interests of farmers, traders said. For sugar, apart from the fall in prices, there were also concerns over cheaper imports from Pakistan through the Wagah border.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Costly proposition: Rush to avail Madhya Pradesh’s MSP scheme

The Centre is yet to work out the modalities of its MSP-based deficiency payments scheme, but if Madhya Pradesh’s just-concluded Bhaavantar Bhugtaan Yojana (BBY) is anything to go by, the scheme will be a costly one. Market arrivals of crops trying to avail the scheme have shot up by four times in the case of urad — as compared to the previous year where there was no such scheme — and 50 per cent each in the case of maize and soyabean. Compared to 2016-17 when 3.6 lakh tonne of maize came to the market for sale, it was 5.5 lakh tonne in 2017-18, numbers for urad rose from 1.5 lakh tonnes to 6.3 lakh tonne and from 12.6 lakh tonne to 18.8 lakh tonne for soyabean. The Madhya Pradesh government has spent close to around Rs 2,000 crore for the scheme this year. Since only a small number of farmers are still registered for it, the numbers will increase next year. Around a third of urad production was registered for the scheme in Madhya Pradesh, less than a fifth in the case of soybean, a tenth for maize, and a twentieth for groundnut. While MP has traditionally had lower prices than other states for most crops, after the implementation of the scheme in September 2017, the price difference has risen. Urad prices in MP were 93 per cent of those in Rajasthan in FY17 but this fell to 77 per cent in FY18, and from 65 per cent to 57 per cent when a comparison is made with Uttar Pradesh. Prices of maize were 91 per cent of those prevailing in Karnataka in 2016-17 and this fell to 88 per cent in 2017-18. Prices of maize were 6 per cent higher in comparison with those in Maharashtra in 2016-17 but were 4 per cent lower in 2017-18.

Business Line, New Delhi
Cotton body cuts crop estimate by 2%

The Cotton Association of India has revised downwards its estimate for India’s 2017-18 (October-September) output by 2 per cent, or by 8,00,000 bales (1 bale is 170 kg), to 36.7 million bales. The association, however, retained its forecast for consumption, exports and imports. As a result, the estimate for cotton inventory at the end of September has also been cut by 8,00,000 bales to 4.2 million bales, the association said in its January report. The cut in production estimate comes in the wake of massive bollworm attack in Maharashtra and Telangana, which is likely to have impacted yield in some regions, an official with the association said.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Maharashtra hailstorm leaves three dead, severely crops damaged

Hailstorm over the central parts of Maharashtra, Marathwada and parts of Vidarbha region claimed three lives, with state government officials saying that an assessment of the damage caused has been ordered. According to officials, two men from Jalna and a woman from Washim died in the hailstorm. "Namdev Shinde, a 65-year-old farmer from Vanjar Umrad village in Jalna tehsil, and Asaram Jagtap (60), from Nivdunga village of Jafrabad tehsil, died due to the hailstorm in Jalna district. As many as 180 villages from Jalna are badly hit," Collector of Jalna Shivajirao Jondhale told. A senior officer of the revenue departments said, "Yamunabai Humbad (60) from Washim district died when she was at her farm." "The hailstorm has severely damaged crops including grapes, cotton, green gram and wheat among others. A sizeable loss of cattle and poultry has been reported. The damage assessment report will be finalised in the next couple of days," said a revenue official from Aurangabad divisional commissionerate. State Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar, ordering assessment of the damage caused, said, "Every affected village should be visited, the losses should be documented and a report must be filed. The officials can email their final report to the state government." Many districts such as Beed, Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded, Parbhani, Hingoli, Dhule, Nandurbar and Aurangabad also reported heavy rains this morning, revenue officials said. According to an agriculture department official, farm produce like wheat, oranges and grapes were severely damaged in some areas. Senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the victims should get compensation before the start of the state's Budget session, scheduled for February 26. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had issued an advisory that a hailstorm-like situation may develop over parts of Maharashtra. Taking note of the IMD advisory, the state government had asked farmers to be prepared for the untimely rains and hailstorm.

The Assam Tribune, Silchar
Silchar to have terminal market for agriculture produce

Palit Kumar Borah, chairman of the Assam State Agriculture Marketing Board visited the market complex of the Veterinary Department at Silchar to take stock of the complex for construction of a wholesale market. He was accompanied by officials of Cachar District Agriculture Marketing Board. Speaking to reporters, Borah said that the construction work for the market will commence shortly and the market will solve the traffic issues to a great extent. “The Government has accorded priority to develop Barak Valley and hence the board is taking measures to construct the terminal market here. We are thankful to the Veterinary Department for extending cooperation by allocating 50 bighas to us for the market,” Borah said. Further, chairman of the board said that the market will have arrangement for better management of the agriculture produce here. On the other hand, Sonai MLA and chairman of the Cachar District Agriculture Marketing Board said that the land demarcation is complete and foundation stone laying ceremony will be held within four months. This terminal market will be a blessing for the people of Barak Valley. This will bring to an end to the foul practice of deals by the middleman on the agriculture produce and also ease the traffic congestion of the city as well. Rates of the agriculture produce coming here will be regulated by the national board,” Laskar stated.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Soon, app to procure agri implements

The Punjab Government will launch a mobile application to help farmers in hiring costly agricultural implements required for post-harvesting and preparation of fields for sowing next crops. The move is aimed at helping farmers in the management of stubble/farm residue. This was disclosed by state Additional Chief Secretary, Cooperation, DP Reddy during a meeting held to address the issue of stubble burning in the state with officials from the Cooperatives Department and the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre. He said the Cooperatives Department had decided to develop a mobile app in which data of all farmers and agricultural cooperative societies would be uploaded. “This app will facilitate hiring of agricultural implements to farmers from the village-level cooperative society,” he added.

Business Line, New Delhi
Soyabean futures recover losses

Soyabean futures witnessed a volatile move in the past week. After falling sharply in the initial part of the week, the prices reversed sharply higher recovering all the loss made during the week. A rally in international soyabean prices driven by heightening crop concerns in Argentina — as a result of drier weather conditions — and renewed buying by crushers helped soyabean futures close on a positive note on the NCDEX. The contract was up 3 per cent last week. Lower than expected production estimates from the Soybean Processors’ Association (SOPA) last week also supported the prices. SOPA cut its soyabean production estimated for India to 83.5 lakh tonnes from 91.5 lakh tones. According to the latest SOPA estimates, the total supply of soyabean for 2017-18 is pegged at 96.5 lakh tonnes including carryover stock of 13 lakh tonnes. In the upcoming week, soyabean futures contract can remain range-bound. There is a possibility of some correction in the prices on the back of costlier soyameal exports and tumbling margin for crushers in line with surging soyabean prices. However, a weaker production outlook for India and the world for 2017-18 may restrict the excessive losses. The USDA trimmed its world production forecast to 346.92 million tonnes against 348.57 million tonnes last month, lower by 1.3 per cent year-on-year. Lower yield prospects in Argentina due to adverse weather condition for crop development is likely to keep global prices higher in the coming days. Lower crop size in Argentina is likely to impact the global soyameal availability adversely as Argentina is the largest soyameal exporter.

The Economic Times, Pune
Sugar Prices Jump Rs 1/kg Post Govt’s Capping of Sales by Mills

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje announced one-time crop loan waiver of up to Rs 50,000 for small and marginal farmers and land revenue exemption. The loan waiver is for the marginal farmers in Sugar prices jumped by Rs 1/kg to Rs 30.50/kg immediately after the Central government capped sales by mills for the next two months. However, traders are worried that unless excess stocks are taken out of the country, there would be a bigger carry-over into the next season, when record output is likely. Spot prices of M 30-grade sugar in New Delhi had tumbled by 6% between January 10 and 31. However, during the past week, prices recovered by more than 3%, responding to two policy decisions. The Central government increased import duty on sugar on Tuesday to 100% from 50% to nip in the bud the possibility of subsidised sugar imports from Pakistan. This was followed by the cap on sales by mills for February and March in an effort to support prices. In response to these decisions, buying interest was reported among consumers and bulk users. However, the temporary cap on sugar sales is not the solution for the industry because excess sugar will still remain in the country. “Either re-introduction of the monthly release mechanism as it existed before deregulation for a substantial period of time or taking excess sugar out of the country will be required to avoid a bigger disaster in next year,” said Abhijit Ghorpade, a sugar broker from Maharashtra. By limiting mill sales, unsold stock of sugar will accumulate and be carried forward to next year, worsening the sector’s financial condition. However, Raju Shetty, farmer leader from the sugarcane growing belt of south Maharashtra, opposed the reintroduction of monthly release mechanism.

12, Feb 2018
The Hindu, Hyderabad
Centre urged to procure red gram

Poor price to red gram in the open market, which is about Rs1,000 below minimum support price of Rs5,450 per quintal in Telangana has forced the State Government to approach the Centre again with a request to come to the rescue of farmers with procurement of at least one lakh tonnes under price stabilisation fund (PSF) scheme. In spite of the repeated efforts of the State Government that even included Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao writing to Union Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh, the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) has allowed Telangana to procure only 75,300 tonnes of the major pulses crop. Initially, the State was permitted to procure only 56,300 tonnes. However, after letters from Minister for Marketing T. Harish Rao to Mr. Radhamohan Singh and Agriculture Production Commissioner C. Parthasarathi to Union Agriculture Secretary S. K. Pattanayak and State’s MPs meeting the Union Agriculture Minister, the procurement quota was increased to 75,300 tonnes. Assurance was given to the effect that at least 1,13,600 tonnes out of the total estimated production of 2,84,000 tonnes would be allowed under the price support scheme (PSS). Official sources stated that they were given to understand that the Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES) at the national level did not take into consideration the second advance estimates of the crop production and yield in Telangana. As a result, the Centre has fixed the procurement cap at 75,300 tonnes at 40% of the 1,70,000 tonnes estimated production. Telangana State Cooperative Marketing Federation (MARKFED) has already procured about 1,50,000 tonnes of red gram from farmers at MSP, as production is estimated at over 2,84,000 tonnes with the yield nearly 10 quintals per hectare. “While NAFED would pay for 75,300 tonnes, MARKFED and Hyderabad Agricultural Cooperative Association (HACA) have been allowed to borrow ₹300 crore each from banks to pay for the remaining quantity for now”, the sources said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Punjab ban on some pesticides leaves dealers in a fix

Dealers of certain pesticides/insecticides across Punjab are clueless over how to dispose of hundreds of litres of the stock days after the state government banned sale of these `hazardous chemicals. The state government’s decision came after the National Human Rights Commission sought a response — a second time since 2011 — from the state as well as the Centre over the reckless use of these chemicals being blamed for subsoil and groundwater contamination by heavy metals resulting in a variety of serious diseases among villagers of the Malwa region. Earlier there was cited a test report confirming large presence of these metals in the soil and the ‘resultant’ physical disorders. A week after the ban, some of the 11,500 licensed dealers say they have no option but to drain the stock in the nearby canals — a step that can cause further damage to the environment. A few other dealers say they may sell the stock to the neighbouring states. State’s director (agriculture) Jasbir Singh Bains says measures are being taken to handle the present situation. “Under the Insecticide Act 1968, we have suspended the pesticides for 60 days. After that we will be sending a report to the Central Insecticide Board that will take a final call on the ban,” he said. Bains says the state government has informed the department of agriculture and farmers' welfare that the sale of insecticides/pesticides mentioned in a schedule may be suspended for two months. The government has acted on the recommendations of the Registration Committee, Punjab Agriculture University and the Punjab State Farmers Commission. While the ban brings in huge monetary loss for the dealers and distributors, farmers will hopefully not bear the brunt of the situation.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Tea sector eyes export of 275 mn kg by 2020

Indian tea exports have touched a record high of 240.7 million kg in 2017, surpassing the previous high of 241.3 million kg achieved in 1981, according to provisional figures released by the Tea Board. Five importing countries, including exporters Sri Lanka and China which are India’s rivals in the global arena, helped India reach this export level. Indications are that the figure will rise as returns are still being received by the regulator. In several countries, including the U.S., Indian teas were sold at prices which were higher than the average export price of $3 per kg, and encouraged by this export buoyancy, a 15% rise to 275 million kg by 2020 now seems achievable. Exports were higher by 8.2% in volume and by 5.9% in value at ₹4,731.7 crore, the regulator said in a statement. In dollars, exports rose 9.3 % to $726.7 million. India exported 222.5 million kg in 2016. The unit price of Indian teas was higher at $3.1 per kg against $2.9 in 2016. The performance might have been better but for the Darjeeling agitation (which resulted in a 70% production loss) and the appreciation of the rupee. Both tea-growing regions — north and south India — registered higher exports in 2017 over the previous year. Biggest contributors to this performance was Egypt, which increased imports by 166%, followed by Sri Lanka, whose imports jumped 84.8 % and China to which Indian tea exports rose 50%. While Iran had imported 28 million kg in the year, Egypt’s imports stood at 10 million kg. China increased its imports to 8.3 million kg buying black tea, to cater to growing demand among its youth. “The performance could be attributed as much to several delegations that were mounted by the government during 2017 as also the industry’s servicing of its exports,” said Indian Tea Association Secretary Sujit Patro.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
‘Reforms in law and order and agriculture will help BJP swing bypolls in UP’

Visible results from reforms in sectors such as agriculture and law and order will pave the way for the ruling BJP’s win in the upcoming March 11 by-poll for the two high-stakes seats of Gorakhpur and Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh, said the party’s state general secretary Sunil Bansal. The BJP’s performance in Gorakhpur, which is the pocket borough of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and Phulpur, which was earlier represented by deputy chief minister Kesahav Prasad Maurya, is expected to serve as a bellwether for the 2019 general elections. Bansal is confident that the work done by the Yogi Adityanath government during its 11-month tenure in Uttar Pradesh, coupled with Modi-government’s pro-people policies, will steer the party towards a thumping majority in the 2019 general elections. In 2014, Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, elected 71 BJP MPs (plus two of its ally Apna Dal) to the Lower House with a 42% vote share. A strengthened party cadre from the grassroots to the top rung, with representation from across caste groups, is another factor that the BJP leader said will allow the party to combat the Opposition, even if several parties were to form a coalition against it. “There was time when people said the BJP lacked leaders from OBC and Dalit sections; now that vacuum has been filled too,” he said. Listing achievements of the Yogi government — saving Rs 312 crore after pulling the plug on bogus ration cards or providing 16-18 hours of electricity in villages — Bansal said the party was on track to fulfil its poll promises. “Nearly 86 lakh farmers benefitted from the Rs 36,000-crore loan waiver, regularisation of payments to sugarcane famers; doing away with middlemen by directly transferring the money to farmers and helping them double their incomes are significant reforms that can be seen on the ground,” he said.

The Pioneer, Bhubaneswar
‘INDIAN RESEARCH HAMPERED BY POOR QUALITY EDUCATION’

The 16th All India People’s Science Congress being held at the National Institute of Science, Education and Research (NISER) was attended by renowned dignitaries. Addressing the meet Dinesh Abrol said Indian research is hampered by stifling bureaucracy, poor-quality education at most universities and insufficient funding. He also mentioned about the diversities, accommodations and political challenges that we face on the way to national development. Dr Soma Marla mentioning a link between science and agriculture and how dangerous, a Indian farmer's situation is, he spoke about the dependency of Indian population on agriculture and how it is one of nation's main source of income. AIPSN General Secretary T Ramesh, Dr Venkatesh Athreya, Prof Prajval Shastri, Durga Prasad Mahapatra, Satyajith Rath, Sabyasachi Chatterjee, Prof G Ramakrishna and Dr Syamal Chatterjee also spoke on the occasion.

The Indian Express, Pune
Maharashtra: Hail and thunderstorm damage orange, wheat; light rain likely today

For the second consecutive day during the weekend, hail and thunderstorm lashed most parts of Vidarbha and Marathwada, severely affecting oranges and grapes, season for which has just commenced. Light rain, measuring up to 4 mm to 7 mm, is expected over Pune, Ahmednagar, Kolhapur on Monday and widespread rain, up to 20 mm, is expected in Vidarbha and some of the adjoining parts of Marathwada until February 13. Although hailstorm is not an unknown weather phenomenon for Maharashtra, its arrival in the second week of February is what makes it special this year. “Hailstorm is not unusual but it has occurred early this year,” said N Chattopadhyay, the Deputy Director General (Agriculture Meteorology) at the India Meteorology Department (IMD) told. Whenever there is a strong interaction between cold northerly winds and moist winds blowing from the Bay of Bengal, it leads to clouds at lower levels in the area to get activated. “In turn, the process of droplets combining to ice particles gets accelerated, which take shape as hail stones that later precipitate,” said a senior IMD official. Generally, in the pre-monsoon season, typically between March and May, is when such conditions are formed over Maharashtra. “With the winter season yet to come to a close, it is due to the interaction between warm winds from the ocean and cold western disturbances that led to the formation of a strong cyclonic circulation that has persisted over Maharashtra,” said the official. Vidarbha bore the brunt, as seven of the 11 weather stations reported widespread rainfall on Sunday. Although of light intensity, the rainfall recorded in Nagpur was the highest at 7 mm, followed by Bramhapuri (6 mm) and Wardha, and Parbhani (5 mm in both places).

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Agri varsity toppers want to help farmers in distress

“I had dreamt of being a doctor and was also interested in biology. I can survive even if i do not become a doctor, but I will not be able to survive without food,” said Sahana Bhat, one among the gold medalists who graduated from the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore. Sahana, who won eight gold medals and five donor gold medals for her BSc Agriculture degree, said that she understood that she could be of help in the field of food security especially when farmers are in a crisis. The increasing population in the country has lead to food shortage and malnutrition, she added. Speaking about her future plans, she said, “I want to research on various varieties of foodgrains and be an agricultural scientist. I believe that through this, I will be able to help the farmers in the country.” Another topper, K P Saurabha from the department of B.Sc Agriculture, who also wanted to be a doctor, said that now she wants to be an agriculture officer and help the striving farmers. Saurabha from Vijayapura bagged one gold medal and five donor gold medals. She said that she would like to return to her hometown to study further in the field of agriculture. “I want to curb various diseases affecting crops and focus on creating various varieties of crops,” she stated. The University also had toppers from postgraduate degrees. M S Udaykumar, one among the toppers got one gold medal and six donor gold medals in MSc (Plant Pathology). Udaykumar, who too wanted to be a doctor, said that he is happy to have topped the subject. S Soujanya, who got her doctorate, won a gold medal and two donor gold medals. She said that students of agricultural sciences should not limit themselves to books but also take up cultivation.

11, Feb 2018
Business Line, Ahmedabad
Apex cotton body lowers crop estimate by 2% to 367 lakh bales

The Cotton Association of India (CAI) has, in its latest estimate, lowered the crop size by 8 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) to 367 lakh bales against the earlier estimate of 375 lakh bales. For the 2017-18 season, beginning from October 1, 2017, the CAI reduced the crop estimate to 367 lakh bales citing severe infestation of cotton with pink bollworm. “In accordance with the advice of the scientists, farmers in several areas, particularly in Maharashtra and Telangana, have uprooted their cotton crop without waiting for further pickings,” the CAI said in a statement. The projected balance sheet drawn by the CAI estimated total cotton supply for the season at 417 lakh bales including an opening stock (or carryover stock) of 30 lakh bales at the beginning of the season and the imports, which the CAI estimated, at 20 lakh bales. The domestic consumption is pegged at 320 lakh bales, while exports for the season are seen at 55 lakh bales. The carryover stock at the end of this season on September 30, 2018 is estimated to be 42 lakh bales. Data from each cotton growing local State association put arrivals up to January 31, 2018 at 211 lakh bales (157.75 lakh bales). In December 2017, the CAI had estimated the cotton crop size at 375 lakh bales.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre mulls scrapping export duty on sugar to arrest fall in prices

The government is considering to remove export duty on sugar to boost shipments in view of fall in domestic prices on estimated rise in production, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. At present, there is 20 per cent export duty on sugar. “Sugar production is estimated to rise nearly 24.9 million tonnes (mt) in 2017-18 season (October-September) from 20.2 mt in the previous year,” Paswan told. The industry has pegged production at 26 mt and the government will review its estimates based on input from sugar producing States. The domestic demand is 24-25 mt annually. In view of rise in sugar output, the minister said the government has already doubled import duty to 100 per cent to check cheaper imports from overseas markets, particularly Pakistan. That apart, he said the government has placed quantitative restrictions on mills for domestic sales for two months. Asked about industry demand to scrap export duty, Paswan said: “the government is considering this“. With domestic prices falling below cost of production, sugar industry bodies such as the Indian Sugar Mills Association and National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories had met senior officials of the Ministry last month, seeking hike in sugar import duty from 50 per cent to 100 per cent and scrapping of export duty of 20 per cent to liquidate surplus sugar.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Great organic idea to save GIB!

In a novel experiment, a group of farmers at the Lala Sanctuary in Kutch have decided not to use inorganic fertilizers and toxic pesticides so as to save the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) which is critically endangered in the state with IUCN pegging their numbers at alarming 20. The farmers joined hands with an NGO, Corbett Foundation, and grew green lentils (moong) using organic methods. The move paid off as it not only helped in conservation of GIB but also brought more money to the farmers. According to experts, when farmers use pesticides, GIB loses a major portion of its food — insects, locust, lizard among others — and the bird is forced to look for smaller insects in the grains, resulting in damage to the crops. The experiment to adopt organic farming was so encouraging that the foundation and the farmers have decided to apply for an organic certification with the brand name, Ghorad. The GIB is locally known as Ghorad. “Initially, I was a bit reluctant when the Corbett Foundation suggested me to go for organic farming. But, when I saw a group of rosy startlet in an adjacent field feeding on insects, I realized its importance. The foundation also assured to compensate me for any possible loss,” said Yakub Jatt, a resident of Kunathiya village in Abdasa taluka. Devesh Gadhvi, deputy director of Kutch Ecological Research Centre and a member of the State Bustard Conservation Committee, said, “We realized that 70% of the food for the GIB during the breeding season were the insects in the agriculture fields and the pesticides were killing them. We then persuaded the farmers not to use pesticides and an experiment was undertaken in a small area. The results were very encouraging. The farmers were able to produce around 700kg of moong.”

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Gujarat cotton crop pegged at 105 lakh bales in 2017-18

Cotton production in Gujarat is estimated to be around 105 lakh bales during the ongoing 2017-18 crop year as compared to 89 lakh bales (one bale weighs 170 kg) in 2016-17, states the January estimate by Cotton Association of India (CAI), a national trade body representing an entire cotton value chain. The association, however, has lowered cotton production in the country by 8 lakh bales to 367 lakh bales from its earlier 375 lakh bales estimate released in December 2017. The reduction is largely on account of severe infestation of pink bollworm in cotton crops, especially in Maharashtra, CAI said in a statement. Although there were instances of pink bollworm infestations in Gujarat, the production output estimate for Gujarat has been kept unchanged, meaning there is minimal adverse impact of the pest attack. Precautionary measures adopted by farmers in Gujarat and the pest infestation at fag end of harvesting (in second half of December 2017) after first and second picking saved the cotton crop from any significant damage, said agriculture experts. According to state agriculture department data cotton acreage in Gujarat increased to 26.42 lakh hectares in 2017-18 from 24.04 lakh hectares in the previous year.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Higher import duty on olive oil will kill demand, fears trade association

Reiterating its demand for the roll-back of the import duty hike on olive oils, the Indian Olive Association (IOA) has raised concerns on the demand impact. In his latest the Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the import duty on olive oils from 12.5 per cent to 30 per cent for crude oils and 20 per cent to 35 per cent for refined oils. “Such high levels of duty will push prices of olive oil beyond the reach of the health-conscious consumer and kill demand entirely,” said VN Dalmia, Chairman, IOA, in a letter to the Finance Minister. Elaborating on the possible impact on the pricing, the IOA said that the hike in duty will result in a triple whammy in terms of prices. It mentioned that the nearly 30 per cent increase in olive oil prices at origin along with the 7-8 per cent increase in EUR-INR rate and capped by the duty hike will result in olive oil becoming costlier by an increase of ₹250-300 a litre for the consumer. Dalmia cited the health benefits of olives, which is not an Indian crop, to make a case for a lower import duty to keep the oil affordable for the health-conscious Indian consumer.

Business Line, New Delhi
Rabi sowing remains subdued

The area under rabi cultivation continued to lag, albeit marginally as compared to the same period last year, according to the data released by the Agriculture Ministry. Farmers have so far covered an 642.88 lakh hectares (lh) as against 648.19 lh covered in the corresponding period last year. The maximum decline in cropping area was reported in wheat whose acreage was 304.29 lh, 13.59 lh lower than last year, the Ministry said. The overall shortfall, however, was made up by an increase in area under pulses and rice cultivation. While the area under pulses was up by 5.29 per cent to 169.10 lh during the corresponding week in the previous year, acreage under rice went up by 4.57 lh to 31.89 lh. The total area covered oilseeds so far was at 80.87 lh (84.85 lh). Coarse cereal cultivation too was on the lower side with area going down to 56.73 lh as against 57.24 lh.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Small tea growers demand settlement rights over ‘utilised’ Govt land

The All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA) demanded urgent steps to grant permanent settlement rights to the small tea growers (STGs) over the plots of government land on which they are developing their plantations. In a statement here, the association also called for steps to make the tea directorate of the State government a full-fledged one for the benefit of the STGs. It also called for steps to make special allocations in the State budget for those STGs whose holdings are of less than ten bighas each. Besides, the State government should immediately release the subsidy amounts it had announced for the new STG plantations at the rate of Rs 5,000 per bigha, said the association. The association demanded of the Tea Board of India urgent steps to enquire into the allegation of around eighty per cent of the new bought leaf factory (BLF) owners using the biometric cards of the STGs to obtain no-objection certificates to facilitate their BLF ventures. These BLF owners are collecting the biometric cards of the STGs by engaging some agents. Stern steps should be taken to bring an end to this practice, said the association. It further demanded that the Tea Board immediately initiate steps to activate its Dibrugarh-based Small Tea Growers’ Development Directorate. Besides, it called for special steps to promote the hand-made organic tea produced by the STGs, ensure remunerative price of the green tea leaves produced by the STG sector, facilitate setting up of tea factories by the STGs and to ensure sale of their teas through the Gauhati Tea Auction Centre (GTAC). The AASTGA alleged that the Executive Director of the Tea Board NE Regional Office has not been doing anything to support the STGs on the issues mentioned herein.

Business Line, Mumbai
Uncorking Nashik’s potential: MTDC to promote ‘valley’ as tourist, wine hub

The 40-day India Grape Harvest (IGH) — a festival celebrating local produce such as grapes, wines and raisin — opened in Nashik. But unlike in the previous years, the events are not just associated with wines but also with a whole range of other activities promoting the Nashik Valley as a tourist destination. Taking a cue from the Indian Premier League, the organisers of IGH will be holding 14 events across the district. Campsites have been developed at Vallonne and Vinchur wine parks where tourists can experience local food with the wines. Altogether, tourists will be able to taste 72 types of wines at the festival. IGH organisers expect about 15,000 tourists to participate in the festival. Jagdish Holkar, former Chairman, Indian Grape Processing Board, told that the attempt is to develop the Nashik Valley as a brand not just for wine tourism but also for showcasing the area’s grapes, pomegranates and even onions. Since Nashik is also associated with the Godavari river and the Kumbh Mela, the associated pilgrimage circuit is also being presented to the people. The IGH is also set to recognise the contribution of grape farmers in producing wine as per global norms, he said. The festival will host workshops and seminars aimed at Make in India campaign for emerging entrepreneurs in the hospitality sector. Tourists will be able to participate in events such as grape-stomping, wine-tasting, farmers’ market and learning to cook with wine. Rajesh Jadhav, Secretary of IGH, said that through the festival the Nashik Valley brand is being developed for sustainable development of local wine industry through backward and forward linkages. The attempt is to develop the Nashik Valley as a wine cluster, he said. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is also supporting IGH. Interactive sessions with winemakers from Germany, Japan and France will also be held during the festival.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Chib reviews working of agriculture, allied deptts

To review the working of agriculture and allied departments in Basholi, Mahanpur and Palhi of district Kathua, the Vice Chairman J&K State Advisory Board for Development of Kissans, Daljit Singh Chib held two-days tour of various areas of the Kathua district. Chib, while continuing his tour programme of Billawar and Basholi held a Kissan darbar in presence of officers of agriculture and allied departments in Guest House Basholi to hear and address the grievances of farming community. In his address Chib assured farmers that Central Government is pledged to their welfare and various schemes have been launched for this cause which included PM’s Fasal Bima Yojna, Krishi Sinchaee Yojna, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna, Kisan Credit Cards etc. He directed officers present in the programme to create awareness among farmers so that they are able to reap the benefits of such schemes. He motivated farmers to avail benefits of Kisan Credit Cards that provide crop loans at minimum rate of interest. Chib said farmers should move towards diversification and also should reap benefit of poultry, mushroom cultivation, vegetable growth, apiculture along with traditional rice, maize, wheat cropping system. There is need for educated youth to adopt agriculture as profession and excel in it using advanced technologies and practices. Food processing which is sunrise industry in India has huge employment potential especially for rural unemployed youth, he added. Earlier Chib visited Mahanpur, Palli and adjoining villages of Basholi along with officers of agriculture and allied departments and held farmers meet and field visits for on farm interaction with farming community. He he-ard the problems faced by farmers in their fields and directed concerned officers for their redressal. The main problem raised by farmers was shortage of water and monkey menace in this area. He also interacted with women self help groups there and appreciated them for their will power and hard work.

10, Feb 2018
The Hindu, New Delh
A boost to rural entrepreneurship

The amendments passed by Parliament to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Act, 1981 support the government’s push to boost the rural and agricultural sector. The amendments recognise the vital role of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as defined under the MSME Development Act of 2006, in rural entrepreneurship and are intended to make financing easier for them. The 1981 Act was enacted to establish a development bank to provide and regulate credit and other facilities in order to promote and develop agriculture, small-scale industries, cottage and village industries, handicrafts, and allied economic activities in rural areas. In March 2017, the Finance Ministry listed a slew of factors which necessitated amendments to the 1981 Act. In the statement of objects and reasons for the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill of 2017, the government explained that with its expanding activities, NABARD needed to be provided with additional equity from time to time to enable it to meet its objectives of promoting rural development and sustainable rural prosperity. It said certain existing commitments of NABARD relating to the long-term irrigation fund and enhanced refinance support to cooperative banks required urgent infusion of equity. The government reasoned that as the current authorised capital of NABARD is fully paid-up, there was a need to increase it to enable the Central government to infuse additional equity as and when required. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) holds 0.4% of the paid-up capital of NABARD. The remaining is held by the Central government. This causes conflict in the RBI’s role as banking regulator and shareholder in NABARD, the statement said. The government said its focus was on the employment potential in rural areas, medium enterprises, and handlooms. It proposed to include these enterprises in the ambit of refinance activities of NABARD.

Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Dry winter sparks fears of early summer in Valley

Kashmir received 60% less snow and rains so far this winter with temperatures hovering five degrees above average, meteorological data show, sparking fears of early flower bloom and summer water scarcity that could potentially devastate the Valley’s agricultural economy. The Valley this time appears denuded with bright sunshine and dusty fields when otherwise it should have been clothed in white with slushy roads and snow-covered mountains. Officials at Srinagar’s meteorological department said as against 53mm rains and snow which Srinagar gets on an average in January, there was just 1.2mm of precipitation recorded at Srinagar station. In December, it got 37mm of rains less than the average of 40mm. There is, however, some hope that the current dry days might soon be over as weatherman predicted intermittent rains and snowfall for a week from February 10. “It is too early to lose hope. We still have the months of February, March and April. In fact, we are expecting snow in mountains and rains in plains from February 10,” said M Hussain Mir, a meteorologist-based in Srinagar. People are worried as Kashmir’s winter ends by February and the first week of February was extremely dry and unexpectedly hot. The daily average temperature this month has hovered around 14 degree Celsius, five degrees above average, Mir said. The Valley being an agricultural economy, horticulture experts feared the continuous high temperatures in February can trigger an early bloom of fruit trees, particularly stone fruits. They said fruits need ‘chilling hours’ — hours of cold temperatures normally below 7.2 degree Celsius — and then increased temperatures to bloom. And stone fruits like peach, cherry, apricot, plum and almond have less ‘chilling’ requirement as against walnuts and apple. Even if there is no early blooming, there is another threat; a lack of moisture in soil which can devastate fruit gardens in hilly areas.

Business Line, New Delh
Govt imposes stockholding limits for sugar mills

In the wake of falling sugar prices, the Centre capped the quantity of sugar that mills can release in the market in February and March, an official notification said here. The order comes days after the government hiked import duty on sugar to 100 per cent mainly to check shipments from Pakistan, which gives subsidies to exporters. According to the new notification, sugar mills have to hold, at the end of February, 83 per cent of sugar stock they had by 31 January and at end of March, retain 86 per cent of the stock they had on February 28, the notification said. The move is expected to arrest a glut in the market, which would otherwise lead to further plummeting of sugar prices. According to an industry source, sugar is currently retailing at ₹6 to ₹7, lower than the ex-mill gate price and the mills are already piling up losses. Sugar production in the current sugar season 2017-18, beginning November last year, is projected to be 25.1 million tonnes, 30 per cent higher than the previous season.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Govt plans to revive, upgrade sugar mills

The Punjab government is planning to revive and upgrade the loss-making sugar mills in the state by implementing a consultative report being drafted by a expert committee. Additional Chief Secretary, Cooperation, DP Reddy said on the direction of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, the Cooperation Department would draft a plan to rejuvenate the running cooperative sugar mills in the state. While presiding over a meeting of the committee of experts constituted by the state government here, he said in order to safeguard the interests of sugarcane growers, the state government had decided to implement a plan for the upgrade and setting up of distilleries for production of ethanol and co-generation etc for the revival of the loss-making cooperative sugar mills. He said the committee had earlier discussed various issues regarding problems faced by the sugar mills in the state in January. In the meeting, various experts gave their valuable suggestions for making cooperative sugar mills self-sustainable in view of the prevailing situation of the sugar industry in the country.

Business Standard, Mumbai
No upper limit to durations of contract farming, says panel

The government is planning to allow companies time flexibility to pool farmers’ land for the long term in accordance with new contract-farming guidelines, currently being drafted by a committee. This committee is headed by Ashok Dalwai, chief executive officer, National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), Union Ministry of Agriculture. Introduced first in December last year, the model draft guidelines on contract farming, to be incorporated into the State/Union Territory Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2018, have provisions for companies to pool farmers’ land for at least one season and a maximum of five. Stakeholders in the farming sector have suggested the maximum time limit be done away with. “We have received recommendations from various stakeholders to remove this periodic limit. In the revised guidelines, to be introduced in March, there will be no mention of limits. We would like corporates to ensure farmers better realisation of their produce. The new contract farming guidelines would enable corporates to set prices in advance, i.e. forward contract, and take responsibility for quality, handling, transportation, and marketing of farm produce,” said S K Singh, deputy agricultural marketing adviser and member-secretary of the committee. Plants like pineapple and palm start yielding fruit after three-four years of sapling. With the high gestation period, neither companies nor farmers have evinced an interest in this. That’s why palm plantation never succeeded in India despite incentives announced by the government. Prices set in forward contracts should not be less than the minimum support prices for a number of farm commodities, the committee has suggested. In the process, however, the Centre is planning to pull out “contract farming” from the Agricultural Produce Markets Committee Act to promote processing fresh agriculture produce and exports of value-added products.

The Tribune, New Delh
SAD wants special agri session

Commending the government for announcing MSP one-and-a-half times the production cost of farm produce, SAD MP from Anandpur Sahib (Punjab) Prem Singh Chandumajra demanded in the Lok Sabha that a special session of Parliament be convened to discuss issues relating to agriculture so that a comprehensive policy could be framed. Chandumajra, while participating in a discussion on Budget, also lauded the government’s initiative to provide insurance coverage (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana) to farmers, but simultaneously insisted that instead of taking village as a unit for the benefit, individual farmers should be the unit. He also insisted that a special purpose vehicle by roping in only public sector insurers be created for implementing the insurance scheme. The MP asked for changing the formula for calculating the cost of production from A-2+FL (actual paid out cost + imputed value of family labour) to C-2 (comprehensive cost, including imputed rent and interest on owned land and capital). The cost price becomes the basis of fixing minimum support price (MSP). He demanded that basmati rice and potato should also be included in the MSP scheme.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Scientists, policy makers discuss ways for doubling farmers’ income

National conference on the theme “Innovative Technological Interventions for Doubling the Farmer’s Income” began at main Campus Chatha of SKUAST-Jammu. SIDAVES (Society for Integrated Development of Agriculture, Veterinary and Ecological Science) & SKUAST-Jammu in a scientific endeavor are organizing this national event in which more than 400 distinguished scientists and policy makers from different parts of the country having specialization in Agriculture / Veterinary / Ecological Sciences are participating. The conference began with the lightening of the traditional lamp by Prof Pradeep K Sharma VC SKUAST-J), Prof Nazir Ahmed (VC SKUAST-K), Prof Kusumakar Sharma (Ex ADG ICAR), Prof M Y Zargar (Director Research SKUAST-K), Prof R K Arora (Convener of the conference and Dr JP Sharma (Organizing Secretary & Director Research SKUAST-J). Prof Pradeep K Sharma, in his address, informed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s determination to double farmer’s income by 2022 has become country’s resolution to explore the plethora of technological options to find out the strategic package to achieve the target and this conference was one step towards the goal. Prof Nazir Ahmed stressed that there was a need to pay attention on climate change, right agronomic practices, timely management of insects-pests for doubling the income of farmer. Prof Kusumakar focused on links involved in conservation of natural resources and increase in productivity at lower cost. Prof R K Arora emphasized on integrated farming system approach along with reduction in input cost. Dr J P Sharma, while giving detailed power point presentation on the subject, focused on farm mechanization and sustainable agriculture to increase production and productivity. He opined that the most important thing is right price and right market for farmers to double the income.

The Economic Times, Pune
Sugar Sales by Mills Capped for 2 Months

The central government has put a ceiling on the amount of sugar mills can sell by imposing significant minimum stocks for the next two months to check falling prices. Millers have welcomed the decision, saying it will help further improve sugar prices, which have already jumped 3.5% since the government doubled import duty on sugar to 100%. As per the new quota imposed on sugar sales, in February mills must maintain sugar stock of not less than 83% of the closing stock on the last day of January in addition to sugar produced in February, less sugar exported during the month. For March, sugar mills have to keep not less than 86% of the closing stock on the last date of February, in addition to sugar produced during March less sugar exported in the month. BB Thombre, president of Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA), said the decision will help increase liquidity of sugar mills, enabling them to clear the cane payment arrears. That is because sugar mills pledge their sugar with banks to take loans for operation and cane payment; and this loan is in proportion to the ruling market price of sugar. “As sugar prices increase, lending banks will upgrade sugar valuation, increasing liquidity of the sugar mills,” Thombre said. Sugar prices had declined to ₹28/kg from ₹36/kg in October. In a meeting held with the officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) earlier, the industry —which has not yet officially updated its production estimates-—had appraised the government about the possibility of a major jump in sugar production in the ongoing sugar season.

9, Feb 2018
Business Line, Kochi
40,000-t pepper imports hammered prices in 2017

An estimated 40,000 tonnes of pepper landed in India through legal and illegal routes in 2017 and that, in turn, has hammered prices of the indigenous produce by nearly 50 per cent forcing the Centre to fix a minimum import price of Rs 500 a kg. Indian imports normally are around 20,000 tonnes per annum, Spices Board sources said. Imports of black pepper directly from Vietnam totalled 16,281 tonnes during January-December 2017. But, according to trade sources, as much as 36,000 tonnes arrived from Vietnam and Sri Lanka last year through legal and illegal routes. Even after imposing the minimum import price, “it has been noticed that unscrupulous exporters from Sri Lanka as well as importers in India are continuing bringing in Sri Lankan pepper at Rs500 minimum import price and selling at Rs390/kg,” said Kishor Shamji Kuruva, Kerala Chapter Head of Indian Pepper and Spice Traders, Farmers, Producers and Planters Consortium (IPSTFPC). The other routes through which Vietnamese pepper has landed in India are Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal and it is estimated that 4,000 tonnes were smuggled into the country, he said. As a result, cheap imported stuff is dumped in the main consuming markets across the country, and this has pulled pepper prices in the country to below Rs390 a kg, said Sunil Kumar, a farmer in Sakleshpur.

Business Line, New Delhi
M.P. adds 4 rabi crops to price compensation scheme

The Madhya Pradesh government has added chana, masur, onion, and mustard harvested the in 2017-18 (July-June) rabi season under its flagship price deficit scheme — Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana — Gaurishankar Bisen, State Agriculture Minister told. Chana, masur, onion, and mustard are the key rabi crops in the State. Madhya Pradesh is the largest grower of chana in the country and a leading producer of masur, onion, and mustard. Under the scheme, the State compensates farmers for the difference between the modal price of a crop and its minimum support price in case the former is lower than the latter. The government will credit the amount directly into the accounts of registered farmers. The modal prices of crops in Madhya Pradesh and two other neighbouring States are considered. As there is no minimum support price for onion, the State has fixed Rs 8/kg as protected price for the bulb, he said. A total of Rs 4,000 crore has been allocated under this scheme for the notified crops of 2017-18, Bisen said. Farmers can register themselves for the scheme from February 12 to March 12, and the operation would commence from March 15 and end on June 30, said a Food and Civil Supplies Department official.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Megha Engg executes Rs4,150-cr power transmission line in UP

Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL) has announced the commissioning of its Rs 4,150-crore mega power transmission line for the Western Uttar Pradesh Power Transmission Company Ltd. Considered to be one of the largest power transmission projects in the country, the project is built to transmit 13,220 MVA (Mega Volt Amp) of power. The transmission capacity of the WUPPTCL project is equal to the combined transmission capacities of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. B Srinivas Reddy, Director, MEIL, said, “The project required stringent quality procedures, use of latest technologies and meticulous planning and execution. Projects of such large capacity were previously confined only to the government sector. This is the first such project of this magnitude to be executed in the private sector.” Reddy said this is amongst the first biggest projects in India to be designed with gas insulated sub-stations. The project scope included seven sub-stations along with 765 kV single circuit and 400 kV double circuit lines for a length of 654 km. The project had to take care of 18 railway crossings, 17 national highways, 4 rivers, and 88 power line crossings along with 171 right of way permissions from various departments, which include 12 from defence, 12 from civil aviation, and others from forest and irrigation departments. All these hurdles were resolved successfully on time, he said. The Hyderabad-based construction-cum-infrastructure company started the construction of this project in 2011 on BOOT basis and completed work this week. It will shoulder the responsibility of operation and maintenance of the project for the next 35 years. The project will benefit 10 districts of the Western Uttar Pradesh region. More than 200 specialists and 2,000 skilled workers were involved in the construction of the project. While BHEL supplied the transformers, reactors and switchgears were sourced from GE.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Policy to Shield Bengal, UP Potato Farmers

Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, the two leading producers of potatoes, are planning to come up with schemes and policies that will protect farmers if prices of the tuber crash this year. Last year, prices had dropped below the cost of production and farmers were forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices. UP had produced 155 lakh tonnes of potatoes last year, which was nearly 4% higher than the previous year. Senior executives of the UP agriculture department told that the state government is expected to announce a holistic policy for potato farmers within the next fortnight. UP government has formed a committee of ministers, including deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, to address issues related to potato farmers. The other members of the committee are agriculture minister Surya Pratap Shahi, finance minister Rajesh Agarwal, and forest minister Dara Singh Chauhan. “The UP government has held a series of meetings with all stakeholders in the potato trade, and is expected to come out with holistic policy measures for potato farmers that will include marketing of the tuber, transport subsidy, minimum selling price, among others,” said Rajesh Goyal, secretary, Federation of Cold Storage Association. UP farmers are expecting 150 lakh tonnes of potato production this year, which is marginally lower than last year. Prices at the farm gate level, which had crashed to Rs 1 per kg in 2017, are now hovering around Rs 4-5 per kg. In Bengal, the second largest producer, farmers expect 100 lakh tonnes of production this year, compared with 110 lakh tonnes last year. Late sowing has reduced the acreage, pulling down production a bit. The state requires 65 lakh tonnes of potatoes annually for consumption and for the preparation of seeds. The state now has 7 lakh bags (of 50 kg each) in cold storages.

The Tribune, Solan
Tomato, potato processing units for Solan, Kullu

Agriculture, Tribal Development and Information Technology Minister Ramlal Markanda said tomato and potato processing units would be opened in Solan and Kullu soon. He said both districts were the leading producers of these crops. The opening of such units would give an apt value to the agrarian produce and help perk up the economy of farmers. This would also ensure employment and self-employment opportunities for the youth, he added. Addressing mediapersons, the minister said all 19 mandis of the state would be equipped with appropriate infrastructure and these would be linked to the online national agriculture markets. He said 9.87 lakh farmers would be provided the Pradhan Mantri Crop Insurance Scheme. At present, only 1.14 lakh farmers were linked to this scheme. The minister said Rs 1 crore was being spent on upgrading facilities at the Parwanoo mandi so that marketing activities would be carried out throughout the year. Solan and Kullu districts are the leading producers of these crops. This will also ensure employment opportunities. All 19 mandis will be linked to the online national agriculture markets.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Trade body cuts soyabean crop size on lower yield estimates

The Soybean Processors’ Association of India (SOPA) has downsized the crop to 83.5 lakh tonnes (lt) from 91.46 lt estimated in October 2017, citing drop in yield. “After an extensive survey in the major growing districts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan and in