Agri News
Agri News
20, Jan 2018
Business Standard, Bengaluru
Naidu calls for action plan to revitalise farming sector

Expressing concern over the agrarian distress affecting millions of farmers across the country, Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu called for a medium-term and long-term action plan to revitalize the farm sector. "We need to formulate a medium-term and a long-term action plan for private and public investments with strategic directions to revitalize the farm sector," said Naidu at the 47th Founder's Day of the Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) here. Asserting that enhanced investment, both private and public, in the agriculture sector was required, the Vice President said the central government and states needed to evolve policies to channelise greater private investments. "There is a need to evolve policies for investments in farm inputs, irrigation, marketing, post-harvest management, risk management and land development," Naidu reiterated. Farmers in the country find agriculture as an unattractive profession due to low and stagnated income and productivity, he commented. "The share of agriculture in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been falling over the years. The economy has always performed well during high agriculture growth," said Naidu. The agrarian distress in the country is characterised by fragmented holdings, dependence on monsoons and markets, resource degradation and depletion, the Vice President mentioned. "Agricultural produce is often subjected to serious stresses related to untimely monsoons, calamities like floods and hailstorms." Initiatives like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 to provide crop insurance and financial support to the farmers in case of crop failure, were required to address the risks in livestock sector as well, he added. India may have to consider substantive reforms in the land policies in order to achieve the economies of scale in agriculture, Naidu said. "Promotion of contract farming, legislation on land leasing and encouragement of land sharing among both farmers and landowners, keeping the interest of farmers maybe some of the policy options," he suggested.

Business Line, Mumbai
Gadkari pitches for higher priority for rural, farm sectors

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley should give “more priority” to agriculture and rural sectors in the upcoming Union Budget, said Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, at a pre-Budget event in Mumbai. “This will solve urban problems and change the face of rural India,” he said. India’s urban centres have been facing stress due to “migration” of people from rural areas due to lack of employment and poor quality of life. Gadkari said that the government has set a target of doubling agriculture income by 2022 and raising the agriculture growth rate to more than 10 per cent. “This will be a landmark for the country,” he said. The Cabinet, Gadkari said, is expected to flag off a proposal to allow use of ethanol as fuel for vehicles to cut down the country’s huge annual crude oil import bill of about ₹7 lakh crore. The strategy is to reduce logistics costs, increase exports and improve employment potential. Stressing the importance of “world class infrastructure” for the all-round development of the country, the Minister said that currently 28 km of roads are being built per day from 2 km per day in 2014, before the Modi government came to power. Next year, it will touch 40 km per day, he said. The Cabinet has approved the Bharatmala project estimated to cost about ₹7,50,000 crore, Gadkari added. About 20,000 km of river length have been converted into navigable waterways, while work on five more waterways will start in the next three months. Six new major ports will be built, of which three will be in Maharashtra. State-owned companies controlled by the Shipping Ministry are expected to end FY18 with a net profit of about ₹7,000 crore. About ₹16 lakh crore is expected to be invested in the Sagarmala programme.

The Telegraph, Ranchi
Push for technology role in farming

Jharkhand State agriculture minister Randhir Kumar Singh urged agricultural scientists and IT experts to cash in on the immense potential of information communication technology (ICT) to improve farm output, marketing, processing, export and precision farming. Inaugurating a two-day national seminar on "ICT application in changing face of agriculture" at Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), he said ICT could also be effectively used to meet the challenges posed to the farm sector by climate change. About 140 agricultural scientists and IT experts from across the country are taking part in the seminar. "To accelerate the pace of agricultural development in the state, the government has decided to establish Krishi Vigyan Kendras in all the subdivisions. Besides, a separate agricultural university with headquarters at Godda is being set up with the support of the central government to cater to the area-specific needs of Santhal Pargana," Singh said. BAU vice chancellor Parvinder Kaushal said ICT could be of immense help in information exchange, diagnostic and advisory services, surveillance through censors and image processing, planning through remote sensing and GIS application. Jata Shankar Chaudhary, special secretary in the home department, said ICT was of utmost importance to farming because the sector's target group was vast. "Out of the 12 disasters notified by the Centre, drought was the biggest one for the state. Its socio-economic impact has a cascading effect on growth," he said. P. Krishna Reddy, head of the agricultural research centre at Indian Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad, said agri-scientists and IT experts should come together to design an ICT system suiting Indian farmers. "Earlier, farmers used to bring uprooted plants or diseased specimen of leaf, stem, fruit and vegetable to scientists for diagnosis and remedial recommendations but now they are doing and getting the required help through mail and WhatsApp," he said.

The Statesman, Gangtok
Chamling calls for India to go organic

As the Sikkim Organic Day- 2018 concluded, Chief Minister Pawan Chamling said it was high time that the rest of the country and the world realized the importance of organic farming. Citing the rampant use of chemical fertilisers in the rest of the country and the world, which is adversely impacting the fragile ecosystem, the CM added that going organic is the primary way in which global warming can be tackled to a large extent. In the valedictory function he presided over at the Saramsa Garden at Ranipool near Gangtok, Mr Chamling, the Chief Guest, congratulated officials and the people of the state for ensuring the continued success of the Sikkim Organic Mission. The valedictory function was also attended by the Minister for Agriculture and Horticulture Somnath Poudyal. Also present were Cabinet Ministers, MLAs, Chief Secretary, Additional Chief Secretary, Heads of Departments, officials and a host of progressive organic farmers of the state. The CM spoke on the many ways in which “government policies like converting chemical fertilizer subsidies to organic subsidies can be devised and implemented to transform the world into an organic haven.” He also asserted that the greatest damage to the ecosystem has been done by mankind and that it is time for all of us to come together and work towards rebuilding all that we have lost and sustaining all that we have presently. “The declaration of the state as a 100% organic farming state was just the beginning and that the real task lies in sustaining and broadening the Sikkim organic story,” he added. He called upon the farmers to engage in cash crop farming and also gave his feedback on the added benefits of medicinal herbs and plants like ginseng, chireyto and satuwab, among others. The CM highlighted the growing need for all town dwellers of Sikkim to maintain kitchen gardens.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PM Modi on Davos: World wants to communicate directly with India

Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves for his first World Economic Forum meet in Davos, he said “the world wants to communicate directly with India”, underlining the importance the country gained in the last few years. “World Economic Forum is world’s biggest financial forum. Davos has become the biggest congregation of economic world and I feel proud to present them the success story of 125 crore Indians,” Modi said, adding that the world economy was focused on India, its big market and demographic dividend. The Prime Minister pointed out that India’s growth in economic reforms had been “tremendous”. He explained that after 30 years, the government at the Centre enjoyed a full mandate and that too “has attracted the attention of the world and changed the nature of interaction”. Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister to attend Davos in two decades — after HD Deve Gowda in 1997. Close on the heels of his Davos trip, the NDA government will present its last full budget on February 1 before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. During the talk, Modi maintained that his government’s budget would be focused to carry forward the country’s development — a task the NDA had been doing since it came to power. “It will be development, development and development. That’s what we have been doing earlier too,” Modi said even as he took digs at the earlier governments for working “only for elections”. The PM once again made a pitch for holding the Lok Sabha and assembly elections simultaneously, arguing it would save a lot of time and money. “Like festivals, the dates for polls should be fixed,” the PM said, underlining that politicians and bureaucracy are not involved in the exercise of campaigning and holding elections throughout the year. He also batted for a single electoral roll for Lok Sabha, assembly and local body polls.

BThe Statesman, Bengaluru
Include millets in daily diet to help farmers: Karnataka CM

With an view to supporting the farmers cultivating millets in dry areas of the country, and also for their nutritional value, millets must be included as part of our daily diet, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said. “Karnataka is a dry state and over the past 17 years, we have been drought-free only for three years. It is important to raise awareness on millets as part of daily diets due to their nutritional value and ease of cultivation,” the CM said addressing the “International Trade Fair on Organics and Millets” here. The three-day trade fair, which started on January 19 at the sprawling Palace Grounds in the City Centre, expects to host at least two lakh people, including farmers, retailers and consumers. Being organised by the state’s Department of Agriculture, the fair showcases organic and sustainable crops and products from states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Chhattisgarh. “The food we eat has an impact on the farmers and the environment. Through this conference, we hope to bring a change in dietary habits and promote a more sustainable future,” said state Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda on the occasion. Millets are the grain crops that are used as fodder and for human consumption. The crop is capable of giving high productivity, with a short growing season that can grow even in severely dry regions. Hailed as a miracle crop, millets were once a large part of Indian farms and diets. The central government had been urged to identify the year 2018 as the “Year of Millets” to promote the crop in the country, Gowda said. “The United Nations has also been asked to declare 2018 as the International Year of Millets to popularise the healthy crop globally,” he reiterated. With a large population of our country dependant on agriculture, governments must look at increasing their incomes, the Chief Minister stated.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
2017 was fourth consecutive hottest year for India: IMD

The India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) draft climate summary says that 2017 was the fourth warmest year on trot after 2016, 2015, and 2014. The average temperature across the country last year was 0.71 degrees C above the 1971-2001 average, the summary said. The post-monsoon period from October to December in 2017 was the third warmest since 1901, according to data from the department. The IMD considers January and February as winter months because temperatures in these two months have been historically cooler, according to D S Pai, a scientist at IMD. In popular perception, however, winter starts from November and lasts till February. Warming of temperatures has been a global phenomenon, with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) on Thursday declaring 2017 as one of the three hottest years on record. “2016 still holds the global record, whilst 2017 was the warmest year without an El Niño, which can boost global annual temperatures,” the world body said. Year 2016 remains the hottest year on record , with temperatures 1.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial era. “Global average temperatures in 2017 and 2015 were both 1.1degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.The two years are virtually indistinguishable because the difference is less than one hundredth of a degree, which is less than the statistical margin of error,” WMO said. However, according to meteorologists, in absence of an El Nino, an unusual warming of Pacific Ocean surface that contributes to warmer temperatures, 2017 is hottest year on record. Greatest departures in temperatures in 2017 were in the January-February period. The trend is likely to continue this winter, as the IMD says the weather would be warmer than usual. “Our analysis of 117 years of temperature data clearly indicates rapid warming of winter months. In 2017, the average temperature in winter was close to three degrees higher than the baseline of 1900-1930,” Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of Centre for Science and Environment, said.

19, Jan 2018
Business Line, Bengaluru
A tech booster coming for domestic coffee industry

India’s coffee sector is seen getting a technology boost with the State-run Coffee Board proposing to introduce a host of initiatives ranging from blockchain to drones soon. Coffee Board Secretary Srivatsa Krishna said the Board has partnered with Eka Analytics to introduce blockchain technologies into the coffee sector covering growers, consumers, exporters and the trade including cafes on a pilot basis. Besides, the rainfall data gathered for over 100 years and soil info are being used to deliver extension and advisory services to the growers on demand through a mobile app, Krishna said at the inaugural of the 7th edition of the India International Coffee Festival. Besides, the Board also proposes to introduce the model of Precision Agriculture Development, developed by Harvard professors Michael Kremer and Shawn Cole to the coffee sector in the country and deploy drones for crop estimation, Krishna added. He also urged the growers to come together to promote coffee. Krishna further said that the Board has applied for a GI tag for four coffee varieties, a move that could help position better and fetch premiums. The four-day IICF, organised by the India Coffee Trust and the Coffee Board, is perceived to be a precursor to the International Coffee Organisation’s World Coffee Congress which India will be hosting for the first time in 2020 in Bengaluru. India is the sixth largest producer of coffee and about 70 per cent of the country’s produce is exported to Europe and Russia among others. Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, while inaugurating the festival, said the domestic market provided a big opportunity for the coffee fraternity to boost consumption. Sudhir Sitapati, Executive Director-Refreshments, at Hindustan Unilever Ltd, stressed upon the need for a parity in GST between tea and coffee. While leaf tea attracts a GST of 5 per cent, on instant coffee it is pegged at 18 per cent.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Adani to double investment in Bengal, may enter agri-logistics

The Adani Group said that it would double its investment in West Bengal, even as the State closed its fourth global business summit by signing MoUs worth Rs 2.19 lakh crore. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that these were new proposals and 50% of last summit’s proposals (worth Rs2.35 lakh crore) were under implementation. “The focus now is on employment generation,” she said, adding that these proposals were expected to create 20 lakh jobs. The State government announced three policies to promote business. These pertained to logistics park development and promotion, export promotion, and RO RO (Roll on roll off vehicle) operation. Pranav Adani, director of Adani Enterprises and managing director of Adani Wilmar, said that the company had already doubled its edible oil refining capacity at Haldia and was now boosting the packaging facilities. “We are planning to get into agri-logistics and will double our investment to Rs1,500 crore by 2023. We would like to replicate our Mundra Port in West Bengal if we get the opportunity,” he said. Even as more MoUs were under negotiation, the 110 MoUs already signed pertained to manufacturing and infrastructure (Rs1.56 lakh crore), MSME and textiles ( Rs52,952 crore), hospitality and tourism (Rs1,483 crore), IT & ITes (Rs1,146 crore), animal resource development, food processing fisheries and agri-business (Rs1,518 crores) and health, education and skill development (Rs 6,015 crore). OLA and Uber will help create 1 lakh jobs by expanding services, State Finance Minister Amit Mitra said.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Bayar’s Coffee launches gourmet range ‘Red Sirocco’

Bayar’s Coffee, Bengaluru-based speciality roaster, will launch its new product ‘Red Sirocco’ for the domestic market at the India International Coffee Festival (IICF) in Bengaluru. “Red Sirocco is an exquisite range created from the finest Arabica speciality coffee beans sourced from Columbia, Ethiopia, Kenya and India,” R Nagaraja Rao, Director, Bayar’s Coffee told. The company has a tradition of sourcing the finest coffee beans in India and roasting them to perfection using modern technology to create signature blends. This is for the first time company is sourcing coffees globally. “Bayar’s customers have been savouring our speciality coffees at restaurants and at homes. As people are becoming increasingly exposed to global tastes and flavours, they are demanding the same experience here in India. It is here we created ‘Red Sirocco’ blends to cater to the growing demand of coffee connoisseurs and will be retailed at Rs 1,000-1,200 per kg,” Rao added. Bayar’s Coffee is also endeavouring to impart coffee education experience in India. Under the Red Sirocco brand, it is organising the ‘Q Grader Arabica and Robusta’ training in Bengaluru.

The Financial Express, Pune
Bearish trend in prices of pulses expected to continue

Pulse prices across the country, that ruled below the minimum support price (MSP) for the previous season, are expected to remain bearish this season as well. As farmer registrations for the procurement of tur (arhar) at the MSP still continue in Maharashtra, the government has managed to get another extension for the procurement of urad (black gram) at MSP. Centre has granted extension till January 20. This is the third extension granted by the government. Prices of tur are ruling below MSP across major markets in the key growing regions such as Maharashtra and Karnataka, among other states. While tur is ruling 20-40% below the MSP level of Rs 5,450 per quintal, the market prices of black gram are hovering at Rs 4,000 as against the MSP of Rs 5,400 in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka. moong (green gram) also continues to rule at 10-20 % below the MSP of Rs 5,575 in various markets while chana (Bengal gram) is also selling at Rs 3,650 per quintal while MSP is Rs 4,400 per quintal for the past few months. Tur procurement has begun in Karnataka and it has announced a bonus of Rs 550 per quintal over the Centre’s MSP. Farmers in Maharashtra are still queuing up for registrations. Officials in Maharashtra agriculture department revealed that Centre has approved procurement of tur at MSP and final letter is expected soon. The country is heading for a bumper harvest of chana on rise in rabi acreage as market arrivals of tur are slowly gaining pace although demand is muted. Maharashtra government has received an extension for the purchase of urad from the Centre till January 20. The targets for urad procurement have been met at 52,000 tonne, he said. Barring masur (red lentil), the prices of most kharif and rabi pulses — moong, chana, urad or tur — have stayed below the MSP.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
CUT GST RATES ON AGRI ITEMS: PANEL

A high-level committee in its report on doubling of farmers' income (DFI) by 2022 has asked the Government to reconsider the rates of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on several items in agriculture sector. The report follows the demand by Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh that the GST rate on irrigation equipment should be scaled down to 5 per cent from the existing 12 per cent. “There is need for a relook in to the rates of taxes imposed on some of the inputs like items used in drip irrigation, protected cultivation, and smaller hand held implements. Soil-corrective items like lime and gypsum, water soluble fertilizers, bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides/bio-control agents (BCA), organic manures, vermin compost, farmyard manure and others even though put up in unit containers and bearing a registered brand name,” a panel headed by senior IAS officer Ashok Dalwai said in his report “Production Enhancement through Productivity Gains.” The report is the eighth in the series of 14 volumes to suggest ways to double the farmers' income by 2022. According to the report, higher GST on bio-fertilisers and organic manures may directly promote chemical usage and impact public health. “The inputs used in horticulture sector should be made available to the growers at affordable prices for better profits. The implementation of GST in the country has brought in public outcry in the farming sector,” the report said. To improve the economic condition of farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set up the high-level committee in 2016 to suggest ways to double farm incomes. Sources in the Ministry of Agriculture said that Dalwai committee has also taken note on higher GST rate on agri-sector items. The Agriculture Ministry has already taken up the issue of bringing down GST rate on drip irrigation equipment with the finance ministry.

Business Line, New Delhi
EU curbs on fungicide use threaten basmati exports

India’s basmati exports to the European Union (EU) are set to take a serious hit this year as the 28-member bloc has lowered the tolerance level for tricyclazole — a fungicide used by most basmati growers in the country — to very low levels, ignoring New Delhi’s plea for more time. Pushed against a wall, the government, in collaboration with exporters, is now trying to help farmers switch over to another fungicide, isoprothiolane, which is an alternative to tricyclazole and is accepted in the EU. However, the fact that isoprothiolane is not accepted in the US has made the switch difficult, a government official told. “While the EU accounts for more than 10 per cent of India’s basmati exports, the US is also a big buyer and cannot be ignored. We cannot let go of one market to protect the other,” the official said. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (a body under the Commerce Ministry), together with the All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA), is now working with farmers for a solution. “The solution that is being explored is to divide basmati fields into pockets and spray parts of it with tricyclazole and parts with isoprothiolane. The basmati sprayed with tricylazole can be exported to the US, while the rice sprayed with isoprothiolane could be exported to the EU countries,” the official explained. Whether farmers actually understand the complex process and convincingly adhere to it would be the test. “We have also roped in the Punjab government and hopefully, together, our efforts will succeed,” the official said.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Farm mainstay belies job claim

Four in five working teenagers in villages are engaged in agricultural jobs although a little over 1 per cent aspired for employment in the sector, a survey has found and reinforced the perception that non-farm sectors have failed to provide adequate job opportunities in rural areas. The findings of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 suggest that efforts by the central and state governments to draw investors to rural areas have not yielded commensurate employment opportunities. The survey, Beyond Basics, tried to assess skills and learning in the 14-18 age group. It covered 30,000 respondents from 1,641 villages across 28 districts of 24 states. Of those who worked, 79 per cent were in the agriculture sector. Just 1.2 per cent aspired to work in agriculture. Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian described the findings as "surprising". "But the whole sample was in rural areas," he told. The Centre has claimed that it has taken a number of steps to create jobs. Madhav Chavan of NGO Pratham, which publishes the report, said rural teenagers were mostly working on family farmland. "In rural areas, agriculture is the key sector. There are not much opportunities," he said. While 17.6 per cent of the male respondents wanted to join the army or the police force, 11.6 per cent wanted to become engineers. Around 25.1 per cent of the females preferred to become teachers and 18.1 per cent wanted to become either a doctor or a nurse. Only 56 per cent of the respondents could add weights correctly in kilograms and less than 60 per cent could tell time correctly in hour and minutes.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Govt weighs easier norms for private investment in agri sector

India is considering simpler regulations to attract more corporate investment in agriculture as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to keep his promise to double farmers’ income by 2022, an adviser to the government said. Asia’s third-largest economy, more than half the country’s population depend on farming for their livelihood, should relax rules for companies investing in contract farming, transport, marketing, warehouses and food processing, said Ramesh Chand, member of the government think tank National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog. India’s farms should become outsourcing hubs for global supermarket chains, he said, noting he expects an announcement on the policy in the Feb. 1 budget. “We need to simplify regulation, give incentives and remove hurdles in their way,” said Chand in an interview in New Delhi. For any improvement in farmers’ income, private corporate investments in farming should at least double from the current 2 percent of total annual investments in agriculture, he said. Agriculture, which contributes 17 percent to the $2.3-trillion economy, has remained relatively untouched by reforms with growth rates averaging below three percent over as many decades. Lack of technology, inefficient markets and small landholdings have worsened challenges. About a quarter Indian farmers live below the official poverty line, while 52 percent of farming households are indebted in spite of guaranteed prices for crop purchases by the federal government on at least three crops -- wheat, rice and cotton. Farmers have long been demanding 50 percent profits over the cost of production and waiver of their agricultural loans. Jagdish Thakkar, a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office, didn’t respond to a call seeking comment. Indian states currently allow contract farming only for selective crops. The federal government has sought public comments for a model contract farming act unveiled in December.

The Hindu, Bhubaneswar
‘Poor irrigation hitting production in Odisha’

Inadequate irrigation facility and its poor utilisation are adversely impacting Odisha’s agricultural production and productivity, said the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) here. NABARD’s annual State Focus Paper that gives a good insight on different development indicators says: “One of the critical inputs for agriculture is assured and adequate irrigation, absence of which is major constraint for improving both agriculture production and productivity.” “The share of irrigation provided to principal crops in Odisha was only 29% in 2011-12 as against 47% at all India level,” finds the State Focus Paper released by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the annual State Credit Seminar of NABARD for 2018-19 held here. It observes that the State has cultivable land of 61.80 lakh hectare as per record. Out of that, 54.74 lakh ha can be brought under irrigation. “The State Agricultural Policy-2013 targets for assured irrigation in at least 35% of cultivable land in each block. This can be achieved by a suitable combination of flow irrigation and lift irrigation duly supported by micro irrigation. At present, 115 out 314 blocks are yet to achieve the benchmark of 35% irrigation potential,” NABARD reports. “A decreasing trend is noticed in utilisation of irrigation potential in the State. In 2007-08, the utilisation was 80.5% which decreased to 60.18% in 2015-16. During 2011-12, the share of irrigated area to area under principal crops was only 29% as against 46.9% at all India level and Punjab was having the highest percentage at 98.3,” says the leading development bank. NABARD projected an overall credit potential for the State of Odisha under Priority Sector at ₹71,419.85 crore for 2018-19 financial year. “Credit projection at ₹71,419.85 crore is based on the potential assessed under various sectors and sub sectors in all agro climatic zones of the State,” said K.C. Panigrahi, Chief General Manager of NABARD.

The New Indian Express, Chandigarh
Potatoes dumped, given free amid glut in Punjab

There is a potato glut in Punjab and potato farmers in the state are facing losses with the new crop set to arrive in the market even as last year’s crop is lying in cold stores. In the last two days, around three lakh tonnes of potato has been dumped on roads and fields by the owners of cold stores. Besides, owners of cowsheds, dairy farmers from Rajasthan and Gujjars have been asked to take the potatoes free of cost, as the farmers have refused to lift it. The new potato crop is being sold at `2.80 a kilo even though the farmers have spent Rs 7 to Rs 8 a kilo on the crop. This is the third year in row that potato farmers are facing losses. It is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of the cold stores in the state are currently filled with the old crop.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Nabard pegs Rs 2.18 lakh cr credit potential for Punjab

Nabard has projected Punjab’s credit potential at Rs 2.18 lakh crore for 2018-19, up 10% over the previous fiscal. The aggregate credit potential was Rs 1.99 lakh crore in 2017-18. The focus paper was released by Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Minister for Rural Development & Panchayat, Punjab. Out of the total, the share of crop loan is estimated at Rs 93,813 crore, representing 43%. Sector-wise, potential is estimated under agriculture infrastructure (Rs 6,150 crore), agriculture ancillary (Rs 13,471 crore), agriculture term loan (Rs 22,091 crore), MSME loans (Rs 39,323 crore), export credit (Rs 15,160 crore), education loan (Rs 5,668 crore), and housing loan (Rs 14,503 crore).

18, Jan 2018
Daily News & Analysis, Ahmedabad
Israel to help India in agriculture, says Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel wants to help India in agriculture to increase the production, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, said at Vadrad in north Gujarat district of Sabarkantha. He said that about 20 Centres Of Excellence have already been set up in India with Israel's help and more are in the pipeline. Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited a Centre of Excellence for Vegetables at Vadrad. The centre has been set up with Israeli help and helps farmers adapt various technologies to grow vegetables. Farmers from across the state are also trained here. Netanyahu said that it is a part of Jewish culture to share the knowledge with the rest of the world. Israel has similar centres in Asia, Africa and Latin America. At the time of the Bible, Israeli land used to grow dates and wheats. But over time it was turned barren. In past 70 years, we are applying scientific technologies to agriculture to improve the yield, minimize the usage of water and increase the survival of the crops. We want to help India to help itself by sharing our knowledge. We have set up 20 Centre of Excellence and it will soon rise to 30," said Netanyahu. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that there are similarities between the climate of Israel and Gujarat and that Gujarat can learn a lot from Israel." "Israel has successfully applied technologies in areas that were once desert and grew crops with minimum usage of water. Gujarat is also drought affected and lack perennial rivers," said Modi. He added that use of technologies in agriculture is one critical aspect of government's aim to double farmers' income by 2022. In India, there is a perception that unless you flood your fields with water, you will not get high yield. Israel has proved that you can multiply your yield by a fraction of water," said Modi.

Livemint, New Delhi
India looks for more private capital in farms to boost incomes

India is considering simpler regulations to attract more corporate investment in agriculture as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to keep his promise to double farmers’ income by 2022, an adviser to the government said. Asia’s third-largest economy, more than half the country’s population depend on farming for their livelihood, should relax rules for companies investing in contract farming, transport, marketing, warehouses and food processing, said Ramesh Chand, member of the government think tank National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog. India’s farms should become outsourcing hubs for global supermarket chains, he said, noting he expects an announcement on the policy in the 1 February budget. “We need to simplify regulation, give incentives and remove hurdles in their way,” said Chand in an interview in New Delhi. For any improvement in farmers’ income, private corporate investments in farming should at least double from the current 2% of total annual investments in agriculture, he said. Agriculture, which contributes 17% to the $2.3-trillion economy, has remained relatively untouched by reforms with growth rates averaging below 3% over as many decades. Lack of technology, inefficient markets and small landholdings have worsened challenges. About a quarter Indian farmers live below the official poverty line, while 52% of farming households are indebted in spite of guaranteed prices for crop purchases by the federal government on at least three crops—wheat, rice and cotton. Farmers have long been demanding 50% profits over the cost of production and waiver of their agricultural loans. Jagdish Thakkar, a spokesman in the Prime Minister’s Office, didn’t respond to a call seeking comment. Indian states currently allow contract farming only for selective crops. The federal government has sought public comments for a model contract farming act unveiled in December.

Business Line, Bengaluru
After US foray, Araku Aroma coffees to make India entry

After making a debut in the United States — the largest coffee consuming market — Bengaluru-based start-up Krish Food and Fun India is set to launch its products — Araku Aroma and Tropics Flavor coffees at the India International Coffee Festival (IIFC) in Bengaluru. “The company recently launched its coffees in Edison, New Jersey in the US and now is entering India,” said Krishna Chaitanya, Managing Director, Krish Food and Fun India. “We are helping in marketing the coffees grown in the tribal belt of Andhra Pradesh. The Araku is tribal valley near Vishakhapatnam,” he added. For the domestic foray, the company has roped in Sonali Swami as its brand ambassador. “We are into research on coffees in many aspects. We will be launching three variants at the IIFC,” Chaitanya said and added, “The company has plans to set up cafes in prime tourism destinations across India and the US.” According to Chaitanya, “In line with the agreement, we are to buy coffees harvested by the tribal farmers on around 250 acres. The company plans to market around 500 tonnes of coffee annually. For this, we have invested Rs 2.5 crore to set up roasting facility and for marketing tribal grown coffees,” he explained. “As part of the agreement with tribal community, we want to spend 10 per cent of our profits from selling Araku Aroma to procure anti-venom drugs and for providing general medical facilities to the tribal community,” revealed Chaitanya.

Mint, New Delhi
CCI shadow over Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto

Bayer AG is confident it would get approval from the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for its proposed buyout of Monsanto, without which the global deal could get stalled, the German drugs and crop chemicals company’s South Asia representative Richard van der Merwe said. “We are confident of getting CCI’s approval by May without which we cannot sign the global deal,” van der Merwe said, adding that 14 of the 30 countries where a regulatory approval was required had approved the deal. Among countries that have cleared the deal are South Africa, Russia and Ukraine. The US and European Union are yet to give their approvals. The firms announced in September 2016 that Bayer would acquire Monsanto for $66 billion. Bayer’s business interests are in pharmaceuticals and crop sciences, while Monsanto is a global giant in seeds, biotechnology and herbicides. On 5 January, CCI invited comments from the public on the proposed acquisition. “The Commission is of the prima facie opinion that the proposed combination is likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition,” CCI said in an official statement. To allay fears that the merger will impede competition in India, van der Merwe, who is also managing director of Bayer CropScience Ltd in India, said “the current businesses of Bayer and Monsanto worldwide are complementary in nature and we believe that by combining the two companies we will be more successful in innovation and research”. “If you look at the two portfolios, there is no significant overlap or dominance,” he added. According to the rules of merger laid down by CCI, if a global deal is done without its approval, it can impose a penalty of up to 1% of the turnover or assets of the merged entity, whichever is higher.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Centre to seek comments on farm export policy draft

The Commerce Ministry will soon put out a draft Agricultural Export Policy for comments from the public, according to a senior official. The proposed policy, which aims to boost shipments of farm items by identifying niche products and new markets, also has a focus on value addition and reduction of wastage through pre and post-harvest interventions, Santosh Sarangi, Joint Secretary in the Ministry, said at a press conference on the two-day mega international food and beverage trade show —‘Indus Food’ starting January 18. More than 400 exhibitors are expected to participate in the event, besides buyers from about 43 countries. About $2.5 billion worth of business is expected to be finalised during the event, as per government estimates. Exports from the segment rose 18% to $21 billion in April-October 2017-18 period as against just 5% in 2016-17. The proposed agricultural export policy will also help develop agricultural clusters. Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu had said recently that, “If there are clusters for industry, why should we not think about clusters for agriculture.” “Farmers have the right to access global markets and get better prices (for their produce),” Mr. Prabhu said.

Millennium Post, Jammu
JK govt making efforts to vacate 140 hectares of horticulture land

The Jammu and Kashmir government said efforts are being made to vacate over 140 hectares of horticulture land which is under the occupation of the defence establishment in the state. "Efforts are being made to identify the alternate land for accommodating the security forces suitably in order to vacate the horticulture land from the occupation of defence establishment," Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said in a written reply in the state Assembly here. Replying to a question by Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, Mufti, who is minister-in-charge (Home), said a total of 2887.17 kanals (144.35 hectares) of horticulture land is under the occupation of defence establishment in the state. She said over 12.38 crore is being paid as rent annually to the owners of the private land under the occupation of the defence establishment in the Kashmir division. In pursuance to Jammu and Kashmir requisitioning and acquisition of the Immovable Property Act, the chief minister said the rentals are being revised after every five years in respect of the land under the occupation of defence forces, in consultation with the Ministry of Defence. Mufti said while over 18,846 hectares of land are under the occupation of the security forces including 18,025 hectares under the Army in the Kashmir division, a total of 17,734 hectares of land are under the use of security forces, including 16,364 hectares in the Jammu division. It includes state land, acquired land, requisitioned land, land on hiring basis, leased land and private land under unauthorised occupation of the Army and other forces in the state, the chief minister said. She said over 678 hectares of land are under the occupation of the forces for which they are providing rent annually. This includes 518 hectares in Kashmir and 160.4 in the Jammu division.

The Economic Times, Pune
M’rashtra Gur Makers Want Govt to Interfere as Cane Rates Rise

Prices of gur (jaggery) have declined in most parts of the country, in line with the downward trend in sugar prices, but gur manufacturers in Maharashtra have been hit hard due to high cane prices and have approached the state government seeking intervention. “We submitted a request to revenue minister Chandrakant Patil to consider some kind of support as farmers cannot afford manufacturing gur at the prevailing market rates,” said Mohan Salape, deputy secretary, Kolhapur APMC (agricultural produce market committee). Kolhapur gur manufacturers have to buy sugarcane at Rs 3,000 per tonne as sugar mills in the district pay this rate under pressure of the farmers’ organisation. “A rate of less than Rs 40 per kg thus becomes unaffordable here,” said Salape. Gur prices have fallen Rs 2 per kg to Rs 35 per kg in the past fortnight, while prices have fallen Rs 5 per kg since October 2017, said Atul Shah, a trader from Kolhapur. Kolhapur gur fetches the highest rate in the country, with Gujarat consuming 90% of the produce.

Business Line, New Delhi
Target, Lotte Plaza, Magnit to lead 75 global chains to mega food fair

As many as 75 global retail chains including Target from the US, Lotte Plaza from South Korea and Magnit from Russia are participating in Indus Food, the country’s mega international food and beverages trade show, beginning on Thursday. The two-day global food trade fair in Greater Noida, organised by the Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI), will see participation of over 400 exhibitors and attract buyers from about 43 countries resulting in business of an estimated $1.5-2.5 billion. “Global retail chains, like the ones participating in Indus Food, have the capacity to invest in back-end infrastructure for food which is vital to reduce wastage and increase exports,” Santosh Sarangi, Joint Secretary, Commerce Ministry, pointed out. Agricultural exports from India grew at 18 per cent to $ 21 billion in the April-October 2017-18 period compared to just 5 per cent growth seen in 2016-17. However, exports of agricultural produce need to grow at a much faster pace to touch $60 billion by 2020 (double from $31 billion in 2015) which is essential to help double farmers’ incomes in line with the Prime Minister’s stated policy. The Commerce Ministry will put up a draft Agricultural Export Policy for stakeholders’ comments in the next 20-25 days which will aim at boosting exports further by identifying new markets, niche products and involving states, Sarangi said. “Exports can be increased largely by focussing on value-addition and bringing down wastage through pre- and post-harvest interventions,” Sarangi said. The policy will also focus on cluster development for mangoes, shrimps, oranges, grapes, etc. “Once the draft Agricultural Export Policy is approved by the Commerce Minister, we will put it up online for stakeholders’ comments and suggestions,” Sarangi said, adding that the policy will be placed before the Cabinet only if the final document includes provisions that would need approval at the top level.

17, Jan 2018
Business Line, Kolkata
‘Changing crop pattern with an eye on profits will lead to farm distress’

The practice of growing ‘thirsty’ crops such as sugarcane and paddy in areas with scanty rains, will not only lead to depletion of underground water but also add to the woes of farmers. According to Rajendra Singh, water conservationist from Rajasthan, driven by profit motive, farmers end up sowing crops which may not be really viable in terms of the pattern and distribution of rainfall in a State. Drawing attention to an increasingly large number of farmers in Maharashtra growing sugarcane and their counterparts in Punjab and Haryana sowing paddy just to fetch more money, he said such unsustainable agricultural practices will eventually lead to farm distress. “The pattern of rainfall in Punjab and Haryana does not support paddy cultivation; neither is Maharashtra suited for growing cane. Farmers who are engaging in such practices are bringing about ecological disaster,” Singh told on the sidelines of the Sustainability and Business Conference organised by the Indian Institute of Management-Calcutta here recently. Global warming and climate change have altered the rainfall pattern in several parts of the country. Farmers should understand the rainfall pattern and its distribution and grow crops accordingly rather than depending on underground water which is fast depleting. “Our underground reservoirs are turning empty today. If farmers are not careful, we may not have enough water for our future generations,” he said. Such unsustainable agricultural practices also pushes farmers into a debt trap as they try to cultivate crops, which are not suitable for a particular region, at any cost. This eventually leads to farm suicides, he said. According to Singh, any form of development should be sustainable in nature. “Development should be displacement, destruction and disaster-free,” he said. India Inc has an important role to play in promoting such sustainable development.

The Asian Age, Bengaluru
‘Indian cuppa needs own brand for domestic, global markets’

The Coffee Capital, Bengaluru, will host a four-day international coffee festival that began yesterday, amidst global uncertainty over the future of the commodity. Excess coffee production from leading coffee growing countries like Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia has caused an oversupply with the prices of the commodity falling by about 30% in the global markets. Indian coffee industry is at the crossroads now and the only option available for the industry is to create its own coffee brand, for the domestic and international markets, suggested Anil Kumar Bhandari, president, India Coffee Trust. “The Ministry of Commerce should set up a special focus group for coffee, involving all stake holders in the industry, to create a profile, brand and a sophisticated communication for Indian coffee at home and outside. The government also has to sanction a fund to build a brand,’’ he said. Prediction for climate change impact on coffee producing countries, including India, is already causing a lot of concern for coffee growers. The entire industry is worried about the rumour of Coffee Board getting restructured. The board is the only entity that holds the industry together. Also the industry hears that an Export Promotion Board is on the anvil for coffee. Bhandari said, ``India has been exporting all its surplus coffee for decades. We grow the best quality coffee, including several specialty varieties. In fact we are the only country that grows coffee under the shade of rain forests. No other country does that. Still, Indian coffee is not able to command a premium in the global markets, because we have not yet built a brand for it. So the need of the hour is to build a sophisticated campaign for our coffee and not creating another entity for exports.’’

The Pioneer, New Delhi
FAST EXPANDING RUBBER PLANTATION WORRIES EXPERTS

Rapid expansion of rubber plantation in various parts of the country, particularly Northeastern States, does not augur well for biodiversity conservation and health of water and soil, as is being already witnessed in many Southeast Asian countries. In an article, published in the latest journal of the Current Science, researchers said rubber plantation increased from 4.47 sq. km in 1997 to 28.42 sq km in 2013 in various parts of the study area in India. In Southeast Asia too, they noted, the monoculture rubber plantations are expanding, across southwest China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, northeast Thailand and northwest Vietnam, leading to a large decrease in the regions’ forest cover. Researchers, Kasturi Chakraborty, S Sudhakar, KK Sarma, and PLN Raju from North Eastern Space Applications Centre(NESAC) of the Department of Space and Ashesh Kr Das from Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Assam University, Silchar, have called for regulation of the rubber plantation to avoid conversion of dense and reserved forest areas. In this regard, they suggested mixed cropping methods instead of rubber monocultures, and by adopting more sustainable land use and management practices. With the current trend of land use/land cover (LULC) change taking place globally, several parts of northeast India are also showing signs of change leading to forest loss, said the researchers. They had used remote sensing and GIS technique to study expansion of monoculture rubber plantation in selected sub-watersheds in northeast India, and distributed in parts of north Tripura, Mizoram and a major portion in the Assam’s Karimganj district. The study holds important given that globally, India ranks second in the land area under plantation and the Government has been doling out various incentives to promote its plantation as it helps gainful self-employment and sustainable livelihood opportunities generating direct employment.

Business Line, New Delhi
India loses farm produce worth $11b to weeds every year: ICAR

India loses agricultural produce worth over $11 billion — more than the Centre’s budgetary allocation for agriculture for 2017-18 — annually to weeds, according to a study by researchers associated with the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). At $4.42 billion, the actual economic losses due to weeds were found to be highest in rice, followed by wheat ($3.376 billion) and soybean ($1.56 billion). However, the average yield loss is the lowest in rice – 14 per cent in transplanted rice and 21 per cent in direct-seeded condition. The overall loss went up because of high rice production in India, said the study, which appeared online in the journal Crop Protection. The greatest average loss, on the other hand, was reported from groundnut cultivation, followed by maize and soybean. A groundnut farmer on an average lost 36 per cent of his crop to weeds, resulting in an estimated loss of $347 per hectare. The average losses in maize and soybean farming were $136/ha and $117/ha, respectively. The average yield loss in wheat was $116 per ha. The researchers, from the Jabalpur-based Directorate of Weed Research (DWR), estimated the economic losses using data generated by an all India co-ordinated research project 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. “We arrived at these numbers by statistically analysing the data from this project in which 23 ICAR institutes were participating,” said RP Dubey, an agronomist with DWR and a co-author of the study. To calculate the actual yield loss, the scientists multiplied the difference in yield in weed-free situations and crop yield reported by farmers with minimum support price in respective States.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
India, Israel ink 9 pacts, may restart FTA talks

In an effort to diversify and broad-base engagement, India and Israel plan to scale up partnership in agriculture, science, security and technology. To increase trade and investment, the possibility of restarting negotiations on the India-Israel FTA was discussed too. At the end of delegation-level talks, nine agreements were signed, including in the fields of oil, gas, renewable energy and cyber cooperation. In addition, a joint industrial research and development deal and an update to an aviation agreement were inked, as were agreements in health and space exploration. In a joint address to the media with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu following delegation-level talks in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We will strengthen the existing pillars of cooperation in areas that touch the lives of our people. These are agriculture, science and technology and security.” On his part Netanyahu, described Modi as a “revolutionary leader”, who has catapulted India into the future. Hailing the meeting as the beginning of a new era of frienship between the two nations, the visiting leader said three things linked the two nations: An ancient past, a vibrant present, and the seizing of a positive future. He also commented that both countries “know the pain of terror”, but they “fight back and never give in”. Briefing the media at the end of talks, foreign secretary-designate Vijay Gokhale said that, “Co-operation in the agriculture was highlighted during talks. Both leaders were satisfied with the talks.” Urging the Israeli companies to take advantage of the liberalised FDI regime to make more in India with domestic companies, it was decided that defence ministries will hold discussions in 2018 with active involvement of the public and private sectors.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha bans co-marketing of brands for BT Cotton seeds

The Maharashtra government has decided to withdraw the facility of co-marketing of brands for BT cotton seed companies, top officials of the state agriculture department said. A meeting was called by the department recently, where seed companies were given directions that they will no longer be permitted to co-market BT seeds under separate brand names, agriculture commissioner Sachendra Pratap Singh said. “There is no question of any opposition from the seed companies. The circular has been issued and they were called just to know about the guidelines,” he told. This is part of the regulatory framework. The brand marketing licences of as many as 74 companies has been scrapped, he said. Until now, seed companies used to co-market the same variety under different brand names making it confusing for the farmer, he said. The government had earlier asked the companies to amend their licences issued for co-marketing as per the permissions granted by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). According to senior officials of the department, several co-marketing companies with distribution rights for a product have been found selling the product under multiple brands to attract farmers. “In such cases, the brand of the product is displayed prominently, while the name of the parent company is enclosed within brackets and is hardly noticeable. Moreover, there is no way the farmer can confirm if the product is the same and whether the number of packets is authorized by the parent company,” an official said. Usually co-marketing rights are granted for a certain amount of packets. But sometimes, these companies sell more than the stipulated amount licensed to them,” the official said. There are over 150 companies in the market, which include around 65 seed companies.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Rubber threat to Northeast forests

The expansion of rubber plantations across India' s northeastern states may threaten the traditional rich diversity of the region' s forests as has happened across southeast Asia, scientists have cautioned. The researchers at the North Eastern Space Applications Centre ( NESAC) in Umiam, Meghalaya, who have tracked this expansion, have called for a systematic and region- wide monitoring to quantify the losses of natural vegetation and its impact on the local ecosystem. Tripura, which is India ' s second- largest rubber- producing state after Kerala, now has over 70,000 hectares, or nearly 7 per cent of the state' s land area, under rubber plantations, compared to under 700 hectares in the mid- 1970s. Assam' s rubber cultivation has increased threefold to over 49,000 hectares over the past decade, while Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland have also seen increases in areas under rubber plantations. Kasturi Chakraborty and her colleagues who used satellite imagery to zoom into a small patch of land distributed across Assam and parts of Mizoram and northern Tripura have observed a five- fold increase in the area under rubber plantation from about 5sqkm to 28sqkm over a 15- year period. The NESAC scientists have published their findings in the journal Current Science, brought out by the Indian Academy of Sciences, this week. "The growth in rubber has happened at the cost of forests, but earlier studies have suggested that the loss of natural forests is at times overlooked because rubber plantations look like forests, " Chakraborty said. " However, monoculture rubber plantations lack rich diversity of native forests. " Conservation scientists from the UK had also raised similar concerns earlier, saying the increasing demand for natural rubber, fuelled mainly by the tyre industry, is threatening forest areas of southwest China, Cambodia, Myanmar, northeast Thailand and northwest Vietnam.

The Financial Express, Pune
Traders want removal of MEP curb on onion to boost exports

In the last two weeks, wholesale modal onion prices have fallen nearly Rs 600 per quintal to touch Rs 2,850 per quintal on increased arrivals. The increase in supply of the new crop from major onion producing centres in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh is likely to result in a further drop in prices and this has led to concern among industry people about onion exports. A delegation from Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Nashik — one of the largest onion producing centres in the country — met Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and minister for marketing Subhash Deshmukh seeking removal of curbs on minimum export price (MEP). This season, as much as 35 lakh tonne of onions have been exported till date. With the MEP at $850 per tonne, traders and industry experts are seeking scrapping of MEP since this makes export unviable. According to Nanasaheb Patil, director, NAFED, excess production of onions is expected this season and with arrivals from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on the rise, prices are expected to fall further. “Exports are not possible at $850. Egypt and Pakistan are selling at much lower level,” exporters said. “The government has taken this decision to stabilise prices but this is against farmers. Jaydutt Holkar, chairman of APMC had earlier warned that the country could lose its place in the export market. He pointed out that traders were finding the procedure for obtaining the line of credit for onion export very difficult. He said the chief minister assured the delegation that the state would follow up on the issue with the Centre. Patil says he has approached the Centre and is expecting a meeting with Union commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu. Patil said with unseasonal rains in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, there was a sudden shortage of onions in the market.

16, Jan 2018
The Economic Times, New Delhi
India, Israel to enhance agriculture, S&T, security cooperation

India and Israel have agreed to enhance cooperation in the areas of agriculture, science and technology and security, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. "We will strengthen the existing pillars of cooperation in areas that touch the lives of our peoples," Modi said in a joint address to the media with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following delegation level talks here. "These are agriculture, science and technology and security.," he stated. "We exchanged views on scaling up the Centers of Excellence that have been a mainstay of agricultural cooperation." The Indian Prime Minister said both he and Netanyahu "have imparted our shared impatience to the implementation of our earlier decisions". The Indian Prime Minister said both he and Netanyahu "have imparted our shared impatience to the implementation of our earlier decisions". "The results are already visible on the ground. Our discussions were marked by convergence to accelerate our engagement and to scale up our partnership." In defence, Modi said he has invited Israeli companies to take advantage of the liberalised FDI regime to make more in India with domestic companies. "We are venturing into less explored areas of cooperation such as oil & gas, cyber security, films and start-ups," he stated. "We are committed to facilitating the flow of people and ideas between our geographies. It requires policy facilitation, infrastructure and connectivity links and fostering constituencies of support beyond government." On his part Netanyahu, described Modi as a "revolutionary leader", who has catapulted India into the future. He said Modi's historic visit to Israel last July, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, "excited all Israelis and of course many Israelis of Indian descent and origin". "The India-Israel partnership will bring tremendous benefits," he said. Following the delegation-level talks, India and Israel exchanged nine agreements, including in the areas of cyber security and oil and gas.

Afternoon, Mumbai
'Agri exports should grow to $120 bn by 2022 to double farm pay'

The country needs to push its agricultural exports to USD 120 billion by 2022 from the present USD 36 billion in order to double farmer's income, according to industry experts. "India ranks second globally in agricultural production at USD 367 bn. We need to leverage our strength as a large importer of non-agricultural merchandise to push agricultural exports from the present USD 32 bn to over USD 120 billion in order to help double farmer's income," said Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI) president Rajju Shroff. "We have urged the government to increase focus on trebling India's share in agri exports to double farmers income by 2022. Today India ranks second in agricultural production in the world but eighth in agricultural exports. We lag behind Thailand and Indonesia and this must change," Shroff, who is also MD of United Phosphorus told. We have appealed to the agriculture ministry, commerce ministry and institutions like APEDA, NITI Aayog over the past few months to arrest the steady decline in India's agri exports and the sharp increase in imports. Domestic agricultural commodities face stiff non-tariff barriers in many developed countries that either refuse or restrict our agri exports, he added. He wrote off farm loans and increasing Minimum Support Prices (MSP) as not sustainable. "We urgently need to create a single authority to monitor agricultural exports and imports keeping a hawk eye on both. Currently, we have multiple authorities with poor co-ordination and dismal results," he added. Shroff pointed out that foreign funded environmental activists pose the single biggest threat to the progress of Indian agriculture. A spurt in Indian agri-exports can boost rural employment, income and purchasing power. It will spruce up allied activities in storage, transportation and processing.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Agriculture sector to get top priority, says Arun Jaitley

Ahead of the Union Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the agriculture sector was the top priority for the government because the country’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 said at an event here. According to latest data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the country’s economic growth is expected to slow to a four-year low of 6.5 per cent in FY18, the lowest under the Modi-led government, mainly due to poor performance of agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The CSO has pegged farm and allied sector growth to slow to 2.1 per cent in the current fiscal year from 4.9 per cent in the preceding year. “India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the growth is benefitting people in different sectors. But maximum population is dependent on agri-sector and unless the gains are clear and evident, the (economic) growth is not justifiable and equitable,” Jaitley said. Among the priority areas, the agriculture sector is on top, he said. “Ensuring the benefits reach the agri-sector and growth is visible — this is among the priority areas for us.” Jaitley further said: “We see in some places the problem of falling prices because of higher production. Farmers are not getting the price for their produce.” He said many steps have been taken in the past few years to take farmers out of this situation. “There has been some impact,” he said. Minister also mentioned that launch of options trading was one of the major steps taken to help farmers. Options trading might look like a small step but when its awareness increases in the coming days, it will benefit farmers, he said.

The Economic Times, Pune
Chilly Exports to EU Down 90% in Jan Post ‘High Risk’ List Placing

Shipments of Indian chillies to the European Union have fallen nearly 90% so far in January, according to trade estimates, as the EU has put the second largest exported vegetable from the country after okra in the ‘high risk’ list from the beginning of the month. The new categorisation means one in every 10 shipments will be monitored for pesticide residues. Till December 2017, Indian chillies were monitored for pesticide residues at random, with checking of asample from a few hundred shipments. Exporters have turned cautious and reduced shipments, but they are confident of regaining volumes within a few months. “We are confident about complying with the new EU regulation regarding chillies as we have been complying with even stricter regulation in case of okra since 2014,” said Kaushal Khakhar, CEO of Kay Bee Exports. In 2016-17, India exported chillies worth Rs 217 crore, most of it to the UAE and Bangladesh, clocking a growth of 16.5% over the previous year. However, the EU remains the most rewarding market for horticultural crops. The Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority has advised exporters to adhere to the import requirements of the EU for chillies other than sweet. “Traders are cautious as it can cost very high if their consignments fail the tests. However, within a few weeks, they will be able to increase the volumes,” said an exporter. The EU said in its order: “In particular, for consignments of peppers (capsicum) from India and Pakistan the relevant sources of information indicate the emergence of new risks requiring the introduction of an increased level of official controls.”

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Guarseed Options Launched on NCDEX

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched options trading in guarseed on the commodity bourse NCDEX and asserted that the new initiative will benefit farmers and ensure better prices in the coming days. Higher production has led to fall in prices of some agri-commodities in some places, he said, adding that options trading is one of the major steps towards taking farmers out of this situation. NCDEX is the second exchange after MCX to launch options trading in commodities. In October 2017, MCX had launched gold options. Guarseed is the first agri-commodity options. Options are derivatives which give a buyer the right but not the obligation to buy or sell an underlying asset or instrument at a specific price on or before a certain date. “I hope this initiative will provide huge benefit to farmers in the coming days,” Jaitley said at the launch event. Lauding the contribution of farmers, he said they have left no stone unturned to serve the nation. They have worked hard to turn a food shortage country to a surplus now. However, due to higher production, they are now faced with falling prices, he said.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Introducing ragi in PDS will be tough to implement

After three years, the Karnataka government has reintroduced ragi in its public distribution system (PDS). To feed the PDS system, the government has announced a procurement price much higher than the market price. The objectives are to improve nutrition and increase the climate-resilience of agriculture since ragi is a drought-resistant crop. In theory, if ragi were to displace water guzzlers such as sugarcane and paddy, it should help fight climate change. Making it available at a subsidy should increase consumption. Procurement at high MSP should reduce market uncertainty for farmers. However, there are no free lunches. Introducing ragi in the PDS is fraught with challenges pertaining to implementation. Estimates from the ministry of agriculture show that for Karnataka, the costs of production per quintal of paddy are much lower and the yields much higher than ragi. To make ragi compete with other crops would require significant increases in the MSP, the costs of which might turn out to be prohibitive. The evidence is that farmers have not switched from crops such as sugarcane and paddy in any significant way. On the side of consumption, since millet is a naturally nutrient-dense food, making it available through the PDS should enable the poor to have higher consumption leading to improved nutrition. Globally, one of the most commonly applied policies to improve nutrition among the poor is food subsidy. Yet the outcomes show that improved nutrition from food subsidy is not guaranteed and evidence is mixed. With inclusion in PDS, only limited changes in consumption might occur: Households generally tend to reduce their market purchases of food to offset the government transfer, thereby spending exactly the same amount on total food expenditure irrespective of the food transfer. One can learn from the experience of pulses. Households reduce the market purchase precisely by the amount by which PDS adds pulses to the basket.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
Maha Govt Takes Cos to Farmers, Forms Land Pools

Mahindra Farms will now procure pomegranate from Pune, Ahmednagar and Solapur, instead of Andhra and Tamil Nadu. Come February, Jain Farm Fresh will source turmeric from Wardha in Maharashtra instead of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. In a bid to stop farmers suicides and raise farmers income, the Maharashtra government has began two new initiatives: One, getting retail and agro companies to directly procure their products from farmers instead of middlemen or from other states and two, encouraging group an collaborative farming ‘gat sheti’. Efforts are part of state government’s Village Social Transformation program that aims at doubling income of farmers by putting their organisations directly in touch with companies and eliminating the middlemen. We have not forced any of the companies to buy their raw materials from here, instead we showed them how procuring from the state was better in terms of logistics and price. “Due to lack of awareness many companies did not know that they could procure farm produce from Maharashtra,”said Ramnath Subramaniam, CEO of Maharashtra’s Village Social Transformation Foundation. He added: “As companies directly interact with farmers, they can train farmers on maintaining quality and consistency. The intention was to eliminate the middlemen and get farmers a higher price. This could have been only possible if we got companies directly in touch with farmers.” Government officials said the exercise started in July 2017 after the state decided to strengthen 200 farmer groups in a bid to encourage cooperative farming. Praveen Pardeshi, additional chief secretary to CM, asked all district collectors to give a list of farm products with selling potential but not being marketed enough. Village Social transformation program was asked to reach out through corporates . “ It was an exercise to find out which products had a market and what could be done to leverage it and link it to retail companies,” said Subramaniam.

15, Jan 2018
The Sunday Standard, Chandigarh
Cloud on Punjab wheat bowl

The wheat yield in Punjab is under a cloud. Farmers are tense as the most popular wheat variety – HD 2967 – appears set to give a low yield this year as seed germination is at least 40 per cent less than usual. Sources said the HD 2967 variety has approximately covered 50 per cent of the 35 lakh hectares under wheat cultivation in Punjab this year. Till last year, it used to cover roughly 75 per cent of the area. With the wheat sowing season -- October to November 20 – ver, farmers have been complaining that germination of HD 2967 seeds was 30-40 per cent less, so a bumper yield was unlikely. “This year, we sowed this seed but germination was less than 60 per cent. I contacted the agriculture officer of my area as I had bought four quintals of seed from PUNSEED, a government firm,” said Avtar Singh Sandhu, a farmer from Qadian. He said that after his complaint, a three-member team from PUNSEED and a four-member team from the agriculture department visited his fields. After a recce, they apparently told him he had been supplied old seeds, which was why germination had been poor, and that he would be compensated for his losses. Sources said the issue was taken to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh by Congress leader Amardeep Singh Cheema. After this, the state agriculture department has an inquiry.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
FIRST CONSIGNMENT OF WHEAT FROM INDIA REACHES KABUL

The first consignment of 2400 tonnes of wheat from India arrived in Kabul. The wheat is part of the 30,000 tonnes shipped via Chabahar. The consignment was welcomed by Afghan Minister for Agriculture Nasir Ahmed Durrani and Charge d'Affairs of Indian embassy in Kabul, Alok Ranjan Jha. India and Afghanistan have started using sea and air routes as an alternative for the land for transfer of goods after Pakistan started blocking the land route and created problems for Afghan trucks carrying fruit and other materials to India. Truckers from Afghanistan had to unload the entire consignment at Torkham and Chaman on Afghan-Pakistan border from where the goods were loaded onto Pakistani trucks that carried the goods further till India-Pakistan border at Attari-Wagah. Besides, often the Torkham and Chaman borders are closed for days together causing enormous loss to the Afghan traders. Most of the items imported to India from Afghanistan are fruits that perish due to border delays. In 2016 Pakistan blocked 1.7 lakh tones of wheat and medicines from India that was sent as humanitarian aid to overcome food shortage in Afghanistan. Citing a bilateral trade pact between the two countries, Pakistan had made it clear to Afghanistan that it can use the Wagah transit route to export goods to India and not import. In return Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had threatened to block Pakistan access to Central Asia and on October last year even banned entry of Pak trucks into his country after the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade Agreement expired. Both India and Afghanistan have been seeking inclusion of India in the trade agreement but Pakistan is not keen. Now with the first phase of Chabahar Port open, the sea route is more economical to send goods to the landlocked country Afghanistan. India is investing $500 million in Chabahar port that will help it connect directly to the Central Asia.

The Hindu, Kannauj
In U.P., potato farmers dump their produce as prices crash

Large dumps of rotting potatoes can be spotted on either side of the kutcha road leading to Bhimakpura village. The stench emanating from them is unbearable. But for hungry mules and cows, the potatoes, discarded by farmers and cold storages, are a welcome treat. “At least these animals are helping us clear it, or else all this will lead to illness,” said young farmer Anuj Yadav, who is stacking Pokhraj potatoes freshly reaped on his family’s 20 bigha land some distance away. This year, Mr. Yadav, a resident of Tirwa, has already got 50 sacks of potatoes (one sack holds 50 kg on average) from just three bighas. Production is not the problem here. Farmers are finding it difficult to sell their produce at profitable rates. Mr. Yadav fears the potatoes grown by him this year will face the same fate as his produce last year, when he produced 200 sacks. Out of it he sold 100 in the market, while the other half he dumped in a cold storage, in the expectation that the government would purchase it or the rates would improve. That didn’t happen. And as prices fell and the new crop started pouring in, Mr. Yadav’s old potatoes turned into a liability as they had no takers. Withdrawing them from the cold storage and transporting them to the marketss in the hope of a profitable sale would entail additional costs for him. “So I left them to rot. The cold storage dumped it outside as I didn’t go to pick it up. The government did not buy a single kilo. Where else will I take the potatoes?” he asked. In addition to the cost of the crop, which comes to around Rs6-8 per kg, Mr. Yadav would also have to pay Rs240 per quintal to the cold storage.

The Hindu, Chennai
Puducherry waives farm loans

The Puducherry government has announced waiver of loans to the extent of Rs19.42 crore due from the farmers to cooperative banks and societies as on March 31, 2016. Welfare Minister M. Kandasamy said the file on the waiver of agricultural loans was cleared by Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi and a Government Order had also been issued. “This has been a long-pending demand and we have been fighting with Ms. Bedi to clear the loan waiver file for a long time. Finally, she has given the nod and as many as 4,094 farmers in Puducherry and Karaikal regions will benefit from the loan waiver,” he said. Mr. Kandasamy said the list of beneficiaries would be displayed at the branches of cooperative banks and cooperative societies. Meanwhile, the staff attached to fair price shops called off their agitation and returned to work. Consumers can collect Pongal gifts from the fair price shops shortly, he said. Mr. Kandasamy declared that he would refrain from making any hostile comment against Ms. Bedi since a coordinated functioning of the Government and the Lt. Governor was the immediate need of the hour. “She responded positively to my decision and, as a reciprocal measure, said she too will not post any adverse remarks against departments on social media,” he said. He praised Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar for his “cooperative stand”. Mr. Kandasamy, however, castigated a section of top officials, including Secretaries and Under Secretaries of the government, for not properly projecting the intention of the government, and misleading Ms. Bedi. “She is getting information from the officials which are not true to the real situation. This attitude on the part of the officials must change,” he said. He also alleged that Finance Secretary of the government had been blocking the sanctioning of funds with remarks on the files that served only to defeat the purpose of welfare schemes meant for the poor.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Agriculture top priority for the government: Arun Jaitley

In a first for the country, finance minister Arun Jaitley launched options trading in a farm commodity on National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) and affirmed the move will enable farmers to hedge their price risks better. NCDEX has introduced options in guar seed, one of its most important products in the futures segment. It is the second exchange to launch options trading after MCX but the first one to introduce an agri options product. Stressing that options trading is one of the tools to ensure farmers get remunerative price for their produce, Jaitley said: “We see in some places the problem of falling prices because of higher production. Farmers are not getting the right price for their produce. Many steps have been taken in the last few years to take farmers out of this situation. There has been some positive impact,” he said. Finance minister said agriculture is top priority for government, because an overwhelming portion of our population is dependent on it. He added that the economic growth doesn’t become equitable unless gains are visible in this key sector as well. Three guar seed options contracts that will expire in February, March and April of this year are being made available on NCDEX for trading initially. Options trading was allowed to complement the existing array of futures contracts and help strengthen the price discovery process in the commodity market. MCX had launched options trading in gold in October last year following policy changes, 14 years after India adopted modern derivatives trading in commodity futures in a big way. NCDEX chairman Rabi Narayan Das said: “Agri options will serve as a powerful tool to empower farmers by allowing them to lock in the prices of their produce at a minimum cost….While, as of now, options trading is allowed in only one agri-commodity, we can expect more commodities under this over a period of time.”

The New Indian Express, New Delhi
JNU professor comes up with solution to stubble burning

With crop residue burning in northwest India contributing to a quarter of Delhi’s air pollution during winter, a professor from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has claimed to have developed a solution to the problem. According to Professor Dinesh Mohan, the biomass or stubble can be converted into Biochar using a reactor. Professor Mohan says the conversion of biomass into Biochar would reduce the issue caused due to stubble burning. Biochar is a manmade charcoal material composed of agricultural wastes including manure, crop residues, and forage grasses. “One of the contributors to pollution in Delhi is stubble burning. Farmers do not have a solution to deal with waste. After working on the situation we found a solution where we can convert stubble or biomass into Biochar which can be used in agriculture,” Prof. Mohan told. As per the professor the converted Biochar can be re-used in the fields for agricultural purposes, which would provide essential nutrients to the soil. He said the thing that needs to be kept in mind is that amount of oxygen present in the reactor while burning the stubble. Prof. Mohan said that the cost of this conversion is very less and the farmers can easily make the reactor in their field with the help of the mud used for making huts. “The entire process takes 24 hours to 48 hours. Biochar is a useful product, which can stay in the soil for several years thus benefiting farmers in the long run. It will enhance nutrients in the soil, boost its water holding capacity and productivity. It is a low-cost technique,” he said. Delhi-NCR and other northern states face severe pollution and stubble burning is one of the major contributors to the air pollution.

The New Indian Express, Bhubaneswar
Safal opens six retail outlets in Sambalpur district

Safal, the Fruit and Vegetable (F&V) initiative of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) subsidiary Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Limited (MDFVPL), expanded its footprint in Odisha by launching six retail outlets in Sambalpur district. Brand Safal opened the six retail outlets in the western Odisha city offering fresh F&V range, Safal value added range, Dhara edible oils and Mother Dairy range of milk products. These outlets were inaugurated on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti following success in Bhubaneswar. Speaking on the new foray, Dilip Rath, chairman of NDDB, said given its agro-climatic conditions, Odisha has immense potential in the F&V sector. "However, over the last few years, the production of key crops is on a decline. With our entry into Sambalpur, we hope to cheer both the farmers and consumers by bringing them on a single platform," he said "Brand Safal through its entry into the region, will also embark upon on-ground agronomic intervention with farmers for key horticulture crops. These initiatives are aimed to encourage the farmers to enhance their cultivation and the production/yield by way of providing training and advising on good agriculture practices," said Rath. Initially, locally grown fruits and vegetables such as guava, brinjal, cauliflower, cabbage, lobiya, green chillies, okra, cucumber and leafy vegetables will be directly sourced from FPO (Farmer Producer Organisation)/farmers supported by ORMAS (Odisha Rural Development And Marketing Society). Going ahead, Safal will be also engaging farmers by way of agronomic interventions for key crops intended at enhancing production and promote Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) in the region that aims to streamline quality procurement. Speaking on the occasion, Sanjeev Khanna, Managing Director, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Pvt Ltd, said Sambalpur region has various agriculture friendly facilities, a good consumer base and farmers who are already engaged in cultivation of paddy and vegetables.

The Hindu, Lucknow
Two arrested in Lucknow

The Uttar Pradesh police arrested two persons and named six others allegedly associated with the Samajwadi Party on the charge of dumping potatoes outside the Vidhan Sabha and the residence of the Chief Minister recently. The police said the potatoes were not thrown by distressed farmers; it was a politically motivated act. The police are on the lookout for six other accused, who they said were the “conspirators.”

14, Jan 2018
The Times of India, New Delhi
GDP growth not justifiable unless benefits reach farmers: FM

Ahead of the Budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the agriculture sector is the top priority for the government because the country'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 said at an event here. As per latest Central Statistics Office (CSO) data, the country's economic growth is expected to slow to a four-year low of 6.5 per cent in the 2017-18 fiscal, the lowest under the Modi-led government, mainly due to poor performance of agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The CSO has pegged farm and allied sector growth to slow to 2.1 per cent in the current fiscal from 4.9 per cent in the preceding year. "India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the growth is benefiting people in different sectors. "But maximum population is dependent on agri-sector and unless the gains are clear and evident, the (economic) growth is not justifiable and equitable," Jaitley said after launching options trading in guarseed on NCDEX. Among the priority areas, agriculture sector is on the top, he said. "Ensuring the benefits reach the agri-sector and growth is visible -- this is among the priority areas for us." Jaitley further said: "We see in some places the problem of falling prices because of higher production. Farmers are not getting the price for their produce." He said many steps have been taken in the last few years to take farmers out of this situation. "There has been some impact," he said. Lauding the contribution of farmers, he said they have left no stone unturned to serve the nation.

First Post, New Delhi
Israel PM's visit expected to give filip to bilateral ties

With Israel asserting that its relationship with India is much stronger than one vote in the UN, the stage is set for for the arrival on Sunday of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu on a six-day trip to give a fillip to 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. This is the first prime ministerial visit from Israel to India since the visit of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The visit comes less than a month after New Delhi voted in the UN General Assembly against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital. However, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon, at a media briefing, set at rest all speculation over this saying, "I think the relationship is much stronger than one vote in the UN here and there." He also added: "Sometimes it is India that comes to Israel with a request and sometimes Israel comes to India with a request. We cannot always fulfill those requests. That is why we are two countries, two members of the UN." B Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary (WANA) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told the media that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Netanyahu will sit for a bilateral summit on 15 January, both sides "will be discussing a lot of issues". Netanyahu's visit also assumes significance as it comes just over six months after the visit of Modi to Israel, the first ever Indian prime ministerial visit to the West Asian nation. Stating that bilateral cooperation has been expanded to several areas, Bhaskar said: "It all started with agriculture, now we have large areas of cooperation predominantly dominated by technology collaboration, innovation, R&D, science, space, so these are actually very qualitative engagements characterised by technological collaboration and innovation." According to Carmon, though cooperation in agriculture and water were the highlights of Modi's visit to Israel in July last year, this time innovation will top the agenda.

The Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Agriculture to be focus area of annual budget, says Prakash Pant

The Trivendra Singh Rawat-led BJP government will spare a substantial portion of its next annual budget for farming and allied services to check forced migration from the hills of Uttarakhand, finance minister Prakash Pant said. “We will spare a sizeable portion of the (2018-19) annual budget for agriculture and allied services. The step is in keeping with our party’s aim to double the income of farmers by 2022 so that forced migration from the hills can be checked,” Pant told Hindustan Times. Another thrust area would be infrastructure building, for which a substantial portion of the budget would also be allocated. “However, the annual budget won’t have much allocation for the tertiary, or service sector. In fact, as a policy, we are discouraging that (tertiary) sector,” Pant said. “The step is being taken because all developing states focus on primary and secondary sectors, and discourage tertiary sector.” The government plans to make a sizeable budgetary allocation for agriculture and allied services because the state is known for its agri-pastoral economy. “Horticulture is also one of the main economic activities,” Pant said, adding along with farm and horticulture sectors, budgetary allocations would be made for allied services such as animal husbandry, bee keeping and pisciculture. “We are focusing on agriculture and allied services because more budgetary allocation will not only help boost income of farmers but will also help create employment opportunities for them.” Pant said the budgetary allocation would be made to develop areas falling in all the 670 Nyay Panchayats as centres of excellence. “That means a portion of 10% of the total annual budget that will be allocated to the farm sector will also be utilised in developing a number of facilities for farm-related activities.”Similarly, a substantial portion of the (10%) budget would be spared for promoting the organic sector.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Villagers on India - Myanmar border to get passes

India and Myanmar are all set to streamline free movement of people within 16 km along their borders. The Centre has asked the four states that share unfenced border with Myanmar to distribute “border pass” to all the residents living within 16 km from the boundary line. It has also asked the governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram to enrol the border residents under Aadhaar on war footing. Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi will be in New Delhi next week along with nine ASEAN leaders as a chief guest for the Republic Day parade. A formal agreement is expected to be signed between India and Myanmar during her visit. “The border pass will be given only to the domiciles. All residents going across the border for agriculture, work or to meet relatives should carry the pass at all times. There will be no restrictions on their movement,” said an official. The official explained that both the countries had been intending to put a system in place after India raised the issue of movement of extremists and smugglers freely across the border. On January 3, the Union Cabinet had approved the agreement between India and Myanmar on land border crossing which the government said would enhance economic interaction between the people of the two countries. “It is not that people living in other parts of the country can go near the border and cross over. The pass will only be applicable for the domiciles. We are not going to set up border posts or check points but random security checks will be done and action will be taken against anyone who doesn’t have the pass. Myanmar will also distribute cards to its residents,” said the official. India and Myanmar share an unfenced border of 1,643 km, touching Arunachal Pradesh (520 km), Nagaland (215 km), Manipur (398 km) and Mizoram (510 km).

The Indian Express, Belgavi
Govt bringing in rapid development in rural infrastructure, assures Rajnath Singh in poll bound Karnataka

The NDA government is bringing rapid infrastructural development in the rural sector to raise farmers’ income and the Prime Minister was prepared to invest more in the agriculture sector and food processing by 2022 to make agriculture more profitable, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Belgavi. Stating this while delivering the inaugural address at the National Krishik Samaj convention, he said that since the input cost of agriculture was increasing, any amount of subsidy would fall short. He also said farmers’ should engage in poultry, animal husbandry and fishing to increase their income. Calling farmers a brave community, he said unlike industry, the agriculturist engages in farming knowing fully well that the sector was not profitable. To protect their interest, the NDA government has been giving insurance benefit even for 30 per cent crop loss, he said. Singh said at least one son of a farmer should engage himself in other sectors, apart from farming. Even today, over 55 per cent of the population is engaged in agriculture and the Green Revolution should be a permanent feature to attract youth into agriculture, he added. It was BJP in Karnataka and other states which in the past brought down the interest rate on farm loans from four per cent to zero as per his advice as the then BJP president, Singh said.

The Indian Express, Mumbai
Mahavitaran to purchase 1000 MW solar power in 2018

In a move to boost solar energy production in Maharashtra, Mahavitaran, the power transmission company of the state government, is planning to purchase 1000 MW solar power this year. Bids to purchase 1000 MW solar power have been invited at Rs 3 per unit, an Energy department official told. As compared to solar power, thermal power is sold at Rs 5 per unit, he said. “Currently, the generation of solar power is very minimum compared to traditional energy. This year, the government is planning to boost solar power generation,” the official added. States of Rajasthan, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are ahead of Maharashtra in generation of solar power, the official added. At present, the solar power generation in Maharashtra is only 1,000 MW out of which 300 MW is produced by MahaGenco (Maharashtra State Electricity Board Co Limited). Under the Chief Minister’s Solar Agri Feeder programme, solar power pumps with the capacity of 7000 MW will be set up for the agriculture purpose. At present, such agriculture pump sets having 5500 MW capacity have been set up. “This year, the government is planning to set up floating solar panels on water reservoirs to produce solar energy, the official said, adding that the floating solar panel on Ujni dam in Solapur district will be the first such solar power generation scheme in the state. He said global tenders for the project would be invited soon. Water conservation department has set the target of 1000 MW solar energy from the Ujni dam.

13, Jan 2018
Millennium Post, New Delhi
Tata Chemicals completes sale of urea biz to Yara Fertilisers

Tata Chemicals said it has completed the sale of its urea fertilisers business to Yara Fertilisers India for Rs 2,682 crore. The deal included transfer of all assets and liabilities (working capital) of the Babrala plant in Uttar Pradesh. It is the first foreign direct investment in the highly regulated urea sector. Yara Fertilisers India is a subsidiary of Norway-based Yara International ASA. In a regulatory filing, Tata Chemicals said: "The sale and transfer of urea and customised fertilisers business to Yara as contemplated in the scheme of arrangement has been completed." The sale has been completed after the receipt of requisite regulatory approvals, fulfilment of conditions precedent and sanction of the National Company Law Tribunal, Mumbai, it said. The company has received the consideration of Rs 2,682 crore (subject to post completion working capital adjustments) from Yara on January 12, 2018, it added. Yara s current turnover of $40 million in India will increase to $350 million, he added. The Babrala plant, which was commissioned in 1994, is the most energy-efficient plant in India with energy efficiency on par with Yara's best plants across the globe.

The Assam Tribune, Itanagar
Bid to boost farmers’ income in Arunachal

Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein has sought feedback from the experts of various government departments in order to boost income of the farmers. Holding a pre-budget consultation with the senior officers of Agriculture and allied departments to elicit their views and suggestions for inclusion in the next budget, Mein, who also holds the Finance portfolio, said that the objective of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022 as envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi can only be achieved with farming- related activities through agriculture and allied sectors. He asked them to submit a five year perspective plan so that the objective can be achieved by 2022. He also laid emphasis on productive schemes in a bid to increase the income of the farmers. He said that in addition to supply of quality planting materials to the farmers, feasibilities of drip and sprinkler irrigation to the cash and plantation crops should be looked into. Besides the officials were asked to make optimum use of farmer’s portal and e-marketing portal like eNAM for marketing of the local products outside the State.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Centre to finalise model contract farming law soon

The Centre will finalise the draft contract farming law in the next few days after incorporating comments from the industry and stakeholders, a senior Agriculture Ministry official said. A model contract farming Act has been put in public domain for stakeholders' comments. "Suggestions from the industry and stakeholders have already come in. We would be able to harmonise them in the next few weeks," National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) CEO Ashok Dalwai said at an event. The contract farming is the way forward as this will help monetise agriculture and horticulture wastage, which at present is substantially higher, he said in a statement. Once the model law is ready, it will be shared with state governments for adoption, he said. Dalwai was addressing a national conference on cold chain infrastructure organised by industry body PHD Chamber. National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCD) CEO and chief advisor Pawanexh Kohli said the government was making serious efforts to replace traditional APMC markets with new model law called Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2017. "This is likely to bear fruit in next one year," he said adding that agriculture is a state subject. Kohli shared that farmers can get remunerative price provided cold chains are integrated through superior marketing logistics. This is the only way through which better pricing could be ensured for farmers, he added. According to the contract, the farmer is required to plant the contractor's crop on his land, and to harvest and deliver to the contractor a quantum of produce, based upon anticipated yield and contracted acreage. This could be at a pre-agreed price. Towards these ends, the contractor supplies the farmer with selected inputs, including the required technical advice.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Assam CM launches rural transformation project

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal launched the Assam Agribusiness and Rural Transformation Project (APART), a World Bank-financed project, at a programme held in the CM’s conference hall at Janata Bhawan. Speaking on the occasion the Chief Minister expressed optimism that the project would be able to uplift the agricultural sector of the State and inspire the farmers to adopt latest technology to increase production. ARIAS Society has been chosen by the State government as the nodal agency to manage to the project considering its earlier experiences in successfully handling such projects. Considering the change in market preferences and food habits, there is a need to diversify traditional agricultural practices into high value agriculture, horticulture and livestock production and this project seeks to guide this diversification process. Six international knowledge partners have come onboard to share technical know-how in managing the different components of this project like agriculture, horticulture, livestock etc. Saying that the young generation must be motivated to take up farming as a viable profession by being exposed to the great potential of agriculture, Sonowal urged the colleges of the State to sensitise the students about agriculture and its allied professions. Earlier there were no data to back up the success stories of the agriculture department and therefore it is important for keeping records about the changes as a result of this project, which would be implemented over a period of seven years, he said. Sonowal also said that the new project would be able to supplement other State government initiatives. “We are at 7th position in the country in banana production and we produce high quality turmeric, ginger etc. We must take advantage of our fertile lands for increasing the productivity and thereby bring about a rural economic transformation. Potential investors must be guided to the districts where different items are cultivated as per their specific needs” Sonowal said.

Business Line, Thiruvananthpuram
Defaulting cashew MSMEs may be spared insolvency ordeal

The Finance Ministry has agreed in principle to open a special window for defaulting MSMEs in the cashew sector. In the normal course, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) could have been invoked against them. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has agreed to a proposal to amend the IBC suitably to allow these MSMEs one shot at restructuring, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Independent MP, told here. This was decided after he had met Jaitley last month. According to Chandrasekhar, the cashew sector that employs lakhs needs to be handled with care and caution. Post-IBC, there have been many instances of the MSME units in the sector folding up, especially during a critical period when they were in the transition period through demonetisation and GST. Some of them had lapsed into bankruptcy, promptly invoking the IBC and concomitant takeover by banks. The Finance Minister has agreed in principle that this would not be allowed to happen. Chandrasekhar said he has also suggested that the Finance Ministry sit up with the Commerce Ministry to devise a short-term package for the cashew sector. “I think there’s sensitivity on these issues in the Finance Ministry. Post-budget, there would likely be a meeting of stakeholders to figure these things out,” he added. It is acknowledged that these units have only a limited number of buyers, if any, and rely largely on promoters for resolution. “A bank cannot ideally take over a small company run by a single person. After all, who does the bank entrust it to? Only the original owner knows best how to run it. So what I’m saying is that, unlike in the case of mega enterprises, please don’t apply IBC to the small MSME units. Give them one opportunity to get their business back on track.”

Business Standard, New Delhi
Drought in parts of MP and Rajasthan, shift to gram keep wheat sowing low

Drought in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and a shift in area towards more lucrative gram, has pulled down wheat and mustard acreage in the current rabi season. This, with low farm-gate prices for a second year, has aggravated distress in rural areas. Water levels in major reservoirs are also lower than last year’s. In MP, wheat sowing was around 865,000 hectares less than last year as almost 400,000 hectares in areas adjoining Indore had shifted towards gram, while the rest was left unsown in drought-hit areas. In the country, wheat, the main rabi foodgrain, has been sown on 29.55 million hectares, almost 1.44 mn ha less than last year. Wheat, mustard and gram are the major rabi crops. Mustard sowing dropped by around 350,000 hectares as compared to last year, mainly because of a fall in Rajasthan and low southwest monsoon in some parts. MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have declared drought in 52 districts. The three states have together sought central assistance of Rs 115 billion. Incidentally, all three are governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party and go to the polls in the next one year. Prices of the main rabi crops in the three states have dropped below their minimum support price, barring wheat, despite low production. The data show rabi sowing is complete on 60.95 mn ha, around 558,000 ha less than last year. Gram has been sown on 10.56 mn ha, around eight per cent more than last year, with a relatively better price compared to other crops. The latest data show gross value added (GVA) in agriculture and allied activities projected to fall 2.1 per cent in FY18 because of an expected drop in the rabi harvest, an almost three per cent fall in kharif production, and on account of a big base.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
Farm Insurance Scheme Covers a Third of Agri Households

The Prime Minister’s farm insurance plan has covered nearly a third of the agricultural households within a year of being launched, as the government pushes for total coverage ahead of the elections in 2019, official data revealed. The ‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ scheme, which is being implemented by Agriculture Insurance Corporation and 15 other insurance companies, was introduced from kharif 2016. As per official data, over 50.9 million farmers were covered under the scheme as on March 31, 2017. The industry had collected Rs 17,255 crore during 2015-16. The same year, about 9 million farmers filed claims and the industry paid out Rs 6,573 crore. Agriculture Insurance Corporation was the largest insurer, covering over 23 million farmers, followed by United Insurance at 5.1million. A Crisil report said 77% of domestic crop insurance premiums were ceded to reinsurers in 2016-17. The premium income in the farm segment is expected to reach Rs 25,000 crore this fiscal year, from Rs 21,000 crore last year, making it the fastest growing insurance business in the country.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
GOVT TO HIKE BUDGET ALLOCATION FOR FARM EDUCATION, RESEARCH

The Narendra Modi Government is likely to increase the budget allocation for farm education, research and extension by up to 15 per cent to around Rs 8,000 crore in fiscal 2018-19 as focus will be on making rapid strides in doubling farmers' income. The Union Budget for 2018-19 will be presented on February 1. “There has been a minimum 10 per cent annual increase in the budget allocation for agri-education, research and extension purpose in last few years. We hope 15 per cent higher budget allocation would be made available for the Department of Agricultural Research and Education for the next financial year,” the sources said. The funds will be used on priority areas with an aim to address the country's key farm sector problem and make rapid strides in the direction of doubling farmers' income through use of technology and innovation, the sources added. In the next fiscal, the DARE is planning to focus on using technology and agri-innovations in particularly 150 backward districts and build capacity of farmers in tribal areas. It is also considering initiating programmes on use of sensors in agriculture, build and transfer post-harvest technology, use of animal cloning for commercial application, genome editing in select crops and bio-fortification. For 2017-18 fiscal, the government had initially made an allocation of Rs 6,800 crore for the Department that functions under the Agriculture Ministry. Additional funds had also been sanctioned through supplementary demand, taking the total budget to around Rs 7,000 crore for agri-research and extension activities for this year. Already, 90 per cent of the budget allocation released till third quarter of 2017-18 fiscal has been spent by the DARE while the rest will be done in the remaining period, the source added.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
India’s palm oil imports flat at 7.22 lakh tonne: SEA

Palm oil imports remained flat at 7,22,857 tonne in December because of increase in the import duty, industry body Solvent Extractors Association (SEA) said. India, the world's leading vegetable oil buyer, had imported 7,23,158 tonne palm oil in December 2016. The country's total vegetable oil imports declined 10 per cent to 10,88,783 tonne in December 2017 compared to 12,09,685 tonne in the year-ago period. The share of palm oil is more than 60 per cent of the country's total vegetable oil imports. In November, the government raised the import duty on edible oils by 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent across the board to ensure farmers get remunerative prices for their produce. "This announcement has changed the sentiment and the market has moved upward and now prices of soyabean and groundnut are above the minimum support price," the SEA said in a statement. Second objective of the hike in import duty was to offset the export duty imposed by palm oil exporting countries especially Malaysia and Indonesia, it said. SEA said increase in import duty by India led to Malaysia suspending the export taxes on crude palm oil (CPO) for three-month period effective January 8, 2018, and with this export duty on CPO will be nil. "The withdrawal of export duty by Malaysia on CPO will reduce the landed cost and thereby India would be benefited," it added. Among palm oil products, import of CPO increased to 6,08,405 tonne in December 2017 from 4,73,179 tonne in the year-ago period, as per the SEA data. Shipment of crude palm kernel oil (CPKO) also increased to 7,528 tonne from 4,425 tonne, while that of RBD palmolein declined to 1,06,924 tonne from 2,45,554 tonne in the said period. Among soft oil, import of sunflower oil increased to 2,36,655 tonne in December 2017 from 1,85,824 tonne in the year-ago period.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Oldest pepper exchange ceases to exist after Sebi order

Indian Pepper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA),one of the oldest pepper exchange in the world to trade in pepper futures, ceased to exist from January 10 th with Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) granting an exit order. The regional exchange formed in 1957 decided to request for an exit order with no trading for more than one year, officials of IPSTA told. After the launch of national multi commodity futures exchanges, IPSTA has seen volumes dwindle and members have stayed away from trading in the past few years.The decline in fortunes of the exchange also coincides with the arrival of Vietnam in pepper production and the gradual shift of trade from the terminal market of Kochi. Interestingly, the IPSTA model has been a very successful one with a high level of transparency and delivery, traders said. The manual trading system was replaced with an online system some years ago but the growth of national multi-commodity exchanges dwarfed the exchange, relegating it to a low-volume regional player. The association’s effort to become a multi-commodity exchange also did not succeed. It lost the initiative to succeed way back in 1995 when they failed to implement the UNCTAD report on developing the trade. ML Parekh,former president of IPSTA still believes that the exchange was one of the most transparent and efficient in the world. “Our contracts were delivery based and we encouraged delivery while the new exchanges strive to keep delivery well below 2% .At the end of 90s, the exchange had a daily average turnover of 300-350 tonne and a maximum turnover of 600 tonne,” Parekh said, adding IPSTA had 14 members at its height of glory.

Business Line, New Delhi
Policy on agri exports soon

The Commerce Ministry is working on a comprehensive policy covering issues such as logistics to promote export of agri commodities like tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables, a senior official said. India is one of biggest producers and exporters of agri commodities, and still holds huge potential to increase shipments. “So, the possibility of value addition and moving up in the global value chain is immense. All important elements such as logistics, certification and traceability of items would be part of the new policy,” the official said.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Refined oil imports drop by half in Nov-Dec

The Solvent Extractors’ Association of India’s (SEA) latest data of vegetable oil imports show a decline in the imports of refined oils by nearly half in the first two months of the season, November and December 2017, as against the same period last year. The fall in the refined oil imports is seen as a direct effect of the Centre’s move of increasing the duty on edible oils in November last year. Imports of refined oil (RBD Palmolein) fell to 254,286 tonnes from 486,502 tonnes in same period of last year, down about 48 per cent. But imports of crude oil increased to 2,029,318 tonnes (1,843,657 tonnes). “The raising of import duty on RBD palmolein to 45 per cent from 40 per cent, will go a long way in improving capacity utilisation of our refining industry. The import duty was to offset the export duty imposed by Malaysia and Indonesia. The hike in import duty by India led Malaysia to suspend the export taxes on crude palm oil for a three months period effective from January 8, 2018. With this, the export duty on CPO will be nil, which will reduce the landed cost of crude palm oil and thereby benefit the domestic refiners,” said a SEA statement. Vegoil imports for December 2017 stood at 1,088,783 tonnes (1,209,685 tonnes).

Business Line, Chennai
TN’s private sugar mills to settle cane arrears at one go

Each private sector sugar mill in Tamil Nadu will shell out a one-time, additional sugarcane price totalling Rs 8-12 crore to resolve the issue of arrears of State Advised Price claimed every year by the farmers. The industry has opted for this “short-term pain in the interest of long-term sustainability in sugarcane pricing,” said sugar industry sources. This will mean that the industry in Tamil Nadu can move forward to a viable revenue-sharing formula for cane pricing from the current season (October-September) onwards. According to industry sources, the amount of Rs 200 crore for the private sector sugar companies is based on an agreement that each company has arrived with its sugarcane farmers. Palani G Periasamy, President, South Indian Sugar Mills Association-Tamil Nadu, said the companies will pay about Rs 40 a tonne of cane a year supplied over four years from 2013-14 to 2016-17 sugar seasons. This follows an agreement reached last week after discussion with the State government and farmers. During this four-year period, sugar companies had categorically declined to pay the SAP — a price set by the State government over and above the mandatory Fair and Remunerative Price — as it was unviable. The SAP is only a recommendation or advised price. The sugar mills have been demanding a shift to a revenue-sharing formula based on price of sugar and by products. But this had emerged a sore point as farmers have been claiming arrears of over Rs 1,200 crore in SAP. Industry sources said at the meeting presided over by the Electricity Minister P Thangamani last week, it was decided to go for the one-time settlement. The State government has urged the mills to make the payments ahead of the Pongal festival.

12, Jan 2018
Business Standard, New Delhi
Israel to invest $68.6 mn in tourism, technology, agriculture in India

Israel will invest $68.6 million to boost cooperation with India in areas like tourism, technology, agriculture and innovation over a period of four years, a senior official here has said ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's high-profile India visit next week. The commitment is in addition to the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund of $40 million over five years with equal contribution from both sides that has already been agreed between the two sides, deputy Director General of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Gilad Cohen told. Netanyahu will be leading a high-profile delegation comprising 130 businessmen from 102 Israeli companies drawn from areas like agriculture, water, cyber security, health care and security on his four day trip to India starting January 14. It will be the second visit by an Israeli Prime Minister to India after a gap of 15 years since Ariel Sharon visited New Delhi in 2003. The visit comes merely six months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Jewish state, becoming the first Indian premier to do so. Several MoUs, including in the field of oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber security, co-production of films and documentaries will be signed between the two sides. Israel's Saare Tzedek hospital would be signing an agreement with India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare as well. Informed sources here said that this relates to sharing of knowledge in the field of homoeopathy and ayurveda that have been gaining popularity in Israel over the last few years. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology would also be signing an agreement with Ministry of Science and Technology, sources here said. Reciprocating warm reception extended to him by Netanyahu, Modi is likely to spend a lot of time with his Israeli counterpart during the trip. Indian Prime Minister will be hosting a private dinner for Netanyahu on January 14 after his arrival in New Delhi.

The New Indian Express, New Delhi
Australian Agriculture Minister to visit India soon to resolve pulses trade issue

Australian Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has announced that he is likely to visit India soon to negotiate a better deal for the country's farmer after New Delhi imposed higher tariff on imported chickpeas and lentils. Last month, India had imposed 30 per cent import duty on chickpeas (chana) and lentils (masoor) to protect domestic farmers from falling local rates in view of higher output. Littleproud said that an estimated 2 lakh tonnes of Australian chickpeas and lentils were on transit when the India announced the tariff. First, the Australian government wants to take a strategic approach to resolve the long-term trade issue with India besides looking at alternative markets to dispose of its pulses, he was quoted as saying by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation news. "I intend to make a trip to India in the coming 10 days to go and engage with my counterparts over there, as well as industry...," he said. The efforts will be made to ensure the tariff issue gets resolved and at the same time make sure that "we reinforce the need for a long-term sustainable free-trade agreement with India," Littleproud said. Noting that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India was a high priority for Australia's farm sector, the Minister said the government was acting in a "sensible and responsible way" to ensure the issue does not become an "impediment" in the long term of progress of an FTA with India. "What we have to understand is we have a USD 2.7 billion trade surplus in the agriculture sector with India, so we have to be sensible about how we negotiate with India and we are doing that in a sensible way behind doors," he said. Since a billion-dollar industry of Australian producers has been affected, the Minister said that the Australian government was working hard behind the scenes to negotiate a better deal for its farmers.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Farm sector to expand over 4% in FY18: Farm Minister Radha Mohan Singh

India's agriculture sector will expand more than 4% in 2017-18, farm minister Radha Mohan Singh said, trying to allay concerns raised by the statistical office's projection of sluggish growth in one of the most important segments of the economy. Increased horticulture and fisheries production, a robust kharif harvest and near-normal planting in the ongoing rabi season will hold the growth at a healthy rate, he said. Last week, the Central Statistics Office forecast 2017-18 growth in the farm and allied sector at 2.1%. Last year, the sector had achieved a 4.9% expansion. "This year 'krishi vikas' (agriculture expansion) will be good. It will easily grow to over 4% when the final estimates are released," the minister said. Singh said he was confident that the country would see two back-to-back years of robust growth in the agriculture sector. Due to delayed onset of monsoon, the kharif or summer crop planting was delayed, the minister said, suggesting that it probably had influenced the statistical office's projection. Kharif acreage that was lower in August had turned positive by December, he said. "Further, we have yet to take in account the crop planting which happens between March-April and June-July, called 'jayad', where farmers go for 60-day crop planting," the minister said. Agriculture growth had accelerated to 4.9% in 2016-17 from 1.2% in drought-hit 2015-16. In the 2014-15, it was almost flat. Monsoon was 12-14% in deficit those years. This time, most of the country received good rains. Agriculture accounts for 17% of India's economy and more than half the country's population depends on farms directly or indirectly. Healthy growth in agriculture is also good news for the fast moving consumer goods segment, which gets about a third of its sales from rural areas.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Exporters ask government to provide barter deal with agri-deficit nations

Exporters have urged the government to start a barter deal with agriculture-deficit countries to boost India’s exports of agricultural and allied products on a sustained basis. Faced with restrictions imposed by many countries, India’s exports of agricultural products have declined by 19 per cent in the past four years to $32 billion in 2016-17 from $39.6 billion in 2013-14. During the same period, however, import of agricultural and allied products has jumped by 66 per cent to $24.2 billion in 2016-17 from $14.6 billion in 2013-14. Thus, India’s trade surplus of $25 billion in 2013-14 has slumped to $7.8 billion in 2016-17. Experts also say that countries in the European Union (EU), the US, Japan, South Korea and China are dumping their products such as cars, electronic items and other valuable goods into India without committing to import products in short supply in these countries, of which India is a major producer. For, example, the EU has rejected India’s basmati rice, alleging presence of parts per million levels (ppm) of a pesticide not registered in the EU exporting a huge quantity of cars and other goods such as chocolates and olive into India. “So, we need to start barter negotiations with agriculture-deficit countries. If India can import almond from California, the US must import horticulture, dairy and other products from us,” said Rajju Shroff, executive chairman and managing director, UPL Limited. The Crop Care Federation of India (CCFI), the apex industry body representing manufacturers of pesticides and agrochemicals in India, has submitted a pre-Budget memorandum to the Union finance ministry, seeking immediate attention to increase the country’s agricultural exports.

The Times of India, Bengaluru
Now, get high on millet beer, literally

After having successfully promoted millets to be used in delicacies and every day tasty food, the government of Karnataka has now decided to step it up a notch by successfully attracting interest from the city based watering holes to promote millet based beer. Giving the promotion of millets a fresh perspective and make it more appealing to the urban youth and have an increased market presence, the agriculture department has now tied-up with the craft beer association, primarily comprising of the micro breweries in Bengaluru, to promote millet beer for the urban population in the self proclaimed pub city of India. As part of this effort, the city based pubs will be hosting a Organic millet beer festival between January 12 and 21. Earlier last week, the agriculture department and the craft beer association had a detailed discussion on the proposal and according to the association recieved an enthusiastic response from minister Krishna Byre Gowda. President of the association Narayan Manepally said the effort was to engage the pub hopping consumers with millet based beers. "As of now we have four city based pubs who have confirmed their participation in the millet beer festival week. While the time is short, we are hopeful of getting these millet based beers ready for the consumers," he said. The breweries will have their own reciepes of beers with malted ragi, bajra and sorghum having been added to it. "Currently we have tied up with individual people at the M S Ramaiah institute who has an experience in malting of millets and also trying to contact other individuals in the state who have experience in malting," said Manepally. However, the millet beers will at present have less millets presence.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Marginal rise in prices of onion in metros as production drops

Onion prices have risen marginally in key cities due to an estimated smaller crop in 2017-18 and a current slowdown in market arrivals, but a senior government official said authorities are keeping a watch on traders. Onion production is expected to decline 4.5% to 21.4 million tonne in 2017-18 against the previous year’s 22.4 million tonne, according to the agriculture ministry’s estimates. The commonly consumed vegetable is currently selling at Rs 50 a kg in markets of Delhi and its surrounding areas as well as in Mumbai and Kolkata, retail-price data on Thursday showed, which is higher by about Rs 10-Rs 12. Higher onion prices during bad crop years tend to stoke public anger and become a tricky problem for governments. Overall, the output of horticulture crops — vegetables and fruits — is forecast to go up to a record 305.4 million tonne in 2017-18, up 1.6% higher than the previous year, according to the government’s advance estimates released last week. Potato production will likely be 49.3 million tonne, slightly more than the previous year’s 48.6 million tonne, and tomato output is also estimated to be up 7.7% at 22.3 million tonne. However, the onion output is set to drop. Agriculture secretary SK Pattanayak said he did not expected an onion supply crunch and prices would stabilise once harvests start kicking in. “It is a temporary phase. Traders are taking advantage of the temporary ups and downs. But the fundamentals are strong,” he told. PK Gupta , acting director of the Nasik-based National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation, said prices have risen because the kharif-sown harvest is yet to reach the markets. Arrivals are expected to pick up by the end of January. The summer output, which will replenish markets over January and February, is estimated to be lower because plantings were down 20%-25% due to poor rains in key producing, he said.

The Tribune, Ludhiana
‘Cultivation of horticultural crop can increase income’

The cultivation of horticultural crops can play an important role in enhancing the income of the small farmers, said Dr PS Aulakh, Director of Horticulture, Punjab, while inaugurating a two-day “Research and Extension Specialists’ workshop for fruits, mushroom, agro-forestry along with post-harvest management at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). In his address, Dr Aulakh said, the year 2016-17 witnessed a record horticulture production of 305 million tonnes with gross domestic product (GDP) touching 11.4 per cent, surpassing that of agriculture in India. The state government is laying a lot of emphasis on promoting citrus cultivation among farmers, he added. Protected cultivation also has enormous scope in Punjab but farmers must acquire training before opting for it, he stressed. “The Centre of Excellence for Vegetables, Kartarpur, has carved a niche for itself in the international arena and is providing home delivery of nursery to the farmers in Punjab,” he disclosed. Two centres of excellence for floriculture and beekeeping are also coming up in the state, he informed. Dr Aulakh observed work on sericulture, post-harvest management and other fruits such as date palm needs to be given impetus. Dr Navtej Bains, Director of Research, PAU, said horticultural crops offer a viable option for crop diversification. He highlighted the characteristics of the newly developed varieties namely ‘Punjab Safeda’ and ‘Punjab Kiran’ of guava, ‘Early Gold’ of malta, and a rootstock for kinnow ‘Carrizo.’ Dr Bains also informed about production and protection technologies for various crops In his welcome remarks, Dr KS Thind, Additional Director of Research (Crop Improvement), said PAU is laying thrust on nutritional security and has recommended a nutrition garden plan, suggesting plantation of 21 different types of fruit plants in an area of 1.25 kanal. Dr Ashok Kumar, Director of Extension Education, said, “Farmers can gain profit by cultivating fruits and vegetables as well as through value addition.”

11, Jan 2018
The Economic Times, New Delhi
5kcr Micro-irrigation Fund: Agri Min yet to Fix Norms

Even as the government gears up for the next Union budget, the agriculture ministry is yet to finalise the modalities on how to utilise the Rs 5,000 crore allocated in the previous budget for micro irrigation. The fund was to bring 1.6 million hectares under micro irrigation (drip and sprinkler) in co-ordination with Nabard to help states avail credit at a lower interest rate of 5%. With half the cultivable land in the country still being rainfed, micro irrigation is crucial when monsoon rains are deficit or when rainfall is geographically uneven — a trend seen in the past few years. Currently, of the 65.3 million hectares of arable area under irrigation, only 8.5-9 million hectares are under micro irrigation. “The micro irrigation fund was aimed to achieve overall improvement of efficiency of water use. We have prepared the draft and are now working on the modalities. Once we finalise it, we will discuss it with state governments. It should be out soon,” said an agriculture ministry official. A meeting of the Expenditure Finance Committee to consider the draft note on “PMKSY- Corpus for Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF)” was held on November 28. “Further direction is awaited from the government,” said a Nabard official. Industry sources said that post GST reforms, states have been slow on spending on micro irrigation, but were confident that the funds would be utilised in the coming quarter. “Effective utilisation has not taken place in Maharashtra or Gujarat where elections took place last year. Andhra Pradesh, however, has spent enough. Centre needs to do more to work with states and should call a meeting of state government officials in Delhi. Merely allocating funds does not help if individual states are not ready to pick it up,” said the owner of a leading micro irrigation company.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Coffee exports from India set to decline in 2018

Coffee exports from India, the third-largest producer in Asia, is set to drop this year as unfavourbale weather and pest attacks is likely to lower production amid slump in the prices. The exports may slide about 5% to 2.40 lakh tonne in 2018 calendar year, said Ramesh Rajah, president of Coffee Exporters Association. The country had exported 2.53 lakh tonne in last year after the Coffee Board approved shipments for 3.86 lakh tonne. Normally, when production is down, prices should be higher. But due to a global surplus, overall prices are down and that has affected rates in India too, Rajah told. The coffee production in the world is estimated at 159.9 million bags (of 60kg each) in 2018, according to US department of agriculture. Rajah said since the previous year had even higher level of production globally, the coffee prices are depressed. Farmers in India have realised Rs 6,500-Rs 7,000 per bag (of 50kg each) in the crop harvested from October 2017 as compared to Rs 9,000-10,000 per bag in the year-ago period. He said that top countries like Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia had good production whereas India’s output declined after lower rainfall during peak time when the crop blossoms. Additionally, there were also pest attacks in some of the growing areas. Vietnam and Indonesia are the top two coffee growers of Asia. To help stabilise Indian coffee price, there is a need to increase domestic consumption, said Anil Kumar Bhandari, president of India Coffee Trust. The per capita consumption has only increased to 100 grams in India from 89-90 gram five years ago, while in many other countries it is in kilogram, he said. India Coffee Trust in association with Coffee Board will hold the next India International Coffee Festival in Bengaluru during January 16-19 with the objective to increase domestic consumption, he said.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Farmers refuse to take out potatoes from cold storage

Seikh Mofizul, a potato farmer in Purba Bardhaman district of Bengal, has been spending sleepless nights these days. He had lost about Rs 2.80 lakhs he had invested in potato farming withthe price of the tuber plummeting owing to overproduction. In 2016-17, 1.15 crore tonnes of potato was produced in the State which was considerably higher than the 90 lakh tonne produced the previous season. “I have mortgaged jewellery and some of my lands for growing potato this season and now with the fall in price, I have no way to retrieve the property,” Mr. Mofizul told. Having lost all hopes of retrieving his investment, he had decided not to take back the 4,500 kg of potato, which he had put in cold storage. Mr. Mofizul was just one among thousands of farmers incurring huge losses owing to the fall in potato prices. From the usual price of Rs 14 per kg, the farmers were getting just Rs 1 this year. Apart from Purba and Paschim Bardhaman, potato was cultivated mainly in the districts of Hooghly and Bankura. The potato farmers were unwilling to take out their crop from the cold storage as they did not have the money to pay for the rent. One has to pay about Rs 80 per sack of potato kept in the cold storage.

Business Line, Kochi
Floor price on pepper imports seen hurting spices EoUs

Spices exporters are keeping their fingers crossed over the recent Directorate-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) notification on fixing a minimum import price for pepper. The decision, according to them, will not only hit the operations of 100 per cent Export Oriented Units (EoUs) but also block the entry of pepper in all forms. The December 6 notification fixed the minimum import price of all forms of pepper at Rs 500/kg ($7,875/tonne) when global market prices are $3,500-3,600 a tonne. With Vietnam starting the harvest of the new crop, the prices of VASTA grade, which is similar to Indian MG1 ASTA, for March shipping to Asian ports, including India, are expected to be offered in the $3,000/tonne range. The notification also imposes penalties for those who procure pepper at global prices, paying 70 per cent duty on differential price and surcharge, says Prakash Namboodiri, chairman, All India Spice Exporters Forum. He told that the Government has not exempted from the purview of the notification 100 per cent EOUs in SEZs, EOUs and companies working under advance licences. There are about 15 EOUs associated with pepper imports and they account for 15,000 tonnes of the 20,000-22,000 tonnes imported every year. Practically, the Government is expecting all 100 per cent EOUs to use pepper at Rs 500/kg ($7,875/tonne) which is about $4,375/tonne above the world parity levels. “How will our value-added products find their way to global markets with such totally uncompetitive prices,” Namboodiri asks. The policy will impact all investments in setting up import/re-export business. EOUs import pepper under the obligation that they will re-export within 120 days with specified value-addition. The current attempt seems to stall cheaper imports and to preserve the higher price of black pepper in the interest of growers. Equally, the interests of EOUs need to be protected, he said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Food credit bill eating into depleted finances

Punjab is paying a whopping Rs 5,100 crore annually while procuring foodgrains for the Central pool, even as the Capt Amarinder Singh government is busy reworking the legacy food credit limit settlement with the Union Government. This figure includes Rs 3,200 crore, the interest on the Rs 31,000-crore loan the state has to bear to settle the legacy food credit account (from 2002-03 to 2014-15). The government is also shelling out Rs 1,900 crore each year for settling the current cash credit limit (CCL). A sum of Rs 1,100 crore was given from the state treasury for settling the cash credit limit availed for procuring wheat last year, while Rs 800 crore was used to settle the CCL availed for paddy. Sources in the Finance Department said this additional burden was eating into the already depleted finances. “With the GST rollout during this fiscal, the annual hike in revenue for Punjab is just Rs 2,000 crore. But the expenses incurred on food procurement have gone up by Rs 5,100 crore. This means that Punjab is spending Rs 3,000 crore more compared to last year,” said Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Though tight-lipped about the deal he is working on with the Central Government for resettlement of the legacy food credit accounts, he expressed hope that it would happen this fiscal itself. Sources in the Finance Department told The Tribune that they were examining the original proposal agreed to by the Centre, wherein it was decided that the burden of Rs 31,000 crore would be shared equally between the Food Corporation of India, the Central and state governments. This proposal was, however, later struck down by some Central departments, and Punjab was asked to bear the entire burden. “It’s an unfair proposition. A dispute resolution mechanism has to be put in place,” said Manpreet.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha farmers body approaches govt for recognition as SLA

After a good season last year, Farmer Producer Companies (FPC) in Maharashtra are struggling to get a foothold in the procurement of tur (arhar) this season. The Maharashtra Federation of Farmer Produce Companies, or MahaFPC, a federation of farmer companies in the state that procured some 33,270 tonne of the crop for the Centre last season through the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium ( SFAC) has approached the Centre to get recognised as a State Level Agency (SLA). As the tur procurement season is commencing, a delegation of FPCs visited New Delhi and had a meeting with top officials from ministry of agriculture and NAFED, officials of MahaFPC said. SK Pattanayak, secretary, agriculture assured the delegation that Centre has already informed states to engage FPCs actively in procurement activities, Yogesh Thorat, MD, MahaFPC said, adding that the department of agriculture and cooperation (DAC) is expected to issue fresh guidelines in this context. Thorat said that the federation has set a target of procuring some 50,000 tonne tur this season and has a network in 22-23 districts. Last year, tur was procured from 19 districts, involving around 26,000 farmers. “NAFED is already supporting FPCs to integrate in system approach not only for Price Support Scheme (PSS) but also selling of fruits and vegetables. Despite having excellent performance in PSF, tur procurement by MahaFPC and their member organisations in 2016-17, state government has been conservative in announcing MahaFPC as a state level agency (SLA) for procurement and to give access to MSP market to farmers startups,” he said. In PSF procurement, FPCs in Maharashtra were linked to SFAC which is an autonomous institution of DAC and working as a nodal agency for PSF/ PSF Procurement, he added. Due to organisational issues SFAC requested NAFED to integrate FPCs in their procurement channel so that FPCs member farmers will be benefited, Thorat explained.

Business Line, Mumbai
Maharashtra to formulate policy for pesticide sales due to farmer deaths

In view of multiple deaths of farmers in Maharashtra due to suspected pesticide poisoning, the State government is in the process of formulating a new policy for pesticide sales. It wants to stop the sale of non-standard and non-recommended pesticides in the State. Since October 2017, suspected poisoning caused 21 deaths in the cotton growing district of Yavatmal in the State, causing a huge hue and cry across the country. The farmers had resorted to heavy pesticide spraying due to the persistent attack of pink bollworms on cotton crop. Agriculture Secretary of Maharashtra of Bijay Kumar told that the State government wants to have a traceability of all pesticides sold to farmers in the State, therefore the new policy is being formulated. The attempt is to ensure that only pesticides registered with Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) and with Maharashtra government are sold in the State, he said. He pointed that many a time pesticides are produced by one company but the marketing is undertaken by another. This arrangement in the trade parlance is called co-marketing. However, a number of violations have been found in co-marketing ventures, therefore the rules for such sale would be further tightened. The pesticides sold under co-marketing route need to be property labelled with the name of the manufacturer and the marketing company properly displayed. Kumar said that in co-marketing venture both parties will be responsible for the product. The new policy will be in place before the beginning of Kharif season (June). It will attempt to bring lesser toxic and more economical pesticides to the farmer, he said. The data put out by the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage, Agriculture Ministry says that in 2016-2017 (provisional) 57,000 tonnes of chemical pesticides were consumed in the country out of which 13,496 tonnes were used by farmers in Maharashtra.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Move to boost economic status of State tea garden workers

In order to boost the economic status of the tea garden workers in State, the Government of Assam has started a unique policy christened ‘Chah Bagicha Dhan Purashkar Mela’ in the tea estate areas of the State. As part of the Union government’s policy of demonetisation, this initiative was undertaken in two tea estates of Dimoria to create awareness among the tea garden labourers and to help them get direct benefit under the banking system. An awareness programme to this effect was held at Sonapur Tricem Hall this afternoon, which was attended by Dispur LAC MLA Atul Bora, DDC Barnali Sarma, Sonapur Circle Officer Dhrubajyoti Hazarika, Bank Officer Asish Ganguly and Labour Officer Gaurav Sharma. The first instalment of Rs 2,500 out of the total Rs 5,000 each was announced to be credited to the bank accounts of the tea garden labourers by January 12 as per the promises made by the State government recently.

The Tribune, Faridkot
Rs 60-lakh seed scam at PAU Faridkot farm

An alleged embezzlement of around 1.2 lakh kg of certified wheat seed worth over Rs 60 lakh at a seed farm of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Faridkot has landed seven officials in trouble. After an investigation by the Vigilance Bureau, the seven employees of the seed farm, including senior seed specialist Joginder Singh Brar, have been issued charge sheet. Brar has also been shifted to the PAU, Ludhiana. Though Brar has resigned, the PAU declined to accept his resignation due to the pending inquiry. The seed farm is spread over 1,210 acres at Bir Sikhanwala village in the district. Over two months of Vigilance probe found that the farm authorities had submitted wrong figures of the total production of wheat seed to the PAU. Against the production of about 16.7 lakh kg of seed, the authorities had reported 15.5 lakh kg. Jagjit Singh, SSP, Vigilance, said the preliminary investigation had confirmed the misappropriation. “We have submitted the report to the department and are waiting for the further directions. As the PAU has also been apprised of the wrongdoing, the university has also started its independent investigation,” he said. Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon, Vice-Chancellor, PAU, said: “A detailed probe has been started and all found guilty so far have been shifted and served notices. Three of them have been suspended.” Following his retirement as director of the seed farm, Brar was re-employed by the PAU as senior seed specialist. However, the control of this seed farm remained with him in the absence of any director. He has claimed innocence and blamed labourers and field coordinators for the fraud.

The New Indian Express, Kochi
Spices Board urges farmers to get GI labels for projects

Spices Board chairman A Jayathilak has urged farmers and exporters to obtain geographical indication (GI) labels for their quality spices. He said that geographical indication is one of the tools to promote products in the global market. Speaking at Spices Board’s Buyer-Seller Meet (BSM) conducted on the sidelines of the five-day Global Kokan Festival 2018 at CIDCO Exhibition and Convention Centre, Vashi, Navi Mumbai, Jayathilak urged exporters to export commodities specifying the GI. “The only commodity in which India has 50 per cent of the world trade is spices,” he was quoted as saying. Maharashtra has got 14 GIs registered while the Konkan region’s Konkan Sugandha nutmeg and Konkan Tej cinnamon hold the potential for GI registration. An estimated potential business transaction of 600 tonnes of spices valued at Rs 7 crore was carried out at the BSM. Around 50 exporters and 160 farmers took part in the meet and the first transaction between the farmers and the exporters was held in the presence of Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu during the inauguration of the conference.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Sustainable crop management in sand-deposited areas

A study on the sand and silt-deposited areas of Lakhimpur and Dhemaji districts conducted by the Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), North Lakhimpur, under Assam Agricultural University (AAU) has suggested sustainable crop management for improvement of agro-ecosystems dominated by sandy soils. The study also observed that until and unless a systematic watershed management was implemented on the Arunachal hills to prevent erosion, no crop and soil management strategies would be permanently successful in the sand-deposited areas of the Assam plains. Vast tracks of cropland in the two districts have turned barren following large-scale accumulation of sand from the floodwaters of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, including Subansiri, Dikrong, Singora, Ranganadi, Simen, Nonoi, Ghagor, Boginadi, Jiadhol, Moridhol, Eradhol, Samarajan, etc. The sand- and silt-affected area (including riverine sand area) bases on visual interpretation and satellite imagery during January-February 2014 for Dhemaji is 145.76 sq km, and 118.45 sq km for Lakhimpur during the same period. Crop survey and screening revealed successful growing of a few crops like rice (varieties like Bali Sali and Kekowa Bao), millets, blackgram, garlic, French bean, linseed, sugarcane, sweet potato, chilli, colocasia, yam, tapioca, brinjal, bamboo, jackfruit, gooseberry, sisum, arhar, Assam lemon, pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage, knolkhol, potato, tomato, apple ber, broom grass and aromatic plants like vetiver, citronella, etc. “Depth of deposition varied from a few centimetres to 3-4 metres. Therefore, cropping strategies are to be different for areas having different depth depositions. The approach will also vary depending on the type of deposition and soil fertility. A site specific nutrient management is better in such situations than blanket recommendations of fertilizers,” Dr Prabal Saikia, Chief Scientist, RARS told. Study recommended scrapping of the top layer (when the depth of deposition is too high) for non-agricultural purposes like highway construction, etc. Crops like watermelon, dwarf bananas, etc., may be grown in deep pits after application of sufficient organic matter.

Business Line, New Delhi
Wheat holding up to fog, ground frost; caution on pest attack

After a brief respite, the dense fog, severe cold wave and ground frost conditions are expected to return to North and North-West India over the next four-five days. While the weather conditions had raised concerns over the standing wheat crop, the cereal may hold its own against the onslaught of a persisting fog and ground frost. The prevailing foggy and frost conditions in parts of North India are unlikely to have any impact on the upcoming rabi wheat crop, according to agricultural scientists. “The current weather condition is seen to be conducive for the wheat crop, which is still in vegetative stages. Had the crop reached the flowering stage, this weather could have had some impact,” said Gyanendra Pratap Singh, Director of the Karnal-based Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research (IIWBR). Singh said the country is headed for a bumper wheat harvest this year and the crop size could exceed 100 million tonnes, mainly on favourable weather conditions. “Wheat sowing is in final stages and we expect the acreage to be stagnant around 30.2-30.3 million ha,” Singh added. Agriculture Secretary SK Pattayanak has already stated that the wheat crop would be at an all time high of 100 million tonnes on higher yields and acreage. Simultaneously, the IIWBR has issued an advisory about a possible outbreak of fungal disease blast. “So far, there has been no incidence of any disease or pests on the current wheat crop. However, as a precautionary measure, we want growers to be vigilant,” Singh said. Wheat blast, which is capable of causing yield losses of 40-100 per cent, had surfaced in neighbouring Bangladesh in 2016. As Bangladesh shares a long border with India and the climate in about 11 million hectares of West Bengal and other states, IIWBR wants the growers to be vigilant against any possible outbreak..

10, Jan 2018
Business Line, Kochi
Coconut oil prices surge on drop in copra output

Supply constraints and lower production have pushed up coconut oil and copra prices to a new high in recent months. Coconut oil prices are now ruling at Rs 196/kg in Kerala while it touched Rs 192 in Tamil Nadu. Copra prices are hovering at Rs 144/kg in the Kerala market and Rs 140 in Tamil Nadu. According to Thalath Mahmood, Director, Cochin Oil Merchants Association (COMA), there has been a 40 per cent drop in copra production due to failed monsoon last year in several growing areas of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The ongoing Sabarimala pilgrim season also led to a rise in demand for raw coconuts, which resulted in the non-conversion of copra. However, he added that the high prices have paved the way for the entry of adulterated coconut oil in the domestic market, and the association has approached the Kerala High Court seeking directives to take urgent steps in this regard. Officials at the Coconut Development Board pointed out that the copra-making process has lost its sheen and has now turned out to be a losing proposition. Copra-making has come to a standstill in Kerala and in Tamil Nadu – there is acute shortage of milling copra, which in turn has pushed up the price of coconut oil. Due to large-scale diversification of fresh coconuts to non-traditional products, the system of determining the price of coconut based on the price of coconut oil or copra, which is prevalent across growing areas, is gradually waning, the officials added. Bharat Khona, former Board member of COMA, said that adulterated coconut oils, mixed with palm kernel and other refined oils, have taken the market in a big way. Corporates and upcountry buyers are reluctant to enter the market at these price levels.

Business Line, New Delhi
Israeli firm develops tiniest cherry tomato

They say bigger is better, but in the succulent world of cherry tomatoes, one Israeli company is going smaller than ever before. The ‘drop tomato’ is about the size of a blueberry and the Kedma company in the country’s southern Arava desert says it is the smallest one ever cultivated in Israel, perhaps even in the world. It’s a point of pride in a country known for its agricultural innovation, where fruits and vegetables are taken seriously and where several strands of the cherry tomato were first invented. “The idea is that it is comfortable,” said Ariel Kidron, a Kedma grower. “You can throw it in a salad, you don’t need to cut it. It just explodes in your mouth.” The seed, originally developed in Holland, was modified to match the arid growing conditions in southern Israel. Rami Golan, of the Central and Northern Arava Research and Development center, who accompanied the project, said it was definitely the smallest ever to be grown in Israel where tomatoes are incredibly popular. The tiny tomato, smaller than a one shekel Israeli coin, is offered in red and yellow varieties, and will be presented to the public at a three-day international agricultural fair in Israel later this month. Early indications are that it could be a big hit.

Business Line, Hyderabad
I-T Dept scrutinises farm income claims by seed firms

Top seed firms such as Nuziveedu Seeds and Kaveri Seeds were in for a serious scrutiny by the Income Tax Department last week, with sleuths looking into claims made by them with regard to agricultural income that run into several hundred crores. While confirming the IT raids, a source in the seed industry said the raids lasted for four days. “It is not the first time that the IT Department looked into such claims. But the depth of the investigation this time is unprecedented as they went down to a few layers in the supply chain,” he said. Almost all seed firms depend on farmers to produce the seed well ahead of the crop season. They enter into formal and informal agreements with farmers through ‘organisers’. Some farmers act as organisers themselves, take the indent from the companies and rope in their peers to get the crops grown exclusively for seed production. “They give us seed and other inputs and buyback the seed. They take the seed consignments to their plants for processing and packaging,” a farmer said. In a good number of cases these agreements are informal, leaving no defence in times of poor production. Some seed firms are reportedly using this practice for their benefit as there is no tax on agricultural income.

Business Line, Mangaluru
Minister calls for curbs on arecanut acreage

Expansion of arecanut crop – both in traditional and non-traditional areas in the country – needs to be prohibited strictly, according to DV Sadananda Gowda, Union Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation. Inaugurating the kisan conference at the Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) at Kasaragod district in Kerala, Gowda said the area under arecanut in India, which stood at 94,800 hectares during 1956-57, increased to 4.72 lakh hectares in 2015-2016. The production of the commodity increased from 74,700 tonnes in 1956-57 to 7.36 lakh tonnes in 2015-16. With limited scope for exports, there has been an increase in the import of areca nut in recent years. He said that improving the domestic markets for arecanut is a key issue of debate. The supply chain of the commodity is a complex one where more than 75 per cent of the domestic arecanut trade is in the hands of private traders. In such a situation, there is a need to streamline the marketing systems by making it much more organised, the Minister said.

Business Line, Mumbai
Nabard Plan 2023: Double balance sheet to Rs 7 lakh cr

With Nabard’s resources set to get augmented substantially following Parliament’s nod to a six-fold increase in its authorised share capital to Rs 30,000 crore, the development financial institution (DFI) is eyeing a balance sheet size of Rs 7 lakh crore by 2023 against Rs 3.90 lakh crore now. The rural India focussed DFI plans to achieve this balance sheet size by stepping up focus on providing support to irrigation projects, dairy farming, improving market infrastructure in rural areas (so that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce), enhancing credit flow to deprived areas such as central and eastern States, and support to rural housing. Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, Nabard, said the increase in authorised capital will help the paid-up capital to go up to Rs 9,600 crore from Rs 4,700 crore. This will be on account of the transfer of share capital deposit (amounting to Rs 4,900 crore with Nabard) to paid-up capital. “The increased capital will enable Nabard to leverage higher borrowings. Among ‘AAA’ rated companies, we are the cheapest borrower,” said Bhanwala. With the institution adding about Rs 750 crore every quarter to its reserves, coupled with the balance Rs 600-crore capital infusion expected from the government, Nabard’s net owned funds position will strengthen to Rs 37,300 crore by March-end 2018 from Rs 35,800 crore now. Bhanwala said loan approvals to existing co-operative dairies from the Rs 8,000-crore Dairy Processing & Infrastructure Development Fund will happen from March 2018. The Nabard chief emphasised that creation of market infrastructure, including warehouses, electronic weigh bridges, assaying laboratories, and roads in rural markets, is important for agriculturists. He assessed that each Agriculture Produce Market Committee and primary market may require an investment of about Rs 5 crore each to achieve this objective.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Onion prices to cool down in two weeks

Consumers are likely to get respite from high onion prices in the next two weeks following increased supply of new season crop from major producing centres in Maharashtra and Gujarat, India's two large onion producing states. Farmers in Maharashtra's four major onion producing districts – Nashik, Ahmednagar, Pune, and Solapur – have started harvesting the bulb in small quantity, which is set to intensify in two weeks from now. Thus, the supply is likely to get a boost in the coming weeks. So far, onion supply remained lacklustre due to lower availability of the last season crop in cold storage. The delay in sowing has proportionately delayed harvesting of the crop for the current season. Onion consumers have been at the receiving end of high prices for the past several months. Despite several efforts made by the government, onion prices remained elevated on expectations of reduced availability of the bulb for the season 2017-18. "Farmers are looking to increase harvesting of the matured crop in a week to 10 days. Thus, a large quantity of onion supply is set to begin in two weeks. Since the onion harvested in January contains high moisture and, hence, is sold immediately after harvesting, farmers would have no choice but to sell. Consequently, onion prices are set to fall in two weeks from now," said Ajit Shah, the president of the Horticulture Exporters' Association.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Scientists shine light on tobacco ‘night thief’

For decades, the tobacco cutworm, or the ‘night thief’ as it is known in Japan, had wreaked havoc on more than 100 crops, emerging as a major pest across Asia. Now, a consortium of Indian-Chinese-Japanese scientists, has unravelled the mystery behind the pests’ destructive nature by using molecular biology techniques. They have sequenced its genome, peeped into its basic mechanism of action, and are confident to tame it. The tobacco cutworm, or Spodoptera litura, causes heavy crop-yield loss, ranging between 10 to 30 per cent. It is widely found throughout tropical and sub-tropical areas of Asia, especially in India, China and Japan. The main crops that come under the pests’ attack include castor, cotton, groundnut, amaranthus, chillies, sunflower, pulses and cole-crops. The pest multiplies rapidly in tropical conditions. It’s short life cycle and high rate of population increase and outbreak make it a lethal enemy for a wide range of crops. It is nicknamed ‘night thief’ because it feeds during the night and disappears into the soil by day, according to Arun Kumar of Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics. To top it all, the pest has developed resistance to every class of pesticide used against it, including the biopesticide Bt, foxing scientists and farmers who are trying to fight it effectively. Nearly 40 Asian researchers, mostly drawn from the silkworm community, launched the Spodoptera litura genome project as an international collaboration, in cooperation with the Fall Army Worm International Public Consortium (FAW-IPC) about four years ago. They were looking at comparing the genetic make-up, differences and similarities between silkworm and tobacco cutworm, which are from the same generic species. According to Arun Kumar, Rajendra Chilukuri and Archana Tomar, scientists of CDFD, who are part of the project, the findings will lead to development of new pest management strategies to control major agricultural pests such as Spodoptera litura.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Shortage of jute sacks hits procurement of groundnut in Gujarat

Climatic adversities that hampered the transportation of groundnut from the eastern part of the country to the western region has temporarily disrupted procurement in Gujarat. Farmers maintained that the non-availability of woven jute sacks brought procurement activity to a temporary halt at several centers in Saurashtra. Adding to the woes of was the shortage of storage space. According to farmer leaders, due to the heavy arrivals of groundnut, there is a requirement for large storage spaces. “Some centers in the districts of Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh and Porbandar have stopped procurement activity due to the non-availability of woven jute sacks for over a week. Huge groundnut arrivals continued at the markets, but the procurement is temporarily suspended. Adding to the woes is the non-availability of the storage space in the warehouses,” said Maganbhai Jhalavadiya from Padadhari Taluka Cooperative Union in Rajkot district. However, the agencies responsible for groundnut procurement in the State, maintained that the delay in procurement is only a temporary phenomenon, which will be sorted out once the transportation issue is resolved. “The jute sacks come from Kolkata via road route. The trucks that usually take about a week to reach Gujarat are taking longer due to dense fog in the eastern parts. The disruption in transportation has caused some temporary delay in procurement at few centers,” an official at one of the four procurement agencies told. The State government has assigned four agencies, including Gujarat State Co-Operative Cotton Federation Limited (GujCot), which has a 60 per cent share in the overall procurement in the State, followed by Gujarat State Cooperative Marketing Federation Ltd (Gujcomasol), Banas Dairy, Sabar Dairy and Gujpro Agribusiness Consortium Producer Company Limited (GujPro).

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Sowing the seeds of nature’s love

In keeping with this year's theme 'Environmental Disaster and Climate Change', a stall at the Chitra Santhe 2018 encouraged children to get back in touch with nature through an interesting concept. 'Creative Seeds Agent Earth' by Gift My Gift innovations attracted the attention of crowds with their seed balls, shaped like the vegetable they would produce. The protective layer of clay in which the tomato seeds are embedded is shaped like little tomatoes. Chandrashekar G M, who developed the product along with his team, said that through these seed balls, they want to create awareness among the younger generation about where their food comes from. "Children in urban areas are losing their connection with nature. At this rate, soon they won’t know where milk or vegetables come from because they get everything from shops," he said. With these seeds, they will know what vegetable to expect and they will nurture the plant and wait to see the real vegetables grow, he said. Each ball costs Rs 50 and has enough seeds to sprout two or three plants. Chandrashekar says he has used traditional knowledge of preserving seeds from villages where instead of coating them with chemicals, seeds were enclosed in clay balls. Researching and developing the seed balls took the team about ten months. They have applied for a patent for their technology developed to create these creative seeds. As of now, they have seed balls for six vegetables-tomato, brinjal, long brinjal, okra, carrot and green chilli. "We have set up stalls at a few events now. At Makkala Habba we had a stall and many children were attracted to it. We want to encourage people to give these as gifts to their children, return gifts, and even as corporate gifts," he said.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Sugar import duty may go up

The government might lift the import duty on sugar from the current 50 per cent to check any cheaper shipments from Pakistan. However, no final decision has been taken yet, industry sources and officials said. Pakistan is planning to give a subsidy on sugar exports that could make it cheaper for Indian markets, necessitating an increase in imports. The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) in a statement released said that the Centre has assured them that it would consider hiking import duty on sugar. “If Pakistan imports do become viable, or if any contracts start taking place for importing sugar into India from Pakistan, especially if the state of Sindh notifies any subsidy, the Government of India is willing to increase the import duty adequately to check any such imports,” ISMA said in a statement. Along with this, other issues related to the sector were discussed last week in a meeting with the food ministry officials. Officials from the ISMA and the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) were also in the meeting. On sugar exports from India, the ISMA said it was discussed that there would be “no scope for any exports” because the closing stock would be tight at 4 million tonnes (mt) at the end of the ongoing (October-September) 2017-18 season. “Therefore the reduction in the export duty may not make much sense now,” it said. The ISMA has pegged sugar output of India, the world’s second largest producer, at 25.1 mt in 2017-18 against 20.3 mt in the previous year.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
'Wheat output may touch all time high of 100MT this year'

The country's wheat production is expected to touch an all-time of over 100 million tonnes in the current 2017-18 crop year (July-June) due to likely increase in acreage and yields, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said. In the 2016-17 crop year, wheat production had reached a record 98.36 million tonnes. The previous high was 95.85 million tonnes in 2013-14. The government has kept a target of 97.50 million tonnes wheat output for the current year. Sowing of wheat, the main rabi (winter) crop, begins from October and harvesting from March. "Rabi sowing is progressing well. We are hoping wheat production to touch over 100 million tonnes this year," Pattanayak said. Wheat acreage is lower so far, but the area will be covered up. Sowing got delayed as fields were not free for planting of the wheat crop, he said. The Secretary said the wheat acreage is lower largely in Uttar Pradesh. However, the sowing window is till January-end, so it will be covered. "The UP government has said the wheat acreage will be covered because weather is conducive and has enthused planting," he added. As per the agriculture ministry's data, area sown to wheat remained lower by 4.77 per cent at 283.46 lakh hectare till last week of the rabi season compared to 297.67 lakh hectare in the year-ago period. Besides UP, less coverage of wheat was reported in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and West Bengal till last week of the season, the data showed. Wheat is sown in an average area of 301.74 (rpt) 301.74 lakh hectare.

9, Jan 2018
The Times of India, New Delhi
‘Agri growth likely to be higher than estimates’

Two days after the Central Statistics Office (CSO) pegged the country’s agriculture growth rate in 2017-18 at 2.1% compared to 4.9% in the previous year, the agriculture ministry said the actual growth would be higher when the final figures are released incorporating performance of the Rabi sowing season. Since the estimated 2.1% growth rate projection carries field inputs till August 2017, the ministry believes that the rate would be revised upwards once it considers the actual field situation till the end of Rabi sowing operation (first week of February). It is of the opinion that the lower coverage of area by August, 2017 on account of delayed onset of monsoon caused a poor reflection in the CSO’s first estimate for the sector. “We are optimistic of achieving a high growth year for 2017-18. We had good Kharif production in 2017. Besides, the Rabi sowing has been very encouraging and is progressing well. Once these factors are taken into account, the growth rate figure would hopefully be higher (than the estimated 2.1%),” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh told. Noting that the estimated production of livestock and fishery was very positive even by August and the crop had bounced back by December, the ministry said, “If this amended and actual field situation are taken into account in computation of the Gross Value Added for agriculture sector as a whole, its growth rate can be estimated to be much higher than the Advance Estimate of 2.1%.”

Mint, Bengaluru
Ragi to return to Karnataka’s public distribution system

After a gap of nearly three years, the Karnataka government will re-introduce ragi, or finger millet, in its Public Distribution System (PDS) this year, as part of an effort to promote the production and consumption of the grain. The stated aim is to bridge the nutritional gap, mitigate the impact of failing rains, promote sustainable agriculture and stabilise farmers’ incomes. Considered a drought-resistant crop, ragi is being promoted as a long-term solution to Karnataka’s perennial water distress. With failing rains and waters from two important rivers—Cauvery and Mahadayi—entangled in disputes with other states, the Karnataka government is hoping that farmers will take up alternatives to water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane. Ragi will be distributed as part of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s flagship programme, Anna Bhagya (free rice), and will be available to beneficiaries in south Karnataka, where the millet is consumed widely. The state government initiated the procurement of ragi about a week ago and the exercise will continue for another month. “When we close the procurement, it takes about a month for government of India to give us permission; only then, after March, we can actually put it in PDS,” Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka’s minister for agriculture said. Under the popular Anna Bhagya scheme, every beneficiary is given seven kilos of foodgrains a month. In July last year, the state government decided to add tur (lentils which have high protein content) to the scheme, The Times of India reported. Ragi, with higher nutritional value than Rice, is also being promoted with a public health message. The government is also looking to introduce jowar into PDS for the northern part of the state. Gowda said ragi would be procured at Rs2,300 per quintal as against the market price of around Rs1,600. This includes a bonus of Rs400 from last year to encourage farmers to start growing the crop.

Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Poll-bound Madhya Pradesh considers farm-loan interest waiver

The Madhya Pradesh (MP) government is likely to announce a waiver of farm-loan interests in the state, a step aimed at curbing rural angst in the run-up to assembly elections scheduled in November. Five states, three of them BJP-ruled, have announced farm-loan waivers so far, as distress in the countryside emerges as a key political challenge. “A proposal to write off interests is under consideration to give relief to farmers. A decision has not been taken yet but it is likely to come up before the Cabinet soon,” Gauri Shankar Chaturbhuj Bisen, the agriculture minister of MP told. A burst of discontent in the heartland farming state, like that of neighbouring Maharashtra, laid siege to the three-time Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government last year. Five farmers died in police firing during a violent uprising on June 6, 2017, in the central city of Mandsaur, leading to an escalation. The farmers had blocked roads and dumped their produce and milk on the roads, demanding a loan waiver and profitable prices. The state government, wary of a political fallout, quickly announced a flagship price-deficit scheme in October 2017 to pay the difference between the prices farmers get and the average modal prices of commodities. “Our chief minister, when he went on that fast following the Mandsaur incident, indicated then that he would come out with a policy on this. The final shape of this is not ready yet. It’s in the pipeline...” Bisen said. He said the main idea was to convert outstanding farm loans into zero-interest loans, so that defaulting farmers became eligible for fresh credit again. “This will be a big relief.” Giving an example, the minister said, if the total outstanding loan amounts were between Rs 6,000-6,500 crore, and if the outstanding interests were roughly Rs 2,000 crore, then the government “could consider that this interest is waived off”.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
Indian Seed Congress in Colombo next month

Agriculture Production Commissioner C. Parthasarathi has been invited to deliver the keynote address at the inaugural session of the 8th Indian Seed Congress (ISC) to be held in Colombo on February 5 and 6. Union Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh would be the chief guest at the event. In a letter to the APC, Director-General of the National Seed Association of India Kalyan B. Goswami invited him to deliver the keynote address on the strides taken by Indian seed industry. It is being seen as recognition to the State Agriculture Department, which has taken the lead in organising public sector seed entities in the country and taking up OECD certification role and ensuring export of seed to several OECD countries for the first time last year. The Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Authority is also playing host to the International Seed Testing Association Congress next year. The ISC is being held outside the country for the first time.

India Today, Raipur
Govt responsible for agri distress in country

Two days after the Central Statistics Office (CSO) pegged the country’s agriculture growth rate in 2017-18 at 2.1% compared to 4.9% in the previous year, the agriculture ministry said the actual growth would be higher when the A farmers and agriculture workers convention here blamed the governments policies for "agrarian distress" in the country. Addressing the Kisaan Sankalp Sammelan at Gandhi Maidan in the Chhattisgarh capital, farmer leaders said cultivators are distressed all over the country due to poor agriculture policies and sought to fulfill promises by the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh. In his address, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Hannan Mollah said farmers were abandoning agriculture and committing suicide due to government policies. "Instead of ensuring relief to farmers, the government is rubbing salt on their wounds. Now farmers across the country are uniting and raising demands of a loan waiver and seeking full return against their produce," he said. Mollah said that assimilation of Chhattisgarh farmers in the national movement will create a "new wave". Speaking on the occasion, noted agriculture economist Devinder Sharma said that farmers income was still very low in the country, despite whopping growth in income in other sectors since 1971. "Failing to recover the cultivation cost, distressed farmer are committing suicides," he said. Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav said farm-based companies related to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides have raked in huge profit in the country whereas farmers are in crisis. "From the past 70 years, the government has kept the prices of crops low. It clearly indicates that not only the government?s policy but their intention is also wrong," he said. Yadav observed that it was for the first time when farmers movements in various states are amalgamating into a nationwide movement. "Now farmers want remedy for their problems and are coming together to raise their voices," he said. Leaders representing various farmers and labourers associations also addressed the convention. Farmer leaders also chalked out a strategy for the agitation in support of their various demands in near future in Chhattisgarh.

The Times of India, Aurangabad
Maha Agro kindles entrepreneurial dream among farmers

State-level agriculture fair, Maha Agro 2018, saw a glittering conclusion after an impressive response from farmers in the region. According to the organisers, an estimated 30,000 people visited the three-day event. The fair was inaugurated by Assembly speaker Haribhau Bagade in presence of dairy development and fisheries development minister Mahadev Jankar and other political and industrial bigwigs. The event was aimed at developing an entrepreneurial mindset among farmers. Various sessions were held to encourage and guide farmers to venture into agro-processing industry and less explored areas like bamboo plantation, animal husbandry and fishery business. The issues discussed in the sessions were supported by a dynamic exhibition participated by agro industry majors, small scale businesses, self-help groups and farmers. Various stalls were put up which provided information related to seeds, saplings, farm equipment, machinery, newer tech for tilling, sowing, watering and harvesting, fresh farm produce and various processed food. Retired chief secretary Sudhirkumar Goyal presented valedictory address. He said that information on various products, schemes and techniques will be crucial for the growth of agriculture in the region. "We should gain from the experiences and struggle of those who have become successful in various agro areas," said Goyal, adding that the producers from the region cannot continue to complain about the harsh geo-climatic condition and resort to water saving and cost efficient methods. Various sessions on different vital issues were held on the final day. Vilas Shinde from Nashiks Sahyadri Farms, Abhinav Farmers Club, Pune, founder Dnyaneshwar Bokhde, K Tripathi of National Horticulture Board, former agriculture commissioner Krushna Lavhekar and Shankarrao Nagare enlightened the farmers on various issues. Stalls representing different wings of the state government like fisheries, dairy, silk production, Maharashtra Seeds Corporation Limited, Mahrashtra Agro Industries, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and Beti Bachao Beti Padhao sensitised farmers about various government schemes, credit system, subsidies and marketing platforms.

The Times of India, Aurangabad
Marathwada to highlight land availability

Each region in Maharashtra will get a dedicated pavilion at the global investment summit, Magnetic Maharashtra, to be held in Mumbai from February 18 to 20. Soham Wayal, regional officer of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), said on Monday that these pavilions will be used by industry representatives to highlight their strengths. "As a region, our key strength is our land bank. Nowhere in the state can the investors get 10,000 acre land together and we are going to build up our exhibits around that," he said. The MIDC and the Chamber of Marathwada Industries and Agriculture (CMIA) are the nodal agencies for the Marathwada pavilion. All other industry bodies, including the Confederation of Indian Industries and the Marathwada Association of Small Scale Industries and Agriculture (Massia), will be working together for the event. "We are trying to get a 4,000sq.m. to 5,000sq.m. pavilion for Marathwada, where each exhibitor can get a 200sq.m. stall, said CMIA president Prasad Kokil. The event was announced by chief minister two days ago. It will see a round table meet of the Prime Minister and the chief minister with global investors. Industrialist Ashish Garde said that event will facilitate a level playing field for all regions. Massia president Sunil Kirdak said there will be attempt to showcase the entire ecosystem in specific sectors like automobile, pharma, food, and beverage available in Marathwada for investors. During the event, three best startups run by people under 30 years of age will be chosen for attractive cash prizes.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
India has no plan now to raise import tax on sugar

India has no immediate plan to raise import tax on sugar as the government does not see prospects of imports from Pakistan as of now, a senior government official said. Though the availability of sugar this year remains as tight as last year, India will have enough sugar to meet domestic demand without overseas purchases, the official, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said. The world's biggest consumer is likely to start the new marketing year on Oct. 1, 2018 with an opening stock of 4 million tonnes, almost unchanged from a year ago, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said in a statement.

8, Jan 2018
The New Indian Express, Coimbatore
350 mills to stop purchase of cotton waste from Tamil Nadu

Condemning the abnormally high price of cotton waste fixed by spinning mill owners, more than 350 open end mills and regular buyers from the State have decided to totally boycott purchasing it in Tamil Nadu. With tonnes of cotton waste expected to be dumped everyday, the threat to pollution also increased substantially. Open end (OE) mills manufacture yarn using cotton waste. There are more than 400 OE mills established in the State. Jeans, nighties, terry towels, bed spread, window screens, petticoats and various other products are manufactured using the yarn made in the OE mills. Each day, on an average 20 lakh kilos of yarn is manufactured in OE mills in Tamil Nadu. Annually, yarn valued at `7,000 crore is manufactured in the OE mill sector. Though all types of cotton waste is purchased from the spinning mills, comber noil cotton waste is the one in demand. Recently, the price of all types of cotton waste has been increased. Tamil Nadu Open End Mills Association president M Jayabal said, “Continuous price increase witnessed in the cotton waste is creating issues in the OE mills manufacturing. Today, one kilo comber noil cotton waste is priced at `92, which is very abnormal. The attitude of the spinning mill owners is the main reason for it. When cotton price is increased, it does not affect the weaving or dying, whereas if the cotton waste price is increased, it affects the entire textile value chain.” “Price hike of raw material paves way for the price increase in yarn and entire manufacturing investment also increases. Condemning, the price hike of cotton waste, more than 350 OE mills have decided to boycott the total consumption of the cotton waste from Tamil Nadu spinning mills. We have decided to purchase it from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana and Rajasthan,” he added.

The Assam Tribune, Jorhat
AAU bid for GI tag to Assam lemon, phulam gamosa, komal chaol

After successfully facilitating the fetching of Geographical Indication (GI) for the aromatic joha rice variety of Assam in April last year, the Assam Agricultural University (AAU) is now trying to acquire the same tag for kadji nemu (Assam lemon), phulam gamosa and komal chaol (soft rice). Geographical Indication is a mechanism employed to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods which possess certain special qualities or characteristics based on climatic or production conditions unique to a geographical location. In India, the GI is granted by the GI Registry Office based in Chennai, established under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection) Act, 1999 that came into force with effect from September 15, 2003. Muga silk, Assam (orthodox) tea, Karbi Anglong ginger and Tezpur litchi are the other products from Assam that have acquired the GI tag. Director of Agri Research, AAU, Dr GN Hazarika told that university has undertaken an initiative to offer its expertise to organisations seeking GI for indigenous products of State to protect the identity and originality of these products to tackle the threat of other organisations from outside Assam laying claim of ownership over the products by applying for GI. “We think it is our responsibility to offer assistance to organisations seeking GI for indigenous products,” Hazarika said, adding that success for the AAU came in April year after joha rice (40 varieties) got the GI tag. Seuj Satirtha, a farmers’ organisation registered at Demow in Sivasagar district, received the GI. The AAU director said the university had assisted the organisation in preparing a comprehensive report to claim GI in 2013 in terms of history and scientific data. Scientists from the university accompanied farmers’ team to deliver a power-point presentation to experts deputed by GI office. Name of AAU is mentioned in the certificate awarded to Seuj Satirtha, granting the GI tag.

The Sunday Guardian, New Delhi
‘Make in UP’ initiative will attract investors, create jobs in state

Condemning the abnormally high price of cotton waste fixed by spinning mill owners, more than 350 open end mills and regular buyers from the State have decided to totally boycott purchasing it in Tamil Nadu. With tonnes of Uttar Pradesh government has asked officials to focus more on ways to make its “Make in UP” initiative—on the lines of the Centre’s “Make in India” programme—a success in order to attract investors and create jobs in the state. Soon after his swearing-in as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath had made it clear that his priority will be to improve the law and order situation and outline a new industrial policy to attract more investments with a view to generating jobs in the state. According to sources, recently, the five-member Group of Ministers (GoM) led by Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma—formed in early last year to come up with an outline for a new industrial policy for UP—has submitted its final report. A source close to the GoM said: “After an extensive study of the existing industrial plans implemented by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Central government and different state governments like Gujarat, Haryana and Maharashtra etc, five-member GoM has submitted its final report in September 2017; since then, bureaucrats in the state are working hard to make them part of the state’s new industrial policy.” Following recommendations of the GoM, the UP government formulated schemes for the success of the “Make in UP” initiative on the lines of the Centre’s “Make in India” programme. Suresh Rana, Minister (Independent Charge) for Sugarcane Development, Sugar Mills and Industrial Development, said: “Besides the ‘Make in UP’ programme, the state government has adopted a series of policies to attract investments in the state, including the civil aviation promotion policy, food processing policy, information technology and start-up policies. For promotion of the manufacturing sector in the state, government has declared Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway regions a manufacturing zone and government is preparing an atmosphere favourable to attract more and more investments.”

Millennium post, New Delhi
Agri Minister asks farmers to adopt technologies to increase income

Concerned over doubling the income of farmers, the government is giving a push to alternative methods of farm practices in the country. "On the front of foodgrains production, our farmers have done a commendable job, now we have to focus on increasing their income from farming," said Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh. "Now farmers have to look beyond conventional patterns of farming by adopting technologies like crop rotation, integrated farming, organic farming, double/triple cropping system to increase their income," the minister said while addressing a gathering at the North-East Regional Agriculture Fair 2018, which was organised by ICAR Research Complex for North Eastern Hill (NEH) Region, Umiam, Meghalaya. "The government has initiated different flagship programmes for the welfare of people living in rural areas, especially farming communities by improving the current farming systems and thereby doubling their income from agriculture and allied sectors," Singh said. Highlighting the impact of adoption of new technologies, Singh said, "The productivity and farmers' income can be increased through the adoption of improved technologies. The superior quality horticultural crops such as orange, pineapple, flowers, etc. can be produced in the region, while the surplus produce can be marketed with the effective supply chain management." Slamming Meghalaya government, the minister said, "The utility certificate of Rs 1.59 crore allocated in FY 2016-17 has not yet been sent to the Centre. The funds allocated by the Modi government in the last four years under oilseeds and oil palm mission wasn't utilised between 2014-15 and 2015-16. In FY 2016-17, only Rs 57 lakh has been spent."

Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Demanding higher rates, farmers dump potatoes outside Yogi’s house

The roads leading to the Uttar Pradesh assembly and the chief minister’s home in Lucknow were littered with rotten potatoes as farmers dumped quintals of the tuber for failing to get adequate price for their produce. The Yogi Adityanath government had fixed Rs 487 a quintal as the minimum support price for potato but farmers are demanding Rs 10 a kg, which amounts to Rs 1,000 a quintal. CM Yogi Adityanath promised to look into their grievances, saying a group of ministers could be formed to resolve farm problems. He accused his predecessors — the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party — of ignoring farm issues and said farmers’ welfare was his government’s priority. Don’t fall into a trap laid by unscrupulous politicians, he advised a crowd of farmers in Meerut district. Reacting to the protest, Samajwadi Party national secretary Rajendra Chaudhary said potato farmers in the state “are not even getting Rs 2 a kg and are forced to dump the produce on roads”. Unidentified farmers sneaked into the high-security area on Vidhan Sabha Marg and Kalidas Marg to unload hundreds of kilos of potatoes. The two stretches looked extremely dirty after the potatoes got squished under the wheels of vehicles.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Farm ministry for inclusion of milk in price stabilisation fund

To stem the sharp decline in milk prices, the agriculture ministry has sought inclusion of the milk under the Price Stabilisation Fund scheme of the department of consumer affairs. This, officials said, would enable state governments and milk unions to purchase bulk quantities of fresh milk from farmers and convert it into skimmed milk powder (SMP) and ghee for future use. However, almost 99 per cent of the Rs 35 billion allocated as the central share in the fund has been exhausted till December, much of which has gone into buying pulses from farmers. Officials said once milk was included in the Price Stabilisation Fund, it would also enable states to distribute milk through the public distribution system. The Centre contributes half of the Price Stabilisation Fund, while states chip in with the rest. The agriculture ministry in mid-December had issued an advisory to states and central ministries and departments to include milk in the mid-day meal, public distribution system and other welfare programmes, including distribution through Anganwadis. The recent measures to create additional domestic demand for milk has come against the backdrop of a sharp fall in milk procurement prices mainly due to weak global markets and excess supplies during the flush season. The flush season for milk runs from November to March, when supplies are usually on the higher side. Though prices tend to move downwards during this period, this year’s decline has been particularly pronounced as procurement rates have dropped to their lowest levels. A weak global market for milk since 2015 has also contributed to the fall. Skimmed milk powder, which quoted at $5,000 per tonne in 2015 in global markets, is now below $2,000 per tonne.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Farm sector does not augur well for govt

The Central Statistics Office’s projection of a 2.1% growth in agriculture sector in 2017-18 may not augur well for government’s commitment to double farmers’ income by 2022. Considering that the fallout of the GST implementation has had a minimal impact on this sector, experts are of the view that the government needs to put utmost attention on farm sector growth in the Budget for 2018-19 to be presented on February 1. Agriculture contributes only about 14% to India’s economy, yet nearly half of the country’s population is dependent on it. A crisis was brewing in this sector and an indication came as early as in December when the government came out with the July-September quarter GDP growth data. Agriculture had grown on 1.7% in that period. This was mainly because the sector saw a major setback in ‘kharif’ production preceding the second quarter due to deficient monsoon. The CSO’s projection for 2.1% farm sector growth came on the back of 4.9% growth last year. Chief Statistician T C A Anant said that the base effect of the last year has played a role but there are reports that ‘rabi’ or winter crop acreage also was not too good this year, which means the output of ‘rabi’ may be low when it is harvested at the end of winter season. Soon after the advance estimates of GDP, India’s first chief statistician Pronab Sen had expressed fears that ‘rabi’ output too might go ‘kharif’ way. Recently industry body Assocham had drawn government’s attention towards farm sector distress and demanded the finance minister pay more attention to it in the forthcoming Budget. It said since more than half of gross value added in the farm sector was contributed by livestock, fishery and forestry, the minister should particularly focus on these segments of the economy along with a major thrust on agriculture infrastructure like irrigation.

The Sunday Standard, New Delhi
ICAR backs use of cow urine in organic farming

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the autonomous body responsible for co-ordinating agricultural education and research in the country, has put a stamp over the use of cow urine in organic farming. Under its Network Project on Organic Farming, ICAR observed that cow urine can supplement the nutrient value of the soil and help in the management of insects, pests and diseases under the organic production systems. ICAR evaluated cow urine in different cropping systems. Assistant Director General, ICAR, Dr S Bhaskar said, “Spraying of cow urine has been found to be beneficial as it fulfills the nutrient requirement during the process of organic farming, but more study is needed into this. The spray must be a mixture of 10 per cent cow urine and 90 per cent water. Keeping the same in view, National Dairy Research Institute is conducting further study.” ICAR officials said that the use of fermented cow urine enhances soil fertility and it can also be turned into liquid fertiliser as a pesticide for crops. Liquid manure from cow urine is easy to make and is good for plants in comparison to artificial fertiliser. There are many ministers in the current cabinet who have recommended the use of cow urine to cure health issues. Senior BJP leader and Union minister Nitin Gadkari had revealed that he uses cow urine and that it can cure diabetes. Incidentally, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, has received 50 proposals from different academic and research institutes to study the benefits of cow urine and milk under the Scientific Validation And Research On ‘Panchgavya’ (concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, curd and ghee) programme.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Tripura exports pineapples to Dubai

Under the aegis of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), an apex organisation under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, a consignment containing 1.05 MT of Kew variety of pineapple originating from Tripura was exported to Dubai. It was well received in the market, an APEDA release said, adding that it paved way for further consignments. Earlier, the second consignment of pineapples was sent on December 14, 2017, from Agartala to Dubai via the same route. APEDA has been entrusted with the responsibility for promotion and development of export of various agro products. APEDA now has made efforts to link the remote areas of the North-east with major international markets by using the air routes for export of fruits and vegetables. One such consignment of fresh mandarin orange of about 0.8 MT from Dambuk, Lower Dibang valley of Arunachal Pradesh and fresh pineapple of 0.2 MT from Ri-Bhoi district of Meghalaya were exported from Guwahati to Dubai on January 2. According to information, production of pineapple per hectare in Tripura is 18.73 tonnes, which is higher than the national average of 15.80 tonnes. Dhalai district, another buffer zone of pineapple cultivation records the highest yield per hectare production in the state with 21.88 tonnes. The Tripura government has taken a number of steps to encourage pineapple cultivation among the farmers in the State. “As pineapple has a good demand in the global market, the Tripura farmers should boost their production to tap the global market,” an expert claimed.

7, Jan 2018
The Times of India, Gandhinagar
After rural rout, BJP focuses on agri boost

After nearly being wiped off the map of rural Gujarat in the recent assembly elections and surviving only because of urban seats, the Gujarat BJP government is planning a series of reforms to boost the agriculture and cooperatives, animal husbandry and fisheries sectors, on which more than 60% of the population depends. After a hue and cry over the little or no benefits of crop insurance, the state government has decided to establish a Gujarat Crop Insurance Fund, to provide stable and affordable crop insurance services. To address the volatility of agricultural commodity prices, the government has proposed a new body like AMUL, which will buy agri-products for value addition and minimize the risk of volatility. Instead of limiting crop loans, the government has proposed cheap loans for farm equipment and vehicles. The state government is planning a thrust on creation of infrastructure for the agricultural sector. The government has also proposed new schemes for animal husbandry and fisheries. The agriculture, farmer welfare and co-operation department has prepared a draft and proposed reforms to overhaul these sectors. A senior officer involved in preparing the draft said-,“This is a basic draft and it needs fine tuning, but broadly the state government aims to focus on the areas mentioned in the draft. Government is keen on the crop insurance fund to deal with the annual unrest among farmers over crop insurance claims. The AMUL like state-wide co-operative institution for value addition and sales of farm products and takes a measures to develop these sectors. The government aims to double farmer income by 2022.”

Business Standard, New Delhi
Agri GVA to fall to 2.1% in FY18

Gross value added (GVA) in agriculture and allied activities is projected to fall to 2.1 per cent in FY18 because of an expected drop in the rabi harvest, an almost three per cent fall in kharif production, and on account of a big base, according to the first advance estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2017-18 released. More than GVA at constant prices, GVA for agriculture and allied activities at current prices slumped from nine per cent in 2016-17 to 2.8 per cent in 2017-18, which means farm product prices grew a mere 0.7 per cent in 2017-18 as against a rise of 4.1 per cent in 2016-17. A massive drop in agricultural prices, with most of them ruling below minimum support prices (MSPs), has been one of major crises the current government faces. Despite best efforts, prices have stubbornly remained lower than the MSP, a factor which many blamed for the BJP’s poor performance in the elections in parts of Gujarat. According to the government’s estimates, foodgrain production in the kharif season is projected to fall to 134.67 million tonnes as against 138.32 million tonnes in the previous season, due to fall in pulses output, while oilseeds production is also expected to drop. More than kharif, the GVA estimates show that rabi production could also suffer due to a drop of almost 600,000 hectares in wheat acreage because of a shift in area towards gram in Madhya Pradesh. “The GVA estimates of this sector have been compiled using the First Advance Estimates of production of major kharif crops for 2017-18 and targets based on rabi sowings,” the official statement said. Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at CARE ratings, said that a lower agri forecast was not good news for the rabi crop, in which the area under cultivation has been lower so far, with wheat being under pressure.

Business Line, Kochi
At Kochi tea sale, prices trend up on output drop

A sharp drop in temperature in the high ranges, leading to lower output, is said to have impacted tea prices at Kochi auctions. The situation is likely to continue for the next few weeks with an upward trend in prices. In sale No. 1, the market opened firm to dearer by Rs 2 to Rs 3 for good liquoring teas in CTC dust. As the sale progressed, the price rose further based on quality. The quantity on offer was 10,24,000 kg. Exporters operated on low medium and plainer varieties, according to auctioneers Forbes, Ewart & Figgis. In orthodox dust, the market for primary grades remained steady while others were irregular. The quantity on offer was 14,000 kg. In Cochin CTC dust quotation, good varieties fetched Rs 115-169, mediums quoted Rs 80-131 and plain grades stood at Rs 62-88. In the leaf category, the market for select best Nilgiri brokens, whole leaf and Fannings in orthodox grades sold around previous levels. The quantity on offer was 75,500 kg. In CTC leaf, the market for high-priced brokens and Fannings remained steady. Others appreciated by Rs 2 to Rs 3 and sometimes more. Monica SFD quoted the best prices of Rs 169 in dust grades, followed by Murgugan SFD and Monica FD at Rs 150 each. In leaf, Chamraj OP topped, quoting Rs 311, followed by P’s Woodlands Hyson (Green Tea) at Rs 300.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
CCI Seeks Comments on Monsanto Sale

The Competition Commission of India has sought comments and objections from public of any adverse impact of the acquisition of Monsanto by German life sciences company Bayer Aktiengesellschaft. Anyone who is adversely affected or is likely to be affected by the proposed combination between the two companies can present its views to the CCI. CCI has stated that “the proposed combination is likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition” and directed Bayer to publish details of the combination for bringing the combination to the knowledge or information of the public and persons affected or likely to be affected by such combination. CCI will not consider unsubstantiated objections. Bayer operates in pharma, consumer health, and crop sciences while Monsanto is world’s largest company of agricultural products for farmers.

The Assam Tribune, Dibrugarh
Assam CM inaugurates 5th Agri-Horticultural Show

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal gave a call to the youth of the State to devote in the field of agriculture and work for building a robust economic foundation for Assam. He inaugurated the 5th Assam-International Agri-Horticultural Show 2018, organised by Department of Agriculture and Horticulture, Government of Assam, in association with Assam Agricultural University, Indian Chambers of Commerce and NABARD, at Chowkidinghee playground here. “I urge upon the youth of the State to devote themselves for the cause of agriculture and contribute in the growth of their families and the nation. Our culture is closely linked to agriculture and our strength lies in agriculture. Government of Assam wants to project the potentialities of Assam in the global arena and this will be possible only when our youth lead the State from the front and work for increasing fertility of the soil and its produce,” Sonowal said, at the inaugural function. Stating that there is a close relation between production and economic rejuvenation, he informed that initiatives like Chief Minister Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojana has been taken up to double the farm income and build solid economic foundation for farmers and raise their dignity in society and standard of living. “Under CMSGUY, our government has taken a move to distribute one tractor per village to 26,000 villages of the State so that farmers can shift from single to triple cropping. However, our vision would come into reality only when the government initiatives are sincerely implemented,” Sonowal said. He also called upon the agriculture officials to guide the farmers for scientific farming and promote utilisation of modern science and technological interventions in the field of agriculture, and at the same time work with honesty and integrity.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Come July, label mandatory for food certified as ‘organic’

Come July, it would be illegal to sell organic food that was not appropriately labelled so. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued regulations that required food companies selling organic produce to get certified with one of the two authorities — National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) or the Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India). Companies could also get a voluntary logo from the FSSAI that marked its produce as ‘organic.’ Though NPOP and PGS-India had been in the certification business for some years, it was mostly a voluntary exercise. “From July, any company that claims to sell organic food and not sticking to standards can be prosecuted,” Pawan Aggrawal, CEO, FSSAI told. “..Labelling on the package of organic food shall convey full and accurate information on the organic status of the product. Such product may carry a certification or quality assurance mark of one of the systems mentioned… in addition to the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India’s organic logo,” said a FSSAI notification on January 2 and published in the Gazette. These rules were finalised after almost a year of being sent out as a draft for public comments. For nearly two decades now, organic farming certification had been done through a process of third party certification under the NPOP. It was run by the Ministry of Commerce and was used for certifying general exports. Nearly 24 agencies were authorised by the NPOP to verify farms, storages and processing units and successful ones got a special ‘India Organic’ logo. PGS-India programme, in contrast, had been around for only two years and — unlike top-down approach of NPOP — involves a peer-review approach. Here, farmers played a role in certifying whether the farms in their vicinity adhered to organic-cultivation practices. This programme was implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture through the National Centre of Organic Farming.

Business Line, Kolkata
Demand for minimum wages may brew fresh trouble for Assam, Bengal tea units

With production and prices remaining flat, 2017 was not a good year for the tea industry. The outlook for this year looks uncertain with the demand for the implementation of minimum agricultural wages likely to push up labour costs. The tea industry ended 2017 on a disappointing note, with production increasing marginally (1.4 per cent) to 1,285 million kg (mkg) and the average price remaining flat at Rs 132 a kg. The average price is down by nearly six per cent in South India, while in North India, it is lower by a rupee. According to industry sources, tea prices remained more or less flat except for a small quantity of premium quality tea that fetched higher prices in 2017. Exports are likely to have registered a decent growth. The cost of production is set to surge in 2018 as unions are insisting on the implementation of minimum wages. The minimum wage for unskilled agricultural workers ranges between Rs 213 and Rs 240 a day in West Bengal and Assam. Last month, West Bengal government proposed an interim 13.6 per cent increase in wages from Rs 132 to Rs 150 a day the negotiations conclude. Planters agreed to the proposal but not the unions. Another round of discussion ended inconclusively. Last wage agreement in the State expired in March 2017. The demand for minimum wage is not new. But it got a push during the 2016 Assembly election in Assam, a State which contributes 50 per cent of the country’s tea production; implementation of minimum wages was an electoral promise of the BJP. The last wage agreement in Assam expired on December 31, and discussions have just started on a new deal. It will surely be months before the two sides strike an agreement, which will have a direct bearing on Bengal’s tea industry.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Farmers not getting MSP: Agri minister

Farmers in the country are not getting the minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and efforts were being made so that they get the right remuneration, Agriculture minister Radhamohan Singh said. During the Question Hour in Rajya Sabha, Singh said that from his experience he felt that the farmers often did not get the price settled as the MSP. "My experience is largely of (the area) between Delhi to Kolkata. And in the 100 km from these areas, the MSP of paddy is not reaching the farmers," Singh said, adding that the process of procurement in states was being monitored. "There is a scheme. ... apart from wheat and paddy, there are items for which MSP is announced. There is a price support scheme, that whenever the price comes beneath the MSP, the government should buy. When a proposal comes from a state, the Centre gives the money for the purchase. I would like to inform that for over 8 lakh metric tonnes had been procured for pulses, cotton etc," the minister said. He said consultations were on with states and the NITI Aayog to find out how a better system can be established. He was responding to several members who had raised questions about the steps being taken to increase the income of the farmers. In response to another question, he said that the export of gherkins during the year 2017-18 has shown a growth of 27 per cent over the exports during 2017-18. "European countries had earlier barred mangoes from India. He said the government took appropriate steps and the export has commenced again," Singh said.

Business Line, Kochi
For persistent farmers, vanilla brings flavour of success

Vanilla cultivation seems to have turned a viable proposition for farmers, as the current season ends on a positive note fetching them good returns. A handful of farmers engaged in vanilla cultivation in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu has benefited from the harvest as the crop prices are now ruling at Rs 5,500/kg for green beans and Rs 30,000/kg for dry beans. The three-month harvest season, which ended in December, recorded a production of around 10 tonnes from the three States. As there is no official data on of production, unconfirmed reports put the figure between 10 and 20 tonnes. Joseph Sebastian, a vanilla farmer of Thangamony in Kerala’s Idukki district, told that flowering for the next season should start in April and a renewed interest among farmers might perk up the production the next season. Prices have been on the higher side in recent times due to low yield in Madagascar because of climatic issues. This, coupled with the declining production in Indonesia, helped push up domestic prices. Yet, not many farmers are ready to take up vanilla cultivation as it is a labour-intensive crop and requires manual pollination of flowers. Besides price volatility of the crop, he said labour shortage, threat of fungal disease, also discouraged many from taking up vanilla farming. R Mahendran, Chairman, Expo Van and Indian Vanilla Initiative, said that the current high prices are a “windfall” for farmers who persisted with cultivation of the crop. This will definitely revive vanilla cultivation in India. He also attributed the recent surge in production to his company’s efforts in taking up contract farming by engaging 1,100 farmers on 1,500 acres in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. “My aim is to increase the production of the cured beans to 40 tonnes and enhance the area by 3,000 acres by 2019,” he said.

The Times of India, New Delh
Former RBI guv had warned against farm loan waivers: FM

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said that a former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor had flagged the risk of farm loan waivers in a letter to the chief election commissioner. “Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has informed that a former governor of RBI in his letter to the Chief Election Commissioner had mentioned the risk of promising loan waivers by political parties at election time as beneficiaries stop making payment even if they are financially in a position to make them and that this affects the banking sector as well as the state finances,” Jaitley said in Lok Sabha. “RBI has also informed that the ex-governor, while addressing a conference organized jointly by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Small Industries Development Bank of India, had also stated that the loan waivers and subsidies distort the credit discipline,” he said, while replying to the question regarding farm loan waiver by members J C Divakar Reddy and Konakalla Narayana Rao. The MPs had sought to know whether former RBI governors were of the view that farm loan waiver is not a good practice for economic or credit culture which cannot be justified in the long run. The minister also said that no financial assistance for loan waiver has been provided to states by the Centre during the last three years and the current year. Several states, including Uttar Pradesh, have unveiled farm loan waivers. He said the RBI has issued directions for relief measures to be provided by respective lending institutions in areas affected by natural calamities, which include restructuring, rescheduling of existing crop loans and term loans.

Business Line, Coonoor
Green leaf price fixed at Rs 13/kg

The Tea Board has fixed Rs 13/kg as the district average price for the green leaf to be purchased by bought-leaf factories from small growers in the Nilgiris throughout January. “All bought-leaf factories have been instructed to pay this price while buying green leaf till January 31. We have instructed all our field officials to ensure that no factory in their jurisdiction pays less than this price,” said Tea Board Deputy Director CS Hariprakash. This is the highest price in the last six months after Rs 14 in June 2016. The price was Rs 12 in July, Rs 11.50 in August, Rs 11 in September and October, and Rs 12.50 in November and December. Meanwhile, bought-leaf factories are facing a production crunch due to the winter and the festival season in the Nilgiris. The winter has been harsh for over a month with night temperature crashing to single digits. The Nilgiris is now celebrating Hethaiamman festival, the major festival of the Badaga, the predominant local community in the district. The Tamil Nadu government had declared a local holiday on January 3. However, the festival is being celebrated in various parts of the district almost for one month. Consequently, tea plucking activity has been affected, as workers and small growers have been going from one place to other celebrating the festival.

The Asian Age, Guwahati
New muga worms to heat climate change

To overcome the threats of climate change on muga crop, the Central Silk Board has embarked upon an ambitious plan to develop new muga silk worm breeds in Assam by promoting research in the area of genetic engineering. The new breeds are to be developed in a manner that they can withstand the adverse impacts of soaring temperature, caused by the climate change. The Northeast is the only region in the world which produces all commercially known silks such as mulberry, eri, muga, tropical tussar and oak tussar. In this regard, Assam, which has been granted a geographical indication certificate, is the only producer of the unique muga or golden silk. It is significant to note that muga silk (muga paat) or the golden silk is not only a nature’s gift to Assam, but also a symbol of rich Assamese culture. It represents the brilliance of traditional attire of the region. The most significant characteristic of muga silk is its golden bright hue. Pointing out the impact of climate change on muga crops of the state, sericulture director Muktanath Saikia said, “Since muga has no second breed, it is also facing breeding recession, which is reflected in its reduced productivity. There is, hence, a need to develop new breeds of muga.” To achieve this objective, the sericulture directorate has set up a wild muga sanctuary. It is significant to note that muga worms are still bred and reared in the wild; they are yet to be domesticated. Presently, there are five cocoon banks — one each at Boko, North Lakhimpur, Udalguri and Sualkuchi. They are run by the sericulture directorate, while the fifth one at Sivasagar is run by the Central Silk Board.

The Asian Age, Bhubaneswar
Old irrigation method a big hit in hills

Grappling with financial problems because of non-remunerative character of their age-old agricultural practices, villagers living in hilly areas of Odisha’s Gajapati district have suddenly found enough money coming to their pockets by adoption of traditional methods of irrigation. Sourcing water in the Diversion Based Irrigation (DBI) system from the streams flowing from the hilltops, the villagers under the R Udayagiri block are irrigating hundreds of acres of land and producing in huge volumes vegetables like brinjals, orange-fleshed sweet potato, yams, beans, cucumber and papaya. DBI is a simple and economical method that applies gravitational force to guide the flow of water from rivers and streams to adjacent fields. Villagers dig channels in which the pipe network is laid. They form water user groups to ensure fair distribution of the piped water and good maintenance of the system. The villagers, who used to earn Rs 5,000 from an acre of land per annum by cultivating maize and millets, have seen their income going up by at least 10 to 15 times. The increase in the income has also halted migration of local people to other states in search of work. The farmers sell the produce in the local markets. Very often, small businessmen also drop in at their places to procure the produces directly, - paying good prices for the fresh vegetables. The vegetables grown by the Sinisingi farmers are more in demand because they use traditional manure and follow the organic pest-control method. “Adoption of the new method of irrigation has saved us from investing money in digging wells or setting up lift-irrigation points that run on electricity or solar power,” said Maheswar Pujari, a 72-year-old Sudha Soura tribal.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Potato price falls to Rs 2 per 20kg, farmers sell in distress

Potato growers in north Gujarat are feeding huge quantities of tubers to cattle in gau shalas in Banaskantha. With prices falling to Rs 2 to Rs 6 per 20 kg and fresh arrivals expected from January 17, the farmers who stocked their produce are now selling the crop in distress. President of Cold Storage Owners Association Ganpat Kachhwa said, “We will have 20 lakh bags (each containing 50 kg) lying the 200 cold storages around Deesa. By January 15, the fresh arrival of potatoes would commence. We have no space to accommodate the new arrivals.” District agricultural officer, (Banaskantha), P K Patel said the area under potato cultivation has increased from 66,170 hectare last year to 78,089 hectare in 2017.” Deesa has about 70 per cent of the total products in the state besides Kheda, Mehsana and Sabarkantha districts. A potato farmer in Deesa Babu Mali said, “We are ready to sell a 50 kg bag for Rs 40. But there are no buyers. This has been the situation for the last three years.” Mali said farmers are not even able to recover the transportation costs. Kachhwa said they are expecting at least 5 crore bags of fresh produce as the atmosphere for potato growing was very congenial. “This is only going to cause a glut and aggravate our problem,” member of Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sangh’s executive committee Magan Patel said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Rabi wheat area down as M.P. farmers prefer pulses

The acreage under wheat cultivation has come down close to 5 per cent in the country as farmers in drought-hit parts of Madhya Pradesh preferred to sow pulses over wheat, rabi sowing data released by the Agriculture Ministry showed. Till date, the total area under rabi cultivation reached 586.37 lakh hectares (lh), which was very similar to the area covered during the corresponding period last year. The area under wheat came down in many States, but was most in Madhya Pradesh, where it is down 9.28 lh so far compared to last year. The acreage has dropped also in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra. The total area under wheat so far is 283.46 lh against 297.67 lh in the previous rabi season. The acreage of pulses, on other hand, is up 8 per cent at 154.91 lh. Rice cultivation also picked up momentum, thanks to a spurt in planting in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The total area under rice till this week was 18.77 lh, nearly 44 per cent more than the last season. The area under oilseeds continued to lag and so far covered 76.69 lh, down 5 per cent over previous rabi season’s 80.77 lh, the release said.

Mint, New Delhi
Planting of wheat lower by 5%

Planting of wheat, the main winter crop, is lower by about 1.4 million hectares or 4.8%, compared with last year, showed data released by the agriculture ministry. According to the ministry, about 28.3 million hectares have been planted under wheat so far against 29.7 million hectares sown by this time last year. Usually about 30.2 million hectares are planted with wheat and a lower area this year is on account of Madhya Pradesh, where close to a million hectares has not seen wheat being sown.

6, Jan 2018
Business Line, Kochi
An aromatic year seen ahead for spices growers

The year 2018 is likely to bring some cheer to spices growers though it depends on the calls of the government. Last year, legal and illegal imports dragged prices of commodities such as pepper and arecanut. Curbing of such activities might help save the domestic trade this year. There is not much change ahead for pepper growers in 2018. A section of MNC operators has projected the output at 80,000 tonnes this year against the official projection of 64,000 tonnes. Meanwhile, growers in Karnataka and Kerala have put their estimates at around 58,000 tonnes. The domestic demand is estimated at 60,000 tonnes and that of export at 21,000 tonnes. The global availability in 2018 is projected at 5,48,896 tonnes (5,47,183 tonnes), according to the International Pepper Community statistics. Increased availability in other origins at lower rates coupled with a likely rise in Indian output might keep prices unchanged. Minimum import price fixed by the Commerce Ministry will have to be enforced strictly to curb pepper movements from Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Though prices dropped from last year’s levels, average price during April-December 2017 hovered at around Rs950 a kg, and remained remunerative. Depleted inventories in upcountry markets coupled with a rise in demand can be attributed to prevailing moderate prices, said PC Punnoose, General Manager, CPMC. Demand is expected to outstrip supply and hence prices are likely to stay at higher levels in 2018 also. Total production during current season (August 1-July 31) is estimated between 20,000 and 25,000 tonnes. Slack demand due to withdrawal of buyers following demonetisation and GST coupled with increased availability took the flavour off cloves last year with prices around Rs500/kg against Rs750 the previous year. But situation is expected to change this year as next crop in the country would be only 20-30 per cent of the 2017 crop due to erratic South-West monsoon.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Farmers allege ‘favouritism’ in Punjab debt waiver plan

Even as the Congress government in Punjab is preparing to roll out its much touted farm debt waiver scheme on January 7, several farmer groups are alleging that the State is resorting to “favouritism” in preparing the “eligibility list”. The politics surrounding this issue has also started gaining momentum ahead of the launch of the scheme with the Shiromani Akali Dal accusing the Congress of betraying the beleaguered farmers of the State. As many as seven farmer unions, including Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), Bharatiya Kisan Union (Dakunda), Bharatiya Kisan Union (Krantikari), Punjab Kisan Sangrash Committee (Azad) and Kirti Kisan Union, have threatened to launch protests if the government plays “politics of favouritism” while implementing the farm debt waiver scheme. “They (Congress) promised complete loan waiver to farmers during the Assembly election campaign but after coming to power they took a U-turn and announced to give partial waiver. Now, even while giving this partial waiver if they deliberately ignore genuine beneficiaries (farmers) it is most unfortunate and shameful,” said Surjit Singh, State president of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Krantikari). Mr. Singh alleged there have been several instances where farmers, who are eligible for the waiver, have been left out of the list being prepared under the debt waiver scheme. “We have decided to collect and scrutinise the eligibility list of beneficiaries from villages across the State to ensure that only genuine farmers get the benefit. We would launch State-wide protest if the government tries to give benefit to the ineligible,” he added. The Punjab government's scheme in its first phase envisages to waive off debts of marginal farmers, having land up to 2.5 acres and with a loan up to Rs2 lakh. Loans given by cooperative banks would be waived under the scheme.

Business Line, New Delhi
Food Ministry, trade to discuss sugar price fall

The Food Ministry has invited the Indian Sugar Mills’ Association and the National Federation of Co-operative Sugar Factories to participate in a meeting to discuss the issue of falling prices of the sweetener. “The meeting will be chaired by the Joint Secretary for Sugar, Subhashish Panda, ,” a senior official from the Ministry said. Millers from Maharashtra have been demanding that the government create a buffer stock of 2 million tonnes (mt) to arrest the slide in prices of the sweetener. Sugar mills have also urged the government not to consider any imports from Pakistan, which had earlier this year, allowed export of 1.5 mt sugar with a freight subsidy of 10.70 Pakistani rupee per kg (1 Pakistani rupee is 0.61 Indian rupee). During the meeting, the industry may seek removal of export duty of 20 per cent on sugar.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Govt may hike import duty on sugar to 75%

The government may hike import duty on sugar as it wants to ensure that a rise in domestic production of the sweetener in the current season won’t depress prices further. The food ministry will take feedback on a proposal to raise the import duty on both raw and refined sugar from the current 50% to 75-80%, officials said. There is also a plan to allow export of raw sugar under Duty Free Import Authorization (DFIA) scheme, which was withdrawn in May 2015. “As India is set to produce bumper sugar this season, there is a need to boost export and stop import,” a source said. Though there is no import happening at the current duty level, the government is aware of Pakistan’s plan to subsidise exports, he said, adding that if the duty is increased to about 80%, there will not be any sugar import from Pakistan. The government has pegged total sugar output at 24.9 million tonne in the entire 2017-18 season, as against 20.2 million tonne last year. Consumption is estimated to be about 25 million tonne this year. Country’s sugar output increased by 26% to 10.33 million tonne in the October-December period of current season compared with 8.19 million tonne in the year-ago period during 2016-17 season (October-September), according to data released by the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). Sugar output in Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest producing state, has increased to 3.9 million tonne in the first three months of this season from 2.68 million tonne in the year-ago period. The average recovery rate of the sweetener remained higher in the state at 10.15%. In Maharashtra also, 3.82 million tonne of sugar has been produced during the first quarter, up from 2.53 million tonne in the corresponding period of the 2016-17 season. Mills in UP expect sugar prices may drop as crushing season further advances.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maharashtra gears up for tur procurement

With the bearish trend in pulses extending into 2018, pulse growers seem to be in for hard times. Tur (arhar) prices are under pressure and ruling below MSP. With arrivals trickling into the market since the past fortnight, the Maharashtra government has begun gearing up for tur procurement in a major way. According to senior officials of the State Agriculture Department, farmer registrations for tur procurement has already begun and is expected to continue till January 14 after which tur shall be procured at MSP from January 15. The official said that the state government has already approached the Centre for procuring Tur at MSP and a green signal is expected before January 15. The state government is likely to open around 100 centres for tur procurement, the official said. Procurement of tur had begun in Karnataka recently, where the state announced a bonus of Rs 550 per quintal over the Centre’s MSP. According to industry people, prices of tur and chana are expected to remain under pressure and rule lower than the minimum support price (MSP) levels announced by the government. MSP of tur is Rs 5,450 per quintal including a bonus of Rs 200 per quintal while the MSP of chana is Rs 4,400 per quintal including a bonus of Rs 150 per quintal. According to the first advance estimate of kharif foodgrain crops, tur production is expected to decline by 16.5% from 47.8 lakh tonne in 2016-17 to 39.9 lakh tonne in 2017-18. Sowing of chana has increased by about 14% over the previous year from 87.7 lakh hectare to about 100 lakh hectare as on December 22.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Rice, guar gum lead 11% farm goods export surge in April-Nov

Maintaining the growth momentum, farm products in the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority’s (Apeda) export basket have clocked an increase of 11 per cent in rupee terms and 15 per cent in dollar terms for the April-November period this fiscal. The growth is led by a surge in shipments of non-basmati and basmati rice, guar gum and dairy products. However, buffalo meat — the single largest product accounting for 23.4 per cent of Apeda’s export portfolio — saw a marginal dip in both volumes and value. The curbs imposed on export of onion, a key product in the fresh vegetables category, have slowed despatches. “Non-basmati rice is witnessing a good growth. In fact, the growth in non-basmati is higher than basmati. Also, the demand for guar gum, mainly from the US, has pushed up the exports. Except for fresh vegetables, there is growth in all other categories,” said Apeda chairman DK Singh. Onion, he said, accounts for about half of fresh vegetable exports and is mainly shipped to Bangladesh. The imposition of the minimum export price (MEP) by the Centre to boost domestic supplies amidst rising prices has pulled down the export growth in fresh vegetables, which slumped in value terms by over 21 per cent to Rs 3,153 crore. Demand from Iran and West Asian nations continued to push up basmati shipments. Purchases by Sri Lanka, where drought has impacted the local rice production, and Bangladesh have contributed to the growth of non-basmati rice exports. Shipments of dairy products grew 15 per cent in value to Rs 1,179 crore during the period, while other animal products such as sheep/goat meat, animal casings and processed meat too performed better. Exports of wheat and groundnuts lost out on the price front.

Hindustan Times, Imphal
Scientist produces ‘hottest hybrid chilli’

A scientist from Manipur has successfully synthesised the hottest Indian hybrid chilli during a trial breeding in the northeast, the country’s hot spot in chilli diversity with several pungent chillies having their origin here. The latest hybrid is derived from capsicum frutescens cultivar, capsicum chinense cv, and the hybrid of the two. Bhut Jolokia, or U-morok in Manipur, is currently India’s hottest chilli, after being certified by the Guinness World Records as the world’s hottest in 2007. The average pungency of hybrid chilli is 287,400 heat unitt (SHU) on the Scoville scale with capsaicin (spicy chemical compound in the chillies) content of 1.80%. “I started breeding the hybrid chilli as a hobby in 2007 and continued with the genetic stabilisation of the hybrid genotype,” said chief scientist Rajkumar Kishor of Manipur-based Kwaklei and Khonggunmelei Orchids Pvt Ltd, a leading manufacturer and supplier of hybrid orchids. “Analyses of this chilli was done at the Quality Evaluation Laboratory of Spices Board, Kochi, last year.” Christened as “Kishore’s fire ball”, the new chilli looks slightly curled and smaller than India’s hottest chilli whose plant grows to 5 feet long and can produce up to 50-60 fruits in a season. Unlike U-morok, which requires shade for healthy cultivation, the new hybrid can be cultivated under direct sunlight, meaning it can be cultivated in open fields, Kishor said. Besides, it has low rotting rate, added Kishor, who has successfully bred seeds of Manipur’s favourite delicacy, Yongchak (bitter bean), a winter crop, in 2016.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Seed body faults Monsanto for bollworm resistance

The National Seed Association of India, which represents the majority of the cotton seed companies in the country, has blamed Mahyco Monsanto and Monsanto India for widespread resistance developed by pink bollworm to Bollgard-II, the second-generation genetically modified cotton seed technology. The association has threatened to stop selling the seeds developed with BG-II technology if the two Monsanto firms do not vouch for the efficacy of the second gene (which gave in to pink bollworm). It asks the firms to own up to the failure and compensate farmers. The association wrote a separate letter to the Agriculture Ministry disowning any responsibility for the efficacy of the trait (the second gene) that was meant to tackle the pink bollworm. “It (the company) collects the trait value from the farmers through us. It is their responsibility,” it said. Pink bollworm, which showed signs of resistance to technology, turned virulent this kharif, causing extensive damage to cotton crop in several States. The incidence was so high that the Telangana government asked farmers to remove the plants after the second pick (of cotton bolls) so that the fields would be free of pink bollworm for the next season. “You went on to promote the usage of hybrids with the two gene trait (Bollgard-II) even after CICR confirmed incidence of resistance,” Kalyan B Goswami, Director-General of NSAI, said in the letter. NSAI members wanted to go back to the single gene (Cry1Ac) GM seed (which entails no royalty fee) that can take care of other bollworms like American and spotted bollworms. MMBL, which licences Monsanto’s GM cotton technologies to seed firms in India, denied the allegation that it had not addressed the resistance. “We had, as early as in September 2015, informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the high level of tolerance to Cry2Ab protein,” an MMBL spokesperson said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Dhanuka Agritech awards

Dhanuka Agritech said that it was instituting 30 awards for persons and institutions that bring in innovation in farming, water harvesting, agricultural technology and extensions services. Nominations for the prizes, which include a National Farmer of the Year Award, are invited till February 28 and would be given away on March 22.

Business Line, Coimbatore
Lacklustre sale of dust varieties at TeaServe auction

The first sale of 2018 at the Coonoor Tea Manufacturers’ Service Industrial Cooperative Society (TeaServe) took off on a positive note, with the price inching up marginally compared to the earlier week's sale. While almost the entire volume of leaf tea was sold, close to 35 per cent of dust remained unsold at the end of the weekly auction that took place in Coonoor. The average price was up by Rs1.66 a kg at Rs67.26 against previous week’s Rs65.60. Over 82 per cent of the teas on offer was taken up, leaving less than 0.28 per cent of the tea leaf unsold, while the sale of dust hovered at around 65 per cent. Salisbury’s Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings (BOPF) topped the CTC market at Rs79/kg. In the dust category, Golden Dew Tea Factory offered to buy Salisbury’s Pekoe Dust at Rs76/kg.

5, Jan 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
At 10.3 mt, sugar output up 26% in Oct-Dec

Sugar mills produced 10.33 million tonnes (mt) till December 31, which is 26 per cent higher than the 8.2 mt produced during the corresponding period of the previous season, a release from the Indian Sugar Mills’ Association said. The sugar year starts in October and runs till September of the next year. Sugarcane crushing is on in 485 mills, of which 180 are in Maharashtra and 116 in Uttar Pradesh. During the same period last year, only 441 mills were operational. Maharashtra’s mills have so far produced 3.8 mt of sugar, while those in UP accounted for 3.33 mt, the release said. Sixty-two Karnataka mills reported 1.62 mt output compared to 1.54 mt produced by 56 mills last season. Meanwhile, sugar prices that had fallen in the last couple of months are seeing an improvement. “According to a Ministry of Consumer Affairs report, wholesale prices have improved in some parts of North and West India by Rs 30-100 per quintal. Sugar sale is also witnessing a slight improvement in the last few days because of buying interest shown bytraders,” ISMA said. With an opening balance of 3.88 mt as on October 1, and an estimated production of 25.1 mt and 0.2 mt of white sugar from imported raw, the total availability in the country during the current season is seen at 29.18 mt. Against this, considering a demand growth of around 2 per cent, consumption during the season is estimated at 25 mt and thus, the stock at the end of the season is projected to be about 4.18 mt. The sugar industry body is expected to release its second advance estimates in the third week of this month.

Business Line, New Delhi
At 10.3 mt, sugar output up 26% in Oct-Dec

Sugar mills produced 10.33 million tonnes (mt) till December 31, which is 26 per cent higher than the 8.2 mt produced during the corresponding period of the previous season, a release from the Indian Sugar Mills’ Association said. The sugar year starts in October and runs till September of the next year. Sugarcane crushing is on in 485 mills, of which 180 are in Maharashtra and 116 in Uttar Pradesh. During the same period last year, only 441 mills were operational. Maharashtra’s mills have so far produced 3.8 mt of sugar, while those in UP accounted for 3.33 mt, the release said. Sixty-two Karnataka mills reported 1.62 mt output compared to 1.54 mt produced by 56 mills last season. Meanwhile, sugar prices that had fallen in the last couple of months are seeing an improvement. “According to a Ministry of Consumer Affairs report, wholesale prices have improved in some parts of North and West India by Rs 30-100 per quintal. Sugar sale is also witnessing a slight improvement in the last few days because of buying interest shown bytraders,” ISMA said. With an opening balance of 3.88 mt as on October 1, and an estimated production of 25.1 mt and 0.2 mt of white sugar from imported raw, the total availability in the country during the current season is seen at 29.18 mt. Against this, considering a demand growth of around 2 per cent, consumption during the season is estimated at 25 mt and thus, the stock at the end of the season is projected to be about 4.18 mt. The sugar industry body is expected to release its second advance estimates in the third week of this month.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Boost for Bengal farm loan

Five districts of Bengal, low on credit offtake, will get a lending boost with the State Bank of India and Nabard jointly teaming up with five NGOs to offer loans to the farm sector. To implement the scheme, 2,500 joint liability groups will be promoted across the five districts of Burdwan, East Midnapore, West Midnapore, Purulia and North 24 Parganas. The credit-deposit (CD) ratio in each of the districts is far below the state's aggregate CD ratio (after considering the amount sanctioned outside Bengal but funds utilised in the state and the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund support). As of September 2017, the state's CD ratio was 66 per cent. Joint liability groups (JLGs) are typically informal groups of 4-10 members who are engaged in similar economic activities and are willing to jointly service loans taken from banks. Through the memorandum of understanding signed, the SBI and Nabard plan to financially support the JLGs for seasonal crop cultivation, term loan and allied activities in a manner that minimises the risk to the loan portfolio of the SBI. SBI chief general manager Partha Pratim Sengupta said the three-way tie-up would benefit small, marginal and tenant farmers who are in dire need of credit but are deprived of it because of the difficulty of public sector banks to reach out to them directly. "We hope that this (model) can be scaled up to cover all districts of the state," Sengupta said. A.K. Raybarman, chief general manager of Nabard, said such tie-ups would facilitate refinance support to banks apart from extending support towards credit linkage to the JLGs through the five NGOs. Nabard has, so far, sanctioned assistance for the promotion of 60,000 JLGs in the state through 339 projects in different districts.

The Hindu, Kurnool
Chandrababu Naidu launches lift irrigation scheme in Kadapa

A.P. Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu inaugurated the Gandikota-Chitravathi lift irrigation scheme at Parnapalli in Pulivendula constituency of Kadapa district. Mr. Naidu performed ‘Jala Siriki Harathi’ at the delivery point of the Gandikota-Penchikala Basi Reddy Chitravathi lift irrigation scheme. He also unveiled a plaque for construction of two anicuts across the Papaghni near the Anjaneya Swamy temple (Rs2.36 crore) and Sugali Thanda (Rs3.53 crore) at Gandi in Chakrayapet mandal. The Gandikota-Chitravathi lift irrigation scheme was built with an outlay of Rs1,350 crore, he said. Under the scheme, 7.50 tmcft water would be lifted through five delivery points to the Chitravathi balancing reservoir, to irrigate 60,000 acres of ayacut through drip irrigation. Three lift irrigation schemes of 0.3 tmcft capacity were built at Thimmapuram, Yellanur, and Gaddamvaripalle, and another of 0.08 tmcft capacity at Goddumarri for drawing water from the Gandikota reservoir to the PBR. The scheme aims at lifting about 2,000 cusecs water through five lift irrigation schemes, having four pumps each, from Kondapuram to PBR, and fill the tanks and ponds, and give irrigation water till the tailend ayacut of the right canal. Nearly 1,200 cusecs Krishna water was being lifted every day from Gandikota reservoir since November 2017. The Chitravathi balancing reservoir presently has 4,815 tmcft Krishna water and Gandikota reservoir has a storage of 7 tmcft. Nearly 33 tmcft water is being stored in reservoirs in Kadapa district. Ministers D. Umamaheswara Rao, S. Chandramohan Reddy, and C. Adinarayana Reddy, MLC M. Ravindranath Reddy, government whip M.V. Mallikarjuna Reddy, former Minister P. Ramasubba Reddy, district Collector T. Babu Rao Naidu, party MLAs and leaders were present.

The Financial Express, Kochi
Global shortfall to help India tea industry

Global shortfall in tea production is expected to help Indian tea this year after a disappointing performance in 2017. Robust domestic demand and higher exports is estimated to help in price recovery this year after auction prices saw marginal decline due to a variety of factors including a change in tax regime, traders said. India is the second largest producer of tea in the world and makes up 26% of the global tea production. “Tea had a bad time last year when we saw the prices going down post-GST. Given the lower global production we expect 2018 to be positive,” R Sanjith, commodities head, United Planters’ Association of Southern India (UPASI) told. The auction prices for 2017 up to November stands at an average of Rs 132.80 per kg across India as compared to Rs 134.42 per kg in the comparable period of 2016. South Indian tea prices till November stand at Rs 96.91 per kg as against Rs 103.35 per kg in 2016. For North India, the average auction price for the eleven months of 2017 stands at Rs 143.97 per kg as compared to Rs 144.73 per kg in 2016. Sriram Narayanaswamy, president, Global Tea Brokers, said lower production in Kenya is likely to help South Indian CTC tea, while the quality problems faced by neighbouring Sri Lanka would help in better demand for orthodox tea. Russia placed temporary restrictions on imports of tea and all other agricultural products from Sri Lanka after a beetle was found in a consignment.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Godowns bursting with groundnut on record govt procurement

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) has procured a record 6.57 lakh tonnes (lt) of groundnut so far from Gujarat in the current kharif marketing season. Its purchases — that figure could go up further — have benefited an estimated 3.39 lakh farmers, with the government shelling out close to Rs 3,000 crore. NAFED began procurement on October 25, just two days after dates for the Gujarat polls were announced. The BJP government in the state had earlier, about a month before the Election Commission of India released its poll schedule, stated that it would intervene in the market to protect growers from losses in a bumper production year. The kharif groundnut marketing season begins in late-October and goes on till early-February. The state government had declared a bonus of Rs 50 over the Centre’s MSP of Rs 4,450 a quintal, taking the effective procurement rate to Rs 4,500. The Centre has permitted NAFED to procure 8 lt from Gujarat — out of the state’s estimated output of 32 lt, against 29 lt and 15 lt in the preceding two seasons. NAFED, which has opened 253 procurement centres, mostly in the Saurashtra, Kutch and north Gujarat regions, has purchased 6.57 lt as on January 2. This groundnut is worth Rs 2,958 crore, inclusive of the state government’s roughly Rs 33 crore bonus component. Out of this amount, Rs 1,813.49 crore of payment has already been made to farmers. “This is a record procurement, over three times what we did in Gujarat last season. And we are still buying,” NAFED chairman Vaghji Patel told. In 2016-17, it had purchased 2.10 lt of groundnut worth Rs 868 crore (at an MSP of Rs 4,220 per quintal) from Gujarat. Prior to that, it had bought 3.38 lt in 2013-14 from 7 states: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, UP and Odisha.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Govt extends compulsory jute packaging for foodgrains, sugar

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) extended the mandatory packaging of foodgrains and sugar products in jute bags for the year ending June 2018. "This decision mandating 90 per cent of food grains and 20 per cent sugar products to be packed in jute bags will benefit nearly 3.7 lakh workers and 40 lakh farmers," Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani tweeted. She said the Jute mill workers will not be deprived of their statutory dues as a special mechanism will be set up in consultation with state governments to link production control and supply order to ensure timely payment. "Underlining the importance of diversification of jute industry, emphasis will be given to diversification by incentivising use of jute geo-textiles and promoting jute as eco-friendly fibre both in domestic and global markets," Irani said in a tweet. The decision will help sustain the core demand for the jute sector and support the livelihood of the workers and farmers dependent on the sector in eastern and north-eastern regions of the country particularly in West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura. "The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has extended the mandatory packaging norms under the Jute Packaging Material (JPM) Act, 1987," an official statement said. As per the norms, it is compulsory to pack 90 per cent of foodgrains and 20 per cent of sugar products in jute bags. The decision also mandates, in the first instance, the entire requirement for packing of foodgrains would be placed in jute bags thus, making a provision for 100 per cent packing of foodgrains in jute bags subject to the ability of the jute industry to meet the requirement, the statement added. Jute industry is predominantly dependent on government, which purchases jute products worth more than Rs 5,500 crore every year.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Gujarat peanut processing units facing scarcity of raw material

Peanut processing units in Gujarat are facing scarcity of raw material as the state government is procuring groundnut at higher than market rates. Because of this, more than 70% units have been closed while the rest are partially operational. According to peanut processors, farmers are not willing to sell groundnut to them as government is paying more. On the other side, processors are not in a position to offer high prices to the farmers as it is not viable. “This is season time for groundnut processors but as the state government is procuring at the rate of Rs 900 per 20 kg, farmers prefer to sell their produce to the government. In this condition about 70% of peanut processing units have been closed in this season in Gujarat,” said Mukund Shah, president of Gujarat Oilseeds Processors Association (GOPA). There are nearly 2,000 small and medium groundnut processing units in Gujarat and most of them are located in Saurashtra region. As the monsoon was good this year, the state government has estimated record 3.20 million tonne kharif groundnut production for 2017-18 which is about 9% more than 2.94 million tonne in 2016-17. Gujarat government has procured 647,737.75 tonne of groundnut so far and spent over Rs 2,882.43 crore. About 334,938 farmers have been benefited as on date. Peanut processors were also hoping for smooth supply of groundnut but state government has begun procurement at rate of minimum support price (MSP) and this has created the supply crunch in the market. Kamlesh Badani of Badani Corporation from Junagadh said, “We are unable to pay the prices what state government is paying to farmers. Paying more than Rs 800 per 20 kg is not viable for us as the exporters refuse to buy from us. Worldwide groundnut production is good this year and this has decreased the peanut prices in international markets.

Business Line, New Delhi
Import pulses on ‘actual user’ terms

A repeat performance in pulses production looks highly likely in 2017-18, following the record harvest of 22.95 million tonnes (mt) in 2016-17. As a result, the country’s dependence on imports is reducing substantially. Additionally, a series of trade and tariff measures in recent months compounded by recent uncertainty over methyl bromide fumigation (since extended by six months), low domestic farm-gate prices and sluggish market conditions have considerably slowed the arrival of imported material. In the financial year 2017-18, pulses import will be about 5 mt down from 6.6 mt in the previous year. A substantial part of the import took place in the first six months of the current fiscal before trade restrictions started to kick in. While the government must do everything possible to achieve self-sufficiency in pulses on a sustained basis, risks associated with production of the crop cannot be wished away. So, it would be prudent to keep the import window open in case of an eventuality. Simultaneously, it is necessary to encourage enhanced consumption of pulses as an economical vegetable protein to advance our nutrition security. Supplying pulses under the public distribution system makes eminent political and economic sense. It is necessary to ensure that excessive quantities are not imported, but just the right quantity that is needed to bridge domestic shortfall, if any. For this, it is necessary to prepare an annual demand-supply estimate by factoring-in income and price elasticity. It would be prudent to regulate pulse imports by allowing only ‘actual users’, that is, dal mills, to import. Dal mills convert raw pulses into split /processed dal. ready for consumption. ‘Actual user’ condition will be in the interest of domestic pulse growers, consumers and the processing industry.

Business Line, Mangaluru
Rubber growers seek import curbs

Rubber growers, under the leadership of the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd, have urged the Union Commerce Minister to save the growers in the country from cheap imports. SR Satishchandra, President of the Campco, said that a delegation of rubber growers met the Commerce Minister, Suresh Prabhu, in New Delhi, and briefed him on the implications of rubber imports on small and marginal growers. Stating that natural rubber is available at cheaper rates abroad, he said the prices of Indian natural rubber have crashed. Rubber, which was selling between Rs 175 and Rs 240 a kg during 2012-13, is now fetching around Rs 125 a kg. The price, which is below the cost of cultivation, has upset growers, especially the marginal and small farmers, he said. Some of the suggestions submitted by the delegation included increasing the import duty on rubber and fixing a minimum tariff value for imports. The customs duty on rubber import should be increased from the current slab of 25 per cent to 70 per cent to curtail the import of rubber a lower cost. Referring to arecanut and pepper, for which the Centre has fixed a minimum tariff value for imports, the delegation said such this should be done for imported rubber also. The Government should fix a minimum support price for rubber based on the cost of production, and intervene in the market when needed. Satishchandra said that the Minister was also informed about the need for declaring a national rubber policy. Campco, which procures and markets rubber along with arecanut and cocoa, procured 2,313 tonnes of rubber during 2016-17 as against 1,328 tonnes in 2015-16.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
TERI HOLDS INTERNATIONAL SEMINAR ON AGRIBUSINESS

Leading experts, policymakers and CEOs in agribusiness and allied supply chains dwelt on the common objective of achieving the twin challenges of food security and integration of supply chains with global food markets in light of the burgeoning open international markets. At a two-day International Conference, hosted by the TERI School of Advanced Studies (SAS), the experts explored the challenges in developing and harnessing opportunities to optimise inclusive agribusiness to achieve sustainable transformation that changes rural demographics, migration, merging globalisation of agri-markets to mitigate food security and adapt to climate change impacts. A session on food processing by Amul Dairy on total rural sanitation talked about hygiene to achieve the target of providing 100 per cent toilet facilities in all villages where Amul has a milk society. The session on climate change and agribusiness talked about lessons learned in the Hindu Kush Himalayas and highlighted the issues prevailing in the Himalayan region through two case studies on Resilience building (cardamom value chain)and Climate mitigation (shade coffee plantation).

4, Jan 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
At 305 mt, this year’s horticulture output a tad higher; still a record

The country’s horticultural production during the current year (July 2017-June 2018) is expected to go up by a marginal 1.6 per cent to 305.4 million tonnes (mt) compared to 300.6 mtin the previous year, according to the first advance estimates of fruits and vegetable production released by the Agriculture Ministry. The production of vegetables during the year is projected at 181 mt, while the output of fruits is expected to touch95 mt, according to the data compiled from information provided by various States and Union Territories. The Ministry also released the final estimates for horticulture produce for 2016-17, which stood at 300.6 mt against 300 mt pegged in the third advance estimates released in August last year. While the production of vegetables was higher than the last projections, that of fruits and spices dipped slightly. Among major vegetables, the output of tomatoes, whose price soared during the year, is estimated to record an impressive 7.7 per cent growth to 22.3 mt (20.7 mt), whereas that of potatoes is expected to grow by mere 1 per cent to 49.3 mt. Production of onion, on the other hand, is projected to drop by 4.5 per cent to 21.4 mt (22.4 mt). Mangoes, the second highest grown fruit in the country after bananas, are set for a notable 6.2 per cent increase in production to 20.7 mt (19.5 mt). There will be a slight increase in the production of citrus fruits too — 11.7 mt against 11.4 mt in the previous year. The output of bananas, on the contrary, is expected to edge down to 30.2 mt (30.5 mt). The total acreage under horticultural crops increased slightly to 24.92 million hectares (mh) from 24.85 mh in 2016-17.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Congress MPs take up the cause of potato farmers

The Lok Sabha witnessed heated exchanges between Congress and BJP members over the plight of potato growers facing a massive drop in prices because of a glut. Sunil Jhakhar from Punjab said he could not understand why the BJP members were thumping the desk when Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh was speaking, though the farmers were facing a grim situation. He said farmers were no longer willing to grow the crop. Replying to him, the Minister said the Rabi crop saw a 1% decline in area sown this year but the actual figures would be known later as sowing was still going on. He expressed confidence that the overall area was likely to remain the same. Mr. Jhakhar was joined by other colleagues who wanted to know the steps the government had taken to help the growers. Mr. Singh said no minimum support price had been fixed but the Centre and the States resorted to the market intervention scheme (MIS) to ensure that farmers could recover their input costs in case of glut. Narayanbhai Kacchadiya, BJP member from Amreli, highlighted the plight of the cotton growers because of inadequate prices. Pointing out that the farmer actually got about Rs 900 against Rs 1,200 for production for 20 kg, he wanted to know the steps taken to help the farmer. The Minister said the government was trying to ensure better prices and was committed to ensuring minimum support prices.

The Tribune, Mumbai
Cotton crop: M’rashtra to seek Rs 4,000 crore

The Maharashtra Government will soon seek at least Rs 4,000 crore from the Centre to compensate farmers for the loss of cotton crop. With nearly 84 per cent of the cotton crop lost to bollworm attacks, the state will pay farmers Rs 8,000 per hectare under the crop-insurance scheme and Rs 16,000 as compensation. Officials estimate the government would require Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000 crore for paying compensation to farmers. Earlier, officials had estimated they would need around Rs 2,300 crore as compensation from the Centre. CM Devendra Fadnavis had earlier told reporters that the government would force seed companies to compensate farmers for the losses suffered by them.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Congress MPs take up the cause of potato farmers

The Lok Sabha witnessed heated exchanges between Congress and BJP members over the plight of potato growers facing a massive drop in prices because of a glut. Sunil Jhakhar from Punjab said he could not understand why the BJP members were thumping the desk when Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh was speaking, though the farmers were facing a grim situation. He said farmers were no longer willing to grow the crop. Replying to him, the Minister said the Rabi crop saw a 1% decline in area sown this year but the actual figures would be known later as sowing was still going on. He expressed confidence that the overall area was likely to remain the same. Mr. Jhakhar was joined by other colleagues who wanted to know the steps the government had taken to help the growers. Mr. Singh said no minimum support price had been fixed but the Centre and the States resorted to the market intervention scheme (MIS) to ensure that farmers could recover their input costs in case of glut. Narayanbhai Kacchadiya, BJP member from Amreli, highlighted the plight of the cotton growers because of inadequate prices. Pointing out that the farmer actually got about Rs 900 against Rs 1,200 for production for 20 kg, he wanted to know the steps taken to help the farmer. The Minister said the government was trying to ensure better prices and was committed to ensuring minimum support prices.

Mint, New Delhi
India extends crop fumigation exemption

India has extended by six months an exemption to its policy for crop cargoes to be fumigated with methyl bromide, a gas once widely used as a pesticide but now banned or restricted in most parts of the world, two government officials said. The country’s plant quarantine authority had earlier said that after 31 December India would only accept cargoes fumigated for pests with methyl bromide at the country of origin, threatening to disrupt supplies of pulses from Canada and wheat from Europe and the Black Sea region.

Business Standard, New Delhi
India stares at drop in onion output in 2017-18

India’s onion production in 2017-18 is expected to be 21.4 million tonnes, around 4.5 per cent less than last year due to less sowing. However, potato output is expected at 49.3 mt, around one per cent more than last year, showed the first advance estimate for horticultural crops. A fall in onion production might push up prices for consumers. For potato farmers, it could be another bad year in terms of prices; the 2017-18 harvest would come after a 12 per cent rise in 2016-17 production at 48.6 mt. Onion sowing is estimated at 1.19 mn hectares in 2017-18 or 8.4 per cent less than last year. Potatoes were sown on 21.76 mn ha, marginally less than the 21.79 mn of last year. Overall, the horticulture sector continues to outperform cereals in volume terms and total production in 2017-18 (starting July) is projected at 305.4 mt, almost 1.6 per cent more than the final estimate for 2016-17 and a new high. India stares at drop in onion output in 2017-18. Tomato production in 2017-18 is expected to be 22.3 mt or 7.7 per cent higher than last year. Production as in the first advance estimate is almost eight per cent more than the average of the past five years. The government stated the productivity of horticultural crops had risen 1.3 per cent over the year. Mango output is pegged higher at 20.7 million tonnes in the current year on higher yields as against 19.5 million tonnes in the last year. Banana output is, however, expected to drop slightly to 30.2 million tonnes in 2017-18 from 30.47 million tonnes previous year. Production of fruit in 2017-18 is estimated at 95 mt, about two per cent higher.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Model Contract Farming Act to Counter Price Risks: Experts

The government has come out with a draft model contract farming act, which industry insiders said will protect farmers from price risks and encourage food processing companies to invest more in infrastructure and farming technology once states adopt it. The agriculture ministry has put up the model act on its website for various stakeholders, including contract farming and value chain promoting companies, producers’ organisations and farmers, to submit their comments latest by January 6. Final rules under the act will be framed after considering the feedbacks, and states can adopt them as per their needs. The draft law follows a Union budget announcement that a contract farming act would be drafted to integrate farmers with agro-industries to ensure better price realisation for their produce as part of an initiative to double the incomes of farmers in the country. Industry insiders have welcomed the model act that seeks to ensure that farmers and buyers abide by pre-agreed price and quantity to protect farmers from post-harvest market unpredictability and bars the transfer of ownership of farmers’ land to companies among other things. “While protecting interest of small farmers, the act will ensure smooth flow of raw material to industry bypassing mandis or APMCs (agriculture produce marketing committees),” said Anil Jain, managing director at agri-business firm Jain Irrigation Systems. “However, we need to carefully review some of the conditions in the draft act to ensure balanced protection of all stakeholders and to avoid any red-tapism in proposed structure,” he said. Jain said the dispute resolution mechanism needs to be practical and swift in contracts. Yogesh Bellani, CEO at packaged foods company FieldFresh Foods, said the proposed act would boost investments in agriculture which is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 % of the country’s population.

The Hindu, New Delhi
New way to raise wheat production threefold

Inspired by NASA’s experiments to grow wheat in space, Australian scientists have developed the world’s first ‘speed breeding’ technique that can boost the production of the crop by up to three times. The NASA experiments involved using continuous light on wheat which triggered early reproduction in the plants. “We thought we could use the NASA idea to grow plants quickly back on Earth, and in turn, accelerate the genetic gain in our plant breeding programmes,” said Lee Hickey, Senior Research Fellow at University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. “By using speed breeding techniques in specially modified glasshouses we can grow six generations of wheat, chickpea and barley plants, and four generations of canola plants in a single year — as opposed to two or three generations in a regular glasshouse, or a single generation in the field,” Mr. Hickey said. “Our experiments showed that the quality and yield of the plants grown under controlled climate and extended daylight conditions was as good, or sometimes better, than those grown in regular glasshouses,” he said. The speed breeding technique has largely been used for research but is now being adopted by industry.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
SBI to Boost Lending to Farmers Under JLG Model, Joins Hands with Nabard

State Bank of India has teamed up with National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) to grow its priority-lending book, as the country’s largest lender plans to raise its stake with small and medium farmers, most of whom do not have access to bank loans. The loans under this agreement will be given to small homogeneous groups of farmers carrying the joint liability to repay. Lending to joint liability groups (JLGs), pioneered by Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh and implemented in India by microfinance companies such as Bharat Financial Inclusion or the likes of Bandhan Bank, is now an effective way of doing rural business for large private sector banks such as Axis Bank and HDFC Bank, helping them gain priority sector exposure directly. “Having seen the success of private sector banks in lending through JLG, we thought public sector banks and regional rural banks should take the opportunity available in this space,” said GR Chintala, Nabard’s chief general manager of micro credit innovation department. JLGs are made up of 4-10 members who are engaged in similar economic activities, including farming. SBI is the first one to join hands with Nabard to promote the JLG method of lending to farmers at 7% interest. Nabard sanctions assistance for promotion of such groups through its partner NGOs. SBI, Nabard and five NGOs in West Bengal signed a tripartite agreement with a view to lend to 2,500 groups in the state, which is characterised by fragmented landholdings and low credit penetration. “Agricultural credit of commercial banks in this state is not up to the desired level. This initiative will help us to extend loans to the financially excluded sections, especially landless farmers,” said SBI chief general manager in Kolkata Partha Pratim Sengupta.

Business Line, New Delhi
Smaller bags have reduced urea use: Minister

The government’s decision to reduce size of urea bags to 45 kg from 50 kg on account of better nitrogen use efficiency of neem-coated urea has brought down the urea consumption in the country by 10 per cent in 2016-17, Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Rao Inderjit Singh told Lok Sabha in written reply. The domestic consumption of neem-coated urea in the previous financial year was 296.14 lakh tonnes (lt) as compared to 306.35 lt and 306.10 lt in 2014-15 and 2015-16 respectively. “One of the primary benefits of neem coating is the slow release of urea, which results in increased nitrogen use efficiency. “Due to this, the consumption of neem-coated urea reduces as compared to normal urea,” Singh added. The overuse of urea, cheaper among fertilisers, has been a major environmental concern in the country for some time. Since 2015, the Department of Fertiliser has made neem coating compulsory for both indigenously produced and imported urea sold in the country. In September last year, the Centre asked fertiliser companies to introduce bags containing 45 kg instead of 50 kg and gave them a lead time of six months for the implementation of the policy. Many fertiliser companies, however, are not happy with the decision as it would increase their cost. “The increase in number of bags handled and transported would add further to our cost whereas the price of urea is controlled by the government,” a fertiliser industry source said. Meanwhile, Sunilam, former MLA in Madhya Pradesh Assembly and farmer leader, said farmers in areas where the government has introduced aadhaar-seeding for availing urea have been suffering as long queues and glitches in the system have resulted in shortage of of urea bags. This has led to farmers buying fertiliser from black market, he said.

The Hindu, Kochi
Spices exports rise 24% in fiscal first half; chilli most in demand

India exported 5.57 lakh tonnes of spices and spice products worth Rs 8,850.53 crore during April-September 2017 compared with 4.5 lakh tonnes worth Rs 8,700 crore during the same period a year earlier. This is an increase of 24% in quantity and 2% in rupee terms, said a press release here. Earnings in dollar terms went up 6% from $1,299.96 million to $1,373.97 million. The press release cited the Spices Board chairman A. Jayathilak as saying that chilli, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, garlic and mint products were in ‘great’ demand from among the Indian spices. He also attributed the increase in exports to the efforts by the Board to promote the spices. “What is satisfying is that India’s exports of spices and spice products have been consistently moving up in the face of volatility in international markets and stringent food safety regulations imposed by countries across the globe,” he said. Chilli retained its position as the spice most in demand with exports of 2.35 lakh tonnes worth Rs 2,125.90 crore in value as against 1.65 lakh tonnes in the previous fiscal. It is an increase of 42% in terms of quantity. Chilli was followed by cumin with a total volume of 79,460 tonnes worth Rs 1,324.58 crore. The next in line was turmeric with an export volume of 59,000 tonnes worth Rs 547.63 crore.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Tea Gardens Hope for Good Tidings in FY19

India’s tea industry is hoping for a better 2018-19 than the current financial year following projections of a 3% increase in annual domestic consumption and lower carry-over stock. With global tea prices expected to stay firm due to fall in production in 2017 on account of an 8% drop in Kenyan crop, the industry is keeping its fingers crossed for suitable weather for production. “The first two quarters of FY19 appear to be favourable for the tea industry as the domestic demand is expected to remain firm,” said Indian Tea Association chairman Azam Monem. “Bulk of the production happens in April-September. If production remains unaffected due to any erratic weather conditions, the first two quarters will be good for the industry. The carry-over stock has been less in 2018, which is also a relief for the industry,” he said. J Kalyanasundaram, secretary of the Calcutta Tea Traders Association, said that tea output in 2017 would be lower than that in the year before. “In 2016, total production of tea was 1,267 million kg as the industry witnessed good volumes of tea production from November till the middle of December. But this time winter set in early and, therefore, it will not be possible to achieve last year’s production figure. Moreover, Assam gardens have lost 15 million kg of tea because of heavy monsoon,” he said. Tea output between January and November 2017 was 1,208.77 million kg. Monem said the performance of the tea industry in the second half of 2018-19 will depend on export orders. In the first 10 months of 2017, India’s tea exports rose 3.68% from a year ago in terms of volume.

3, Jan 2018
The Indian Express, New Delhi
$ 850/tonne MEP on onion to be applicable till Jan 20

With onion prices continue to be high, the government said the minimum export price (MEP) of USD 850 per tonne would be applicable on shipments of the commodity till January 20. In November, the government had imposed MEP to increase domestic supplies and check rising prices. MEP, which is the benchmark price below which no shipments can take place, was applicable till December 31. "Export of all varieties of onions will be allowed only on letter of credit subject to a minimum export price of USD 850 per tonne till January 20 this year," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has said in a notification. Retail onion prices are ruling at about Rs 40-45 per kg in most cities. The prices have shot up due to tight domestic supplies. Supplies got exhausted as large quantity of exports were undertaken in the first four months of the current fiscal. The country exported 1.2 million tonnes in April-July of this fiscal, up by 56 per cent from the year-ago period.

Business Line, New Delhi
350 lakh tonnes of rice procured so far

The Central government has procured 350.28 lakh tonnes (lt) of rice in the current marketing season so far, according to official data. The rice procurement target for the current season (October-September) has been fixed at 375 lt. In the previous year, total rice procurement had surpassed the target at 381.06 lt. Procurement is undertaken by State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other State agencies. Rice purchase in Punjab has reached 176.61 lt in October-December of this season. The State has already surpassed its target of 115 lt. In Haryana, rice procurement has reached 59.20 lt, exceeding the target of 30 lt given for the entire season. In Andhra Pradesh, 13.92 lt has been procured, while 9.91 lt in Odisha so far this season. Procurement in West Bengal and other rice growing States is still under way. For the 2017-18 season, the government has fixed paddy MSP of ‘common’ grade variety at Rs 1,550/quintal, while that of ‘A’ grade variety at Rs 1,590. In the kharif season of 2017-18 crop year (July-June), rice production is estimated to be 944.8 lt as against 963.9 lt in the previous year.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Bearish trend in pulses seen extending into 2018

There appears to be no respite from poor prices for the pulses growers this year too. The bearish trend in pulses, witnessed during major part of 2017, is seen extending into the new year as the country heads for a bumper harvest of chana (gram) on rise in rabi acreage. This is even as the market arrivals of tur gains pace amidst muted demand. The prices of tur are ruling below the minimum support price across major markets in the key growing regions such as Maharashtra and Karnataka among other States. While tur is ruling 20-40 per cent below the MSP level of Rs 5,450 per quintal, the market prices of black gram (urad) are hovering up to 50 per cent below the MSP of Rs 5,400 in Rajasthan and Karnataka. Moong (greengram) also continues to rule at 10-20 per cent below the MSP of Rs 5,575 in various markets. Procurement of tur has begun in Karnataka recently, where the State has announced a bonus of Rs 550 per quintal over the Centre’s MSP. “The purchases are expected to commence soon in Maharashtra,” said Pasha Patel, Chairman, Maharashtra State Commission for Agriculture and Prices. Patel expects prices of pulses to remain bearish for some time on higher supplies and farmers are seen bearing the brunt of it. However, the only comforting factor is that the country is heading towards self-sufficiency in pulses and it is a big challenge for the government to ensure MSP for the growers, Patel said. “The extended rains have pushed up the acreage under chana and we are heading for a bumper crop. The government should incentivise exports of pulses such as tur and chana to make the Indian pulses viable in the international market. Such a move could help stabilise the domestic prices,” Patel said.

Business Line, Mumbai
CII urges Centre to abolish CTT on processed commodities

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has urged the Centre to remove Commodity Transaction Tax on processed agriculture commodities and delivery based non-agriculture commodity to reduce impact cost and attract hedgers participation. While agricultural commodities have been kept out of the ambit of CTT, its levy on agri-processed commodities has created an anomaly and has drastically reduced hedgers’ participation due to increase in impact cost. Removal of CTT on agri-processed commodities will establish a more stable price regime in these commodities, it said. The industry body has also urged SEBI to allow the agriculture commodity derivative markets to operate till 8 pm on weekdays and remain open on Saturdays to match the timings of mandis. This will enable better integration of spot market with futures market and avoid the risk of participants resorting to ‘dabba trading’. It will also help in better price discovery, reduce volatility and lower impact cost. Suggesting SEBI to relax daily price limits on commodity futures contract, CII said restricting price movement on daily basis may jeopardise the very purpose of future price discovery and hedging as prices may delink from spot market and international prices. Many market participants, the industry body said, have physical market exposure far greater than the allowed hedge limits on the exchange thus forcing such participants to remain unhedged or look at international markets. With near-month trading limits being even smaller, hedgers are left vulnerable to the price movements and risks. CII suggests that participants be allowed to hedge up to the extent of the actual physical holding of the market participant. It has suggested to permit banks to trade on commodity exchanges. Calling for re-launch of forwards contracts, CII said it provide farmers with an alternative tool to get the best price for their produce and manage price risk more efficiently.

Business Standard, Chennai
Coffee exports rise 17% in 2017, may not be as good in 2018

Coffee exports from India (January to December) rose by around 17 per cent in quantity to $958.80 million and eight per cent in quantity terms to 0.38 million tonnes. Re-exports saw a drop in 2017. In India, the domestic coffee's content in the instant coffee almost doubled in 2017. Exporters have said 2018 may not be as good as 2017 due to price and projected a drop in the crop. According to Coffee Board's data total exports rose to $958.80 million in 2017 from $818.65 million in 2016. Re-exports, however, dropped to 64,888 MT in 2017 from 79,034 MT in 2016. India is Asia's third-largest producer and exporter of coffee. The major markets include Italy, Germany, and Russia. India ships both Robusta and Arabica varieties, besides instant coffee. Of the total exports, India exported 77,770 tonnes to Italy, 41,064 tonnes to Germany and 29,531 tonnes to Russia during the year. Ramesh Rajah, President, Coffee Exporters Association said that the increase in coffee exports was mainly due to Robusta export, which sees a major jump. Production was also good during the year for Robusta. As the crop was higher, which lead the exporters to reduce the prices to $100 premium, over the London terminal, from $300 premium. A combination of price reduction and good quality of coffee are the key reasons for the increase in volume, said Rajah. This led to increasing the Indian Coffee content in instant coffee to 50,370.32 MT in 2017 from 25,272.100 MT in 2016. On the outlook, he is not very optimistic about 2018 as the growers are expecting Robusta production to drop by around 20 per cent as against Coffee Board's projection of 13.96 per cent (30,300 MT) growth in Robusta production. In value terms exports in 2018 is expected to drop by around 15-20 per cent, according to Rajah.

The Financial Express, Pune
Cotton Corporation to focus on commercial operations this season

Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has procured around 5 lakh bales this season of which 4 lakh bales have been procured at Minimum Support Price (MSP) and the remaining 1 lakh bales as part of its commercial operations, senior officials at the CCI said. With cotton prices firming up to around Rs 5,300 per quintal, farmers are finding it more lucrative to sell cotton in the open market. Officials at CCI therefore feel that the intervention of the corporation may not be required for a better part of the season unless arrivals increase and prices fall below MSP. CCI, however, is likely to continue with its commercial operations during the ongoing season for some of its existing buyers. With CCI having already procured around 5 lakh bales, the target is to procure another 5 lakh bales, officials said. CCI already has some buyers on its list with whom it has reached agreements to sell cotton. Cotton prices have firmed up on lesser availability of the commodity owing to the pink bollworm attack. According to Cotton Association of India (CAI), crop arrivals in the country up to December 31 have crossed 147.75 lakh bales in this season. By same time last year, arrivals were about 108 lakh bales. Since cotton rates have gone up in the country by 10% in last one month, earlier set target of cotton export of 63 lakh bales looks difficult now. Hence, cotton export figures have been reduced and revised from earlier 63 lakh bales to 55 lakh bales, said CAI president Atul Ganatra. Since cotton price has increased in India, parity to import of cotton has increased so CAI has revised import figures from 17 lakh bales to 20 lakh bales this season. CAI has estimated the total consumption of cotton during October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018 of around 320 lakh bales.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Cotton was '17's star crop, and funds have high hopes for '18

The longest winning streak in two decades propelled cotton to 2017's biggest increase among crop commodities, and hedge funds are ready for more gains in 2018. Of the nine components tracked by the Bloomberg Agriculture Subindex, only cotton and wheat contracts posted gains last year. The fiber lead the way with an 11 per cent advance as demand grew for US exports. Prices capped 2017 with 10 straight weekly gains, the best streak since 1998. Cotton was also one of the few crops that hedge funds got more positive on during the course of the year. Money managers held a net-long position, or the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, of 102,402 futures and options as of December 26, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. That's up from 76,052 at the end of 2016. Cotton's stellar performance came as crop woes in Pakistan and India, two of the world’s biggest growers, raised prospects for American shipments. In the 2017-2018 season, commitments for US cotton exports are running 29 per cent higher than a year earlier, government data show. The investors also added to their bullish outlook in soybean meal in 2017, the CFTC show. By contrast, the funds lowered their net-long holdings in soybean oil, while turning bearish on coffee, sugar and soybeans during the year.

The New Indian Express, Coimbatore
Farmers cry foul after official diktat on one-year storage of turmeric

Turmeric farmers storing their produce at the regulated market centre run by the Agri Business and Market Department were being forced to sell their goods within a year despite the market condition not being conducive. While farmers found the directive to be unfair, officials claimed they had valid reasons to implement the same. After Erode district, turmeric cultivation was prominent in Coimbatore. Post harvest, farmers usually stored their goods in the regulated market and sold it through the auctions held on Monday and Tuesday every week. The market centres at Ramanathapuram and Thondamathur each had a storing capacity of 2,100 tonnes. Farmers were charged 10 paise per quintal per day for the storage. The farmers typically hold the stock for over a year in hopes that the prices may rise. However, the farmers were now being put on a spot with the centre forcing them to sell their goods without delay. K Kandhakumar, a farmer from Valukkupparai, had 40 sacks – each weighing 65 kg – of turmeric stored at the Ramanathapuram centre since 2016. A week ago, an official from the department called him in and asked him to sell his goods immediately. He had been holding out to get a decent profit. With the price of turmeric ranging between Rs 7,500 and Rs 8,100 now, he was bound to incur a loss. However, with officials directing him to make the sale at the earliest, he was left with little choice. He wanted them to allow him to keep the produce till he was able to get a better supportive price for it. Youth wing secretary of farmers association (non political) A Karthick Krishnakumar, said, “Not just Kandhakumar, many farmers who were storing their produce for over a year were instructed to make immediate sale. We have not seen such a practice before.”

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Govt procures 350.38 lakh tonne rice in 2017-18 season so far

The government has procured 350.28 lakh tonnes of rice in the current marketing season so far. Rice procurement target for the current season (October-September) has been fixed at 375 lakh tonnes. In the previous year, total rice procurement stood at 381.06 lakh tonnes. Procurement is undertaken by state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies for the central pool to meet the requirement of food security law. Rice is purchased at the minimum support price (MSP). According to FCI’s latest data, rice procurement in Punjab has reached 176.61 lakh tonnes. The state has already surpassed its target of 115 lakh tonnes. In Haryana, rice procurement has reached 59.20 lakh tonnes, exceeding the target of 30 lakh tonnes given for the entire season. Rice purchase in Chhattisgarh has reached 33.32 lakh tonnes so far, while the target is 48 lakh tonnes for the season. In Uttar Pradesh, 25.96 lakh tonnes of rice has been procured in October-December period of the current season against the total target of 37 lakh tonnes. In Andhra Pradesh, 13.92 lakh tonnes has been procured, and in Odisha 9.91 lakh tonnes. Procurement in West Bengal and other rice growing states is still underway. For the 2017-18 season, the government has fixed paddy MSP of ‘common’ grade variety at Rs. 1,550 per quintal, while that of ‘A’ grade variety at Rs. 1,590 per quintal. In the kharif season of 2017-18 crop year (July-June), rice production is estimated to be 944.8 lakh tonnes against 963.9 lakh tonnes in the previous year.

Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Maha farmers lose 84% cotton crop to bollworm

At a time when the state government is expecting compensation from the Centre and insurance cover, a recent survey revealed that cotton crop on 34.39 lakh hectares or 84% of the total area under cultivation has fallen prey to pink bollworm. Aurangabad has been the worst-hit, with farmers losing cotton crop planted on 4.81 lakh hectares. The data collated by the revenue and agriculture department from villages growing cotton have revealed that several districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha have been hit badly by the pink bollworm attack. After Aurangabad, farmers from Beed (4 lakh hectares), Nanded (2.89 hectares) and Yavatmal (2.81 hectares) have suffered the most. Farmers in Ahmednagar (2.56 lakh hectares) in western Maharashtra and Jalgaon (2.15 lakh hectares) in northern Maharashtra too have incurred a heavy loss. Farmers in more than 20 districts of Marathwada, Vidarbha and other regions had cultivated cotton on 41 lakh hectares, which is more than 30% of the total area under cultivation in the state. About 98% of the farmers use BT Cotton seeds, which are said to be pest resistant. But the attack was witnessed immediately after first two picking of the standing crop. This wreaked havoc in the agriculture sector, as the farmers were expecting the total crop to reach four crore quintal from last year’s produce of three crore quintal. Agriculture department officials said the actual loss to the farmers may vary and might range between 50% and 80% because the first two picks of the cotton yielded sizable produce. The state has announced compensation to cotton farmers, who incurred losses, from the insurance cover, seed companies and funds allocated under National Disaster Response Fund. It also sought financial aid of Rs 2,430 crore from Centre under NDRF.

Business Lines, Mumbai
Maharashtra govt sanctions Rs 14,240 cr for farm loan waiver

The Maharashtra government made a Rs 14,240-crore allocation for the farm loan waiver scheme and for repayment to farmers whose produce was purchased by the State. The State’s cooperation and marketing department issued a Government Resolution (GR) for the allocation of Rs 14,240 crore for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, the loan waiver scheme announced on June 24 last year. At the time of the announcement, the State had claimed that the total outlay of the scheme would be Rs 34,020 crore. “The GR means that the state government has prepared itself for disbursement of the amount under the loan waiver scheme. The government had during the last monsoon session made an allocation of Rs 20,000 crore and a major portion of it has been disbursed,” a senior official of the cooperation department said. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had last year said that the Centre would not be part of a State’s fiscal leverage in waiving farm loans and the cost has to be borne by the States. The allocation of Rs 14,000 crore was sanctioned during the winter session of the state Assembly held in Nagpur last month.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Major Spices End 2017 with a Mixed Taste

It was a mixed bag for major spices in India in 2017. Prices of red chilli, the largest exported spice from India by volume, plunged to the lowest level in a decade, while jeera or cumin, the second-largest exported spice, scaled a new peak. Generally, it was a good year, with production of most major spices rising. It was a bumper harvest for chilli, while output of cardamom, turmeric and coriander was robust enough to push prices down. The black pepper crop was better than the previous year and only jeera declined. Jeera production fell by about 13%, but futures prices on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange touched a new high of Rs 221per kg. The price increase led to an increase in the sowing area for the crop. “Speculation had driven up prices. Anyway, the next crop is expected to be good and India is likely to be a major exporter in the global market in the next few months,” said Shailesh Shah, director of Jabs International, a major spice exporter. Chilli prices fell almost 60% to Rs 35 per kg due to a bumper crop, forcing the Andhra Pradesh government to introduce a price support scheme. Prices rose subsequently.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
New flood-resistant paddy varieties bring ray of hope to Nalbari farmers

Two new paddy varietipes have brought a ray of hope to the flood-affected farmers of Assam, the land of paddy which is placed on an equal pedestal with Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, prosperity and fortune. The culture and festivals of various communities living in the State are connected to the timing and stages of this crop which reminds one of the significance of paddy not only as food but also as a means of celebration. Despite rice being the staple food of the Assamese people, the farmers are still facing various hurdles while cultivating this main crop. Due to the fact that the major portion of the rice-cultivating area is rainfed and there is no guaranty of receiving a well-distributed rain during the sali season, the farmers are facing two major problems–intermittent drought and recurrent floods. While the probability of the former in Assam is less and the problem is manageable to some extent with irrigating water, the latter potentially can cause havoc among farmers. Though many researches have been done in connection with this issue and many varieties have been developed to withstand submergence during floods in the State, the Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat has been consistently working in that direction to help the poor farmers of the State. As a result of the efforts made by the AAU, two new varieties were developed in line with two most popular high-yielding paddy varieties Ranjit and Bahadur which have got the reputation of outperforming many potential paddy varieties in the State’s weather conditions. The newly-developed submergence tolerant rice varieties namely Ranjit sub-1 and Bahadur sub-1 are going through field trials in many districts under the supervision of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs).

Financial Chronicle, Bangalore
PM’s remark deals a blow to floriculture industry

The Indian floriculture industry has taken a moral beating in the domestic and international markets after prime minister Narendra Modi said no to flowers, the South India Floriculture Association (SIFA) has said. It may be recalled that, during one of his Mann Ki Baat radio programmes last year, Modi had said people should gift useful stuff like books or khadi handkerchiefs and not flower bouquets, as flowers don’t last long. Following that episode, the ministry of home affairs sent out a ‘strict’ circular to all state governments and Union territories directing them not to gift flower bouquets to the prime minister. Floriculture earns foreign exchange on a daily basis and supports the rural economy as more than 80 per cent of the people involved in this trade belong to villages. The Union government’s decision not to accept flowers as gift came as a shocker and has adversely impacted the business across the country and overseas, said SIFA president Ram Karuturi. “The floriculture industry directly and indirectly offers livelihood to a large population of people in the country. Most of them are rural women and farmers who hold small portions of land. The industry helps these farmers maximise their income through earning foreign exchange, for the country. The government cannot diminish the importance of this sector as many lives are depending on it,’’ said Karuturi. Bangalore-based Karuturi Global is the world’s largest producer of cut roses. As per SIFA, the ‘flower circular’ has had a cascading effect on the industry. For instance, domestic flo­w­er use has come down drastically as many individuals, private organisations and the government agencies have cut their flower budget or sizably reduced flower consumption.

Business Line, New Delhi
Relaxed fumigation norms for agri imports extended till June 30

The Centre has extended the relaxation from methyl bromide fumigation for imported farm commodities by six months till June 30, as it is yet to notify alternate fumigants, a senior government official said. Indian plant quarantine norms stipulate that farm commodities, particularly grains, have to be fumigated with methyl bromide at the port of loading to prevent foreign insects and pests from reaching the Indian shores. The government has been relaxing this rule for a year at a time since 2005 to facilitate import of pulses and wheat from countries where use of methyl bromide is banned due to environmental and health concerns. It has been permitting importers to either use alternative fumigants or fumigate imported grain shipments with methyl bromide once they enter Indian waters. The relaxation is under review since last year. The government wants to reinstate mandatory use of methyl bromide at the port of origin, as the chemical is the best bet so far against eggs and pupae of insects, which other fumigants fail to tackle. It is also working on a list of alternate fumigants that importers can use at the port of loading, as fumigation with methyl bromide, which compresses at low temperatures, can be uneconomical for colder countries. “Initially we were hoping that the list would be ready by the end of December, but our consultations are still on. We don’t want to rush into anything,” the official said, explaining the reason for another extension for the relaxation. Importers that fail to comply with India’s fumigation requirements face tough penalties.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Spend on agri schemes highest in 6 years

As the Centre contemplates measures to give the freedom to states to intervene in agricultural markets if there is a price fall, including adopting Madhya Pradesh’s Price Deficiency Payment Scheme, the data shows that the government has spent more than Rs 71 billion on the existing market schemes till the middle of December, and that is among the highest in the past five-six years. The Centre runs two programmes — Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) and Price Support Scheme (PSS) — to assist states to procure agricultural commodities if there is a price fall. While the PSS is for procuring mostly oilseeds and pulses, through the MIS states receive help to procure perishable items like onions and potatoes. The Central government bears 50 per cent of the expenditure under both the programmes, and the states contribute the rest. Apart from this, a Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) is operated by the Union ministry of consumer affairs and under it states are compensated for intervening in agricultural markets in the event of a price fall. In 2017-18, the data shows that till December 18 the Central government spent around Rs 13.87 billion from its kitty to help states procure over 920,000 tonnes of onions, potatoes, red chillies, and garlic under the MIS. This was the highest amount ever allocated by the government under the scheme in the last six years starting from 2011-12. Similarly, under the PSS, the Centre, along with states, procured 1.2 million tonnes of oilseeds and pulses, spending around Rs 57.43 billion so far as its share, and this too was by far the highest spend on the scheme since 2012-13. Through this, around 700,000 tonnes of oilseeds and 500,000 tonnes of pulses have been procured.

Business Line, Kochi
TN government purchases lend aroma to cardamom

Small cardamom prices continued to stay firmer on strong demand at auctions held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. ‘Pongal’ purchase by the Tamil Nadu government has pushed up prices by Rs 50-60 a kg on Monday in Bodinayakannur, the main trading hub for the spice, Ranganathan, a dealer, told. He said the government has placed an order for 90 tonnes of cardamom for distributing to BPL category ration card holders in the State through PDS. Meanwhile, PC Punnoose, Managing Director, CPMC, said that the inventories in the north Indian markets are also reportedly empty and hence upcountry dealers were actively covering. Export buying has slipped following a squeeze in availability of the exportable grade capsules, he said. At the auction in Bodinayakannur conducted by the Cardamom Planters Association, 42 tonnes arrived and almost the entire quantity was traded. The auction average was up at Rs 965.49 a kg (Rs 929.02) and the maximum price was at Rs 1,160 a kg.

2, Jan 2018
Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
Telangana starts free, 24-hour power supply to farmers

The Telangana government launched a round-the-clock power supply to the state’s 2.3 million farmers free of cost, but power experts and opposition parties said that the scheme might result in its misuse and large-scale exploitation of groundwater. Transmission Corporation of Telangana Ltd’s chairperson and managing director D Prabhakar Rao and Southern Discom MD Raghuma Reddy formally launched the scheme at Pothaipalli village of Shamirpet mandal in Medchal Malkajgiri district. Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao described the 24X7 agriculture power supply as a New Year’s gift for the farmers of the state. “Though certain states are supplying power to farmers free of cost, it is only for a few hours; and some states are giving 24-hour power supply but for a price. Telangana is the only state which is supplying power to farmers round the clock free of cost,” he said. The free power supply will now be available for 23 lakh agricultural pump sets. According to Prabhakar Rao, the demand from the agriculture sector in January will be around 9,500 MW, which might go up to 11,000 MW by March. “Our transmission and distribution system can bear the load up to 17,000 MW. We have strengthened the system at a cost of Rs 12,610 crore in the last three years,” Rao said. The electricity supply is crucial to farmers who use motorised pumps to irrigate their fields and largely depend on groundwater due to lack of canal irrigation. Distribution companies at present are able to meet a maximum power demand of 9,500 MW to agriculture sector during peak hours of the day. Transco officials have said that at least 1,500-2,000 MW of additional power is required to meet increasing demand and implement the free-power programme. However, experts say the round-the-clock power supply scheme might prove counter-productive to the farming community rather than actually benefitting them.

Business Line, Kolkata
‘Soil health cards help save urea usage 10%’

Around 10 crore soil health cards have been issued, and farmers who use these have managed to save use of urea by 8-10 per cent, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh. “About 10 crore soil health cards have been issued to the farmers over the last three years. A study was conducted (on the impact) and it was found that those who used these cards properly are able to save urea usage by 8-10 per cent. This also led to increase in productivity of cultivable land,” he said while addressing 117th Annual General Meeting of Bharat Chamber of Commerce. Some 40 lakh-odd soil health cards have been issued in West Bengal. Indian farmers are often said to over-use urea as it is cheaper and highly subsidised compared with other macro-nutrients such as phosphorous and potassium fertilisers. Over-use affects crop productivity. Accordingly, the soil health card will list the nutrients in the soil alongside physical parameters (like measuring acidity or alkalinity) and will have an advisory on the correct fertiliser dose that will give every farmer the optimum yield. The card will have to be renewed to keep a tab on the changing nutrient levels in the soil. As the Union Minister pointed out, about 22.5 lakh hectares were brought under organic farming and it has been growing well. While attempts are being made to connect kisan mandis (markets) to the electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM); some amendments to the APMC Acts of different States were also called for by Singh. e- NAM, as the name suggests, is a pan-India e-trading platform. It is designed to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. The aim of the platform is to integrate 585 regulated markets across the country. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka are some of the States that have brought about reforms to their agri-produce marketing acts.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Being 2017’s Star Crop, Funds Have High Hopes for Cotton

The longest winning streak in two decades propelled cotton to this year’s biggest increase among crop commodities, and hedge funds are ready for more gains in 2018. Of the nine components tracked by the Bloomberg Agriculture Subindex, only cotton and wheat contracts posted gains this year. The fiber lead the way with an 11 percent advance as demand grew for US exports. Prices capped 2017 with 10 straight weekly gains, the best streak since 1998. Cotton was also one of the few crops that hedge funds got more positive on during the course of the year. Money managers held a netlong position, or the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, of 102,402 futures and options as of Dec. 26, according to US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data. That’s up from 76,052 at the end of 2016. Cotton’s stellar performance came as crop woes in Pakistan and India, two of the world’s biggest growers, raised prospects for American shipments. In the 2017-2018 season, commitments for US cotton exports are running 29 percent higher than a year earlier, government data show. The investors also added to their bullish outlook in soybean meal in 2017, the CFTC show. By contrast, the funds lowered their net-long holdings in soybean oil, while turning bearish on coffee, sugar and soybeans during the year. Cotton’s gains are especially notable in a year that was dismal for most other crops amid large global gluts. Combined wagers on benchmark corn, wheat and soybean contracts reached a net-short position of 421,450 contracts as of Dec. 26, the CFTC figures show. That’s the most-bearish ever in data that starts in 2006. While both varieties of winter wheat posted gains in 2017, they were pretty small, coming in at less than 5%.

Business Line, Kolkata
Bengal extends transport subsidy for potato farmers

The West Bengal government has extended transport subsidy to January 15 for potato farmers to help clear their stock from cold storages. About 6.5 lakh tonnes of potato, which is still lying in cold storages across the State, has to be evacuated by December 31, as prescribed by the government, West Bengal Cold Storage Association President Patit Paban Dey told. The State government offers a subsidy of ₹50 and ₹100 per quintal for inter-State transport of potato by road and rail, respectively. “To support potato farmers who have not cleared their stock from cold storages, the government is offering transport subsidy till mid-January,” he said. The government had extended the deadline for stock clearance at least twice in the past. “Farmers who failed to sell their produce for want of proper price had requested for another extension of the deadline, but the State government has refused to do so this time,” Dey said. Cold storages go for annual maintenance before new crop arrives. The harvest season has already begun and it is a matter of time before fresh stock arrives at the storages. The storages have the right to sell the potato stock once the deadline ends in line with the prescribed rules of the government, Dey said. Last season, of the total annual produce of 90 lakh tonnes, 69 lakh tonnes of potatoes had been stored in 400-odd cold storages across the State.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Map water health of farms, says farmer income panel

The official committee to recommend on the aim of doubling of farmer incomes in five years has said the soil health card scheme should be extended to the water health of farms. And, to link this with fertiliser management systems. The panel has issued released two new volumes of an intended 14-volume report. Six of these have been issued till date; the rest are being prepared. The two latest ones focus on sustainability in agriculture and extension services. In the earlier ones, the committee had estimated the average real income of a farmer household could rise to Rs 219,724 by 2022-23 from the 2015-16 base year of Rs 96,703, with extra public and private investment of Rs 6.4 lakh crore at 2011-12 prices. For the targeted 10.4 per cent annual increase in farmers’ income from 2015-16 to 2022-23, it says additional private investment of Rs 1.31 lakh crore is required (at 2011-12 prices) and public investment of Rs 5.08 lakh crore. Critics said a 10-plus per cent annual increase in incomes is a tall order, given that between 2002-03 and 2012-13, farm incomes grew yearly by 3.6 per cent. The new volumes say to boost the nutrition in soils, pulses cultivation should be promoted in a big way, to meet the nitrogen requirement. And, that the model legislation on groundwater usage that proposes statutory permission to sink new borewells, establishment of protected zones around drinking water sources and other measures be immediately implemented. Also, re-categorisation of country’s agro-climatic zones because of climate change, to develop new practices on sustainability. In like measure, a shift in cropping patterns, involving a system of more pigeon-wheat or maize-wheat instead of only rice and wheat in the Indo-Gangetic plains. The report also called for distributing carbon-credits to farmers and building drought-tolerant, photo-insensitive, pest and disease resistant breeders.

1, Jan 2018
The Economic Times, New Delhi
Abolish Commodities Transaction Tax on on agricultural produce: CII

Industry body CII said that Commodities Transaction Tax (CTT) on agricultural produce should be abolished to protect farmers' income. The industry body said that after witnessing an exponential growth since its inception till FY 2011-12, the commodities Futures market in the country has seen a contraction due to "various reasons such as suspension in trading of few commodities, enforcement of stock limits in certain commodities from time to time, introduction of CTT, etc." According to Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII: "The country remains one of the largest producers in the world for most of the agricultural commodities and there is an urgent need to safeguard the interests of the various stakeholders including farmers by providing them adequate hedging facilities through development of commodity derivatives market." He added: "The move to bring the regulatory control under Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has paved the way for next level of reforms in Indian commodity markets that aim not only at deepening and widening of the market but also make it safer for every stakeholder including farmers to transact efficiently". The SEBI has allowed options contracts and has also allowed hedge funds to invest in commodities market to deepen the Indian commodity derivatives market by allowing the entry of financial institutions. To support the initiative of SEBI, CII further recommended various measures which it feels, if implemented, would go a long way in helping the commodities market grow and become more vibrant and allow them to further benefit the entire commodities value chain and its participants starting from the farmer. As per CII other recommendations, SEBI should allow the agri-commodity derivative markets to stay open till 8 p.m. on weekdays and Daily Price Limits (DPL) on commodity futures contract to be relaxed.

The Sunday standard, Chandigarh
Amid spiralling farmer suicides, Punjab government waters down loan waiver scheme

Since 1995, more than three lakh farmers have committed suicide in India. In Punjab, on an average, two farmers commit suicide every day because they are unable to repay their debts. Notwithstanding this grim scene, the state government is to launch a watered down loan wavier scheme on January 7 that will cover only farmers with landholdings of up to 2.5 acres. Highly placed sources say that the state government has decided to launch the loan waiver scheme in Mansa district, where an event is scheduled for January 7, when Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh will distribute loan waiver certificates to farmers. The government has decided that only loans of up to Rs 40,000 per acre, subject to a maximum of Rs 2 lakh per farmer, will be waived, the sources said. Farmers who have borrowed more for agriculture or pledged their land and taken loans for other purposes, such as the marriage of a daughter, building a house, or buying a vehicle, will not be covered by the loan waiver scheme. The landholding ceiling for farmers to be covered by the scheme has been fixed at 2.50 acres, down from five acres earlier, so only about 3.94 lakh farmers are expected to benefit from it, as against the figure of 12.38 lakh farmers given by the government earlier. Thus, loans of up to Rs 7,400 crore will be waived, down from the initial estimate of Rs 9,500 crore. The government has borrowed Rs 4,600 crore from commercial banks for this purpose after pledging a cess of Rs 4,680 crore on the rural development fund to be collected by the Punjab Mandi Board in the next five years. The government has also asked the Union government to allow it to raise Rs 3,600 crore from the markets, said sources.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Grim year ends for Darjeeling tea

The embattled Darjeeling tea industry will close 2017 with one of its lowest outputs, estimated at about three million kg as against the average annual crop of about 8.5 million kg over the last few years. The previous low of about 7 million kg in 2011 was attributed to climate change. Production will not recommence before March, when the new leaves come out on the bushes which had to be pruned following the huge overgrowth during the closure. Consequently, first flush production which yields the priciest teas of this Himalayan bush may be delayed, industry sources said. Climate change and ageing tea bushes ( average age of which is 70 years) has impacted the Darjeeling tea industry which is also facing competition from the other teas grown on a neighbouring Himalayan valley. Production of this premium tea was halted between June and September 2017 on account of the three-and-a-half month long closure clamped on the hill station by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha which has been demanding a separate state. “Garden owners are now preparing for the first flush,” Darjeeling Tea Association secretary general Kaushik Basu said. Overcoming initial problems over labour mobilisation after the resumption of operations in the gardens in October, 2017, shearing the overgrowths in the gardens and deweeding, all took substantial time. Normalcy returned to the tea estates quite some time after, as many workers had gone underground fearing prosecution for participating in the movement. There are 87 tea estates in Darjeeling spread over 17,800 hectares. Darjeeling tea supplies have been vastly restricted at the auctions. In the immediate aftermath of the strike, there were nil offerings. The situation improved subsequently as garden managements succeeded in retrieving teas that were lying in the estate warehouses.

The Times of India, Chandigarh
Haryana govt to cover losses on veggie crops

The Haryana government launched a “risk-mitigation scheme”, Bhavantar Bharpayee Yojana, to “protect” vegetable-growing farmers from losses on account of drop in prices. CM Manohar Lal Khattar unveiled the scheme — which will be initially extended to farmers growing potato, onion, tomato and cauliflower — in Karnal. Haryana director general of horticulture Arjun Saini said the scheme’s aim was to help farmers in distress and ensure they recover input costs. “For example, if a farmer has spent Rs 400 on producing 100kg potato, he is free to sell it at any price to reap profits. However, if he fails to recover his input cost due to drop in rates, the department will compensate for the difference,” he added. Saini said the cost of horticulture produce would be determined by experts from the Haryana Agriculture University, department of horticulture and Kisan Ayog. “It is different from minimum support price (MSP). With this, distressed farmers growing vegetables in Haryana will no longer have to throw their produce on roads in the event of a crash in prices. The idea is to encourage them to resort to diversification of crops,” he said. The department clarified that farmers would be compensated only if they registered themselves on the portal and the produce was sold through the market committees using J-forms. A separate fund would be constituted by the state government for the scheme.

The Hindu, Chennai
Rice Research Station celebrates 75th anniversary

The Rice Research Station, a leading institution involved in rice research in Tamil Nadu, celebrated its 75th anniversary on its premises in Tiruvallur district. The research station, according to officials, was started in 1942 in Tirurkuppam, Tiruvallur district, with the aim of developing high-yielding varieties for the tank-fed areas of Chengalpattu. It has developed several rice varieties with drought and salinity tolerance and fine grain quality. It has also come up suitable crop improvement technologies covering nutrients, irrigation and pest and disease management for the north-eastern zone of Tamil Nadu, especially for the districts of Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram. The rice varieties introduced by the station include TKM 6, TKM 9 and TKM 13. The TKM 6, which is a universal donor for Stem Borer resistance, was honoured by way of a monument installed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, Manila). The rice variety TKM 9, popularly known as ‘red rice’, is grown in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. “All this while the Andhra rice varieties were famous in Tamil Nadu. But the TKM 13, released during 2015, has now become quite famous among farmers here,” said an official from the research station. He said that it was the best alternative to BPT 5204 (samba mahsuri). Agriculture Minister R. Doraikkannu, Tamil Development Minister Ma Foi Pandiarajan, Tiruvallur Collector E. Sundaravalli and other government officials took part in the event. A monument, with details of various rice varieties, was also installed on the occasion.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Soil health card scheme reduces fertiliser usage by 10%: Govt

It seems schemes launched by the Modi government to double the income of farmers have started yielding results. According to a survey conducted by National Productivity Council (NPC), it has come to notice that use of chemical fertilisers in agricultural fields has started coming down after the rollout of Soil Health Card (SHC). Citing the findings of the NPC report, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said that the industry has witnessed 8-10 per cent reduction in the usage of fertilisers in about three years after the launch of SHC scheme in 2015. Notably, the SHC scheme, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 19, 2015, was rolled out to promote soil testing for balanced use of fertilisers to enable farmers to increase higher yields at lower cost. The scheme has helped in increasing the agricultural output too. According to the minister, the scheme improved the crop production by 5-6 per cent. "As the first cycle of two years (2015-17) is on the verge of completion, above 10 crore soil health cards have been distributed out of the total target of 12 crore. The remaining cards are getting printed, which would be completed very soon," the minister said. "For the second cycle of two years (2017-19, 94.46 lakh soil samples have been collected out of the total target of 127.16 lakh samples, while 50.24 lakh soil samples have been tested," Singh said while addressing a local traders body. Spelling out several other measures initiated to improve the financial condition of farmers, Singh said, "During 2011-14, there was only 16.13 lakh hectare of agricultural land was under the coverage of micro-irrigation. As per latest report (till December 20, 2017), 23.07 lakh hectare of land was brought irrigation during 2014-17, which is 43 per cent increase."

The Financial Express, Kolkata
W Bengal's no to APMC Act, Centre's no for e-mandi

West Bengal’s 17 applications for setting the Centre’s electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) is still pending with the union ministry of agriculture since the state has not brought the changes in the APMC Act, required for setting up such markets. The state will have to bring changes in at least three necessary rules to get the Centre’s Rs 30 lakh grant to set the eNAM. Union agriculture and farmers welfare minister Radha Mohan Singh at an interactive session organised by the Bharat Chamber of Commerce said the Centre wants the states to bring an end to all forms of physical trading of agri products in the whole sale markets for which a draft model APMC Act has been released for adopting. While the model APMC Act was formulated in line with the guidelines of the Niti Aayog and many states adopted it, West Bengal remains the only state, which has neither adopted the model bill nor followed the guidelines of the Niti Aayog. “There is a need to bring reforms in agriculture marketing and the Centre has considered allowing e-trading of agri commodities, facilitating direct marketing of produce and allowing contract farming, which will call for change in the APMC Act,” Singh said. Under NAM, quality parameters for 69 agriculture and horticulture commodities have been notified for trading.The Centre is also persuading the states to adopt the Centre’s policy for land leasing and contract farming. However, the Centre expects to integrate all 585 agriculture produce marketing committees under one electronic platform by March, 2018, Singh said. After integration of all the mandis, NAM would increase the choice for a farmer after he brings his produce to a mandi. While local traders can bid for the produce, traders from other states can bid on the electronic platform.

31, Dec 2017
Business Line, New Delhi
‘Centre mulling scheme to ensure fair returns to farmers’

The Centre is working on a scheme to enable State governments to intervene immediately if prices of farm commodities register a sharp fall and growers are unable to get fair returns, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said in Rajya Sabha. “We have urged the State governments to review this new scheme where they can intervene immediately (on learning of the price fall). Whatever expenses the States incur will later be compensated by the Central government...We are receiving responses from them,” Singh said. Under the current farmer welfare schemes, like the price support mechanism, State governments have to wait for orders from the Centre before taking necessary action. The government, under the price support scheme, announces minimum support price for major agricultural commodities each year during kharif and rabi seasons, and conducts procurement operations through different agencies. State governments have to notify the Centre about expected production, acreage, and arrival period of the crops at least a month prior to the implementation of the scheme. About the price deficit payment scheme, a senior government official had earlier told Cogencis that “though it could not yield desired results, the government is considering other instruments of market intervention.” Under the price deficit payment scheme, state governments compensated farmers the difference between modal price of a crop harvested in 2017-18(July-June) kharif season and its minimum support price. The difference was credited directly to the accounts of registered farmers. The project, introduced in Madhya Pradesh on a pilot basis, in October, had hit a roadblock due to reports of discrepancy in its implementation.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
‘Secured price’ for veggie farmers now

Haryana will become the first state in the country to provide “secured price” of vegetable crops to its farmers. Under a scheme “Bhavantar Bharpai (Price Deficit Compensation)” being launched by the state government, farmers will be compensated to the extent of difference between their input costs and the amount at which they have to sell their vegetables in the event of prices falling drastically. “For example, if the prices of potatoes fall to Re 1 per kg on any given day and the input cost of the farmer is Rs 4 per kg, the government will compensate him for this difference of Rs 3 per kg,” Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar, the brain behind this scheme, said. He said in the first phase, the government has included four vegetable crops under the scheme – potatoes, onions, tomatoes and cauliflower. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar will launch the scheme tomorrow from Padhana village of Karnal, a hub of tomato growers in the state. The departments of Horticulture, Revenue and Agriculture Marketing Boards will be involved and the registration of farmers involved in growing vegetables will begin from tomorrow itself. Madhya Pradesh is the only state where the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government launched Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (Price Deficit Financing Scheme) in August this year for eight crops, mostly oilseeds and pulses, where the government procurement is typically low unlike rice and wheat. Claiming that the scheme in MP was also launched at his suggestion, Dhankar said no state in the country has ever thought of compensating vegetable growers. “The idea struck me after I noticed that after increasing the state advised price (SAP) for sugarcane from Rs 310 to Rs 330, the area under the crop has increased from 90,000 hectares to 2 lakh hectares,” said the minister.

The Financial Express, Pune
Cotton production in 2017-18 pegged at 375 lakh bales

The Cotton Association of India (CAI) has retained its December estimate of the cotton crop for 2017-18 crop year at 375 lakh bales which is the same level as previous forecast. The projected balance sheet drawn by the CAI estimated total cotton supply for the season at 425 lakh bales of 170 kgs each, including the opening stock of 30 lakh bales at the beginning of the season and the imports which the CAI estimates at 20 lakh bales for 2017-18 crop year. The domestic consumption is estimated to be 320 lakh bales while CAI estimates exports for the season to be 55 lakh bales. As per the data received from various sources, the CAI estimates cotton arrivals up to end of December 2017 at 147.75 lakh bales as compared to 108 lakh bales up to December 31, 2016. About 39% of the total crop estimated for the year has already arrived in the market, Atul Ganatra, president, CAI said. Looking at the pace of arrivals this year, CAI is of the view that the projected crop of 375 lakh bales for 2017-18 crop years is achievable, he said. According to CAI, cotton arrivals in India up to December 31 have crossed 147.75 lakh bales this season. By the same time last year arrivals were about 108 lakh bales. These arrival figures were collected from each state to arrive at the correct figures.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Microfinance firms brace for write-offs of Rs 5,000 crore

The microfinance sector is bracing to write off close to Rs 5,000 crore as bad loans, on account of debt waiver schemes by state governments. This excludes write-offs by small finance banks-commercial banks and non-MFI non-banking finance companies (NBFCs). “We estimate the amount of write-offs to be Rs 4,000-5,000 crore. Anyone who has defaulted would not get a fresh loan. In several parts, defaulters have even stopped coming to group meetings, which makes recovery even more difficult,” said Ratna Vishwanathan, chief executive officer, MFIN (Microfinance Institutions Network). Of the amount stuck as bad loans, the biggest defaults are in Vidarbha district of Maharashtra, around Rs 1,000 crore is estimated to be the amount of defaults, according to informal estimates by MFIN. Repayment had been severely impacted in western Uttar Pradesh and pockets of Maharashtra. In certain pockets, repayments had come down by 20 to 30 per cent to around 70 per cent. From the recovery estimates of around 99 per cent, it now stands at around 90 per cent for the microfinance industry. According to data available from MFIN, at the end of the June quarter of 2016-17, for NBFC MFIs the portfolio at risk (PAR) at more than 30 days was still high at 7.46 per cent, against 0.32 per cent in the corresponding quarter in 2016-17. In June, the Maharashtra government had announced a debt waiver of Rs 34,000 crore for nearly 8.9 million farmers. Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government waived loans worth Rs 36,359 crore for about 21 million farmers. Andhra Pradesh waived loans of about Rs 20,000 crore, Punjab waived Rs 10,000 crore, Telangana announced a Rs 15,000-crore waiver while Karnataka announced Rs 8,000-crore waiver.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Oppn corners govt in RS over MSP

The opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha cornered the government over minimum support price (MSP) for agriculture produce including pulses and paddy. The opposition also asked the government whether and how it calculated the expenditure for farming while fixing the MSP. While BJD alleged that the Centre did not respond to Odisha's demand for hiking MSP for paddy at Rs 2,930 per quintal, Samajawadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav wanted to know whether the cost of farming is included while arriving at MSP. Responding to this, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said the panel for suggesting the MSP takes into account all expenses and in the past couple of years, the government has given bonus over and above the recommended price to benefit the farmers. He said to ensure that farmers get the MSP for pulses, edible oils and cotton, the government has written to state governments to go in for decentralised procurement of these commodities, for which the Centre will pick up the bill.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Overall rabi sown area dips, but pulses’ on rise

After recording marginally higher sown area under Rabi crops for the past two weeks this month as compared to the corresponding period last year, the overall sown area dipped again. But farmers’ choice to bring more area under pulses kept hopes alive for a good farm production during 2017-18 crop year (July-June). Though the overall dip is attributed to sharp decline in area under wheat, the 9% rise in sown area under pulses so far (from 138.34 lakh hectares in 2016-17 to 150.63 lakh hectares this year) has kept the gap less. The sown area data, released by the agriculture ministry, show that the total area under rabi crops as of now stand at 565.79 lakh hectares as compared to 571.47 lakh hectares at this time last year. “Deficient monsoon rainfall in wheat growing Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh resulted in less soil moisture and therefore the farmers in these two states and elsewhere opted not to go for bigger areas under wheat. Instead, they opted for pulses which use less water from deep soil,” said an official. He said the larger area under pulses has indicated that the farmers have also diversified their cropping pattern a bit, keeping in view the increase in minimum support prices (MSP) for the 2017-18 crop year. The government had in October increased MSP of six Rabi crops. Though the MSP of wheat was also increased (by 6.8%), the hike was higher for pulses. The MSP of gram was increased from Rs 4,000 per quintal last year to Rs 4,400 per quintal in 2017-18— a hike 10% per quintal. Officials, tracking the sowing operations, believe that the marginal dip in overall sown area under Rabi crops is not a sign of worry as farmers still have three-four weeks of sowing operation left for different crops.

Business Line, Coimbatore
Prices edge up at TeaServe auction

At TeaServe’s last auction for the calendar year 2017, around 81.3 per cent of the teas on offer were taken up, and on the pricing front too, it was marginally up at Rs 65.60 a kg compared to the earlier week’s average of Rs 64. While 99 per cent of the tea leaf category on offer was sold, only around 68 per cent of the tea dust was taken up, said industry insiders. Tea dust appears to have fetched better rate, averaging around Rs 80- 81 a kg compared to the average leaf price of Rs 77 a kg. The Coonoor Tea Manufacturers’ Service Industrial Co-Operative Society (TeaServe) auctions registered a total sale of 1,01,39,719 kg during the first nine months of the current fiscal. The highest bid in the leaf grade touched Rs 104 a kg, while in the dust grade it was much higher at Rs 124/kg.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Tariff changes fail to lift mandi prices of pulses, oilseeds

Though the government has taken a series of measures since late August to push up prices of agricultural commodities, this hasn't yielded much on the ground. The price of soybean seed and groundnut seed, for instance, grown during the Kharif season, and of mustard, planted in the rabi season, has remained below or barely at the government's Minimum Support Price (MSP) since September. According to data sourced from agmarket.nic.in, barring masur (red lentil), the prices of most Kharif and rabi pulses -- moong (green gram), chana (Bengal gram), urad (black gram) or tur -- have stayed below the MSP. In the case of chana, the price in September was Rs 5,725 a quintal at the Amravati mandi in Maharashtra, which remained so till October. Since then, it has slid and was quoted at Rs 3,500-3,700 a qtl this month before the government's raising of import duty to 30 per cent pushed it to Rs 4,000 a qtl -- still below the MSP of Rs 4,400 a qtl. In the case of wheat, though, doubling of import duty to 20 per cent seems to have had some impact and prices have moved up from below Rs 1,700 a qtl in September to Rs 1,750-1,760 this month. "Tariff policy changes take three to six months to show results on the ground and it seems we have been late in taking many decisions. Also, there is a hangover from imports already in, which will take time to exhaust," Ashok Gulati, former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices told. He said chana, one of the largest grown among Indian pulses, would see farm-gate prices fall more in the coming months, under the pressure of a bumper harvest and weak global markets. Siraj Hussain, a former Union agriculture secretary, says there is no demand in the markets, as traders after demonetisation could be putting surplus cash in safer investments.

The Hindu, Jaipur
Technology to the rescue of carrot farmers in Bharatpur

A machine for washing agricultural produce is helping farmers grow carrots at Indroli village in the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. Two carrot washing machines installed in the village have enhanced farmers’ profits. “Carrots are grown on land measuring about 500 acres in Indroli during winter. The replacement of manual washing with the mechanical devices has immensely helped us in increasing our production,” Lal Singh Saini, who brought the first carrot washing machine to Indroli four years ago from Punjab said. Villagers, with a bumper crop of carrots in the current season, are sending about 100 quintals of it every day after washing to the agricultural mandi at Kosi Kalan in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, from where it is supplied to markets in cities like Delhi, Gurugram and Agra. Mr. Saini, a landowner, said farmers in his village had earned ₹2 crore over the past three months as a result of fast and clean washing of carrots with the machines. “Our produce is sold in the market just with the identity of Indroli. Our carrots are big, shining red, and nutritious,” he said. The other machine installed in the village was manufactured locally as an imitation of Mr. Saini's apparatus. Both machines are used by their owners and also rented out for use by other farmers. Bharatpur-based Lupin Foundation provides technical assistance for their maintenance.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Trying to Address Farm Challenges: Gujarat Chief Secy

The Gujarat government is taking measures to meet rural challenges, chief secretary JN Singh told. The government was focused on improving implementation of schemes related to irrigation, minimum support price and crop insurance for farmers. Gujarat saw a tough fight in the recently-concluded assembly polls, with BJP winning only 7 seats more than what was needed for an absolute majority. BJP lost 13 seats in Saurashtra where distress of farmers was cited as the main factor. Singh, however, said that the people of Gujarat chose the same government even after 22 years because of their “trust in Narendra Modi’s leadership and impact of the state government’s policies.” “The minimum support programme for various crops, including groundnut and cotton, has been taken up by the government in a big way. Nearly 66 lakh quintals of groundnut has been procured at MSP. Storehouses are full, but we are ready to procure 50-60 lakh quintals of groundnut more on MSP. That will provide a lot of relief to farmers,” Singh said. The state government was increasing cold storage capacities to tackle bumper produce of perishable crops. The state had announced procurement of key crops at MSP and waived interest on loans up to Rs 3 lakh for farmers just before the polls. Since market prices were not matching MSP, several groundnut farmers had pinned hopes on procurement which took time. “Nearly Rs 2,700 crore has been given to groundnut farmers. Certainly, it has taken some time for implementation but the hassles have been sorted out now,” Singh said. He added that there were challenges but the government was well equipped at both policy and implementation levels to face and solve them.

30, Dec 2017
The New Indian Express, Chennai
Cashew farmers waiting to cash in

The cashew nut farmers from Panruti and Neyveli regions are a happy lot as they expect to make a decent profit after a lull of two years, when most of the nuts were imported due to the failure of monsoon. The farmers who were staring at yet another loss this year were boosted by the moderate rains that the district received in the months of October and November. The cashew nuts from the region fetch a good price in the global market, said a farmer and we have suffered losses for the past two years. R Shankar (44) of Kangeyankuppam, who owns a 10-acre farmland said that the season usually begins only during the month of March when the nuts are harvested. This goes on for about a month. However, for the past two years, the market was dull, but the demand was high and as there was not much harvest in the region, it was imported from Kerala and even Africa, which arrived at the Thoothukudi Port. Several cashew nut dealers in Neyveli, Panruti and Muthandikuppam all went to the Thoothukudi Port to take the nuts from Nigeria and other parts of Africa. The nuts are brought here for segregation, which are processed for a price and sold in the markets. The entire processing were done at cheaper rates as the demand was high domestically due to the poor harvest, added Shankar. Shankar who employs over 15 people for the segregation of cashew nuts is a happy man as he and several others who own even smaller farms are going to reap the benefits. A kg of first-grade cashew nut sells at the Rs 670 while the roasted one is sold at Rs 660.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Environment ministry launches crop residue management project

To combat the climate change impacts, enhancing adaptive capacity and to counter the adverse environmental impacts from reported stubble burning, the environment ministry approved Rs 100 crore project 'Climate Resilience Building among Farmers through Crop Residue Management' here. Under the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC), the project was approved at the meeting of the National Steering Committee on Climate Change here with the initiative of the Secretary in the ministry CK Mishra. The first phase of the project will cover Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. The project's primery focus is to generate the awareness on capacity building activities which will also encourage farmers to adopt alternate practices that help in diversify livelihood options and enhance their income. Moreover, the problem of crop residue burning has been intensifying since last year, with Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh being the major states. Thus, the project under the environment ministry will introduce a slew of technological interventions for timely management of crop residue in addition to effective utilisation of existing machineries. "Increased mechanization, declining number of livestock, long period required for composting and no economically viable alternate use of residues are some of the reasons for residues being burnt in field. This not only has implications for global warming, but also has an adverse impact on air quality, soil health and human health," a government statement mentioned. "Implementable and sustainable entrepreneurship models will be created in rural areas through upscaling successful initiatives and innovative ideas," it adds further. The project will leverage approximately three times the approved amount with contribution from states as well as farmers, the government feels. During the meeting Secretary, MoEFCC CK Mishra also added, "Based upon the performance in the first phase, the scope could be enhanced and more activities can be supported subsequently." Projects from Nagaland, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh were also approved in the meeting.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
J & K Govt to include pulses in PDS: Zulfkar

In its endeavor to ensure food and nutrition security, the Jammu and Kashmir Government is going to include pulses in the Public Distribution System, stated Minister for Food, Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs and Tribal Affairs, Chowdhary Zulfkar Ali, during an officers meeting here. The Minister also issued instructions to the concerned to conduct a survey about requirement of onion in the State so that a comprehensive plan is prepared to cater to consumers requirement on this account. The Minister, while discussing modalities for inclusion of pulses in the PDS, said that the Government is working on a well-knit plan to procure pulses in the PDS of the State. He directed Directors, FCS & CA Jammu and Kashmir to take up the matter with the Central Department of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution and submit detailed report in this regard. “It is a firm commitment of present dispensation to make Fair Price Shops as Multi Utility Centres by adding other items other than rice, wheat and sugar”, he asserted. The Minister also directed both the Directors to conduct market survey and submit the report of requirement of onion in the State. He added that Government is planning to monitor supply of onion in the State so that consumers should not face any problem. He added that keeping in view expected 30% low crop productivity during Kharief season 2017-18 and in order to stabilize prices of onion, there is need to keep check on the supply and prices of this commodity in the state. Commissioner Secretary FCS & CA Mehrajud Din Khan, Director FCS & CA Jammu Rashid Azam Inqlabi, Director FCS & CA Kashmir Nissar Wani and other senior officers were present in the meeting. Later, the Minister chaired a separate meeting to review tourism infrastructure development works in Rajouri district in general and Darhal constituency in particular.

The Indian Express, Ahmedabad
Gujarat chief secy: Farm distress, unemployment led to voting against BJP

Gujarat Chief Secretary J N Singh said “farmer distress” and lack of “employment among youth” were “two factors” that “came out very strongly” during the assembly elections in the state this month and these sections “expressed their distress, their anger by voting against the ruling party”. He was speaking at the inauguration of the 12th regional office of the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC) on the premises of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI). Singh told the gathering: “Another thing… which has come out during the elections… two factors came out very, very strongly. One was farmer distress, farmers all throughout Gujarat, particularly in Saurashtra… they have expressed their distress, their anger by voting against the ruling party. Why has it been so? There is some sort of feeling that things are not remunerative… and second factor is employment, employment among youth… employment all around.” “I think this is an initiative… this AEPC coming here, and the boost to the garment sector… once we go into garment sector in a big way, it takes care of employment substantively. We wish that Gujarat should be a major garment hub… from all over Gujarat, unemployment should be taken care of,” he said. In the assembly elections, the ruling BJP won 99 of 182 seats, down from its tally of 115 in 2012. The Congress won 77 seats. The BJP’s major losses were in the Saurashtra region where it got only 19 of 48 seats while the Congress got 28. In 2012, 30 of the 48 seats were with the BJP and the Congress had 15. The electoral losses are being attributed to distress in the farms, especially over issues such as crop loans and low minimum support price (MSP) for groundnut and cotton.

Business Line, New Delhi
Industry, farmers reject draft contract farming Act

Different stakeholders, including industry and farmers, have given a cold shoulder, with some even openly rejecting the draft model contract farming Act, which the Union Agriculture Ministry has framed recently, and circulated for comments. “I don’t think very highly of it. I don’t think this was the missing link that that would incentivise market players to work directly with farmers. The problem lies in not giving farmers direct access to the market,” said Pravesh Sharma, former Madhya Pradesh Agriculture Secretary and visiting senior fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations. The draft Act, which the Ministry posted on its website, has set among its goals, giving price protection to farmers, constituting an authority at the State-level, and penalising breach of contract from both sides. The Act needs to be passed by State Assemblies to become law in respective States. “We don’t think that a separate legal structure is required for contract farming as the provisions of the Indian Contract Act are sufficient to cover the necessary requirements,” said Jasmeet Singh, head of agriculture and food processing at FICCI. Contract farming has already been practised across the country in various forms for a number of crops such as sugarcane, plantation crops, potato and several others, he said. Sharma agreed with Singh, and said that the Indian Contract Act was such an omnibus Act that makes even verbal agreement valid under the law. According to him, the core problem of Indian agriculture is the nature of its marketing structure, such as APMC monopoly and restrictions on direct buying from farmers, etc. “If you remove these restrictions, contract farming will emerge as a consequence. Contract farming cannot be the driver. It has to be marketing reforms, which will generate a huge amount of backward integration,” Sharma said.

The Pioneer, Mumbai
NCP SMELLS RS 40K CR IRRIGATION ‘SCAM’ UNDER BJP MAHA GOVT

With a few of its leaders continuing to be under the scanner of mega irrigation scam that surfaced during the previous DF Government, the Opposition NCP got back vehemently at the ruling BJP, by demanding to know from Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as to why the approval of 307 irritation projects worth Rs 40,000 crore should not be construed as a ‘scam’. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik indirectly suggested that the Fadnavis Government had indulged in a “scam” by resorting to cost escalations in 307 irrigation projects through “Revised Administrative Approval (RAA)”. He demanded to know as to why the State Government had resorted to cost escalations of the projects and how much of money of increased cost it was passing to the contractors allegedly close to the ruling BJP leaders. Malik charged that the ruling BJP, which had in the run-up to the 2014 State Assembly elections carried massive campaign against the then ruling NCP leaders over allegations of corruption in the approval of irrigation projects, had given administrative approval to 307 irrigation projects during the last three years.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
To reform agriculture markets, need joint Centre-state oversight: Niti Aayog

The Niti Aayog has suggested that both the Centre and states have a shared jurisdiction over agricultural marketing, a bid to rev up reforms in the sector battling distress in many parts of the country. Putting agricultural marketing in the concurrent list is among a series of policy options being weighed by the government’s think tank, as unremunerative prices make farmers edgy. “It is in the interest of the (agriculture) sector if states feel (so), now that the interstate movement of agricultural commodities is very high,” Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand told. “A state can make a law which is applicable in the state only. Now since larger proportion of production of the state is moving out of the state, it is governed by more than one state,” Chand said. It remained to be seen if states would agree to a federal or a national law, he said. Chand, an agricultural economist, recently made a presentation before the PM’s economic advisory council on reforms needed in the farm sector. The Indian Constitution has laid down the subjects on which Parliament and state assemblies can formulate laws. But, there are some matters which both the state and the Centre can legislate on and those are in the concurrent list. States control farm commodity markets since agriculture is a part of the state list. Changing this will require a constitutional amendment and could be a touchy issue for states. Chand said states would obviously have to agree to the change. Barriers to entry in agricultural markets, weak competition and instances of collusions (between traders) were major reasons for inefficiencies, he said. “Just to address those kinds of things, the model APMC act is there. But why states are not implementing this act?” he said. No state had implemented the model agricultural product market committee act in totality, Chand said.

29, Dec 2017
The Economic Times, Hyderabad
Agro Input Cos Have Skill Training Session for Staffers & Dealers

Agricultural input companies are undertaking skill development programmes for their employees along with training their dealers to improve business, moves that are undertaken to make them more aware about the company's product portfolio which is expanding since the past few years and also to better tap the farming community. While companies such as Dhanuka Agritech, Rallis India have started offering such courses, others such as Insecticides India are looking at it. Further, the government is asking the agro input dealers to possess a degree and is also offering tax benefits to companies sponsoring such courses by offering tax incentives. “Last fiscal, we introduced a two-year LEAP (Learn, Evolve, Adopt and Perform) initiative for the first time for our employees, especially for the sales team so that they can serve better to our food providers and help them increase their profit. Also, with several technological changes taking place in products and the marketing channels, such programmes are helpful in upgrading the knowledge of our team,” said Ram Gopal Agarwal, chairman, Dhanuka Agritech, one of India’s largest agrochemical company. Rallis India has taken its CAD (Competency Assessment and Development) programme to a higher level by involving more departments and roles. This venture is a continuous process to build functional competencies. Further, several skill development programmes such as RISE (Rise Initiative for Skill Enrichment), Gyanpeeth (Train the Trainer), Mentoring and Arjun were also undertaken. Industry veterans said that it is also the demand of the market which is witnessing new products introduced every year. “With an increasing number of tie-ups with agrochemical players based out of countries like Japan etc., which is leading to broadening of product portfolio, sales teams have to be better prepared to tap the growing market,” said Agarwal.

Mint, New Delhi
Centre drafts model contract farming act to counter price risks

To protect farmers from price risks and provide incentives to buyers to procure produce directly from farmers, the agriculture ministry has drafted a model contract farming act that states can adopt as per their needs. The model act follows a budget proposal last year to help farmers integrate with food processing units for better price realisation and reducing post-harvest losses. A draft of the act is now available on the agriculture ministry’s website for public comments, following which rules under the act will be framed. The model act provides a framework for determining the pre-agreed quantity, quality and price of farm produce between farmer and sponsoring companies and seeks to ‘transfer the risk of post-harvest market unpredictability from the former to the latter.’ Among other things, the act bars the transfer of ownership of the farmer’s land to companies under all circumstances. However, as an incentive, it allows these contracts to be governed outside the purview of state agriculture produce marketing committees (APMCs). This essentially means companies can purchase produce directly from farmers and save the 5-10% usually spent in market fees. Under this act, all disputes relating to these contracts will be settled by a state-level contract farming development and promotion agency. Besides there will be local-level recording committees to register these contracts and implement them effectively. “Past experiments with contract farming have not been successful as in times of unusual price movements, either the farmer or the buyer reneges on contracts,” said Ashok Dalwai, chief executive of the National Rainfed Area Authority, who chaired the committee which drafted the new law. “But with rules that will be framed under the model act, such situations can be avoided by sharing of windfall gains between parties,” he added. “Basic aim of the act is to transfer the risk associated with price unpredictability from the farmers to buyers,” said Dalwai.

The Times of India, Gandhinagar
Groundnut farmers will get timely MSP, says deputy CM

Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said that the Gujarat government is trying to make timely allocation of minimum support price(MSP) to groundnut farmers. The issue was raised time and again by Congress president Rahul Gandhi during his election campaigning. Patel said, “All district collectors have been instructed to arrange new godowns. So far, 57.75 lakh quintal groundnut worth Rs 2,598 crore has been purchased through 260 co-operatives.” The deputy CM added that government is reviewing thesituation on a regular basis to provide timely MSP to groundnut farmers.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Groundnut procurement in Gujarat touches 5.7 lakh tonnes

As many as 260 farmers’ societies on behalf of the State and Central procurement agencies have procured 5.77 lakh tonnes (lt) of groundnut from across Gujarat at the minimum support price (MSP) of ₹4,500 per quintal (₹900/20 kg) valued at ₹2,598 crore. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel informed that since the start of operations from the last week of October, the procurement agencies bought groundnut at the MSP rates after the market prices of the oilseed hovered around ₹3,250-3,500. The State government has estimated record bumper crop of the oilseed this kharif season at about 32 lt (29 lt). Last year, about 2.1 lakh tonnes of groundnut was procured. However, according to farmer sources, the State agencies have restricted the daily quantities to be procured at 2,000 bags (of 35 kg each) which works out to 70 tonnes per agency per day. “The cap on procurement is putting farmers in a trouble. There is a huge stock of groundnut lying with the farmers. Market prices are not matching the MSP hence all the farmers are pinning their hopes on procurement,” said Maganbhai Zalavadia, a farmer from Padadhari in Rajkot district.

Millennium post, Kolkata
Tea exports see marginal rise in first ten months of 2017

Exports of tea during the first 10 months of 2017 showed a marginal rise of 6.7 per cent over the corresponding period a year ago, according to data released by the Tea Board. During January to October, total exports of Indian tea touched 189.68 million kg as against 178 million kg during the same period in 2016. Exports in value terms also rose to Rs 3,724.34 crore compared to Rs 3,553.19 crore, the data showed. However, unit price per kg fell to Rs 196.35 in 2017 from Rs 199.62 in 2016. In terms of country-wise exports, the Russian Federation as a member of the CIS nations was the largest importer of Indian tea at 37.46 million kg, followed by Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The other major importers were Iran at 20.98 million kg, UAE at 14.08 million kg, the USA at 11.30 million kg and the UK at 11.20 million kg, the Tea Board said. During the reporting period, the country imported an amount of 10.39 million kg as against 9.97 million kg a year ago, the data showed. The commerce ministry has been exhorting the tea industry to make sustained efforts to raise the quantum of exports to 220 to 240 million kg per annum.

Business Line, Kochi
Seeing price rise, pepper growers hold on to produce

Pepper growers, anticipating that the prices would move up to Rs 700 a kg due to a smaller crop, were holding back their produce, market sources told. On the terminal market, 15 tonnes of exchange released pepper were traded at Rs 470 a kg and processors were the buyers, they said. Spot prices moved up further to Rs 44,900 (ungarbled) and Rs 46,900 (garbled) a quintal. Export prices were at $7,525 a tonne c&f for Europe and $7,825 for the US.

28, Dec 2017
Business Line, New Delhi
Costlier cane to weigh on sugar mills’ earnings

Despite buoyant production, earnings of sugar mills on an average are expected to fall by 200 to 250 basis points during the current sugar year (October 2017-September 2018), because of the increase in cane prices, a Crisil Research report has said. “High prices in SY 2016-17 and higher production in SY 2017-18 is of little cheer to mills because the differential between sugar prices and cost of cane continues to narrow. Cane costs are set to rise by 11 per cent, even as sugar prices moderate marginally in the current year,” the report said. Raw material accounts for over 70 per cent of the cost of sugar mills. So, the more the gap between sugar prices and cane cost, the better the margins for mills. The wholesale prices of sugar increased 13 per cent in the previous sugar season. They hit a peak of Rs 40 per kg in February 17, riding mainly on depletion of inventory in sugar season 2015-16. “Sugar prices and closing inventory have an inverse relationship. As inventories remain stable in the current season, sugar prices would correct only marginally,” it said. Crisil Research said the integrated sugar mills in North India were expected to do relatively better than those in the South. Rise in production will be limited to the southern States. Mills in Maharashtra, which along with those in south India witnessed a 16 per cent fall in production in the previous season, were projected to recover in the current season. The overall production in 2017-18 was expected to increase by nearly 30 per cent, aided by higher production in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, it said.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Fruit and vegetable exports dip on stringent global norms

India is steadily losing its presence in the global fresh fruit and vegetables markets owing to stringent quality norms of importing countries. The data compiled by the government-owned Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) shows India’s exports of fresh vegetables declined by 26.3 per cent to 1.44 million tonnes during April-October this year from 1.95 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year. India’s shipment of fresh fruit also declined 17 per cent to 321,220 tonnes in the first seven months of the current financial year compared to 386,063 tonnes in the same period last year. Concerned about the decline in India’s fruit and vegetables exports, Apeda Chairman D K Singh has drafted an export promotion strategy to boost shipments of Apeda-registered products. The strategy highlights the need for capacity building, appropriate branding, infrastructure upgrade, poor handling practices of consignments at exits, and improvements in trained manpower to address trade-related issues. “Since air freight costs are exorbitant and have a direct bearing on export costs, Apeda proposes to work in tandem with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutions like the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research and Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture to get a robust scientific sea protocol developed for export by sea. This is likely to reduce freight costs and improve exports. Also, Apeda proposes to plan promotion programmes in various potential and emerging markets in consultation with trade and the Indian Missions in target countries. Apart from that, buyer-seller meetings need to be organised regularly in target countries,” said Singh. The decline in India’s fruit and vegetables exports can be attributed to frequent changes in government’s norms. Thus, experts call for consistency in government policies to enable Indian exports to frame a long-term export strategy. said.

The Economic Times, Pune
FY19 will be Tough on Sugar Sector: Pawar

India is likely to harvest a record sugarcane crop next year making it a difficult year for the sugar industry, said Sharad Pawar, the grand old man of Maharashtra’s sugar industry. After two consecutive years of scant sugar production, industry has been anticipating a bumper crop in 2018-19, driven mainly by good price for sugarcane and better availability of water. Though private industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association had said that it was too early to talk about next year’s sugar production as much of the plantation is yet to take place, sugar prices have been on a downward spiral due to the possibility of a big crop next year. “There will be huge sugar production in the next year in both Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. Some districts of Maharashtra like Solapur could even reap a record crop. The industry has to start planning for it right from now,” said Pawar in Pune. “The factories will have to be ready to run a longer crushing season, we may have to begin crushing operations early if we do not want to let any cane remain without crushing. The mills will have to reduce the cost of operations,” said Pawar.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Low Mustard Acreage, High Winter Demand may Keep Prices Firm

Reports of a fall in mustard sowing acreage and increased winter demand are supporting the price of the oilseed crop. Traders and analysts expect the price to stay firm in a range of Rs 4,000-4,100 a quintal for at least a month due to strong uptake by oil mills and expectation of good winter demand. The acreage of mustard at 62.8 lakh hectares till last week was 8% lower from a year earlier, according to latest rabi sowing report from the government. “It’s a good season for farmers to sell mustard seed with prices being above the minimum support price at Rs 4,000-4,100 a quintal. For the next one month we don’t expect the market to go down,” said Sanjeev Giri, business head of edible oil at Mother Dairy. Mother Dairy sells mustard oil under the Dhara brand. The minimum support price for mustard in the 2016-17 crop year was Rs 3,700 a quintal. For the next crop that will he harvested in March-April, the MSP has been set at Rs 4,000. The industry is expecting carryover stocks to be lower than last years, Giri said, adding: “The demand for mustard oil has been increasing annually by 8%. This year with lower acreage and poor carryover stocks, prices are bound to be firm.” Mustard seed was trading at Rs 4,112 a quintal in the Jaipur mandi and Rs 4,191 on the NCDEX for April delivery. Mustard oil was selling at Rs 100 a litre in wholesale and Rs 110-120 in retail. “We see a pickup in demand in January when the marriage season starts,” said Giri, who sells 60,000 tonnes of mustard oil annually. An analyst said the current prices reflected winter demand and reports of lower sowing acreage.

Business Line, Mumbai
Maharashtra announces relief for cotton farmers

The Maharashtra government has announced financial assistance to cotton farmers for losses incurred by pink bollworm attack, said Pandurang Fundkar, Maharashtra’s Agriculture Minister. The assistance will be provided through seed companies, crop insurance and National Disaster Relief Fund, Fundkar said. The State government has decided to compensate Rs 6,800-37,500 per hectare for cotton farmers hit by pink bollworm. For paddy, the compensation will be between Rs 6,800-23,250 for area damaged above 33 per cent , the release said. For damage incurred by Ockhi cyclone, government has announced a compensation of up to Rs 43,000 for fruits and around Rs 13,500 for vegetables.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Maharashtra govt raids seed producers and distributors, collects samples

The Maharashtra government has mopped up the premises of major cotton seed producers and collected samples to assess their quality amid allegations that poor-quality seeds have been responsible for crop damage and lower productivity in the state this year. Industry sources confirmed raids on 8-10 cotton seeds manufacturers. Raiding government officials investigated company representatives and collected samples from their storages. Sources say these samples will be sent to government-recognised laboratories for testing their quality and action will be taken if seeds are found to be substandard. With the rains being normal this monsoon, the cotton crop was fine till the end of October. But pink bollworm infestation started attacking the crop in November and spread across the country in bits and pieces. Cotton farmers in Maharashtra’s suicide-prone Vidarbha region are the most affected. The data compiled by the office of the textiles commissioner under the Ministry of Textiles shows the sowing area under cotton at 4.19 million hectares (ha) in the season 2017-18, which is more than a 10 per cent increase from the 3.8 million ha in 2016-17. With decline in average productivity, cotton output in Maharashtra is estimated at 8.5 million bales (170 kg each) in 2017-18 compared to 8.85 million bales in the previous year. Textile Commissioner Kavita Gupta had recently said that districts like Yavatmal, Wardha, and Jalna were the worst-affected. Pink ballworm infestations were reported in parts of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, and other major cotton-growing states, barring Gujarat, where farmers adopted good agronomical practices. Meanwhile, the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII), the seed companies’ representative body, has appealed to the state government authorities to resolve the matter.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
MEP on onions to go up 18% from January 1

The Centre is all set to raise the minimum export price (MEP) on onions by 18 per cent from January 1 to check shipments and increase domestic availability. The move has become unavoidable with onion prices still ruling above Rs 50 a kg in many places, including the National Capital Region. After many deliberations between the commerce and consumer affairs ministries, a decision has been taken to raise the MEP to $1,000 a tonne from the current $850 a tonne, sources said. About 15 days ago, an inter-ministerial committee under the consumer affairs secretary had deferred the plan to raise the MEP, expecting domestic prices to fall. Government-owned trading company MMTC has already floated a tender for import of 2,000 tonnes of onions in November. The commerce ministry had on November 23 imposed an MEP of $850 a tonne to curb export of onion. In the notification, the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) had said: "Export of onion...shall be permitted only on Letter of Credit (LC) subject to a MEP of $850 per tonne till December 31, 2017." The MEP is the minimum rate below which exports are not allowed. Onion MEP was scrapped in December 2015 when prices slumped. Concerned over the rise in onion prices, consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan in August had sought that MEP be imposed on its export by the commerce ministry. He also sought the removal of sops on export of the kitchen staple. Supplies were exhausted as large quantity of exports was undertaken in the first four months of the current fiscal. The country exported 1.2 million tonnes in April-July of this fiscal, up by 56 per cent from the year-ago period. In addition, the new 2017-18 kharif crop -- which is being harvested -- is expected to be less owing to fall in acreage.

The New Indian Express, Tiruchi
Shallot prices dip by nearly half as new arrivals flood market

Shallot prices crashed to Rs 70 to Rs 75 this week, after the wholesale markets received more arrivals due to better procurement. “We have been receiving around 150-200 tonne of shallot onions for the past few days. This scenario is in contrast to the 50 tonne during November. So wholesalers have reduced prices sharply,” said A Thangaraj, a wholesaler and the secretary of the Tiruchy district Shallot Commission Wholesalers Association. From the inputs, only 10 per cent is being distributed for the local trade in Tiruchy and the rest is exported. “We are exporting a minimum of 30 tonne to Kerala, 40 tonne to Sri Lanka and 70 tonne to other districts such as Thanjavur, Pudukkottai and Nagapattinam,” added Thangaraj.Shallot onions, otherwise known as small onions or sambar onions, saw a sharp price rise in the first week of November. First-grade shallot onion cost Rs 180 at retail outlets. Demand was attributed to the dip in procurement. More farmers in the shallot belt chose to re-cultivate their outputs as investment inputs in their own fields rather than sending shallots for procurement. To increase inputs, wholesalers started to employ more agents in villages in districts such as Perambalur and Tiruchy. Perambalur has a bulk share of 24 per cent of overall production of shallots in the State with at least 8,000 hectares under cultivation. In Perambalur district, shallots are mainly cultivated in Chettikulam, Irur and Echankadu in Kunnam taluk. They are also cultivated in Alathur, Nakkasalem, Padalur and Nattarmangalam in Alathur taluk and Chatthiramanai, Pommanapadi and Ammapalayam in Perambalur taluk. In Tiruchy district, shallots are cultivated in Thuraiyur, Marungapuri and Mannachanallur. Through the agents, wholesalers were able to convince farmers with an eight per cent commission, three per cent more than what wholesalers pay traders, who acted as middlemen.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Wage hikes to dent tea gardens' profits

Euphoria around a rebound in the stock prices of tea companies could be short lived because the industry is staring at increased production costs. Wages of 1.11 million tea workers in Assam and West Bengal are due for revision. Besides, the industry feels threatened by likely amendments in the Plantations Labour Act, 1951. Labour costs account for 60 per cent of tea production costs and usually increase every year in accordance with pre-concluded agreements between the gardens and trade unions. “For every Rs 10 increase in wages, production costs go up by Rs 6 and this component directly affects the bottom line,” said CS Bedi, managing director, Rossell India. Stocks of tea companies are riding high on the bourses on account of higher auction prices backed by innovative approaches like hedging and new branding mechanisms introduced by these companies. Due to lower than expected production the average tea price in the Kolkata auction centre rose by 6.5 per cent to Rs 157.88 a kg while Guwahati tea auctions also registered a rise of 4.6 per cent to Rs 140.01 a kg. However, wage revisions for 430,000 workers in West Bengal and 680,000 workers in Assam are pending since the beginning of 2017. The last wage agreement was concluded in 2015 and is up for renewal. Wage agreements in the tea industry include arrears. Trade unions and tea companies in West Bengal also must deal with a proposed amendment in the Plantations Labour Act that will set forth a minimum wage ceiling. Negotiations with trade unions in Assam will begin by the end of December. Industry executives said a negotiated wage could be arrived upon for now and once the new law was enacted its provisions could be incorporated in wage agreements.

Business Line, Kochi
Why the coconut price rise is not helping growers

Prices of raw coconut have risen unprecedently, yet there is no cheer in the industry, even as the market is facing severe supply constraints. From an average price of Rs 25-30 per kg, the rates have gone up to Rs 40-45 in the past six months, bringing hope to the ailing sector. However, the supply crunch across the growing areas have dampened the hopes of farmers. “Farmers have not benefited from the price rise at a time when both production dip and rate increase was in the range of 50 per cent”, says Sunny George, Chairman, Thejaswani Coconut Farmer Producer Company, Kannur. Besides, inclement weather condition prevailed in major coconut growing states compared to previous year. This, coupled with reported diseases on palms in certain growing areas, denied farmers the opportunity to derive the price benefit. The production this year has decreased significantly in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh due to failed monsoon. The drop was around 20 per cent in Tamil Nadu following a drought-like situation, resulting in drying up of palms. These products are high in demand in domestic as well as in international markets. Because of large scale diversification of fresh nuts to various non-traditional products, the Coconut Development Board officials pointed out that the system of determining the price of coconut based on coconut oil and copra rates, which is present across the growing areas, is gradually waning. Now in major coconut growing areas, desiccated coconut powder price is determining the price of coconut, the officials said. However, they hoped that the supply situation will improve with the onset of next season. Since all the major coconut growing areas received copious rains in the current year, it is expected that there would be a good crop next year.

Business Line, New Delhi
World Bank loan for Tamil Nadu irrigation overhaul

Tamil Nadu will get a World Bank loan worth $318 million for the revival and modernisation of over 5,000 irrigation tanks and check dams, benefiting about 500,000 small and marginal farmers in the State. Central and State government officials signed a loan agreement with a representative of the World Bank for the Tamil Nadu Irrigated Agriculture Modernisation project, which is aimed at promoting climate resilient agriculture technologies, an official release said. The funds will be used to rehabilitate and modernise about 4,800 irrigations tanks, 477 check dams, spread across 66 sub-basins in the State. The project is expected to bring over 1,60,000 hectares of cultivated land, currently partially irrigated, into full irrigation and would help farmers increase the yield of rice, maize, and pulses by 18 to 20 per cent, the release said. The loan has a five-year grace period, and a maturity of 19 years..

Business Line, Kochi
Cardamom prices show signs of surge on depleting stocks

Small cardamom prices continued to rise on strong demand despite higher arrivals at auctions held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Total arrivals last week were up at 892 tonnes last week from 707 tonnes the previous week. The individual auction average has moved up to Rs 936.32 a kg last week from Rs 906.32 the previous week. Depleting inventories in the upcountry markets coupled with buying support from consuming centres could be attributed to the rise in demand. Added to this, the current season’s peak harvesting time is over and hence there exists a fear about squeeze in availability of quality material in the coming days. All these factors have aided the price rise, said PC Punnoose, General Manager, CPMC. At the auction conducted by the South Indian Green Cardamom Company Ltd, Kochi, the arrivals stood at about 113 tonnes and almost the entire quantity was traded. The auction average was at around Rs 950 a kg as against Rs 932 the previous week. Exporters were also active and said to have bought an estimated 130 tonnes last week. The individual auction average vacillated between Rs 912 a kg and Rs 955 a kg last week. Total arrivals during the current season as on December 23 were at 12,760 tonnes and sales were at 12,505 tonnes. The individual auction average of the season was at Rs 959.96 a kg. Prices of graded varieties (Rs /kg): 8mm green bold Rs 1,225; 7-8 mm: 980; 6-7 mm 925. Good bulk fetched Rs 980-1,000.

27, Dec 2017
The Times of India, Mumbai
1,497 farmer suicides in Maha since loan sop

Maharashtra has recorded 1,497 farmer suicides in the six months since the loan waiver was declared in June, official data shows. This is just 4.2% lower than the 1,563 cases reported in the same period last year. In fact, these cases account for 56% of the total 2,662 farmer suicides reported between January and November this year. The roll-out of the waiver was delayed by glitches in the verification process. By now the state has cleared Rs 19,537 crore to be deposited into 41 lakh bank accounts. However, the clearances have come slowly and the process of depositing the funds into farmers’ accounts is still on. The gap between the number of suicides last year and this year is only 6.8%. Last year, the state had reported 2,858 farmer suicides. The Vidarbha region, from where CM Devendra Fadnavis hails, continues to report the highest number of cases— 1,240 suicides till November-end, which account for 46.5% of the total cases in the state. The figure, however, is slightly lower than the 1,349 cases reported last year. This year, cotton farmers from Vidarbha and Marathwada have had to contend with a massive pest attack, which impacted half their crops. Also, 51farmers in the region died after the use of toxic pesticides in spraying operations. The state government maintains that the loan waiver will not bring down the number of farmer suicides and the solution lies is increasing investment in agriculture. However, farmers groups say one of their key problems is the low agricultural prices, an issue which the government has not addressed. Farm activists say the state has failed to deliver the loan waiver to beneficiaries, with a large number of farmers being excluded in the verification process.

Business Line, Kolkata
Agri NBFCs upbeat on warehouse receipts

Bank lending to priority sector including agriculture may have witnessed a de-growth in the last couple of years; but agricultural NBFCs (non-banking financial companies) are betting big on warehouse receipt and other agri-financing options. Agricultural NBFCs cater to the entire value chain including farmers, traders, small agro-processing units and joint liability groups. Many of these NBFCs were floated by agri-marketing or warehousing companies, primarily to service their existing clients. According to industry experts, banks and NBFCs put together have lent close to ₹35,000 crore against warehouse receipts till date. The industry is projected to grow to ₹1 lakh crore by 2020. “This segment is growing exponentially and the introduction of GST will further enhance the potential for overall growth,” Sandeep Sabharwal, CEO, Sohan Lal Commodity Management (SLCM) Group told. SLCM Group’s NBFC arm, Kissandhan Financial Services, has a loan book of ₹250 crore and the company intends to close it around ₹500 crore by the end of this fiscal. Some of the warehousing companies including SLCM, Origo Commodities, StarAgri, Shree Shubham Logistics and National Collateral Management Services among others have already set up agri-NBFCs to tap this segment. Most of these NBFCs finance “stable commodities” (the ones with less volatility) such as paddy, wheat, oilseeds and soyabean. The tenure of such loan usually extends between 6 and 12 months and the rate of interest typically ranges between 14 and 15 per cent (both depending on the nature of commodity). Lending against warehouse receipts received major impetus post the enactment of Warehousing (Development and Regulation) Act of 2007, which came into force from 2010. The Union government recently launched Electronic Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (e-NWR). Issued by warehouses to depositors, these NWRs can be traded, sold, swapped and can be used to avail of bank credit easily without the fear of it being misused or lost.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Agrochemical players in a sweet spot

After a muted first half in FY18, on account of goods and services tax (GST)-related inventory adjustments and weak international demand, agrochemicals companies are back on the Street’s radar. It reflected in the recent rally in stocks such as Rallis and Coromondel International. Going ahead, brokerages expect improving volume and revenue growth on the back of successive good monsoons, higher minimum support prices, and policy support, which will boost farm incomes. From the various segments within this space, fertiliser players will be among the key beneficiaries, on the back of recent policy measures, which includes the payment of subsidy dues to fertiliser companies for FY17, to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore. Further with the government set to roll out direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme for fertilisers (direct transfer of subsidy to accounts of farmers); the subsidy issues is being tackled swiftly. “As the fertiliser sector starts to get liberalised, and manufacturers start getting subsidy payments immediately, it would act as an incentive to improve supply,” say analysts at Credit Suisse. This comes at a time, when the Chinese are withdrawing from the export markets, creating an opportunity for Indian companies, they add. Given the structural changes, Credit Suisse finds value in Coromandel International and GSFC. Coromandel International, besides fertilisers, will also continue to benefit from its growing agrochemical portfolio. Higher share of the non-fertiliser business will improve firm-wide margin and return ratios. Its fertiliser segment profitability (62 per cent of total operating profits) is expected to grow at 12 per cent annually till FY20, led by better capacity utilisations, according to analysts at Axis Capital. In the agrochemical segment, given the bright outlook for rabi crops, sentiments remain upbeat. Elara Capital expects sector growth of 8-10 per cent in FY18. The brokerage believes UPL, with a target price of Rs 929, and Rallis India, which has a target price of Rs 260, will outperform peers, given their better product portfolio, across segments and geographies.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Cotton prices seen holding firm in 2018 on slow arrivals

Having witnessed a roller-coaster ride in 2017, cotton prices are expected to be range-bound with an upward bias from the current levels in 2018, experts hinted. In the last one month, raw cotton or kapas prices moved up sharply by Rs 1,000 a quintal from the lows of Rs 4,300-4,500 in Gujarat markets. The upside is mainly attributed to the political uncertainty and lower arrivals at the mandis inspite of robust crop estimates. On the spot markets in Rajkot, each bale (of 170 kg) of 29-mm cotton was quoted at Rs 19,459 as on December 22 from Rs 18,098 quoted a month ago. In 2017, cotton prices saw sharp volatility due to climatic extremities and pest attack in key growing regions of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat. According to trade sources, the recent upside in cotton prices is mainly due to the stocks held by the farmers in anticipation of better prices. “The arrivals have not yet hit the peak levels. Overall, 20 lakh bales have arrived in Gujarat, while the all-India arrivals are about 100 lakh bales. Also, there are export commitments for about 15 lakh bales, while nearly 9 lakh bales have already been shipped. This has created a bullish mood amid slow arrivals,” said Arun Dalal, a cotton trader. Further, a crucial election in the largest cotton grower Gujarat also prompted farmers to postpone selling their stock in anticipation of some government assistance to lift the market prices. “The current upside in cotton prices is due to lower arrivals. The farmers have set their eyes on the ICE cotton rates, which are higher. As against the daily arrivals of 2.25 lakh bales across the country, currently only 1.50 lakh bales are arriving. This indicates that farmers are holding back the stock expecting better prices,” said J Thulasidharan, President, Indian Cotton Federation.

Mint, New Delhi
DBT of fertilizer subsidy to make farm sector planning more effective

As the government rolls out direct benefit transfer (DBT) for fertilizer subsidies, one of the largest subsidy reforms currently underway, the massive amount of data being generated is expected to provide a clear picture of farming activity in the country and help make future planning for the sector more effective. The government is keeping subsidy reform in the fertilizer sector low key for the complexities involved. The complexities include improper land records, and the involvement of a large number of tenant farmers. With DBT on fertilizers implemented in all but 14 states, the government has already noticed a close to 10% reduction in subsidy requirement in certain states, fewer instances of retailers overcharging farmers, better transaction times and a reduction in diversion of subsidized fertilizers to other countries for sale at market prices, a person with knowledge of the scheme’s implementation said on condition of anonymity. The linking of Aadhaar, a 12-digit biometric identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), with soil health cards and land records wherever possible, is helping policymakers get a better picture of the farming activity in the country. The data helps in suggesting which crop can be grown where in what season for optimum productivity, based on soil health profile. The software system linked to the point of sale (PoS) machines deployed by the retailers also suggest the best combination of fertilizers needed. At present, farmers have the choice of going by the system’s suggestion or make their own choices. Once the system functions fully, it will lead to better soil health management, balanced fertilization, and better productivity, besides increasing transparency. Earlier, officials could only be aware that fertilizer supplies had reached a particular district and not whether they had reached the farmer. With Aadhaar linkage, policy makers would know if a farmer has got the plant nutrient.

Hindustan Times,New Delhi
GOVT LOOKS FOR STARTUPS TO COME UP WITH AGRI SOLUTIONS

Could startups solve complex issues in India’s agriculture sector, which supports 49% of the workforce? The agriculture ministry thinks so and is hunting for “commercially viable” proposals in 12 pre-identified areas. The Narendra Modi government’s Startup India scheme, which has a ₹10,000 crore war chest managed by the Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi), is seeking to incubate farm-solution startups through a contest called Agriculture Grand Challenge. “I urge young entrepreneurs to participate in our newly launched Agriculture Grand Challenge and join forces to make agrarian sector technologically sound and commercially viable,” farm minister Radha Mohan Singh said. The idea is to enable entrepreneurship and innovation, he said. A handful of startups for the rural economy are already a part of the growing ecosystem. India has more than 19,000 startups, led by consumer Internet and financial services apps, according to the Economic Survey 2015-16. From 220 in 2014, the number of startups funded in the first 10 months of 2017 stood at 482, according to data from Tracxn. As of December 2015, eight Indian startups belonged to the so-called Unicorn category, a club of ventures valued at $1 billion or more. Yet, fewer than 10% of these cater to the farm or social sector, according to Tracxn. A government document, which Hindustan Times has reviewed, states that private-sector startups could offer viable interventions in an array of areas, notably linking farmers to markets and offering extension services. It seeks to rev up an emerging niche area that’s being dubbed as farming as a service, or FAAS. Proposals are being invited for simplified, sensor-based quick testing of soil samples as well as real-time assaying and grading of food commodities in electronically linked eNAM markets.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Jan 14 date set for options trading in guar seed

The National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) is all set to launch the ‘guar seed options’ contract on occasion of Makar Sankranti to be held on January 14. The online commodity exchange had received the Securities and Exchange Board of India’s approval for the launch nearly four months ago, but waited for an auspicious occasion for its official launch. With this, guar would be the second commodity, after gold, in which options contracts can be traded. The country’s largest commodity derivatives trading platform, Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX), had launched ‘gold options’ contract in October this year. The guar seed options contract will begin a new era of electronic trading of agricultural commodities. According to traders, options trading in agricultural commodities would bring substantial volume to the exchange platform, with increased participation from small farmers. “NCDEX guar seed options are an important hedging tool that will prove to be a game changer for farmers. Looking at its importance for agri-commodity markets, we wanted to select a date which will have a definite significance for the farming community of our country. We will be launching our agri-commodity options on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti, a key harvest festival, and will dedicate this new hedging tool to farmers of India,” an NCDEX spokesperson told. It would be interesting to see how traders respond to the guar seed options as gold options failed to attract adequate volume on MCX, which prompted India’s largest commodity exchange to seek regulatory approval for a liquidity enhancement scheme. After achieving the Rs 397 crore of daily average turnover in October, first month of the launch, gold options contract witnessed a sharp decline in traders’ interest. The daily average turnover in gold options declined to Rs 61 crore in December (by 21st). Analysts, however, said guar seed options would attract a phenomenal volume on NCDEX.

Business Line, New Delhi
Keeping the soil healthy

Suma Agro India Pvt Ltd is a company that is going to the roots of agriculture to tackle challenges farmers face. “There are thousands of companies offering solutions for problems above the soil, none for those beneath” to enhance crop productivity and production, remarks K Karthik, one of the two promoters of Suma Agro. Address soil health, and a large part of the farmers’ job is done. A healthy soil means a healthy plant, more output with lesser inputs, so more savings for farmers, he explains. Quoting government statistics, he says one kg of fertilisers helped produce 15 kg of foodgrains in 1970; this has dropped to less than one-third now. So what is the solution that Suma Agro offers? And how did it come about? That is Humicas, a branded product, says Karthik. Based on Active Humic Technology, from NLC, efficacy tried and tested by Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, it is a certified organic input. Humicas is a soil and plant nutrient supplement being produced by Suma Agro. The 45-year-old Karthik, an electrical engineer, came upon this product when it was being developed at NLC, the public sector lignite mining and power generation company. He was involved with the fabrication of the plant during the concept stage for making lignite humic acid in 2002 along with his co-promoter in the business, Sumathi Balamurugan. Explaining NLC’s association, he says, lignite is the raw material for the final product Pottassium Humate that involves releasing the organic carbon from lignite. This product enhances soil micro-organisms and improves biological action of the soil by breaking down compacted soil, increasing water retention and aeration in the root zone. This helps increase nutrient uptake by the plant. Fertiliser use can be cut by 25 per cent. The intellectual property right is owned by the Government and Suma Agro pays a royalty on the final product.

Business Line, New Delhi
Now, a solar-based cold storage for farm produce

Engineers at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi have developed a solar-powered on-farm storage structure that can increase the shelf-life of fruits and vegetables in regions where cold storage facilities are absent. The four-cubic-metre storage space, designed by Pramod Kumar Sharma and others at IARI’s division of agricultural engineering, can retain the quality and freshness of fruits and vegetables for an additional period of up to five days, they reported in the journal Current Science. Farmers can install them on their farms and need only four solar photovoltaic panels to run. To keep the costs down, they use an inverter that converts DC type power generated by solar cells into AC type and has a battery backup. The low-cost air-cool chamber is more suitable for farmers living in villages where grid electricty hasn’t yet reached. There are about 94,000 villages in India that are without electricity. Of these, 25,000 villages are located in such remote areas that extension of existing electricity grid is not economically viable, they said. According to the scientists, up to a third of fruits and vegetables produced in the country are perished in post-harvest losses. Temperature and relative humidity are said to be the two most important environmental factors influencing the quality and storage life of fresh produce. The scientists said if the surrounding air temperature is brought down within four hours of harvesting, it can slow down the deterioration of the quality and freshness of the produce. The structure is very similar to desert cooler used in hot and dry climes of North India but has an exhaust fan on the roof of the container. Four sides of the structure are covered with commercially available cellulose pads which are constantly fed with water using an underwater cooler pump.

The Financial Express, Pune
Seed association unhappy with Maha govt for seeking damages from seed suppliers

The National Seeds Association of India (NSAI) is unhappy with the recent announcements made by the Maharashtra agriculture minister with regard to seed companies. The minister had announced that seed supplier companies shall compensate farmers for the losses incurred due to pink bollworm. NSAI director-general Kalyan Goswami said that seed companies are only responsible for seed quality parameters as specified under the Seeds Act. “In case of BT cotton seeds supplied in Maharashtra there is no problem with seed quality. No complaints are made by any farmer about seed quality,” he clarified in a statement issued in Pune. “It is a clear case of failure of Monsanto Bt II technology which is called as Bollgard II. The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) had declared the fact that Pink bollworms developed resistance two years ago and accordingly, all seed companies had educated farmers about this and even issued newspaper advertisements,” Goswami said. Goswami said that despite this the Government of India had notified under a cotton seed price control order to pay a trait value of Rs 49 by collecting from farmers as a part of MSP of Rs 800. “The complete responsibility for trait efficacy remains with Monsanto and if at all they only have to pay compensation. We do not understand why the government has not named Monsanto,” he said. He expressed confidence that courts will clarify who is responsible for this problem and will completely accept the points put forth by the association. This is a clear case of punishing the innocent and leaving guilty scot-free, Goswami said. There are speculations in market that the association is seriously considering legal resource on this issue. Cotton growers in Maharashtra would get compensation ranging from Rs 6,800 to Rs 37,500 per hectare, depending on the extent of damage to their crops due to pink bollworm.

Business Line, Coonoor
90% teas sold at Coonoor auctions

About 90 per cent of the offer at Sale No: 51 of Coonoor Tea Trade Association (CTTA) was sold out because of increased winter demand from upcountry buyers and select exporters. Homedale Estate created a new price record when its Broken Pekoe, auctioned by Global Tea Brokers, was bought by Belmount Tea and Produce Co. for Rs 282 a kg. This was the highest price fetched by any CTC tea, leaf or dust, by any factory in this sale. Darmona Estate leaf tea, auctioned by J Thomas and Co., followed at Rs 271. In the CTC Dust auction, Homedale Estate tea, auctioned by Global tea Brokers, topped at Rs 261. In the orthodox market, Chamraj topped at Rs 300 a kg. This was also the highest price of all the teas sold in this auction. In the orthodox Dust tea auction, Kodanad topped at Rs 256. Kairbetta and Prammas followed at Rs 241 and Rs 204. All others got less than Rs 200/kg.

26, Dec 2017
The Times of India, New Delhi
Damages clause to shield contract farmers soon

The Centre has come out with a draft law on contract farming that seeks to provide damages to agrarians for violation of contracts by purchasers of any related produce. The draft aims to ensure damages to the aggrieved party in a breach of contract by either side. It is usually the farmers who are losers in such contracts. If enacted, the law would regulate contract farming, regulated by the respective state marketing. The draft seeks to keep contract farming and goods produced through contract farming out of the purview of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees. This would give the buyer freedom from market fee and commission charges, resulting in a saving of 5-10 per cent on transaction cost. Contract farming is agricultural production according to an agreement between buyers and farmers. It also covers marketing of the products. The proposed law seeks to provide an assured market to farmers. It ensures buying of the entire pre-agreed quantity of produce, livestock or products mentioned in the contract. The model Act would have provisions to guide the fixing of price and decide the sale-purchase price in case of too much movement of prices, up or down. It calls for independent agencies in states to promote contract farming and registering of all agreements between buyer and seller. And, a grievance redressal mechanism in districts. The model law, put up for public consultation, follows an announcement by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the 2017-18 Budget to this effect. Agriculture being a state subject, it is up to states to follow the model law and make necessary changes in their respective rules. The proposed law stops any contract farming sponsor from raising permanent structures on contract farming producers’ land and premises and also does not give any right, title ownership or possession on the land and other assets to the sponsor.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Eye on 2019, Budget set to be farm-centric

Drawing a lesson from the Gujarat verdict that put farm distress at the forefront, the government’s 2018-19 Budget is expected to be farmer-centric, focussing on measures to help them get remunerative prices for their produce, support them through robust farm credit facilities and extend the footprint of crop insurance. Since agrarian crisis is expected to be one of the key issues in the run-up to assembly polls in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan next year and the general election in 2019, the upcoming Budget will provide the government an opportunity to announce its intent. “We had a good crop year in 2016-17 but farmers encountered problems in getting remunerative prices for their produce. This is something which we need to address and the budget is likely to focus on this aspect,” said a senior official who is part of a team providing agriculture ministry’s inputs for the Budget. Though the Centre has taken several measures to address farm distress in the past two-three years, it may now attempt to strengthen those measures by devising more systematic procurement method, raising farm credit targets and expanding the network of e-NAM (e-National Agriculture Market) from 585 in 2017-2018 to over 1,000 by 2020. The idea will be to bring more and more regulated markets on the e-NAM platform so that farmers can get better prices for their produce without being exploited by commission agents and traders. “Niti Aayog and the PM’s economic advisory council too are working on it. Though agriculture is a state subject, the government’s focus in the Budget is likely to be on allocating more funds for centrally sponsored schemes and its monitoring for time-bound implementation,” the official said. Funds for expanding e-NAM, cold chain, irrigation infrastructure, micro-irrigation and crop insurance scheme are expected to be increased.

Business Line, New Delhi
House panel frowns as Spices Board has no full-time head

An apex parliamentary committee has expressed concern over the Centre’s inability to appoint a full-time chairman to the Spices Board and fill up positions of board members that have been lying vacant for a while. The Centre should take immediate steps to appoint a person with experience in trade and export promotion as its full-time chairman, said a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in a report tabled in Parliament last week. Since February 2014, Marine Products Export Development Authority Chairman A Jayathilak has been doubling up as Spices Board Chairman. The committee, headed by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav, said the Commerce Ministry has also failed to appoint new members to the Board despite the terms of most earlier members came to an end many months back. The Spices Board was set up about three decades ago to promote exports of spices, in which India is number one worldwide. In 2013-14, Indian spices accounted for 48 per cent share in terms of volume in the global trade. The parliamentary panel expressed surprise about over the under-representation of the north-eastern region in the Board, in spite of the region’s tremendous potential in the sector. Noting that the only two members representing the North-East earlier were bureaucrats, the committee wanted the Ministry to rope in representatives of stakeholders, as they are more aware of the challenges and hardships faced by the sector. “The Spices Board should be more vibrant and representative of stakeholders rather than channelising the views through bureaucrats,” it said. The MPs in the panel also said the Commerce Ministry should hold discussions with the Agriculture Ministry to transfer production and development of five major spices — turmeric, pepper, chilli, ginger and garlic — to the Board, on the same lines as cardamom.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
In 7 years, surface flow irrigation schemes down by 9000: Census

The number of surface flow minor irrigation schemes dropped by nearly 9,000 in seven years since 2006-07, resulting in growing dependence on groundwater for agricultural purposes, a government census has found. According to recently released fifth minor irrigation schemes census, "The number of surface flow minor irrigation schemes has declined from 6,01,000 in 2006-07 to 5,92,000 in 2013-14." These schemes are located in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand and irrigate about 4.89 million hectare of land, the census has found. Under the scheme, rainwater is used for irrigation by storing or by diverting it from a river, stream or nala. While permanent diversions are constructed for utilising the flowing stream or river water in some areas, temporary diversions are also constructed somtimes that get washed away during the rainy season. The decline in the number of surface irrigation schemes has led to growing dependence on groundwater schemes causing depletion of underground water table, the study says. It has suggested that steps should be taken to restore surface water sources in order to continue to derive benefits from them and stop further depletion of water table. Tanks/ponds form the largest share (41 per cent) of all the surface flow irrigation schemes, while 14 per cent and 10 per cent of the schemes are reservoirs and temporary diversions, respectively.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
India Predicted to Cross 1 MT Mark in Wheat Output

India, the world's second largest wheat grower after China may see a bumper wheat harvest this year with agri-scientists estimating production at 100 million tonne. Normal temperature, no pest infestation and a forecast for more rainfall and chilly weather in January will boost the crop prospects, they said. India received a bumper crop in the previous year at 98.38 million tonnes. For 2018-19, the government has set a target of 97.50 million tonnes. “The wheat planting is almost done and information from our 33 centres in the wheat-growing zones tell us that we are looking at a bumper crop. I am expecting wheat production to touch 100 million tonne this year,” said Gyanendra Pratap Singh of the Directorate of Wheat Research in Karnal, Haryana. Singh said that with majority of the wheat-growing area in north India having normal temperature, they were optimistic about the production. “It is early for me to say on the production figures and in one month we will have definitive idea, but looking at the current condition I am very hopeful of having a bumper crop. The main area in north zone are using seeds of recent varieties released in 2013-14. The environmental condition is good and we expecting rainfall in plains of north India in the first of January,” he said. Further, our scientists traveling in fields have not seen any infection of yellow rust anywhere till now in Punjab, Haryana and west Uttar Pradesh, said Singh. The early sown crop was is in tillering stage and late planted crop was in germination stage, said Singh who has been travelling to fields. “I am seeing a good wheat crop, wherever I travel. There is no cause of concern,” he said.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
More demand for garlic; sowing doubles in Gujarat

Sowing of garlic in Gujarat has reached a record high jumping by 111% above the mean sowing area of 86,000 hectares (2011-16) tilled for garlic in the state. Farmers are taking to the crop as it is less water-intensive than other crops like cumin and coriander, and also because it has been fetching better prices riding on greater consumer demand. The data released by the state agriculture department shows that increase in garlic sowing has affected sowing of both cumin and coriander in the state. Total area sowed with garlic in Gujarat in 2017-18 has reached 1.82 lakh hectares up from 94,000 hectares in 2016-17, with normal sowing area being 86,000 hectares. “The normal sowing area is a calculation of the sowing area of last five years,” said a senior agriculture officer. Officials said maximum sowing of garlic was in Saurashtra, including districts like Morbi, Rajkot and Junagadh. M A Vaddoria, a garlic research expert of Junagadh Agriculture University said: “Though the hotel industry consumes the largest quantity of raw garlic, domestic consumption has increased by around 15%. Also, the per hectare yield of garlic is far better than other crops, while the input costs of garlic farming are less.” Vaddoria said the yield of garlic was around 7-10 tonnes per hectare. Pravin Patel, CEO of a food processing unit said: “Garlic use has really picked up in the last five years. Besides changing lifestyle, garlic use is also being promoted as ayurvedic medicine. I personally feel domestic use of raw garlic has increased by around 10%.” Mahesh Patel, secretary of Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee, Gondal, said: “The farmers prefer a crop which requires less water. Garlic is a crop which needs irrigation for only four times in a season, while other crops like cumin and coriander require irrigation for at least six to seven times.”

Mint, New Delhi
NDA plans bold move to fix rural distress

The central government, in consultation with states, proposes to launch a new price support scheme for farmers to prevent distress sales at prices below the minimum support price (MSP). Under the proposed “market assurance scheme”, states will be free to procure all crops from farmers for which MSPs are announced, except rice and wheat, which are already being procured by the centre for the public distribution system. Under the new scheme, the centre will compensate states for any losses capped at 30% of the procurement cost. It will be the states’ responsibility to dispose of the procured crops. The proposed scheme will ensure an assured price for the farmer, mitigating the price risks faced by farmers after harvest. Together with a prolonged spell of inadequate rains and two years of drought it has contributed towards rural distress. If successful, it will also politically benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), though it could place fiscal pressures on the Union government; in the just-concluded assembly election in Gujarat, one reason contributing to the BJP’s less than usual performance was farmer angst triggered by rural distress. The system, as it exists now, under which only rice, wheat and small quantities of pulses and oilseeds are procured by the centre, “leaves much to be desired”, according to a copy of the proposal reviewed by Mint. The new scheme “proposes to strengthen the procurement mechanism to ensure that farmers do not suffer from marketing inefficiencies, as commonly reflected in the prices ruling lower than notified MSP for many commodities”, it said. States will take ownership of the scheme, including which crop to procure and in what quantities, when wholesale prices drop below MSPs. State governments will be free to use the procured crops for targeted nutrition-support programmes such as mid-day meals for school children, or sell them in the open market.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Potato leads in rabi sowing, grams gain

Sowing of coriander and cereals for Rabi crops, including jowar, has fallen behind that of grams and pulses this year in Gujarat. This year, sowing of grams and pulses has increased in Gujarat. Further, sowing of potato has increased by 12% as compared to the normal area sown for the tuber. On an average, potato is sown in an area of 11.15 lakh hectares but, this year, 12.48 lakh hectares in the state have been sown for potato crop. Further, the data released by the Gujarat government reveal that sowing of pulses was 172% in which gram was sown in an area of 2.81 lakh hectare. M S Pithia, researcher scholar in pulses at Junagadh Agriculture University, said that the farmers had been left with no choice but to move from cumin and coriander to grams and pulses. The farmers did not get adequate prices for cumin and coriander last year. They had the option to chose wheat but they chose grams over other crops as the gram crop does not require much water and also uses less fertilizer. Pithia said that the farmers are expecting good prices for grams this year as compared to other crops. The data further reveals that sowing of vegetables so far was only in an area of 1.44 lakh hectares as against the normal of 1.56 lakh hectares. The officials of agriculture department said that against the normal sowing of 30.16 lakh hectares, sowing for rabi crop this year was in an area of 30.74 lakh. This is 4.74 lakh hectares more as compared to the area sown in 2016.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
China Puts All its Apples in Futures Trade

The Zhengzhou Commodity Exchange started to list Fuji apple futures, the world’s first such contract. It’s available for delivery in May, July, October, November and December. This is China’s latest attempt to improve the lot of local villagers. China is the world’s biggest producer of apples. Apple prices have quite a bit of seasonality. Sept to Nov is harvest season, so by late in the year, the market is flooded with fresh produce, causing wholesale prices to dip. A few months later, when Chinese New Year comes around, prices start to rise on robust consumer demand — Chinese traditionally present fruit baskets as gifts. A second dip ensues after the lunar new year when supermarkets inundate shelves with apples from cold storage.

25, Dec 2017
The Times of India, Bhubaneswar
OUAT to have chair for research on rice straw-based biofuel production

Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) signed a memorandum of agreement with the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) to conduct research on effective utilization of rice straw for bio-fuel production in the state. The agreement was signed in the presence of Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, state agriculture secretary Saurabh Garg and OUAT vice chancellor Surendranath Pasupalak. According to the agreement, a total of Rs 5 crore will be spent for the technology partnership project. The oil company will provide Rs 2 crore for setting up of BPCL Chair and Rs 3 crore as research contingency for development, establishment and popularization of the bio-fuel production technology. The union minister said that rice is grown across the state. "Odisha produces 85 lakh tonnes of rice every year. We also get around 100 lakh tonnes of rice straw annually as agricultural byproduct. Normally rice straw is used as fodder or other domestic purposes. But now it will be used for production of bio-fuel," he added. He said there is almost no economic utilization of rice straw. "If we set up ethanol plant to produce bio-fuel, farmers can sale these straws to the plant. It will increase their income. It will motivate the farmers of north India not to burn the stubble or straw after harvesting paddy. It will create positive impact on environment," he added. The Centre is going to set up an ethanol plant at Bargarh with an estimated cost of Rs 750 crore. Main raw material of the plant is rice straw. This project will not only increase income of farmers, it will reduce the pressure on fossil fuel, said the minister. This agreement has a direct link with the Bargarh project. The BPCL Chair and a state-of-the-art laboratory at the OUAT will conduct research on different varieties of rice or other crops.

The Times of India, Mysuru
‘Farmers must unite against middlemen’

Farmers should unite and raise their voice against middlemen who buy agriculture produce at low price and sell them at a higher price in the market, said progressive farmer Ksheerasagar. He was addressing a gathering at an interaction programme organized by Nisarga and Karnataka Farmers' Market at the Institute of Engineers Hall here. Ksheersagar, who was speaking on 'Relation between farmer and consumer, and challenges', said brokers divide the crop in to different grades based on quality and assign a different price, but they sell all the purchased produce at a higher price in the market. This is cheating. "Farmers' income is decreasing every day. They should be allowed to fix price for a few crops which can make them financially stable," he said. "We need to establish an organic production centre for every eight to ten villages, which should be owned by farmers, thus avoiding the middlemen and helping farmers to lead a better life," he added. Eregowda, a resident of Madarahalli, who is into organic farming from the past ten years, says Mysuru leads in organic farming when compared to other districts. The demand for organic crop and millets has increased, he added. He said organic farming needs more manpower which makes it difficult for farmers to find daily wage workers. Dinesh, founder of Earth 360 Eco Ventures, said farmers need to unite and organize to attract consumers to organic farm products. More research is needed on improving organic farming and its practices. There is also need to organize more awareness programmes to spread the benefits of millets and organic food, he said. Former Speaker Krishna inaugurated the programme. Social thinker P Mallesh was present.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Centre plans new price support scheme for farmers to fix rural distress

The central government, in consultation with states, proposes to launch a new price support scheme for farmers to prevent distress sales at prices below the minimum support price (MSP). Under the proposed “market assurance scheme”, states will be free to procure all crops from farmers for which MSPs are announced, except rice and wheat, which are already being procured by the centre for the public distribution system. Under the new scheme, the centre will compensate states for any losses capped at 30% of the procurement cost. It will be the states’ responsibility to dispose of the procured crops. The proposed scheme will ensure an assured price for the farmer, mitigating the price risks faced by farmers after harvest. Together with a prolonged spell of inadequate rains and two years of drought it has contributed towards rural distress. If successful, it will also politically benefit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), though it could place fiscal pressures on the Union government; in the just-concluded assembly election in Gujarat, one reason contributing to the BJP’s less than usual performance was farmer angst triggered by rural distress. The system, as it exists now, under which only rice, wheat and small quantities of pulses and oilseeds are procured by the centre, “leaves much to be desired”, according to a copy of the proposal reviewed by Mint. The new scheme “proposes to strengthen the procurement mechanism to ensure that farmers do not suffer from marketing inefficiencies, as commonly reflected in the prices ruling lower than notified MSP for many commodities”, it said. States will take ownership of the scheme, including which crop to procure and in what quantities, when wholesale prices drop below MSPs. State governments will be free to use the procured crops for targeted nutrition-support programmes such as mid-day meals for schoolchildren, or sell them in the open market.

TThe Times of India, Mumbai
1,497 farmer suicides since loan waiver announced

Maharashtra has recorded 1,497 farmer suicides in the six months since the loan waiver was declared in June, official data shows. This is just 4.2% lower than the 1,563 cases reported in the same period last year. In fact, these cases account for 56% of the total 2,662 farmer suicides reported between January and November this year. The roll-out of the waiver was delayed by glitches in the verification process. By now the state has cleared Rs 19,537 crore to be deposited into 41 lakh bank accounts. However, the clearances have come slowly and the process of depositing the funds into farmers' accounts is still on. The gap between the number of suicides last year and this year is only 6.8%. Last year, the state had reported 2,858 farmer suicides. The Vidarbha region, from where CM Devendra Fadnavis hails, continues to report the highest number of cases— 1,240 suicides till November-end, which account for 46.5% of the total cases in the state. The figure, however, is slightly lower than the 1,349 cases reported last year. This year, cotton farmers from Vidarbha and Marathwada have had to contend with a massive pest attack, which impacted half their crops. Also, 51 farmers in the region died after the use of toxic pesticides in spraying operations. The state government maintains that the loan waiver will not bring down the number of farmer suicides and the solution lies is increasing investment in agriculture. However, farmers groups say one of their key problems is the low agricultural prices, an issue which the government has not addressed. Farm activists say the state has failed to deliver the loan waiver to beneficiaries, with a large number of farmers being excluded in the verification process.

The Times of India, Trichy
3 more ‘pesticide-hit’ farmers hospitalized

Three more cotton farmers belonging to Siruganpur village in Perambalur have been hospitalised in a continuing series of farm workers falling victim to harmful exposure of pesticides in Paerambalur and Ariyalur. Already, at least five farm workers have died in two months from medical ailments caused while spraying pesticides on BT cotton fields, investigations by advocacy groups have revealed. Perambalur GH sources identified the three farmers as Ajith, 22, Ayyakannu, 25, and Radhakrishnan, 62, all hailing from Siruganpur village. Few days ago, farmers were spraying pesticide on their BT cotton field when the trio collapsed due to nausea and was subsequently admitted to the GH. "Ajith and Ayyakannu are in a stable state after treatments. They had breathing trouble as the pesticide got infused into the blood after heavy inhalation. Radhakrishnan was referred to Trichy GH for continuous monitoring," a source in Perambalur GH said. Already four farmers in Perambalur district and one in Ariyalur district had lost their lives due to medical complications caused while spraying the pesticide. Though farmers had been falling sick time and again, activists said that authorities concerned were yet to understand the gravity of the situation. They had not taken any efforts to conduct a scientific study and launch awareness measures on the issue. "More than 200 farmers have been hospitalised thus far in Perambalur district alone, but the district administration and agriculture department have not carried out the much-needed awareness activities to prevent cotton farmers from using Monocrotophos pesticide further. Government has to conduct a study so that loss of lives among the farming community can be prevented," Saravanan Karunanidhi, joint secretary of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) told. A fact-finding committee of PUCL including Karunanidhi had even filed a complaint with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on finding that five farmers had lost their lives because of using a particular type of pesticide in the cotton fields of Ariyalur and Perambalur.

Business Line, New Delhi
Parliamentary panel to Centre: Appoint full-time chairman for Spices Board

An apex parliamentary committee has expressed concern over the Centre’s inability to appoint a full-time chairman to the Spices Board and fill up positions of board members that have been lying vacant for a while. The Centre should take immediate steps to appoint a person with experience in trade and export promotion as its full-time chairman, said a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in a report tabled in Parliament last week. Since February 2014, Marine Products Export Development Authority Chairman A Jayathilak has been doubling up as Spices Board Chairman. The committee, headed by BJP Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav, said the Commerce Ministry has also failed to appoint new members to the Board despite the terms of most earlier members came to an end many months back. The Spices Board was set up about three decades ago to promote exports of spices, in which India is number one worldwide. In 2013-14, Indian spices accounted for 48 per cent share in terms of volume in the global trade. The parliamentary panel expressed surprise about over the under-representation of the north-eastern region in the Board, in spite of the region’s tremendous potential in the sector. Noting that the only two members representing the North-East earlier were bureaucrats, the committee wanted the Ministry to rope in representatives of stakeholders, as they are more aware of the challenges and hardships faced by the sector. “The Spices Board should be more vibrant and representative of stakeholders rather than channelising the views through bureaucrats,” it said. The MPs in the panel also said the Commerce Ministry should hold discussions with the Agriculture Ministry to transfer production and development of five major spices — turmeric, pepper, chilli, ginger and garlic — to the Board, on the same lines as cardamom.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Failed crops: Telangana leaves cotton farmers high and dry

Cotton farmers affected by the pink bollworm during the kharif season have been left in the lurch, with the government not taking the initiative to ensure that they get compensation from seed companies or insurance firms. Cotton crop sowed in 10 lakh acres has been affected by the pink bollworm pest attack. The government is yet to conduct even a panchanama of crop loss so far, which is essential for the farmers to claim compensation. In contrast, the Maharashtra government had recently directed seed companies and insurance firms to pay compensation to the affected farmers. It has roped in teams to inspect the crops damaged by bollworm. Based on their report, the government sought compensation of up to Rs 38,000 per acre to farmers from the Centre, seed companies and insurance firms. No such effort is seen in the state despite farmers suffering huge losses and reports of distressed farmers committing suicide were coming in from the districts almost every day. The TS government is more focussed on convincing farmers to destroy the standing crop affected by bollworm, for which the agriculture department has taken up a campaign in all districts. Agriculture commissioner C. Parthasarathi has written to collectors and agricultural officers asking them to convince farmers to destroy the standing crop so as to control its spread in the ongoing rabi and next kharif seasons. “Farmers should destroy the affected crop after the third picking, which is taken up in the third week of December, and completely destroy the crop by the end of the month. The extended life of the affected crop will not only damage the crop in ongoing rabi season but also sp-read it to the next kh-arif season,” he noted. Farmers’ associations are demanding that the Centre and and the state government ensure payment of compensation from Monsanto for crop losses.

24, Dec 2017
Business Standard, Mumbai
Dumping of potato in Agra and other parts of UP as prices slump

Stockists and warehouse keepers in Agra district of Uttar Pradesh are dumping potato at 20-25 paise a kg, to clear cold storage space of inventory not being claimed. Farmers and stockists are reportedly finding the value not worth the cost of transport from warehouses to wholesale markets. There are, consequently, reports of dumping on the roads. And, on fields before tilling for the next crop, for use as biofertiliser. Problem is reportedly similar elsewhere in the country. Barring some centres, price quoted is Rs 4-5.5 a kg across the country, against a cost of production of around Rs 5 a kg. “Farmers and stockists do not have any option but to take out their entire quantity from cold storages, which require to be cleaned before the beginning of next arrival season from mid-February. Since they require six weeks for hygienic cleaning and maintenance, cold storage owners want to evacuate entire storage before December 31. So, both farmers and stockists are in deep distress here,” said Vishal Jain, owner of Viraj Traders, a potato stockist in Agra. Dumping of potato in Agra and other parts of UP as prices slump The Third Advance Estimate of output projects the country's potato output at 48.2 million tonnes (mt) for 2016-17 (July-June), a 11 per cent increase from the previous year’s 43.4 mt. UP's contribution, at 31 per cent, is the highest. West Bengal is next at 23.3 per cent and Bihar at 13.2 per cent. UP's estimated potato storage capacity is 12.46 mt, commensurate with its production. Cold storage owners normally vacate the entire warehouse during December. This year, however, they'd directed their stockist potato clients to remove their entire amount before October 31, extended later to end-November and then December 15. However, farmers and stockists are not even claiming their inventory in many cases, due to falling prices.

Business Standard, Chennai
Further surge in pepper prices after minimum import price imposed

The prices of pepper have risen by another Rs 80 per kg in the past 10 days, an unprecedented pace, say growers. This follows the announcement of a minimum import price (MIP) for import, announced early this month. Right after, domestic pepper rose 10-12 per cent to Rs 420 a kg on December 12. Rohan Colaco, former executive committee member, Karnataka Planters' Association, and a major grower, says the price of black pepper is Rs 500 a kg at most physical terminals. Two weeks earlier, it was Rs 380 a kg. There is good demand and there seems a supply squeeze, with about 40 per cent of farmers keeping back produce (the other 60-odd per cent have sold) in the expectation of the price touching Rs 600 a kg. The commerce ministry had approved the Spices Board's proposal for fixing pepper's CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value at Rs 500 per kg as MIP, to protect the interest of growers. "In recent times, a decline in the domestic price due to cheaper import from other countries has been a major concern among growers. Prices have gone down by nearly 35 per cent in one year and resulted in hardship for growers," said a commerce ministry official on the rationale. India's demand has been increasing at around four per cent annually. It is currently estimated at 60,000 tonnes a year. Domestic production in the coming season is estimated at 65,000-70,000 tonnes. Vietnam's is estimated at 170,000-190,000 tonnes.

Business Line, Kolkata
Govt, trade deny supply crunch in urea

There is hardly any sign of supply constraints in the market; the government too doesn’t foresee any such possibility; yet, a section of fertiliser industry suspect India might face short supply of urea. What sent the rumours flying is cancellation of an import tender by the government through National Fertilizers (NFL) in early November. India meets 27-28 per cent of its annual urea requirement through imports by the government agencies. The domestic production of urea was down by 3.7 per cent to 13.5 million tonnes (mt) and import was down by seven per cent to 3.7 mt during April-October 2017. However, total sale during the period was up by 3.6 per cent. According to industry sources, the country’s urea stock was down to 1.1 mt, which is exactly half of what it was during the same period last year. The sources further add that the Diammonium Phosphate or DAP stock is also significantly low due to dual impact of lower imports and higher sales. Unlike urea, the country meets greater part of the DAP demand through imports that was down by 12 per cent during April-October. Interestingly, neither the trade nor all fertiliser companies share the concern. According to a prominent dealer, farmers have already done stockpiling for winter crop. The demand of urea, he said, is lower this season in West Bengal due to government restrictions following last year’s ‘wheat blast’ infection. “Except some brands, urea is not fetching any premium. Even the premium on better brands is as low as ₹50 on a sack of 50-kg,” said Subhasish Pal, one of the oldest and largest distributors in Malda. He doesn’t foresee any DAP shortage either. Sources in the Fertiliser Ministry say the concern over cancellation of imports is unfounded, as they were ready to meet the demand for the kharif season (monsoon crop) which is 5 months away.

Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Guj lessons: BJP to compensate farmers losing cotton in Maha

After the BJP suffered an election setback in the cotton growing areas of Gujarat, the Maharashtra government has taken steps to pacify farmers cultivating the cash crop in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. It has decided to compensate farmers whose cotton crop has been infested with a pest known as pink bollworm. With around 18 months to go for the Assembly elections, the relief and financial assistance is being viewed as a measure to prevent a reversal in BJP’s electoral fortunes in the region, which is controlled by the party. More than 50 BJP MLAs come from these two largely agriculture-driven economy regions. The state’s relief and rehabilitation department is still carrying out surveys of destroyed cotton crop. During the winter session, agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar said compensation for non-irrigated land would be Rs 30,800 per hectare, and Rs 37,500/ha for irrigated land. He said that farmers with two-hecatre of land would be eligible. The announcement of a financial assistance to farmers came two days after the BJP lost considerable ground in the Saurashtra-Kutch region of Gujarat, which predominantly grows cotton and groundnut. Of the 13.6 million farmers in Maharashtra, nearly 4.5 million cultivate cotton. In addition to crop insurance and assistance, farmers will also receive compensation from seed companies. Shiv Sena, BJP’s partner in the government, has been slamming the BJP for not looking after farmers’ welfare, and failing to implement loan waiver.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha govt puts bar on seed firms for co-marketing of brands

The Maharashtra government has decided to put in place stricter norms for seed companies against co-marketing of brands. The government has asked seed companies to amend their licences issued for co-marketing as per the permissions granted by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC). According to senior officials of the state agriculture department, several co-marketing companies with distribution rights for a product have been found selling the product under multiple brands to attract farmers. “In such cases, the brand of the product is displayed prominently while the name of the parent company that has developed the product is enclosed in brackets which is hardly noticeable. Moreover, there is no way the farmer can confirm if the product is the same, whether the number of packets is the number authorised by the parent company,” an official said. Usually co-marketing rights are granted for a certain amount of packets ( for example 10,000). But sometimes, these co-marketing companies sell more than the stipulated amount of packets that are licensed to them,” the official said. There are over 150 companies in the market, which include around 65 seed companies. Usually seed companies enter into distribution arrangement with companies to widen their market reach. Selling Bt seeds that are produced in other states under different brand names is called co-marketing. This kind of marketing makes it difficult for the government to take any action against such companies. The official said that there is a move on the cards to restrict the marketing rights or even put a blanket ban on co-marketing. MG Shembekar, vice president, National Seeds Association of India ( NSAI), said that a blanket ban on co-marketing is not needed. Quality control inspectors of the government can conduct checks and tests and monitor the companies, he said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Rabi sowing picks up, but wheat continues to lag

Even though the area under wheat crop continued to lag, increase in the acreage of rice and pulses helped rabi sowing to maintain a marginal edge over that in the previous year, data released by the Agriculture Ministry showed. The total area under rabi crops this season just edged past 546 lakh hectares (lh) as compared to 545 lh during the corresponding period last year. At 262.74 lh, the area under wheat crop is about 3.5 per cent lower than 272.62 lh in same period previous year. The acreage under the pulses crop, on other hand, is 9 per cent higher at 146 lh. Higher pulses sowing is reported mainly from Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Increased transplanting in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh lifted the total area under rice to 14.78 lh — about 43 per cent higher than last year. The crops that continued to languish are oilseeds whose total area was 73.08 lh, which is around 6.7 per cent lower than that in the previous year. Rajasthan, where the total area of sowing is 7 lakh lh lower than last year, accounted for this shortfall. The area under coarse cereals was marginally less than last year at 49.41 lh, according to the ministry data.

The Statesman, Chandigarh
SAD slams Punjab govt for fraud with farmers

The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) lambasted at the Congress government for allegedly playing fraud with Punjab farmers while pushing them towards further ruin and suicide by denying loan waiver to them. In a statement issued, former state revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia said, the Rs 90,000 loan waiver promise made by the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh primarily covers farmers who have taken crop loans. The Akali leader said money from the state exchequer would now be spent on waiving crop loans of up to Rs two lakh and not achieve any objective. He said crop loans have a traditional recovery percentage of 95 per cent and the government has never impounded properties of farmers to realise them since 1986 as disclosed by the CM himself while replying to a question in the last Assembly session. “This means the government is proposing to conduct a farce in the name of implementing a crop loan scheme from January next month, which if implemented will not cover the real beneficiaries for which it was devised,” he said. Majithia said small farmers who had availed a loan of over Rs Two Lakh had been made ineligible for the waiver scheme. “It is these farmers who are committing suicide in hundreds after being unable to repay loans taken from national banks and private money lenders,” he said. Similarly, the former minister said, marginal farmers had also been left out in the cold while finalising the proposed crop loan waiver scheme. “This proves farmers were used as a vote bank and the Congress party befooled them by making them fill forms for a complete loan waiver which it is now refusing to implement,” he said. Majithia also said the farmers would not get justice until the government accepted that loans of national banks and private money lenders needed to be waived off completely.

Business Line, New Delhi
Scientists find a way to save wheat from stem rust disease

In a development that could give much reprieve to wheat farmers across the world, scientists have gained gene-level insights into how a deadly fungus attacks the cereal crop, leading to its widespread destruction, as seen already in many countries in Africa and West Asia. Though the fungal epidemic caused by a strain of fungus Puccinia graminis tritici (Pgt), called Ug99, has not reached India yet, it has been lurking in the neighbourhood; in Iran and Afghanistan for a while. The fungal strain, first detected in Uganda around 1999 (thus the name Ug99), is much dreaded because 90 per cent wheat grown all over the world could be susceptible to it. This is because it can overcome the resistance conferred by a specific gene called Sr35 which is part and parcel of the most high-yielding wheat varieties. Now, in two studies, published in the journal Science, scientists from Australia, the UK and the US, have developed a DNA testing technique that could identify whether the rust pathogen in a particular crop can overcome a novel rust resistance gene that is being introduced in high-yielding wheat varieties in many countries. To do this, the scientists made use of the insight they gained from the discovery of a rust virulence molecule that wheat plants detect to ‘switch on’ built-in resistance and stave off the disease. The breakthrough would mean suspect samples could be analysed within hours in an emergency rather than weeks, potentially saving crops from being destroyed. “For the first time it will be possible to do DNA testing to identify whether a rust in a wheat crop anywhere in the world can overcome a rust-resistance gene, called Sr50, which is being introduced in high-yielding wheat varieties,” said Robert Park, a scientist with the Plant Breeding Institute at the University of Sydney.

The Hindu, Bhubaneswar
Unseasonal rain hits paddy crop in Odisha

Odisha Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Maheswar Mohanty said that paddy crop in over 10,000 hectares of land had been affected due to unseasonal rain in the second week of December. Mr. Mohanty said the unseasonal rain hit five coastal districts. But three districts - Puri, Jajpur and Jagatsinghpur- have reported crop loss of 33 % or above. The Minister said compensation will be disbursed among the affected farmers within a month. Collectors of five districts had earlier submitted reports on crop damage due to unseasonal rain. The collectors of Cuttack and Kendrapara have reported that there was no crop damage in their districts on account of unseasonal rain. According to official sources, five districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Jagatsinghour and Puri had received heavy rainfall on December 9 and 10 due to a depression over the Bay of Bengal. Earlier, unseasonal rain during the third week of November had caused crop damage to over 3.84 lakh hectares of paddy field spread over in 135 blocks in 19 districts. The Minister said the farmers who suffered crop loss of 33 % or above are entitled to agricultural input subsidy as per the norms of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).

Business Line, Mumbai
UP woos investments in aerospace, defence sectors

The Uttar Pradesh government invited companies to invest in the aerospace and defence sectors, which are key to its industrial development. “We seek investments in aerospace and defence as one of the key thrust areas for industrial development in the state. Our civil aviation policy also provides more emphasis on developing aero space sector,” Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath said here. Speaking at a CII event ‘Uttar Pradesh investors’ summit’, Mumbai roadshow, Adityanath said that his government has recently received centre’s nod to set up an international airport at Jewar near Greater Noida and it will help in providing good connectivity. He also assured that the state will follow a zero tolerance policy towards crime, which will support better investments.

23, Dec 2017
The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Six companies win tender to supply 500MW wind power

Six companies won bids to supply 500MW of wind power to Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (GUVNL) through competitive bidding. The reverse auction, conducted after several delays, also reached the country’s lowest wind tariff of Rs 2.43 per kilowatt hour (kWh). The lowest bidders include Sprng Energy Private Limited, KP Energy Limited, Verdant Renewables Private Limited, Betam Wind Energy Private Limited, Powerica Ltd and ReNew Power Ventures Private Ltd. Sprng Energy and KP Energy emerged as the L1 bidders, who quoted of Rs 2.43 per kWh (or per unit) tariff for the supply of 197.50 MW and 30MW respectively. The price quoted by the two companies is the lowest wind tariff reached so far through auction in the country. Previously, Solar Energy Corporation of India’s (SECI) in a 1,000MW auction in October this year had seen the lowest rate of Rs 2.64 per unit. Verdant Renewables, Betam Wind Energy and Powerica quoted Rs 2.44 per unit for 100MW, 29.90MW and 50MW, respectively. “Of the remaining 92MW requirement, 75MW has been reserved for PSUs who agree to supply at the rate quoted by L1 bidders. Otherwise, the entire 92 MW will go to ReNew Power, which has quoted Rs 2.45 per unit,” said sources in GUVNL. Around 18 wind power developers were in fray to supply wind power to GUVNL, which had floated a 500MW tender in June this year. The wind auction by GUVNL was deferred a number of times as Indian Wind Energy Association (IWEA) first approached the Gujarat high court and then the Supreme Court opposing the bidding process on the ground that the central government had only issued draft guidelines for governing such wind energy auction, and it had not finalized any such guidelines.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Bengaluru to host seventh international coffee fest

The seventh edition of the India International Coffee Festival (IICF) will be held in Bengaluru from January 16-19. The four-day IICF 2018, being organised by the India Coffee Trust and State-run Coffee Board to promote the Indian coffees globally, is expected to attract over 100 companies, 600 delegates and some 10,000 visitors, organisers said. Karnataka Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge said IICF will help promote Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Sakleshpura not just as the coffee growing estates but also as tourist destinations in view of their great landscape, and unique culture and cuisines. Srivatsa Krishna, Secretary, Coffee Board, said IICF 2018 would be a precursor to the International Coffee Organisation’s World Coffee Conference being hosted by India in Bengaluru in 2020. The Board, Krishna said, was working towards enhancing the growers’ share in the consumer spend. Citing data from an UK daily, Krishna said big brands globally sell a cup of coffee at an average of $4, whereas the growers’ share in that is only five cents. “All the efforts of the Coffee Board is to see how we can help the growers move from five cents upwards. Even if we increase by two or three times, it will be a significant achievement. Most of our endeavours are in that direction,” Krishna said. Further, the Board is expected to finalise a branding campaign for the promotion of Indian coffees. Referring to the problems posed by the white stem borer to the arabica variety, Krishna said the Board was working with artificial intelligence and biotech firms to find a solution to the pest menace. Anil Bhandari, President, India Coffee Trust, said IICF 2018 will continue to be the premier platform for the coffee and allied industries to express and explore new and game changing ideas and solutions.

The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Budget 2018-19 may focus on rural areas’

India’s government will likely increase funding for the farm and rural sectors in the budget for the coming fiscal year, finance ministry officials said, to shore up political support in the countryside ahead of a raft of elections. “The next budget will focus on farmers, rural jobs and infrastructure while making all attempts to follow a fiscal prudence path,” a senior finance ministry official told. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government won an election in his home state of Gujarat this week, but only just as it faced discontent fuelled by falling farm incomes and a lack of jobs. In 2018 and early 2019, there will be eight state elections in the heartland, leading up to a national election in 2019. On February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is expected to present his last full-year budget, for the 2018/19 year that begins April 1. Annual farm growth dipped to 1.7% in the three months ending September, mainly on lower prices and output, while economic growth accelerated to 6.3% after growing at a three-year low of 5.7% in the previous quarter. “The government can’t afford farmers’ anger any more, and will try to boost the economic growth and pump in more funds in the farm sector,” the official said. “It will not be a populist but a pragmatic budget.” Jaitley has signalled that his priority will be allocating more funds for rural and infrastructure sectors. Modi has indicated that he would like to achieve 7.5% to 8% annual economic growth before entering the election campaign, said another official. An aide to Modi said, “Every attempt is being made to make it a populist budget.” Higher procurement prices for different crops could be offered to farmers following lower output this year. There will be tax reforms, the aide said, referring to corporate demand to lower tax rates.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Govt considering hike in import duty on wheat

The government is considering raising import duty on wheat from the current 20% to boost sowing in the ongoing rabi season and support domestic prices, sources said. Last month, the government had doubled the import duty on wheat to 20% to curb cheap shipments and give positive price signal to farmers in the rabi season. It was raised as private traders imported about 1 million tonnes of wheat since April at 10% duty. According to sources, the government is looking to raise import duty further to boost sowing operations and support local prices. As per the latest data from the agriculture ministry, wheat acreage declined to 245.50 lakh hectares as on December 15 in the ongoing rabi season from 250.48 lakh hectares during the corresponding period of the previous year.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Govt imposes 30% import duty on chickpeas, lentils

The government said it has imposed 30% import duty on chana (chickpeas) and masoor (lentils) with immediate effect to avoid cheap imports given the prospects of high production during the forthcoming Rabi season. The government may also effect a further hike in import duty on wheat from the current 20%. Last month, the government had doubled the import duty on the cereal to curb cheap shipments and give positive price signal to farmers in the Rabi season. Currently, tur and yellow peas attract 10% and 50% import duty respectively while other pulses attract zero import duty. “There has been a record production of pulses in the current year. However, despite sufficient domestic availability, imports of pulses continue to take place on account of low prevailing international prices. Such imports suppress the domestic prices of pulses and adversely affect the interest of farmers,” the government said in a statement. As for import duty on wheat, it was raised after private traders imported about 1 million tonne of the produce since April at 10% duty. According to government data, wheat acreage declined to 245.50 lakh hectare as on December 15 in the ongoing Rabi season from 250.48 lakh hectare during the corresponding period of the previous year. India’s wheat production stood at record 98.38 million tonne in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June).

The Tribune, Chandigarh
No waiver for 69% of Punjab farmersr

As many as 69 per cent of Punjab farmers who have availed loans from various banks will not get the benefit of the crop loan waiver scheme announced by the Congress government. Against 12.38 lakh farmers who have availed crop loans, only 3.94 lakh will get the benefit of the much-hyped scheme, as the government prepares to roll it out in the first week of January. Data prepared by various departments and State-Level Bankers Committee, Punjab, has revealed that of the originally targeted 10.40 lakh beneficiaries, only 3,94,499 will get the waiver or relief of up to a maximum of Rs 2 lakh on their crop loans. All small farmers who have availed a loan of over 2 lakh have been rendered ineligible for the loan — as reported recently. Figures suggest that just 1,60,286 farmers will get a complete debt waiver, while 2.34 lakh farmers will get debt relief, as their loan amount exceeds Rs 2 lakh. Also, a majority of the beneficiaries are those who took loans from cooperative banks (3,20,395 of 3.94 lakh beneficiaries). Only 74,104 who have availed loans from commercial and private banks will be eligible for the waiver. Data compiled by the bankers committee suggests that 20,927 marginal farmers will get a complete waiver of Rs 200.416 crore; 30,818 marginal farmers will get a relief of Rs 616.36 crore (though their total loan stands at Rs 1,493.72 crore, each farmer having availed over Rs 2 lakh); and 22,359 small farmers will get a relief of Rs 212.55 crore. Of those who took loans from cooperative banks, 3,20,395 will get a relief of Rs 6,407 crore. The government will now incur Rs 7,445.32 crore, against the estimated Rs 9,500 crore. While it has arranged for a loan of Rs 4,680 crore, the remaining amount will be funded by the treasury.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Role of small growers expanding in made tea production

Of the country’s total made tea in 2016-17, 46 per cent is produced from green leaves supplied by small tea growers. The small tea growers of the country are now inching towards attaining the 50 per cent mark in this respect, said sources in the Tea Board. Sources said the small tea growers sector now occupies a very important place in the tea industry of the country. Meanwhile, the latest meeting of the Tea Board has decided to expand the Advisory Committee on Small Tea Growers. Accordingly, the subcommittee will now comprise Bidyananda Barkakoty as chairman of the Advisory Committee and Dilip Moran, Diki Tashi Wangchuk, Binod Hazarika and B Kumaran as members and Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty as invitee. Further, an office-bearer of the All Assam Small Tea Growers Association is also to be included as an invitee of the Advisory Committee, as per the resolution of the board meeting. It is worth mentioning here that of the total 1250.49 million kg of made tea produced by the country in 2016-17, 575.22 million kg were produced from green leaves supplied by the small tea growers sector. In case of Assam, the small tea growers supplied green leaves for manufacturing 264.25 million kg in 2016-17, which was 40.21 per cent of the total 657.24 million kg of made tea produced by the State that year. In case of West Bengal, 180.09 million kg of made tea were produced from green tea leaves produced by the small tea growers in 2016-17. This was 50.39 per cent of the total 357.39 million kg of made tea produced by the neighbouring state that year. This indicates that the small tea growers sector has already outdone the organised sector in West Bengal in the matter of production.

Business Line, New Delhi
Sugar mills to supply 140 crore litres of ethanol

Sugar mills and ethanol manufacturers have entered into an agreement with oil marketing companies to supply a record 140 crore litres of ethanol for blending during the year, starting last October. The contracted quantity – which is 26 per cent more than 111 crore litres supplied in 2015-16 – is enough for 4.5 per cent blending, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said in a statement. However, ISMA requested State governments to remove taxes on denatured ethanol so that inter-state movement is not hindered, on the lines of what the Karnataka government did early this year. “Legislative and legal powers on denatured ethanol meant for blending with petrol is clearly bestowed only with the Central government, which should be accepted by the State governments,” it said.

Business Line, Indore
Cooking oils in bear grip

Barring groundnut oil, majority of oils traded lower on weak global cues and slack demand with soya refined being quoted at Rs 708-12 for 10 kg, while soya solvent ruled at Rs 675. Palm and cotton oils also traded lower at Rs 670 and Rs 648-50 respectively. Amid weak availability, groundnut oil ruled higher at Rs 10,010-30. Mustard seeds in the spot market edged up at Rs 5,450 a quintal, while raida ruled at Rs 3,500. Plant deliveries of mustard seeds for Jaipur line were lower at Rs 4,090-95 a quintal. Similarly, weak arrivals perked up soyabeanto Rs 3,050.

22, Dec 2017
Business Line, Kochi
Aspinwall to revamp Monsooned Malabar coffee brand

Aspinwall and Company, the 150-year-old plantations and logistics major, is going for a brand revamp of its Monsooned Malabar coffee, that caters mostly to the export market. The product, fetching a premium price in the European market, will be known as Aspinwall Mellows in the overseas market. According to KNR Menon, Chairman, the company is looking at marketing its speciality coffee to other countries, given the rising demand for certified coffees. Monsooned coffee from Aspinwall estates has got certifications from Rainforest Alliance and UTZ for sustainable farming. Besides speciality coffee, the company has interests in logistics, natural rubber and natural fibres. While coffee accounts for nearly 50 per cent of its income, logistics has 35 per cent share and the remaining from rubber and natural fibres. Rama Varma, Managing Director, said the company chalked out plans to double its turnover by 2020 from the present Rs 250 crore.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Farm data set to get space tech boost

The quality of India’s agriculture sector statistics could soon improve with the government tapping satellite imagery technologies to upgrade the yield estimation and acreage measurement exercise. India’s farm output forecasts tend to see wide variations between preliminary reports and the final estimates, which typically are released well over a year after sowing. Inaccurate farm data not only ends up distorting market prices for food items but also muddle growth estimates for the overall economy. “If we can combine traditional technology of acreage, yield estimation with satellite imagery through a small hand-held device, in which — when acreage is recorded and crop cutting experiments are done — it will be possible for you to not only get the traditional estimates but also the geospatial coordinates on which this experiment was done,” said TCA Anant, Chief Statistician of India. He said work was underway on implementing this as the requisite technology-backed applications were in place. “It is (now) a question of working with all the state officials and the huge administrative machinery in the districts to adopt it. That work is going on,” he said, speaking at a conference on geospatial technologies hosted by Assocham. The statistics and programme implementation ministry is also working with the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to deploy geospatial technology for sample surveys, beginning with urban areas. The Urban Frame Survey will soon be completed and provide up-to-date maps of urban areas, which, the Chief Statistician said, could be used for sampling purposes with necessary location indicators. “… To modernise our system of developing urban sample frames, we would be combining the satellite image of urban areas with ground-mapping of the satellite image to permit you to develop an urban frame,” said Mr. Anant. “The advantage of this is that it is updated much more frequently than any physical ground survey system could have done,” he added.

Business Line, Kochi
Aspinwall to revamp Monsooned Malabar coffee brand

Aspinwall and Company, the 150-year-old plantations and logistics major, is going for a brand revamp of its Monsooned Malabar coffee, that caters mostly to the export market. The product, fetching a premium price in the European market, will be known as Aspinwall Mellows in the overseas market. According to KNR Menon, Chairman, the company is looking at marketing its speciality coffee to other countries, given the rising demand for certified coffees. Monsooned coffee from Aspinwall estates has got certifications from Rainforest Alliance and UTZ for sustainable farming. Besides speciality coffee, the company has interests in logistics, natural rubber and natural fibres. While coffee accounts for nearly 50 per cent of its income, logistics has 35 per cent share and the remaining from rubber and natural fibres. Rama Varma, Managing Director, said the company chalked out plans to double its turnover by 2020 from the present Rs 250 crore.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Farm Loan Waiver Not a Solution, says Chhattisgarh Minister

Chhattisgarh’s agriculture minister Brijmohan Agrawal has said farm “loan waiver is not a solution”, potentially ruling out the measure in the pollbound, BJP-ruled state. Erratic rainfall and drought is some regions of the country, which affect farm output, have made debt relief promise an important tool for political parties wanting to win state elections. Earlier in the week, finance minister Arun Jaitley told that the results in some Gujarat districts highlighted farmers’ issues that the government will “analyse” and “address”. On whether the Chhattisgarh government will face pressure to follow BJP-ruled UP and Maharashtra in waiving off loans, BJP’s Agarwal told, “Loan waiver is not a solution. Plus in Chhattisgarh, the problem (bad debts) is not so much.” Agarwal said farmers in the region had last been allowed a loan waiver in 1991-1992, before Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. “I was a minister then. We did a loan waiver till Rs10,000 per farmer. Now in Chhattisgarh, farmers take Rs3,000-3,500 cr in loans every year and Rs2,200-2,500 cr is returned by them. Loan waiver is not an issue in our state,” he said. The minister said the state had instead given interest-free loans to farmers, thereby reducing the input cost in agriculture and increasing farmers’ profits. “On the issue of the minimum support price, too, though the central government decides it, we are trying to reduce the input cost of agriculture so that farmers’ profits are protected,” Agarwal said. “We are trying to join our agriculture market with national and international markets. Lots of fruits are being imported – we can start processing it. Farmers need to do convergence too – that is move from wheat and paddy and go towards economic crops.”

The Economic Times, New Delhi
‘Govt to Step up Buying from Farmers’

The government is giving top priority to reaching out to more farmers and directly buying grains from them, food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. Procurement prices of wheat, mustard, chana etc have already been raised by 6-11% and the immediate focus would be to make sure more farmers can sell to state agencies, he told. “We are working along with state governments that more procurement centres are opened to ensure farmers get the minimum support price (MSP),” Paswan said. “MSP for this rabi season’s crops like wheat, chana has been increased by 6% to 11%. Our effort is to increase and double farmer’s income. To help them we are doing a number of things apart from increasing MSP for crops.” Following the recent Gujarat elections, in which the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lost support in rural areas, the government has said it will seek to address the concerns of farmers. That’s likely to see an intensified focus on boosting the rural economy in the runup to the general election in 2019, before which several key states will be going to the polls. Officials in the food ministry said states such as West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are also increasingly focusing on direct procurement of produce from farmers as Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh had done earlier. To ensure that farmers get the benefit of MSP fixed by the Centre on important commodities grown in a particular season, Paswan said state governments have been asked to set up more centres and step up procurement. In the past, the government relaxed quality norms in terms of moisture content for grain such as wheat and rice during procurement drives, Paswan said. “These measures, at a time when farmers are in distress, are being undertaken to ensure remunerative prices are given to them for their produce,” he said.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Karnataka offers Rs550/qtl bonus for tur

Poll-bound Karnataka has proposed an incentive of Rs550 per quintal to growers of tur (red gram) in addition to the Centre’s MSP and bonus of Rs5450, as the harvest of the pulses crop has begun in the key growing regions of the State. As a result, farmers will get a price of Rs6,000 for every quintal of tur this year. Sources said the State expects to commence the procurement of red gram as soon as the market arrivals of the new crop begin. Prices are ruling below the MSP levels in markets such as Bidar and Yadgir. The State has fixed a procurement ceiling of 20 quintals per farmer for Rs6,000/quintal, sources said. The Centre has fixed a tur procurement target of 16.5 lakh quintals in Karnataka for the 2017-18 season. Last year, the state had procured over 2.4 lakh tonnes on a bumper harvest.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Low prices, labour shortage hurt coffee growers

The prevailing bearish trend in coffee prices amidst poor overseas demand for Indian arabicas (the mild and premium variety) has left the growers worried. Add to this the shortage of labour during the harvest season has aggravated their woes. Farmgate prices of Arabicas parchment have been ruling between Rs6,600 and Rs7,000 per 50-kg bag, lower than last year following the volatile trend in the global prices. “The arabica prices, which have dropped below the cost of production, are a big concern for the growers,” said HT Pramod, Chairman, Karnataka Planters Association (KPA), the apex body of the coffee growers in the State. Arabica harvest is currently on and the picking season has crossed the halfway mark. However, the growers are facing a shortage of labour, which has also resulted in increased costs. “We used to get farm labourers from North Karnataka during the picking season. But with those region receiving good rains, the annual migration of labour has not happened in sufficient numbers. Also, the labourers from Assam have gone back citing issues relating to updation of their citizen records” Pramod, a grower in Chikmagaluru, said. Bose Mandanna, a coffee grower in Kodagu, said the growers were facing a double whammy as the input costs were on the rise mainly driven by the labour wages and fuel costs. At the same time, the coffee prices are coming down on expectations of a good crop in Brazil. “Growers in the lower elevation normally depend on other products such as pepper to boost their earnings. However, for those in the upper elevations, it would be very difficult to make their ends meet,” he said. Mandanna puts the production cost of arabicas in well-maintained estates at around Rs65,000 per acre, while the Coffee Board has pegged it around Rs 40,000 per acre.

Business Line, Mumbai
NCDEX cuts transaction fee on sugar

The National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange has slashed the transaction charges on sugar contract to 10 paise per Rs1 lakh of trade from Rs4 charged earlier. The exchange has also done away with the risk management fee of Rs4 on sugar contract to boost liquidity on the exchange platform as the country is all set for a bumper harvest this sugar season (October 2017-September 2018). The Centre has withdrawn stockholding and turnover limits on sugar dealers with immediate effect as it expects the demand-supply situation to remain comfortable. The lower transaction charges will encourage increased market participation and provide a cost-effective hedging avenue in the form of sugar futures, said the exchange in a statement. The Centre’s withdrawal of stockholding and turnover limits on sugar dealers is expected to encourage large co-operatives and millers to hedge their risk on the exchange platform. Samir Shah, Managing Director, NCDEX, said the exchange’s sugar future contracts are aimed at offering a wholesome risk management and robust price discovery tool to the market.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Onion farmers in Gujarat demand MSP

With onions from new harvest appearing in market, onion farmers have demanded that the Gujarat government purchase onion at a minimum support price. In the wholesale market, onion is selling at Rs 500 per 20kg, or at a price of Rs 25 per kg, higher than that of last year. Farmers from Mahuva and Bhavnagar staged a protest and demanded a minimum support price for onions. Market officials in Mahuva said farmers were concerned that arrival of the new crop will pull prices down, though the current rate, Rs 25 per kg, was Rs 5 higher per kg than that of 2016. An official of APMC Mahuva said that on an average, around 10,000 kg of onions from this season’s harvest have started arriving every day and the price may drop. Farmers were expecting a minimum support price as just before the elections the government had announced that it will purchase different crops including groundnut at MSP. So, the farmers want MSP for onions. In the APMC Ahmedabad, onion was trading at Rs 25 to Rs 35 per kg depending on the quality, though in the retail market, the consumer has to buy onions at around Rs 60 per kg. J V Vaja, the secretary of the Mahuva Agriculture Produce Market said, “The price was higher than last year and there was not much of a hue and cry from the farmers. We are getting around 12,000 kg of onions per day from the new crop.”

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
PMEAC focuses on farm revival

The Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) met to discuss agriculture productivity based on a presentation made by the Niti Aayog. It also took up issues of trade in the neighbourhood and inflation that has seen an increase in the recent months. The council discussed several macro-economic indicators like GDP growth, employment and fiscal position of the government, sources said. There were presentations on agriculture, cross border trade, macro-economic indicators while discussions were held on the fiscal position, inflation as well as GDP growth. The NITI Aayog made presentations on methods to enhance agri-productivity and the rural development ministry made presentations on Antyodaya poverty-free panchayats. Agriculture had decelerating growth in the second quarter and PMEAC will send its recommendations to the fin­ance ministry next month. After meeting early January it will elaborately spell out its suggestions on how to revive the most important sector of the Indian economy. The council, sources said, would give extensive fo­cus on job creation, steps to boost agriculture and farmers’ conditions, labour intensive industry promotions and keep expenditure on tight control for sticking to fiscal deficit of the next fiscal at 3 per cent. Recently, as part of the economists’ meeting with the finance minister on pre-budget discussions, the council along with others had advised the government to aim at easing rural sector distress and improve infrastructure, keeping in mind the needs of society.

The Economic Times, Pune
Sugar Prices Stay Weak Despite Stock Limit Easing

Despite removal of stock limit on sugar on Tuesday, sugar prices have not improved much. Lack of demand due to winter season and expectations of higher production are keeping prices subdued. Sugar prices have declined byRs3-4/kg during past two months, the central government removed stock limit on traders. The trade does not expect substantial increase in sugar prices. “Sugar prices increased by only Rs20/quintal to Rs30/quintal,” said Ashok Jain, president, Bombay Sugar Merchants’ Association. Prices of S-30 grade sugar are ruling around Rs31/ kg in Maharashtra. However, removal of stock limit is likely to help the sector by improving sales and stabilising prices. “There was increase in sales at mill tenders. There could be some demand around Sankranti,” said Jain. The Indian Sugar Mills Association in its release on December 18 had said, “With buying interest improving and the stock holding limit on traders being removed, the market is expected to increase their buying, which can have a positive impact on the sales and market sentiments, which in turn is already having a stabilising effect.”

21, Dec 2017
Business Line, Hyderabad
Bollworm, Bt3: Telangana farmers want Monsanto to compensate their losses

With Bollgard-II technology failing to control pink bollworms and illegal Bt3 technology seeds flooding the market, farmers in Telangana have demanded State and Central governments to ensure payment of compensation for crop losses they suffered this kharif. The Telangana Rythu Sangham has asked the governments to take action against Monsanto holding it responsible for the spread of the third generation Bt cotton technology seeds in the State, and make the company pay compensation to them. (Farmers in the State have been referring to Roundup Ready Flex or RRF herbicide-tolerant cotton technology by Monsanto as BG-III.). “Seeds with third generation Bt technology are marketed in the State. This technology has no clearance from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),” the association’s President P Janga Reddy and Secretary T Sagar have said. Monsanto India, however, denied any role in spreading the technology here. It blamed “illegal sellers of these unapproved technologies” for this. “It is a matter of grave concern that some seed companies, while suppressing their real intent of profiteering, are attempting to illegally incorporate unauthorised and unapproved herbicide tolerant technologies into their seeds,” a Monsanto India spokesperson told. Asked for response on the demands made by the farmers’ organisation, the spokesperson said that the firm did not stand to gain anything from the sale of illegal seeds. Pink bollworms, which cause devastating impact on farmers’ incomes, have developed resistance to Monsanto’s second generation Bt cotton technology (BG-II). The incident was so virulent this year that the Agriculture Department of Telangana had issued an advisory to farmers to remove the plants immediately (without waiting for the third or fourth picks) so that the fields would be free of the worms for next kharif.

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre to review decentralised procurement of foodgrains

The government has asked the NITI Aayog to assess the impact of decentralised procurement system for foodgrains, and study the trends in procurement, Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs CR Chaudhary said in reply to a question in Lok Sabha. Under the decentralised procurement system, the Centre buys food grains for its stocks through state agencies, rather than through the Food Corporation of India. So far, 15 States have introduced the decentralised system for procurement of rice, and eight have adopted it for wheat, the minister said. The government had earlier set up a high-level committee to review the current system of procurement, storage, marketing, preservation and distribution of food grains.

Business Line, New Delhi
Destroy bollworm-hit plants by Jan: Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government has issued an advisory to farmers, asking them to destroy pink bollworm-hit cotton plants in January, a senior official with the State Agriculture Department said. “We have asked farmers to stop picking beyond December as it will help break the life-cycle of the pest, and lessen the risk of incidence in the kharif season,” the official said. The advisory is being relayed to farmers through mobile texts, and an official release in this regard will be issued soon, the official said. The issue of pink bollworm attack on the cotton crop in Maharashtra was today raised in the Lok Sabha by Supriya Sule and Prataprao Jadhav, urging compensation to farmers from the Centre for their crop losses. Around three million hectares or about 70 per cent of the total cotton acreage in Maharashtra may have so far been affected by pink bollworm attack, the official said. Cotton acreage in Maharashtra is pegged at around 4.2 million ha in 2017-18 (October-September), compared with 3.8 million ha last year, according to the State’s first advance estimates.

Deccan Herald, Mumbai
Farm loan waivers to raise state deficits: report

The farm debt waivers announced by the five large states together will widen the combined fiscal deficit of the states by Rs 1,07,700 crore, or 0.65% of GDP this financial year, warns a report. The combined fiscal deficit of the states for FY18 has been Budgeted at 2.7% of GDP or Rs 4.48 lakh crore. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka have announced farm loan waivers this year after a string of farmer suicides in these states. Nine states have Budgeted an increase in their fiscal deficits/gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratios this year compared to 19 states in FY17. “With several states announcing farm loan waivers, there is a fear that the combined fiscal deficits of the states could be much worse than the budgeted figure,” India Ratings said in a report. The report estimates that the combined fiscal deficit of the states in FY18 at 3% of GDP or Rs 4.99 lakh. This is higher than the Budgeted figure, but considerably lower than FY17. The report is based on the analysis of 29 state Budgets, the impact of the farm debt waivers announced outside the Budgets and implementation of the GST from July 2017. While the farm debt waivers announced by UP and Punjab are part of their respective FY18 Budgets, the waivers announced by Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka are outside their Budgets. “These states will have to either generate additional resources to fund farm debt waivers or cut their Budgeted expenditure,” the report said. If such announcements are funded through expenditure compression, the axe usually falls first on the Budgeted capital expenditure, followed by social expenditure, the report said.“Both cuts do not augur well from the point of view of the medium to long term growth prospects of these states,” the report said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Govt Scraps Sugar Stock Limit for Traders

The government has withdrawn limits on sugar stocks that dealers can keep as the demand-supply situation is comfortable and likely to remain stable, a government statement said. Sugarcane crushing in the new season 2017-18 has commenced in all major sugar-producing states. The government estimates sugar production of 24.9 million tonnes in the new season, which is the same as the estimated demand of 25 million tonnes. “However with the carry over stock, total availability of sugar is sufficient to meet the estimated domestic requirement. There will be smooth availability and prices in the domestic market are expected to remain stable at reasonable levels,” it said. “Given the current comfortable position of production and to smoothen supply chain for easy availability, the government has withdrawn stock holding and turnover limits on dealers with immediate effect,” it said.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Govt withdraws stock holding, turnover limits on sugar dealers

The government said it has withdrawn stock holding and turnover limits on sugar dealers with immediate effect as demand-supply situation is likely to be comfortable with the estimated rise in production. Prices are also expected to remain stable at reasonable level, the food ministry said in a statement. Sugar production of India, the world's second largest producer, is estimated to increase at 249 lakh tonnes in the 2017-18 marketing year (October-September) from 203 lakh tonnes in the previous year. "During the current sugar season 2017-18, crushing operations in all major sugar producing states has commenced smoothly. The total sugar production is estimated to be around 249 lakh tonnes by the end of the season against estimated consumption requirement of about 250 lakh tonnes," Food Ministry said in a statement. With the carry over stock, the ministry said the total availability of sugar is sufficient to meet the estimated domestic demand. There would be smooth availability of sugar and prices in the domestic market are expected to remain stable at reasonable levels, it added. "Given the current comfortable position of production and in order to further smoothen the supply chain for easy availability of sugar in all regions, the government has withdrawn stock holding and turnover limits on dealers of sugar with immediate effect," the statement said. The stock holding and turnover limit was imposed till December this year.

Business Line, Mangaluru
Hike in minimum import price boosts arecanut prices

The import of arecanut has come down significantly boosting the prices of the nut at domestic markets after the Centre increased the minimum import price (MIP) for arecanut from Rs 162 a kg to Rs 251 in January. In a reply to a question in Lok Sabha, the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry said that the import of arecanut to the country came down from 16,151 tonnes during 2016-17 to 7,620 tonnes till August of 2017-18. The country imported 50,036 tonnes of arecanut in 2014-15, and 45,190 tonnes in 2015-16. The import of the commodity has been coming down with the increase in MIP from Rs 110 a kg to Rs 162 on June 8, 2015 and from Rs 162 to Rs 251 on January 17. The Ministry said that the price of arecanut increased from Rs 150/kg in January to Rs 195 in March in Kozhikode market after the MIP was fixed at Rs 251 a kg in January. In Sagar (Karnataka), the price increased from Rs 266/kg in December 2016 to Rs 350 in March after fixation of MIP on arecanut. The Ministry informed the Lok Sabha that the increase in the minimum import price of arecanuts has resulted into benefits for arecanut growers.

The Financial Express, Pune
Month-long wine fest in Nashik from Feb 1

The third edition of the India Grape Harvest – Vine and Wine Festival is all set to be held from February 1 to March 11 in and around Nashik — the country’s wine capital. Promoted by a bunch of wine entrepreneurs who have formed a special purpose company under the name of Nashik Valley Wine Cluster to avail benefits from the Centre for industry clusters, the festival stretches into weekends over the month. The festival is being organised in association with the Maharashtra State Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) with support from the All India Wine Producers Association, says Jagdish Holkar, one of the promoters of the company. Holkar is also a former president of the association and former chairman of the Indian Grape Processing Board ( IGPB). From January to April is usually considered the harvesting season for grapes and therefore an attempt is being made to promote wine tourism, he said, adding that this is the time when there are maximum footfalls to wineries in and around Nashik. The promoters have planned for four circuits — Niphad, Dindori, Nashik and Igatpuri. At present more than 12 wineries are part of the festival and more are expected to join, Holkar said. Sula Wines, Moet Chandon, Perno Ricard, Charosa Wines, Suma Wines, York Winery, Reveilo Wines, VIsur Wine Park, Grover Zampa are some of the wineries participating in the event. In 2016-17, the number of wine tourists to Nashik increased by 11% to 3.6 lakh as against 3.25 lakh in the previous year.

The Economic Times, Pune
MSP Hike, Import Curbs to Help Ease Rural Woes

The government is expected to raise the support prices of crops and be prompt in increasing tariffs on cheap imports, as pressure mounts on the ruling party to ease rural distress, which is widely seen as a key factor in narrowing the BJP’s margin of victory in Gujarat. The Maharashtra State Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices is already in favour of higher prices. “Minimum support prices (MSP) will have to increase next year as prevailing prices are not viable for farmers. The government will have to stand for farmers,” chairman Pasha Patel said. The commission will approach the Centre through the state’s chief minister, seeking a ban on import of all pulses for a year, he said. “If this is not possible, we want the government to at least impose high import duty.” A central government official said authorities need to ensure that farmers get better returns. In many areas, official procurement agencies are not operating, while at times the support prices are not attractive. Shreekant Sambrani, founder-director of the Institute of Rural Development at Anand, said farmers in Gujarat had seen better days earlier. “The Rupani government was not as alive to farmers’ problems as Modi was during his tenure as chief minister. During Modi’s tenure, the state witnessed unprecedented growth of agriculture, which resulted in a landslide victory for the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha elections as farmers were happy,” he said. He said farmer issues would be at the forefront now. “I think that before the Karnataka, MP and Rajasthan elections are announced, the biggest takeaway for BJP (from Gujarat) would be to do asubstantial rethink on MSP and cleaning up of the mechanism of paying up to farmers. Cotton MSP is attractive. However, there is no buying at this MSP,” said Sambrani.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Post Rural Blow, Govt may Go Extra Mile to Boost Farm Income

A setback in rural constituencies in the Gujarat assembly election may prompt the government to undertake initiatives to improve rural income such as increasing the quantum of minimum support prices (MSPs) and comprehensive loan waivers. This may prove beneficial to companies focusing on rural markets. According to political analysts, a key reason for BJP’s loss of some seats in rural Gujarat, is lack of material growth in farm income in the past four years. Since rural voters account for nearly two-third of the total voters in the country, the government may resort to measures to address their concerns. In the Union Budget 2017, the government had announced to double farm income by 2022. According to industry trackers, farmers engaged in the dairy output saw healthy income growth compared with those depended on crop income. Measures including raising MSP of crops and loan waiver by state governments were taken to alleviate this gap. The government raised the MSP of wheat — the main winter crop — by 6.8% over the past year to Rs 1,735 per quintal. Besides, the central government has also sought parliamentary approval for an additional net spending of Rs 33,000 crore during the current fiscal, of which a large part will be spent on the rural employment scheme. With several state elections lined up in 2018, the government is likely to focus on the allocation to rural schemes such as direct benefit transfer for fertilisers, innovation for better price realisation to farmers and improvement in the crop insurance scheme. The government may take cue from the Madhya Pradesh government which launched a scheme to hedge price risk in agriculture commodities wherein farmers are compensated for distress sales below the MSP set by the central government.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Rs 15-cr wheat seed unsold

In a huge financial loss to the Haryana Seed Development Corporation (HSDC), more than 50,000 quintals of wheat seed valued at over Rs 15 crore has been left unsold this season due to delay in announcement of prices. This comes months after 4,200 quintals of ‘moong’ seed worth Rs 4.8 crore in excess of market demand was found rotting due to maggot infestation in May-June. More than 50 farmer-shareholders of the HSDC, who were present in the annual general meeting of the corporation today, demanded that officers responsible for the loss must be charge-sheeted. “When this government can charge-sheet IAS officer Ashok Khemka on account of 87,000 quintals of unsold wheat seed at the end of 2012, why can those responsible for unsold seed not be punished now?” asked Rajender Singh Beniwal, an HSDC director elected by farmer-shareholders. A progressive farmer from Kairanwali village in Sirsa district, he was elected as director for the fifth consecutive term. Parvesh Vohra of Karnal was also elected as director. The farmer-shareholders also expressed concern after they came to know that cumulative losses of the HSDC had crossed the figure of Rs 5.25 crore. On October 23, a report in these columns — “Sowing begins, HSDC yet to decide wheat seed price” — highlighted the fact that farmers were being forced to buy seed from private dealers. It was being alleged by farmers’ unions that the HSDC had delayed announcement of prices in connivance with private manufacturers to benefit the latter. HSDC Managing Director RS Solanki said a situation wherein wheat seed remained unsold due to market forces had recurred after some years. He admitted that there was delay in deciding prices, but claimed that rates were finalised a day after the issue was highlighted in these columns. He said it had been decided to take a call on rates by October 10 every year.

Business Line, New Delhi
Stockholding, turnover limit for sugar traders goes

The Central government lifted stock holding and turnover limits on sugar dealers as current production levels are comfortable, an official release said. This would further smoothen the supply chain for easy availability of sugar in all regions, it said. The government estimated sugar production during the current crushing season would be 24.9 million tonnes (mt) and projected consumption to be 25 million tonnes. With the carryover stock, the total availability of sugar is sufficient to meet the estimated domestic requirement. As such, there will be smooth availability of sugar and the prices in the domestic market are expected to remain stable at reasonable levels, the release said.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Tea firms work out hedging mechanism

Tea companies in the Dooars-Assam area have proposed hedging in tea auctions. The proposal, which is yet to be placed before the Tea Board of India, allows sellers and buyers to set prices in auction centres. If the price falls below that set by the producer, a swap broker will sell the tea and pay the differential to the estate owner. If the price is higher than the producer’s listed price, the garden will have to pay the differential to the broker. According to the Indian Tea Association (ITA), this will help mitigate market volatility and help tea producers as well as swap brokers to make profits. On the other hand, buyers can pre-plan their purchase requirements and will know exactly how much they need to pay for a future order. “In the current auction system, the selling price is often lower than the cost of production. In the export market also, owing to currency volatility, a similar thing might happen. The swap option will eliminate this,” said Azam Monem, chairman of the ITA. Tea prices rose by one per cent between January and October to $3.01 a kg but fell by 1.6 per cent in rupee terms to Rs 196.35 a kg. Tea prices in auction centres are now hovering around Rs 134 a kg, which barely makes up for production costs. Around 60-65 per cent of India’s annual 1,200 million kg tea output is routed through auction centres. Industry executives said some tea companies had experimented with futures trading. However, it was not successful because tea was “too complicated a commodity”. Unlike coffee, which has only two grades at the farm gate, tea has three grades and several sub-grades, which make futures trading nearly impossible. Forward contracts also fail owing to the seasonality of the produce.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Why only few countries growing GM crops?

The Standing Committee of Parliament has raised its eyebrows over the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country. In a report tabled in the Parliament, the panel has asked the government to find out as why 17 of the world's most developed 20 countries have not yet introduced GM crops farming. "Even after 21 years of the introduction of GM crops, 90 per cent of the world's GM crops are being produced in six countries, including India. What is the reason that GM technology, claiming to be the most advanced technology in agriculture, has been adopted by only a few countries," the Standing Committee of the Parliament of Science and Technology, Environment and Forest Affairs, chaired by Congress MP Anand Sharma, said. The panel in its report has asked the government to do a comparative study as why a majority of countries have adopted GM technology and only a few have introduced the modified crops farming. The panel has also suggested the government to find out the future prospects of the GM crops in India. "It has been found that the regulatory standards for accepting GM crops are strictly on paper only, but in reality, it is quite weak. It is surprising that after the availability of so many steps of the investigation, the decisions are taken by relying only on the figures given by the applicant for the environmental impact assessment of the GM crop," the panel said in its report. The committee in its report has recommended field trials in its monitoring through an independent body with the help of agricultural universities for environmental impact assessment. The committee has also raised a pertinent question in the report saying that in their study no evidence found about the long-term study of the effect of GM crops on human health prior to permitting GM crops.

20, Dec 2017
Financial Chronicle, Chennai
Crop insurance growth to taper down in FY18

After a three-fold growth in premiums in 2016-17, crop insurance might see the growth tapering down to 10 to 15 per cent this year and government may miss the target of covering 40 per cent of crop area, find industry insiders. Apart from delay in the payment premium subsidy from the government and consequent delay in claim settlement, GST on reinsurance premium too will act against the growth in crop insurance segment. The government has imposed GST of 18 per cent on the reinsurance premium. The insurance companies get 10 per cent commission on reinsurance and if there is 18 per cent GST, it will shrink the margins of the general insurers. “The GST on reinsurance premium has to be absorbed by insurers as it cannot be passed on to the customer. Bidding for next year will start by February-March and we have asked the government to look into the issue,” said R Chandrasekaran, secretary general, General Insurance Council. According to Nidhesh Jain, analyst at Investec Capital Services, GST of 18 per cent can erode the profitability if it turns out to be a bad crop year. While the industry achi­eved three-fold growth in premiums last year, the industry expects that the growth would shrink to 10 to 15 per cent for FY18 and fall short of the government’s target of covering 40 per cent crop area. “From a higher base, it is not possible to achieve a high growth. But there are several issues that need to be addressed. The government has to pay its share of premium at the beginning of the crop season. If this payment is invariably delayed, disbursal of claims also will be delayed. Premium for the Kharif season is still pending and this will delay claim settlement,” said a senior official of a private insurance company.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Decision on GM crops should be reconsidered: House panel

A parliamentary panel presented a report in the Rajya Sabha saying that the government should reconsider its decision to commercialise genetically modified crops without scientific proof that GM crops have no adverse health effects. “Without having scientifically proven that genetically modified (GM) crops would have no adverse impact on human health and solely relying on the studies which have not been done here in India and on our own population as well as in the context of our climate and environment negating any adverse impact on human health, the Government should reconsider its decision to commercialise GM crops in the country,” noted the report prepared by a parliamentary standing committee chaired by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury. Further, the committee noted that the Department of Health Research “has not taken any action with regard to examination of impact of GM crops on human health” except “narrating studies done in other countries growing GM crops.” “Equally surprising to note is that there has been no in-house scientific study carried out till date to study the impact of GM crops on human health,” the report noted. It said that it found the approach of the department “very casual” and found it “disheartening to note that the department till date did not bother to collaborate with any of the countries which are growing GM crops for in-depth research.”

Millennium Post, Mumbai
Farm loan waivers to raise state deficits by Rs1.08 trillion

The farm debt waivers announced by the five large states together will widen the combined fiscal deficit of the states by Rs 1,07,700 crore or 0.65 per cent of GDP this financial year, warns a report. The combined fiscal deficit of the states for FY18 has been budgeted at 2.7 per cent of GDP or Rs 4.48 trillion. Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka have announced farm loan waivers this year after a string of farmer suicides in these states. Nine states have budgeted an increase in their fiscal deficits/gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratios this year compared to 19 states in FY17. "With several states announcing farm loan waivers, there is a fear that the combined fiscal deficits of the states could be much worse than the budgeted figure," India Ratings said in a report. The report estimates that the combined fiscal deficit of the states in FY18 at 3 per cent of GDP or Rs 4.99 trillion. This is higher than the budgeted figure but considerably lower than FY17. The report is based on the analysis of 29 state budgets, the impact of the farm debt waivers announced outside the budgets and implementation of GST from July 2017. While the farm debt waivers announced by UP and Punjab are part of their respective FY18 budgets, the waivers announced by Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Karnataka are outside their budgets. "These states will have to either generate additional resources to fund farm debt waivers or cut their budgeted expenditure," the report said. If such announcements are funded through expenditure compression, the axe usually falls first on the budgeted capital expenditure, followed by social expenditure, the report said. "Both cuts do not augur well from the point of view of the medium to long term growth prospects of these states," the report said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Farmers Dent BJP More Than Reservation-Seeking Patidars

Farmer distress appears to have damaged BJP more than the Patidar quota agitation as the biggest setback for the party has been in Saurashtra where it lost 11 seats to Congress. Failure of the Vijay Rupani government to honour its word on minimum support price for cotton and groundnuts may have been the reason. Patidars are primarily spread over Saurashtra, central and north Gujarat and Surat. Of these, BJP mostly lost seats in Saurashtra which also constitutes rural Gujarat. The ruling party lost 11 seats in Saurashtra while Congress gained 13 in the region as the ‘others’ were reduced to just one seat from three in 2012. In south Gujarat, which includes Surat — the hub of diamond and textile business — BJP lost only three seats while Congress gained two. In Central Gujarat, BJP and Congress maintained status quo with 37 and 22 seats, respectively. The same goes for Kutch (BJP lost one to Congress) and North Gujarat (BJP lost one seat). Congress has traditionally been strong in rural areas and the trend continued in this election. Farmers may have voted against BJP in Saurashtra mainly as they were miffed over lower MSP. While the government had promised Rs 1,500 per 20 kg for cotton crop, it paid only around Rs 700-750, farmers in Saurashtra complained. Many farmers had saved newspaper cuttings of the promise made in advertisements and had complained that the government had not kept its word. The water woes of Saurashtra have also not been addressed to the extent the BJP government claimed. Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed in his rallies that Narmada has reached the fields, many farmers complained that they were still dependent on rainwater. Some farmers who voted against BJP in this region would also have been Patidars.

Business Line, New Delhi
Higher sugar output to benefit UP, Maharashtra mills: ICRA

Higher cane prices may dent the profitability of sugar mills, but those in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra may still benefit from higher volumes of sugar production, rating agency ICRA said. But luck may not favour sugar mills in Tamil Nadu and South Karnataka — still recovering from low rainfall — as they continue to smart under low cane availability and higher fair and remunerative price (FRP), ICRA senior vice-president Sabyasachi Majumdar said. The rating agency said it expected sugar production in the current sugar year (October 2017-September 2018) to be 25 million tonnes (mt) — up 23 per cent from the previous year’s 20.3 mt. According to ICRA, the major beneficiary State this year would be UP — where production is expected to grow by 18 per cent year-on-year — close to 10 mt, thanks to higher acreage under better variety, healthy cane volumes and higher recovery rates. Though mills in Maharashtra would witness the highest 71 per cent year-on-year growth in production, this would largely offset steep falls in their production levels last year. Total sugar output expected from Maharashtra mills is 7.2 mt. Mills in Karnataka, on other side, would have around 24 per cent increase in production to 2.6 mt. “As far as UP-based mills are concerned, they are likely to be benefited by healthy sugar prices, along with continued healthy volumes and recovery rates, although that impact could be partly offset by moderately higher cane prices,” Majumdar said. But he did not rule out some short-term softening of sugar prices in the next quarter on account of the arrival of fresh sugar supply from the new crop. Even then the margins and cash flow generations for mills with efficient operations, forward integrations and adequate stocks are likely to remain satisfactory, he said.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
India eyes African market

Sensing the prospects of exporting non-basmati rice after the country’s production is on a continuous rise, the commerce ministry has asked the All India Rice Exporters Association to explore the possibility of finding new markets as well as to scale up in existing market. The industry body, which was until now known for promoting basmati rice, met ambassadors and trade counsellors from 11 African countries such as Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Angola. There is a possibility of increasing at least 10 per cent export of non-basmati rice in the next two years to African countries, which have the major share in India’s shipments of the cereal, traders said. India had exported 5.66 million tonnes of non-basmati rice in 2016-17 and shipments were 3.51 million tonnes in the first six months of current fiscal, official data shows. Production of rice has been on the rise in last one decade crossing 110 million tonnes in 2016-17 from about 93 million tonnes in 2006-07. The robust production of rice also made the country to become world’s largest exporter of the cereal first time in 2012 replacing Thailand as the parboiled non-basmati rice from the country became a big success in Africa. There were also discussion held for introducing basmati rice in the African market, said Vijay Setia, president of AIREA. There is very limited volume of basmati exported there and hence a scope for increasing it, he added. According to Santosh Sarangi, a joint secretary in commerce ministry, India has done good in non-basmati exports to the African markets in the past but there is scope for increasing the volume. He stated that the meeting was important not only to strengthen the relationship with the African countries in terms of non-basmati rice exports but also to add basmati variety. The representative from Mauritius said that of late people in his country have taken to eating basmati rice.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maharashtra strawberry growers face tough time

Strawberry growers in Maharashtra say that the season of 2017 is tough. This could probably be the worst season for growers with 90% of the fruit rotting due to excessive rains, top officials of the Strawberry Growers Association of India (SGAI) said. Last year, the late arrival of winter hit strawberry production but this season most of the produce is damaged due to fluctuating climate and unseasonal rains through the last month. According to Balasaheb Bhilare, president of SGAI, farmers are forced to throw away 90% of the produce because of excess water. Only 10-15% of the harvested crop is good enough to sell, he said. Therefore, the prices are also low in the range of Rs 60-70 per kg, he said. The daily production from the 2,000-acre strawberry plantation in Mahabaleshwar and surrounding regions is around 10 tonne during this season. In Maharashtra alone, strawberries are cultivated in around 2,500 acres of land. This year, growers cultivated strawberries in 3,000 acres around Mahabaleshwar, he said, unwilling to give out production numbers. There is little point in talking about the total production when only 10-15% of it is in a good state, he said. Usually, production in the Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar belt is around 2,500 tonne when season is good. “There have been ample rains this season and unseasonal rains continued throughout, resulting in soil clogging at a time when the fruit required some sunlight and clear weather,” he said. “Rainfall caused significant damage to close to 90% strawberry plantations in their most important growth stage of fruiting. Harvested strawberries and crops in fields are falling prey to fungal infections, reducing shelf life of the berry,” he said, adding that stock hitting the markets too was of inferior quality with a consequent 50% reduction in the retail prices. The rates of strawberries in the markets have come down drastically to Rs 30-40 per tray.

Business Line, Mumbai
MMTC floats tender to import 2,000 tonnes of onions by Jan 26

MMTC Ltd has floated a tender to import 2,000 tonnes of onions. The origin of the onion can be from Pakistan, Egypt, China, Afghanistan or any other country. The bids should be made for a minimum of 250 tonnes and imports must be delivered at Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai by January 26. The size of the onion bulb should be between 50 mm and 70 mm, and it should be red to dark red, the document said. The onion bulb should be well-dried, and with a thin neck along with two-three dried skins, it said. Bids must be submitted by 1500 IST on December 29 and will be opened at 1530 IST on the same day. The bids must remain valid until 1700 IST on January 5, it said. In November, MMTC had issued a tender to import 2,000 tonnes of the bulb by January 5. A likely lower production this year, and the recent crop damage in Maharashtra and Karnataka due to the weather vagaries have led to a spike in onion prices. Wholesale onion prices have increased 41.7 per cent on-month and 178.2 per cent on year in November, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said. The government has also increased the minimum export price of onion to $850 per tonne till December 31, to restrict the shortfall in local supplies.

The Financial Express, Chennai
Sugar output up 30% at 69.4 lakh tonne till Dec

Sugar production as of December 2017 in the current sugar season has gone up 29.8% to 69.40 lakh tonne compared to 53.46 lakh tonne in the same period last season, according to Indian Sugar Mills’ Association (ISMA) while the number of mills has increased to 469 from 449. According to estimates, a normal sugar production of 251 lakh tonne is expected in 2017-18 sugar season compared to a low production of 203 lakh tonne reported in the last season, and hence the higher production trend up to December 15, 2017, which was as per ISMA’s estimates and expectations. Sugar production, as on November 30 of this season, saw 41.4% growth over the same period last season. However, the growth for December has dropped to 29.8% compared to last year, ISMA said. In Maharashtra, 176 sugar mills were in operation and they produced 25.50 lakh tonne of sugar till December 15, as against 144 sugar mills and production of 17.25 lakh tonne in the last season and this was on expected lines. In Uttar Pradesh, the largest sugar producing state, 116 mills have produced 23.37 lakh tonne as compared to 115 sugar mills with 17.66 lakh tonne last year in the corresponding period. In Karnataka, the third largest producer, production was at 11.50 lakh tonne, about 50,000 tonne higher than as on December 15, 2016. During the current 2017-sugar season, 60 sugar mills were in operation as compared to 59 operated on the corresponding date of 2016. According to ISMA, there were unfounded rumours suggesting a specific figure of sugar production for 2018-19 season, which had a negative impact on the market but this was proved to be misleading.

The Economic Times, Pune
Traders Want Import Curbs on Chana as Prices Fall

Traders have demanded restrictions on the import of chana as its prices have already plunged 20% in anticipation of a bumper harvest this rabi season. Compared to the subdued trend seen in prices of tur, moong, urad, etc, chana prices have remained firm for a long time, which made farmers increase acreage under rabi crop by 11.5% in 2015-16 and by 13.5% in the ongoing 2016-17 rabi season. As of December 15, farmers had planted gram on 96 lakh hectares. In Indore market of Madhya Pradesh, chana prices are between Rs 38-40 a kg, compared to the minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 44 a kg. At Latur market, chana prices are at Rs 36.50 a kg, down 17% compared to MSP. Since the prices are way below MSP, traders and farmers’ representatives have demanded immediate curbs on chana imports. “Chana is being continuously imported from Australia into India. Two ships, which may be carrying about 2-3 lakh tonnes of gram are about to reach Mundra port,” said Indore-based miller Suresh Aggarwal. “We want imports to stop. The government should impose heavy import duty as early as possible,” said Aggarwal.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Jeera Futures Cool Down on Increased Acreage

Jeera futures prices have started cooling after hitting a high of Rs 221per kg as sowing acreage increased significantly in the chief producing region of Gujarat. January futures prices ruled around Rs 216 per kg on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (Ncdex). The high prices had impacted the export demand. The futures prices had been hovering around Rs 218 per kg for the past couple of weeks. “The overseas demand has been sluggish in the past three weeks. Since buyers have already bought large quantities, they are waiting for prices to drop further,’’ said Dipak Parikh, partner of Kanu Krishna Corporation, a major exporter. The trade is expecting a further correction in prices in the coming weeks. While export demand has slowed down, the internal demand is quite robust even now. According to exporters, as India is the sole supplier in the global market, the overseas demand will not dry up totally. For six months ended September 2017, the shipments have been only marginally higher from a year ago period at 70,000 tonnes, according to traders. Jeera is the largest exported spice from the country after red chilli. Last year, 1.19 lakh tonnes of jeera were exported earning nearly Rs 2,000 crore. The sowing of jeera for the next year in Gujarat has seen a sharp rise. “Till December 11, there has been close to 40% increase in acreage from the previous year. The sowing area has touched 3.1 lakh hectares compared with 2.3 lakh hectares last year,’’ said Ritesh Kumar Sahu, analyst at Angel Commodities Broking.

Business Line, Kochi
Strong demand infuses aroma in small cardamom

Small cardamom prices continued to show a firmer trend in recent days on strong demand at auctions held in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Total arrivals were up at 707 tonnes last week from 593 tonnes the previous week. The individual auction average has moved up to Rs 906.32 a kg from Rs 881.17 last week. In the upcountry markets, a likely squeeze in availability and empty inventories have aided the price rise, said PC Punnoose, General Manager, CPMC. At the auction held in Bodinayakannur by Cardamom Planters Association (CPA), the individual auction average rose by to Rs 929.02 a kg from Rs 861.14 in the previous week. A total of 37 tonnes of cardamom arrived and almost the entire quantity was traded. The maximum price stood at Rs 1,134 a kg. Prices of graded varieties (Rs /kg): 8mm green bold Rs 1,200; 7-8 mm: 980; 6-7 mm 925. Good bulk was being traded at Rs 960- Rs 1,000.

19, Dec 2017
The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
400 apply for registration of traditional crop varieties

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPV & FRA) has received 1,312 applications from the North East for registration of various traditional varieties of crops and plants. Of them, 400 are from Assam. According to PPV & FRA Registrar Dr Ravi Prakash, around 15,000 applications have been received from across the country and 3,000 have been accepted so far and soon will be registered in the names of the farmers and various companies. Addressing a regional workshop on ‘Farmers Rights and Agro-Biodiversity Exhibition’ organised by the PPV&FRA in association with Assam Agricultural University at Kahikuchi here, Dr Prakash underlined the need to conserve the traditional varieties of the region in the field of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries before they become extinct. PPV & FRA was set up to provide for the establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plants. Its objective is to recognise and protect the rights of the farmers in respect of their contribution made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of the new plant varieties. Dr N Prakash, Director of ICAR (NE region), said that the North East is not only a hotspot in agriculture, but also in horticulture, animal husbandry and fishery. He said that as the climate has been changing, some of the locally available traditional material may be of immense use to meet the challenges of the vagaries of climate change. Vice Chancellor of Manipur Central Agricultural University Dr M Premjit Singh said that “minor fruits and underutilised vegetables of the region need to be protected as wealth of the region before they are pilfered out of the place of origin without a GI mark.”

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre will focus on boosting purchasing power of farmers, says Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the Centre was committed to improving the purchasing power of the farming community, given that growth of the larger economy depended on the economic potential and power of this group. Jaitley was addressing an international forum on “Role of Rural and Agricultural Finance to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals”, jointly organised by Nabard and Asia Pacific Rural and Agricultural Credit Association. In this context, Jaitley highlighted that India had already taken up the challenge of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022. “We have fairly ambitious plans in India and within the limits of our affordability, we have taken up the challenge of trying to improve our rural infrastructure and at the same time ensure that our farmers get their due prices,” he said. The Finance Minister said it was important for every society to provide food at affordable cost to its people as also match the apparent contradiction of ensuring that farmers get their dues. The Centre is taking various measures to support agriculture, including low-cost credit, crop insurance, rural connectivity and massive sanitation programmes targeted at rural India, he added. Stating that agriculture communities the world over were “vulnerable”, Jaitley noted that countries with different level of affordability around the world had discovered different methods to support their farm sectors. The highly-developed countries had been directly providing different forms of subsidies in the name of environment protection or livestock protection so that monies flow into the pockets of farmers, Jaitley said. Jaitley said agriculture in India faced increased cost of inputs, which increased the challenge of right prices in the market. Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman of Nabard, said several initiatives had been taken by the government over the last three-and-half years to support the farming community. The narrative has moved from “subsistence” to “sustainability” to “aspiration levels”, he said.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Higher coverage, premiums to inflate crop insurance subsidy

The 2017-18 subsidy bill for the states and the Centre due to the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY) is set to increase 10-15 per cent as the scheme enters the second year. The farmers’ coverage is expected to increase by 10-15 per cent. In several states, insurers have raised premium quotations by five-seven per cent. In 2016-17, the central government had shelled out around Rs 8,867 crore and states Rs 9,056 crore to subsidise the PMFBY, which gives farmers crop insurance at low premiums and higher coverage. “This year, there has been a 10-15 per cent increase in coverage area,” said an official of a public sector insurance firm. “In addition, in some western states, the premium has also increased by about 10-15 per cent on the basis of last year’s claim experience.” This year, insurers have mostly raised premium quotations by around 10 per cent in some western states, such as Gujarat and Rajasthan. In states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, increase has been around five-seven per cent. In eastern states, where the insurers had better claim ratio last year, the premium has come down by around five per cent, said insurers. “There has been a rise in premium in western states. In southern states, too, there has been a moderate rise in premium,” said an official from a private sector insurance firm. Premium collection in 2016-17 was Rs 22,337 crore and claims were about Rs 13,500 crore. Sum assured was about Rs 2,02,551 crore, covering nearly 57.10 million farmers and about 55.50 million hectares. Last year, data discrepancy had led to disputes about claim settlement in several states. According to insurers in several states, crop cutting experiments (CCE) were not properly conducted. CCE data at harvest helps assess yield loss. But collecting the data requires substantial manpower. At present, state governments have responsibility to conduct the experiments.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Minimum Import Price Levy Raises Local Pepper Rates

The Centre’s decision to impose minimum import price (MIP) of Rs 500 per kg on black pepper has helped improve local prices of the commodity though it has evoked sharp reaction from re-exporters who have made a strong plea to exclude them from the levy. Black pepper prices rose by 8% in a week since the decision to around Rs410 a kg. The prices had slumped by over 40 % to a four year low of Rs390 per kg with a surge in pepper imports from Vietnam routed through Sri Lanka taking advantage of the lower duty of the latter. “It remains to be seen whether the higher prices will be sustained as the supply will be strong with the prediction of a good crop next year and inventory yet to be cleared in ports,’’ said Kishor Shamji a major exporter. The prices may not scale the level of Rs700 a kg achieved last year. Meanwhile, re-exporters have cried foul at the levy of MIP of Rs500 as they feel it will kill the units engaged in export of value added pepper. All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) has written to Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu to exempt 100% EOUs, SEZs and oleoresin companies from the purview of the notification. The forum said that they fully understand that the notification has been issued to protect the interest of farmers. However, the pepper re-export industry does not sell anything in India and it imports light berries (not saleable in India) and re-export after value addition. ‘‘The imports are made against specific export orders through advance licence that specifies quantity and value obligation. If they import by paying Rs500 a kg, the export value will not be achievable and they may even incur additional loss with payment for shortfall in export value obligation,’’ AISEF chairman Prakash Namboodiri said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
WTO must incorporate emerging issues to remain relevant : Prabhu

The WTO must incorporate emerging issues if it wants to remain relevant in the changing times, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said, asserting that India will organise a "mini ministerial" meeting of the global trade body within a few weeks to help realise this objective. The 11th WTO meet collapsed last week in Buenos Aires, ending without any ministerial declaration or any substantive outcome with the US going back on its commitment to find a permanent solution to the public food stockholding issue, leaving India and other developing nations disappointed. "We are in the next few weeks going to organise a major conclave in India wherein we want to bring in the top countries of the world. We call it the mini Ministerial for the WTO (World Trade Organization), Prabhu said. He had earlier said that India will call a meeting of some WTO members in February to muster support for food security and other issues. Developed nations have been forming groupings to prepare the ground for pushing investment facilitation, preparing rules for e-commerce, promoting gender equality and reducing subsidy on fisheries. India has been keenly pushing agricultural issues at the WTO. It has also been raising its voice against bringing in new issues, especially those which are not directly linked to trade, on the negotiating table. Addressing a conference here, Prabhu pointed out that the idea behind the mini-ministerial was that the WTO must also focus on some of the very relevant issues of the world today. "If you say that we are going to discuss only those issues, then probably WTO will be a very good historical institution, which will have a very good place in some of the good regions of the world," he said. "But if you want to make sure that WTO becomes relevant to times that are changing, then me must also incorporate into WTO some of the very emerging important issues," he added.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Sugar output up 30% at 69.4 lt so far in 2017-18 season

India's sugar production rose 30 per cent to 69.4 lakh tonne during the first two and half months of the current marketing year on higher cane output, according to industry body ISMA. Sugar marketing year runs from October to September. Mills have produced 69.40 lakh tonne of sugar till December 15 of the 2017-18 marketing year as compared to 53.46 lakh tonne in the corresponding period of the previous year, Indian Sugar Mills Association said in a statement. As on December 15, 2017, 469 sugar mills were crushing sugarcane for the year 2017-18 against 449 mills last year same time, it added. ISMA has pegged sugar output of India, the world's second largest producer, at 251 lakh tonne in 2017-18 against 203 lakh tonne in the previous year. As per the data, mills in Maharashtra have produced 25.50 lakh tonne of sugar till December 15, up from 17.25 lakh tonne in the year-ago period. In Uttar Pradesh, production rose to 23.37 lakh tonne till December 15 as compared to 17.66 lakh tonne in the corresponding period last year. Sugar production in Karnataka stood at 11.5 lakh tonne, slightly higher than the year-ago period. "The initial rumours by a handful of people suggesting a specific figure of sugar production for next year (2018-19) had a negative impact on the market in the latter part of November and beginning of December 2017. "However, the market has now realised that only 10-15 per cent of sugarcane for 2018-19 has been actually planted, and experts have agreed that the figures being suggested by a few people for the next season were misleading and too early to even talk about," ISMA said. The association said buying interest is improving as well as the stock holding limit on traders has been removed, which should boost sugar demand and sales.

Business Line, New Delhi
ASEAN free trade pact: House panel calls for better access to Indian goods

The Department of Commerce should furnish a note on the assessment of the working of India-ASEAN trade in goods agreement and seek better market access for goods in order to have more balanced trade, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce on ‘Trade with ASEAN countries’ has recommended. The report, presented to the Rajya Sabha, by the Parliamentary Committee headed by Naresh Gujral, points out that a number of items including farm products, textiles, leather and steel have been adversely affected due to the provisions of the agreement. The India-ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement came into force on January 1, 2010. The report pointed out that better market access in terms of higher export has not materialised for India and this was a matter of concern. “The Committee is of the view that if this approach or argument is subscribed, then there was no need for the trade agreement with ASEAN…..various trade instruments/agreements must aim towards better market access,” it said. The Commerce Department may look into the cause of huge trade deficit with Indonesia and review the existing trade policy framework in respect of the country, the report said. Trade with CLMV countries (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam) is also not at desired level, it added. “The Committee desires that the Department may engage the ASEAN member States for giving better market access to Indian goods where we have an edge over them like leather goods and pharmaceuticals, so that trade balance improves,” it said. On the decline in exports of agriculture commodities to the ASEAN, the Committee said that it was a matter of concern and should be dealt with strictly. “The Committee desires that value addition of primary agricultural products may be promoted and commodities enjoying comparative advantage in ASEAN countries may be identified and market access at zero duty may be sought for our farmers and agro-processors,” the report stated. Stating that it finds disconcerting that the steel industry has been put to a disadvantage by the India ASEAN pact, report proposed that reciprocity in tariff reduction/elimination by ASEAN countries on Indian steel products should be ensured on account of broad and sweeping market access given by India. The Committee also recommended that the Commerce Department should be vigilant over the safeguard measures imposed by the ASEAN countries on textile exports since it directly affected the country’s exports.

18, Dec 2017
The Hindu, Bengaluru
‘Reduce pesticide residue in rice’

With the pesticide level in rice exceeding the stipulated limit, which has led to problems in export, major rice producing States in the South have been asked to take necessary steps to reduce the residue. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have been asked by the Union Ministry of Agriculture to keep a watch on the use of pesticides by farmers that could finally enter the food chain.
“Export of rice has faced problems in the last few years in different markets such as the U.S., the E.U. and Iran owing to detection of pesticides exceeding the prescribed maximum residue limits (MRLs),” said a cautionary note that has been sent in late September to the Agriculture Departments of all five States through the Hyderabad-based Directorate of Oilseeds Development. It is the nodal agency for agri-related activities for South India. In Karnataka, the note was forwarded to the officials concerned in late November. The note, which was issued following an advisory from the Commerce Ministry, pointed out that recently the European Union had brought the MRL of Tricyclazole to 0.01 gm/kg. “Similarly, the U.S. does not permit the presence of residue of Isoprothiolane beyond 0.01 gm/kg. Therefore, paddy farmers are required to be selective in the use of pesticides keeping in view the target market,” the note said. It has also urged the local department of agriculture and agricultural universities to review the use of pesticides in paddy and create awareness among farmers of the correct dose.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Doubling farm income to make farming sustainable, syas Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government has undertaken the ambitious task of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 so that farming becomes sustainable. Observing that India has a huge population dependent on agriculture for livelihood, he said, “therefore, increase in the purchasing power of this group is extremely important for us because growth of larger economy depends on economic potential and power of this group itself.”
Pointing out that the agriculture community world over is vulnerable, Mr. Jaitley said countries try various methodologies for supporting the sector. “Some highly-developed countries directly, by different forms of subsidies, ensure money goes into the pockets of their farmers and the countries that don’t have that level of affordability still have to struggle with the challenge that sustenance level is maintained [for farmers],” he said at an event organised by National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development (NABARD) in New Delhi. Referring to the government’s initiative in this direction, the Finance Minister said India is trying to double farmers’ income by 2022. “We have fairly ambitious plans in India and within our limits of our affordability, we have taken up the challenge of in the first instance trying to improve upon rural infrastructure and at the same time making sure that how do we ensure that their income is enhanced,” he said. He said the government has taken various measures to improve rural infrastructure by building roads, electrifying all villages, developing irrigation and providing regular dwellings. Credit availability, interest subvention and crop insurance are other steps in that direction, Mr. Jaitley added. Noting that farmers face the challenge of ever-increasing cost of inputs, he said it is extremely important for every society to ensure that food is made available at an affordable cost, and at the same time the farmers get their due.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
List of 80,000 sericulture farmers sent for insurance coverage

Assam has sent a list of around 80,000 sericulture farmers to the Central Silk Board to avail benefits under the Board-sponsored comprehensive insurance scheme for the farmers of the sector and their crops – the silkworms. Disclosing this, State sericulture director Mukta Nath Saikia told that all district and subdivisional officials of the department have been asked to submit proposals for insurance cover to sericulture farmers and their crops.
It needs mention here that about ten years back (1992-1997), there was a UNDP-sponsored crop insurance and women farmers’ health insurance scheme in the sector. The National Insurance Corporation was appointed its executing agency. But due to some incomprehensible reasons, the crop insurance scheme was discontinued in 1997. The scheme for the women farmers was also discontinued in 2010-11. In the sericulture sector, insurance for the muga farmers and their crops is of elemental importance, as, because of their wild nature, muga worms are more exposed to diseases, natural calamities, pollutants, etc. The other two varieties of worms in the sector – eri and mulberry – can be reared indoors and hence, they could be protected from the attacks of many pests, pollutants and so from many diseases, Saikia said. Lengthening of the summer season, frequent fluctuation in the diurnal, monthly and annual temperatures, under the impact of the climate change phenomenon, have been hitting the muga farmers hard nowadays. Muga worms are highly sensitive to such developments.
The hailstorms and thundershowers during the monsoon also affect muga worms. Moreover, use of pesticides by tea estates has emerged as a major threat to muga worms. Spraying of pesticides within a 2-km radius of muga farms may prove fatal to the worms. Again, the pests driven out by such pesticides also attack the muga worms, he said.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Sikkim to bar veggie import

Sikkim, which was declared as the first organic state in the country, has decided to ban vegetables and fruits from other states in a phased manner from March 31 next year as part of the government's plans to create a unique brand identity for the hill state. The state was declared organic in 2015 and in an effort to further strengthen its brand - seen as a boost for its tourism sector - the state cabinet approved the ban on Thursday (see chart).
Somanth Poudyal, agriculture minister of Sikkim said: "It is the vision of our chief minister, Pawan Kumar Chamling, to make our state self-sufficient, encourage healthy eating, make the younger generation entrepreneurs and also promote clean environment. We relentlessly worked for 12 years since 2003 to make Sikkim fully organic and now we are taking the next step forward." Following the decision to go organic, agricultural/horticulture produce in Sikkim did not use fertilisers or other chemicals and farmers relied only on cow dung and natural insecticides. The decision to be self-reliant in fruits and vegetables is likely to create a separate brand identity. "The organic brand for a growing health-conscious society is definitely going to give a boost to the tourism sector... Local farmers are also expected to benefit a lot. It would be a win-win situation for all," said an observer. Sikkim has a population of 6.1 lakh and according to the minister, the total annual vegetable requirement of the state is 62,000 tonnes. "Last year we produced more than 80,000 metric tonnes of vegetables. We are aware that there is a good tourist flow and we are trying to increase our production on a war footing," said Poudyal. The 104-day shutdown in Darjeeling hills - the only link to the state with the rest of the country passes through the district - seems to have pushed the self-reliance drive.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Tea workers in Assam still cash –reliant, a year after wage payment digitization

A year after the government of Assam began a massive digitisation drive to route the weekly wages for around 686,000 tea workers in the state via banks and ATMs, cash continues to be the preferred choice. Owing to the remote location of at least 55 per cent of the 745-odd gardens in Assam, banks have found it too difficult to either set up ATM counters or service these gardens via customer service providers, a prerequisite of the digitisation drive.
The announcement of demonetisation last November had resulted in a severe cash crunch situation across the country. And, the Assam government initiated an ambitious plan to open bank accounts for all registered tea workers and asked the gardens to route the payment via banks. In turn, the banks were asked to install ATM machines in the gardens, so that workers could withdraw their weekly wages and estate managers the cash they neded for day-to-day operations. Till now, accounts for around 78 per cent of the workers have officially been opened and a fourth of the gardens have ATMs. "We had allotted space for the ATMs in the gardens but it's still vacant. Infrastructural bottlenecks and operational problems are the primary reasons why the pace of digital payments has been slow," Azam Monem, chairman of the Indian Tea Association told. As a result of the absence of ATMs, the estates are making the payment via banks for workers who have accounts. And, the workers, have to travel eight to 25 km in hilly terrain to withdraw their weekly earning. This means increased absenteeism, pushing the managements to mechanise operations, beside loss of a day's wages to the workers. A senior official from one of the largest tea companies in Assam estimated that with 540,000 operational accounts, around 170,000 workers have access to ATMs.

The Times of India, Agra
Wholesale potato price at 20p/kg in Agra

With farmers not turning up at cold storage facilities to take away their potato produce, and the produce beginning to rot, storage owners have started dumping the rotting tubers on roadsides and fields for stray cattle and the poor to feed on. A total of 2.5 lakh tonnes of the produce is being dumped across Agra district alone.
According to sources, the wholesale price of potato has reached as low as Rs 10 for a packet of 50 kg, which translates into 20 paise per kg. Besides, farmer have to pay transportation cost to take potatoes for sale to markets. To take the potatoes from cold storage centres, farmers have to pay a storage fee of Rs 110 per packet. In July, the wholesale price was Rs 400 per packet. But there has been a continuous fall in prices since then. Considering the low prices of the tuber and in order to avoid further losses, farmers have simply decided not to take the stored produce away. Meanwhile, most of the240 cold storage units operating in the district have switched off their preservation machines tosave on electricity expenses. This is causing the potatoes to rot. President of Agra Cold Storage Association Sudarshan Agarwal said, “Farmers are not coming to take their stored potatoes because of the very low market rate. The produce can’t be preserved any longer, and we have no other options apart from dumping them. Cleaning and repairing works are required to be started in the units for agricultural produce in the coming season.”
Aamir Bhai, general secretary of Potato Producers’ Association said, “It is estimated that around 50 lakh sacks of 50 kg each, totalling 2.5 lakh tonnes of potatoes, are kept in cold storages of Agra district. Farmers can’t afford to pay storage rates or transport produce to the markets, so we can’t take the produce away.”

The Hindu, New Delhi
Pulses sowing rises 9%, wheat drops 2% in rabi

Pulses sowing rose by 9% to cover 138.19 lakh hectares of area so far in the ongoing rabi (winter-sown) season and wheat acreage is down at 245.50 lakh hectares of land, according to government data. Area under pulses was 138.19 lakh hectares so far in this rabi season as against 127.02 lakh hectares in the year-ago period, a statement said. Wheat acreage fell to 245.50 lakh hectares from 250.48 lakh hectares during the period.

17, Dec 2017
Business Line, Ahmedabad
Cotton ginners go on a day’s strike against RCM

Raising their demand for early resolution of the 5 per cent GST under the Reverse Charge Mechanism (RCM), ginners across the country observed a day’s strike. As many as 4,300 ginning units from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha, Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh stalled their cotton processing activities opposing the Centre’s move of introducing RCM for the fibre under GST. Earlier, the Cotton Association of India (CAI), following its meeting on November 27, had decided to support the strike.
“If the RCM issue is not resolved by the GST Council in its upcoming meeting on December 21, the ginners may go on an indefinite strike from the next day,” said Atul Ganatra, CAI’s President. Under the Reverse Charge Mechanism, a recipient of goods and/or services is liable to pay GST, instead of the supplier. In this case, ginners — the buyers of raw cotton — are required to pay the tax instead of the cotton farmers. Out of over 4,300 ginning units in the country, about 1,300 are spread in Gujarat, with major concentration in Saurashtra and North Gujarat. Even as most ginning units in most other States observed complete closure, the units in Gujarat gave a mixed response to the strike. Ginners stated that even as the RCM on GST is refundable, “Our experience is that it is not refunded timely. Our working capital gets stuck up due to the delay in refund. If ginners are not lifting cotton from the yards, farmers will suffer, which is not good,” said Rajnibhai Gandhi, a ginner from Bodeli in Chhota Udepur district, Gujarat.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
Insurance Industry Looks to Create Agri Insurance Pool

Boosted by a sharp surge in demand for farm insurance, the general insurance industry is looking to create a buffer in the form of an agriculture insurance pool. Such an instrument will allow to retain the premium within the country, as well as provide cover to insurance companies if global reinsurers refused to underwrite risks. The government had set up two such insurance pools in India — the nuclear liability pool and terrorism pools — to retain business in India and provide capacity to the industry.
A report by Crisil said 77% of domestic crop insurance premiums were ceded to reinsurers in 2016-17. The premium income in the agriculture segment is expected to reach Rs 25,000 crore this fiscal year from Rs 21,000 crore last year, making it the fastest growing insurance business in the country. This, experts say, makes a case for having a local pool for farm insurance as well. “Agriculture insurance in India needs a robust local reinsurance pool mechanism to cushion the Indian market from the volatile reinsurance situation,” said Sanjay Kedia, country head of insurance broker Marsh India. “Stable reinsurance capacity will help policy holders to have continuity and stability of agriculture insurance availability.” Within two years of the launch of government’s crop insurance scheme, crop insurance has become the third largest segment for general insurers after motor and health. The agriculture segment contributed 16% to gross general insurance premium. In the budget, the government has increased the insurable crop coverage from 30% to 40% this year and will raise it to 50% next year, suggesting that the segment will continue to see strong growth. Given the growth in the segment, reinsurance is expected to expand rapidly. But reinsurance support may not be available from global players due issues from absence of enough data to lack of proper spread of portfolio.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
ISMA bats for lower duties for Indian sugar in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh

Domestic sugar production is set to rise to record levels in the next marketing year starting October 2018, according to Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma), leaving enough surplus sugar that can be exported to the neighbouring countries. However, ISMA feels India is at an unfavourable position as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, two major importing nations, impose high import duty on sugar at $100 and $150 per tonne, respectively. The two countries import 25-30 lakh tonnes of the sweetener annually.
Isma has requested the government to seek preferential import duty from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. “Several countries offer preferential import duty to neighbouring countries under regional cooperation, like Indonesia offers to Thailand and Australia… Efforts should be started from now itself, so that these markets are available for Indian sugar exporters at concessional import duties from the beginning of next year, when we would like to export sugar,” said Sarita Reddy, president of Isma, at the body’s 83rd annual general meeting here. In the ongoing sugar season, which runs from October to September, Isma expects 251 lakh tonnes of sugar production which would around the level of sugar consumption of the country. Large sugar producing states like Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh may see positive rise in production in the current season, whereas production will be lower in drought-hit Tamil Nadu.
Sugar production in India has remained stagnant in the past 6-7 years. Experts say institutional reforms are needed in the way cane farming is practised and more emphasis should be given on research and development work. Isma has also urged the government to impose uniform sugarcane pricing policy - one nation one price similar to GST. At present, prices for sugar and its by-products vary from one state to other.

Business Line, New Delhi
Rabi acreage gains pace; exceeds 514 lakh hectares

The area under cultivation in the current rabi season surpassed that of the corresponding period last year for the first time, this week, according to the data released by the Agriculture Ministry. The total acreage under rabi this year stood at 514.22 lakh hectares (lh), a marginal 1 per cent rise from 509.12 lh during the same period last year. However, the acreage of wheat, oilseeds and coarse cereals was slightly down, whereas that of rice and pulses continues to be higher. The acreage under wheat was 245.50 lh — nearly 2 per cent lower than 250.48 lh in the same period last year. Oilseeds have covered 70.73 lh (74.76 lh) so far, and coarse cereals have been sown on 46.93 lh — down 2 per cent. The area under pulses cultivation, on other hand, is inching closer to normal for the entire season at 138.19 lh, up 8.8 per cent from the corresponding period last year. The area covered by rice, though small compared with other rabi crops, was up 40 per cent at 12.88 lh, thanks to a spurt in rice acreage in Tamil Nadu, which received bountiful rains after three years of continuous drought.

Free Press Journal, Nagpur
Maharshtra govt demands a CBI probe into BT cotton spurious seeds scam

The Maharashtra government strongly suspects the role of an interstate racket responsible for the sale of spurious BT cotton seeds. They believe this racket is responsible for the sale of spurious seeds in Vidarbha and Marathwada region of the state, where more than 30 lakh hectare land is currently inflicted by the pink bollworm disease.
Pandurang Fundkar, minister for agriculture demanded probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and informed the Assembly House that he has written the letter to the Centre. Fundkar was replying on a motion brought by Dr Anil Bondre from ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The number of members from both ruling and opposition parties including Radhkrishna Vikhe-Patil, leader of opposition (LoP), Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil from NCP, Vijay Vadettiwar from Congress and Bachchu Kadu, independent legislator along with several other legislators participated in debate. In his reply, Fundkar tries to blame of Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government for ignoring to bring new seeds which will control bollworms. However, LoP Vikhe-Patil intervened and said, “Yes, we might wrong, we might not taken any decisions and hence we are sitting to this side (opposition). But what you did during last three years?” Vikhe-Patil demanded that the minister announce compensation to affected farmers. Minister Fundkar reiterated the farmers will get crop insurance, compensation from the seed companies and the ex-gratia amount from the Central government.
Opposition were not satisfied with the answer of the minister and with the chief minister Devendra Fadnavis who backed Fundkar and did not answer what sort of help farmers will get from the state’s own exchequer. They have demands ex-gratia amount of Rs 25,000 per acre to the farmers affected by pink bollworms. Hence, opposition walked out from the House.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Tea Board proposes delegation to China

The Tea Board is planning to send a tea-trade delegation to China early next year. The delegation would visit Beijing and Shanghai. Tea Board officials confirmed the proposal, saying that industry associations had been told to nominate their representatives for the delegation, which is likely to go in February 2018. The activities that have been proposed are meeting the Chinese authorities, participating in buyer-seller interactions as well as tea-sampling. The Indian embassies would also be associated with this endeavour, the first in recent times. India and China are among the world’s largest tea producers. While India’s annual output averages at about 1,200 million kgs, China’s production is estimated at about 2,300 million kgs. Tea is grown in China mostly on small holdings of land.

Mint, New Delhi
Winter crops sowing done in 80% area

Planting of winter crops has been completed in 80% of the total crop area, with higher sowing of pulses and a significantly lower area under oilseeds, shows data released by the agriculture ministry. According to the data, planting of wheat, the main winter or rabi crop, is marginally behind last year’s numbers. So far 51.4 million hectares (ha) have been planted under different crops, about 1% more than the area planted by this time last year, according to the ministry. Normally 62 million ha is sown during the rabi season. Planting begins by October and the crops are harvested March onwards. Area under wheat is 2% lower than last year.

The Statesman, Chandigarh
‘Congress would oppose any burden on farmers’

Punjab Congress chief and Member of Parliament (MP) from Gurdaspur, Sunil Jakhar said the Congress party would oppose to any kind of attempt, to put more burden on the farmers by the Union government. Jakhar took oath in Punjabi language as a LokSabha member on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament in New Delhi. While interacting with the mediapersons later, Jakhar said that he would raise the issues of Punjab and national importance in this temple of democracy. Gurdaspur MP said, he will take a positive approach in the LokSabha so that this platform could be used to solve the problems of common man of the country. He said that his aim is not to do politics only, but to do something for the betterment of the people of state in general and border area residents in particular.
In response to a question regarding the decision of the Union government to declare farmer’s tractor a commercial vehicle, Jakhar said the country’s farmers are not in a position to bear more financial burden. He also demanded an exemption to tractor of the farmer from taxes to carry food grain of Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other government’s food grain procurement agencies. Jakhar also opposed the efforts of the Union government to bring the farmers under the ambit of income tax adding that the farmers are already facing acute crisis due to regressive policies of the Union government. He further said that any such decision of Center against the interests of the farmers will be strongly opposed in the lower house.

Business Line, Kochi
Mixed trend in Kochi tea auctions

Despite a declining price trend for several varieties, select high-priced teas ruled dearer at the Kochi auctions. Teas in the range of Rs 100-125 per kg barely remained steady. Lower medium and plainer blacker teas were steady to firm, while browner teas showed a decline. In sale no 50, the quantity on offer in CTC dust was 10,00,000 kg. Regional blenders and Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation lent fair support. Improved enquiry was noticed from Kerala loose tea traders and upcountry buyers. In orthodox dust, the quantity on offer was 7,500 kg and exporters continued to be the mainstay. Monica SFD topped the dust category with Rs 161/kg. In leaf, Glenfern-Super Lacha (Green Tea) fetched Rs 310.

Business Line, New Delhi
Palm oil off 16-month low on technical rebound

Malaysian palm oil futures notched up their biggest daily gain in nearly five months, rising over 2 per cent on a technical rebound and expectations that production will decline this month. The benchmark palm oil contract for February delivery on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange was up 2.7 per cent at 2,518 ringgit ($618) at the close of trade, its first gain in three sessions and its sharpest rise since July 25. It earlier hit an intra-day high of 2,525 ringgit, its highest level in a week, and rose 1.6 per cent on the week after six consecutive weekly falls.
Malaysian palm oil stocks at the end of November rose to 2.56 million tonnes, the highest since late 2015, while cargo surveyor data showed exports in the first half of December fell 9.6 per cent from a month earlier. “Also, expectations are rife that production in December may come down much lower, in line with seasonal trends,” said another trader. Palm oil production typically peaks in the third quarter of the year before declining towards the year end and into the start of the following year. In other related oils, the January soyabean oil contract on the Chicago Board of Trade rose 0.9 per cent, while the January soyabean oil contract on the Dalian Commodity Exchange was down 0.9 per cent. The Dalian January palmolein contract dipped 0.2 per cent. Palm oil prices are affected by other edible oils as they compete for a share in the global vegetable oils market.

16, Dec 2017
The Tribune, Chandigarh
81% free power beneficiaries large, medium farmers: Study

An astounding 81.52 per cent of the free farm electricity beneficiaries in Punjab are medium and large farmers, and only 18.48 per cent are small and marginal farmers (having landholding of less than 5 acres), a study has revealed. Conducted by eminent economist RS Ghumman, professor at the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), it has brought to light how the “untargeted free power” has failed to achieve its objective of alleviating the lot of distressed small and marginal farmers. The study reveals that of the 13.51 lakh (electricity operated) tubewells, only 89,212 (6.6 per cent) are with marginal farmers (having less than 2.5 acres) and 1,60,581 (11.88 per cent) are with small farmers. About 95 per cent of suicide victims amongst debt-ridden farmers are from this category. The operational landholdings of these farmers are over 34.19 per cent. “This shows that mainly large farmers are enjoying the benefit of free power subsidy. This year, Rs 7,700 crore is expected to go towards it — to over 80 per cent beneficiaries who are in no need for this dole. Thus, the CM’s initiative asking the big farmers to give up free power has a lot of substance,” Ghumman told. The study goes on to establish that if free power is withdrawn from the medium and large farmers (having over 10 acres), who have 7.59 lakh tubewell connections, the state exchequer would save Rs 4,000 crore during 2017-18. “Initially, free power, when it was introduced in January 1997, was meant only for farmers having over 7 acres’ land. But the very next month this facility was extended to all agricultural power consumers. History has proved that political parties (both Congress and Akali Dal) have not been saved from being ousted from power even after they extended this subsidy,” says the economist.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Admin steps to streamline onion sale

With a view to streamlining the distribution of onions in the wholesale and retail markets of the city at a time when prices of the commodity have shot up substantially in recent months, the Kamrup (Metro) district administration has issued a series of guidelines for traders, including making it compulsory for them to have a valid licence for sale and storage of the kitchen staple. An order to this effect has been issued by Dr M Angamuthu, Deputy Commissioner of Kamrup (Metro) under provisions of the Assam Trade Articles (Licensing and Control) Order 1982 and relevant notifications of the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs. “No dealer shall carry on the business of purchase, sale and storage for sale of onion without obtaining a valid licence under the provisions of the relevant law of local municipal body/town committee/panchayati raj institutions, as the case may be, in the territorial jurisdiction of Kamrup (Metro) district,” said the order. It said that the dealers must display the prices and stock of onion in the ‘Form E’ in the local language and they may also display it in any other language. “No dealer shall sell onion at a price higher than that specified in the list of prices of stocks. In case of retailers of onion they are allowed to realise a maximum of Rs 6 per kg over the cash memo price issued by the wholesaler depending upon the quality of the onion. No dealer shall refuse to sell onion to any person at the prices specified in the list of prices of stocks,” said the order. Dealers have also been forbidden from withholding sale of onion kept in stock meant for that purpose and also from selling the commodity without issuing a cash memo or bill which will have to contain details of the transaction.

​​The Economic Times, Kochi
Falling Coffee Prices a Dampener for Exporters

India’s coffee exporters may not be able to cash in on the fresh stock, as coffee harvest begins, due to plummeting prices. Coffee prices have been on the decline in the past few months, with Brazil and Vietnam, two of the largest producers, heading for a bumper crop. Harvest of Arabica in India started earlier than usual in the last week of November. Plucking of Robusta beans is also expected to begin by the end of December. “Arabica growers could suffer as demand is weak in the global market and there is some carryover stock of Arabica parchment in India from last year,’’ said Ramesh Rajah, president of the Coffee Exporters Association of India. The December Arabica futures prices at ICE New York stood at $1.18 per pound. In India, prices are ruling around ₹6,800 per 50 kg, marginally higher than the cost of production. Robusta prices in the world market had shrunk nearly 18% this year. “The Robusta shipments, however, will move at lower prices as there is demand,’’ Rajah said. While growers are expecting Arabica crop around last year’s level of 90,000 tonnes, they feel that Robusta output could be hit badly by the severe dry spell and delayed monsoon this year. “We are expecting a Robusta crop less than last year in Karnataka because of drought and erratic rains,” said HT Pramod, chairman of Karnataka Planters’ Association. But the Robusta output is said to be better in Wayanad in Kerala, which could bring down the overall deficit. Robusta crop is estimated to reach around 2.10 lakh tonnes, slightly less than 2.17 lakh tonnes in 2016-17. The Coffee Board has predicted 2.47 lakh tonnes of Robusta and 1.03 lakh tonnes of Arabica in its post blossom estimate for 2017-18.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Farmer Producer Organisation a slow starter in Assam

The concept of Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) still remains a slow starter in Assam. While 666 FPOs have been formed in the country, not a single from the State has been registered with the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), a registered society functioning under the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India. These facts emerged at a day-long conclave organised by SFAC which has been tasked with the responsibility of increasing incomes of small and marginal farmers through aggregation and development of agri-business. Just 16 FPOs have been formed under SFAC in the five states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Tripura, but not a single FPO has been able to derive the benefit of institutional lending. In the North East, Sikkim has 29 FPOs under SFAC, which is a record in itself. SFAC Managing Director Sumanta Chaudhari said there are challenges in the North East, including topographical and terrain constraints. “The density of population is scattered, especially in the hill states. Mobilisation is a challenge to form a unit, but rules have been made flexible to suit the local needs,” he said. “There is a need to step up activities in the region and hence, we are focusing here. FPOs need government, institutional and corporate support. SFAC is here to promote FPOs and agri-business,” he added. Admitting that institutional lending to farmers is low in spite of agriculture being a priority sector, Chaudhari said, “The individual farmer’s borrowing capacity could be low. But when a group of farmers come together as an FPO, banks would prefer to lend them loans.” “We need to form groups to aggregate the input requirements and output. There is a need to move up the value chain and develop linkages. They need access to credit. Once groups are formed, banks will also come forward,” Chaudhari said.ist.

Business Line, New Delhi
Iran reinstates ban on rice imports, hampers India’s basmati sales

Iran, India’s largest market for basmati, has reinstated the ban on rice imports, delaying the shipments from India, trade sources said. The country had lifted the ban on November 22, but immediately re-imposed the curbs. There is no certainty on the when the ban will be lifted again, sources said. Iran bans rice imports every year during June-November to ensure fair returns for its farmers during their harvesting period. This year, it has extended the ban to prevent a glut in its domestic market. Despite the ban, Indian traders have been in “anticipatory talks” with Iranian buyers and have made deals to export nearly 100,000 tonnes of basmati when the ban is lifted, the exporter said. The average price of the deals with Iran has been around $975/tonne so far, against the expectation of $1,000.

Millennium post, New Delhi
ISMA for lower duty on Indian sugar in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka

Industry body ISMA asked the government to seek preferential duty structure from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for Indian sugar, which is expected to be in surplus on account of higher output estimates for the 2018-19 marketing year. While Bangladesh levys import duty of $150 per tonne on sugar, Sri Lanka imposes $100. The two neighbours import about 25-30 lakh tonnes of sweetener annually, ISMA said. "India's sugar production may exceed in 2018-19 marketing year than 251 lakh tonnes estimated for the current year. So we may have surplus sugar for exports in 2018-19," Indian Sugar Mills Association Director General Abinash Verma said at ISMA's 83rd annual general meeting. "Therefore, we are requesting the government to seek preferential import duty from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for Indian sugar," he said. Sugar marketing year runs from October to September. ISMA President Saritha Reddy said preferential tariff treatment for Indian sugar is needed as global prices may not be viable for such exports, especially when domestic sugarcane prices are highest in the world. "There are many countries which offer preferential import duty to the neighbouring countries under regional cooperation like Indonesia offers to Thailand and Australia. Such preferential trade tariffs should be offered for sugar imports by Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to India," she said. Urging the government to take timely action on this issue, Reddy said, "Efforts should be started from now itself, so that these markets are available for Indian sugar exporters at concessional import duties from the beginning of the next year, when we would like to export sugar." Exports to neighbouring nations is possible as India is very close to large sugar deficit countries having good business and trade relations.

Millennium post, Kapurthala
ITC opens Rs 1,500-cr integrated food park at Kapurthala

Diversified firm ITC rolled out its largest integrated food manufacturing and logistics facility here with the first-ever 'wheat mandi' unit to procure the grain from farmers, besides other FCMG units. The facility spread across 8 lakh square feet and entailed an initial investment of Rs 1,500 crore was inaugurated by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. ITC CEO and Executive Director Sanjiv Puri said the facility, when operational, will create direct employment of over 2,000 people, besides indirect employment throughout the value chain. "The grains would be weighed electronically with payment on the spot without handling charges so farmers would also save about 2 per cent," Puri said. The facility would help the farming community's transition from traditional wheat-crop cycle to more lucrative crops, the chief minister said, adding such projects would be instrumental not only in saving the state s crunched fertile land and water resources but also in boosting farm income. The plant will manufacture ITC's popular food brands such as Aashirvaad, Bingo!, Sunfeast, YiPPee! and B Natural , among others. Referring to the plight of potato farmers, who were forced to dump their produce on the roads because of their inability to sell it at a good price, the chief minister stressed the need to end the crisis with projects like this. The facility is part of the company's plans to open 20 such food processing units pan-India with an investment of Rs 10,000 crore. Puri said more such wheat mandis will be built at its upcoming facilities. The company also plans to enter into milk-based beverages such as milkshakes and allied products by the middle of next fiscal year, Puri said. The dairy plant for the same which is part of the integrated plant will be operational soon. ITC is investing heavily in both agriculture and food segments considering huge potential in these two sectors.

The Financial Express, Pune
No relief in sight for Maharashtra’s soybean farmers

Soybean farmers in Maharashtra are a distressed lot. In addition to falling prices, the farmers now have to deal with rejection from the government procurement agencies as well. In Latur, one of the key producing regions of soybean, there have been several instances of farmers being turned away from the government procurement centres since the soybean brought by them to the centres did not fit into the quality parameters set by the government. According to industry people, around 421 odd farmers have been turned away in the last couple of weeks. Lalitbhai Shah, chairman, Latur APMC said that there have been instances of several farmers being turned away and these farmers were now forced to come to the open market to sell at distress rates. Soybean’s Minimum Support Price (MSP) is Rs 2,850 a quintal, in addition to a Rs 200 bonus for farmers to encourage sowing. Sadabhau Khot, Maharashtra minister of state for agriculture and marketing said that some 153 purchase centres have been opened across the state. Soybean growers have faced the double whammy of falling agricultural prices and losses due to the vagaries of weather and prices at Latur have not increased beyond Rs 2,800 per quintal. When contacted, senior government officials from the State Agriculture Department in charge of the commodity agreed that some of the farmers were being turned away because of the high moisture content in their produce. As per government norms, 12% moisture content is permitted and the officials are now accepting soybean with 13% moisture content, the official said. However, officials cannot accept soybean with higher moisture content levels since this cannot be stored for long resulting in decay and infestation and an inquiry could also be conducted against such officials and therefore they do not accept such produce, he said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
UP to Seek Farmers’ Feedback on Rs 36,000-crore Loan Waiver

How well did Uttar Pradesh implement the mega Rs 36,000 crore farm loan waiver? The Yogi Adityanath government has started an exercise to assess this by sending its teams to the ground from this month to get feedback from farmers on whether they are satisfied. The government will conduct a survey till March, with teams of officials visiting each district and asking farmers about the implementation of the loan waiver and the quality of resolution to their complaints regarding the programme. The feedback will be compiled in a report and involve the officials of the state’s agriculture department, institutional finance department and cooperative department, along with the banks. The loan waiver has faced severe criticism, with reports of cheques of Rs 1-10 being handed out to certain farmers even as the government had promised to waive loans of up to Rs 1 lakh of all small and marginal farmers. The waiver exercise is presently in its fourth phase of implementation and many other BJP-ruled states including Rajasthan are studying the UP model before deciding whether to go ahead. Facing criticism over the meagre amount of loan amounts waived, the state government clarified in September that only 4,814 farmers had got certificates of waiver of Rs 1-100 while nearly 12 lakh farmers had got certificates saying their loans of more than Rs 10,000 had been waived. ​​

15, Dec 2017
Business Line, Hyderabad
‘Stagnation in output, degrading soil major concerns’

Trilochan Mohapatra, Director-General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), has said that India’s agriculture sector is currently at crossroads. Degrading soil health and dwindling fresh water availability are posing major concerns for agricultural sustainability in the country. Low soil organic matter and imbalanced use of fertilisers are affecting crop productivity. “Stagnation of production in most of the crops, erratic behaviour of climate, degradation of natural resources, higher production cost, lower farm income, inadequacy for quality seed and planting material, and diminishing land holdings are some of the major concerns that require our urgent attention,” he said. Addressing a convocation at the Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) here on Wednesday, he called for the creation of employment opportunities in the non-farm and manufacturing sectors, especially in agro-based rural industries. “Over half of India’s total population is under the age of 29. Of this, of over 60 per cent live in villages. Migration of youth from villages to towns and cities is the most serious form of brain drain, which leads to regional imbalances and adversely affects the rural India’s development. We need to harness their energy and enthusiasm for betterment of the society,” he said. Mohapatra, who is also the Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Education, said that the upcoming Higher Agricultural Education (NAHEP) Project shouldbe seen as an opportunity to attract talented students, competent faculty and innovative researchers into the field of agriculture.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Inflation jumps to almost 5 per cent in November, reaches 15-month high thanks to hike in vegetable, egg prices

Steadily rising fuel and food prices saw retail inflation hit a 15-month high of 4.88 per cent in November, while factory output for October slowed to a three-month low. What drove factory output down was GST-related teething troubles. Index of Industrial Production (IIP) slowed to 2.2 per cent, from 4.14 per cent in September and 4.5 per cent in August. In October, most major sectors grew at a muted rate. According to data released by the Central Statistics Office, mining output was stagnant, while manufacturing and electricity grew at 2.47 per cent and 3.2 per cent, respectively. The consumer goods sector even saw a sharp contraction in factory output, dropping 6.9 per cent -- the second consecutive month of decline. Capital goods production, an indicator of investment, grew 6.8 per cent. The numbers for cumulative industrial output for the April-October period also indicate that a lack of demand and uncertainty on tax rates under the GST regime has resulted in depressed factory output -- standing at a meagre 2.5 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent during the same period in 2016-17. Meanwhile, data for consumer price inflation showed that price rise for November stood at 4.88 per cent – above the Reserve Bank’s median target of 4 per cent – due to firming global crude prices reflecting on Indian domestic fuel rates and rising food prices. According to CSO data, fuel and light segment saw prices rise 7.92 per cent, against 6.36 in October, and vegetable prices rise by 22.48 per cent. While pulses continued their deflationary trend, contracting by 23.53 per cent, overall food inflation still rose 4.42 per cent compared to 1.9 per cent in the previous month.

Business Standard, Nagpur
Opposition din over agri officials not briefing minister

The Maharashtra government found itself cornered in the Legislative Assembly after it came to fore that officials have failed to brief Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar on the issue of pink bollworm infestation in cotton crop. Speaker Haribhau Bagde deferred the Calling Attention Motion on the issue raised by Opposition MLAs citing the lack of information from officers, which led to an uproar. Opposition has been demanding immediate relief to farmers saying that Bt cotton seed "BG II" has failed to protect cotton from the pink bollworm attack in Vidarbha and Marathwada regions. Opposition members alleged that though the government was aware that BG II seed lacked potential to prevent pink bollworm infestation it purposefully didn´t act as it "wanted private seed producing companies to be benefitted". The government said the production of cotton is on the rise though it has acknowledged the problem. It also said that farmers will be compensated for the loss. Against this backdrop, over 69 MLAs of the 288member Assembly had raised the calling attention motion demanding a detailed discussion and government´s response on the issue. However, Speaker Bagde announced postponement of the motion citing the lack of information from officers, prompting the Opposition to demand an apology from the government which it alleged is “shielding” private seed producers.

Business Line, Vijaywada
Spurious seeds playing havoc with farmers’ lives in AP, Telangana

Last week, three farmers from a village in Krishna district attempted to commit suicide in front of police station in Vijayawada. They were looking to draw attention to their desperate plight following their failure to secure compensation from two seed companies whose seeds had turned out to be spurious. The farmers’ suicide attempt was foiled, and they were rushed to hospital. But the dramatic events served to refocus attention on a problem of spurious seeds, especially in chilli and cotton crops, which has bedevilled the lives of farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for quite a while. It also triggered a public debate on the governments’ failure to take action against errant seed companies and to ensure justice to farmers. Seeds being the most critical agricultural input, any defect makes agriculture a dangerous gamble. Chilli farmers in Andhra Pradesh spend more than ₹1 lakh per acre to raise the crop, and seed failure can cause enormous economic loss. There is also a problem with Bt cotton seeds provided by some companies. Officials in the Agriculture Department confirmed that the chilli crop in the village had failed due to defective seeds. The District Collector had ordered the two seed companies to pay a compensation of ₹2.13 crore to the farmers. Orders were also issued under the Revenue Recovery Act to seize the companies’ assets. However, the companies moved the AP High Court and obtained a stay, and the farmers have been trying in vain for more than one-and-a-half years to get compensation. The Opposition parties – YSR Congress, the Congress and the communists – have criticised “the ineptitude of the State government” and demandedimmediate steps to address the issue. Farmers in Andhra Pradesh depend heavily on three commercial crops: chilli, cotton and tobacco. The tobacco crop faces no seed problem, but the other two face the problem periodically.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Bukhari for judicious utilization of resources in horticulture sector

Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Horticulture, Syed Basharat Bukhari directed the officers to ensure that the funds earmarked for the horticulture and the schemes meant for this vital sector are properly utilized and implemented so that the benefit of these percolates to targeted areas resulting in the increase of horticulture produce besides economic emancipation of the people related with it. The Minister was addressing officers during a review meeting convened to discuss utilization of funds during the current financial year. Vice Chairman, State Horticulture Board, Abdul Salam Reshi, Secretary Horticulture Department, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, and other senior officers of the department were also present The meeting was also attended by the Director Horticulture Kashmir, through video conference who is the Mission Director for MIDH as well. Minister stressed that the funds released so far by the Planning Department or by the Govt. of India under different schemes should be utilized judiciously and strict instructions already stand issued that there shall be no lapse of funds. All genuine payments pending if any must be cleared immediately as per norms, he added. Basharat Bukhari also had an interaction with traders related to horticulture sector through video conferencing. They put forth their views and the problems faced by them. Minister while directing Director Horticulture Kashmir to examine the issues of horticulturists immediately so that they may not feel any inconvenience. He said that we have to ensure that they do not face any hardships as the sector is one of the mainstays of the state’s economy.

14, Dec 2017
The Financial Express, Lucknow
Falling sugar prices: UP millers demand govt intervention

Sugar millers in Uttar Pradesh are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea this year. While on the one hand they are looking at the highest ever sugar production along with vital gains in the overall recovery of sugar and yield of sugarcane, on the other hand they are already witnessing a free fall in sugar prices, which is cutting into their margins in a big way. Within almost 5 weeks of starting the season, the prices have tumbled by approximately Rs 300 per quintal at the wholesale market, setting millers on a panic already. The Uttar Pradesh Sugar Millers Association has, in a letter to the state government, drawn its attention to the difficulty being faced by them and has requested it for early remedial measures. “Sugar prices continue to fall at an alarming rate and are today just around Rs 3,400 per quintal (ex-factory) and market analysts do not see any betterment and further downfall is highly probable,” says the letter, adding that to add to the cash flow problem of the mills, molasses prices have also continued their fall and free sale molasses are currently finding no buyers even at a price of under Rs 40 per quintal. The letter written by secretary general of UPSMA, Deepak Guptara states that in the current scenario, the “sugar mills are facing huge liquidity crunch and it is fast eroding the cane price payments of the mills.” As some relief to the mills, it has asked the government to immediately help the industry with a complete waiver of society commission, which currently stands at Rs 5.10 per quintal and to release the entire power dues payable to the mills without any further delay since “the mills utilise the power money to augment their cane price payment.”

Business Standard, Chennai
Imposition of MIP pushes pepper prices up 10-12%

After the announcement of minimum import price (MIP) for pepper, the price in the domestic market has risen by 10-12 per cent to Rs 420 per kg. It may be noted that the price crashed to Rs 380 from Rs 600-650 per kg last year due to imports. Last week the commerce ministry approved the Spices Board’s proposal for fixing pepper’s CIF (cost, insurance, freight) value of Rs 500 per kg as MIP to protect the interests of pepper-growers. “In recent times, a decline in the domestic pepper price due to cheaper imports from other countries has been a major concern among pepper-growers. Pepper prices have gone down by nearly 35 per cent in one year and have resulted in a lot of hardship for pepper-growers,” said a commerce ministry official. The pepper price dropped from about Rs 600 a kg to about Rs 380 for kg even though the quality of the pepper imported was assumed to be inferior, said Rohan Colaco, former executive committee member, KPA, and a major grower in the Karnataka region. The good income from pepper has cushioned the blow of low prices of coffee. But with pepper prices crashing by 50 per cent, the future looked bleak, said a farmer from Kerala. It put a lot of pressure on growers, says Colaco, adding that farmers had, seeing this trend, held back on sales of black pepper and were looking at prices at around Rs 600 a kg for now and the next harvest, which is approaching. With no stakeholder keen on releasing stocks, the market is looking very lucrative for sellers, says Colaco. India’s domestic demand for pepper is increasing at around four per cent per annum. Currently the demand is estimated at 60,000 tonnes a year. So far around 14,000 tonnes of pepper has been imported this year.

The Financial Express, Pune
India’s pomegranate exports run into Europe’s Residue Monitoring Plan

With the pomegranate season in full swing, around 20,000 tonne of the fruit has been exported from the country so far. However, a hurdle has emerged. Europe, where the season has just begun, has changed the Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) for pomegranate imports. The Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) for grapes in Europe is normally 75 mg per kg but for pomegranates it has been brought down to just 2 mg per kg thus making it difficult for pomegranate growers in the country to export the fruit, said Prabhakar Chandane, chairman, Maharashtra Pomegranate Growers Research Association (MPGRA). Recently like Europe, other countries that export grapes from India including China, Indonesia and Russia, have decided to issue stricter Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) norms to the country. India has been attempting 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 export prospects of India this season. This may well occur in the case of pomegranates as well, Chandane said. “We have written to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) to intervene and seek concessions from the European Union (EU) for bringing down the limits in line with grapes at 75 mg per kg. However, APEDA officials have maintained that this could take time and positive results could be seen next season onwards,” he said. Another 10,000-15,000 tonne is expected to be exported to Europe, he added. A German team is visiting India to inspect pomegranates, he said, adding that they were attempting to convince them to ease the norms. A bumper crop is in offing this year but around 80% of crop is of poor quality due to excess rains, he said. Most of the crop is damaged from inside because of rains, he pointed out.

The Times of India, Mumbai
Pest attack on GM cotton forces Maha crackdown on cos

The decreasing resistance of genetically modified cotton seeds to pest attacks has become a raging issue in the state, prompting Maharashtra government to launch a crackdown on companies selling the seeds. Godowns of nearly 10 seed companies have been raided and large quantities of seeds have been withdrawn to be sent for testing. Government is probing effectiveness of BT cotton seeds and ‘herbicide-tolerant’ cotton seeds, which are being illegally marketed across the state, through these tests. Further action will be initiated depending on test results, said sources. Maharashtra police on Friday sealed two godowns, one each in Jalna and Buldhana, belonging to a seed major. The quality control cell of the agriculture department seized 5,000 quintals of cotton seeds from these godowns, of which 500 samples will be sent for testing. Sources said action has been initiated at the Centre’s behest. The state government has also written to the Union agriculture ministry seeking a CBI inquiry into illegal entry and sale of unapproved genetically modified cotton seeds with herbicide tolerant traits in the market. In the light of reports about damage to crops, the state agriculture department has also picked up over 200 samples from seed companies to assess their resistance to pest attacks. In September, the non-profit scientific body, South Asia Biotechnology Centre , had reported that the illegal HT hybrid market had swelled to Rs 472 crore in the kharif season with around 35 lakh HT hybrid seeds sold and cultivation spread over 8.5 lakh hectares. Maharashtra being one of the largest producers of cotton with the area under the crop accounting for nearly 40% of total cultivable land, the warning set off alarm bells in the administration.

Free Press Journal, Nagpur
Maharashtra proposes Rs 15,000-cr for Supplementary demands

The Maharashtra government has proposed to make provision of each of Rs 1000 crore from the Scheduled Tribes (STs) plan and plan for Scheduled Caste (SCs) plan to cover beneficiaries from ST and SC respectively. Additional provision of Rs. 13,000 crore has been proposed through supplementary demands worth Rs. 26,402 crore in Assembly. Opposition NCP criticised for reducing approved budget provision meant for SCs and STs to implement loan waiver scheme. Devendra Fadnavis led Maharashtra government tabled supplementary demands for crop loan waiver scheme on the first day of the winter session of the state legislature at Nagpur even as the opposition tried to disrupt the proceedings of the house. The government then tabled supplementary demands of over Rs 26,000 crore of which Rs 15,000 crore are meant for the crop loan waiver scheme. A provision of Rs 20,000 crore was made for loan waiver during the budget session. Including the demands tabled, a provision of Rs 35,000 crore has been made for farm loan waiver. Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in Upper House said, “State want to curtail provision already approved for the welfare of SCs and STs. It will affect scholarship schemes and other development programme of the SCs and STs.” He added his party will oppose this proposal and will ask to find out alternate. “We are not against to make financial provision for farmers. But when chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said state’s financial situation is sound and under control, he should not grab the money from budget of SCs and STs,” said Munde.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Inflation jumps to 15-mth high in Nov

The economy may not be out of the woods yet with retail inflation shooting to a 15-month high of 4.88% in November, and factory output sliding in October on subdued performance by mining and manufacturing, government data showed. The Central Statistics Office released the two key macro economic data — Consumer Price Index (CPI) for November and Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for October — this evening. The CPI-based retail inflation jumped to 4.88% in November as compared to 3.58% in the preceding month. The IIP continued to decline and fell to a three-month low of 2.2% on annual basis in October mainly due to subdued performance of mining and manufacturing sectors coupled with a contraction in output of consumer durables. The IIP had expanded by 4.2% in October last year.

Business Line, New Delhi
NCDEX-Jeera can extend rally

Jeera prices have been surging over the last few weeks and are on a strong footing. The Jeera futures contract, traded on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX), has surged about 19 per cent over the last one month, from Rs 18,365 per quintal on November 10 to the current level of Rs 21,795. Strong export demand and restricted supply in the spot market have pushed prices sharply higher over the last one month. Though the prices have been consolidating at higher levels over the last couple of weeks, there is room for the prices to rise further before a correction. The NCDEX-Jeera futures contract has been facing strong resistance at Rs 22,000 at the moment. For the last couple of weeks, the contract has not gained enough strength to breach this psychological hurdle. As long as the contract trades below this resistance, a dip to Rs 21,000 or Rs 20,800 cannot be ruled out in the near-term. However, further fall below Rs 20,800 looks less probable. As such, a range-bound move between Rs 20,800 and Rs 22,000 can be seen for some time. An eventual break and decisive close above Rs 22,000 will boost the momentum. Such a break can take the contract higher to Rs 23,300 in the coming weeks. A high-risk appetite trader with a medium-term perspective can go long on dips at Rs 21,350. Stop-loss can be placed at Rs 20,700 for a target of Rs 22,500. Revise the stop-loss higher to Rs 21,550 as soon as the contract moves up to Rs 21,950. The contract will come under pressure only if it drops decisively below Rs 20,800. Such a fall will increase the likelihood of the contract slipping to Rs 20,300 or even lower.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Onion, tomato prices slide on rising supplies

Onion and tomato prices in markets in the national capital have started cooling down post improved supplies. Retail onion prices, which had soared to Rs 80 per kg over the past few weeks, slipped to Rs 50-60 per kg, while tomato prices have declined to Rs 45 per kg from Rs 70- 80 per kg. The government has placed curbs on the export of onions to boost domestic supply.

13, Dec 2017
Business Line, Munnar
Harrisons brews a ‘new brand’ plan to export speciality teas

To leverage the growing export potential of speciality teas, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML), a major tea producer in South India, is going in for a big branding exercise. “We have firmed up plans to build an umbrella brand — Harrisons Heritage — with a logo for speciality teas such as single estate tea, white tea, hybrid and frost tea for our overseas and domestic buyers,” said N Dharmaraj, Whole Time Director and Chief Executive, SBU (A), HML. The company has registered with Amazon.in for marketing, and the products, with the new tag, will hit the online and physical markets by the middle of next year. Speaking to a group of visiting journalists from Kochi, Dharmaraj said the excess supply over demand will always put price pressure on mass-market teas. It is, therefore, important for South Indian producers to differentiate their products into speciality teas, the demand for which is growing at about six per cent — twice that of general-purpose teas. South India’s tea production is in the range of 220 million kg and exports are at around 85 million kg. Hence, it is important for South India to export about 45 per cent to create a better supply-demand equation internally, he said. Today, the mass market is a challenge, and there is a need to come out with niche products. The South Indian tea industry has been hit by low prices of teas and high cost of production. Increasing exports is critical to shore up the price line of South Indian teas. This has to be carried out through a combination of quality improvement initiatives, he said. “We won’t be successful without branding,” said Dharmaraj, adding that HML is also working with Kerala Ayurveda Pharmacy Ltd to develop an ayurvedic tea. The initial results are encouraging, and the product will hit the market soon.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Monsanto offers cash to US farmers using controversial chemical

Monsanto Co will give cash back to US farmers who buy a weed killer that has been linked to widespread crop damage, offering an incentive to apply its product even as regulators in several U.S. states weigh restrictions on its use. The incentive to use XtendiMax with VaporGrip, a herbicide based on a chemical known as dicamba, could refund farmers over half the sticker price of the product in 2018 if they spray it on soybeans Monsanto engineered to resist the weed killer, according to company data. The United States faced an agricultural crisis this year caused by new formulations of dicamba-based herbicides, which farmers and weed experts say harmed crops because they evaporated and drifted away from where they were sprayed. Monsanto says XtendiMax is safe when properly applied. The company is banking on the chemical and soybean seeds engineered to resist it, called Xtend, to dominate soybean production in the United States, the world's second-largest exporter. BASF SE and DowDuPont also sell versions of dicamba-based herbicides. Monsanto's cash-back offer comes as federal and state regulators are requiring training for farmers who plan to spray dicamba in 2018 and limiting when it can be used. Weed specialists say the restrictions make the chemical more costly and inconvenient to apply, but Monsanto's incentive could help convince farmers to use it anyway. "We believe cash-back incentives for using XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology better enable growers to use a management system that represents the next level of weed control," said Ryan Rubischko, Monsanto product manager. XtendiMax costs about $11 per acre to buy, and Monsanto is offering $6 per acre in cash back to farmers when they apply it on Xtend soybeans along with other approved herbicides, according to the company.

Business Line, Kochi
Pepper sizzles on good demand

Spot pepper continued to rise on good demand amid tight availability. Indigenous pepper sellers, from the high ranges, were reportedly not ready to sell below Rs 500 a kg. Sellers of imported pepper were quoting now Rs 430-Rs 440 a kg and Kalpetta (Wayanad) sellers have sold 20 tonnes of imported pepper at Rs 430 to Tamil Nadu-based dealers, trade sources told. On the terminal market, 8 tonnes of imported material were traded at Rs 430 a kg, they said. Meanwhile, immature green pepper was also being imported from Sri Lanka , they said. Spot prices shot up by Rs 700 a quintal to close at Rs 39,900 (ungarbled) and Rs 41,900 (garbled) a quintal. But no sellers were ready to sell MG 1 below Rs 500 a kg. As a result, the export price for MG 1 has shot up to $7,250 a tonne c&f for Europe and $7,500 for the US.

Business Line, Mumbai
Pest attack: NCP seeks Rs 25,000/ acre for Maharashtra’s cotton-growers

With the crisis triggered by the attack of pink bollworms on cotton crop in Vidarbha and Marathwada region of Maharashtra becoming severe, the Opposition parties are now demanding Rs 25,000 per acre as compensation for framers. The Opposition parties have also said that the State government’s purchase of foodgrains, pulses and soyabean from farmers has been very poor. They have demanded that the farmers should at least get the Minimum Support Price for their produce. The Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council, Dhananjay Munde, told that a compensation of more than Rs 25,000 is a must, and that he had personally written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, when the Centre had warned about the pink bollworm attack, he said. Munde, who is a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, said that figures of purchase from State government-run warehouses of foodgrains and soyabean are not very not very encouraging. Till date, at the government centres, only 2.16-lakh quintals of soyabean have been procured, out of the 357-lakh quintals produced in the State. Even the pronouncement of urad dal (black gram) is only 2-lakh quintal, while its productionis 14-lakh quintals. Moong dal’s (split green gram) procurement is even lower at only 39,000 kg, while production is at 13-lakh quintals. The actual extent of cotton crop damage is still being evaluated in the State. The Chairman of Maharashtra government’s special task force on the agrarian crisis, Kishore Tiwari, has estimated the loss at Rs 10,000-crore in Vidarbha and Marathwada. The Chairman of State Agriculture Price Commission, Pasha Patel, told BusinessLine that the actual cotton crops losses are being still being evaluated and that the State government is willing to provide compensation to the farmers. Preliminary reports suggest that farmers in Marathwada are better covered under cotton crop insurance than those in Vidarbha, he said.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Rain brings cheer to wheat growers

The Agriculture Department has asked farmers to delay sowing of the late varieties of wheat for the next four days. “Western disturbance may cause light to moderate rainfall and the farmers are advised to suspend sowing or using fertilisers/insecticides till rainy condition stops,” said Dr Karamchand, Deputy Director, Agriculture. He said sudden dip in the temperature and the rainy conditions were timely and good for the wheat crop. Due to foggy conditions in November, sowing was delayed by about two weeks, he said. In Haryana, farmers sow early varieties of wheat from October 25 to November 15. Sowing continues till December for the late varieties and the official said the delay in sowing would not have an impact on overall foodgrain production. “In Kurukshetra, 1.85 lakh hectares are targeted under wheat cultivation this season and sowing in 98 per cent is already over. Though delay in sowing was noticed due to natural reasons, we are expecting a bumper crop this season,” he said. The expert said farmers had used HD 2967 variety in 70 per cent area, whereas other varieties including, WH 542, PW 17 and HD 2851, were also used by the wheat growers. “All these varieties are resistant to the fungal disease of yellow rust. Last year, the disease was noticed in two patches in Ber Thala and Buhawi villages in Kurukshetra district, but it was contained in time. The disease is generally noticed after mid-January and we are geared up to meet any situation in the fields,” he said. The rain at this time was expected and required for the wheat crop, said Dr GP Singh, Director, Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, Karnal. He said the rain would bring down the temperature which would prove a boon for the crop.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Sugar traders seek import duty hike after Pak sops

Traders and stockists have urged the government to increase the import duty on sugar by 10 percentage points to protect domestic industry from Pakistani shipment. The government there had, on Thursday, announced an incentive for export at 10 per cent or Pak Rs 10.7 a kg of up to 1.5 million tonnes. This works out to Rs 10,700 ($101.9) a tonne. This comes when the price of sugar in India has been falling since the start of the current cane crushing season, from October 1. “With the heavy export subsidy, export of sugar from Pakistan becomes viable. The government (should) consider raising the import duty from 50 per cent (at present) to 60 per cent,” said S P Bhagria, chief executive officer, All India Sugar Trade Association. “Such a decision will be in the interest of all stakeholders, viz farmers, the industry, traders and consumers.” Pakistan produces mainly white plantation sugar; its global price is around $370 a tonne. Prices in India are down 10 per cent since October to Rs 3,300 a quintal in Maharashtra for the M-30 variety; the industry says the cost of production is Rs 3,700 a qtl. With around four million tonnes of carryover stock and an estimated 25.1 mt of production this year, total supply is estimated at 29.1 mt. Substantially higher than the country’s annual consumption of 23.5 mt.

Business Standard, Kolkata
Tea industry proposes new marketing effort

The export of Dooars tea might resume after 27 years since it lost the foreign market to players from Kenya and other countries owing to a proposed branding effort from tea producers. The Indian Tea Association (ITA) has proposed an idea whereby 10 gardens, of the total 290 in the Dooars region, have been identified and they will brand their produce under the brand name Dooars Robusta. According to the proposal, the existing Assam and Dooars logos of the Tea Board used for packaged tea will be redesigned. This will not only help command better prices but also build brands for various Indian tea variants. “We need to promote marquee gardens, which produce high-quality tea. By doing so, not only will the price realisation of these gardens improve, it will also impress upon foreign buyers that the produce from the region is of good quality,” Azam Monem, chairman of the ITA told. These marquee gardens should meet the required compliances from Trust Tea, which ensures the tea from a garden to have met specified quality, production, ethical and labourer welfare standards. Environmental certifications assuring plant protection codes and the organic nature of produce are also a prerequisite. According to the ITA, such promotion of selected gardens as Dooars Robusta will not be country-specific, but aims at high-end tea boutiques, five-star catering, and hospitality institutions and duty-free airport stores worldwide. Besides, it will also help the producers to get promotional support from the India Brand Equity Fund, which is a Union commerce ministry initiative. Although the quality of Dooars tea, as compared to the ones from Assam had been an issue, the Doors produce found popularity among the Russian blenders (owing to cheap price) who used this tea to blend high grade Assam CTC (crush, tear, curl) tea.

Business Line, New Delhi
This Punjab plant may have the pollution solution

The burning of paddy straw has created an environmental storm by worsening the air quality in the Capital and its surroundings, but it may now yield a new way to make manure and compressed natural gas (CNG). Chandigarh-based Sampurn Agri Ventures has not only developed a technology to convert this agricultural waste into manure and bio-CNG, but has already demonstrated its viability by running a pilot plant for three years at a stretch. The pliot plant, at Fazilka in Punjab, is capable of using 20 tonnes of crop residue per day. Each tonne of the agri waste produces 700 kg of manure and 140 kg of CNG, said Sanjeev Nagpal, Managing Director, Sampurn. The technology, perfected with the help of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, is so robust that the Indian Oil Corporation has evinced interest in exploiting it. Two months ago, IOC signed a memorandum of understanding with Sampurn, and is currently in the process of finalising an engineering design for setting up 40-odd plants in different parts of Punjab, said Nagpal. An IOC official confirmed that this was among a few technologies being considered by the oil major. According to him, the state-owned firm has drawn up plans to set up 200 to 250 plants that would use crop residue as feed at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore. To begin with, it would set up a couple of plants in the coming year, he said. According to Nagpal, the technology has been optimised to use agri-waste up to 70 tonnes per day. As per the available estimates, India produces around 500 million tonnes of agri-waste every year. “If we convert this into CNG, the country can easily achieve self-sufficiency in CNG production,” said Nagpal.

12, Dec 2017
Afternoon, Mumbai
'Govt must accord top priority to agriculture in budget'

The government needs to accord top priority to agriculture in the budget as a major shortfall in kharif production resulted in sluggish growth of farm sector in the second quarter this fiscal, Assocham said. While the year-to-year agriculture GVA (Gross Value Addition) growth for the July-September quarter of 2017-18 dropped to 1.7% from 4.1%, measured on basic prices, the fall looks quite sharp at current prices from 10% to 3.7%. It is attributed to a decline in food grains production by 2.8% in second quarter of the current fiscal from a handsome growth of 10.7% in the similar period of 2016-17. The chamber observed that the shortfall in the second leg of the monsoon seems to have impacted the Kharif production. "Besides, distress in prices of several agri-commodities would have also played a role in lower realisations as seen in the growth deceleration on the current prices," it said. The chamber Secretary General D S Rawat said since more than half of the GVA in the farm sector is contributed by livestock, fishery and forestry, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley should particularly focus on these segments of the economy along with a major thrust on agriculture infrastructure like irrigation. "With bulk of our population employed in the rural landscape, India’s consumption led growth and investment cannot be realised unless the entire farm sector is pulled out of stress.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Govt Must Accord Top Priority to Agriculture in Budget: Assocham

The government needs to accord top priority to agriculture in the budget as a major shortfall in kharif production resulted in sluggish growth of farm sector in the second quarter this fiscal, Assocham said. While the year-to-year agriculture GVA (Gross Value Addition) growth for the July-September quarter of 2017-18 dropped to 1.7% from 4.1%, measured on basic prices, the fall looks quite sharp at current prices from 10% to 3.7%.

Afternoon, Nagpur
Govt playing with numbers to inflate farm loan waivers: Munde

A day ahead of the winter session of the Maharashtra assembly, the Opposition has alleged that the BJP-led government is "playing with numbers" in the farm loan waiver scheme. Speaking about the huge jump in the number of farmers verified for loan waiver in a matter of few days, Dhananjay Munde, leader of opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, called it "playing with numbers." "It clearly shows that Fadnavis government has simply played with numbers to issue loan waiver ahead of the winter session. We are not going to be fooled by his numbers," Munde told. As per the process of loan waiver, the government, verifies the farmers' bank accounts and Aadhar number. It then publishes the name of the farmer eligible for a loan waiver in its "green list". This "green list" has the farmers name, aadhar number, bank account and outstanding loan amount, said officials. The documents received from the state cooperation department showed that on December 2, there were 13,25,250 farmers in the "green list" as against 69,832 farmers on November 25. Within next three days from December 2, the list further swelled to 17,49,000 farmers. On December 7, the chief minister's office had announced that the state government had completed verification of 41 lakh farmers and a sum of Rs 19,537 crores worth of loans had been waived. "This is next to impossible that state officials are verifying lakhs of farmers’ accounts every day. It clearly means that the farmers' accounts are not verified but simply selected for loan waiver implementation. If the state government had to waive debt without verification, they why did it carry out a farce of forcing farmers to register themselves on Aapale Sarkar portal," Munde questioned. A senior Maharashtra minister, on the condition of anonymity, said that the numbers would be looked into again if anything fishy was found.

The Hindu, Pune
Negligence led to sugar factory mishap: Munde

The accident at the sugar factory in Beed, which claimed the lives of five workers, was due to negligence, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde alleged, while demanding a thorough probe into the mishap. Mr. Munde, who visited the Vaidyanath Sugar Cooperative Factory in Beed’s Parli town, further alleged that the factory management was using the police to prevent a thorough probe into the incident. Late on Friday, boiling sugarcane juice stored in a tank fell on workers, scalding around a dozen of them. Five workers have succumbed to injuries so far, while at least four are said to be critical. They are admitted to hospitals in Parli and Latur district. The sugar factory was set up by late BJP leader Gopinath Munde in 2006, who was the factory’s chairman till his death in a road accident in June 2014. His daughter, State Minister of Rural Development, Women and Child Welfare Pankaja Munde, is said to be closely associated to it. Mr. Munde, who is Ms. Munde’s cousin, was briefly stopped by the police from entering the factory. The cousins are bitter political rivals. Accusing the factory management of attempting to prevent his entry, Mr. Munde said, “This unfortunate incident should not be a moment for playing politics. Despite the fact that I, too, am a stakeholder in this factory, I was prevented from entering the premises by the management, who used the police to bar my entry.” The senior NCP leader was allowed to enter the factory, but without those accompanying him. Mr. Munde later met the deceased’s kin, and spoke the investigating officer on the probe status. “While a probe will reveal whether the tank, in which the juice was boiling, was old, there can be no doubt that this tragedy is a result of a gross human error,” he said.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Darjeeling small tea growers seek relief, too

Amid reports of the Centre considering a package for the GJM-strife hit Darjeeling tea industry small tea-growers in this region have urged the Tea Board to cover them under any relief measure, being contemplated by the government for large tea estates. Close to 880 small tea-growers cultivate about 192 hectares of land in the hilly region. They sell their green tea leaves to the big estates and were among the worst affected during this year’s three-and-a-half month strike in Darjeeling during the peak second-flush season in June. The second flush season in the May-July period yields some of the priciest teas. This crop, accounting for about 70% of total Darjeeling output, was affected by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s separatist agitation from mid–June to late-September. “Most small growers have already adopted organic cultivation methods and were hit by the strife,” said Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president, Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA). “They are registered growers and should be included in any revival package being considered for the large tea estates. This issue has been flagged before the Tea Board at its last meeting here,” he said. Darjeeling industry sources said that this segment’s output was around one lakh kg annually and they have been producing tea for about two decades. The small tea growers segment now accounts for about 45% of India’s total tea crop. Former Tea Board chairman and present Joint Secretary, Plantations, Union Commerce Ministry Santosh Sarangi, had said at a meeting here last week that the ministry had sought additional financial assistance from the Department of Expenditure to find “mechanisms to support the Darjeeling tea industry which had suffered for three-and-a-half months for extraneous reasons. We have received proposals from ITA and the Darjeeling Tea Association,” Mr. Sarangi said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Wheat Sowing Dips 6.23%, to Pick Up in Coming Weeks

Wheat sowing, which was lagging behind by 6.23% till last week of this rabi season, will pick up pace in the coming weeks, agriculture secretary S Pattanayak said ruling out any reduction in total acreage. Sowing of wheat, the main rabi crop, starts in October and harvesting begins in April. As per the official data, farmers had sown wheat in area covering 190.87 lakh hectares till last week of the season, down by 6.23% from 203.56 lakh hectares in the year- ago period. Normally wheat is sown in 300-odd lakh hectares of land. The sowing is lagging behind in key growing states UP, MP, Punjab and Haryana.

The Hindu, New Delhi
No WTO deal without food security: India

India has said it cannot envisage any negotiated outcome, at the ongoing meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s apex decision-making body, which does not include successful resolution of the food security right issue. In his address at the Plenary Session of the WTO Ministerial Conference (MC) in Buenos Aires, India’s commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu said, “… the permanent solution for public stockholding for food security purposes… is a matter of survival for 800 million hungry and undernourished people in the world.” He added, “A successful resolution of this issue would fulfil our collective commitment to the global community… we cannot envisage any negotiated outcome at the (Buenos Aires) MC, which does not include a permanent solution.” India has already made it clear that it will not accept a 'permanent solution' with onerous conditions that in turn make it very difficult for the (Indian) government or other developing countries to meet the food security needs of their people. Mr. Prabhu also said “India calls upon the WTO membership to re-endorse the centrality of development (the agenda to improve the trading prospects of developing nations) in WTO negotiations without creating new sub-categories of countries.” He said, “We are increasingly seeing that the discourse on development at the WTO is sought to be deflected by specious arguments based on aggregate GDP figures. While in India we are proud of our GDP and growth rates of recent years,... we cannot ignore that India is home to more than 600 million poor people.” The minister added that, therefore, “we (India) are legitimate demandeurs for special and differential treatment for developing countries.” This is in the context of attempts by certain rich countries to wreck the broad unity among developing nations on a host of issues.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Darjeeling small tea growers seek relief, too

Amid reports of the Centre considering a package for the GJM-strife hit Darjeeling tea industry small tea-growers in this region have urged the Tea Board to cover them under any relief measure, being contemplated by the government for large tea estates. Close to 880 small tea-growers cultivate about 192 hectares of land in the hilly region. They sell their green tea leaves to the big estates and were among the worst affected during this year’s three-and-a-half month strike in Darjeeling during the peak second-flush season in June. The second flush season in the May-July period yields some of the priciest teas. This crop, accounting for about 70% of total Darjeeling output, was affected by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s separatist agitation from mid–June to late-September. “Most small growers have already adopted organic cultivation methods and were hit by the strife,” said Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president, Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA). “They are registered growers and should be included in any revival package being considered for the large tea estates. This issue has been flagged before the Tea Board at its last meeting here,” he said. Darjeeling industry sources said that this segment’s output was around one lakh kg annually and they have been producing tea for about two decades. The small tea growers segment now accounts for about 45% of India’s total tea crop. Former Tea Board chairman and present Joint Secretary, Plantations, Union Commerce Ministry Santosh Sarangi, had said at a meeting here last week that the ministry had sought additional financial assistance from the Department of Expenditure to find “mechanisms to support the Darjeeling tea industry which had suffered for three-and-a-half months for extraneous reasons. We have received proposals from ITA and the Darjeeling Tea Association,” Mr. Sarangi said.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
First convocation of agri varsity tomorrow

The first convocation of the only agricultural university in Telangana Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) will be held on December 13 with 207 Post Graduate and Ph.D. students passing out. In all 970 Under Graduate students of 2014-’15 and 2015-’16 batches will also pass out. Of them 207 students from P.G. and PhD and 558 from Under Graduate courses will receive the degrees in person. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had ranked the university 12th out of 73 agricultural universities in the country. The university was also ranked third in South India. The PJTSAU has five agricultural colleges affiliated to it. A home science college and a food science and technology college are also affiliated to it. The passing out batches are those enrolled in 2014-’15 and 2015-16. Seventeen students will receive gold medals. The PJTSAU offers courses in agriculture, agriculture engineering and technology, home science and food sciences, among others. “Starting next year admissions to PG and Ph.D. courses in the university will be done as per ICAR’s national qualifying examination. Till this year the university used to conduct the examination,” said Mr. V. Praveen Rao, its Vice Chancellor. The university could accommodate students and also do research and development because it instituted administrative reforms in the very first year, Mr. Rao pointed out. “Libraries were digitised and three virtual classrooms were set up this year,” he said. In 2014 only three colleges were attached to the university. During the last three years two other agricultural colleges, one each at Palam, Nagar Kurnool and Warangal were added to the list. One food technology college also came up in Rudrur in Nizamabad, Mr. S. Sudheer Kumar, registrar of the university said.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Darjeeling small tea growers seek relief, too

Amid reports of the Centre considering a package for the GJM-strife hit Darjeeling tea industry small tea-growers in this region have urged the Tea Board to cover them under any relief measure, being contemplated by the government for large tea estates. Close to 880 small tea-growers cultivate about 192 hectares of land in the hilly region. They sell their green tea leaves to the big estates and were among the worst affected during this year’s three-and-a-half month strike in Darjeeling during the peak second-flush season in June. The second flush season in the May-July period yields some of the priciest teas. This crop, accounting for about 70% of total Darjeeling output, was affected by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s separatist agitation from mid–June to late-September. “Most small growers have already adopted organic cultivation methods and were hit by the strife,” said Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president, Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA). “They are registered growers and should be included in any revival package being considered for the large tea estates. This issue has been flagged before the Tea Board at its last meeting here,” he said. Darjeeling industry sources said that this segment’s output was around one lakh kg annually and they have been producing tea for about two decades. The small tea growers segment now accounts for about 45% of India’s total tea crop. Former Tea Board chairman and present Joint Secretary, Plantations, Union Commerce Ministry Santosh Sarangi, had said at a meeting here last week that the ministry had sought additional financial assistance from the Department of Expenditure to find “mechanisms to support the Darjeeling tea industry which had suffered for three-and-a-half months for extraneous reasons. We have received proposals from ITA and the Darjeeling Tea Association,” Mr. Sarangi said.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
NGT directs 11 states to attend meet on protecting indigenous cows

The National Green Tribunal has directed 11 states to participate in a meeting to frame a national policy to prevent the “rapid decline” in population of indigenous breeds of cattle across the country. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura governments to be present in the meeting. “Counsel appearing for the Ministry of Agriculture submits that other states except the above 11 were present in the meeting and some of them have also submitted action taken plan before the Ministry. “By way of last opportunity, we direct all the above states as well as other states to be present before the Commissioner, Department of Animal Husbandry, Ministry of Agriculture. The meeting shall be held on December 12,” the bench said. The NGT directed that a representative of the Ministry of Environment and Forests should also be present at the meeting. It said the report should be submitted in the tribunal before December 14 and posted the matter for hearing on December 15. The order came after advocate Sumeer Sodhi told the bench that 11 states have not submitted their action plan to the ministry for protection of the cows and not attended the earlier meeting. The green panel had earlier directed the Environment Ministry and the Department of Animal Husbandry, which falls under Agriculture Ministry, to hold a meeting with all states and UTs and come out with a common policy on the issue. It had noted that there was nearly 80% decline in the animal population in Kerala from 2003 to 2012 and claimed such a situation may lead to the extinction of the species in the state.

The Telegraph, Guwahati
$200m foreign funds for Assam solar plant

A Netherlands-based solar power company, producing lightweight and flexible solar modules, has offered to set up a plant in Assam at the cost of $200 million. The company, HyET Solar, said it was willing to invest $200 million to set up a plant to produce 200MW of solar power to benefit 20 lakh people. It also offered to tie up with local partners and financial institutions. The company will look at the possibility of technology transfers to local partners and the Assam government in the long run. Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal said the power department would look at the proposal and arrange a meeting with the company. A 32-member Dutch delegation, comprising the Netherlands ambassador to India, Alphonsus Stoelinga, trade and investment commissioner of the Netherlands to India Amlan Bora and representatives of 20 private companies based in Netherlands, are in the state for a two-day visit to look into opportunities in water management, healthcare and agriculture sectors. The Dutch have made their presence felt in the state for the last seven to eight years through the Ayursundra diagnostic centre and the Ayursundra super-speciality hospital in the city. Wageningen University is also carrying out joint work in supply-chain management in agriculture with the Assam Agriculture University at Jorhat. "Assam is not just blessed with natural beauty but also tremendous growth potential in sectors like healthcare and infrastructure. Through this visit, the Dutch government, alongside a delegation of companies from these sectors, take a step forward in substantiating lucrative partnerships with the Northeast. We had a fruitful discussion with Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and the participating companies like Phillips Healthcare, Arcadis, Ayursundra BV, Vital Health Software, HyET Solar and ICCO Cooperation made their pitch about their respective projects," said Stoelinga.

11, Dec 2017
The Hindu, Kolkata
Darjeeling small tea growers seek relief, too

Amid reports of the Centre considering a package for the GJM-strife hit Darjeeling tea industry small tea-growers in this region have urged the Tea Board to cover them under any relief measure, being contemplated by the government for large tea estates. Close to 880 small tea-growers cultivate about 192 hectares of land in the hilly region. They sell their green tea leaves to the big estates and were among the worst affected during this year’s three-and-a-half month strike in Darjeeling during the peak second-flush season in June. The second flush season in the May-July period yields some of the priciest teas. This crop, accounting for about 70% of total Darjeeling output, was affected by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s separatist agitation from mid–June to late-September. “Most small growers have already adopted organic cultivation methods and were hit by the strife,” said Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president, Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA). “They are registered growers and should be included in any revival package being considered for the large tea estates. This issue has been flagged before the Tea Board at its last meeting here,” he said. Darjeeling industry sources said that this segment’s output was around one lakh kg annually and they have been producing tea for about two decades. The small tea growers segment now accounts for about 45% of India’s total tea crop. Former Tea Board chairman and present Joint Secretary, Plantations, Union Commerce Ministry Santosh Sarangi, had said at a meeting here last week that the ministry had sought additional financial assistance from the Department of Expenditure to find “mechanisms to support the Darjeeling tea industry which had suffered for three-and-a-half months for extraneous reasons. We have received proposals from ITA and the Darjeeling Tea Association,” Mr. Sarangi said.

The Indian Express, Srinagar
Dry spell brings saffron crop down to record low

Saffron production in the Kashmir Valley is at a low of less than 1 tonne, “the lowest in the last 50 years”, the J&K Saffron Growers Association has said. The continuing dry spell in the valley has adversely affected saffron production. Growers stated that the yield this year has been less than 1 metric tonne from 3,200 hectares of land in Pampore, down from 15-17 metric tonnes per year. The president of the J&K Saffron Growers Association, Abdul Majeed, told that the crop suffered because of low moisture in the soil and little to no rainfall over the last four months. “We have produced less than one tonne of saffron this year and all saffron farmers have suffered losses because of this dry spell. It is the lowest in the last 50 years.” Saffron grows in four districts — Pulwama, Srinagar and Budgam in Kashmir and Kishtwar in Jammu. The growth of the saffron bulb, planted in the second or third week of August, depends heavily on availability of water in September, before it is harvested around the last week of October. Javed Ahmad Ganaie, a saffron grower in Samboora, Pampore, said even if the plant receives a minimum 24 hours’ rainfall once a month, that would suffice. “This year there was no rainfall, the bulb failed to grow,” Ganaie said. His saffron crop yield this year dropped 80 per cent. He is looking at a loss of approximately Rs 10 lakh. The current market price per kilogram of saffron is between Rs 1.75 lakh to Rs 2 lakh. As per the Meteorological department in September, October and November, Srinagar received a cumulative rainfall of 27 mm, which is a third of the normal, 96mm rain, for this period.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
If Rs 2 lakh+ loan, no waiver for farmers

Punjab’s farm loan waiver could be much less than the estimated Rs 9,500 crore, it is learnt. And that would mean a much lesser number than the projected 10 lakh farmers would benefit in the state. Officers in the state Agriculture and Finance Departments have confirmed to that small farmers (having landholding of less than 5 acres) who have availed of over Rs 2 lakh as crop loan will not be given any relief under the scheme. The notification on debt waiver clearly mentions that “... in case of small farmers, the entire eligible amount of those farmers who have a total outstanding crop loan liability up to Rs 2 lakh, shall be provided as debt relief...”. All marginal farmers (having landholding of less than 2.5 acres), however, will get the debt waiver of Rs 2 lakh, even in cases where the loan amount is over Rs 2 lakh. It may be mentioned that majority of small farmers have got crop loans of over Rs 2 lakh. Though a farmer can get up to Rs 40,000 per acre as crop loan or a maximum of Rs 2 lakh for 5 acres, farmers often avail loans from multiple banks. These farmers, having a crop loan of over Rs 2 lakh, will not be eligible for the debt waiver. Also, in many cases, the mutation of land has not been done despite the division of land in the family. The individual landholdings in such cases may be less than 5 acres, but these farmers too will be ineligible for the waiver/ relief. The notification says even those farmers who have pledged agriculture produce other than standing crop are excluded from the scheme, as are farmer societies/partnership firms who have got crop loans (from other than cooperative credit institutions).

Business Standard, Kolkata
India's agriculture export to Bhutan down 40%

For long, chillies from Faklakata town in West Bengal used to be a key ingredient at traditional dishes in Bhutan. In July 2016, the Bhutanese government banned their import, due to high chemical content. Notably, the ban was imposed after testing in a laboratory in Kolkata, which confirmed presence of pesticide residues beyond the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s limits. Bhutan has since lifted the ban. However, to move towards a healthy food economy, Bhutan has been more selective on food products from India. According to data from The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda), compared to the first five months of this financial year (April-August) over the same period last year, India’s food export to Bhutan is down 40 per cent in volume and 15 per cent in value this year (13,139 tonnes, from 18,572 tonnes; Rs 113 crore, from Rs 131 crore. India's agriculture export to Bhutan down 40% “Bhutan has been following a policy which aims to move towards healthy and nutritious food, if not organic. Farmers in the foothills in Bhutan have started growing chillies and are also sourcing it from other countries; they're moving towards self-sufficiency in food production,’’ said Arpita Mukherjee, professor, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations. While the European Union has been imposing bans on Indian food products, so have some in Asia. For instance, Vietnam had banned import of groundnut. India is Bhutan's largest trading partner. In 2016, bilateral trade was Rs 8,723 crore, with Rs 5,528 crore in import (82 per cent of Bhutan's total) and Rs 3,205 of export from there, about 90 per cent of Bhutan's total.

The Telegraph, Siliguri
October loss for hill tea

The production of Darjeeling Tea halved in October this year compared to the same month in 2016 as the sector couldn't grapple with cascading effect of the 104-day Gorkhaland shutdown that ended at September end. The data published by the Tea Board of India show plantations in the hills could manufacture .36 million kg of tea in October when the production resumed after the strike. "Tea production starts declining in October because of changes in weather. But this year, there was a sharp drop of around 50 per cent in the production in October compared to the same month in 2016. The production suffered because maintenance works could not be carried out in plantations and factories remained shut during the strike," said the manager of a garden in the hills. The planters had said earlier that the shutdown would have a long-term effect on the industry. "It is evident now as the production was 0.72 million kg in October 2016 and came down to 0.36 million kg in the same month in 2017," said the manager. The labour department has called a meeting to discuss the demand for minimum wages in the tea sector at Uttarkanya in Siliguri on December 22.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Phoenix looks to India to feed Africa as part of rice expansion

Food and resources company Phoenix Commodities will buy more rice from India as it expands its business in Africa to meet increasing demand. The company wants to boost its rice trading volumes to between 2 million tonnes and 2.2 million tonnes over the next three to four years, Chairman Gaurav Dhawan said. That compares with 1.5 million tonnes this year. The company says it is already one of the top three rice traders globally. Increasing incomes and changing food habits in Africa have created an opportunity for the company to increase sales of its flagship Happy Family brand rice, Dhawan said. Much of the planned increase in Phoenix's supply will come from India, the world's biggest exporter, he said. It will be supplemented by rice from Pakistan, Thailand and Vietnam. While global rice trading is dwarfed by corn and wheat, it is a staple food for more than half the world's population. Worldwide exports in 2018 will hold near this year's record 45.7 million tonnes, on expanding consumption in Africa and West Asia, the US Department of Agriculture estimated in November. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for about 30 per cent of global imports. Phoenix, which began as a rice trader in 2000, expects to generate $1.3 billion in annual rice sales over the next three to five years, Dhawan said. That compares with projected total revenue of $4 billion. It recently secured a S$275 million ($203 million) borrowing facility that will give it more flexibility to buy rice in Asia and distribute it in Africa. Phoenix looks to India to feed Africa as part of rice expansion The company plans to spend $300 million over the next five years, mostly on increasing processing and production, as well as expanding into farming in Africa, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, Dhawan said. Phoenix operates in 22 countries in 10 businesses.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
India on the verge of a looming soil crisis, say experts

India is on the verge of a looming soil crisis which can potentially impact its agriculture in the near future, says a report. A third of the total 350 million hectares has already turned problematic. Soil is turning either acidic, saline, sodic or alkaline. Tthe declining health of soil can have a big impact on agriculture productivity, sustainability and also human health, says a report brought out by a consortium of agriculture institutes. Soil is key to the ecosystem as it plays a vital role in carbon cycle and in storing and filtering water. The organic matter content, on an average, has gone down to a critical level of 0.3-0.5 per cent and several micro-nutrient deficiencies are surfacing in different parts of the country, the report observed on the occasion of World Soil Day. For India, which has over 17 per cent of the world population with limited land resources, the present situation warrants immediate attention and urgent remedial measures. A national policy should be framed to address the critical issue, suggested MANAGE (National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management), one of the institutes in the consortia. According to VP Sharma, Director - Information Technology, Documentation and Publication, MANAGAE, and other contributors, the Centre has been adequately briefed about the evolving situation. Countries such as Germany and Kenya have national soil policies. Two institutes — Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun, and Indian Institute of Soil Sciences, Bhopal — are involved in studying some aspects of soil. Giving an example of the emerging crisis, Sarma said the carbon content in soil is less than 1 per cent in plains and around 2 per cent in hills States in India, compared with the world average of 4 per cent. The increasing salinity and decreasing carbon content do not bode well for the future of agriculture.

10, Dec 2017
Business Line, Hyderabad
CCI e-pays Rs 556 crore to Telangana’s cotton farmers

The online payment mechanism for cotton farmers introduced by the Telangana government this season has caught on. The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has so far made payments of Rs 556 crore via this route for the produce it purchased from farmers in the State. The State’s Agriculture Marketing Department has introduced a software at the collection centres and asked farmers to register their names and provide bank account and identification details. “We have introduced the software this year. We have witnessed purchases worth Rs 556 crore by the CCI,” a statement from the Department said. As many as 44 marketyards in the State were brought under the e-NAM (National Agriculture Market) umbrella, which would help farmers find better price for their produce, it said. The State government is expecting a total turnover of Rs 30,000 crore through transactions between traders and commission agents this year.

Business Line, Mumbai
Cyclone Ockhi wreaks havoc on Maharashtra’s table grapes

Heavy rains accompanying Cyclone Ockhi have affected crops in northern Maharashtra. In Nashik district, up to 50 per cent of the table grape crop in some areas has been damaged. In the last seven years, Nashik and surrounding areas have suffered severe crop damage on four occasions due to hailstorms and untimely rains in winter. Jagadish Holkar, former Chairman of the Indian Grape Processing Board, told that early assessment has shown that table grape varieties have suffered extensive damage. The extent of crop damage is between 20 and 50 per cent. Farmers who had pruned their grape vines before October 15 have suffered more damage. Pruning of vines helps flowering and fruit-setting, but untimely rains have affected this process, he said. Rainwater, Holkar said, cracks grapes in the cluster. Even if one grape is cracked, fungus can build up. On the other hand, wine grapes have not been affected as those varieties can withstand such rain, which, on the contrary, helps produce better-quality grapes. An officer of the State Agriculture Department said that among all the crops, table grapes have been the worst affected. Tomato, onions and green gram, too, suffered some damage but not to this extent. A number of supporting businesses such as raisins and juice-making are dependent on table grapes. The whole business cycle will now get affected, the officer added.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Cyclone Ockhi has not caused much damage to crops: Agri Secy

The impact of cyclone Ockhi on crops so far has not been significant in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other coastal areas, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said. However, the coastal states/UTs have been asked to assess the damage and send a detailed report to the centre. The extent of damage would be known after the assessment, he said. "The damage on crops has been slightly, not much. The cyclone has fizzled out by the time it reached Gujarat. We are still assessing the damage," Pattanayak said. There has not been significant impact on crops in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and parts of Maharashtra. "However, we have alerted them to send a detailed report," he said. Last week, cyclone Ockhi battered the coastal areas of the southern states, flooding farmland and damaging houses. The cyclone storm brought heavy rains and some areas suffered extensive crop damage due to strong wind that uprooted coconut trees and other plantation crops. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Ockhi has weakened into a deep depression early this morning and lay centred over west-central part of Bay of Bengal near Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. "It is likely to maintain intensity of deep depression for about 12 hours and weaken gradually into a depression during subsequent 12 hours," it said in a statement. IMD said it is very likely to move north-northwestwards and reach north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha coasts around December 9 morning as a depression, it added.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Engineers have a crucial role to play in transforming agri sector: Assam CM

“To make Assam one of the top states in the country in agriculture, both the agriculture and irrigation departments must work hand in hand so that the farmers in the State get motivated to work doubly hard. The new generation of engineers of the departments have a crucial role to play to bring about transformation in the agriculture sector of the State.” Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said this while taking part in a programme for distributing appointment letters to 122 junior engineers in the irrigation department at the PWD Convention and Training Centre in the city. Urging the newly appointed junior engineers to prove their capabilities in the field as they have earned the opportunity to serve the department through a transparent selection process conducted by APSC, Sonowal said they must go beyond their mandate of only providing water to the farming fields by making an effort to understand the problems faced by farmers. Stressing that the fertile lands of the State must be utilised properly by adopting modern farming methods and by opting for double and triple cropping, Sonowal said the farmers must be made aware about taking advantage of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious schemes like Soil Health Card, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) – Crop Insurance, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana etc. He also said that tractors to be distributed in each of the 26,000 villages of the State under Chief Minister Samagra Gramya Unnayan Yojna (CMSGUY) would bring about a huge positive change in the rural economy of the State and would result in increased productivity. Stating that only deeds and not words would bring change to the State, the Chief Minister said the State government is earnestly working towards realising the tourism potential and making the State a gateway to South East Asia by expanding the State capital region.

The Asian Age, Guwahati
Imports hurting kiwi growers in Northeast

India imports 4,000 tonnes of kiwi fruit from New Zealand, Italy and Chile annually, but farmers in frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh, who have been growing kiwis for decades, are struggling to find buyers and forced to sell their produce at 30 per cent lower than the price commanded by the multinationals. However, some local entrepreneurs have come together to launch the first organic kiwi wine of the country in an attempt to keep kiwi farming profitable and prevent farmers from running into losses due to rotting of produce. The idea behind launching a winery is to bridge the consumer-producer gap and thereby encourage the farmers to continue the framing of kiwis. Arunachal Pradesh industry minister Tamiyo Taga, who recently launched the winery, said, “This winery is a blessing in disguise for the farmers. Now migrating to horticulture at the foothills of the Valley will augment the economy of farmers. The marketing and storage woes will be addressed by the winery.” The first organic kiwi winery in the world is in Switzerland. Technologies was imported from Denmark for the winery and China provided its best bottles, in which the wine was packed. Those engaged in trading the state’s kiwis said, “The fruit is still struggling to regain toehold in the market; ironically, there are no takers as long they’re identified as locally sourced and cheaper to boot. Fruit wholesalers, therefore, have hit upon a novel idea clear domestic kiwi stock and make more money. They sell them under a foreign label at prices commanded by the imported fruit.” However, they admit that this is not going to help the kiwi farmers of Arunachal Pradesh.

Business Line, Kolkata
Insurance firms see rich pickings in crop cover

Crop insurance has emerged as the third-largest line of business for the insurance industry, after motor and health, contributing 16 per cent of its total general insurance premium of Rs 1,28,000 crore in FY17. The Centre’s flagship crop insurance scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), has played a significant role in this shift. Indeed, the share of crop insurance may increase further, and very rapidly, as the Centre has increased the insurable crop coverage from 30 per cent to 40 per cent this year and is scheduled to increase it to 50 per cent in the next Budget. The increase in coverage limit has a proportional impact on premium. “From Rs 21,000 crore in FY17, crop insurance premium is expected to increase to Rs 25,000-26,000 crore this year,” K Sanath Kumar, CMD of State-owned National Insurance Company told. However, while an increase in crop coverage and a subsequent rise in premium is music to the industry’s ears, assessing and settling claims is a highly complex and risky exercise. While the risks are fairly well defined and insurers have a relatively easy job in assessing the claims ratio for health and motor insurance, the rules of game are different in crop insurance, which is retail in nature, with the fate of the farmer’s crop linked to climatic and other regional risks. The bottomline is that companies have to devise their own risk management practices; the better the risk management, the higher the chance of survival. Earlier, for instance, insurers depended on the archaic practice of sample harvesting to determine the yield of a region. Today, they are leaning more and more on modern technology. ICICI Lombard is also experimenting with drones, said Sanjay Datta, Chief–Underwriting & Claims.

Business Line, Kochi
Manarcadu society unveils organic dried-fruits brand

Targeting the burgeoning domestic market, Manarcadu Social Service Society (MASS) — a first-of-its-kind farmers’ cooperative in Kerala — has introduced a new brand of dried-fruits. Branded as ‘Only Organic’, the five varieties of dry-fruits comprise jack fruit, mango, green mango, papaya and gooseberry. Marketed as sugar-free products, all these varieties were launched at the recently-concluded Organic World Congress in Greater Noida. According to Bijumon Kurian, President, MASS, all the fruits are collected from 5,000 plus farmer-members of the Society scattered across the hill tracts of Kerala, and are processed at the factories of Plantrich Agritech, the promoter of MASS. The Society was incorporated in 2001 as a farmer cooperative by Plantrich to enable small and medium farmers, especially coffee growers, to ensure better market price for their produce, and sustainable business linkages. Currently, MASS produces 12 Fairtrade certified-products such as cocoa, cinnamon, black pepper, white pepper, vanilla, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, coconut and pineapple. MASS was instrumental in empowering farmers to achieve organic certification and export their produceto Europe keeping Fairtrade and organic standards.

Business Line, New Delhi
Rabi wheat, oilseeds acreage down

The slow pace of sowing in the major wheat-growing States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana has pulled the total area under the crop to 190.87 lakh hectares (lh) — 6.24 per cent lower than 203.56 lh during the corresponding period last year, data released by the Agriculture Ministry showed. The total area under rabi crops was down just just over 1 per cent than the same period last year, thanks to the surge in the acreage of pulses and rice. The total area under rabi crops stood at 442.29 lh compared to 448.48 lh year-on-year basis. An impressive increase in the area under pulses in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, took the pulses acreage to 127.62 lh — 6.6 per cent more than last year. Significantly, Tamil Nadu, which received ample rain in the last two months, accounted for nearly 80 per cent of the total area under rice cultivation so far this year. Of the total 11.87 lh area under rice cultivation, close to 10 lh was reported from the State. Oilseeds continued to be a laggard with the total area of cultivation inching to 67.79 lh, which is 6 per cent lower than the previous year’s 72.16 lh. The shortfall was due to a 6.59-lh drop in Rajasthan. But a marginal increase reported from Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh could lift the total acreage to the previous year’s levels. Coarse cereals’ coverage stood at 44.14 lh, marginally higher than the 44.05 lh planted in the same period last year.

The Assam Tribune, Agartala
Tea production likely to dip in Tripura

With barely few months for ending of season, tea production of Tripura is likely to witness a decline in spite of record breaking rainfall, one of the key factors for good crop, feel experts.In the last year 2015-16, the State registered a record production of 9.6 million MT of finished tea despite ‘hostile situation’. And, local tea planters seemed upbeat over good crop and price in the auction markets. Some tea planters have got at par Cachar tea price bringing cheers to the tea estates. But this year, tea planters are worried over the production of crop in various tea gardens across the State. According an advisory bulletin released by Tea Board of India (TBI), the State will record an average 8-10.6 per cent downfall in tea production due to untimely showers and shortage of sunny days. “Well, there had been heavy shower from April leading to shortage of required number of sunny days. For good crop, adequate number of sunny days are required, which was missing since April”, pointed out an expert associated with tea research and advisory works. He further said, “Early rainfall is required for normal growth of tea plants but this year there was no rainfall in the months of January and February that affects the normal crop”. However, the experts hoped State’s tea industry will witness ‘acche din’ for the next five to six years as tea planters have already embraced various scientific steps to raise tea production. Plants normally produce good crop for 30/40 years and then start declining both in production and productivity barring a few cases. “In normal procedure, we prescribe uprooting and replanting for a garden after 30/40 years in a phased manner. If tea planters bank on scientific method, the industry will grow automatically as the State can produce good quality finished tea as it has done last year”, he opined.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Tomato crisis to persist for some more time

Tomato prices have refused to come down and horticulturists say it might take another three to four weeks for the prices to cool off when the local varieties come to the market. Tomato prices have remained firm around Rs 80 a kg for more than a month now. Besides tomato, prices of some other winter vegetables had also shot up, but they have started to come down now. “Cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, capsicum etc., are winter vegetables. The Rabi crop season starts in October and lasts till March. But this year, untimely heavy rains have taken a toll on the winter vegetables,” Jayanta Kalita, scientist at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Kahikuchi told. He said the tomato crop is very sensitive to water. “There had been heavy rains between September-end and mid-October. This is the time when the cultivation of tomato begins. Normally, the tomato crop is grown early and the products are available in the markets by November-end. However, most of the crop was destroyed in the rains and farmers had to wait till the rains stopped to cultivate it again,” Kalita said. Tomatoes now sold in markets are from protected cultivation areas like in pockets of Kharupetia, Shillong etc. “A few farmers cultivate it under sheds. Those have survived,” he said.

09, Dec 2017
The Telegraph, Kolkata
Darjeeling tea awaits grant

The Union commerce ministry is pushing for a financial assistance package for the ailing Darjeeling tea industry, which was forced to remain closed for 104 days because of political turmoil in the hills. Based on a plea from planters, the ministry has sought help from North Block in the form of a one-time grant to clean the gardens and prune the bushes. The Darjeeling tea industry lost 5 million kg, including the world famous "second flush" crop, with losses estimated at over Rs 700 crore. Santosh Sarangi, joint secretary (plantations) with the commerce ministry - the administrative ministry of the Tea Board, the regulator, said the department of expenditure under the ministry of finance was working out the final contours of the rejuvenation package. "This is going to be an extra budgetary allocation because such a situation was not foreseen. I do not want to put a number or the method of disbursement," Sarangi said on the sidelines of the 134th annual general meeting of the Indian Tea Association (ITA). The Darjeeling Tea Association had asked for a financial package of Rs 320 crore for maintenance. However, the Tea Board considered the amount as too high and worked out an assistance of Rs 100 crore, which has now been put forward to the finance ministry. "Gardens in Darjeeling spend around Rs 1.8 lakh per hectare in a full year for maintenance activity. The package will work out to one-third of that since the gardens were closed for a brief per iod," Tea Board chairman Prabhat Bezbaruah said. DTA secretary Kaushik Ghosh said the closure has wrecked the financials of the gardens. "The industry paid around Rs 60 crore of bonus after gardens reopened in October despite having lost out on production of the major crop (second flush). Owners are now fully stretched to meet salary obligations, leave alone taking up maintenance activities," he said.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Govt may Help Organic Farmers Tie up with Etailers

The agriculture ministry is discussing a proposal to help organic farmers’ organisations tie up with ecommerce companies with state government help, according to a senior official. In the absence of a dedicated marketing channel in the country for certified organic farm produce — cultivation of which is thinly distributed across the country — the proposal is seen boosting farmers’ income and helping firms like Amazon, BigBasket and Grofers maintain steady supply of these food items. “We are planning to call companies and e-commerce food retail chains like Amazon, Grofers, BigBasket, and based on their requirement link them to states where organic farming is being done and FPOs,” said the agriculture ministry official, requesting not to be named. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been stressing on the need to increase acreage under organic farming in order to empower farmers and help boost their returns. At present, only 2.25 million hectares is under organic farming, compared with the government’s target of covering 14 million hectares by 2025. Albinder Dhindsa cofounder of Grofers, said supply inconsistency and high prices are the challenges faced in the procurement of organic produce in the country. He said with growing health awareness, consumers are willing to buy organic food, but doubt whether the produce is worth the price. “If the government can help bridge this gap for organic produce, it would be the best thing to happen to farmers. This would not just solve the problem for customers but also make the farmer's life much more comfortable,” said Dhindsa. “Assured demand will help them improve efficiency and offer better prices, making the merchandise more affordable. With better affordability, there will be higher demand, fuelling growth in this business.”

The Tribune, Mumbai
Maha waives loans of 41 lakh farmers

The Maharashtra Government claims to have waived the loans of 41 lakh farmers and disbursed nearly Rs 20,000 crore over the past few days after doing away with the need to link farmers’ Aadhaar cards to their bank accounts. Data released by the government suggests farm loans to the tune of Rs 14,864 crore had been waived and another Rs 4,673 crore were forfeited under a one-time settlement scheme for farmers. The waiver comes days after the government lifted the requirement to link of Aadhaar cards to bank accounts. Several banks, both public and co-operative sector, had linked multiple farm loan accounts, in some cases more than a hundred, to a single Aadhaar card number since the number had not been collected from farmers at the time of disbursal of loans. In many cases, bank employees had entered random numbers in the column meant for Aadhaar numbers. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier said the linkage of Aadhaar cards with bank accounts was essential for disbursal of farm loans in order to remove the names of bogus beneficiaries. Under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, farmers will have loans up to Rs 1.5 lakh waived. The beneficiaries are being given a certificate to the effect by the lending banks. This will enable the farmers to apply for fresh loans, an official from the state co-operative department said.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Soil Health Cards distributed among farmers

Farmers were distributed Soil Health Cards during a programme by Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Jammu, in collaboration with Department of Agriculture and sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare in Jammu here. Daljit Singh, Vice Chairman Jammu and Kashmir State Advisory Board for Development of Kisans was chief guest on the occasion and Dr Gagan Bhagat, MLA R S Pura was the guest of honour on the occasion. The programme was attended by more than 300 farmers who took pledge along with the guests, scientists and department officers to work for improving soil health. Speaking on the occasion, Daljit Singh stressed for creating awareness about soil health among farmers. He suggested enhancing KVK activities in villages for mobilization of farmers towards indiscriminate exploitation of soil and will ask others to oppose the same. Dr Gagan Bhagat informed that the Soil Health Card Scheme, sponsored by Union Government, is being launched for farmers to achieve higher production and income in sustainable manner. He suggested that today’s farmer must be equipped with latest technologies and should become an entrepreneur rather than being dependent on existing resources. Susheel Sahani, Director Enforcement J&K Government, and nodal officer Soil Health Card Scheme, highlighted efforts done by his department for Soil Health Card Scheme. Prof R K Arora, Associate Director Extension and I/C KVKs, put light on the activities of KVKs under SKUAST Jammu and urged the scientists and officers to work in tandem for overall development of agriculture and farmers in the district. Function was attended by Naresh Dubey, CAO Jammu; Mukesh Khajuria Sub-division Agriculture officer R S Pura; Ashwani Kotwal, Asst Soil Chemist and Research Assistant Neeraj Rajwal, AEOs and other officers/field functionaries of Agriculture Department. Dr Vikas Tandon, Senior Scientist and Head KVK R S Pura, Jammu presented the vote of thanks. More than one hundred farmers were distributed Soil Health Cards in the function.

Business Line, New Delhi
Sugar mills offer record 113-cr litres of ethanol for blending

Public sector oil marketing companies (OMCs) have accepted bids from sugar mills and ethanol manufacturers to supply 113 crore litres of ethanol worth about Rs 4,500 crore during the 2017-18 (December to November) season. This was 70 per cent higher than the previous season’s 66 crore litres, said Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). Though sugar mills and ethanol makers submitted bids for a total quantity of 155 crore litres, the finalised bids were only for 113 crore litres as some oil depots received proposals for more than 10 per cent permitted blending and thus had to accept bids in a proportionate manner, it said. At 113 crore litres, this year’s proposed supply target is a tad better than the best ever ethanol supplies of 111 crore litres made in 2015-16, the ISMA said. If India has to blend the total petrol consumed in the country with 10 per cent ethanol, the total biofuel required is 313 crore litres. The government in September announced an ex-distillery price of Rs 40.85 for every litre of ethanol supplied under the ethanol blending programme. While sugar companies and ethanol manufacturers in UP would 44.3 crore litres of biofuel, those in Maharashtra have won contracts for 40.3 crore litres. The apex body of sugar industry, however, hoped that there would soon be a second tender for ethanol supply, helping those with excess capacity and others to participate.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Cyclone Ockhi has not caused much damage to crops: Agriculture Secretary

The impact of cyclone Ockhi on crops so far has not been significant in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other coastal areas, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said. However, the coastal states/UTs have been asked to assess the damage and send a detailed report to the centre. The extent of damage would be known after the assessment, he said. “The damage on crops has been slightly, not much. The cyclone has fizzled out by the time it reached Gujarat. We are still assessing the damage,” Pattanayak told. There has not been significant impact on crops in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and parts of Maharashtra. “However, we have alerted them to send a detailed report,” he said. Last week, cyclone Ockhi battered the coastal areas of the southern states, flooding farmland and damaging houses. The cyclone storm brought heavy rains and some areas suffered extensive crop damage due to strong wind that uprooted coconut trees and other plantation crops. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Ockhi has weakened into a deep depression early this morning and lay centred over west-central part of Bay of Bengal near Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.“It is likely to maintain intensity of deep depression for about 12 hours and weaken gradually into a depression during subsequent 12 hours,” it said in a statement. IMD said it is very likely to move north-northwestwards and reach north Andhra Pradesh and south Odisha coasts around December 9 morning as a depression, it added.

The Telegraph, Guwahati
Tractor aid to boost agriculture income

The Assam agriculture department will distribute 10,119 tractors among self-help groups as part of its mission to double agricultural income by 2022. "We will distribute 10,119 tractors among self-help groups at the College of Veterinary Science playground at Khanapara here on December 10, the day Swahid Diwas (Martyrs' Day) is observed to commemorate the killing of Khargeswar Talukdar during the Assam Agitation," agriculture minister Atul Bora said. The distribution will continue in phases during the run-up to the panchayat polls to be held early next year. The department has set a target to distribute one tractor each to 26,000 revenue villages across the state. It had sought applications from the self-help groups of the villages. "We have received 25,700 applications, including one application each from 10,139 villages, two each from 3,444 villages, three each from 1,231 villages and more than three from each of 793 villages," Bora said. He added that 7,025 villages did not apply for the scheme. The minister said they would reopen the application process to expand the benefit of the scheme to these villages. The scheme of distributing tractors aimed at doubling farm income of villagers by 2022, the year the country will complete 75 years of Independence. The state government had earlier announced that it would spend Rs 1 crore in each village to achieve the goal to boost rural income. It has earmarked Rs 1,450 crore for the tractor distribution scheme alone. Bora said the 5th edition of the International Agri Horti Show will be organised at Chowkidinghee field in Dibrugarh from January 5 to 8. "The production of paddy was good this year and we hope that the yield will touch government's estimated limit of 88.43 lakh metric tonnes (MT). Paddy production in Assam in 2016-17 was 83.93MT and in 2015-16, it was 80.03MT."

08, Dec 2017
Free Press Journa, Mumbai
9 lakh farmers get loan waiver reimbursement of Rs 5,141 crore

The banks, after due verification, have so far deposited Rs 5,141 crore of the loan waiver in bank accounts of 9.43 lakh farmers under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana (CSMSSY). The government has handed over the Green List of 17.68 lakh farmers and transferred Rs 10,332 crore to the banks and the disbursal of this loan amount shall pick up speed in coming days. Minister for Revenue Chandrakant Patil, while commenting on the ‘dharna’ agitation of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha in Akola, remarked had Sinha watched his televised interaction with the media, the former Union finance minister would realise that the government has already begun implementation of the loan waiver scheme. He added that Sinha would realise that there was no need for him to continue with his agitation. Patil said, “In next 10 days the government expects to clear the list of 40 to 48 lakh farmers. The speed of clearing the Green List and disbursal of the loan waiver amounts will pick up speed after due verification is done.” He added, “In respect of loan waiver of those farmers who were regular in repayment of loan amounts and incentive scheme for them, the government will soon take a decision in regards to these 40 lakh farmers. Overall about 80 to 82 lakh farmers are expected to get the benefit of the loan waiver scheme.” Replying to queries over the delays in depositing loan waiver amounts in farmers’ bank accounts, Patil said, “The data collected by the nationalised banks was faulty as they had outsourced the data collection. The data had several flaws and the software did not match with the government software, the same was not accepted.”

Free Press Journa, Mumbai
9 lakh farmers get loan waiver reimbursement of Rs 5,141 crore

The banks, after due verification, have so far deposited Rs 5,141 crore of the loan waiver in bank accounts of 9.43 lakh farmers under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana (CSMSSY). The government has handed over the Green List of 17.68 lakh farmers and transferred Rs 10,332 crore to the banks and the disbursal of this loan amount shall pick up speed in coming days. Minister for Revenue Chandrakant Patil, while commenting on the ‘dharna’ agitation of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha in Akola, remarked had Sinha watched his televised interaction with the media, the former Union finance minister would realise that the government has already begun implementation of the loan waiver scheme. He added that Sinha would realise that there was no need for him to continue with his agitation. Patil said, “In next 10 days the government expects to clear the list of 40 to 48 lakh farmers. The speed of clearing the Green List and disbursal of the loan waiver amounts will pick up speed after due verification is done.” He added, “In respect of loan waiver of those farmers who were regular in repayment of loan amounts and incentive scheme for them, the government will soon take a decision in regards to these 40 lakh farmers. Overall about 80 to 82 lakh farmers are expected to get the benefit of the loan waiver scheme.” Replying to queries over the delays in depositing loan waiver amounts in farmers’ bank accounts, Patil said, “The data collected by the nationalised banks was faulty as they had outsourced the data collection. The data had several flaws and the software did not match with the government software, the same was not accepted.”

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre comes to aid of domestic pepper growers, approves floor price for imports

To protect domestic pepper growers against a surge in imports possibly originating from South-East Asia, especially Vietnam, the government has approved a proposal from the Spices Board for imposing a minimum import price (MIP) of Rs 500/kg on the spice. “Decline in the domestic pepper price due to cheaper import from other origins has been a major concern among pepper growers. Pepper prices have gone down by nearly 35 per cent in one year and have resulted in a lot of hardship for pepper growers,” a release from the Commerce & Industry Ministry pointed out. Pepper, which ruled at over Rs 700 per kg last year, is now trading at slightly above Rs 400 spelling doom for domestic growers. There are apprehensions that since most of the pepper-producing countries are in the ASEAN region, pepper from the region is being routed through Sri Lanka taking advantage of lower duty under SAFTA (South Asia FTA) and India-Sri Lanka FTA, the release said. Farmers’ associations have been demanding that the government must take stringent measures, including fixing of MIP, to prevent cheaper imports of pepper into the country from other origins. The Indian Pepper and Spice Trade Association (IPSTA) had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Commerce Ministry earlier this year requesting a MIP on pepper to check imports from Vietnam which is likely to have a robust produce in 2017. Fixing of MIP will help in improving the domestic price particularly when the harvesting season of pepper is fast approaching, the release added.

The Economic Times, Pune
Cotton Prices Rise with Pak Open to Imports from India

Pakistan’s decision to open its doors to Indian cotton has driven up prices in the domestic market during the past one week. Concerns over Indian cotton production and quality of the crop — more than half the cotton acreage in Maharashtra has been affected by pink boll worm attack — had already set world cotton prices rising. Indian exporters have started contracting cotton export to Pakistan since last week. “Market sentiments have changed as Pakistan has opened up import doors to Indian cotton. Due to concerns over quality of the crop, there’s likely to be shortage of good quality cotton,” said BS Rajpal, Maharashtra-based ginner. According to trade sources, cotton prices have increased by about Rs 500/candy of 356/kg to Rs 37,500/candy to Rs 38,500/candy for good quality cotton during the past fortnight. Even before opening up of exports to Pakistan, the market had started responding to the growing incidence of pink boll worm. According to the preliminary survey carried out by the agricultural department of Maharashtra, 28 lakh hectares, which is 66% of the total 42 lakh hectares area sown under cotton, has been infested with pink boll worm pest. Though neither the state government nor the trade has assessed the impact of the pest on production, off the record they claim that it may fall below 375 lakh bales of 170 kg each. “Along with export demand from Pakistan, cotton demand from domestic millers has also increased as summer season is coming and mills have started working at full capacity. Post Diwali, mills begin cotton procurement, which started a little late this year,” said J Thulasidharn, president, Indian Cotton Federation.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Fertiliser firms rally on hope of GST rate cut on raw materials

Madras Fertilizers, National Fertilizer, other fertiliser makers gained 1 to 5 per cent on hopes over the government’s plan to cut duties on some fertiliser inputs. India fertilizers ministry is likely to seek a cut in goods and services tax (GST) on ammonia and phosphoric acid from the current 18 per cent. The fertiliser industry has demanded reduction of tax on ammonia and phosphoric acid after GST on one of the fertiliser raw materials Sulphur was reduced to 5 per cent from 18 per cent. Ananth Kumar, Union fertiliser minister, said fertiliser subsidy arrear reduced to Rs 230 billion and more funds may be sought from the finance ministry to clear the backlog completely. The backlog of subsidy, which was Rs 440 billion in 2014, has been reduced to Rs 230 billion. The direct benefit transfer (DBT) for fertiliser subsidy, which is being implemented in some states, will be rolled out across the co­untry from April 1, Kumar added. In the pre-GST regime, fertilisers attracted 4-8 per cent indirect tax depending on the raw materials used and the states in which the products were sold. The concerns mainly revolve around the urea fertiliser industry, where both prices and production capacities are regulated by the government. With losses being incurred by urea plants, the government is considering revision of fixed cost of urea and giving amnesty to meet the energy norm. Fixed cost of urea has not been revised for last 15 years, due to which the companies have been incurring losses. The last revision was done way back in 2002. Also, urea plants have to meet energy norms from April onwards and as a result some plants are shut to undertake energy efficiency exercise. This has been affecting urea production. India produces 24 million tons of urea and imports 6-7 million tons to meet the gap.

Mint, Mumbai
Five months on, debt relief for only 1.7 mn Maharashtra farmers

When Maharashtra’s mega farm loan waiver was announced in June, it was initially planned to help 8.9 million indebted farmers. This was later wound down to cover 5.6 million farmers. Five months on, it has managed to reach just 1.7 million. State minister for co-operation Subhash Deshmukh said that the state government has released Rs10,332 crore to banks for more than 1.7 million farmers. Of this, banks have scrutinized 943,000 accounts and had deposited Rs5,143 crore in those accounts till 5 December afternoon, Deshmukh said at the Mantralaya or state secretariat. The minister, whose department of co-operation is the main government agency implementing the loan waiver, admitted to delays and problems in reaching the benefits to eligible farmers. “But we have been able to sort out most of the problems that cropped up at the initial stages and now, the implementation has gathered pace. Each day, more than one lakh farmers are getting the benefits transferred to their accounts. We will soon cover all eligible farmers,” Deshmukh said. He heads a ministerial sub-committee formed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to implement the loan waiver. Announced on 24 June by Fadnavis after an unprecedented farmers’ strike in Ahmednagar, Nashik, and Western Maharashtra, the Rs34,022 crore farm loan waiver has had a bumpy ride. Fadnavis called the loan waiver “a historic” one for its scale. To be sure, the online application system—which asked the farmers to quote their bank account numbers and Aadhaar—helped the state government weed out nearly 2 million bogus accounts. The government also discovered another 1.5 million names of farmers who did not meet the eligibility criteria—some of these were found not exclusively dependent on farming and some were ineligible government employees or elected representatives. Finally, multiple levels of scrutiny applied by government departments identified 5.6 million eligible applicants who quoted 7.7 million bank accounts.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Govt 'agrees' to give fertiliser dealership to farmers' groups

In a major move aimed at doubling the income of farmers by 2022, the government has agreed 'in principle' to give license of selling fertiliser to farmer producer organizations (FPOs). The move, according to government officials, would help in reducing the input cost as farmers associated with FPOs would get fertilisers at lesser price. "As per the business module, dealers get commission on the sale of every bag of fertiliser and when FPOs would start getting the fertiliser directly from manufactures; it would be very cost-effective for its members — the farmers," a senior official said, adding that every FPO has at 800-1,000 members, who are either small or marginal farmer. "The government is aggressively working in the direction to reduce input cost and eliminate involvement of middlemen in trading of agricultural produce. The motive is to provide direct access to the market to farmers so that they could get more price of their produce," the official said. "The Ministry of Chemical and Fertilisers has agreed to provide dealership to FPOs promoted by Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) after a proposal was submitted by the SFAC in this regard," the official said, adding that final notification would be made after a few rounds of consultation with other stakeholders. There are 750 FPO formed and out of which around 675 FPOs are operational and the SFAC has been able to promote about 8 lakh smaller and marginal. "The cost of a 50-kg bag of fertiliser ranges varies from Rs 270 to Rs 1,150, which include a commission to dealers. If farmers start getting fertilisers at factory price, the cost of a bag of fertiliser would certainly come down to Rs 200 or lesser than that," the official said.

Business Line, Kochi
Growers welcome move

The decision of the Union Commerce Ministry to fix the minimum import price for black pepper at Rs 500 a kg has been welcomed by the growers. Vishwanath KK, coordinator of the consortium of pepper growers’ organisation, told that he is happy that the Central government is listening to the farmers. On November 21, representatives from consortium of pepper growers’ organisations had met the Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, and urged the Centre to regulate and restrict the import of black pepper into the country. Konkodi Padmanabha, convenor of the consortium, said that many farmers will be benefited by this move of the Centre. The consortium had urged the Minister to fix minimum import price for pepper at $8,000 a tonne. SR Satishchandra, President of the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd, said this move will help improve the market condition in the country. (Campco is a member of the consortium). In recent times, decline in the domestic pepper price due to cheaper import of pepper from other origins has been a major concern among pepper growers. Spot prices fell by Rs 200 a quintal to Rs 37,900 (ungarbled) and Rs 39,900 (garbled). Export prices were at $6,450 a tonne c&f for Europe and $6,700 for the US.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha agri board to develop 207 acres into export development zones

The Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) has decided to develop around 207 acres of land parcels in its possession at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust( JNPT), Thane and Nashik into export development zones. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting headed by Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh. MSAMB has some 15 acres of land at JNPT in Mumbai, 92 acres in Thane and 100 acres in Nashik . The minister said the land will be developed into export zones taking into account export requirements of the state in the coming 25-30 years. Sunil Pawar, MD, MSAMB said that an attempt would be made to provide infrastructure after taking all stakeholders into confidence. PP Waghmare, assistant GM (APEDA) said that with the opening of Iran’s Chabhar port, the distance between India and Russia has been reduced to 25 days instead of 40 days earlier. This would help the country gain a foothold into a big market like Russia, he added. At present containers are left lying at the airport for weeks because of the huge rush and backlog at JNPT. Waghamare alow outlined that temporary electricity has to be provided to ensure air conditioning for these containers which contain perishable goods. Since the facilities are temporary, the quality of goods in the containers is affected and at many times, the exporters do not receive full payment, Waghmare said. This, in turn, affects future orders and farmers do not receive payments for their goods. Exporters demanded an area for stuffing containers, pack houses, cold storage and planning centres at the site so that containers are shipped to overseas markets in the shortest possible time. Thane is considered ideal for shipping goods by air and sea, exporters said, demanding facilities for packing, grading, precooling, cold storage, container stuffing and customs clearing for commodities such as onion.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Output sweetener for sugar mills

Sugar production has jumped 42 per cent in the first two months of the 2017-18 marketing year, starting October. Mills are expecting an improved offtake in the coming months amid expectations of the government bringing down the stockholding limit for traders. According to data from the Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma), production till November 30 stood at 39.51 lakh tonnes compared with 27.82 lakh tonnes in the corresponding period previous year. As many as 443 mills were crushing sugarcane at the end of November compared with 393 last year, adding to the growth in production. The industry association has estimated the total sugar availability in the current season at 292.61 lakh tonnes. With domestic consumption estimated at 250-252 lakh tonnes, the closing balance at the end of September 2018 is seen at 40-42 lakh tonnes. "Sugar season 2017-18 started with an opening balance of around 38.76 lakh tonnes. With an anticipated normal sugar production of about 251 lakh tonnes, and imports of about 2.85 lakh tonnes, the total availability of sugar in the current season is estimated at 292.61 lakh tonnes," Isma said in a statement. "Against this, domestic consumption of sugar is estimated at 250-252 lakh tonnes (growth of around 2.5 per cent). As such, the closing balance on September 30, 2018, is expected to be about 40-42 lakh tonnes, almost equal to the opening balance this year," Isma said. The trade body said the stockholding limit on traders imposed by the government since April 2016 has curtailed some of the buying because of which the availability pipeline has dried out. "With the government deciding not to continue with stockholding limit on traders beyond December 31, 2017, there will be buying interest, which will give a fillip to sugar offtake," said Isma.

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Rs 7,000-cr plan to douse stubble fires

Facing flak for polluting air because of stubble-burning, the Punjab government has prepared a detailed action plan to check the menace. Seeking Rs 7,091 crore from the Union Government, the state plans to incentivise farmers to the tune of Rs 5,220 crore, besides buying straw management equipment and setting up farm machinery banks for another Rs 1,109 crore. The plan is to buy self propelled combine harvester, paddy straw choppers, shredder, munchers and happy seeders to retain residue on soil surface as mulch; buy sub soilers, choppers, reversible plough and rotavators for incorporating residue in the soil; and buying rakes and balers for industrial use of stubble. All equipment is to be bought over a period of three years, and entrusted with cooperatives or farm machinery banks, which will rent these out to farmers. With its coffers running dry, the only monetary contribution that the state government will make for the implementation of this plan is towards creating awareness and publicising stubble management, creating a mobile app for renting/sharing agriculture machinery and reporting incidents of crop residue burning, if any. Other than buying machinery for “on-field” management of stubble and incentivising farmers (at the rate of Rs 100 per quintal), the state is seeking money for demonstration and training farmers in stubble management techniques, crop diversification and giving monetary incentives to panchayats to promote new technology. The action plan will be presented by Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and Financial Commissioner (Development) Vishwajit Khanna to the Union Government. On an average, Punjab generates 20 million tonnes of paddy straw after each kharif marketing season.

Business Line, Kolkata
Tea Board’s role ‘needs a re-think’

The Tea Board of India should look at generic promotion of the industry rather than merely doling out subsidy. According to Santosh Sarangi, Joint Secretary (plantations), Commerce Ministry, the cost of administering the subsidies (through Tea Board) outweighs the quantum of subsidy given to the industry. “We have entered a time when the Tea Board should move away from being a subsidy distribution organisation to working with industry. Cost of administering such subsidy (through Tea Board) usually exceeds the subsidy itself,” Sarangi said, while addressing the 134th annual general meeting of the Indian Tea Association here. The Ministry is deliberating on the role played by the Board and is looking to tweak guidelines accordingly. According to Sarangi, future orientation of Tea Board should be on quality and sustainability of the produce and the industry. During the financial year 2016-17, the Tea Board disbursed subsidies worth Rs 200 crore towards promotion of tea consumption in domestic and export markets, PK Bezboruah, Chairman, Tea Board. The subsidy amount is expected to be close to Rs 200 crore during FY’18 as well, he added. Apart from working on generic promotion of tea industry, Tea Board should also help setting up packaging and blending units overseas to promote exports, he said. Union Commerce Ministry is working with Department of Expenditure on the contours of proposal to revive tea industry in Darjeeling. “There is a proposal of coming up with a revival package primarily for rejuvenation and pruning of gardens,” Sarangi said. Tea gardens in Darjeeling remained closed for over three months during the peak plucking season owing to indefinite bandh called by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha in support of statehood. Industry lost over 60 per cent of its annual production of close to 8.5 million kg. The industry lost a majority of its premium second flush tea. The revenue loss was estimated at close to Rs 500 crore.

The Economic Times, Pune
Cotton Prices Rise with Pak Open to Imports from India

Pakistan’s decision to open its doors to Indian cotton has driven up prices in the domestic market during the past one week. Concerns over Indian cotton production and quality of the crop — more than half the cotton acreage in Maharashtra has been affected by pink boll worm attack — had already set world cotton prices rising. Indian exporters have started contracting cotton export to Pakistan since last week. “Market sentiments have changed as Pakistan has opened up import doors to Indian cotton. Due to concerns over quality of the crop, there’s likely to be shortage of good quality cotton,” said BS Rajpal, Maharashtra-based ginner. According to trade sources, cotton prices have increased by about Rs 500/candy of 356/kg to Rs 37,500/candy to Rs 38,500/candy for good quality cotton during the past fortnight. Even before opening up of exports to Pakistan, the market had started responding to the growing incidence of pink boll worm. According to the preliminary survey carried out by the agricultural department of Maharashtra, 28 lakh hectares, which is 66% of the total 42 lakh hectares area sown under cotton, has been infested with pink boll worm pest. Though neither the state government nor the trade has assessed the impact of the pest on production, off the record they claim that it may fall below 375 lakh bales of 170 kg each. “Along with export demand from Pakistan, cotton demand from domestic millers has also increased as summer season is coming and mills have started working at full capacity. Post Diwali, mills begin cotton procurement, which started a little late this year,” said J Thulasidharn, president, Indian Cotton Federation.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Telangana asks farmers to terminate cotton crop

With pink bollworm turning virulent and posing a serious threat to the interests of farmers, the Telangana government has asked the farmers to terminate the crop before December. It has ordered an intense awareness campaign to educate the farmers to uproot the plants out after third picking. If the crop is terminated by December, it will break the lifecycle of the bollworm population, lessening the risk of the incidence in the next kharif. The kharif season is coming to end as a good number of farmers have completed their second picking. The third picking doesn’t yield much produce but some farmers keep the crop, expecting one or two quintals. Telangana has registered a massive increase in cotton acreage this kharif. The acreage crossed the 46-lakh acre mark, about 15 lakh acres more than the normal acreage. Untimely rains and outbreak of pink bollworm have wreaked a havoc, causing extensive damage to small and medium farmers. But the government’s report suggest that the spread of pink bollworms is virulent and has breached the Economic Threshold Level (ETL), which could result in extensive damage. “There is an urgent need to educate the farmers on the need to terminate the crop after December in all the cotton growing areas, particularly in Adilabad and Warangal districts,” a senior government official said. He wanted the extension officers to convince to remove the crop and go for shredding of the stubbles. “The worms will survive in the stubbles and could transcend to the next crop,” he said.

TBusiness Standard, Mumbai
Trade measures boost edible oil industry

Oilseed prices have risen in the last two days following the government’s decision to bail out domestic edible oil producers through a sharp rise in import duties. The government had on November 18 almost doubled the import duty on all variants of edible oils. The hike has started working in favour of farmers and soybean is leading the oilseed price increase. Soybean prices have shot up by seven per cent to Rs 3,052 a quintal over the last two weeks in the Indore mandi. Trailing by Rs 200-250 a quintal for several weeks, soybean in the Indore mandi has exceeded its minimum support price. Prices of all other variants of seeds and oils have also risen. Castorseed in the Disa mandi rose by 2.7 per cent to trade currently at Rs 4,548 a quintal. Rapeseed oil and groundnut oil prices are up by 6.41 per cent and 2.27 per cent, respectively, to trade at Rs 83,000 a tonne and Rs 90,000 a tonne in the week ended December 1. The measures have turned around the fortunes of edible oil producers with many of them planning to increase their operating capacities, which had declined to their lowest level of 30-35 per cent in November. “Crushing activity will certainly receive a boost. Now prices of oilseeds, edible oils and meals will go up. In turn, farmers’ realisation will also rise,” said Atul Chaturvedi, chief executive officer, Adani Wilmar, producer of the Fortune brand of edible oils. The revised Foreign Trade Policy also raised benefits in the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme for soybean meal to seven per cent from the existing 5 per cent.

The Financial Express, Lucknow
UP plans to introduce contract farming

In order to fulfil Centre’s objective to double farmers’ income by 2022, the Uttar Pradesh government is all set to adopt contract farming as part of its multi-pronged strategy to enhance their income in the state after many failed attempts by previous regimes. Speaking at a conference on doubling farmers income, state agricultural production commissioner Raj Pratap Singh said that the state government is also planning to amend the APMC Act in order to give farmers alternative choices so as to boost investment in the sector. In contract farming, private agro-processing and exporting companies enter into an agreement with farmers to purchase a specified quantity of an agri commodity on mutually agreed terms. This type of integration between growers and agro-processing units will not only help farmers in getting a better price for their produce but also reduce post-harvest losses to a large extent. “Contract farming is already being carried out privately, but state legitimacy is needed to help farmers in a bigger way,” he said, adding that increasing agricultural production is not the answer to the ills of the farm sector. “What needs to be done is to increase farmers’ income and in that light, contract farming becomes a key driver. By this method, farmers are promised an assured market and good price and consumers are assured of relatively low-price goods,” he stated. Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, another official of the agriculture department said that the draft amendment to APMC Act is ready and is being vetted at various levels.

07, Dec 2017
The Times of India, New Delhi
AGRI Excellence

EIMA Agrimach India 2017 envisages to showcase the best and the latest in agri-machineries, besides providing an excellent opportunity to Indian and overseas players catering to the entire value chain through vertical based national and international pavilions. The three-day event began in Delhi on December 7, 2017 The event is an opportunity to share the centre stage with world's leading companies in the industry, who will be showing their innovations and current developments. The show is supported by Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Govt. of India, thereby providing an opportunity for participants to interact with the nation's policymakers, other dignitaries & delegates. EIMA Agrimach India is your opportunity to share the centre stage with world's leading companies in the industry, which will be showing their innovations and current developments. EIMA Agrimach India is the most important trade show in India on agricultural machinery with visitor numbers reaching an approx. the figure of 40,000. The show is supported by Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Govt.of India, thereby providing an opportunity for participants to interact with the nation's policymakers, other dignitaries & delegates. Live Demos on latest trends in agriautomation to experience the power of mechanized agriculture first hand. EIMA Agrimach India enjoys a leading position as a forum to develop partnerships, alliances and new investments in the agricultural machinery industry with agromechanization majors, business farmers, contractors and dealers from all over the world. A never before opportunity for Indian players to showcase their strengths & specialties to a global audience and make presentations & demonstrations of their products and services. An international conference deliberating on a wide range of topics. Improve your business know-how, imbibe the world's latest and biggest trends in your business & expand your horizons.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Agri sector seeks income security for farmers, structural reforms

Finance minister Arun Jaitley held pre-Budget consultations with representatives of the agriculture sector, who pitched for an income security law for farmers and structural reforms in the sector. “The median income of farmers in 2012 was about Rs 1,600/month, which is meagre to sustain… Hence, the farming community of India demands an income security act for farmers as well as tenant and farm labourers,” Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) secretary-general B Dasaratha Rami Reddy said after the meeting. Agricultural economist Ashok Gulati suggested that the government should take measures for buffer stocking of those commodities whose prices are trading below their minimum support price to tackle food inflation. It was suggested that there is need to start ‘Operation Veggies’ and focus should be given to TOP — tomato, onion and potato — as there is maximum volatility in their prices. “Some commodity prices have gone below minimum selling price. We have discussed addressing the issue of commodity price volatility. We also discussed how to dovetail the tariff policy and minimum selling price,” Gulati said. He also said that farm loan waiver for farmers was not the solution to the present problems in the sector and structural reforms were needed. The farm sector provides employment to about 47% of the total work force in India, though its contribution to the GDP is only 18%. Moving workers from farm to non-farm is the key to increasing income level and higher GDP growth, the NITI Aayog had said. The farm sector representatives also demanded increasing credit growth for the sector and effective implementation of crop insurance and irrigation projects. They also sought removal of the Essential Commodities Act and bringing all farm inputs and equipment under the zero tax net under the goods and services tax (GST).

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
As new EU rice export rule kicks in next month, India seeks more time

India will make another attempt to convince the European Union to relax the fungicide rule for basmati rice imports for some more time. If the EU does not relax the norm for another year, India may lose $260 million business to Pakistan, the only other basmati rice exporter. Official sources said the government has been in touch with some European countries, including Italy, to convince them on the need to relax the rules as India has already brought down the level of residue of Tricyclazole fungicide in basmati rice to 0.03 parts per million (PPM). The EU has already said that effective January 1, the maximum permissible residue level (MRL) of Tricyclazole is 0.01 PPM. The present limit is 1.0 PPM. The All-India Rice Exporters Association said farmers have already achieved considerable success in minimising the MRL of Tricyclazole to a great extent. Its president Vijay Setia said it will be further brought down to zero level when farmers use alternative pesticide, but it would take some more crop seasons. He said the overall basmati rice exports are not going to have much impact this year (2017-18) as already 2.3 million tonnes have been shipped between April and October. So, it will be close to 4 million tonnes this year, he added. Earlier in August, the government had asked rice exporters to conform to the pesticides standards of the European Union for shipments. It had further said that no contract will be registered from November 1 unless accompanied by a testing report from an accredited laboratory. The European Union had earlier rejected the Indian demand to relax the norm for another year following which the government’s agri export promotion body Apeda (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) had issued the notification making Tricyclazole testing mandatory for contract registration.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
BJP Looks on Warily as Sinha Joins Farmers’ Protest in Maha

BJP rebel Yashwant Sinha has been camping in Akola with farmers who have been protesting against the Maharashtra government and threatening to stay put until their demands are met. The farmers under the banner of ‘Kapus Soyabean Dhan Parishad’ have been demanding that the government purchase all farm produce at the minimum support price (MSP) and provide Rs 50,000 per acre compensation for cotton farmers whose crops have been affected by disease along with relief to drought-affected farmers. Sinha said Varun Gandhi and Shatrughan SInha have extended their support to the stir. Already, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee have supported Sinha.

The Financial Express, Pune
Cotton shortage hits ginners in Maharashtra

Cotton ginners in Maharashtra are finding it difficult to source cotton this season as more than 50% of the crop in the state has been affected by pink bollworm. Out of about 150 ginning units in the state, only 100 are active but even these are working at 50% capacity, top officials of the Khandesh Gin/Press Factory Owners Association indicated. The state is staring at a loss in production of cotton crop this year due to the pink bollworm pest which is reported to have affected more than 50% of the crop. The bleak crop would in turn hit the availability of good quality cotton to the ginners. Pradeep Jain, president of the ginners association said the season could be short this year and good quality cotton may only be available only until December. Thereafter, farmers may be required to uproot their crops and burn it to ensure that the worms do not proliferate, he added. Jain said that it take a couple of years to overcome the issue. A team from the Nashik Agricultural Directorate visited Jalgaon this week to identify the seriousness of the issue. The start was good in June-August when the crop was sown. The first attack in August was not that serious. Thereafter, the pink bollworms matured and affected the crop. The ginners association, which has been attempting to export cotton, found their samples rejected by parties. The state agriculture department has already written to the Centre to denotify BG II as it has lost its efficacy to fight the pest. Dr CD Mayee, president of the board of directors of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), said that the attack of pink bollworm is in the range of 10% to 40% in some pockets of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Govt may lift stock limit on sugar

With ex-factory sugar prices showing a downward spiral since the start of the 2017-18 crushing season in October, thanks to the expected bumper harvest, the central government is planning to discontinue the stockholding limit from December 31. It might also consider other measures, including further raising the import duty, if the decline in prices persists. According to officials, while the removal of stockholding cap is almost decided, a final call on increasing the import duty is yet to be taken, as it involves consultation with other ministries as well. The government had in July raised the import duty on sugar to 50 per cent from 40 per cent to curb imports and stop building up of sugarcane arrears. Though there has not been much import into the country, international sugar prices have further softened since July due to a projected surplus. This has raised the prospect of imports. “The softening of sugar prices globally has also opened the avenue for exports, despite 50 per cent import duty, so there could be a reconsideration,” a senior official said. Until the middle of November, global sugar prices had already tumbled by almost 22 per cent in one year. In the local market, ex-mill sugar prices in Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest sugarcane-growing state, has fallen by almost Rs 300 a quintal since October 1, while in Maharashtra it has declined by around Rs 400 a quintal. UP and Maharashtra together account for over 80 per cent of the country’s annual sugar production. Sugar production in the first two months of the 2017-18 crushing season, according to some estimates, has been around 4.72 million tonnes, which is around 1.2-1.3 million tonnes more than last year. The average recovery so far has been around 9.16 per cent.

Business Line, Kochi
Hit by dropping rubber production, tyre-makers seek easier import norms

The tyre industry has raised its concern over the deficit in natural rubber, saying “the gap between production and consumption is not showing any signs of bridging”. Expressing concern over the fresh production data released by Rubber Board for the first half of the current fiscal, Satish Sharma, Chairman, Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association (ATMA), said the deficit last year was 40 per cent. The gap in the first half of this fiscal remains at the same level. The industry consumes 65-70 per cent of the country’s rubber output. For 2017-18, the Rubber Board had projected the production at 8 lakh tonnes (lt), up 16 per cent over previous year’s 6.9 lt. However, in the first half of 2017-18, the production was only 3.2 lt, growing 5 per cent over the previous period. To achieve the target of 8 lakh tonnes, production needs to grow at 24 per cent in the second half over the year- ago period which, according to ATMA, looks unlikely. The tyre industry is facing acute rubber scarcity even in the ongoing peak season. It has also been paying more for the domestic rubber than for imports. The tyre industry faces a serious threat of disruption, Sharma added. According to ATMA, rubber imports attract 25 per cent duty, which is the highest in the world, and adds to the cost. Yet, there is no option but to import. Industry asked for imports on a tariff rate quota (TRQ) basis at ‘nil’ duty to the extent of gap between domestic production and consumption. It also asked for removal of restriction of imports only via Chennai and JNPT; this adds to cost and delays. ATMA called for a correction in the ‘inverted duty structure’ as effective customs duty on tyres ranges between 0 and 8.6 per cent vis-à-vis the basic duty in India at 25 per cent.

Business Line, New Delhi
India, Israel to open centre for floriculture in Tamil Nadu

India and Israel are coming together to set up a centre for excellence in floriculture at Thally in Krishnagiri district of Tamil Nadu. The centre, the first agro-technology development centre to be set up with Israel’s assistance in the State, would be officially inaugurated on Thursday. Gil Haskel, head of Israel’s agency for international development cooperation Mashav; Union Minister of State Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Tamil Nadu Agriculture Minister R Doraikannu are expected to attend the function. The centre at Thally and a similar centre planned for vegetables to be established in Dindigul form the part of a three-year Indo-Israel agricultural partnership signed between Mashav and mission for integrated development of horticulture of the Agriculture Ministry. The Dindigul centre, specialising in vegetables such as capsicum, cucumber and tomatoes, is expected to be launched in January next year. These centres would not only develop agricultural practices suitable for selected geographical regions, but would also transfer the best practices to farmers in and around. “By the end of the project, we plan to have 30 such Indo-Israel centres of excellence in agriculture in India. Currently, we have 20 such centres in nine States,” Haskel said here. More such centres of excellence are planned in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in near future, said Dan Alluf, an Israeli Embassy official. Centres in Karnataka would come up in Dharwar, Kolar and Bagalkot and would focus on vegetables, mangoes and pomegranate, respectively. The centre in Andhra Pradesh would come up in Kuppam and would work on both floriculture and vegetable research.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Industry Leans on Millenials to Raise Tea Drinking

The Indian tea industry has set a goal to achieve 1kg per capita consumption within a span of 10 years to compete with neighbouring Pakistan, which has already reached the milestone. Per capita tea consumption in India, the largest black-tea producer in the world, is 730 grams at present. The tea industry is targeting millennials to boost consumption in India. Much like the US, where people prefer tea in cold form, Indian millennials appear to like iced tea, and other non-conventional forms of the beverage. Indian Tea Association (ITA) chairman Azam Monem said: “ITA has conducted roadshows to promote tea as a beverage among the young generation. More than half the people in the age group of 17-24 years drink tea less than once aday. As India becomes younger, it will only be fair for us to reassess the way tea is being served today. Tea has to be promoted among the millennials as a lifestyle drink in both cold and hot forms. By 2030, 60% of the population will be below 35 years and that is a huge market for us.” The total production of tea in 2016 was 1,267 million kg, and the industry is estimating output of 1,280 million kg this year. Of this, 200-230 million kg is exported, while the rest is not entirely consumed in the country.

The Times of India, Jaipur
Is garlic a spice or a vegetable, asks court

The Rajasthan high court asked the state government whether it considered garlic a vegetable or a spice. While hearing a public interest litigation, the HC also asked the state government whether selling garlic in a grain market should attract GST. The government will submit its reply later this week. Hearing a petition filed by Aaloo, Pyaaz Aur Lehsun Viktreta Sangh from Bhadvasia, Jodhpur, the HC questioned the rationale behind farmers being allowed to sell garlic as a spice in a grain market when it is a vegetable. “It should be considered as either of the two,” the petitioner said, arguing that if garlic is sold in a grain market as a spice it should be taxed. After the PIL was filed, other vegetable associations too have applied to become parties in the matter. Additional advocate general Shyamsundar Ladrecha explained in the court that the state government allowed sale of garlic bulbs in grain markets through an amendment in August 2016 in section-2 of the Rajasthan Agriculture Produce Market Act, 1962, to benefit the farmers. “Following a bumper garlic production in the state that year, the prices of garlic began to drop. Also, there were space constraints in vegetable markets for the sale of garlic. So, the government, in order to encourage competition among the buyers, allowed the farmers to sell their produce in grains markets as well,” said Ladrecha. He said selling garlic in grain markets does not attract any tax on farmers. On the contrary, they have to give just 2% as commission to middlemen in a grain market as compared to 6% commission in a vegetable market.

The Assam Tribune, Shillong
Meghalaya to promote organic farming

In view of the rising demand for organic products across the globe, Meghalaya has decided to promote organic farming among the farmers. Addressing farmers and stakeholders on the occasion of World Soil Day, Commissioner and Secretary, Agriculture Department, PS Kumar said that the State Government has been putting a concerted effort to encourage organic farming. Stating that Meghalaya has been identified as a “competitive State” in the agro sector by a study conducted by Harvard, Kumar said that Meghalaya is trying to catch up with Sikkim which currently has 70,000 hectares of land under organic farming and is the largest producers of organic produce in the country. The State would soon open its first organic farm produce market in the capital very soon. One of the villages in the State capital has turned fully organic and the produce from the village would be sold in the market after being certified by the Government. Underlining some of the interventions to reach the goal of a total organic farming in the state, Kumar said that the state has developed organic compost with the help of experts from outside, which would reduce the burden on the farmers to buy expensive organic fertilizers for their crops. He said that the compost is made out of manure and other agricultural produce and requires a period of just 18 days to be ready for the use in the fields. Farmers are being trained to produce the compost throughout the state and this, he said, would eventually help farmers to produce organic crops economically. The state is also in the process of setting up an agri-response call centre for the farmers. The call centre would help the farmers put forward their complaints and grievances and other farm-related matters. Moreover, efforts are also being taken to take care of the marketing aspect and doing away with middle men.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Mills fret as prices of sugar and molasses plunge

Sugar mills’ revenue and profit are likely to be under pressure in the ongoing crushing season (the current sugar year, 2017-18, formally began on October 1), after recovering marginally in the 2016-17 season. For, there has been a sharp decline in their product prices, following estimates of higher cane output. Seasons 2014-15 and 2015-16 were bad for profitability; things improved in 2016-17, with many large mills showing a rise in net profit, following estimates of lower sugar production. There was a sharp rise in the prices of sugar and molasses, to a peak of Rs 36-37 a kg and Rs 8,800 a tonne, respectively. Prices of both did drop subsequently but their average realisation remained substantially higher than the cost of sugar production. This year, however, the scenario has again turned against mills, with a fall in prices of both sugar and molasses. “At the current prices, mills are going to incur losses this year. The government is thinking about 1.2 billion consumers, putting 50 million cane farmers at risk. But, once these farmers stop producing cane, there would be huge scarcity of sugar and increased reliance on import. The government needs to protect cane farmers’ interest,” said Sanjiv Babar, former managing director of the Maharashtra Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories. Data from the Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma) shows the average cost of sugar production in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra at Rs 37 a kg and Rs 34 a kg, respectively, this season. While the ex-factory realisation from sugar is Rs 34 a kg in UP and Rs 32 a kg in Maharashtra. “The average ex-mill sugar price during 2016-17 in UP was Rs 36.5 a kg and in Maharashtra at Rs 35.4 a kg,” said Abinash Verma, director-general at Isma.

The Hindu, Kolkata
More aid for Darjeeling tea industry?

The Union Commerce Ministry has sought additional finance assistance from the Department of Expenditure to support the Darjeeling tea industry. This was indicated by Santosh Sarangi, Joint Secretary (plantations), Union Commerce Ministry, while addressing the 134th Annual General Meeting of the Indian Tea Association. “We have received proposals from ITA and Darjeeling Tea Association and the Tea Board has collated this,” he said, adding that assistance had been sought to find a mechanism to support the industry. ITA chairman Azam Monem said the closure in Darjeeling had caused a ₹500 crore loss and a 70% crop loss by volume.

The Economic Times, Pune
Onion Prices Cool, But may Go Up as Cyclone Ockhi Hits its Transport

Onion prices have plunged 30% in the wholesale markets over the last two weeks following the imposition of export restrictions and increasing arrivals of the kharif crop. However, prices showed a marginal rise at the country’s main onion wholesale market at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra as rains under the influence of cyclone Ockhi slowed movement of the bulb. Traders said concerns over the impact of rainfall on harvest and movement of fresh onions will weigh over prices in the next few days. “The market went up in the morning trade as arrivals had slightly decreased due to rainfall. If the rainfall causes damage to the crop, prices may remain firm,” said Sohanlal Bhandari, an onion trader from Nashik. The average wholesale price in the benchmark Lasalgaon are ruling at Rs 25 a kg, down from Rs 35 on November 27. A further decline in prices this week will depend on the Ockhi-induced rainfall in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Onion supplies to Delhi have almost normalised with the national capital now getting the bulb mostly from Maharashtra as supplies from Rajasthan are drying up. “As compared to 5 to 10 truck of onions we were getting about 10 to 12 days ago, we received 45 trucks of onions on Monday, all coming from Maharashtra,” said Surinder Bhuddhiraja, president at Azadpur Onion Traders Association.

Business Line, New Delhi
Outlook is bullish for NCDEX soyabean

Soyabean prices have seen a strong upsurge over the last couple of weeks. Before this up-move, the prices had been on a strong downtrend since September. The Centre’s move to increase the import duty on edible oils helped halt the downtrend and in triggering a trend reversal. The soyabean futures contract on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) reversed sharply higher in the last two weeks after hitting a low of Rs 2,767 per quintal on November 20. The contract has surged over 10 per cent in the last two weeks to reach the current level of Rs 3,061. The recent rally, which has taken the contract above the Rs 3,000 psychological mark, keeps the outlook bullish. Immediate support is at Rs 2,975 — the 100-day moving average which has been limiting the downside for more than a week now. The next key support is at Rs 2,950 — the 55-week moving average. Dips to these supports may find fresh buyers coming into the market. The 21-day moving average is also on the verge of crossing over the 200- and 55-day moving averages. This is a bullish signal, which indicates that the downside could be limited even if the contract breaks below Rs 2,950 in the near-term. A rally to Rs 3,120 is likely in the coming days. Inability to break above Rs 3,120 can trigger a corrective fall to Rs 3,050. But if the contract breaches above Rs 3,120, the rally can extend to Rs 3,280 or Rs 3,300 in the coming weeks. Traders with a medium-term perspective and high-risk appetite can make use of dips to go long at Rs 3,000. Stop-loss can be placed at Rs 2,910 for a target of Rs 3,250. Revise the stop-loss higher to Rs 3,075 as soon as the contract moves up to Rs 3,100.

Millennium post, New Delhi
Sugar output up 42% to 39 lakh tonne in Oct-Nov

India's sugar production has gone up by 42 per cent to 39.51 lakh tonne in the first two months of the current 2017-18 marketing year that started October, industry body ISMA said. The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) has pegged 251 lakh tonnes (lt) sugar output this year as against 202 lt in the last year. Releasing the latest production figures, ISMA said sugar production during October-November reached 39.51 lt, much higher than 27.82 lt in the year-ago period. As many as 443 mills were operating till November this year as against 393 mills in the year-ago period. As per the ISMA data, sugar production in Uttar Pradesh - the country's leading sugar maker, rose to 13.59 lt till November from 8.48 lt in the year-ago period. Similarly, the output in Maharashtra - the second biggest producer - increased to 14.90 lt from 9.42 lt in the said period. In Karnataka too, sugar production rose marginally to 6.82 lt in October-November as against 6.80 lt in the same period last year. Gujarat mills produced 1.80 lt till November of this year when compared with 1.42 lt in the same period last year. "Crushing operations in all the other states have also begun and slowly the pace of crushing is picking up," ISMA said. Other states together produced 2.40 lt in October- November as against 1.7 lt in the year-ago period. "Most of the sugar mills in UP had advanced their date of start of crushing by a fortnight or so, and hence sugar production is on higher side," the industry body said. The current year started with an opening balance of around 38.76 lt, which is the lowest ever in the last several years.

06, Dec 2017
Business Line, New Delhi
Agri experts call for income security, price support for farmers

Experts from the agriculture sector have sought measures to offset the impact of inflation on crops and income security for farmers and also debated the farm loan waiver at a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. This was the first such meeting and the Finance Minister will meet more sectoral groups this week to get their proposals for the Union Budget 2018-19, which is likely on February 1.

As the farm sector provides employment to nearly half of the country’s total workforce, its prospects will play a crucial role in the upcoming Assembly elections as well as the 2019 general elections. Pointing out that the median income of farmers in 2012 was just ₹1,600 per month, B Dasaratha Rami Reddy, Secretary General of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association, said, “The farming community of India demands an Income Security Act for farmers as well as tenant and farm labour.” Ashok Gulati, former Chairman of the Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices, said that structural reforms in agriculture should be addressed rather than farm loan waivers. He also called for buffer stocking of those commodities whose prices are trading below their minimum support price to control food inflation. “In the last three years agricultural growth has fallen below 3 per cent. Some commodity prices have gone below minimum selling price,” he said. Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, said that a minimum price must be set for all crops such as onions and tomatoes where the Central government intervenes to reduce prices of food. “Make budgetary allocations to set up the ‘Farmers’ Income Commission’ for securing ‘income security’ on the lines of the Seventh Pay Commission,” he said. Y Sivaji, an agriculture expert and a former Member of Parliament, said the government should announce MSPs for more agricultural products and they should be linked to the inflation in input costs.

Business Line, New Delhi
Basmati prices rise on higher demand from West Asia

Higher demand for basmati from Iran and West Asia is helping farmers in Punjab and Haryana get good price for their produce this year. Although the area under paddy cultivation fell nearly 10 per cent from the previous kharif season, arrivals at grain markets have been healthy, say traders and mandi officials at Fatehabad and Karnal. “The arrivals are good because farmers are getting good prices owing to export demand. The 1121 variety, particularly, commands very good price; the long-grained variety is popular in Iran, Iraq and elsewhere in West Asia,” said Asha Rani, Secretary of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee, Karnal.

The demand for 1121 has lifted other basmati and non-basmati varieties as well. Arrivals at Karnal mandi this year are 30 per cent higher than in the previous season. “We have crossed the target for the season, but are are still procuring as farmers continue to bring stocks,” Rani said. As on November 21, some 4.24 lakh tonnes of paddy had been traded at Karnal mandi, against 3.48 lakh tonnes during the same period last year. Rohit Bansal, a commission agent at Fatehabad mandi in Haryana, said paddy prices this year are at least Rs 1,400 higher per quintal over last year. Arrivals are at their peak and the daily traded volume is around 30,000 bags of paddy, he added. Sudden imports by Bangladesh over the past three months have additionally ignited the rice market in West Bengal too. Since end-August, grain prices in West Bengal have increased 15-30 per cent for all varieties. In just the past two weeks, prices moved up 10-15 per cent. According to Customs sources, Bangladesh imported over 9 lakh tonnes of rice since August. Though that is barely 6 per cent of West Bengal’s annual production of over 15 million tonnes, the demand growth was unexpected and depleted year-end stock

The Hindu, New Delhi
Coffee exports rise 8% till November

Coffee exports from India, Asia’s third-largest producer and exporter, rose by 8.08% to 3.61 lakh tonnes in January-November 2017 compared to 3.34 lakh tonnes in the same period of last year, according to the Coffee Board. Italy, Germany and Russia were the major export destinations for Indian coffee during the period. India ships both robusta and Arabica varieties, besides instant coffee. Robusta coffee exports rose by 10.80% to 2,11,442 tonnes in January-November 2017 from 1,90,828 tonnes in the year-ago period. Export of Arabica coffee however declined by 10.81% to 44,084 tonnes from 49,431 tonnes. The outbound shipment of instant coffee increased sharply by 86% to 47,734 tonnes in January-November this year from 22,966 tonnes in the same period last year. Of the total exports, India exported 73,705 tonnes to Italy, 38,671 tonnes to Germany and 26,319 tonnes to Russia during the period under review.

The Hindu, Bhubaneswar
Farmers asked to shift paddy to safe places

With heavy rainfall warning issued by the IMD in many parts of Odisha, the State government asked farmers to shift their harvested paddy from the fields to safer places to avoid loss or damage. Rain is likely to lash Odisha for at least three days from December 7 due to a well-marked low pressure that lies over south-east Bay of Bengal and adjoining south Andaman Sea on Monday, the Meteorological Centre here said. It is very likely to become a depression over south-east Bay of Bengal during the next 24 hours and further intensify into a deep depression in the subsequent 48 hours. It is likely to move west/ north-west towards north Tamil Nadu and south Andhra Pradesh coasts in the next three days, it said. While weather is expected to remain dry over Odisha during next 72 hours, rainfall is likely to occur in several parts of the State by December 7 under its impact, said local Met Centre Director Sarat Chandra Sahu. Low-intensity rainfall is likely to occur in districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Gajapati and Ganjam on December 7, while rainfall of higher intensity is expected to pound coastal and adjoining districts on December 8 and 9, he said. Preliminary reports indicate that around 18 districts of the State are likely to face heavy rainfall due to the system, the MeT office said. In view of the emerging weather conditions, the Revenue and Disaster Management department has advised the farmers of the districts likely to be affected to shift their harvested paddy to safe places and keep it properly stacked under suitable cover so as to avoid any loss or damage. Where paddy crops are ready for harvest, the farmers should take steps to harvest the same and store safely to avoid damage due to rains, a senior official said.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
FSSAI certification for organic food on the anvil

Food safety regulator FSSAI may make its certification mandatory for organic food. The move is aimed at keeping an eye on the quality of organic food with so many products thronging the market offering attractive packages and luring consumers. The certification will be compulsory from July 1, sources said. Last month, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had released a unified regulation on ‘Organic Foods’ during the Organic World Congress in India. As a symbol of authenticity and trust, a common logo for ‘Organic Foods’ was also unveiled before representatives from 110 countries. Sikkim was last year declared as the India’s first fully organic state. India’s total area under organic certification has reached 5.71 million hectares and the country tops globally in terms of number of organic producers. Exports from India are pegged around 1.35 million tonnes of certified organic food per year. There are several brands such as Organic Tattva, Devbhumi, Navdanya, Organic India, Sattvic and Nature N Me selling their products in India. The Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations 2017 covers under its ambit two existing systems of organic certification -- National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) and Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India). Regulation also provides for recognition of other certification systems in the future. But with the focus of the government shifting to organic cultivation in a big way, there is deliberation as how best to unify these two systems. Sources said the FSSAI certification might be enough to brand a product as organic while food safety standards regulator may internally make arrangements with NPOP and PGS-India, sources said. FSSAI is mandated to regulate organic food in the country under provisions of Section 22 of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006. The current regulation was notified after extensive consultations with various stakeholders including related ministries, agencies, NGOs and farmer organisations.

Business Line. Mumbai
Maharashtra mills report 56% jump in sugar output

Due to good monsoon rain this year, sugar mills in Maharashtra have reported about 60 per cent increase in sugarcane crushing and a 56 per cent jump in sugar production over last year. Numbers collated by the State government show that sugarcane crushing in Maharashtra has risen to 166.55 lakh tonnes (lt) against previous season’s 104.11 lt. Sugar production increased to 154.99 lakh quintals from 99.11 lakh quintals registered last year. Sources in the State Co-operative Department said that last year due to the poor monsoon, only 138 sugar mills were operating in December. But this year 171 mills are open. This year, however, the sugar recovery factor is marginally lower at 9.31 per cent (9.52 per cent). Among the seven sugar-producing regions of Maharashtra, Pune tops the list processing 66.10 lt of sugarcane, followed by sugar mills in the Kolhapur region, which processed 38.55 lt of sugarcane. But the sugar recovery rate in Kolhapur is 10.34 per cent — the highest in the State. Sources added that due to drought-like conditions in 2015 and 2016, the area under sugarcane was much lower. This year, higher acreage and good rainfall have boosted sugarcane production.

The Financial Express. Pune
Russia, China join EU in issuing stricter norms for grape imports from India

Like Europe, other 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 attempting 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. The issue was discussed in a recent meet held at the National Research Centre for Grapes (NRCG) in Pune that was attended by senior officials of APEDA, MSAMB and grape exporters, among others. NRCG director SD Sawant said that some of the norms are stricter than those set by the European Union. 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 parts per million (ppm), for a period of two years. In August the same year, the EU had proposed to change the pesticide residue levels in grapes to 0.01 ppm, causing unrest among Indian exporters. The relaxation by the EU remains valid for the coming season as well. According to All India Grape Exporters Association (AIGEA) president Gagandada Khapre, when the issue was discussed at the meet, grape exporters showed willingness to comply with the new norms and requested the government to get the tests conducted through Grapenet. But the government officials of APEDA said that the exporters would have to do it at their own risk, Khapre said. In 2010, Indian grape exports had faced a setback with the EU reluctant to accept Indian table grape consignments as chlormequat chloride was detected in excess of the prescribed maximum residue level (MRL).

Business Line. Hyderabad
Telangana on buying mode; lifts 1.29 lt of cotton, 12.70 lt of paddy

The Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) has procured 1.29 lakh tonnes (lt) of cotton in Telangana so far this season. The CCI made these purchases from 243 centres that it set up for the season. “The CCI opened its collection centres in 202 ginning mills and 41 public market yards. The minimum support price for the fibre crop this season is Rs 4,320 a quintal,” a State government official said. The officials pegged the paddy procurement as on December 4 at 12.79 lt, with the Civil Supplies Department purchasing from about 2,500 centres. The MSP for paddy is Rs 1,590. The Telangana Markfed set up 171 purchase centres to procure maize. As on date, it has purchased 1.59 lt. As arrivals of redgram are expected after December 15, the government will open purchase centres from December 11. The MSP for redgram is Rs 5,450/quintal.

The Tribune. Chandigarh
178.5 lakh tonnes of paddy procured

The Punjab government agencies and private millers have procured total 178.5 lakh tonnes of paddy in the state till now. This includes 5,876 tonnes procured on Monday. Disclosing this here, an official spokesman for the Punjab Government said out. of the total procurement of 178.5 lakh tonnes of paddy in all procurement centres of Punjab, the government agencies procured 175.8 lakh tonnes of paddy (98.5%) till date, whereas 2.7 lakh tonnes (1.5%) of paddy was procured by millers. He said Pungrain had procured 59.7 lakh tonnes (33.5%), Markfed 38.8 lakh tonnes (21.7%), Punsup 38.29 lakh tonnes (21.5%), PSWC 17.48 lakh tonnes (9.8%) and PAFC 17.68 lakh tonnes (9.9%) of paddy. The Central government agency FCI had been able to procure 3.8 lakh tonnes (2.1%).

04, Dec 2017
The Tribune
Delayed sowing to hit wheat yield

Delayed sowing of “in-time” wheat varieties in the state necessitated by smog and untimely rain is likely to trigger a “considerable dip” in the crop yield. Under normal weather conditions, the sowing of “in-time” and PAU-recommended varieties was completed by November 15. But this time, the state witnessed strange weather conditions involving a combination of a thick blanket of smog lasting for about 10 days followed by an untimely two-day spell of rain on November 14 and 15. Such conditions forced state farmers to delay the sowing by at least 10-12 days which could potentially result in a decline in the crop yield.

Dr Jasbir Singh Bains, Director, Agriculture, said the sowing had been completed roughly on 23 lakh hectares so far out of the expected crop area of 35 lakh hectares. “Normally, crop sowing is completed on 90 per cent of the total area by November 15 even as the ideal time is up to November 10. But this time, sowing could be completed on an estimated 75 per cent of the total area under wheat so far. The farmers, however, are still in a position of coping with the potential 10 per cent loss of yield (in case, of late-sown areas) if they managed to speed up the sowing process of normal varieties and if the cold weather spell got extended up to April 15. Sometimes, mercury starts rising towards the end of March,” said Bains. The sowing of late varieties is likely to be completed by the end of this month and these will be ready for harvesting along with “in-time” varieties by April 15. The late varieties, however, have lesser average per acre yield of 17-18 quintal against 20 quintal mainly due to fact that they get less time to mature.

The Hindu
Edible oils sent by river to Agartala, says Emami

Emami Agrotech Ltd. has shipped 250 tonnes of packed edible oil from Haldia docks to Agartala, using Bangladesh’s Ashuganj port. The company has state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities at Haldia in West Bengal and at Krishnapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The vessel has already reached Ashuganj port and the goods are being moved by truck to Agartala. A company release said that this river route would be navigable in all seasons, offering an efficient way of transporting goods to these areas where there are a lot of obstacles in road movement due to the difficult terrain of the northeast.

According to Sudhakar Desai, CEO, Emami Agrotech, the company aims to ship about 7,000 tonnes of packed edible oil annually through this route. He said that the EAL would continue to explore innovative ways of transportation using the inland waterways of India and has plans to extend this model to Guwahati, Patna, and Allahabad. Emami Agrotech is the edible oil arm of the Emami Group of companies. It also has interests in production and distribution of vanaspati, specialty fats and bio-diesel. The edible oil portfolio of Emami Agrotech comprises brands such as Emami Healthy & Tasty, Himani Best Choice and Rasoi, the Vanaspati brand. Emami Agrotech is the largest supplier of bio fuel to Indian Railways as well as to oil marketing companies. It is also engaged in organic farming and cultivation of commercially viable crops through contract farming.

The Sunday Guardian
Punjab, Haryana strive to stop stubble burning

The problem of stubble burning by farmers—believed to have been the cause of the recent smog in Delhi NCR—in Haryana and Punjab is likely to reduce from next year as the governments in both the states are taking coordinated technology-enabled steps to tackle the menace. The Punjab and Haryana governments have already rolled out subsidies for farmers for using machinery to dispose of the crop residue left after their paddy harvesting. Along with this, both the governments are focusing heavily on infrastructure development in terms of farm mechanisation and facilitation systems for farmers. Farmers are also being educated to adopt environmental-friendly methods for disposing of crop residues.

Manmohan Kalia, Joint Director, Department of Agriculture, Punjab, told The Sunday Guardian, “There are about 10.5 lakh farmers in Punjab and we are trying to educate them through our block and district level agricultural departments. We have also started giving out subsidies to farmers to buy machines that can help them dispose of their crop residues. We are also in talks with various stakeholders for collection of the straws which may have economical value by way of production of biomass fuel or other materials like paper and cardboard. Through these efforts, we are sure that from next year, there will be much less of such activities. Even this year, crop burning has reduced by over 30%.” Kalia added: “The government is also developing applications to educate farmers. We would also like the Central government to help us with funds since the state cannot bear the expenses alone.” New machinery can help end crop burning as a method of disposing of crop residues. According to experts, the most economical and farmer-friendly among such machinery are the combine harvesters, along with the straw chopper and happy seeders.

Deccan Herald
Retail inflation for industrial workers up 3.24% in October

Retail inflation for industrial workers has risen marginally to 3.24% in October, mainly on account of a surge in price of food items. "The year-on-year inflation measured by monthly CPI-IW, consumer price index for industrial workers, stood at 3.24% for October, 2017, as compared to 2.89% for the previous month (September 2017), and 3.35% during the corresponding month of the previous year," a Labour Ministry statement said.

Food inflation stood at 2.26%, against 1.30% in September, and 2.99% during the corresponding month of the previous year. Food group contributed 1.94 percentage points to the total change. The all-India CPI-IW for October, 2017 increased by two points and pegged at 287. At the centre level, Darjeeling and Tiruchirapally reported the maximum increase of 10 points each, followed by Munger-Jamalpur (8 points), and Puducherry (7 points). Among others, six-point increase was observed in two centres, five points in eight centres, four points in seven centres, three points in eight centres, two points in 19 centres and one point in 14 centres. On the contrary, Mercara recorded a maximum decrease of four points followed by Goa and Bhavnagar (three points each). Among others, two points decrease was observed in one centre and one point in another six centres. Rest of the six centres; indices remained stationary. The indices of 33 centres are above all-India index and 43 centres' indices are below national average. The indices of Madurai and Amritsar centres remained at par with the all-India index.

The Times of India
Cyclone Ockhi takes heavy toll on agriculture

Paddy crops replanted just a week ago have been damaged beyond reclamation at Puthugramam village near Nagercoil. Atleast 100 acres have been silted heavily after the village tank breached. "Each one has spent at least Rs30,000 per acre till now. Everything was gone within hours," says Mohan, a Puthugramam resident. If the water body had withheld the rains, it should have been adequate to provide water for irrigation and drinking throughout the year. With a breach in bund, everything was washed away and villagers are worried. "There was lot of hype about de-silting works by government. If they have de-silted the water body religiously, it would have not breached," rued S Parameswaran from Karuppukottai.

According to official estimate, as much as 4,241 hectares of paddy has been affected impacting 11,883 farmers while 485 hectares of coconut crop has been damaged affecting 280 farmers. Similarly 1,273 hectares of banana plantation, 353 hectares of tapioca and 1,326 hectares of rubber crop has been damaged affecting 6,200, 1,760 and 1,350 farmers respectively. Deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam visited affected villages and interacted with officials and farmers and studied the damage. Electricity, which was shut down on November 29 to ensure safety is yet to be restored in most of the district. 2,500 employees of the electricity board deployed from Tirunelveli, Madurai and other districts are engaged in repairing damaged electric poles. As many as 1,500 trees have been estimated to be uprooted in the district and the process of clearing them is underway.

Business Standard
'India needs to align agri policy with nutrition'

India needs to align agriculture policy with nutrition goals as it is facing the problem of malnutrition, member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) Shamika Ravi has said. She also said that India needs a separate regulatory body for nutrition monitoring. Ravi is also a senior fellow at Brooking's India.

Talking about labour reforms, she told that there is a "great degree of casualisation due to new business models like Ola and Uber, so labour laws of the land has to evolve". India is a labour surplus country, she said, adding that "we have started behaving like a first world country. When you raise MNREGA wages, you also make labour costly for SME sector ...We can't politicise sound economic policy." Ravi also stressed upon the need of raising productivity as well as increasing investments in health and education sectors. Stating that poverty does not just reduce with economic growth, she said: "We need to grow and redistribute." Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also stressed upon the need of working towards concrete objectives to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, low birth weight and anaemia. He had emphasised that visible and adequate results should be seen by 2022, the 75th birth anniversary of the country's Independence. According to a recent Niti Aayog report, nearly every third child in India is under undernourished. Headed by NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy, the EAC-PM also includes NITI Aayogs Principal Adviser Ratan Watal as its member and economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy and Ashima Goyal as part-time members.

Business Standard
Raj Tribal districts to get agricultural connection, soon

Farmers living in tribal districts of Rajasthan will get agricultural connection immediately on demand from next financial year, announced chief minister Vasundhara Raje addressing a rally organised on foundation laying ceremony of ‘Janjati Swatantrata Sangram Museum’ in Mangarh Dham, Banswara. She also committed not to have a shortage of funds for development of the centres in which people keep the faith.

On this occasion, the CM has counted launched schemes of her government dedicated to tribal, particularly for farmers, in the districts like Banswara, Dungarpur. “April 1, 2018 onward, the farmers in tribal districts will get agriculture power connection on demand. Also, we have set up a separate cadre to issue domicile certificates to the residents. The people will here be benefited with Medical college in Dungarpur and Guru Gobind Janjati University in Banswara,” said Raje. “The museum will be developed in Mangarh which is known as ‘Rajasthan Ka Jalianwala’. We have sanctioned Rs 22.4 crores for it and roads and other facilities. My government is committed not to make the shortage of funds for the centers which are historically important and people have faith into,” said Raje. She informed the gathering that her government has sanctioned Rs551 crores for restoration and renovation works in 125 temples. “Out of them, Rs100 crores has been allocated for developing panoramas at 30 sites too. In this continuance, the national museum will be developed which is the workplace of Shri Guru Gobind,” Raje noted. The CM also rolled out development plan of the entire area which is importance from viewpoints of history, nature and faiths. She claimed that the place situated at hill will get drinking water supply from Mahi-Kadana backwater. “I have instructed the PHED officers to arrange water as earliest to Mangarh Dham. Also, the forest officials have to turn into entire hillock area here into a green belt,” said Raje.

The Times of India
Kisan Mela inaugurated at RAU, Pusa

Union agriculture and farmers welfare minister Radha Mohan Singh inaugurated the Kisan Mela-cum-Krishi Shiksha Diwas at Rajendra Prasad Central Agriculture University, Pusa. Speaking on the occasion, the minister said the government has taken several measures and started many projects with a view to improving the economic condition of farmers by doubling their income by 2022. He said, "Six new agriculture colleges have been established in the north east and soon four more agriculture colleges would start functioning in central India aiming to boost agriculture education in the country." In the three-day Kisan Mela, different stalls have also been put up by different organisations to give information to the farmers about new techniques and researches made in the field of farming which could increase the agriculture production, said a source in the organising committee.

03, Dec 2017
Hindustan Times
Agri, education, health key focus areas: Ambani

With his multi-billion dollar investment in telecom services well on track, Reliance Industries Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani signalled the start of the next investment cycle, which might see the group venture into agriculture, education and healthcare. In its last cycle, the group invested $60 billion in India largely through Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, which has placed India on the cusp of becoming the country with the world’s largest data network. “We have nearly completed this investment cycle. We are now ready to commit even more in our next investment cycle. We are doing this out of our undiminished conviction that India is the biggest investment opportunity in the world,” Ambani said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi. “As we move forward, we will look at issues that create more and more value for all Indians. I think agriculture is difficult; education is important; healthcare is the most difficult. We can only think about what we can do in each of these areas,” he said. “What we did with Jio, not many in the world had backed us but... India in terms of the data infra will be ahead of the US by 2019,” he added. According to him, Jio is on course to turning profitable, as the company is already ahead of schedule in terms of the returns that it is generating. Jio disrupted India’s telecom sector with ultra cheap offerings that made data available to millions of Indians and made India the largest consumer of data in the world, ahead of even the US and China. India now ranks number one in the broadband connectivity index as against 150th before Jio’s launch.

Business Line
At 390 lakh ha, rabi planting inching close to last year’s level

Crop sowing during the current rabi season is inching closer to the acreage covered last year with the shortfall being 1.5 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year, according to sowing data released by the Agriculture Ministry. Farmers across the country have so far covered close to 390 lakh hectares (lh) against 396 lakh ha in the same period the previous rabi season.

Wheat sowing is in a bit of a bother, however. The area under wheat, at 156.8 lh, is 7.5 per cent lower than the 169.57 lh covered during the same period last year. The lag in wheat acreage may be attributed to unfavourable weather conditions such as low soil moisture and higher-than-normal temperatures. Though rabi crops are not directly dependent on rains, a good monsoon leads to higher moisture content in soil and benefits the sowing.

There is a similar shortfall in the acreage of oilseeds at 63.41 lh, a drop of nearly 7 per cent from last year’s 68.15 lh. The coverage of pulses and rice, on the other hand, has been relatively better. While the pulses area is at 117.83 lh (up 6.46 per cent), rice accounted for 10.56 lh — a good 35 per cent more than the 7.15 lh in the same period last year. The rise in pulses acreage may be attributed to measures taken by the government to support domestic prices, market sources said. Coarse cereals seem to be in season too. Compared to 39.73 lh last year, they have been planted on 41.24 lh this year, up nearly 4 per cent, the data indicated.

The Financial Express
Dehydrated onion demand surges as prices hit the roof

Dehydrated onion products demand has sharply increased in India after prices of onion gained in domestic markets. According to dehydrated onion players, demand has almost doubled in past three months mainly for onion powder. The industry expects about 20,000 tonne consumption by the end of December, compared to about 10,000 tonne last year.

India produces about 70,000-75,000 tonne of dehydrated onion every year. Out of it, nearly 15% is consumed within the country while the rest 85% is exported to Russia, Europe, Middle East and Africa, among others. Hotels, ready to cook foods and catering industry are the main consumers of dehydrated onion. India currently has 95 dehydration units, of which around 75 are located in Mahuva block of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. “As the onion prices have gone up, demand for dehydrated onion has increased in India. Ready to cook industry, masala producers, and hotels are buying heavily at this time. We are expecting double consumption of dehydrated onion could reach to about 20,000 tonne this year,” said Vitthalbhai Koradia, managing director, Maharaja Dehydration. Even though the demand for dehydrated onion has increased, consumption in households is still negligible. According to the industry, people are not much aware about onion dehydration and its benefits at the time of rising prices of fresh onion. Koradia said, “At the time when onion prices are soaring, use of dehydrated onion could help the consumers. A kilo of dehydrated onion is equivalent to around 10 kg fresh onion. However, as the people are not aware about it, consumption of such products have been limited in India. Domestically, consumption of dehydrated onion is about 10,000 tonne, of which about 800-1,000 tonne is consumed by households. The ratio is about 40% in European countries and America.”

The Tribune
Diversify to earn more: Capt to farmers

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh today urged farmers to shift to livestock and allied farming sectors to boost their income and get out of the “vicious” wheat-paddy cycle. Inaugurating the 10th National Livestock Championship and Expo-2017, organised by the Animal Husbandry, Dairy Development and Fisheries Departments in collaboration with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) here, the CM said allied farming and diversification had emerged as the need of the hour due to depleting profits from traditional farming.

“Our government will do everything to motivate farmers to adopt dairying, pig farming, goat-rearing, bee-keeping, poultry, fishery etc. to supplement their income,” he said. The CM cites the steps taken to promote prawn cultivation, especially in the waterlogged Malwa belt, over a stretch of 2,500 acres. Stating that there was record paddy production of 190 lakh metric tonnes in the current kharif season, the CM lauded the contribution of Punjab’s progressive farmers to the country’s milk production. Capt Amarinder also emphasised the need to promote horticulture as part of the state’s crop diversification programme. Later, taking part in the deliberations during the technical session with foreign delegates from the UK, US, Poland and Bulgaria, he assured them of his government’s support and cooperation in providing technical know-how, besides facilitating import of sexed semen and high-quality germ plasm. Capt Amarinder said Punjab had just 2% of the country’s total milch cattle population, whereas it was contributing 7% to the national milk pool. Andrew Ayre, UK Deputy High Commissioner, said Britain and Punjab could work together in developing a world-class piggery sector in the state. This would help the state’s farmers to cater to the rising domestic demand and look at export markets, especially in China — the biggest consumer of pork in the world.

Business Line
Emami Agrotech uses inland waterways to move edible oils to the North-East

Emami Agrotech, part of the Rs 12,000-crore Emami Group, has started using inland waterways to ship edible oil to the North-East. This makes Emami Agrotech the first edible oil company in the country to explore this route. The first lot of 250 tonnes left for the Ashuganj port in Bangladesh from Haldia in West Bengal. From Ashuganj, the shipment will be moved by trucks to Agartala (Tripura) for distribution to other cities like Guwahati, Silchar and so on. According to Sudhakar Desai, CEO, Emami Agrotech, plans are afoot to send 6,000-7,000 tonnes of edible oil a year through this route. “We are expecting cost-savings by use of waterways. Even a 50-paise saving per litre is good for us, especially when we are in a low-margin business,” he told.

The company started exploring the waterways after floods in Assam and Bihar derailed supplies via the road and rail for nearly two months earlier this year. “To avoid disruptions, we started exploring the use of waterways,” he said. The waterways route, Desai said, will be accessible throughout the year and without much disruption. At present, round 70,000 tonnes of oil are sent to the North-East via roadways. Emami Agrotech intends to ship 6,000-7,000 tonnes a year, while in the long run, it may explore using larger barges with higher capacities. “Right now, approximately 10 per cent of our sales to the North-East can be through waterways. We are also exploring the usage larger barges. Talks have been initiated with barge owners for leasing,” Desai said. The company is also exploring ways to use inland waterways as an option for shipping edible oil to Bihar and other places.

Business Line
India heading for another record tea output this year

October turned out to be a good month for the tea industry in the country with both North and South India posting impressive gains in production. “The Tea Board has now released the production data for October according to which, India’s output increased to 177.32 million kg (mkg) from 151.15 mkg in October 2016. This increase of 26.17 mkg marked a gain of 17.31 per cent,” Rajesh Gupta, compiler of annual ‘Global Tea Digest’ told. This happened because North Indian production increased by 23.47 mkg to reach 156.36 mkg and South Indian output rose by 2.70 mkg to reach 20.96 mkg.

In recent years, India’s production has been posting new records year after year. Till August also, the country was hoping to post another record output this year, but in September, weather pulled down North Indian production heavily, crashing the hope of another record output in 2017. October has brought in new hope on this front. “Our compilation shows that in the ten months, India’s production has increased to 1089.87 mkg from 1074.42 mkg. This increase of 15.45 mkg marks a marginal growth of 1.44 per cent”, Rajesh Gupta said. Because of lower production in earlier months, North Indian overall output till October dropped to 894.23 mkg from 896.55 mkg. On the contrary, South Indian output increased to 195.64 mkg from 177.87 mkg. Assam continued to top the country’s production table at 564.84 mkg, but it was down by 11.13 mkg over 2016. In the South, Tamil Nadu produced 139.63 mkg (up 15.57 mkg) and Kerala 51.64 mkg (up 2.25 mkg). If this trend continues in November and December, the country will produce an all-time high output of around 1,280 mkg, industry sources predict.

The Financial Express
Maharashtra FPCs gear up for onion procurement

Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) in Maharashtra are now gearing up for onion procurement following directives issued by the state cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh. Deshmukh, who had called a meet to check out strategies to keep onion prices under control, said that the process of issuing direct marketing licences would be eased to prevent monopoly of a few traders in the market. He had also asked FPCs to step in to begin procurement procurement at the grassroot level in order to benefit farmers.

Accordingly, the Maharashtra Federation of Farmer Producer Companies (MahaFPC) has decided to commence onion procurement after conducting a successful pilot in Shirur taluka near Pune. The federation had procured 60 tonne in the pilot to be sold in Chandigarh. With onion prices ruling high in the national capital, the Delhi government has sent a proposal to the government of Maharashtra for onion procurement, said MahaFPC managing director Yogesh Thorat. Moreover, FPCs will now play a major role in selling commodities such as onions out of the state and the process is being institutionalised through the State Marketing Board, he said. The Railways have been approached for sending onions to other states in the North and North East where there is a great demand for onions from the state, he said, adding that the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) here have agreed to supply vehicles. Onion prices in the market shot up to Rs 80 per kilogram (kg) in Delhi and a few other cities due to a squeeze in supply, suggesting that if the trend continues, retail inflation in India might also go up in the coming quarters. Prices of onion at the Azadpur Mandi — Asia’s largest vegetable market — were more than Rs 50-60 per kg over the past few days. However, the same onions sold for Rs 80 a kg, according to a trader.

The Financial Express
Onion prices rally in Asia as India restricts exports

Asian countries like Bangladesh and Malaysia are struggling to secure supplies of onions after the world’s biggest exporter India restricted overseas sales amid limited availability in the global market. Onions, an essential part of the diets of millions of Asians, are likely to remain expensive and scarce for at least two months until India lifts curbs on exports, traders said. “At the moment, there is nothing we can do but to wait,” said Mohammad Idris, a trader based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where onion prices have trebled in recent months, hitting an all-time high of 100 taka ($1.22) a kg (2.2 pounds) this week. “We are hoping the price of onions will come down in India once their new harvest hits the markets,” Idris said.

Onions grab space in almost every Asian kitchen as they are used as the base for traditional dishes such as biryani in Pakistan, belacan in Malaysia and fish curry in Bangladesh. A seven-fold rise in retail onion prices in just five months prompted India last week to set a minimum price of $850 a tonne for overseas sales until the end of 2017, well above the prevailing market price of $700 a tonne. “Only a few importers are willing to pay $850 per tonne. Exports have dropped substantially,” said Ajit Shah, an Indian exporter based in Mumbai. India was exporting onions at an average price of just $186 in July. The shortages come after record supplies last year prompted farmers in India and Pakistan to slash the area given over to the pungent bulb during the summer season after incurring losses. India exported 2.4 million tonnes of onions in 2016/17, mainly to Bangladesh, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates. Other exporters include Pakistan, China and Egypt.

The New Indian Express
Tea exports regain flavour

Tea exports have bounced back in the first 10 months of 2017 despite a no-show from the Darjeeling hills where plantation activity had come to a standstill because of 104 days of political strike. According to provisional figures released by the Tea Board, exports stood at 189.68 million kg between January and October compared with 178 million kg in the same period last year, a growth of 6.5 per cent. In value terms, exports were at Rs 3,724.34 crore in the January-October period of 2017, up about 4.8 per cent from Rs 3,553.19 crore in the same period last year.

On a per unit basis, prices were down to Rs 196.35 per kg from Rs 199.62 per kg because of a stronger rupee against the dollar and a slide in the sterling against international currencies. In dollar terms, Indian tea fetched $3.01 per kg compared with $2.98 per kg in the year-ago period. While exports to large volume markets such as the US, the UAE, Iran and Pakistan have increased during the period, shipments to other volume drivers such as Russia and the UK fell. Industry observers termed the rise in exports as a positive sign, led by high volume growth. "After a decline in 2016, exports have shown healthy growth. Prices, in terms of dollar, are also better even as it is slightly lower in rupee terms because of the currency fluctuation. However, the net realisation for the industry is higher because of the volume pick-up. As an industry, we should focus on the subcontinent and the Asian markets where consumption is growing. India needs to export at least 50 million kg tea more out of the domestic market," Azam Monem, chairman of the Indian Tea Association, said.

02, Dec 2017
Mint
CCI imposes Rs2 crore penalty on Monsanto

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed a penalty of Rs 50 lakh each on Monsanto Co. and three of its units for failing to comply with an ongoing probe against its officials. The total penalty thus amounts to Rs 2 crore.

In a 14 November order reviewed by Mint, the anti-trust body held the biotech giant and group companies—Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Ltd (MMBL), Monsanto Holdings Pvt. Ltd (MHPL) and Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd—to be in contravention of provisions of the Competition Act, 2002. Monsanto’s plea that the information sought by the CCI director general was voluminous, historic and needed more time to be furnished, was found untenable. In 2016, CCI had ordered a detailed probe against Monsanto based on prima facie evidence of violating competition norms. “We have received the order from the CCI on November 16, 2017 and are reviewing the same. This order is related to a procedural matter and is subject to further orders from the Delhi high court. Monsanto continues to extensively cooperate with the CCI in the investigation and has been providing information in response to requests received,” said a Monsanto spokesperson. The CCI noted that since no stay had been ordered on its ongoing probe against Monsanto officials by the Delhi high court that is hearing a challenge by the firm, the commission is entitled to proceed under provisions of the Competition Act. The CCI had earlier told the Delhi high court that Monsanto was not participating in the probe initiated against its officials. Monsanto and MMBL have challenged a CCI order in Delhi high court, objecting to a probe against its officials.

Business Line
Cotton industry plans stir against GST on Dec 15

The Cotton Association of India (CAI) plans to go on a token strike on December 15 protesting against what they called the strain caused by GST and the reverse charge mechanism, in particular. In a statement, the Association said that if the issue is not addressed at the next GST Council meeting, scheduled for December 21, it will go on an indefinite strike from the next day.

The action follows a recent joint meeting of the industry convened by the association, which has about 70 ginners as members. The meeting deliberated on the issue of Reverse Charge Mechanism which makes ginners responsible for the GST to be paid by farmers. This apart, the meeting also discussed the pending refunds from government to exporters since July after the GST roll-out, besides dwelling on the plight of the entire cotton industry. Manjeet Singh Chawla, President, Madhyanchal Cotton Ginners and Traders Association, said ginners have to bear the GST of farmers as they do not pay the tax while selling cotton and this has led to blockage of ginners’ funds. Requesting the association to take up the matter with the government, he said the reverse charge mechanism on cotton has spoilt the relationship between spinners and ginners. Omprakash Jain, President, Karnataka Cotton Association, said the ginners will be left with no option but to shut their operations if the issue is not resolved soon. BS Rajpal, President of the Maharashtra Cotton Ginners’ Association, said that RCM has been imposed only on cotton and not on other agriculture commodities which is totally unjust. Manish Daga, Director, Cotton Association of India, said about 2,700 farmers are switching from cotton to other cash crops. This year, he said, cotton farmers have already suffered huge losses due to climatic conditions and pink bollworm problems.

Business Line
Cotton mills go slow on using Kochi port for trade

The increased prices for imported cotton seem to have prompted the Southern India Mills’ Association to go slow on its plan to facilitate import and re-export of containerised cotton through the Kochi Port. “Right now the market is not conducive due to high international prices vis-a-vis domestic. It is expected to achieve a price stability in the next 3-4 months and imports will happen at this point of time,” G Radhakrishna, President, Coimbatore Cotton Association, said. “Either local prices have to go up to match international prices, or global rates should come down to match Indian prices. We believe that the price balance will be achieved by April-May for the imports to be concentrated,” he told.

The international cotton prices are now at Rs 42,500 per candy delivered at Indian port, while the domestic price is around Rs 38,200, he said. However, he added that the association has started bringing cotton to Kochi through coastal container route from Gujarat utilising the facilities at ICTT Vallarpadam. “We are moving some containers to Kochi meant for the spinning mills located in Tirupur, Coimbatore, Salem, etc., from the western part of the country along with Tuticorin Port that caters to the mills in Southern Tamil Nadu,” he said adding that the first consignment of 50 containers of cotton bales have been brought from Mundra and Pipavav last week and more such shipments are lined up for the coming months. Given the proximity of the Kochi Port to spinning mills in Coimbatore, SIMA and Indian Cotton Federation is toying up with the idea of importing and re-exporting of cotton through Kochi. Besides offering cost advantage, the closing down of Walayar check post after GST will also be an added advantage to them in ensuring faster movement of the raw material to the production units in the region.

Business Standard
Farm growth in Sept quarter muted at 1.7 % on high base, kharif fall

Agriculture and allied activities grew at a slower pace in the second quarter of 2017-18 as compared to the same period last year, and also sequentially, due to the impact of a high base and drop in kharif grain production. Some experts said July-September or Q2 was anyway a lean period for farming, coming between two harvests.

The fall puts into question the hope of agriculture seeing four-plus per cent growth in 2017-18. It's also a reversal of the trend from the first quarter, when agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant prices was higher than that in current prices, pointing to adverse terms of trade. Farm sector growth in 2017-18, many experts felt, would be 2.5-3 per cent. The data showed that in the second quarter, agricultural GDP at constant prices grew 1.7 per cent; in current prices it rose 3.7 per cent. Sequentially, at constant prices, agriculture and allied activities have grown by 1.7 per cent as against 2.3 per cent in the first quarter (April to June) of 2017-18. It was officially stated that production of foodgrain during the kharif season declined by 2.8 per cent, as compared to growth of 10.7 per cent during the same period in 2016-17. Around 52.5 percent of Gross Value Added in the sector is based on livestock products, forestry and fisheries, which saw combined growth of 3.8 per cent in Q2. In Q1, the growth was 3.4 per cent. Foodgrain production in the 2017-18 kharif is expected to be 134.67 million tonnes. This is 2.8 per cent less than the fourth estimate of last year but only 0.3 per cent less than the first estimate of 2016-17. The total output dropped because of uneven rain in some parts and a shift in acreage in a few crops, particularly soybean, pulses and coarse cereals.

Deccan Herald
Farmers reap rich harvest in this crowd-funding initiative

This Bengaluru-based techie-turned-agriculture enthusiast has started an initiative whereby farmers get a ready market and huge profits, while customers have healthy produce at their doorsteps. The initiative, titled Swakrushi, eliminates middlemen in the process. Nearly 2,000 farmers in Ramanagaram and Yadgir districts have tied up with Swakrushi, founded by Srinivas Shivanand.

A vegetable grower from Ramanagaram, said, “We never imagined that we will be meeting the common people with our yield. We used to end up in the market and the APMCs around the city to sell our goods, where middlemen used to fix the rate. The middlemen would get the benefit, not we or the people. When compared to the market rates in the market, the rates here are less. The produce is fresh, which makes customers prefer them.” “Swakrushi and we, jointly fix the rates for our yields. They have to spend on vehicle maintenance and other expenses. So, we don’t mind giving them commission, which is nothing compared to brokerage,” he added. Swakrushi, now three years old, is a crowd-funding initiative which is getting a good response from the people of South Bengaluru, mostly in JP Nagar and Rajarajeshwari Nagar, where there are nearly 10,000 customers. A few people are voluntarily involved in the initiative either by supporting it financially or doing the footwork. The initiative’s first intention was to educate the farmers about farming. The farmers were facing huge losses, when they used to grow crops using hybrid seeds given by the government. Swakrushi started addressing those minimal issues, which has now made farmers independent and store sufficient seeds for the next cultivation. Shivanand said, “In India, 75% of the farmers own small tracts of land. Our target was to reach that section of peasants as they don’t have any idea about farming.”

Deccan Herald
Farmers reap rich harvest in this crowd-funding initiative

This Bengaluru-based techie-turned-agriculture enthusiast has started an initiative whereby farmers get a ready market and huge profits, while customers have healthy produce at their doorsteps. The initiative, titled Swakrushi, eliminates middlemen in the process. Nearly 2,000 farmers in Ramanagaram and Yadgir districts have tied up with Swakrushi, founded by Srinivas Shivanand.

A vegetable grower from Ramanagaram, said, “We never imagined that we will be meeting the common people with our yield. We used to end up in the market and the APMCs around the city to sell our goods, where middlemen used to fix the rate. The middlemen would get the benefit, not we or the people. When compared to the market rates in the market, the rates here are less. The produce is fresh, which makes customers prefer them.” “Swakrushi and we, jointly fix the rates for our yields. They have to spend on vehicle maintenance and other expenses. So, we don’t mind giving them commission, which is nothing compared to brokerage,” he added. Swakrushi, now three years old, is a crowd-funding initiative which is getting a good response from the people of South Bengaluru, mostly in JP Nagar and Rajarajeshwari Nagar, where there are nearly 10,000 customers. A few people are voluntarily involved in the initiative either by supporting it financially or doing the footwork. The initiative’s first intention was to educate the farmers about farming. The farmers were facing huge losses, when they used to grow crops using hybrid seeds given by the government. Swakrushi started addressing those minimal issues, which has now made farmers independent and store sufficient seeds for the next cultivation. Shivanand said, “In India, 75% of the farmers own small tracts of land. Our target was to reach that section of peasants as they don’t have any idea about farming.”

The Economic Times
India Losing Pak Tea Market to Kenya

Indian tea exporters say they are losing market share in Pakistan, the world’s third-largest importer of the beverage, due to influx of cheap teas into the country from Kenya. “From October, prices of Kenyan tea started falling. In the initial months of 2017, Kenyan tea production was less, but from October production picked up and the African nation started exporting to Pakistan at a much cheaper price compared to India,” said Gopal Poddar, chairman of Limtex India, a leading tea exporter.

The drop in tea exports, in turn, is driving down tea prices in India. While prices of teas produced in south India have fallen by more than 20% in the last one month, those of Assam teas have dropped by about 10%. Pakistan consumes 170 million kg of tea every year. The per-capita consumption of tea is estimated to be 1kg a year. The country imports black tea from 19 countries, with Kenya accounting for a major share of that. Green tea is mainly imported from China, Vietnam and Indonesia. While tea export to Pakistan remains a concern for traders, overall shipment of tea overseas in the first 10 months of 2017 increased by 6.56% to 189.68 million kg. Exports have gone up in the UAE, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Canada, but dropped in the UK and Bangladesh markets, besides Pakistan. Data from the Tea Board shows that in the 10 months to end of October, the country produced 1,089.87 million kg of tea, up 1.43% from the year-ago period. In 2016, the country had produced 1,267.36 million kg of teas. But meeting or even surpassing last year’s figure will be difficult as there has been some loss in Assam crop in September. The production in November has also been affected because of winter setting in early in the hills.

The Financial Express
Maha to offer direct marketing licences to check onion price

The Maharashtra government has decided to offer direct marketing licences and ease the process for traders to keep onion prices in check. A decision to this effect was taken at a meet chaired by Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh. The minister told that giving direct marketing licences would end the monopoly of few traders who enjoy access to the agriculture produce market committees and easing up the process would lead to healthier competition among traders and thereby benefiting both farmers and consumers.”If we study the markets for the past 8-10 years, it may be noticed that when the production is good farmers end up distress selling their produce to traders. A lot of volatility has crept into the market which is dominated by few traders and therefore more traders need to be brought into the chain,” he said. The minister said instead of waiting for the situation to worsen, there is a need to take preventive measures to ensure the well being of farmers. Sunil Pawar, MD, Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board ( MSAMB) said that around 600 direct marketing licences have been given to traders and there is a move to speed up the process. The objective is to end the monopoly of few traders, he said adding that more private markets will be opened for commodities as well. At present there are around 48 private markets in the state of which around 35 are for cotton, he said. The minister said that more than 70-80% of the country’s onion export happen from Maharashtra and onions from Lasalgaon and Nashik are known for their quality.To end the monopoly of agents, brokers and commission agents, it is important to make the process of licences easier.

DNA
Rahul attacks PM Modi over farmers’ woes

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who was back in Gujarat on a two-day tour, slammed prime minister Narendra Modi for failing to protect interests of farmers and small traders, while ensuring benefits for his industrialist friends. Addressing a public meeting at Savarkundla in Saurashtra, the Congress leader said that contrary to promises made by Modi, farmers were not getting lower Minimum Support Prices for their produce than in the previous governments. “The crop insurance premium has been increased, but farmers are not getting any benefits. Only the four five insurance companies, owned by Modi ji’s friends, are making money,” Gandhi said at Savarkundla.

Taking a dig at BJP’s talk of Vikas (development), the Congress leader, who is set to take over as the party president, said “I believe Vikas is the code name of Modi ji’s five industrialist friends.” Incidentally, both Modi and Gandhi were in Saurashtra for campaigning during the day. While Modi attacked the Congress leader for calling GST as Gabbar Singh Tax, Gandhi said that many businesses had shut down and lakhs lost their jobs because of GST. The Congress VP came down heavily on Modi for the decision to scrap notes of Rs500 and 1,000, saying it had helped thieves to convert their black money into white. “The whole country was in queues. Tell me, did you see Modi ji’s suited-booted friends in any of the queues? Did you see even one?” he questioned. Gandhi also warned that due to the elections, the PM would get emotional in his speeches two three times, and even shed tears. Without naming any corporate house, Gandhi said that Modi had given 45,000 hectare land in Mundra at the rate of Re 1 per sq mt, and the same land was being sold to government companies for Rs2,000 5,000 per sq mt.

The Indian Express
SIT submits report on Vidarbha presticide deaths

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the state government to probe the deaths of farmers and farm labourers in Yavatmal and other districts of Vidarbha, allegedly due to accidental pesticide inhalation, submitted its report to Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar. The SIT had taken about two months for completing its task.

Sources told that contrary to speculation about pressure from the pesticides lobby, the effect of pesticides forms the core of the findings of the SIT. “All facts were carefully examined on a scientific basis to draw the inferences,” a senior official said, refusing to divulge specific details. The probe team was headed by Amravati Divisional Commissioner Piyush Singh. Subhash Nagre, Joint Director (Agriculture), Amravati Division, Nitin Ambadkar, Deputy Director (Health Services), Akola, Kiran Deshmukh, Member of Central Insecticides Board, Vijay Waghmare, Acting Director of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) and Dhanraj Undirwade, entomologist from Punjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, Akola, were members of the SIT. Umbrella organisation of pesticide and insecticide manufacturers, Crop Care Foundation of India, had claimed that presides were not responsible for the deaths. “No pressure from any quarter had any influence on the committee,” the official said. It is gathered the probe panel has listed extra height gained by cotton crop, widespread use of pesticide cocktails, high-density plantation, non-use of protective gear while spraying, etc. as factors.

The Economic Times
Sugar Industry Demands 60% Import Duty to Support Prices

Ex-mill sugar prices have declined by 5-7% in the past two-three weeks due to increasing arrivals of new season’s sugar, prospects of higher production and panic selling by some millers. The industry has now demanded a hike in import duty and removal of stock limit on traders to support the prices. “Sugar prices have been falling. We have lost Rs 200 per quintal during the past three weeks,” Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) secretary Deepak Guptara said. “We have demanded that the import duty on sugar be increased to 60%.” At present, the import duty is 50%.

In UP, ex-mill net sugar prices have declined from Rs 36.50/kg to Rs 34.50/kg within the past three weeks, down by 6.8%. UP mills still have about 14% sugar from last year’s production. The old sugar is sold at a discount when new sugar hits the markets. As 109 of the 119 sugar mills in UP have stared crushing operations, the supply of new sugar will increase in the coming days. Demand for sugar falls during winter due to lower consumption of cold drinks and ice creams, as well as the absence of major festivals. In Maharashtra, sugar mills, especially from the drought-hit Marathwada region, have resorted to panic selling.

The Tribune
Third-party audit of grain procurement since 2003

The Punjab government has finally ordered a special third-party independent audit for physical and financial verification of foodgrains procured by it in the past 14 years. The Department of Food and Civil Supplies has floated a Request for Proposal, seeking third-party auditors for the verification of foodgrains procured between April 1, 2003, and March 31, 2017. “The entire burden of Rs 31,000-crore legacy food credit account settlement that the Punjab government is to bear, and which put the state’s finances in a tailspin, is because of the alleged mismanagement of the procurement process during these 14 years,” official sources said.

The sources said while the Request for Proposal would be available from December 1, they were looking at national audit agencies and companies, to do the audit. The bids for this would have to be submitted by December 21. The technical bids and later financial bids would be decided by the end of December. Having inherited an “ailing economy”, the cash-strapped Capt Amarinder Singh government had decided to go in for an audit of how such a huge liability could be allowed to rise, look into the gap between the cost of buying foodgrains and reimbursement by the Central procurement agencies and fix responsibility of whosoever was involved in this. It was to settle this legacy food credit account with the Centre that the previous Akali-BJP government had raised a loan. Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal has often raised the issue that though initially the Centre was willing to share and take over Rs 10,000 crore of this loan, the previous government did not bother and took over the entire responsibility of paying Rs 31,000 crore. He has often said since the Punjab government procured foodgrains on behalf of the Union government, the latter should share the debt burden with Punjab.

02, Dec 2017
Business Standard
Farm success tied to factory model

Indian farms would need to increasingly move to factory-like operation to continue serving the changing needs of consumers, said a panel on AgriTech at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Technology would have to play a bigger role, said the speakers in Hyderabad.

Agriculture output depends on weather and quality can be heterogeneous. In factory, you control output, shape, size and quality. Farming can also move towards this direction, S Sivakumar, chief executive of ITC’s agribusiness division, explained. Sivakumar said agriculture would have to balance the interests of consumers and farmers while addressing the challenges of resources. “The consumer wants nutritious and safe food at reasonable prices while higher income is the aspiration of farmers. Farmers’ average income is just one-fourth of the average per capita income in developing countries. We also need some dignity for farm labour so that the next generation is interested in farming. A better quality of life in villages is the need of the hour,” said Sivakumar, whose company deals with six million farmers growing crops such as wheat, soybean and tobacco in 22 states. These feed into the company’s FMCG business and also cater to the requirement of other small and large end-users in domestic and overseas markets. Maxim Pasik, executive chairman of WaterGen, an Israeli company, said farmers can grow anything from corn to wheat to rice on vertical walls that don’t require big land parcels.

Business Line
Hindustan Urvarak to award first fertiliser project by Dec

Hindustan Urvarak and Rasayan Ltd (HURL) will award projects for the first of its three gas-based fertilizer plants before the year-end. HURL is the joint venture between NTPC Ltd, Coal India Ltd, Indian Oil Corporation, Fertiliser Corporation of India Ltd and Hindustan Fertiliser Corporation Ltd. The JV was assigned the responsibility of reviving three fertiliser plants at Gorakhpur, Sindri of FCI, and Barauni of HFCL in June 2016.

Indian Oil Chairman Sanjiv Singh, who is also the chief of the joint venture, said, “My assessment is that the work for the first one will be awarded in another 15 days. Our target is to commission all the three plants in 2020.” “We have got the environmental clearance for all the three plants that are located in the same areas. Area clearing and pre-project activities are going on. We have got the tenders, we have lined up the consultant. We have got the tenders for EPC contractors and the technology selection will also be in their scope. We have shortlisted technologies. We have opened the tenders and evaluation is going on,” Singh told.

Commenting on the need to revise the budget, Singh said, “The bids are yet to be awarded, but my expectation is that it would be within 10 to 15 per cent of our estimate.” The task for setting up of these three fertilizer plants have been entrusted to three Maharatna Public Sector Companies on equal cost-sharing basis. An official statement had said that it was proposed to install an ammonia plant of 2,200 tonne per day and Urea plant of 3,850 tonne per day at each of these units at Gorakhpur, Sindri and Barauni at an estimated cost of Rs. 6,000 crore for each unit. The total project cost was estimated at Rs. 18,000 crore for the three plants, the statement added.

The New Indian Express
Need to decrease farmers’ dependency on groundwater: Ministry of Water Resources

A Census report by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has said that groundwater still accounts for the lion’s share of 94.5 per cent of all the minor irrigation schemes in the country. It added that there is a need to decrease farmers’ dependency on groundwater to reduce the depletion of groundwater. The census found that irrigation potential created and utilised from groundwater schemes has increased while irrigation potential created and utilised from surface water schemes has declined.

The depletion of groundwater continues to be a cause of concern across the country and 89 per cent of groundwater extracted is used in the irrigation sector, making it the highest category user in the country. Minor irrigation schemes have around 60 per cent of share among all irrigation schemes for farmers. “This implies declining dependency of farmers on surface water schemes and increasing dependency on groundwater schemes for meeting their minor irrigation needs. So, in order to decrease the dependency of farmers on groundwater and to reduce the further depletion of groundwater, surface water sources need to be restored in order to continue to derive irrigation benefits from them,” the census report said. It highlights that groundwater minor irrigation schemes continue to remain under private ownership and most minor irrigation structures in India are owned by individual farmers or group of farmers and hence it has maximum outreach for irrigation. “Within this, small and marginal farmers (having less than 2 ha of land) still own a major share of minor irrigation schemes. This emphasizes the need for strengthening the network of structures for irrigation purposes in the country which, in turn, will play a crucial role in improving the livelihood of these farmers,” it said.

Business Line
Onion prices to come down soon on arrivals from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh: Paswan

Onion prices, retailing at Rs 80/kg, will soon start coming down with the arrival of fresh crop from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. Although the kharif output is likely to be lower this year, the government is taking concrete steps to boost supplies and curb further rise in prices, he said. Besides imports, the availability of onions is being improved in the country through direct sourcing of the crop from farmers for distribution in consuming areas, he added.

“We have requested Maharashtra government to procure 10,000 tonnes on behalf of the Government of India for distribution in Delhi and other cities,” Paswan told after reviewing the situation arising from high onion and tomato prices. He said tomato prices will also start easing as supplies increase. Tomatoes are retailing at Rs 60-70/kg. Paswan further said that the Delhi government has been told to consider Nafed’s proposal to procure onions for distribution through ration shops in the national capital. Price rise in onions is a matter of concern, he said, adding that the central government is monitoring rates on a daily basis and even the Delhi government has formed an enforcement team for the same, he added. Asked by when the prices will come down, Paswan said: “We have seen some price correction in wholesale rates at Lasalgoan in Maharashtra”, Asia’s biggest market for onions.

The onion rates at Lasalgoan, which sends price signal to other cities, have come down to Rs 32/kg from Rs 36/kg in the last 2-3 days, he said. “There will be further price correction once the arrival is in full swing from these two states in Delhi mandis,” he said, adding that prices are driven by supply-demand fundamentals and his ministry has limited role to play.

The Hindu
Pilot effect? Increased water supply for crops

After a huge farmers’ rally addressed by Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot in Suratgarh, the Rajasthan government’s Irrigation Department has decided to increase water supply from the Indira Gandhi Canal Project during the rabi sowing season in Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh districts. Farmers in the region have been demanding more water for their mustard and wheat crops. The owners of agricultural fields at present get irrigation waters for a continuous period of seven days, followed by a halt in supply for 17 days.

The Irrigation Department’s water regulation committee has now decided to change the cycle and reduce the period of stopping water supply from 17 days to seven days till December 21. The situation will be reviewed in the next meeting on January 10, when the supply can be increased depending on the availability of water in Pong dam and Ranjit Sagar dam, which are the main sources of supply to the region. Suratgarh MLA and committee member Rajendra Singh Bhadu said the water supply could be increased and the gap reduced if it rains during the winter and inflow of water increases. The farmers, who gathered in large numbers at Gharsana and Suratgarh with the demand for more water for rabi crops, have asked for unhindered water supply till March next year.

Addressing the rally of farmers from the canal-irrigated areas, Mr. Pilot had said that the farmers were not getting water, seeds and fertiliser at the right time. “The [State] government is neglecting the interests of farmers and creating a situation in which they are compelled to commit suicide,” he had said. The Congress leader had also alleged that the State government failed to ensure proper maintenance of distributaries of the Indira Gandhi Canal, which had caused water seepage and damaged the soil.

The Pioneer
RISING ONION PRICES: MIN REVIEWS ISSUE

Minister for Food and Civil Supplies Imran Hussain reviewed the issue of rising retail price of onion in Delhi with Commissioner, Food and Civil Supplies and other senior officers of Food and Civil Supplies Department. During review meeting, the Minister was informed that a meeting in this regard was also convened by Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution System on November 29 where the Delhi Government requested Central Government to provide financial assistance under Price Stabilization Fund so that the Delhi Government could consider providing onion at affordable prices to the citizens through Public Distribution System (PDS) Outlets, in addition to onion being provided through SAFAL Outlets.

Commissioner (Food & Civil Supplies) also informed the Minister that 4 enforcement teams of the department are making daily inspections of major mandis for taking effective action against hoarding activities. However, the teams have not reported any single instance of hoarding till date. "It was opined that considering the high renting costs of storage space in Delhi, possibilities of hoarding activities in Delhi are very less, however, hoarding activities could be occurring in the neighbouring States for which the Central Government should convene a meeting with neighbouring States for increasing enforcement activities against the hoarding. The Minister directed the Department to apprise Government of India on this issue suitably. The Department further said the rise in prices of onion is due to less arrivals of onion from Nashik, Maharashtra.

Hussain also directed to convene a meeting with officers of Development Department, Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board and Food and Civil Supplies Department on Thursday to ascertain the trends of wholesale prices and also quantum of arrivals in local mandis of Delhi. Hussain also desired to know the trend of wholesale and retail prices of onion in the neighbouring States.

Business Line
Tea output up 17.3% in October

India’s tea production in October jumped 17.31 per cent from a year ago to 177.32 million kg (mkg) as plucking activity accelerated in top producer Assam, the Tea Board said. Assam produced 100.55 mkg of tea in October, up 13.8 per cent from a year earlier, the Board said in a statement. India’s tea output in September had fallen over 23 per cent. The country produced 1,089.9 mkg tea in the first ten months of 2017, up 1.5 per cent from a year ago. India, the world’s second-biggest tea producer, exports CTC grade mainly to Egypt, Pakistan and the UK, and the orthodox variety to Iraq, Iran and Russia.

Business Line
Untimely rain, Bt3 seeds, pest attack leave Telangana’s cotton farmers in tatters

In the sprawling public market yard at Jangaon, Yellavva was the lone cotton farmer who had come to sell her produce. A small farmer, with just a couple of acres, she brought the produce in an auto-trolley, all weighing about two quintals. She sold it to a trader for Rs 4,000 a quintal. Yellavva was the sole farmer at the market because not many turn up at the government facility. “All of them go to private ginning mills where the CCI (Cotton Corporation of India) has set up procurement centres,” the trader says. While the yard wears a deserted look, farmers make a beeline to private ginning mills that give them quick service so that they can go back home without the uncertainty of whether or not they can sell their produce the same day, at the government marketyard. “I get nothing much after paying labourers and transport,” Yellavva says. This is also the fate of thousands of farmers in Telangana. After getting a raw deal last year in other crops, they returned to cotton this year. The cotton acreage crossed a record 46 lakh acres this year in the State against the average acreage of 35 lakh acres.

Untimely rain during the picking season, a virulent attack of pink bollworms, and widespread cultivation of Bt3 seeds have left them dejected. Discoloured cotton with high moisture content is barely saleable and rates drop steeply. “Most small and marginal farmers are getting Rs 500-600 less than the MSP for every quintal they sell,” said S Malla Reddy, Vice-President of All-India Kisan Sangh (AIKS). The MSP for cotton for the year has been set at Rs 4,320 a quintal (long staple) and Rs 4,320 (medium staple). Malla Reddy alleged that nearly a third of the total area was covered by Bt3 seeds, which were sold illegally in the State.

30, Nov 2017
Business Line
A lot can happen with coffee, Board tells entrepreneurs

The Coffee Board will promote entrepreneurship in coffee with a dual purpose of pushing self businesses as well as coffee consumption. Speaking on the sidelines of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), Y Raghuramulu of the Central Coffee Research Institute said 34 entrepreneurs had successfully launched their businesses in the last one and a half years. According to BJ Ashwin Kumar, Research Chair and Consultant (Promotion), Coffee Board, about 700 were trained in various aspects of the business so far. “The advantage in the business is that it will not need huge capital. One can take it off with even Rs 1 lakh,” he said. The consumption of coffee in India has been steadily growing at about 5 to 6 per cent per annum, Raghuramulu said, adding: “While South has been a predominant market, of late the numbers of coffee lovers in the North has been growing.” About 3.25 lakh tonnes of coffee is produced by India. “Efforts are being made to push coffee exports with a focus on special varieties,” he said. Europe is a major destination for Indian shade-grown coffee, followed by the US. The domestic consumption is about 1 lakh tonnes, which includes a few varieties from Indonesia and Vietnam.

The Tribune
BKU: Addl cane price not paid in 30 yrs

Sugar mills in the state have swindled crores of rupees in additional cane price (ACP) as the farmers have not been paid their dues for the past over 30 years. As per the Sugarcane Act, the price is fixed with 8.5 per cent as sugar recovery base. After the crushing season is over, the Cane Commissioner works out the average recovery of the season for all mills, explains Bharti Kisan Union chief Balbir Singh Rajewal. “If it is more that 8.5 per cent (this has never been lower than 9.5 per cent in Punjab), the state is supposed to direct the mills to pay the difference to the farmers. This is called ACP and has never been followed, except once,” he alleged. “This has continued unchecked and unchallenged and we demand a high-level inquiry by the Vigilance Bureau into this loot,” he added.

Business Line
Commerce Ministry to address pepper growers’ woes on imports, prices

The Commerce Ministry has assured a delegation of pepper growers from Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu that it would address their grievances very soon. A delegation comprising representatives from 14 grower bodies of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu recently met Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, and Director of Plantations Anitha Karan, to request the Ministry to address their grievances, according to KK Vishwanath, Coordinator. The delegation, he said, suggested that the Ministry take certain measures to help the pepper growers.

Addressing presspersons in Mangaluru, Konkodi Padmanabha, convenor of the consortium, said the price of black pepper — which was around Rs 650 a kg last year — has dropped to Rs 350 this year and blamed the import of what he called inferior quality pepper from Vietnam for this. Some exporters import pepper from Vietnam under the ‘value-addition for re-export scheme’. Many exporters retain this pepper for sale in India, and instead re-bag and export the Indian variety as ‘processed and sterilised’ Vietnam pepper. This enables the exporter to get back the import duty, which works out to around Rs 150 a kg, he said. He alleged that pepper originating from Vietnam and Indonesia is also routed through Sri Lanka by producing the ‘certificate of origin’ of Sri Lanka. The Customs duty on pepper should be increased substantially to curb imports, he said. Padmanabha said that the consortium urged the Minister to fix the minimum import price for pepper at $8,000 a tonne. There is no minimum import price for the spice.

The Tribune
Goodricke banks on acquired brands for pan-India presence

Goodricke Group Ltd. is planning to double its market share in the packaged tea segment, riding piggyback on its acquisition of the packet tea brands of Godfrey Philips Ltd. “Right now, we have a large share of the market in Madhya Pradesh and a significant presence in West Bengal, Punjab and Haryana. We will leverage the acquired brands to strengthen our reach in Bihar, U.P., Jammu & Kashmir and in Maharashtra,” said A.N. Singh, MD and CEO, Goodricke.

Goodricke has acquired the packet tea brands owned by Godfrey Philips a company engaged in cigarettes, tobacco, tea and other retail products. GPL, which was incorporated in 1988, had recently sold its packet tea business to Goodricke in a ₹20-crore deal. Godfrey Philips had decided to exit the packet tea business which contributed only 3% to its revenue. In the quarter ended September 30, 2017 the company made a loss in its tea and other retail products business. Mr. Singh said that Goodricke was aiming to double its market share to 4% within a year of operationalising the deal, which became effective November 1. Goodricke has begun retailing the acquired brands, sourcing the teas from its own gardens as well as through auctions.

Goodricke produces 8 million kg of tea annually at its gardens in Assam, Dooars and in Darjeeling, some of which are decades old. Its presence in the packet tea market is mainly through some premium Darjeeling tea brands, green tea and CTC tea brands. It also sells through auctions and private deals. It plans to leverage the strong brand recall of the Godfrey Philips brands in the western and northern Indian markets where the brand has a strong presence especially in modern retail.

The Tribune
Govt liable for farmers’ plight: SAD

Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal criticised the Congress government for not allowing discussion on the adjournment motion moved by the SAD-BJP to discuss the farm crisis, saying this was done to hide the government’s failure to fulfil its farm loan waiver promise. Addressing the media, Sukhbir said the SAD-BJP legislators were forced to stage a walk out due to the government’s refusal to debate the plight of state farmers. Sukhbir said the government had deceived the farmers by announcing a loan waiver, clearing the proposal in a Cabinet meeting and even passing a notification to this effect. “However, nothing has happened on ground and no loan has been waived till now,” he said. “We had moved an adjournment motion because 300 farmers have committed suicide with some even after naming the CM in their suicide note,” he said, adding that they also wanted to raise the issue of cane growers who were denied the SAP on a par with their counterparts in Haryana and UP. “Hundreds of crores are being given to sugar barons who are also part of the government, which is also an issue of conflict of interest,” he alleged.

The Economic Times
Jeera Futures Rise, Hoarding Indicated

Cumin or jeera futures have been hitting new peaks despite higher acreage in the main growing states and sluggish demand in export markets, indicating speculative hoarding by big players. The contract for delivery in December has jumped more than 15% on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (Ncdex) over the last couple of weeks. It touched a high of Rs 221.45 per kg before slipping to Rs 219.80. The contract for delivery in January rose 10% to Rs 214.60 a kg. “While small traders have already offloaded their stock, the big players are holding stocks fuelling speculation,” said Nimesh Vohra, an exporter. “Since they have large holding capacity, they may liquidate stock position only after further price rise. The export demand has already slowed down.” Commodity brokers said prices are due for correction as they have met with resistance from buyers. “It could correct to Rs 210/ kg level,” said Ritesh Kumar Sahu, analyst at Angel Commodity Broking.

The Financial Express
Major disease hits tomato crop, prices to remain high

Tomato prices are set to remain high for a couple of months, thanks to a major ‘Karpa’ disease attack that has affected more than 70% of the crop. Retail prices of tomatoes are in the range of Rs 60-70 per kg owing to short supplies in the market. According to Shriram Gadhave, president, Vegetable Growers Association of India (VGAI), climate change for past few seasons is affecting the health of the crop and this year as well there has been a major attack of Karpa which has destroyed the crop. ‘Karpa,’ is a a fungal disease, which leads to withering of the leaves and causes black spots on the fruit. The reason for the same is the unseasonal rainfall despite the strict care taken by farmers. “So instead of the six-seven tonne of productivity per hectare, the yield has dropped down to three-four tonne,” Gadhave pointed out.

The modal price of tomatoes was Rs 47.10 per crate. Each crate contains 20 kg. Pimpalgaon Baswant in Niphad tehsil of Nashik district is the largest producer of tomatoes in the country. They are traded on a crate basis in Nashik. In the first half of November, the average retail price of onion and tomatoes surged 23% and 28% on month, respectively. “Wholesale prices (of tomatoes) in Nashik have nearly doubled from Rs 15-20 per kg a month ago to Rs 35-40 currently,” a trader said. The retail prices are in the range of Rs 60-70 per kg in Nashik, a key tomato producer in the country in the country. Gadhave said although the rains have been good this season and the water table is up, the volatility in climate has been affecting the crop.

Business Line
NCDEX Turmeric: Ready to rally

Turmeric prices have been gaining momentum the last couple of weeks. The turmeric futures contract traded on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) has surged over 11 per cent in the last two weeks from Rs 6,914 a quintal on November 17 to the current level of Rs 7,696. Strong demand from the domestic as well as the export market has pushed turmeric prices higher. Quality arrivals in the spot market have also aided the price rise in recent times. The recent rally has happened from a key support level of Rs 6,800, which leaves the outlook bullish for the contract.

A key resistance lies ahead for the turmeric futures contract in the Rs 7,900-50 region. This resistance zone is likely to be tested in the near-term. Inability to break above this hurdle can trigger a corrective fall to Rs 7,400 or Rs 7,300 in the short-term. The 100-day moving average, which is on the verge of crossing over the 55-day moving average, indicates that the downside could be limited in the short-term. This suggests that further fall below Rs 7,300 is less probable at the moment. An eventual break above Rs 7,950 can boost the momentum. Such a break can take the contract higher to Rs 8,500 or Rs 8,600 thereafter. Short-term traders can go long on dips at Rs 7,500. Stop-loss can be placed at Rs 7,100 for the target of Rs 8,300. Revise the stop-loss higher to Rs 7,750 as soon as the contract moves up to Rs 7,950.

The contract has been in a strong downtrend since December 2015 from its high of Rs 10,660. This downtrend halted at a low of Rs 5,234 in May this year. The contract has recovered strongly since then. This upmove signals an end to the downtrend that has been in place since December 2015.

The Economic Times
Price Rise Sends Tea Stocks on a Tear; Analysts Cautious

Shares of tea companies gained between 5% and 25% in the last five trading sessions on the back of an increase in tea prices because of production shortages in Assam and West Bengal, the largest tea-producing states. While fundamental analysts remain skeptical about the prospects of tea companies, technical analysts are bullish, and they expect a further increase of 8-10%. Sharp upside movement was seen in the main tea companies, and they have all rallied from the lows. The climb, driven by strong volumes, comes after a long period of consolidation.

Stocks such as Warren Tea, Goodricke Group and Assam Co. have surged nearly 25% in the past five trading sessions, while Harrisons Malayalam and Jayshree Tea gained 22% during this period. BSE Consumer Durable index rose just 2.6% in the past five trading sessions. Technically, stocks such as Tata Global, BBTC, Tata Coffee, Mcleod Russel, Assam Co, Harrisons Malayalam and Jayashree are looking promising, said analysts. “The current upside rally in tea stocks is likely to continue for some more period and the chart patterns of above stocks are all suggesting further upside potential of another 8-10% for the next couple of weeks,” said Nagaraj Shetti, technical research analyst, HDFC Securities. “The momentum oscillators are suggesting exhibition of strong upside momentum as there is no indication of any tiredness of upside momentum at the highs”. Long-term prospects of tea companies, according to fundamental analysts are not great as the realisation has not increased as much as the prices due to increase in labour costs and shrinking margins. “According to managements of some of tea companies, tea prices have moved up by Rs 10-15 in the last few days, but those will not increase much the operating margins,” said Sanjay Manyal, analyst, ICICI Securities. “Stocks of tea companies rallied ahead of their fundamentals, so there is limited upside”.

Business Line
Saurashtra villagers set up company to promote farming

A little use of technology and collective effort have shown positive results in a remote Gujarat village where farmers have more than doubled the produce and improved their income. Farmers in this village, 266 km south of Gandhinagar, have formed a company to promote farming and to increase produce as well as income of growers.

“We are inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double farmers’ income. Government is doing its part, we also need to come forward with ideas and show enthusiasm,” Bauji Sagathiya, a board member of the Saurashtra Swanirbhar Khedut Producers Company (SSKPC), which also has two women members on its board told. Earlier, the produce from 1 acre land was 500 kg and now it has risen to 1,200 kg. “As the produce increased, so has our income. Earlier we were getting ₹3,500 a quintal. Now it is ₹4,500,” he said. “After setting up the company, We sell our produce to NAFED. Earlier, we used to sell the produce in local mandies.” “A farmer informs us about the quantity of his produce and we allot him a date to bring his produce for sale. He is updated through an alert text,” Sagathiya added. Company was registered under Companies Act in 2015. There are six people on its board and over 1,600 farmers of 17 nearby villages are its members. “We have registered phone numbers of all of them and send them an alerts,” he said. Idea of forming a company, he said, came after Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries Ltd, guided the farmers of the region to identify the issues in the dry Saurashtra region and form a platform to solve it collectively. “Reliance Foundation came to our village four years back. It had been working in areas of water conservation, food and nutrition, health and education, farm technique etc,” Sagathiya said.

The Times of India
‘Solutions for India’s concerns within reach’

Ahead of the WTO ministerial meeting in Buenos Aires next month, the chairman of the group on agriculture negotiations, Stephen Karau, Kenya’s ambassador to WTO, has indicated that a permanent solution to the issue of public stockholding (PSH) for food security is likely to be based on the Bali decision but warned that time to find a formula was running out.

At a meeting in Geneva, Karau stressed that stockholding, which impacts food procurement by countries such as India was a priority area and added that there was as mandate to find a solution by the year-end. Although he said that an outcome is “within reach”, a solution is neither easy, nor guaranteed, sources said. “Taking into account the proposals on the table and what I have heard in different meetings, as well as strong opposition by many members to the unlimited exemption of market price support provided under the PSH programmes, my assessment is that with the limited time left until MC11 (ministerial meeting in Argentina), a Permanent Solution based on the Bali Decision is most likely to attract convergence among the membership,” Karau was quoted as saying.

At least four proposals have been put forward by various countries including a group comprising India, which is pushing for a change in rules arguing that the formula based on 1986-88 prices is outdated and against the interests of developing countries which procured grains from farmers. Latest proposal has been put forward by Norway and Singapore and limited flexibility to new programmes, which India is not keen on. India has told the WTO membership that the G33 proposal is preferable as it provides legal certainty and covers a broader range of products under the term “foodstuffs” and added that it could not accept additional safeguards more than what is contained in the Bali interim decision. China has supported the G33 statement.

Millennium Post
Supply crunch sends onion prices skyrocketing to Rs 80/kg

In the wake of tomatoes prices seen to be skyrocketing in the national capital, now onion prices have also begun soaring, making both the staple food items nearly inaccessible to Delhi's poor households. Retail onion prices have touched Rs 80 per kg in the national Capital, owing to tight supply. A similar spike has been seen in neighbouring cities as well, according to trade data. Onions in other metro cities are being sold at Rs 50-70 per kg, depending on the quality and locality, the data showed.

Earlier this year, the prices of tomatoes had soared to around Rs 100 per kg in retail markets of the city. Now, onion prices have risen to troubling levels. "At Delhi's Azadpur Mandi, Asia's largest vegetable market, onions were sold at over Rs 50-60 per kg. The same onion is being retailed at Rs 80 per kg today," a trader said. Wholesale and retail prices have reportedly reached to such levels because of lower arrivals from the key onion growing states, such as Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. In Maharashtra's Lasalgoan mandi – Asia's biggest market for onions – arrivals dropped by 47 per cent to 12,000 quintal today, from 22,933 quintal on the same day a year ago. Onions at Lasalgoan are being sold at Rs 33 per kg today, as against Rs 7.50 per kg a year ago, according to data maintained by the Nasik-based National Horticultural Research and Development Foundation.

Meanwhile, the Central government has asked state-owned Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation of India to import 2,000 tonnes of onion and directed National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation and Small Farmers' Agribusiness Consortium to source 12,000 tonnes locally to boost supplies. The Delhi government has also directed surprise inspection of retail markets in different parts of tHe city to check hoarding and black marketing.

29, Nov 2017
Business Line
Adani's Australian project may not get S800-m govt loan

Adani Enterprises faces a likely block on a A$900 million ($684 million) government loan to help build a giant coal mine in Australia, with the left-leaning Labor Party on track for re-election in a state poll. Queensland state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who originally supported Adani’s application for the federally funded loan to build a rail coal haulage line, said three weeks ago her government would veto the concessional loan.

The Labor party, which faced a strong challenge to return to power, was leading after three-quarters of votes were counted following Saturday’s poll, according to Australia Broadcasting Corp. The mine’s location 400 kms (250 miles) from a Pacific Ocean shipping terminal means the challenge of financing infrastructure costs has been at the forefront of debate over the project’s economic viability. “The Adani coal mine could be complicated by a position taken by Labor during the campaign to block any financing of related infrastructure,” Australia & New Zealand Bank said in a note. The loan amounts to only a fraction of the overall A$16.5 billion cost of constructing the Carmichael mine, but was seen as a first step in reaching financial close on a project that has been delayed for years by environmental opposition. Adani was not immediately available for comment. Palaszczuk, who supports Adani and its promise of 10,000 mine and construction jobs, amended her party’s position in the run-up to the election to oppose the taxpayer-funded loan under the A$5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. Although the funds would come from the federal government, Queensland state retains the power of veto over applications made for projects inside the state. Adani is also seeking A$2 billion in outside financing to construct the first stage of the mine and was in talks with China Machinery Engineering Corp.

The Hindu
As cane farmers protest, Punjab increases SAP

Farmers staged a protest against the ruling Congress government in Punjab accusing it of paying a meagre price for the sugarcane crop even as the Cabinet decided to hike the State Agreed Price (SAP) of sugarcane for the crushing season 2017-18. Farmers from across the State were stopped at the Mohali-Chandigarh border, preventing them from entering Chandigarh where they had planned to gherao the Punjab Vidhan Sabha.

Assembled under the banner of the Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee, the farmers shouted slogans against the government, alleging that it was indifferent towards their plight. Farmers are demanding an increase in SAP of sugarcane to Rs350 per quintal from the current Rs300 per quintal. Later, the Cabinet at its meeting decided to increase the SAP by Rs10 per quintal for the crushing season 2017-18. “The Cabinet has decided to increase SAP from Rs300 to Rs.310 for early variety, Rs290 to Rs300 for mid variety and Rs285 to Rs295 per quintal for late variety. The hike, in line with the increase given by Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, is estimated to put an additional burden of Rs20 crore on the State exchequer,” said a government statement. In Punjab, a total of 675 lakh quintals of sugarcane are expected to arrive in 16 sugar mills during the current crushing season, including nine in the cooperative and seven in the private sector.

Separately, the Cabinet also decided to move a Bill in the ongoing Assembly session to set up a five-member commission for framing a policy to empower and grant legal rights to farmers. The Punjab State Farmers and Farm Workers Commission-2017 Bill will be introduced in this Assembly session.

Business Line
Centre mulls distributing millets at ration shops

The Centre is planning to distribute millets via ration shops and such schemes as the mid-day meal, Agriculture Secretary SK Pattanayak said. It is also thinking of branding millets as “nutri- cereals” and promoting them across the country, he said. Millets are highly nutritious compared to other cereals, he said, adding that ragi has high calcium content. Therefore, the government is thinking of promoting them as ‘nutri-cereals’, he said. Stating that low yields and storage issues have to be addressed, Pattanayak said, “The yield of millets are low. We need to have high-yield varieties in order to scale up production.” The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is working on this and hopes to release some varieties soon, he said, adding that there is a need to pursue R&D work seriously in millets. Storing millets for long is an issue. There is a need to increase the shelf life of millets, he said. Pattanayak further said that mechanical harvesters may be needed for millets. He also suggested that States should promote the setting up of farmer producers organisations for better production and marketing of millets, ensuring higher income to farmers.

Business Line
For exporters, GST whips up more storm in a tea cup

GST is not as “simple” as was it perceived, but “complex and complicated”, feel tea exporers. “And it’s not just about tax refunds. The relaxation given to exporters vide certain notifications will not work due to the conditions laid down for claiming exemptions. “Further, due to the peculiar nature of the trade, it is impossible to fulfil some of the conditions,” said Dipak Shah, Chairman, The South India Tea Exporters’ Association (SITEA).

When asked to explain, he said: “Given the nature of the trade, the procurement of tea is through public auctions, and from multiple sellers. We subsequently mix these teas to create blends for specific export markets. “The issue starts here. Condition (V) of GST notification 41/2017 says that ‘a registered recipient shall place an order with a registered supplier for procuring goods at concessional rate and a copy of the same shall also be provided to the jurisdictional tax officer of the supplier’. As the teas are bought at auction (pan India), how can the exporter place a prior order? Our contention is when the buyer places a bid on the auction platform, it should be presumed as an order to buy. But they say that it cannot be accepted under GST. This is absurd, considering that 70 per cent of the teas are routed through auction.” “Further, how would it be possible for the buyer to provide copies to the jurisdictional tax officer of the supplier in a pan India auction, as the seller might not be from this region,” Shah asked. There is yet another condition, vide notification 41/2017, which says that the recipient should indicate the GST Identification Number of the seller plus the tax invoice number in the shipping bill or bill of export.

Business Line
For exporters, GST whips up more storm in a tea cup

GST is not as “simple” as was it perceived, but “complex and complicated”, feel tea exporers. “And it’s not just about tax refunds. The relaxation given to exporters vide certain notifications will not work due to the conditions laid down for claiming exemptions. “Further, due to the peculiar nature of the trade, it is impossible to fulfil some of the conditions,” said Dipak Shah, Chairman, The South India Tea Exporters’ Association (SITEA).

When asked to explain, he said: “Given the nature of the trade, the procurement of tea is through public auctions, and from multiple sellers. We subsequently mix these teas to create blends for specific export markets. “The issue starts here. Condition (V) of GST notification 41/2017 says that ‘a registered recipient shall place an order with a registered supplier for procuring goods at concessional rate and a copy of the same shall also be provided to the jurisdictional tax officer of the supplier’. As the teas are bought at auction (pan India), how can the exporter place a prior order? Our contention is when the buyer places a bid on the auction platform, it should be presumed as an order to buy. But they say that it cannot be accepted under GST. This is absurd, considering that 70 per cent of the teas are routed through auction.” “Further, how would it be possible for the buyer to provide copies to the jurisdictional tax officer of the supplier in a pan India auction, as the seller might not be from this region,” Shah asked. There is yet another condition, vide notification 41/2017, which says that the recipient should indicate the GST Identification Number of the seller plus the tax invoice number in the shipping bill or bill of export.

The Indian Express
Legal dept block FinMin attempt to ban Mandi tax by state govts on agri produce

The Legal Affairs Department has thwarted finance ministry’s attempt to ban mandi tax or market fees charged by state governments on sale/purchase of agricultural produce saying that there was “no legal or constitutional inconsistency” between the levy and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. Legal Affairs last week said that the State List under the Seventh Schedule gives control of markets and fairs to the states with Entry 66 of the List empowering them to levy fees in respect of any matter contained in the List except for court fees. Since the GST law did not amend “relevant Entries” of the State List, states were free to legislate for a levy. “Unless the respective states subsume fees that are being levied on sale or purchase of agricultural produce in mandi in the GST, there appears to be no legal impediment to levy such fee,” it said.

Following protests by traders, finance ministry last month questioned the validity of states imposing market fee or rural development fee on grounds that these were incompatible and legally not permissible under the “one nation one tax” GST where all local taxes and VAT were to be subsumed. It raised query despite its own Law Committee’s unanimous opinion that charge was “distinct” from levy of a tax and that there was “no incompatibility between the levy of market fee on sale and purchase of agricultural produce in mandis and the imposition of GST”. The mandi fee, the Committee said, could not be termed as tax because it was in the nature of “user charges” for provision of specific services and facilities in notified areas. “Since there is a direct nexus between charging of these fees and the provision of a facility at a market place, market fee cannot be said to be a tax,” it argued.

Business Line
Orbela Foods to produce fruit bars using IIHR tech

The Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR), Bengaluru, has licensed its osmotic dehydration technology to the Sangli-based Orbela Agro Foods Pvt Ltd for production of dehydrated guava, kokum, amla and papaya bar. IIHR’s technology helps convert fruits and vegetables into value-added products such as dehydrated fruit slices or candies while retaining the flavour, colour and taste.

Orbela, engaged in processing of fruits and vegetables, had started production of osmotically dehydrated mango slices, pineapple cubes and mango bars earlier this year using IIHR technologies. The company is now expanding its product portfolio with the new technologies for kokum, amla and dehydrated guava. “The ICAR-IIHR technologies strictly prohibit the use of any artificial colour, flavour or essence in any of the dehydrated products or fruit bars. Such products have a shelf life of six months or more and have characteristic taste, flavour and aroma, similar to that of the fresh fruits and are available almost round the year,” said HS Oberoi, Head, Division of Post Harvest Technology and Agricultural Engineering, ICAR-IIHR, in a press release. Sanjay Vajrinkar, MD, Orbela, said that IIHR apart from providing new technologies is also helping connecting start-ups like Orbela to farmers as well as the market. Orbela in touch with the farmers and farmer producer organisations from Ratnagiri, Ahmednagar, Sangli and Pune districts of Maharashtra and Mysuru, Bagalkot, Shivamogga and Sirsi in Karnataka for sourcing the raw material.

Daily Excelsior
Various initiatives taken in agriculture sector to boost productivity, income: J & K DyCM

Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh said the initiatives taken in the agriculture sector would ensure that adequate technological and other interventions increase the productivity and augment the economic profile of the farming community as envisaged by the Prime Minister. The Deputy Chief Minister was speaking at a special outreach programme on agriculture schemes organized by the Directorate of Field Publicity (DFP), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, J&K Region, Jammu in collaboration with Agriculture Department and Krishi Vigyan Kendra at RS Pura here.

The programme was aimed at spreading awareness among farmers of the area about various Centrally Sponsored Schemes viz Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Soil Health Card, Kissan Credit Card, Parampragat Krishi VikasYojana etc aimed at doubling the income of farmers. Minister for Irrigation and PHE, Sham Chowdhary, Vice Chairman Kissan Vikas Board, DS Chib, MLA, RS Pura, Dr Gagan Bhagat, Additional Director General Directorate of Field Publicity(DFP), RA Saroj, Deputy Director, DFP, Neha Jalali, Joint Director, Agriculture and other senior officers were present on the occasion. “Farming community should take advantage of the modern technology in order to make the farming and related practices simpler and thereby increasing their productivity,” maintained the Deputy Chief Minister. He said the Government has also undertaken the initiatives to introduce newer technologies in the agriculture sector, which would ensure that the agricultural produce gets increased and thereby resulting in uplift of the economic activities of the farming community. Applauding the initiative of DFP for organizing the event, the Dy CM said that such occasions greatly help working out innovative plans for promotion of a specific sector besides suggesting remedial measures for redressal of impediments in the existing system.

Daily Excelsior
Working group meet of AICRP on Agrometeorology begins at SKUAST-J

For the first time in J&K State, Agrometeorological Section of SKUAST-Jammu is organizing a three-day working group meeting on AICRP in collaboration with CRIDA, Hyderabad. The three-day mega event began and Prof P K Sharma, Vice Chancellor, SKUAST-Jammu, was chief guest in the inaugural session. In his address, the Vice-Chancellor stressed upon importance of agrometeorology under changing climate. He explained that Agriculture plays a key role in overall economic and social well being of India.

Dr K Sammi Reddy, Acting Director, CRIDA and Dr.S K. Dhyani were the guests of honour on the occasion. Subject expert Dr Y S Ramakrishna, former Director, ICAR, CRIDA and Dr M K Khushu, former, Head & Prof Agromet Section, SKUAST-Jammu were felicitated by the Vice Chancellor for their significance contributions in the field of Agrometeorology. Project Coordinator, Dr P Vijaya Kumar listed the objectives of workshop in detail. He informed that decline in the share of agriculture in GDP was not commensurate with the fall in dependency in agriculture. Such trends have resulted in fragmentation and decline in the size of land holdings which leads to agronomic inefficiency, a rise in unemployment, a low volume of marketable surplus. These factors could contribute to increase vulnerability to global environmental change, he added. Director Research of SKUAST- Jammu & Convener of this Group Meeting, Prof J P Sharma welcomed the delegates from all over the India while Dr Mahender Singh, Sr Scientist & I/C Agrometeorology presented vote of thanks. Dr Ravindra Chary, Project Coordinator, AICRP for Dry Land Agriculture, CRIDA Hyderabad, Dr M B Nagdeve, Chief Scientist from Akola Maharashtra, Dr I S Katageri, Associate Director Research RARS, Vijayapura, Karnataka, Prof G K Das, Head Agromet, Raipur, Chhatisghar and Dr Joydeep Mukherji from IARI, New Delhi, were also present on the occasion.

Business Line
Punjab paddy procurement

Five State-run procurement agencies have purchased 26,174 lakh tonnes of paddy in the State so far this season, the Punjab government said. With the RBI releasing cash credit limit amounting to Rs33,800.22 crore for procurement, the State government has paid Rs27,409 crore to farmers and commission agents till November 26, the State Cabinet was informed. The Cabinet reviewed the progress of paddy procurement in the current season, which began on October 1 and will end on December 15.

Business Line
Weak global cues pound pepper

Spot pepper prices fell further following overseas reports that internationally pepper prices are on the decline. Indonesia, Vietnam and Brazil were reportedly selling at $3,500 a tonne, while Sri Lanka was offering at $4,800. Meanwhile, stronger rupee coupled with fall in prices in other origins will accelerate imports by unscrupulous people, market sources told. On the terminal market, 39 tonnes — mostly imported stuff — were traded at Rs380-405 a kg. Spot prices fell by Rs200 a quintal to Rs39,800 (ungarbled) and Rs41,800 (garbled). Export prices were at $6,725 a tonne c&f for Europe and $6,975 for the US.

28, Nov 2017
The Economic Times
Bengal Govt Looks to Potato Futures to Salvage Prices

The Mamata Banerjee government is seeking to enhance the financial yield on potato crop in 2018 after a robust output this year sent prices well below cost of production for a significant number of farmers in the state. Pradip Mazumdar, agriculture advisor to the West Bengal chief minister, said: “Production has been higher this year due to favourable weather conditions. Also, farmers had got better prices in 2016, prompting them to sow more of the potato crop. To help farmers with better prices, the state government has held a round of talks with NCDEX to find out ways to introduce futures in potatoes.” West Bengal reported a 22% jump in potato production at 110 lakh tonnes in 2016-17, leading to a price crash. Prices have been as low as Rs2.40 per kg at the farm-gate level against a cost of production of Rs4.5 - 5 per kg.

While the government is making an effort to rope in the NCDEX, farmers are likely to bring down acreage for next year by more than 5%. The potato crop is grown over 4.62 lakh hectares in West Bengal, which is the country’s second-largest producer of the vegetable. Patit Paban De, president, West Bengal Cold Storage Association said a fifth of the crop loaded in cold storages remained unused. This year, cold storages had loaded 70 lakh tonnes of potatoes. De said despite cold storages having huge stock, farmers have started buying potato seeds from Punjab as these are available at half the price. “There is a glut in production in Punjab. They are selling a 50-kg bag of potato at Rs700 -800 against Rs1,400 in 2016.”

The Times of India
Cut urea use by 50% by ’22: PM to farmers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged farmers to cut the use of urea by half by 2022 and highlighted how excessive use of the soil nutrient harmed the health of “mother earth”. During his monthly radio address ‘Mann ki Baat’, the PM said, “Can our farmers take a pledge to bring down urea use by half by 2022? If they promise to use less urea in agriculture, fertility of the land will increase. The lives of farmers will start improving.” The government has focussed on reducing urea use in the past couple of years by mandating neem coating of urea and pushing use of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) or NPK. Referring to World Soil Day, which falls on December 5, Modi said, “I would like to tell our farmers that soil is a very important part of the earth. What if there is no fertile soil in the world? The very thought is dreadful. There will be no soil, no plants and trees will grow; how will human life be possible? How will animals and birds survive?”

The Hindu
Drought, heatwaves increasing in frequency, area

The cocktail of drought and heatwaves is engaging several researchers in the country. Analysing rainfall and temperature data of 50 years, researchers from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have found that the frequency of heatwaves accompanied by drought has increased not only in magnitude but in area too over the past three decades – particularly in Gujarat and Central India. While heatwaves (or, a prolonged period when temperatures approach record extremes) and droughts are destructive even when occurring in separate events, their concurrence is far more serious. “A single extreme event may not be critical, but two extremes occurring at once is much more significant in the distress it causes,” said Pradeep Mujumdar, Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering, IISc who along with his doctoral student Shailza Sharma published the study in the journal Scientific Reports — an online open access journal from Nature — on November 14.
Researchers calculated the Heatwave Magnitude Index daily (HWMId) — which combines duration and magnitude of heatwaves — and the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), which defines meteorological drought from 1951 to 1981. Using that as the base, they compared it with the HWMId and SPI between 1981 and 2010. In all combinations of drought (moderate or severe) and heatwaves (3.5 and 10-day events) that were analysed, the percentage increase in frequency was most significant in parts of Maharashtra and Southern Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Even the extreme of extreme scenarios – of 10-day long heatwave where temperatures are above the 95th percentile of range recorded – has been found on the rise in Gujarat and mid-South India. The longest was in 1983 when a heatwave lasted 63 days; while, in 1998, heatwave conditions affected nearly 49% of the country’s area. In both, central India was largely affected. While the rest of the country, too, showed increases in frequency, a surprising decrease was seen in Rajasthan and West Bengal.

Mint
India unlikely to insist on food security clause at WTO meet

India is not going to make securing a permanent solution on public stockholding for food security a prestige issue at the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference (MC11) at Buenos Aires next month, trade minister Suresh Prabhu indicated.
In an interview, Prabhu even termed India’s insistence on a permanent solution to the matter “a mistake” since India already has an indefinite interim solution in place. “There is a solution already available for public stockholding. This is something (where) we are making a mistake. We don’t have to worry about anything. They have already agreed that this will go (on) indefinitely,” the trade minister said. “But if something better comes up, we will be more than happy to have it. This is something on the agenda. But what we have already got is a very good solution,” Prabhu added. India seems to have lowered its expectations from MC11, given growing opposition from developed countries in the form of attempts to link its domestic support through minimum support prices for certain agricultural commodities to a permanent solution on public stockholding.
So far—even under Prabhu’s predecessor, Nirmala Sitharaman—India has been insistent that WTO deliver on its promise made during the Bali ministerial conference in 2013 that a permanent solution will be concluded in four years’ time. That is, by MC11. Under the WTO rules, developing countries such as India need to limit their public procurement of foodgrains such as wheat and rice to within 10% of the value of the crop. After India enacted the National Food Security Act, 2013, which aimed to provide subsidized foodgrains to approximately two-thirds of its 1.3 billion population, the demand for public procurement increased significantly.

Business Line
Indorama Holdings carrying out ‘due diligence’ of Tata Chem buy

Indorama Holdings BV, Netherlands, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Indorama Corporation, is conducting a “due diligence” assessment on its buy-out of the fertiliser business of Tata Chemicals. According to OP Lohia, CMD, Indorama Synthetics (India) Ltd, the company is in the process of conducting a technical due diligence and the process would take about two-to-three months. This will be the company’s first foray into the fertiliser business in India. “There are technical and legal issues. If there are any contingent liability which has not been taken care of, which should not be the case, then the due diligence will look into it,” Lohia told on the sidelines of Horasis Asia Meeting organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce here.
Tata Chemicals has been looking to exit from its troubled fertiliser business and is looking to sell its phosphatic fertilisers business to IRC Agrochemicals, a subsidiary of Indorama, for a consideration of Rs 375 crore. The transaction is likely to involve transfer of its Haldia plant with a production capacity of about 1.2 million tonnes per annum, working capital and product brands but excluding outstanding subsidy amounts. Production of phosphatic fertiliser at Haldia plant during the April-June quarter was suspended due to lower sales volume and higher input cost. On being asked if the due diligence would change the consideration amount, Lohia refused comment. According to him, the industry is getting adjusted to GST, and 2018 would be a better year. “GST had affected the industry, any new change is challenging. But it is stabilising and 2018 will be better,” he said. Polyester major Indo Rama Synthetics (India) is looking at a 10-15 per cent growth in topline in FY’19.

Business Line
Indorama Holdings carrying out ‘due diligence’ of Tata Chem buy

Indorama Holdings BV, Netherlands, a subsidiary of the Singapore-based Indorama Corporation, is conducting a “due diligence” assessment on its buy-out of the fertiliser business of Tata Chemicals. According to OP Lohia, CMD, Indorama Synthetics (India) Ltd, the company is in the process of conducting a technical due diligence and the process would take about two-to-three months. This will be the company’s first foray into the fertiliser business in India. “There are technical and legal issues. If there are any contingent liability which has not been taken care of, which should not be the case, then the due diligence will look into it,” Lohia told on the sidelines of Horasis Asia Meeting organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce here.
Tata Chemicals has been looking to exit from its troubled fertiliser business and is looking to sell its phosphatic fertilisers business to IRC Agrochemicals, a subsidiary of Indorama, for a consideration of Rs 375 crore. The transaction is likely to involve transfer of its Haldia plant with a production capacity of about 1.2 million tonnes per annum, working capital and product brands but excluding outstanding subsidy amounts. Production of phosphatic fertiliser at Haldia plant during the April-June quarter was suspended due to lower sales volume and higher input cost. On being asked if the due diligence would change the consideration amount, Lohia refused comment. According to him, the industry is getting adjusted to GST, and 2018 would be a better year. “GST had affected the industry, any new change is challenging. But it is stabilising and 2018 will be better,” he said. Polyester major Indo Rama Synthetics (India) is looking at a 10-15 per cent growth in topline in FY’19.

The Assam Tribune
Onion prices making consumers cry

After eggs, it’s the rate of onions in the markets of Assam that is going beyond the reach of common people with little effort from those at the helm of affairs to control the situation. Recording a steep hike in the past two weeks, the rate of onion in Assam is touching Rs 65-70 per kg in several retail markets, making a giant leap from Rs 40 per kg last month.
According to market sources, unless the new crop arrives from Nasik towards the end of the year, the prices are not likely to come down. Guwahati that acts as the biggest bulk market for the entire Northeast has recorded a wholesale rate of Rs 52 to 55. The traders are attributing this phenomenon to a rate hike at Nasik – the source of supply of onions. According to market sources, in all the producing States, the bulb is being sold at a rate of Rs 42 to 45 per kg. Besides Nasik, other supply sources include Indore and Rajasthan. However, the rate hike at source has led to exorbitant price rise of onions in the markets of Assam. Considering the gap between bulk and retail price, the profit margin clearly exceeds the permissible limit, demanding immediate attention from the administration. “The bulk traders quote a different rate and charge much higher showing supply constraint. Additionally, only 80 per cent of the consignments is in saleable condition. We need to keep a little profit margin to remain in business,” a retailer from Bhangagarh area said. However, as always, the customers remain at the receiving end, be it in the rate hike at source or the resultant unscrupulous trade practices in retail.

Financial Chronicle
Water-intensive crops possible now, but with a rider

The government is considering a plan under which farmers will not be allowed to grow water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane, if they want access to water from new irrigation projects coming up in the country. This is part of a strategy to allow farmers to shift from traditional crops like rice and wheat towards high-value horticulture crops, sources said. “The objective is to save water as well as help farmers earn more,” an official said, adding the government is focusing on judicious use of water.

Since India is very strong in production of rice and wheat, farmers need to grow alternative crops for which advisories will be issued to them according to the soil conditions and climatic zone, the sources said. The productivity is two-and-a-half times more in irrigated land than dry areas and hence there is need to do crop planning as the government has a target to bring in 3.17 lakh hectares additional area under irrigation in the first phase within December 31. The priority I list of the water resources ministry has 18 irrigation projects in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab and Telangana. Out of these, four projects have already been completed while more than 98 per cent work has been done in eight other schemes. In the remaining projects, work has been finished by more than 94 per cent. The government’s target is to complete 33 projects in the priority II list, helping farmers to get assured water in 14.08 lakh hectares of land. In 15 such projects, 90 per cent of the work is complete and the remaining will be done by March 31. About 47 per cent of India’s agricultural land is irrigated. “Once we introduce crop planning and sensitise farmers, they will have requisite information to go for a particular crop,” said SK Pattanayak, Union agriculture secretary.

Business Line
Chana futures: Positive trend to continue

Veeresh Hiremath Chana futures on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) rallied from a weekly low of ₹4,706 per quintal to a high of ₹5,099 per quintal, registering a gain of 8.35 per cent. The contract had surged 7.82 per cent in the previous week. The Centre’s removal of restrictions on exports of all pulses to improve the price condition favoured the price rally in chana. Supply shortages due to off season across major producing centres also rendered support to the prices. However, towards the end of the week, the market pared some of the gains on account of profit booking. Chana (rabi) sowing is progressing in full swing and, according to the latest November sowing data available, Indian farmers have planted chana in 72.96 lakh hectares against 62.83 lakh hectares over the same period last year, 84 per cent of the five-year average. Madhya Pradesh has increased planting by 40 per cent year-on-year, while Rajasthan decreased it by 24 per cent. Going ahead, the positive trend in chana futures is likely to continue on bullish fundamental factors. However, we may see some correction at the beginning of the week on account of profit booking. Hence, buying on dips is recommended for the coming week.

27, Nov 2017
Business Standard
Pest attack, low yield to hit cotton crop

Following low arrivals, with falling yield due to pest attack, the cotton crop is set to fall significantly, say observers. Clarity is expected in a few weeks on the extent of damage the pink bollworm has done to the standing crop, especially in Maharashtra and Telangana. This had also happened last year in Gujarat and three years earlier in Haryana. Its gravity is higher this year; in disease-prone districts, farmers are selling damaged crop at 10-15% less.
Cotton Association of India (CAI) has projected the 2017-18 crop at 37.5 million bales (170 kg each). Atul Ganatra, president of CAI, said, "Based on reports from mandis (wholesale markets), we feel the yield will be lower by 10% and, looking at lower arrivals at the beginning of the season, we will have to revise the crop estimate lower." Usually, from November onward, daily arrival historically averaged 200,000 bales a day; this time, they are 30% lower. Lower yield, crop damage and farmers being tempted to hold their crop to sell later at higher prices, where crop and quality are better, are considered the reasons. This year, several districts in Maharashtra, Telangana and in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been hit. Gujarat had already declared a bonus of Rs 500 a quintal above the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for cotton farmers. "We are ready for procurement (at the MSP)," said P Alli Rani, chairman of the government-run Cotton Corporation of India. The market estimates the season's procurement will be two to three million bales. However, CCI would not be able to procure cotton with moisture content and quality below the prescribed norm. Hence, in Maharashtra, representations have been made to the state government, which is considering how to help affected growers. The state government might ask its Agriculture Marketing Federation to be aggressive in supporting farmers, said sources.

Business Standard
Delhi plans to create price stabilisation fund for onions

With rising onion prices becoming a recurring problem in many parts of the country, including the national capital, the Delhi government is believed to have suggested constituting a price stabilisation fund (PSF), which would enable it to purchase onions from neighbouring areas and retail in the Capital in times of shortage. A proposal to this effect was discussed at a meeting between the Centre and state officials some weeks ago.
A price stabilisation fund would enable the state to procure and distribute onions on its own, without waiting for Central agencies such as the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) and the Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), and also Mother Diary’s Safal outlets to do so in times of shortage and sudden price rise. The Centre too would contribute to the fund. Retail onion prices, which have shot up to Rs 50-65 per kg in most cities, have come under pressure due to tight domestic supplies. In Delhi according to the data from department of consumer affairs, the prices have nearly doubled in the past one year. The Union government last week imposed a minimum export price (MEP) of $850 per tonne on onion to increase domestic supplies and check rising prices. MEP is the minimum rate below which exports are not allowed. Onion MEP was scrapped in December 2015. In a notification, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said, “Exports of onion shall be permitted only on Letter of Credit (LC), subject to a MEP of $850 per tonne till December 31, 2017.” Exports of all varieties of onions will be allowed only on LC, it added. The department of consumer affairs in August had sought that MEP be imposed on exports by the commerce ministry. He also sought the removal of sops on export of the kitchen staple.

Business Standard
Pest attack, low yield to hit cotton crop

Following low arrivals, with falling yield due to pest attack, the cotton crop is set to fall significantly, say observers. Clarity is expected in a few weeks on the extent of damage the pink bollworm has done to the standing crop, especially in Maharashtra and Telangana. This had also happened last year in Gujarat and three years earlier in Haryana. Its gravity is higher this year; in disease-prone districts, farmers are selling damaged crop at 10-15% less.
Cotton Association of India (CAI) has projected the 2017-18 crop at 37.5 million bales (170 kg each). Atul Ganatra, president of CAI, said, "Based on reports from mandis (wholesale markets), we feel the yield will be lower by 10% and, looking at lower arrivals at the beginning of the season, we will have to revise the crop estimate lower." Usually, from November onward, daily arrival historically averaged 200,000 bales a day; this time, they are 30% lower. Lower yield, crop damage and farmers being tempted to hold their crop to sell later at higher prices, where crop and quality are better, are considered the reasons. This year, several districts in Maharashtra, Telangana and in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been hit. Gujarat had already declared a bonus of Rs 500 a quintal above the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for cotton farmers. "We are ready for procurement (at the MSP)," said P Alli Rani, chairman of the government-run Cotton Corporation of India. The market estimates the season's procurement will be two to three million bales. However, CCI would not be able to procure cotton with moisture content and quality below the prescribed norm. Hence, in Maharashtra, representations have been made to the state government, which is considering how to help affected growers. The state government might ask its Agriculture Marketing Federation to be aggressive in supporting farmers, said sources.

The Times of India
Milk city pays rich tributes to India’s milkman on his 96th birth anniversary

Milk City Anand paid a befitting tribute to Dr Verghese Kurien on the 96th birth anniversary of the father of India's White Revolution. Around 50 bikers who had embarked on a journey covering 1,700 km from Kurien's birthplace - Kozhikode in Kerala - were given a grand welcome as they reached Anand after a seven days long journey.
Through the seven days journey, the bikers had explored the life and work of the man, who turned India from a milk deficient nation to world's largest milk producer. Starting from Kozhikode, the bikers had covered the large terrain including Kerala, Mangalore, Hubballi, Goa, Kolhapur, Pune, Virar, Vadodara before reaching Anand where Kurien spent a major part of his life. At Amul Dairy, the bikers were feliciated by the top brass of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation at an elaborate function in presence of Amul Dairy officials and employees apart from a large gathering of institutes which Kurien had groomed during his life. Kurien's daughter Nirmala too joined the celebrations. The Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA) hosted sixth memorial lecture to mark birth anniversary. The lecture was delivered by noted agriculture expert and full-time member of Niti Aayog professor Ramesh Chand. Chand's lecture was on 'Changing structure of rural economy of India: Implications for employment and growth'. Chand called Kurien, "one of the great sons of mother India, one who had made such a selfless contribution to the rural people of India." IRMA's chairman Dilip Rath said that the day was celebrated as national milk day as a mark of respect to the great visionary who was instrumental in demonstrating the power of farmers in bringing about socio-economic transformation in rural India.

Business Standard
India's dairy sector offers numerous possibilities for entrepreneurs globally: Radha Mohan Singh

Union Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare Minister, Radha Mohan Singh said that India is the 'Oyster' of the global dairy industry with opportunities galore for the entrepreneurs globally. Since last 15 years, India continues to be the largest producer of milk in the world. This phenomenal increase is contributed to the several measures initiated by the Government of India to increase the productivity of livestock.
Singh said that increasing the milk production significantly from 137.7 million tonnes in 2013-14 to 164 million tonnes in 2016-17. Milk production increased by 18.81% in 2016-17 when compared to 2013-14. Similarly, the per capita availability of milk increased from 307 gram in 2013-14 to 351 gram in 2016-17. Annual growth rate of Milk Production during the period 2011-14 was 4%, which has increase to 6% during 2014-17. The annual growth rate of world milk production has increased by 2% during 2014-17. The Minister said that Livestock sector contributes significantly towards livelihoods and security net for the landless and marginal farmers. About 70 million rural households are engaged in dairying in India with 80% of total cow population. The strength of women in Dairy has reached to the 70% of the total work force (about 44 lakh) of which 3,60,000 women are in leadership roles in village dairy cooperatives and 380 women on the boards of Union and State Federations.
Union Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare Minister said that the consumption of milk is rising, commensurate with increase in the purchasing power of people, increasing urbanization, changing food habits & life styles and demographic growth. Milk with its varied benefits is the only source of animal protein for the largely vegetarian population of the country. Further, factors such as increased consumer interest in high protein diets and increasing awareness & availability of value-added dairy products through organised retail chains are also driving its demand.

The Hindu
Farmers told to insure paddy crop by Nov. 28

Reiterating that there would be no extension of November 30 deadline, the district administration has asked the paddy farmers to insure their crop by November 28 without waiting for the last date, when the portal of the Agriculture Insurance Company of India Limited (AICIL) would slow down. Collector S Natarajan appealed to the farmers to insure their crops under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana by paying premium at the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Credit Societies (PACCS), nationalised bank branches, District Central Cooperative Bank and common service centres.
As the AICIL was unlikely to extend the deadline, the farmers should pay the premium of Rs. 332 per acre at least a couple of days in advance. Farmers have raised paddy crops on about 1.15 lakh hectares in the district and till Saturday, 67,000 farmers insured their crops, covering 55,000 hectares. Farmers, apart from giving details of the size of the crop, village and pirka should also give details of their bank accounts, IFSC codes and Aadhaar cards along with ‘adangals’, he said. Meanwhile, farmers looked up to the skies for rains as the 15 to 35 days old crops faced the threat of withering due to more than two-week-long dry spell. As the meteorological office forecast rains for next three days from Sunday night, the farmers were hopeful of saving the crop. More than 90% of the crops could be saved, if it rained in the next couple of days, they said. Pinning hopes of good monsoon, cultivation of chilli and cotton crops had begun in many parts of the district. Farmers started transplanting chilli plants from nurseries. So far, chilli crops had been reconciled on 8,000 hectares against the total area of 21,000 hectares, officials said. Cultivation of cotton on 5,000 hectares would pick up momentum in December and January, they said.

Business Standard
Situation in Jharkhand worse than Somalia, says JPCC president

Jharkhand Pradesh Congress Committee (JPCC) lashed out at the state government over the rate of development work in Jharkhand and said the situation prevailing in this mineral-rich state is ‘worse than Somalia’. The government has failed to deliver on all fronts, newly nominated JPCC President Ajoy Kumar alleged.
“The chief minister has grabbed the headlines over his decision to table an agriculture budget last year but the intentions of the government could be judged over the fact that only 13 per cent of the allocated funds was spent in the past seven months of the current fiscal,” he said at a press meet. Similarly, the gender budget, introduced for the first time by the government in the last fiscal, drew blank, he said while referring to a CAG report that stated that the government did not spend a penny for the purpose in 2015-16.The situation is no different when it comes to women’s skill development and Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save girl child and educate them) projects, he claimed. “Even the per capita debt in the state has increased to Rs.17,183 in 2017 from Rs 2,318 in 2001. The situation prevailing in this state was worse than Somalia,” Kumar, a former parliamentarian, said.
The crisis in Somalia is the result of prolonged drought, violence and insecurity. A UN study shows that more than six million people are in dire need of food and assistance in the country. The chief minister has been claiming that the state holds the second rank in the country on account of growth rate but the per capita income of the state shows that Jharkhand figures at the sixth position from the bottom, Kumar said. Talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious scheme “Ujjawala Yojana”, the JPCC chief said the Jharkhand government could distribute only 9.41 lakh LPG connections against their target of 28.53 lakh.

26, Nov 2017
The Indian Express
67 lakh farmers in Maharashtra in final list for loan waiver

Maharashtra government’s loan waiver scheme will cover 67 lakh farmers — as per the final list furnished by the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) — which is around three lakh less than the number of farmers who benefited from the loan waiver during the Congress-NCP regime in 2008-09. This has raised questions on whether the previous government had extended the waiver to non-deserving farmers as well. Some senior government officials said it should be a matter of investigation. “The final list of farmers for the loan waiver, along with accounts provided by the State Level Bankers Committee to us stands at 67 lakh,” said a highly placed source in the government.
Officials in the department of information and technology, and the department of cooperation and marketing raised questions over the loan waiver undertaken in 2008 and 2009. A senior official involved in the loan waiver process said, “If we have to provide loan waiver to 67 lakh farmers in 2017, how could 70 lakh farmers qualify for loan waiver in 2008-09.” Arguing that the loan waiver during the Congress-NCP rule was restricted to farmers with a land holding of less than five acres, and hence covered less farmers than the present waiver, he said the matter would have to be probed to streamline the system. A senior official said, “The loan waiver guidelines issued by the Devendra Fadnavis government caters to a larger segment of farmers. The loan waiver up to Rs 1.5 lakh is being given to farmers irrespective of size of land holding. Also, farmers who regularly repaid loans are being considered for an incentive of Rs 25,000. Thus, compared to the Congress-NCP government, the Fadnavis government’s loan waiver is more expansive. Yet, validated farmers do not exceed 67 lakh. The Congress-NCP extended loans to 70 lakh farmers, which needs to be probed.”

The Indian Express
67 lakh farmers in Maharashtra in final list for loan waiver

Maharashtra government’s loan waiver scheme will cover 67 lakh farmers — as per the final list furnished by the State Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) — which is around three lakh less than the number of farmers who benefited from the loan waiver during the Congress-NCP regime in 2008-09. This has raised questions on whether the previous government had extended the waiver to non-deserving farmers as well. Some senior government officials said it should be a matter of investigation. “The final list of farmers for the loan waiver, along with accounts provided by the State Level Bankers Committee to us stands at 67 lakh,” said a highly placed source in the government.
Officials in the department of information and technology, and the department of cooperation and marketing raised questions over the loan waiver undertaken in 2008 and 2009. A senior official involved in the loan waiver process said, “If we have to provide loan waiver to 67 lakh farmers in 2017, how could 70 lakh farmers qualify for loan waiver in 2008-09.” Arguing that the loan waiver during the Congress-NCP rule was restricted to farmers with a land holding of less than five acres, and hence covered less farmers than the present waiver, he said the matter would have to be probed to streamline the system. A senior official said, “The loan waiver guidelines issued by the Devendra Fadnavis government caters to a larger segment of farmers. The loan waiver up to Rs 1.5 lakh is being given to farmers irrespective of size of land holding. Also, farmers who regularly repaid loans are being considered for an incentive of Rs 25,000. Thus, compared to the Congress-NCP government, the Fadnavis government’s loan waiver is more expansive. Yet, validated farmers do not exceed 67 lakh. The Congress-NCP extended loans to 70 lakh farmers, which needs to be probed.”

The Tribune
Cane growers to gherao Assembly

Farmer organisations led by the Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee, Punjab, have announced to gherao the Assembly on the first day of the winter session on November 27 to pressure the government to increase sugarcane prices. Demanding increase in prices from Rs300 to Rs350 per quintal, growers said farmers would gather at Gurdwara Amb Sahib, Mohali, on November 27 and march to the Assembly from there. While addressing mediapersons, the farmers said the decision was taken after the government refused to hike prices. Doaba Kisan Sangharash Committee president Manjit Singh Rai said, “We were called to Chandigarh on November 22 and were assured of a meeting with the CM. However, we met the Additional Chief Secretary and cane commissioner and they told us that cane prices cannot be raised.”

The Assam Tribune
Farmers’ fair held at Buralikson Sugarcane Research Station

“Sugarcane cultivation is profitable but the young generation is not interested in this cultivation. The extraction of bio fuel from sugarcane can be one of the important by-products of the crop.” This was stated by noted scientist as well the Vice Chancellor (VC) of Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat, Dr Kamal Malla Bujarbaruah while delivering his presidential address at the inaugural session of the farmers’ fair held at Buralikson Sugarcane Research Station (BSRS) recently. The Vice Chancellor also opined that without the support of farmers, the agriculture sector can’t be developed. He also urged the farmers to be more interested in sugarcane cultivation which is economically viable as well as eco-friendly. The Vice Chancellor also released a book titled, Kuhiar khetir natun unnat padhati published by BSRS.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor and noted farmer Jatin Phukan lit the ceremonial lamp. The programme was attended by the Director of PG Classes of AAU Dr Chandan Hazarika and Dean of AAU Dr S Kour. The welcome address was given by chief scientist of BSRS Dr Bijnan Chandra Bordoloi and the inaugural session was moderated by scientist Kasturi Choudhury. In the inaugural session, four farmers, namely, Dandadhar Bora (Kakodonga), Rajib Bori (Mahuramukh), Bhadreswar Bora (Ganakpukhuri) and Jiaur ali (Missamara Dulia Basti) were felicitated with a citation and seleng sador, safura etc., for their outstanding contribution to sugarcane production in the district. Moreover, another six labourers of the station, namely, Narayan Dutta, Dhiren Dutta, Akalu Chaowtal, Prabhat Phukan, Rumi Chowtal and Anju Sawachi were accorded warm felicitation with a citation and clothes for their satisfactory contributions towards the development of the research station. Earlier, flag was hoisted by Dr BC Bododloi and the smriti tarpan was initiated by principal scientist of BSRS, Dr Dhiman Dev Singha in the morning. An interaction session between farmers and scientists was held in which several farmers took part.

The Hindu
Pomegranate export from Bengaluru touches a tonne a day

Pomegranates are a rage in many European countries — mainly due to the perceived health benefits for diabetics and cancer patients — and the fruit from the farms around the city is sent to various destinations via the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). At least a tonne of freshly peeled pomegranates from areas around Bengaluru is reaching 36 European countries every day in a trend which was noticed over the last few months.
“During our interaction with both exporters and importers, we were informed about the increasing demand due to the fruit’s perceived health benefits,” said Venkata Reddy, Chief Executive Officer of Menzies Aviation Bobba (Bangalore), which is among the two cargo handlers at the airport. Among other destinations are the Middle East and South East. “One of the exporters is procuring pomegranates from nearby areas, bringing it to the cargo village in KIA where it is peeled and packed in small containers, and sending it out in cold storage within two hours or procurement,” said an official of Bangalore International Airport Ltd. (BIAL), which operates KIA. According to horticulture expert and former horticulture additional director S.V. Hittalmani, exports of peeled pomegranate has increased since it does not have to undergo a strict phyto sanitary measures. He said that big consignments of pomegranate were exported from Karnataka till 2004, when bacterial blight started destroying the crop in North Karnataka. “The trend of cultivating pomegranates in the region around Bengaluru is fairly new,” he said, adding that the fruit is now grown in about 3,000 hectares in Bengaluru Rural, Kolar, Shidlaghatta, Gowribidanur and Chikkaballapura besides Anantapur, Cuddapah and Madanpalli in A.P.

Business Line
Rabi wheat acreage hit by stubble burning

The controversy over stubble burning continued to have an impact on wheat sowing across Central and North India with the total area under wheat cultivation slumping by 12 per cent to 110.66 lakh hectares (lh) as compared to the corresponding period last year. The total acreage under rabi crops, however, inched close to normal, thanks to an increase in the area of cultivation of pulses and rice.
According to data released by the Agriculture Ministry, the sowing has been taken up over an area of 315.86 lh, which is 1.46 per cent lower than 320.55 lh during the same period the previous year. All major wheat-growing States — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana — where burning of crop residue from kharif paddy became a controversial issue have reported lower area under wheat cultivation. The area is down in Madhya Pradesh, too. The area under pulses went up nearly 14 per cent to 101 lh on account of 16 per cent increase in acreage in gram, which is predominant among rabi pulses crops. There is a modest 7 per cent increase in area under coarse cereals to 36.35 lh (34 lh). The acreage of oilseeds was down 9 per cent to 58 lh (64 lh). The area under winter rice cultivation was up 30 per cent to 9.49 lh from 7.32 lh during the corresponding period in the previous season.

Business Line
Storage player SLCM eyes perishables

Sohan Lal Commodity Management (SLCM), which is primarily into warehousing for dry goods commodities, is looking to get into storage of perishables, particularly fruits and vegetables. Delhi-based SLCM has handled a variety of 610 commodities globally, including cotton, barley, bajra, castor seeds, wheat, pulses, maize, spices and aloe vera, among others. According to Sandeep Sabharwal, group CEO, the company has experimented with some perishable and semi-perishable offerings such as potato, spices and cardamom. Currently, storing perishables such as fruits and vegetables is not commercially viable in India as most of these have a shorter shelf life and higher consumption rate.
“For storage of fruits and vegetables to become commercially viable, the production has to increase and the need for storing produce for a sustained period has to go up,” Sabharwal told. A recent Assocham-MRSS India study states the country to be the world’s largest producer for milk and second largest producer of fruits and vegetables; while, about 40-50 per cent of the total production — valued at $440 billion — is wastage for want of storage facilities. The 6,300-odd cold storage facilities with over 30 million tonnes of capacity stock only about 11 per cent of the total perishable produce. The company, which believes in an “asset light” model, focusses on scientific warehousing processes rather than infrastructure creation and has managed a network of 2,045 warehouses without owning a single one. Apart from offering storage solutions to farmers and traders, the company also helps them secure finance from banks and financial institutions, using (stored) commodities as collateral.

The Financial Express
Tomato prices soar, hit Rs 80/kg in Delhi

Tomato prices in retail markets of the national Capital soared to Rs 80 per kg in view of tight supplies, trade data showed. The key kitchen staple has become equally dearer in other parts of the country. For instance, tomato prices in Bengaluru, one of the major producers, are ruling at Rs 45-50 per kg in retail markets. In Aizawl in Mizoram, these are being sold at around Rs 95-100 per kg. “The availability of tomato is less at present because the crop has been hit badly due to recent rains in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh,” said Ashok Kaushik, President of the Tomato Merchant Association at Azadpur mandi.
Traders could not source it from Madhya Pradesh as 90 per cent of the crop in the state got damaged. Farmers have sown again and that crop will arrive in the next 15-20 days, he said. At Azadpur mandi, Asia’s largest wholesale market for fruits and vegetables, tomato is being sold at Rs 40-50 kg. The same tomato is being retailed at a higher rate. Tomatoes in Delhi retail markets are selling at Rs 70-80 per kg, depending on the quality and locality, whereas it was available at Rs 30-35 in the year-ago period. According to Kaushik, tomato supplies in the national capital are less by 25 per cent at present. On an average, 225-250 tonnes of tomato are traded in six major mandis in Delhi on a daily basis. Now, 170-180 tonnes are being traded. Some quantities are being sourced from Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, he added.

Business Line
Agri varsity VC on ICAR Board

Velchala Praveen Rao, Vice-Chancellor of Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University here, has been nominated as member on the Governing Board of India Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The ICAR drives agricultural education and research in the country, with a host of crop-specific project directorates working under it. An agronomist and expert in issues related to micro irrigation, Praveen Rao will be on the board for three years.

Business Line
Bearish sentiments take the sting out of pepper

Reports that Vietnam, Brazil have brought down their pepper prices to below $4,000 a tonne and Sri Lanka to $4,900 a tonne have pushed the spot pepper prices further in the markets here. Add to this there was reportedly no trading on the national exchanges also for the past two days. Besides, Karnataka sellers were reportedly selling pepper at Rs 380-385 a kg. All these factors have aided the price fall, trade sources said. On the terminal market, 15 tonnes were traded at Rs 380-410 a kg. Spot prices decreased by Rs 200 a quintal to Rs 40,100 (ungarbled) and Rs 42,100 (garbled). Indian parity in the international markets was at $6,750 a tonne c&f for Europe and $7,000 for the US.

25, Nov 2017
Business Line
Blockchain-based marketplace wins NITI Aayog prize

A blockchain-based marketplace for farmers and consumers based on concept of ‘cooperative contractual farming’ promises to revolutionise the agricultural sector in India. Called AgroChain, the marketplace has been developed by the student team of Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management-Kerala (IIITM-K) based here, and mentored by faculty member Asharaf S. AgroChain won the NITI Aayog prize at the international blockchain hackathon organised recently at IIT-Delhi by NITI Aayog and Proffer, a Harvard-based blockchain startup.
Asharaf said that AgroChain could likely get dovetailed with the IndiaChain initiative, the Centre’s full-fledged blockchain infrastructure project. IndiaChain in turn promises to revolutionise the way subsidies are distributed to begin with, for instance in the farm sector, and increase trust in areas such as organic food. Elaborating, Asharaf said AgroChain seeks to connect capital lying unproductive, parcels of land lying fallow, and individuals who are ready to work on farms, including cooperatives. “The beauty is that you can connect all these entities through a supply chain funding mechanism. It ensures optimal utilisation of land sources and also generates jobs in large numbers.” Farmers can list potential crops and the expected yield on a distributed public ledger. Consumers can view details and check the farmer’s credibility based on previous cultivation and supply.
Even the government can come in and say that there is a subsidy available for a prticular crop. This adds to the credibility of farmers. The data lying on the public ledger makes everything transparent. As an IT employee based here, one can order work on a parcel of idle land in far-away Telangana by buying 500 units from a digital repository represented by AgroChain. “Here, citizens are enabled to fund and take up farming without going for credit from banks or government agencies. That’s the whole idea that we wanted to put forward.”

The Economic Times
Cashew Exports Rise as Local Sales Sag

Cashew exports have picked up again after falling for two straight years, as sluggish domestic sales of the nut forced local traders to increase shipments to foreign markets. Exports of cashew kernel rose 21% from a year earlier to 45,131 tonnes for the six months through September 2017, data from the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India showed. The value at Rs 3,118 crore jumped 44%. “The domestic market was weak after demonetisation and introduction of GST. The market was used to trade in cash. So, a share of the raw nuts imported at a high cost for local sales was used for exports,” said P Sundaran, managing director of Sreelekshmi Cashew Company. Cashew exports had declined over the past two years, from 1.18 lakh tonnes in 2014-15 to 82,302 tonnes in 2016-17. At the same time, domestic consumption has increased, making India the largest consumer of the nut. Indian cashew processors would have liked to sell more in the local market since the prices have been better here. But slack sales forced them to exports. “Indian cashew is going around $5 per pound (Rs 430 for a little over 450 grams) in the world market, which is still not a good price for the exporters considering the imported raw nuts have become quite costly. Vietnam is offering cashew at a competitive rate of $4.75 per pound, which is a concern for Indian exporters,” said Pankaj N Sampat, director of Samson Traders, an exporter.

The Financial Express
Cotton exports set to drop as pink bollworms eat crop

India is likely to export nearly one-fifth less cotton than previously estimated as pink bollworms are set to eat into the south Asian country’s output which was expected to hit a record, industry officials told. Lower exports from the world’s biggest producer will help its rivals like the US, Brazil and Australia to raise their exports to Asian buyers like Pakistan, China and Bangladesh. “This year exportable surplus will be around 6 million bales. Production estimates are revised down due to the pest attack,” said Nayan Mirani, a partner at Khimji Visram & Sons, a leading cotton exporter.
Earlier, industry officials were estimating exports of 7.5 million bales of 150 kg each. A 19% jump in the area planted for cotton prompted industry officials to estimate record production of 40 million bales in the 2017/2018 season starting on 1 October. But farmers found that as harvesting started fields were infested with pink bollworms which consume the cotton fibre and seeds inside the boll, or fruit, of the plant. The problem was especially widespread in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton grower. “In many regions the pest attack was severe. We now think production would be around 37.5 million bales,” said Chirag Patel, chief executive at Jaydeep Cotton Fibers Pvt Ltd. The bollworm infestation has occurred even as Indian farmers have adopted genetically-modified seeds known as Bt cotton that are resistant to the pest. The government approved the seed in 2006. The technology transformed India into the world’s second-largest exporter of the fibre. However, pink bollworms are now developing resistance to the technology, said V. N. Waghmare, director of Central Institute for Cotton Research.

Business Line
Farmers to reap Rs 80 cr gain from oil palm duty hike

The Oil Palm Developers and Processors Association (OPDPA) has welcomed the government decision to increase import duties on crude and refined palm oil. The increase in crude palm oil will result in an additional income of Rs 70-80 crore for farmers. The government has doubled the import duty on crude palm oil to 30 per cent from the current 15 per cent. The duty on refined palm oil has been increased to 40 per cent from the current 25 per cent. “This move serves as a good intervention for making the price of fresh fruit bunches remunerative to farmers. This gives oil palm farmers a new impetus for cultivating oil palm and will keep them insulated from price fluctuations,” said Sanjay Goenka, President of OPDPA. The OPDPA is an association of companies, including 3F Oil Palm Agrotech, Godrej Agrovet, Navbharat Oils and Ruchi Soya Industries, to focus on issues related to the industry.

Business Standard
Govt imposes MEP on onions to boost local supplies

The government imposed a minimum export price (MEP) of $850 per tonne on onions to increase domestic supplies and check rising prices. MEP is the minimum rate below which exports are not allowed. Onion MEP was scrapped in December 2015.
In a notification, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said: "Export of onions...shall be permitted only on letter of credit (LC) subject to a MEP of $850 per tonne till December 31, 2017." Concerned over the rise in onion prices, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in August had sought that MEP be imposed on its exports by the commerce ministry. He also sought the removal of sops on export of the kitchen staple. Retail onion prices, which have shot up to Rs 50-65 per kg in most cities, have come under pressure due to tight domestic supplies. The government has asked state-run MMTC to import 2,000 tonnes of onion, while other agencies National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) and SFAC to buy onions locally and supply in consuming areas. Supplies got exhausted as large quantity of exports were undertaken in the first four months of the current financial year. The country exported 1.2 million tonnes in April-July, up by 56 per cent from a year ago. Also, the new 2017-18 kharif crop, which is being harvested, is expected to be lower, owing to fall in acreage. A senior consumer affairs ministry official had recently said the new kharif crop is likely to be lower by 10 per cent, as area sown is 30 per cent lower. About 40 per cent of the country’s total onion crop is produced in the kharif season, and the rest during the rabi season. The kharif crop, however, cannot be stored. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat are the major onion-producing states.

Business Line
Govt plans to sell urea in 45-kg bags

Urea will be sold in the market from next year in a 45 kg bag instead of 50 kg bag, a senior official at the fertiliser ministry said. A 45 kg urea bag will be sold at Rs 245 plus taxes, which is lower than Rs 268 plus taxes charged for a 50 kg urea bag, the official added. “The planning is being done. Companies are ready for this change. They will print 45 kg bags. It will be implemented from next year,” the official said. The purpose is to reduce urea consumption and to promote the balanced use of fertilisers, he said.
Since urea is cheaper than other fertilisers, farmers are using this product widely. It is highly subsidised by the government and the maximum retail price now stands at Rs 5,360 per tonne. “We thought about various measures to reduce the urea consumption. Neem coating of urea was one. That we have implemented. Now, we are looking at the 45 kg bag,” the official explained. Normally, farmers use urea by counting the number of bags for each hectare of land. “When we tell farmers to reduce the number of 50 kg bags, they do not listen. So, we have decided to use the 45 kg urea bag trick to reduce consumption,” he said. Farmers will buy Rs 45 kg bag and use the same number of bags as used earlier. This will indirectly lead to 10 per cent reduction in consumption, the official added. Annual urea subsidy is around Rs 40,000 crore. The country has been producing over 24 million tonnes of urea since last year, sufficient to meet the demand of 22 million tonnes.

Millennium post
Govt to implement urea sale in 45-kg bags from next year

Urea, the commonly used and highly subsidised fertiliser, will be sold in the market from next year in a 45 kg bag instead of 50 kg bag, a senior fertiliser ministry official said. A 45 kg urea bag will be sold at Rs 245 plus taxes, which is lower than Rs 268 plus taxes charged for a 50 kg urea bag, the official added. "The planning is being done. The companies are ready for this change. They will print 45 kg bags. It will be implemented from next year," the official said.
The purpose is to reduce urea consumption and promote balanced use of fertilisers, he said. Since urea is cheaper than other fertilisers, farmers are using this product widely. It is highly subsidised by the government and the maximum retail price now stands at Rs 5,360 per tonne. "We thought about various measures to reduce the urea consumption. Neem coating of urea was one. That we have implemented. Now, we are looking at the 45 kg bag," the official explained. Normally, farmers use urea by counting number of bags for each hectare of land. "When we tell farmers to reduce number of 50 kg bags, they do not listen. So, we have decided to use the 45 kg urea bag trick to reduce consumption," he said. Farmers will buy Rs 45 kg bag and use the same number of bags as used earlier. This will indirectly lead to 10 per cent reduction in consumption, the official added. Annual urea subsidy is around Rs 40,000 crore. The country is producing over 24 million tonnes of urea since last year, sufficient to meet the demand of 22 million tonnes.

Business Line
RCM: Ginners defer strike

Annoyed by the Centre’s decision to introduce reverse charge mechanism (RCM) under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), cotton ginning industry has softened its stand and deferred its strike till December 20. The issue of RCM and 0.1 per cent tax on export of cotton caused uncertainty among ginners, who strongly opposed the move. “We held discussions with government officials and Gujarat’s Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Nitinbhai Patel. We were told that there is no possibility to reverse the order on RCM. However, we have been assured of timely refund for our November return filing,” said Dilip Patel of Raja Industries in Kadi, and convenor of All India Ginners Association.

The Assam Tribune
Task force to probe illegal wholesale vegetable trade

The Kamrup (Metro) district administration has constituted a task force to examine allegations that some traders are unauthorisedly carrying on wholesale business of vegetables from the municipal market of GMC at Fancy Bazar.“Report has been received that a good number of traders are carrying on wholesale business of vegetables from the municipal markets of GMC at Fancy Bazar for long without any authorisation. A report has been received that trucks loaded with vegetables coming from Kharupetia and Barpeta Road are unloaded in the GMC market at Fancy Bazar, causing traffic hazards to the residents of the locality and also affecting maintenance of hygiene in the locality,” said Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner Dr M Angamuthu. He said that the task force will examine these allegations and take appropriate prohibitive action. The task force, which will have senior district administration and police officials as members, will also take assistance from officials of the Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs department and of the Assam Agricultural Marketing Board.

The Sentinel
Workshop on Agriculture schemes organized

A one-day workshop was organised on the Central government schemes on Agriculture department here. The workshop was organized by the Directorate of Field Publicity (DFP), MMT region for its field officers. The workshop aimed at creating awareness on Central schemes on Agriculture, research and training. Head of Division of ICAR Dr RG Laha attended the workshop as the Chief Guest. He said that such a workshop is an unprecedented one and the need of the hour. While appreciating the DFP’s efforts, he stressed that many people are not yet aware on the schemes and policies of the government. He also added that such programme would enable farmers to garner information and to improve their livelihood besides generating employment in the Agriculture sector. Director of DFP in Shillong Dr Engam Pame said DFP is mandated to carry inter personal communication and reach media shadow areas. He said the feedback mechanism that exists in DFP provides inputs to ministries concerned for assessment of the impact of the programmes conducted. Senior scientists of ICAR, Umiam, Dr Pankaj Kumar Sinha and Dr Bagish Kumar spoke during the technical session. Dr Sinha spoke at length on the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, National Agriculture Development Programme and Agriculture Technology Management Agency. Dr Bagish Kumar spoke on Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojna, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Soil health card and Technological advances in Agriculture, a press release said.

24, Nov 2017
The Economic Times
Cotton Prices to Remain Above MSP in Short Term

Although current cotton prices are ruling lower than previous year, they are still above the minimum support price (MSP). Despite higher production, adverse impact on quality and yields caused by pink bollworm attack on cotton is expected to help keep prices above the MSP till December. The current market price of cotton is down by 10% to 15% over the same period of the previous year. However, the only respite for farmers is that it is still above the MSP, when prices of most other agricultural commodities are ruling lower than MSP. Current cotton arrivals from kharif crop are at their peak, with mandis across the country getting about 1.60 lakh bales every day. “We expect prices to remain above MSP till December,” said BS Rajpal, a Maharashtra-based ginner. The current price of good quality kapas (raw cotton with seeds) is between Rs 4,300/quintal and Rs 4,600/quintal as against the MSP of Rs 4,320/quintal for long staple cotton. Trade body Cotton Association of India has estimated cotton production of 375 lakh bales of 170 kg each in 2016-17, up by 11% over the previous year.

The Tribune
Farmers change tack, focus on debt waiver, better prices

The travails of the farming community so far viewed with indifference by the urbanities are now at the centre stage since it is being widely felt that something is amiss in the demand and supply food chain. This was evident in the wide coverage of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) at its two-day Kisan Mukti Sansad, which concluded in Delhi. It was the first time that the protesters highlighted only two demands — implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report and a complete debt waiver. The social media was abuzz with the problems being faced by the peasantry and the active role played by young volunteers who took to modern information tools like Facebook and Twitter to plead the cause of the farmers. The presence of youngsters and women even surprised the organisers of over 184 organisations from across the country. So far, such protests were largely viewed as periodic shows of resentment against the unfair farm policies and were largely ignored by the urban population. This time, the huge participation of women, who head over 20 per cent of the rural farm holdings, was an eye opener. So was the case of youngsters who virtually covered all aspects of the protest, unheard of in the past. The traditional banners and slogans of yore had given way to slick posters highlighting the plight of the farming community. As Jagmohan Singh of the BKU (Dakonda), who participated in the event, said: “Times have changed. The younger lot realise that they have to harness all means to get their message across to the government and the people.” The farmers now want to take on the government at all levels, be it new media, policy debates, recourse to judicial activism and street mobilisation, he added.

Business Line
Goa to allow contract farming

The Goa government has decided to enact two legislations to allow ‘contract’ and ’community’ farming, Agriculture Minister Vijay Sardesai said. He said his department is in the process of drafting the legislations to revive farming activities on fallow lands. “The intention is to see that the land is not kept fallow or uncultivated. And to allow cultivation of fellow land, we have to enact contract farming law by which the government acts as a guarantor, and ensures that somebody’s land is not grabbed,” Sardesai said. The State government, he said, would be enacting legislations during the Budget Session of Goa Legislative Assembly that is expected to take place in early 2018.

The Economic Times
Gold Demand Slips as Crops Fail to Earn

Demand for gold in rural India has taken a hit this wedding season with kharif crops like soyabean, guar, mustard and turmeric not fetching remunerative price for farmers, said traders. Sales generally pick up around this time after harvesting, but this year, demand has dropped by 25-30%, they said. Lower demand has also resulted in gold being sold at a $4-5 discount in the wholesale market with bullion dealers offloading their stocks. “Rural demand is particularly muted in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar,” said Nitin Khandelwal, chairman of the All India Gems & Jewellery Federation. “Farmers are yet to get good prices for their produce.” Khandelwal also cited recent floods, which he said destroyed crops ready for harvest and hurt the purchasing power of the rural community. “There is a discount on gold now,” he added.
Soyabean futures, which fell almost 10% in September and October, are still trading under pressure. Ritesh Kumar Sahu, research analyst for agri-commodities at Angel Commodities Broking, said: “In November, though the prices have improved, it is still trading lower than minimum support price as soyabean arrivals have increased.” Mustard futures have dropped to a two-and-half-year low in second half of 2017. Prices are under pressure and are showing volatile trends due to higher production last year as well as stock limits on oilseeds in some states that have resulted in record stocks with farmers. According to trade sources, the country is still holding about 20 lakh tonnes of mustard from last year. Millers estimated to have crushed about 48 lakh tonnes last year against a marketable surplus of 67.8 lakh tonnes. Guar complex futures ended lower for the second consecutive month in October due to new season arrivals. Prices may go up in the coming weeks as production was less and export demand is picking up, Sahu said.

The Times of India
India will import 14k ton of onions

State-run agencies will procure and import 14,000 tonnes of onions to check the rising prices of the key kitchen commodity. Consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan said, “We have asked Nafed (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India) to procure 10,000 tonnes and SFAC (Small Farmers Agriculture business Consortium) about 2,000 tonnes from farmers and sell in consuming areas. We have also asked MMTC to import 2,000 tonnes.” He said his ministry has again written to the commerce ministry to reimpose minimum export price of $700 per tonne on onion to discourage its export. Under pressure since August, onion prices in most retail markets have been in the range of Rs 50-65 per kg due to tight supply. While private traders have imported 11,400 tonnes in the last few months, government agency MMTC will soon float tenders to import 2,000 tonnes in two tranches. The government has resorted to import of onion as the old crop has got exhausted and the new kharif crop, which is being harvested, is expected to be lower. The new kharif crop is likely to be lower by 10% as area sown is less by 30%.

The Economic Times
Industry Groups Suppressed Facts on Sugar’s Harm

Several recent studies backed by multinational food and sugar companies claimed that sugar isn’t so bad for us after all. Don’t believe them. A growing body of evidence revealed how industry groups have worked to suppress the scientific findings on the harmful effects of sugar for decades — either by promoting studies that downplay its negative effects or suppressing studies that reveal its harms. A New York Times investigation revealed that the authors of a 2017 study that sought to discredit dietary guidelines aimed at curbing people’s sugar intake had strong ties to the sugar industry. One of them, Joanne Slavin, sits on the scientific advisory board of Tate & Lyle, a leading global supplier of high-fructose corn syrup.

The Financial Express
Solapur joins cane crushing season as price impasse ends

Cane growers in Solapur region, hometown of Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh, finally got some relief after the deadlock over higher cane prices was broken. The cane growers were agitating for a higher price for a fortnight. Solapur was the last among the cane growing regions where agitation continued for a higher price but the issue which has now been resolved. The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Deshmukh. The breakthrough came after the minister declared a rate of Rs 400 above the fair and remunerative Price (FRP) for his LokMangal Sugar Factory. After a long discussion with leaders of farmer organisation Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, MD of the sugar factory Shahji Pawar said that somewhere a decision was needed to be taken in order to get the season going. “Therefore, after a long discussion, the factory has decided on a rate of Rs 400 above FRP. Farmers will be paid FRP and Rs 300 in a lumpsum and the remaining Rs 100 shall be paid in a month. The other factories in the region should also take a decision,” he said.
Ravikant Tupkar, leader of SSS said that the agitation has been called off temporarily. The minister has declared this rate and we shall agitate against those mills that do not pay this amount, he said. Mills in Kolhapur and Sangli are willing to pay a first cane installment of FRP and Rs 200 above this sum while millers in Solapur have agreed to pay Rs 400 per tonne above FRP, he said. The amount should be paid to farmers within a period of 14 days of the start of crushing, he said. Solapur region has some 25 mills which may not be a large number but have political significance since the minister belongs to this region and also owns a couple of private mills.

The Assam Tribune
Study reveals NE potential in organic cultivation

The entire Northeastern Region, including Assam, has lot of potential in the field of organic cultivation, a study by the ICAR-National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning (NBSS & LUP) has found. A senior official of the Department of Horticulture and Food Processing told that the research conducted by the NBSS & LUP has found that almost the entire North-eastern Region is fit for organic farming. He said the ICAR-NBSS & LUP is working on identifying areas where potential for organic farming exists, as part of the Centre’s effort to boost the organic sector. “We are encouraged by the findings of the study. Both the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Horticulture and Food Processing are working in promoting organic cultivation in Assam,” said the official.

Business Line
Pink bollworm tears into the very fibre of Maharashtra’s cotton growers

The colour pink is associated with love, beauty and fashion.. But in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, pink has become synonymous with death and destruction. Pink bollworm (PBW) has ravaged the cotton crop in the district, where farmer suicide has been rampant. The pink bollworm eat away the cotton fibre and the bolls, causing economic loss to the farmer. This reporter travelled across Yavatmal and saw lush cotton fields with tall shrubs, but the bolls eaten away by the worms.
According to first advanced estimate for 2017-18, the cotton acreage in Maharashtra will be 4.2 million hectares, compared with 3.8 million hectares last year. Of the total area under the fibre, about 1.3 million hectares are suspected to be infected with the PBW. Agriculture experts and farmers fear crop loss ranging from 50 to 80 per cent in the district, which is a part of the larger Vidarbha region. The devastation is especially acute in Umarkhed taluk. Farmers are angry, particularly with the large companies that sold them genetically-modified seeds, which were supposed to protect their cotton crop from just this pest — the pink bollworm.
Maharshtra’s Minister for Agriculture Sadabhau Khot has announced that cotton farmers will be compensated for losses incurred becasue of the PBW attack. Surveys of the affected area are under way, but the methods of providing the compensation are yet to be worked out. Veteran farm leader and Chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission Kishor Tiwari told that the government is in a state of a shock given the devastation brought about by the PBW. By initial estimates, the State’s cotton economy has lost about Rs 10,000 crore. This is an unprecedented situation as over 50 per cent of the cotton crop has now been lost to the bollworm.

23, Nov 2017
The Hindu
‘Lower import duty on tea will hit small growers hard’

Small tea growers see a major threat in the proposed move to slash import duty on tea from 100% to 50% by 2019. The organised industry too said the proposal under the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) may lead to a surge in imports to the world’s largest black tea producing country. “Small tea growers express apprehension that a reduction in import tariff on tea will adversely affect the small tea growers community, who contribute 45% of India’s tea output, now,” Bijoy Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association, wrote in a representation to Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu. Pointing out that the small tea growers were mainly locals, Mr. Chakraborty wrote in the letter that the economic uplift of this rural populace would be thwarted if tea from neighbouring countries like Indonesia and Vietnam was imported into India. “Import liberalisation on tea under AFTA,” will affect the livelihood of these people, he contended. The organised tea industry too apprehends a surge in imports. Noting that the ASEAN Free Trade agreement signed by India provided for a reduction in import duty on tea, Tea Association of India secretary general P.K. Bhattacharya said this was a cause for concern. Tea Board chairman P.K. Bezbaruah said the move would harm the Indian tea industry especially the segment that produces medium quality tea. India’s tea imports rose from 20.2 million kg in 2014 (valued at Rs272.6 crore) to 21 million kg in 2016 (valued at Rs285.4 crore). Between January and September 2017, imports were 14.8 million kg (provisional figure) against 15.7 million kg a year earlier.

The Assam Tribune
‘Small tea leaf exchange’ mobile app launched

‘Small tea leaf exchange’, a mobile application, which has been developed primarily to facilitate digital marketing of green tea leaves, was jointly launched as a pilot project for Dibrugarh district by Prabhat Kamal Bezbaruah, chairman, Tea Board of India and Laya Madduri, the Deputy Commissioner in a function held at the District Library here. The man behind the creation of the mobile app is the Chairman of CIL Agrotech Limited, Suresh Chandra Varma who is also a senior Chartered Accountant. “This app was developed following directions and advises from the Deputy Commissioner, Dibrugarh and the Chairman of the Tea Board. It is also the desire of the Chief Minister of Assam to make the small tea growers realise better prices for their produce. The inputs from IITians in Mumbai and also from our own computer software engineers were obtained to develop the app. It has been developed basically to take care of the needs of the small tea growers and more specifically the very small and marginal farmers,” said Verma. The Deputy Commissioner Laya Madduri expressed the hope that the app would help in bringing transparency in the green leaf trade. The chief of the Tea Board appreciated the concept. The senior DGM in SBI local head office, Guwahati, G Deshpande also attended the programme. He said that State Bank of India was ready to explore the possibility to integrate the banking facilities with the features of the app if so desired by the small tea growers. This app launch event was attended by members from the small tea growers, planters, and bought leaf tea factory associations

Business Line
Cotton Seed Oilcake recovers from a vital long-term low

The uncertainty around production and prices of the common variety of paddy, Swarna, and the prospect of earning better income are driving farmers in Burdwan district of West Bengal to go in for the cultivation of gobindobhog, a premium variety of aromatic rice. Gobindobhog, which got the GI (Geographical Indication) tag in August, is primarily cultivated in East Burdwan district in Raina 1, Raina 2 and Khandaghosh blocks. According to Soumen Roy, Assistant Director of Agriculture, in Raina 1 block, the area under gobindobhog has increased by over 20 per cent this year to 43 hectares from 35 hectares in 2016-17. “It has been increasing the last couple of years as farmers are getting better prices,” Roy told. Forty-eight-year old SK Haque from Khandaghosh confirms that he grows only the special variety paddy on his 10- bigha (approximately 4-acre) plot. “Even two years back, I used to grow the common variety on a portion of my field and cultivate gobindobhog on the remaining. But now I grow only gobindobhog,” he said. And why should he not? Haque earns Rs2,000 a bag (of 60 kg) or close to Rs3,300 a quintal for gobindobhog compared with Rs800-900 a bag or Rs1,500 a quintal for Swarna. Compared to 12-13 bags of Swarna from every bigha, a farmer gets about 10 bags of gobindobhog. The cultivation cost per bigha for Swarna is close to Rs6,000-7,000 while that for gobindobhog is Rs9,000-10,000. But the lower yield and the higher expense get more than offset by the remunerative price gobindobhog fetches, he explained. The State produced close to 2.40 lakh tonnes of gobindobhog in 2016-17. Nearly 55 per cent of this is converted to rice. The wholesale price of the rice in FY17 is around Rs 4,800 a quintal, higher by Rs200 a quintal compared to FY16.

Business Line
Cotton Seed Oilcake recovers from a vital long-term low

Cotton Seed Oilcake prices have been inching higher over the last few months. The Cotton Seed Oilcake futures contract on the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) hit a low of Rs 1,365 a quintal in August and has reversed higher from there. It is currently trading at Rs 1,590. A pick-up in the spot demand and the restricted supplies have supported the price recovery. This recovery rally, which began in August, is signalling the end of the long-term downtrend since September 2016. On the charts, there appears room for prices to move up further in the coming weeks.

Before the latest up-move, prices were on a strong long-term downtrend. The prices had almost halved after hitting a high in September 2016. The NCDEX – Cotton Seed Oilseed futures contract tumbled about 51 per cent after a high of Rs2,771/quintal in September 2016 to record a low of Rs1,365 in August this year. The reversal from this low is technically important as it has happened from a key long-term base level of Rs1,400. The strong break above Rs1,550 earlier this month has strengthened the up-move that started in August. A cluster of supports in the Rs1,550-1,520 region nixes the possibility of the contract falling below Rs1,500 again. Near-term dips to the Rs1,550-1,520 support zone may find fresh buyers coming into the market. As long as the contract trades above Rs1,520, a rally to Rs1,700 or Rs1,750 is likely in the coming weeks. Traders with a medium-term perspective can go long on dips at Rs1,555. Stop-loss can be placed at Rs1,490 for a target of Rs1,675. Accumulate longs at Rs1,530. Revise the stop-loss higher to Rs1,575 as soon as the contract moves up to Rs1,605. The bullish outlook will get negated only if the contract declines below Rs1,500 decisively. Such a break can pull the contract lower to Rs1,470 or Rs1,450.

Mint
Edible oil duty hike doesn’t spoil investor appetite for shares of packaged food firms

The government’s decision to raise import duty on edible oils is expected to benefit farmers if domestic prices move up and as a result farmers get a higher price for oilseeds. Indeed, a report says Indian soyoil and crude palm oil futures rose by 4% on Monday as the increase was much higher than expected. The import duty on crude palm oil was doubled to 30%. While this may be good news for farmers and domestic edible oil refiners, it does raise the question of a cost push for packaged food companies and what impact that may have on their margins. Companies such as Britannia Industries Ltd and Nestle India Ltd, and even the foods division of ITC Ltd, count edible oil as a key input, alongside others such as wheat flour, sugar and milk products. Britannia’s FY16 annual reports shows oils and fats accounting for around 15% of raw material consumed, while Nestle’s 2016 annual report shows it at 9%. While oil prices may increase, companies usually take an overall view on raw material costs before making changes to pricing. Wholesale price data collected by the government shows that wheat flour prices have declined slightly from a year ago, but the price of sugar and milk has been increasing and if edible oil prices increase post-duty hike, it points to a cost push. Companies are likely to increase prices to the extent the market can absorb it. An improving consumer demand scenario may give them confidence on increasing prices without affecting sales. The September quarter indicated a revival in consumer demand in urban and to a lesser extent in rural areas. Consumer companies’ profitability too improved in the September quarter, partly due to accruing benefits from the goods and services tax roll-out.

Business Line
FACT to route fertiliser to Maharashtra via RCF

Targeting sugarcane and other farmers, public sector major FACT is all set to enter Maharashtra with its flagship fertiliser product Factomfos. The company has signed an MoU with Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers (RCF) and the product will be marketed in Maharashtra under RCF brand name, giving credit to FACT as the manufacturer. To begin with, a minimum quantity of 2,500 tonnes will be moved by rail to southern Maharashtra, D Nanda Kumar, Director (Marketing) FACT, said. “We will make an entry through RCF with a minimal quantity initially, which will be increased once Factomfos production improves by three lakh tonnes once the new ₹300-crore facility starts functioning in the Cochin Division by 2019 end,” he told.

Free Press Journal
Farmers lash out at cotton bonus in Guj

Thousands of farmers from across the country assembled here and demanded a one-time total farm debt waiver and remunerative prices for their produce. At a ‘Kisan Mukti Sansad,’ or farmers’ liberation Parliament, two “bills” were passed for debt and remunerative prices for their produce. The gathering was organised under the auspices of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), comprising 180 peasant organisations from all over the country. According to AIKSCC leaders, the “bills” passed by them will be placed in Parliament as private member’s bills by Lok Sabha member Raju Shetty of the Swabhimani Paksha and Rajya Sabha member K K Ragesh of the CPI (M). “We will also seek the support of other political parties to ensure that these private member’s bills are passed in Parliament,” said Ashok Dhawale, a leader of the All India Kisan Sabha, a constituent of AIKSCC. “The prime minister had said that no state would give bonus above the MSP (minimum support price) and now before the (Assembly) election in Gujarat, when cotton prices are down, the Gujarat government has announced (bonus) of Rs 500 per bale. But what happens to farmers of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu?” CPI leader Atul Anjan said. “This is blatant pampering of farmers and using the situation to promote political interests, and not the interests of the farmers,” he added.

The Hindu
Kannur policemen unwind by cultivating paddy

Policemen at the Chakkarakal police station, 15 km from the Kannur district headquarters, have joined hands with local residents who have started a project to restore farmland lying fallow for several years. The policemen are farming a 2.5-acre paddy field, and in the process, giving themselves some time off from stressful law and order duties. Farmers of the Mundery panchayat, 6 km from Chakkarakal, have formed an agricultural development committee named ‘Oruma,’ whose aim is to revive paddy cultivation and other agricultural activities on 77 acres of land that have not seen rice seedlings for years. An initiative under Haritha Keralam Mission, the project envisions allocating plots of fallow land to groups ready to cultivate it. This mission found acceptance among different sections of the community, including the police. The personnel began working on the fields on Monday, planting rice seedlings in the field, alongside farmworkers. “We are joining a collective project of the local community to revive a culture of cultivation,” said P. Biju, Chakkarakkal Sub-Inspector. The policemen will join the farmhands in planting seedlings, removal of weeds, and other related activities during their weekly holidays, he said, adding that they would find it relaxing. The police will bear the cost of cultivating the 2.5-acre field they have been allocated. They can also sell the rice. The police station has introduced measures to give a facelift to its premises and offer a stress-free ambience to both the policemen and visitors. The policemen’s involvement in the paddy initiative is part of a programme to wean youth away from divisive activities. Kannur has been witnessing violent clashes between political groups. “We have started ‘Oruma’ not just to restore cultivation but also, as the name suggests, to build unity among the people,” said E. Narayanan, group convener.

DNA
Organic greens at Cuffe Parade’s farmer’s market

Residents of Cuffe Parade have joined hands with the local corporator to organise an organic farmers’ market on November 25 next to Maker Arcade. “The idea is to promote healthy living among people and support farmers. Earlier I would have to go to Bandra to buy organic vegetables but now it will be easier,” said Harshita Narwekar, the local corporator behind the idea’s implementation. “I had mentioned having an organic market in my manifesto,’ Narwekar added. Following this Saturday’s market, it will then return on December 3, 9 and 17. “After that, we will renew the permission and ensure that it is continued in the future as well. It can either be at the same place or some other place,” said Narwekar.

Residents are also using the opportunity to take up the larger issue of a healthy environment. “On December 10, we will take up our no-plastic drive in a bigger way. We are anyway asking our residents not to use plastic bags. We have also spoken to some shopkeepers and one of them has already stopped keeping plastic bags. When people come to the farmers’ market, we will discourage them from using plastic bags,” said Padmakar Nadekar, secretary general, CPRA. “Self-help groups will be selling cloth bags to residents who forget to carry their own,” added Narwekar. To make it a livelier experience, the residents have also organised sitting arrangements and activities for children. “We have activities for kids like pottery and candyfloss made of out of raw sugar. The idea is to try and give it the feel of a mela so that people can look forward to more than the big draw of organic food,” said Narwekar.

Business Line
Paddy arrivals in Haryana top 67 lakh tones

More than 67.32 lakh tonnes (lt) of paddy has so far arrived in Haryana compared to over 62.50 lt during the corresponding period last year. Stating this here, a spokesman of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department said that out of the total arrival of paddy, government agencies had procured over 58.69 lt, while the remaining quantity, of over 8.63 lt, was purchased by millers. He said that more than 27.36 lt had been purchased by the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department, 19.17 lt by Hafed, 6.40 lt by the Haryana Warehousing Corporation, 5.55 lt by the Haryana Agro-industries Corporation, and 19,585 tonnes by the Food Corporation of India.

Business Standard
Seed firms squarely blame Monsanto for pest attack on Bt cotton

Claiming that seed companies had no role in pink bollworm (PBW) infestation of cotton crop carrying BG II technology, the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has asked Government of India to declare the two-gene trait of the genetically modified (GM) cotton seed as ineffective against PBW. The seed industry body has also requested the Centre to direct the officials of states to register complaints made by farmers on pink boll worm menace according to the roles and responsibilities of seed companies and trait developers. Seed companies say they can be held accountable only if their supplies do not conform to the quality and purity parameters prescribed by the authorities. However, they claim were also being held responsible for infestation of pink bollworm, something which the trait developer Monsanto was solely answerable for, according to NSAI. The question of fixing the responsibility for crop losses in states like Maharashtra and Gujarat due to pink bollworm infestation further adds to the differences between the American biotechnology company and NSAI that often took opposite positions on a range of business matters, including the trait value. "As per clause 5 of Cotton Seeds Price (Control) Order, the trait value towards the Bt cotton trait developed by the trait developer and the seed value towards the efforts of the seed company for hybrid development, seed production, marketing and distribution are clearly mentioned. The responsibility towards the performance of the trait shall, therefore, be on the trait developer, whereas the responsibility for the seed quality remains with the seed company," NSAI executive director Kalyan B Goswami argued in a five-page letter to B Rajender, Joint Secretary(Seeds) of the Union Agriculture Ministry last week.

The Hindu
Sugar production almost doubles to 13.73 lakh tonnes

Sugar production during the first 45 days of the current season (October 2017 to September 2018) was 13.73 lakh tonnes as against 7.67 lakh tonnes during the same period last year. The Indian Sugar Mills’ Association said in a press release that higher production is seen in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. While the sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh produced 5.67 lakh tonnes till November 15, those in Maharashtra produced 3.26 lakh tonnes. The average ex-mill sugar price, which was about Rs3,600 a quintal between March and September this year, has fallen by Rs100 to Rs200 a quintal. This is mostly for the last year stock which is sold at a discount as the new season has commenced. The government has extended the stock holding limit on traders by two months till December 31. With higher production in the current sugar season, sales should improve and prices should be stable. Hence, the government should withdraw the stock holding limit on sugar traders with immediate effect, the association said.

Herald
Unregistered horticulture stalls in Margao threatened of action

Margao Municipal Council Deputy Chairperson Tito Cardoso asserted that the council should formulate some policy to protect the interest of those managing the Horticulture Corporation sponsored carts selling vegetables at a reasonable price in Margao. The MMC has issued a show cause notice to all the owners of Horticulture Corporation sponsored carts to either register themselves and pay trade tax or to face action within seven days of receipt of the notice dated November 15, 2017. Around 16 owners of such carts from Fatorda met their MLA and Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai along with Tito to discuss the issue. They pointed that never before they were asked to register with the MMC and hence had started their business as soon as they got the license from the Horticulture Corporation. However, some disclosed that their applications were rejected by the MMC as their outlets were erected in area marked for road widening and the MMC said they could not issue trade license for such outlets. There were some who started this business 13 years ago and have been surviving on it solely while some have been issued the carts around five years ago. “Most of these vendors are ethnic Goans in Fatorda area and they have to be protected and helped,” said Tito who led them to the minister. Following discussions with Vijai, Tito who is the market committee chairman of MMC agreed to work out some policy to save these carts “ At the moment we are clearing the garbage generated by these carts without charging them anything, which is not quite fair and the MMC has to get some money for giving this service,” said Tito while explaining why registering for trade tax is important.

The Hindu
WTO: India resolute on food security

At the upcoming meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) highest decision-making body, India will not agree to severe restrictions on its right to give price subsidies to farmers through the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to procure grains from them for food security purposes, according to highly-placed official sources. The WTO’s Ministerial Conference is slated to take place at Buenos Aires in Argentina next month. “Food security and protection of low-income and resource-poor farmers are top priority items for India [at the WTO meet], and we will hold our ground to protect our interests to the maximum extent possible,” an official privy to the developments said. Currently, an interim mechanism called the ‘Peace Clause’ is in place, per which WTO members had agreed not to challenge developing nations at the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism if they breached the cap of the product-specific domestic support (which is 10% of the value of production).

The ‘Peace Clause’ is available to developing nations, including India, till a permanent solution is found to public stockholding for food security purposes. Official sources said India would fight to ensure that at least the ‘Peace Clause’ is made the permanent solution, and will not accept any ‘terribly stringent or onerous’ conditions. However, the ‘Peace Clause’ is learnt to be difficult to invoke even in its current form because prior to using it, the country concerned will have to first admit that it ‘is breaching’ or ‘is about to breach’ the ceiling entitlement to give product-specific domestic support. Also, the ‘Peace Clause’ can be used only for public stockholding programmes that have been in existence on the date at which it was agreed upon at the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, and not for new programmes on public stockholding for food security purposes.

22, Nov 2017
The Economic Times
Blame It on Nut Shortage, Pure Coconut Oil Makes Way for Blended

Rising coconut and copra prices continue to be a concern for coconut oil companies. As coconut oil prices scale new peaks every day, many companies are trying to bring out blended oil to survive in the market. Branded coconut oil prices have doubled to ₹230-235/kg from last year with shortage of coconuts continuing in the main producing states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Insufficient rainfall last year has brought down output. As the ongoing Sabarimala temple pilgrimage season in South India is likely to raise the demand for coconuts, coconut oil companies expect retail prices to touch ₹250/kg in the coming weeks. KLF, a major coconut oil company, has introduced blends of coconut oil with sunflower oil and palmolein at affordable prices to beat competition from cheap adulterated coconut oils in the market, for edible purposes.

“These blends consist of 20% coconut oil which will give blends the smell and taste of coconut oil. Unlike coconut oil, these new products do not harden in cold conditions,” KLF director Sunny Francis said. They cost half the price of branded coconut oil. Since coconut availability is expected to rise in Kerala only by February, companies may have to absorb the loss from price rise to a certain extent. “The runaway rise in prices of coconuts has hit our profit. We have reduced production as it has become difficult to procure coconuts,” said Jose John, MD of KPL Oil Mills. Higher cost of raw materials has also hit the performance of Marico, whose brand Parachute is the market leader. Second quarter results of Marico showed a marginal increase in consolidated net profit for the quarter ended September 30, 2017 at ₹185.04 crore from a year earlier. But standalone net profit for the quarter dipped by 10% to around ₹160.37 crore. Insufficient availability of coconuts has hit exporters.

Millennium Post
Centre may slap $700-800/tonne MEP on onions to curb exports

The Centre is mulling over re- imposing a minimum export price (MEP) of $700-800 per tonne on onion to curb exports and check local prices, a government source said. MEP is the minimum rate below which export is not allowed. Onion MEP was scrapped in December 2015. In a meeting called by the commerce ministry, the MEP issue was discussed in detail with exporters and other stakeholders besides officials of consumer affairs ministry.

In the meeting, it has been decided to impose the MEP to restrict onion exports and control spiralling domestic prices," the government source said. The export floor price has not yet been decided. It could be between $700 and $800 per tonne. A final notification in this regard will be issued soon, the source added. Concerned over the rise in onion prices, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan in August had sought the commerce ministry to fix MEP of onion at $450/tonne and remove export sops to restrict exports. Retail onion prices, which have shot up to Rs 50-65 per kg in most cities at present, have come under pressure due to tight domestic supplies.

Supplies got exhausted as large quantity of exports were undertaken in the first four months of this fiscal. The country exported 12.29 lakh tonnes in April-July of this fiscal, up by 56 per cent from the year-ago period. Also, the new 2017-18 kharif crop -- which is being harvested -- is expected to be less owing to fall in acreage. Recently, a senior consumer affairs ministry official had said that the new kharif crop is likely to be lower by 10 per cent as area sown is less by 30 per cent. It may be noted that 40 per cent of the country's total onion crop is produced in the kharif season, and the rest during the rabi season.

Mint
Farmers protest in Delhi, seek fair prices for crops

Thousands of farmers from across India gathered in the national capital to press demands for fair crop prices and loan waivers, returning the spotlight to prevailing agrarian distress. The demonstrators marched to Delhi’s Parliament Street after which they organized a women farmers’ parliament in which participants narrated the ordeal posed by rising debt, falling crop prices and suicides in their families.

A ‘kisan sansad’, or farmers’ parliament, comprising members from over 25 states, also appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to end rural distress. “We are holding a ‘kisan mukti sansad’ (farmers’ relief parliament) to deliberate on laws that would give effect to two minimum demands of farmers of the country,” read an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), a coalition of 184 farmer unions which participated in the protest. Farmers want a legally binding assurance of fair and remunerative prices through measures like higher procurement, deficiency price payment, appropriate trade policy and punitive measures for traders purchasing farm produce at below support prices, the letter said. “...farmers (want) to be freed from debt from all sources with an immediate, comprehensive and unconditional loan waiver,” the letter said.

Addressing the farmers, Puja Ashok More, a woman farmer from Maharashtra, said the Bharatiya Janata Party had promised before the general elections in 2014 that it would implement the recommendation of the M.S. Swaminathan commission to fix minimum support prices (MSP) at cost plus a 50% margin, but never acted on it after coming to power. “Governments have changed over the years but our plight continues,” she said. The women came from all parts of the country including Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.

The Tribune
Govt plans cashless push for payment to farmers

Amidst the cacophony over the debt relief scheme, whose implementation has raised the heckles of bankers in Punjab, the Capt Amarinder Singh government is now in the process of giving a final push to turn Punjab’s agrarian economy into a largely cashless economy. The Punjab government has not just issued a notification to ensure that all enterprises in the state will have to pay their staff through either cheques or through direct transfer into bank accounts, but also it is initiating a much bigger step towards going cashless by proposing that the payments to farmers will now have to be made only through their bank accounts. Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh told that the state government was talking to the commission agents to ensure that payments to farmers were now made directly through their accounts and cash payments were restricted.

“Plans are afoot to start disbursing payments to farmers through their bank accounts. Almost Rs 50,000 crore is disbursed to the farmers in Punjab each year for buying the kharif and paddy crops. The state government disburses the cash credit it gets to buy wheat and paddy to the commission agents. We want this to be credited to the accounts and not disbursed in cash,” he told on the sidelines of the state-level bankers committee meeting, hosted by Punjab National Bank (PNB) here. The move would ensure that all payments were accounted for and the state government could monitor the timely release of the payment. Earlier, the Chief Secretary also asked the bankers present in the meeting to take a major step in servicing the informal credit market, like the commission agents. “Banks could move in to improve the welfare and progress of people, who have to pay interest ranging from 18- 36 per cent, to non-institutional sources of finance,” he said.

Daily Excelsior
SABDK committed to welfare, empowerment of farmers: Chib

Vice Chairman, State Advisory Board for Development of Kissans, (JKSABDK) Daljit Singh Chib, has reiterated the commitment of present Government for raising socio economic status of farming community. This was stated by the Vice Chairman during a meeting convened to review progress on Paddy Procurement Centres opened in current season and to take inputs from members and farmers regarding the requirement of seed and fertilizers for upcoming Rabi Season in Jammu region.

Besides the members of the Board from Jammu Division, Managing Director Agro Industries Development Corporation Rakesh Khujaria, Secretary JKSABDK Abdul Hamid Wani, Assistant Director, Entrepreneur Development Institute (EDI) Dr. Majid Khan and the officers of various departments were present in the meeting. Vice Chairman said that the Board is committed to the welfare of farmers of State. He said that there is urgent need to establish permanent procurement mandies and more Krishi Vigyan Kendras in the State for which the Board has also approached Union Agriculture Ministry for providing special funds to State Government. The Vice Chairman assured the farmers that the matter regarding revival of cooperative sector especially for procurement and better marketing of agriculture products will be taken up with the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is Chairperson of the Board. Highlighting the importance of women in agriculture, the Vice Chairman said that Kissan Board will facilitate the women farmers, especially recently trained from Indian Agriculture Research Institute, New Delhi for making Self-help Groups for establishing their own Processing Units. The Managing Director JK Agro Industries Development Corporation informed that the Corporation will provide necessary marketing platform for the entrepreneur and self-help groups engaged in food processing work.

The Board members highlighted various demands and problems regarding opening of more Maize Procurement Centres, Soil Testing facilities and timely inputs to the farmers so that they can live a dignified life.

Business Line
Sugar mills see bumper crop, want curbs on stocking to go

The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) requested the Central government to relax stockholding limits it had imposed on traders as there were early indications of a bumper production in the current crushing season. The stockholding limits are in force till December 31 this year. The industry body said that restriction on trader stocks at a time of higher production and lower offtake may hit the cash-flow situation of sugar producers. This, in turn, may impact the payments to be made to sugarcane farmers.

As many as 313 mills in the country have produced 13.73 lakh tonnes (lt) of sugar in the first 45 days of the current season (October 2017-September 2018)against 7.67 lt by 222 mills during the corresponding period last year. “As expected, crushing for the sugar season 2017-18 has started earlier than previous seasons,” ISMA said in a release. Sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra accounted for much of the increase in production so far. While UP sugar mills produced 5.67 lt of sugar as compared to the 1.93 lt same period last year, mills in Maharashtra produced 3.26 lt (1.92 lt). ISMA said the ex-mill sugar prices which were almost flat from March 2017 to September 2017, when the all-India average ex-mill sugar prices were around Rs 3,600 per quintal, has seen a fall of Rs 100-200 in various parts of the country. The fall is mostly reported for the last year’s sugar, which is generally sold at a discounted rate whenever the new season’s sugar comes into the market, it added.

The Indian Express
Sugar output rises 79% till November 15

The sugar production in the first 45 days of the current season upto November 15 has grown 79 per cent to Rs 13.72 lakh tonne as compared to 7.67 lakh tonne in the same period last season. The sharp rise in sugar production has been due to the early start of crushing as well a sharp rise in number of sugar mills involved in crushing. As on November 15, 313 sugar mills were crushing as compared to 222 sugar mills in the same period last year, said Indian Sugar Mills’ Association (ISMA).

Now that the current season is moving into a surplus production one in 2017-18, ISMA has requested the union government to withdraw the stockholding limits on sugar traders with immediate effect. The government has extended the stockholding limit on traders by 2 months upto December 31, 2017, as compared to 6 months which was done in the last three occasions since April 2016.

21, Nov 2017
The Assam Tribune
Assam tea needs to improve quality, says dealers’ body chief

Assam tea needs to enhance its quality, which is found deteriorating over the past about four years due to unregulated increase in production. Earlier, Assam tea had the reputation all over the globe for its being the full-bodied cup of a satisfying brew, said Paras Desai, president of the Western India Tea Dealers’ Association (WITDA). Desai had been to the State to attend the two-day 18th biennial general meeting of the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA), which concluded at Golaghat. Elaborating, Desai said Assam tea is facing the problem in its quality since it started witnessing increased production. “The problem became discernible during the past about four years,” he said.

The WITDA is an association of leading tea dealers of Western India with vast membership from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. These three states’ combined annual tea consumption is over 235 million kilograms. Desai is also the executive director of the 125-year-old Wagh Bakri Tea Group, the third largest packet tea company of the country. The producers of Assam, including the bought leaf factories (BLFs), also need to standardise the grades of their produce and in packaging in kilograms too as has been done by the producers of Kenya and Sri Lanka, he said. “Moreover, the producers and distributors should opt for paper sacks to enhance quality of the teas, besides optimum utilisation of space and improving shelf-life of the packaged tea,” he added. Desai said it is also important for the Indian tea industry, which is making a robust contribution towards the country’s economy and providing employment to crores of people directly and indirectly, to boost domestic consumption of tea.

Daily Excelsior
Change of land use poses threat to saffron

Despite High Court order on land use, there is massive land conversion of famed saffron fields into residential and commercial establishments posing threat to saffron. ocals said that the encroachment on the notified area continued despite existence of laws meant to preserve the unique land. They added that despite existing laws like Saffron Act 2007, the State Government has failed to stop the unabated conversion of saffron land. “The conversion of saffron land into residential colonies has been going on for years. Ironically, everything is happening right under the nose of authorities,” said a local, Mudasir Ahmad.

He said if the land conversion continued with the same pace for next two-three years, no land would be available to cultivate saffron. “At Saffron Colony Pampore, the construction never stopped and after the devastating floods of 2014, the construction work doubled. After the floods, people from different areas are buying priced uplands of Pampore for the construction of residential colonies,” the locals said and alleged that the land mafia “in connivance with the authorities is converting the land into residential and commercial establishments”. Saffron Association president, Abdul Majid, alleged some of the tainted officials who are hand-in-glove with the land mafia are raising huge establishments on the saffron land. “The land mafia charge extra money for getting the permission for the construction of residential and commercial establishments,” he said, adding: “everyone takes his share.” Director Agriculture, Altaf Aijaz Andrabi claimed that the land mutations have happened prior to year 2010 and the land cover has not declined. “In 2010, the land under saffron cultivation was 3,715 hectares and there has not been any change in this status so far,” he said. However, an official of Agricultural Department said neither the agriculture nor any other department has made any assessment which can prove their claim.

Deccan Chronicle
Food officials suspect GM mustard in oil

Food inspectors find it difficult to identify the GM mustard oil with the commercialisation of GM mustard. They said that it is illegally imported into the Indian market. India imports 15 million tonne edible oil. Food inspectors, who check random samples, said that whether it is GM crops or non-GM crops is difficult to identify.

According to sources in the food department, there is no proper labelling on these products. The GM protein is not in the refined oil and it can’t be traced easily which makes it easy for importers to put it across as non-GM crop. According to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, GM products cannot be sold in the country without approval. But the draft bill on labelling these products has not been approved by the government. From 2005 to 2016, the FSSAI has been actively working to identify the products in the category of GM and non-GM. But it is facing challenges at the ground level. For this reason, the food body wants all importers to bring in the products into the country with proper labels.

A senior food inspector in TS explained, “We had meetings as these products are making the way into the market in the form of non-labelled products. Hence, the importer has to strictly bring in those products which are labelled. This will act as deterrent till we can work out the testing methods.” With a boost in the food production and also the increasing demand for processed and ready-to-eat foods, it is becoming important to check the ingredients which are being used at the commercial level to ensure that the health of the people is not at risk. GM foods have been in the market since 1994 and the risk factors which have been found during the clinical testing in laboratory on animals are altered metabolism, inflammation, kidney and liver malfunction.

Business Line
Kerala’s rubber growers feel the pinch of GST

Amid falling prices, the ailing rubber sector seems to have hit a rough patch again. First, it was the currency crunch following demonetisation. Now, this major commercial crop, is facing the heat due to the confusion prevailing over Goods and Services Tax (GST). The natural rubber sector has been in the grip of a crisis for the last four years, with the prices of this strategic raw material coming down below the cost of production. This has not only led to a drop in production, but also caused hardships for millions of small growers.

While rubber prices were at their lowest the sector was hit by demonetisation and GST, according to N Dharmaraj, former Upasi president. The impact of demonetisation was felt across the industry, but it was more pronounced in the non-tyre segment. Though demonetisation and subsequent cash shortage diminished the demand for quite some time, the GST struck the sector hard, creating confusion and lack of clarity on many aspects. According to him, there were cumbersome procedures as well as infrastructural requirements in terms of Income Tax support and skilled manpower. This has increased the cost of compliance for small business in the short-term. The rubber economy at the grassroot level of small users and manufacturers is undoubtedly a currency economy, and an overnight transition to the digital economy was extremely difficult. Thus, the main issues faced by the industry pertained to a transition to the new tax regime by small and very small dealers and manufacturers, he added.

P C Cyriac, President, Indian Farmers Movement (Infam), pointed out the authorities had even turned down the growers’ request to impose a safeguard duty to discourage imports during crisis. Several agricultural activities, timely farming and payment of wages have been affected, but the situation is now coming back to normal.

The Tribune
Pvt banks gave Rs 17,600-cr farm loans in excess: RBI

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has found some private banks guilty of having given excess agriculture loans worth Rs 17,600 crore. These banks then claimed interest subvention on the money disbursed as crop loans. The loan amount sanctioned by the banks was more than the actual value of crops sold each year. The issue was first brought to light by the state government in June, which asked the Union Ministry of Finance to probe how private banks had advanced excess loans beyond their scale of finance to farmers in Punjab.

The state government while preparing its data on small and marginal farmers eligible for debt relief offered by the Amarinder Singh government had found that over 4 lakh farmers in the state got crop loans (which are working capital loans) between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh and over one lakh got loans of over Rs 5 lakh. Under the laid norms, a marginal farmer (having less than 2.50 acres) cannot avail a loan of more than Rs 1 lakh (at Rs 40,000 per acre) and a small farmer is not eligible for a loan of more than Rs 2 lakh. The excess loan extended to these farmers was found to be around Rs 17,620 crore. Following the complaint made by the state government, the RBI got a study conducted through its Financial Inclusion and Development Department. On October 23, the RBI had informed the State-Level Bankers Committee (SLBC) that some banks in Punjab were not undertaking proper due diligence while sanctioning crop loans and had financed way beyond the prescribed scale of finance.

The Tribune
Sangrur shows the way, no straw fires on 48k hectares

Sangrur district’s farmers have set an example for others in the state by bringing 48,000 hectares under a zone free from stubble-burning this season against the last year’s 15,000 hectares. The wheat sown without burning is growing amid stubble in many villages of districts at natural pace.

Agriculture Department officials said farmers had used various techniques like direct sowing, disposal of stubble by irrigating the field and by preparing the bales of stubble to manage paddy straw without burning, ultimately increasing a zone free of stubble-burning. As per rough estimates of farmers, sowing without burning costs around Rs 3,000 per acre and with burning, it costs between Rs 4,000 to Rs 4,500. “In our village we have sown wheat in around 250 acres without burning stubble. We had set a target to increase it till 300 this ye