Agri News
Agri News
30, May 2018
Business Line, Ahmedabad
Centre may let millers process groundnut; supply oil via PDS

To dispose groundnuts purchased under minimum support price (MSP) scheme in Gujarat, the Centre is considering allowing millers to crush the oilseeds on job work basis to supply oil through the public distribution system (PDS). It has allowed crushing of 1 lakh tonnes of groundnut stored in National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) warehouses across Gujarat. "This is on trial basis as for the first time in India, groundnut is being processed under price support scheme (PSS) stock," said a top official of Nafed. Nafed had procured about 8.3 lakh tonnes of groundnut in Gujarat, where farmers had harvested a bumper crop of 32 lakh tonnes during 2017-18 kharif season. Besides, Nafed is saddled with a carryover stock of 50,000 tonnes. These are all stored in about 800 warehouses. Nafed has initiated discussions with the agencies to work-out the detailing of tendering process. "There will be separate tendering process for this. We are taking inputs from various agencies including Junagadh Groundnut Research Institute under ICAR. After receiving inputs from them, we will devise our own methodology for tendering," said the Nafed official. Sameer Shah, president, Saurashtra Oil Mills Association (SOMA), wrote a letter to the Gujarat Agriculture Minister R C Faldu demanding State support for utilising the stored groundnut for crushing and processing. "We have requested the government to allow oil millers and processors to take up jobwork for crushing and processing for the government. The edible oil and peanuts produced from this can be utilised for mid-day meal schemes and sold under PDS. There is a need for proactive measures from the government," said Shah, after a meeting held with the officials of State government, Nafed and Oil industry last week in Gondal near Rajkot.

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Experts warn Punjab farmers against ‘forbidden fruit’

Amid instances of successful growing of apple trees in the plains of Punjab, experts at Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University have a word of caution for farmers who are keen to take up this “high-risk venture”. Harminder Singh, Head of Department of Horticulture at PAU, said apple with its short juvenile period as compared to pear comes into first fruiting after three years of planting in the field and commercial bearing starts after four to five years. “Under sub-tropical climatic conditions of Punjab, flowering of apple trees takes place in February. Although this climate is suitable for initial fruit development, the high temperature and low humidity during harsh summer months of May and June impact the physiological fruit development, resulting in poor colour and flavour, coupled with undersized fruits, which often do not mature properly,” he said. Navtej Singh Bains, director of research at PAU, said apple is typically a temperate fruit requiring winter chilling below seven degrees Celsius, which is why its commercial cultivation is done in the high ranges of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. “With high-quality, imported apple varieties having uniform size, shape and deep attractive colours finding extensive market in the State, the potential of low-chill apple cultivation in Punjab needs to be assessed very carefully,” said Mr. Bains. PAU initiated work on apple cultivation in 2012 with introduction of 29 low-chill varieties like Crisp Pink, Liberty, Stayam and Fuji apple varieties from India and abroad. The evaluation is being undertaken at four locations. Cautioning that work on the evaluation of these varieties started just five to six years ago, and to date only two of the varieties — Anna and Golden Dorsett — have come into fruiting, Mr. Bains said, “It is too early to judge the potential of the crop in Punjab.”

The Tribune, Amritsar
Farm fires alarming post wheat harvest too

Satellite images showing the highest number of stubble-burning cases in the holy city post wheat harvesting has set alarm bells ringing. As per a report of the Punjab Remote Sensing Centre (PRSC), between April 10 and May 22, a total of 11,005 cases of stubble burning were detected in the state, with Amritsar topping the list (1,033 cases), followed by Sangrur (950) and Ferozepur (823). In Bhatinda, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Moga and Tarn Taran, more than 700 cases were found. Last year, a total of 13,441 instances of stubble-burning were detected during the wheat harvest season. As per an application of the Central Pollution Control Board, the air quality index (AQI) on May 28, 2018, (at 4 pm on the basis of average of past 24 hours) was 228, having prominent pollutants of PM 2.5. The remarks were: ‘poor air quality’, with a breathing discomfort warning on prolonged exposure. Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha said the report of the PRSC was disappointing. On his directions, teams led by SDM Ajnala Rajat Oberoi visited the Ajnala belt, only to find burnt stubble along fields. “Offenders will be challaned. In the past one month, we have issued 25 challans in Ajnala alone,” he said. The Agriculture Department has been advising farmers to dispose of stubble by reaping and mixing it with soil, suggesting them to take the help of various machines, including straw chopper, straw baler and happy seeder machines that sow wheat. Recently, on the recommendation of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, the government had mandated the attachment of super straw management system with self-propelled combine harvesters. It cuts the straw into small pieces and spreads the same, which means farmers need not burn paddy straw before sowing the next crop.

Business Line, New Delhi
Farmer bodies seek special session to clear agrarian Bills

The leaders of various farmer organisations called on President Ram Nath Kovind here, requesting him to convene a special Parliament session to discuss the deepening agrarian crisis. The office bearers of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of 193 farmer organisations, appraised the President of the need to pass two Bills relating to farmer protection, submitted recently in both Houses. The Farmers’ Right to Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018 seeks an immediate one-time loan waiver, including private loans and loans of landless farmers and agricultural labourers, in addition to bringing about systemic reforms to include farmers in the institutional credit fold. The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018 seeks to set up accurate and comprehensive cost-of-production estimates, regulate and reduce the cost of inputs, notify remunerative prices with a profit margin of at least 50 per cent over cost of production, and set up accountable mechanisms that will actualise such prices for all farmers in reality, they said. According to the AIKSCC leaders, these Bills were adopted at a meet organised in November last year, in which tens of thousands of farmers from all over the country had participated. “If a special midnight session can be organised for Goods and Services Tax (GST), why not a session to address the agrarian crisis in India?” asked VM Singh AIKSCC President and leader of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan. In the past 15 years, over 3.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the country and the suicide rate has gone up by 50 per cent over the past four years, he added.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Farmers to protest rising diesel prices

Farmers have decided to hand over keys of their tractors to the local authorities at Samrala in a symbolic protest over the rising diesel prices. BKU chief BS Rajewal said: “Diesel is one of the major inputs in farm operations and despite tall claims by the government, no thought has been spared for the welfare of the farmers. Any increase in fuel prices has an adverse effect on prices of all farm inputs such as fertilisers, seeds etc.” “The hike has come at a time when farmers are gearing up for the paddy season. The farmers will have to bear an additional burden of Rs 400 to Rs 700 per hour on diesel,” he claimed. He appealed to commuters using the Chandigarh-Ludhiana highway on May 29 to use alternative routes to complete their journey in solidarity with the farming community.

Business Line, New Delhi
Grain procurement exceeds target by 6%

Wheat procurement has crossed the government’s target by 6.25 per cent to 34.08 million tonnes (mt) as purchases in Uttar Pradesh have picked following special efforts by the state authorities. Food Corporation of India (FCI) and other state agencies had procured 29.37 mt in the same period of the 2017-18 marketing year (April-March). Total wheat procurement stood at 30.82 mt in 2017-18. According to official data, of the 34.08 mt procured so far this year, 21.45 mt was from Punjab and Haryana where procurement has been completed. Buying is on in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and is expected to continue till next month. More wheat is will be procured in UP, where 3.83 mt has been bought ensuring a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,735 per quintal, industry players said. In Madhya Pradesh 7.24 mt and Rajasthan 1.46 mt has been procured. The bulk of procurement is done in first three months by FCI and state agencies. As per the second estimate, wheat output is likely to decline by 1.42 per cent to 97.11 million tonnes in the 2017-18 crop year.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Horticulture Acreage, Output Rises in 2017-18

Area and production under horticulture crops like fruits and vegetables have seen an increase over the previous year. The production is estimated at 307.15 million tonnes in 2017-18 crop year ending June, shows the second advance estimates by the Agriculture ministry. Compared to the previous year when production was 300.64 million tonnes, the harvest is 2.2% higher. It is also 0.57% higher over the first advance estimate (issued in January ’2018). According to the second advance estimate of horticulture crops, the production of vegetables is estimated to be around 182 million tonnes, which is 2.2% higher than the previous year. The fruits production during the current year is estimated to be 94.4 million tonnes which is 2% higher than the previous year. Production of onion is estimated to be around 21.84 million tonnes compared to 21.4 million tonnes in the first estimate. When compared to 2016-17, production is less by 2.63%. Among major vegetables, production of potatoes and tomatoes rose. Potato production increased from 46.60 million tonnes to 50.32 million tonnes in the current year which is 3.52% higher than the previous year.

Mint, New Delhi
Madhya Pradesh plans scheme for farmers

The Madhya Pradesh government is mulling to introduce a new scheme to facilitate better price of farm produce, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has indicated, ahead of the proposed nationwide stir by cultivators from June 1. “I am going to sit with farmers to work out the possibility of giving remunerative price per acre of the farm yield,” Chouhan said last night during a programme on farm sector organised here by some media organisations.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
No leniency in recovering non-farm loans, says govt

The Cooperative Department has asked the banks to go slow on the recovery of crop loans from farmers, but speed up the recovery of non-farm loans availed by them as well as other borrowers. The decision comes in wake of hue and cry being raised by farmers and farm unions over the loan recovery initiated by cooperative banks, especially in Bathinda, Mansa and Barnala districts. Official sources told that the government does not want to agitate the farmers and it was decided not to use coercive methods for the recovery of farm loans. On the same pattern, the cooperative banks had been instructed not to show any laxity in recovering non-farm loans availed by the farmers. Figures available reveal that of the total non-farm sector credit advanced by the Punjab state cooperative banks, loans to the tune of Rs 4,582.6 crore are due (where periodic installments of loans are due), of which Rs 564.88 crore is overdue as on March 31 (farmers who have defaulted on repayment). Similarly, the dues of Punjab State Agriculture Development Bank in non-farm loans are Rs 1,837 crore, of which Rs 1,363 crore is overdue. “It is the overdue loan that the banks have been told to recover from farmers,” said a senior government official. Sources say the recovery is to be made on priority from among the oldest outstanding loanees and the largest outstanding loanees. As a result, these loanees are now being hauled up by cooperative bank officials and many of them, including those with political connections like SAD leaders Dyal Singh Kolianwali, Bhupinder Pardhan and Raghbir Singh (to name a few). “These defaulters have been offered a settlement, wherein they have to pay one-third of the overdue amount immediately and the remaining in two installments over the next one year by linking these installments with the crop harvesting cycle,” said a senior official.

Business Line, Chennai
Southern flour mills worried over wheat import duty hike

Roller flour mills in South India are worried over the hike in the wheat import duty as it makes them uncompetitive in the domestic market compared with their counterparts in wheat growing areas in the North. Reacting to the last week’s hike in Customs duty to 30 per cent, DK Gupta, President, Tamil Nadu Roller Flour Mills Association, said the hike has come as a surprise particularly because imports had not been happening in recent months when it was first doubled to 20 per cent in November last. Previously, mills had imported 50 per cent of their requirement at about Rs 1,900 a quintal and blended it equally with domestic produce priced at about Rs 2,100 for quality reasons. This also helped to average out the prices at about Rs 2,000 which was viable for the roller flour mills in the South, where wheat is not grown. If the grain is moved from the North it costs Rs 200 more for transport in addition to two per cent wastage. Traders in wheat growing areas can directly move processed wheat products South at more competitive prices, he said. The hike in the name of protecting farmers is not justified, felt industry representatives. But wheat product prices will go up for the common man. Even now wheat prices are up at about Rs 2,040 after the duty hike. “That is just a start,” says MV Balasubramaniam, of Narusu’s Mills.Whatever, imports that had happened in recent years, including about 1.5 million tonnes last year, would not have impacted farmers in any way. Domestic production is at a high and well supported with about 33 mt , one-third of the production, being procured by government agencies.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
State not linked to online agri trading platform

More than two years after the online platform e-NAM (National Agriculture Market) was launched, Assam is yet to be linked to the pan-India electronic trading portal which aims at helping farmers with better price discovery and provide facilities for smooth marketing of their produce. Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat said one crore farmers and one lakh traders in seventeen states have been linked to the platform so far, but none from the northeastern states. To implement it, each state has to first amend its agricultural produce marketing Acts to make a provision for electronic auction as a mode of price discovery, allow a single licence across the state and have market fees levied at a single point. “I have discussed the issue with the Assam Chief Minister. He said he would take it up in the next Assembly session,” the Union minister, who reviewed the progress in agriculture sectors with officials from five northeastern states here, said. He admitted that the huge gap between the prices of the produce at the source and at the markets was due to middlemen, and said the e-NAM portal was a solution to it. The Union minister said that the five northeastern states, including Assam, have prepared roadmaps for achieving the goal of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 but there are “hurdles” and “challenges” in the region. “We have discussed the challenges and they are being taken up,” he said. Asked specifically about the challenges, the minister said some guidelines needed to be tweaked to suit the needs of the region.

The Tribune, Mumbai
Subsidy for sugar exporters after glut

The Central government has come out with a scheme to subsidise exports of sugar by mills in order to combat a glut in the production of the sweetner in the main producing states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. “Sugar mills have been given an export quota of 2 million tonnes. Mills which are able to meet this target will be given a subsidy of Rs 55 per tonne,” said Sambhaji Kadu Patil, Sugar Commissioner of Maharashtra. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told a delegation of farmers over the weekend that cooperative sugar mills in the state would credit the proceeds from the subsidy to the bank accounts of farmers as soon as the funds are received from the Centre. With Maharashtra producing a record 107 lakh tonnes of sugar so far, mills are facing a huge problem of over-supply. Only a handful of sugar mills are still operational with most of them closing down their operations for the current season ahead of time. Most of the sugar mills are yet to completely clear the dues of the farmers, causing much unrest among the cultivators. State government sources said, the sugar mills collectively owe Rs 22,000 crore to farmers. With most of the cooperative sugar mills controlled by politicians, anger against the political class cutting across party lines is running high in Maharashtra. Data from the state government says less than half of the 118 mills in the state have completely cleared their dues to farmers.

The Financial Express, Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh’s farm loan relief led to big cut in capital expenditure

Uttar Pradesh, the first state to announce a farm loan waiver in the current series of such succour, spent Rs 20,598 crore in 2017-18 to relieve the state’s 34.11 lakh farmers of the onus of repaying their loans, but not without cutting its budget spending drastically from the targeted levels. The state’s overall budget expenditure in the last fiscal turned out to be Rs 2,91,592 crore, about 22% lower than the original estimate (BE) of Rs 3,71,504 crore; the capex component of the spending saw an even sharper reduction of 33% to Rs 38,647 crore. Given that the trend of curbing development spending to meet the cost of loan waivers for farmers is likely to have been replicated by the other four states (Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and Tamil Nadu) that made similar promises, the largesse might have have taken a toll on the economic growth already. Economic Survey 2016-17 had predicted that the spate of farm loan waivers could significantly reduce aggregate demand and impart a deflationary shock to the economy. According to the survey’s second volume released in August 2017 (UP announced the farm loan waiver in April 2017), even if only the above five states implemented the loan waivers as announced then, the estimated impact could be Rs 1-1.25 lakh crore. If all states followed the UP model — up to Rs 1 lakh for all small and marginal farmers — the survey had said, the aggregate demand would reduce by as much as 0.7% of gross domestic product (GDP). UP spent 57% of the total farm loan waiver announced by the Yogi Adityanath government in 2017-18. Nudged by the Centre to remain on the fiscal consolidation path, the state met the fiscal deficit target of 3% of GDP in 2017-18.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Jeera Rallies 14% as China Starts Buying Again

Jeera prices have rallied 14% after hitting rock bottom in March, thanks to rising demand from China. June contract for delivery at NCDEX rose to Rs 163.90 per kg, from Rs 161.05 last Friday. The futures had touched a low of Rs 143 in March with China going slow on purchases from India as fresh arrivals from harvest hit the market. “Now there are good enquiries from China. They are buying whatever quantity is coming to the market. Prices may rise further,’’ said jeera exporter Nimesh Vohra. The current prices are around 10% lower than a year before. “That is because the output has been better this year,’’ Vohra said. Record prices last year triggered an increase in jeera sowing in the top producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, leading to a bumper crop of around 6 lakh tonne, against a normal 4-5 lakh tonne. Earlier, the traders had expected jeera prices to stabilise between Rs 150 and Rs 160 per kg. But the uptick in export demand is expected to take prices further up. “Jeera prices may trade higher in the long term despite good production and higher stock available in India amid robust export demand from the country,’’ said Ritesh Kumar Sahu, fundamental analyst at Angel Commodities Broking. India’s chief competitors — Syria and Turkey — will enter the market in June.

29, May 2018
Firstpost, Mumbai
Monsoon arrives on Kerala coast today, says Skymet

Crop-nourishing monsoon rains are likely to hit the Kerala coast in India’s southwest on Tuesday, a source from the weather office said, in the earliest start to the rains since 2011, which should boost agriculture in the world’s fastest growing major economy. The monsoon, the lifeblood of the country’s $2 trillion economy, delivers nearly 70 percent of rains that India needs to water farms and recharge reservoirs and aquifers. Nearly half of India’s farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow a number of crops. The southwest monsoon has been advancing well and will cover some parts of Kerala on Tuesday, in line with the forecast of the India Meteorological Department, a senior weather department official, who did not wish to be named as he was not authorised to talk to media, said. The India Meteorological Department declares the arrival of monsoon rains only after parameters measuring the consistency of the rainfall over a defined geography, intensity, cloudiness and wind speed are satisfied. Skymet, the country’s only private weather forecaster, said monsoon hit Kerala coast on Monday. Rains usually lash Kerala state on the south coast around June 1 and cover the whole country by mid-July. Timely rains trigger planting of crops such as rice, soybeans and cotton. India is likely to receive average monsoon rains in 2018, the weather office said last month, raising the possibility of higher farm and economic growth in Asia’s third-biggest economy.

Hindustan Times, Bhopal
Cops tell 7k farmers on bail not to protest

Madhya Pradesh police have decided to make 7,000 farmers, who had participated in the last year’s protest in Mandsaur that ended with the death of six of them in police firing, to sign an undertaking that they would not take part in the protest marking its first anniversary on June 1. If the farmers participated in the protest, they would have to pay Rs 25,000 and the bail granted to them would stand cancelled. Several messages on local WhatsApp groups and social media across the state have criticised the stance taken by the police. Some of these messages alleged that the police was “working to suppress the farmers” and their voice. An order issued by the police headquarters also cancelled leaves for the personnel for 10 days beginning June 1, citing the farmers’ agitation and the month of Ramzan. “We are getting the bonds (readied) to make sure there is a peaceful environment,” said Harinarayanchari Mishra, deputy inspector general of police, Indore. “The bond is just for the protesters who had participated in the protest last year, and who were booked by the police.” Besides the undertaking from the farmers, the police said it would provide security to those going to the mandis (marketplace) to sell their produce. Farmers alleged that the BJP government was trying to divide them with the help of police. “By issuing such statements, the government is dividing us. We will stop the farmers in a peaceful manner from going to the city but if police interfere, farmers will agitate against this too,” said Bhartiya Kisan Union leader Anil Yadav said.

The Tribune, Patiala
Enough power for paddy season, claims PSPCL

With the heat wave intensifying in the region, Punjab witnessed a high demand for power at 8,640 MW with the supply of 1,865 lakh units. All thermal units at Ropar, Lehra Mohabbat, Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo are functioning. The Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL) is expecting a demand for nearly 12,500 MW from the agriculture sector for the paddy season, starting June 20. PSPCL chairman A Venu Prasad said adequate arrangements had been made by the corporation to supply power for eight hours to the farm sector. “Last year, we supplied 11,680 MW during the paddy-sowing season and the figure can go up to 12,500 MW this season, but for a short duration. However we are fully prepared to meet that demand,” he said. On the closure of two units each of the thermal plants at Bathinda and Ropar, Prasad said they had bought enough power at lower rates and the demand would be met. “As compared to the market price of over Rs 8.5 per unit of power, we have 1,700 MW in our kitty through banking and have also bought another 210 MW at under Rs 4 per unit,” he claimed. Sources said the power subsidy for the farm sector was likely to cross Rs 6,000 crore and it would be a challenge for the PSPCL to manage with limited financial resources, if the demand for power rose further.

The Tribune, Bathinda
Farmers wary as heat wave may hit late-sown cotton crop

With the mercury soaring in the Malwa region, cotton farmers are a worried lot as the hot weather may take a toll on their fields. Farmers and agricultural experts apprehend that the increasing temperature may lead to cotton leaves getting burnt. This may be more prevalent in fields where cotton was sown late. Incidentally, the sowing of cotton got delayed in many areas due to inadequate canal water supply in the sowing season. GS Romana, senior farm economist, PAU, said, “The temperature has been very high for the last about a week, which doesn’t augur well for the cotton crop, particularly the one that has been sown late. Farmers going for cotton sowing now will be at the maximum risk as their crop may witness scorching. Besides, the farmers who have sown their crop using borewell water may also face the problem.” He said the re-sowing of the cotton crop might also not work for farmers who suffer crop damage due to soaring temperatures. According to him, the cotton crop sown with proper pre-sowing irrigation using canal water may survive the onslaught of the weather. Bikar Singh, a farmer from Mansa district, said, “We didn’t get the canal water supply in time as our village falls at the tail-end. By the time the canal water reached our village, it was too late. Now, the increasing temperature has put me in a spot. I am not sure whether to go for the cotton crop now.” He said if the weather conditions didn’t turn favourable, he may opt for paddy this time. Kundan Singh, another farmer from Bathinda, said he was concerned that he may have to sow the cotton crop again, which would lead to increase in the production cost. Besides, the seeds will not be easily available now.

Business Line, New Delhi
Re-exporters get nod to import pepper

The Centre has permitted 78 companies to import 2,500 tonnes of black pepper duty-free under the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement. This is with a specific direction that imports should not be at prices below the notified MIP (minimum import price) of ₹500/kg. The 78 companies, which process and re-export, can import up to 32 tonnes each. In April, pepper prices had taken a hit due to issues such as large quantities smuggled into the market. However, spice exporters pointed out that the MIP notification has not helped improve pepper prices in the domestic market, with the rates moving southwards and hovering at ₹360-380 per kg depending on the grades. According to the All India Spices Exporters Forum, MIP norms has created a black market for pepper imports, and boosted smuggling. It has also facilitated setting up several value-addition units in Vietnam and Indonesia.

Business Line, New Delhi
Wheat imports could be stopped

The Centre has hiked the import duty on wheat to 30 per cent from 20 per cent, to reduce cheap imports and protect domestic growers. This has helped marginally firm up wheat prices in both spot and futures markets. The increase in the import duty comes in the wake of record domestic production and fear of cheaper imports from the international market, especially from Russia, where the production is expected to be better this year. Last year, Indian wheat imports stood at about 1.5 million tonnes, the bulk of which was imported by mills in the South from countries such as Australia and Ukraine. The Centre has procured a huge quantity of wheat this crop year, and is looking to dispose the stock to bulk consumers, including flour millers, at a price of ₹1,900 per quintal. However, procurement has exceeded the targeted levels in Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Also, the falling rupee against the dollar could stop the wheat imports.

The Telegraph, Guwahati
Green tea growth

Green tea will grow at a faster rate than black tea, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations has said. FAO said this in a report on current market situation and medium term outlook which was placed at the 23rd session of the Intergovernmental Group at Hangzhou in China from May 17-23. The report was made public on Monday. "By 2027, world black tea production is projected to increase by an annual growth ra-te of 2.2 per cent to reach 4.42 million tonnes, reflecting major increases in China, Kenya and Sri Lanka. The expansion in China will be significant as output should approach that of Kenya, the largest black tea exporter," it says. The world green tea output will increase at a rate of 7.5 per cent annually to reach 3.65 million tonnes, again reflecting an expansion in China, where the output is expected to increase from 1.53 million tonnes in 2015-2017 to 3.31 million tonnes in 2027. his is expected to be a result of increased productivity, and not expansion in area, through higher-yielding varieties and better agricultural practices. India does not figure in the top four green tea-producing countries of the world, which are China, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. The report lists the factors contributing to expansion in tea consumption as growth in per capita income, awareness of the health benefits of tea and product diversification, which attracts more customers in non-traditional segments such as young people. "The rapid growth of black tea consumption in China is due to the popularity of brick teas such as Pu'er, which are heavily promoted for their health benefits," it says. Market promotion in tea-producing countries is based on health benefits of tea and research towards empirically supported evidences for health implications of tea consumption needs to be strengthened, the report adds. The report says new growing markets are building on product innovations and diversification into new segments of consumers.

Financial Express, Bhopal
Fuel price hike: Mamata Banerjee says agriculture, transport, common people bearing burden

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed concern over the rising fuel prices across the country. “Fuel prices are increasing again and again. All are being badly affected: agriculture, transport and common people are being forced to bear burden,” she said in a tweet. The CM also urged the Centre to take measures to control the surge. “In spite of the grim situation, why isn’t the Central Government taking any serious steps to find a solution? They need to act,” Banerjee, who is also supremo of the ruling Trinamool Congress, added. The youth wing of the ruling party had last week taken out rallies in several districts of the state to protest against the sharp rise in fuel prices across the country.

The Telegraph, Guwahati
NE lags behind in providing papers

The northeastern states are lagging behind in submitting utilisation certificates of funds released under the centrally-sponsored schemes in the agri-horticulture sector. This came to light during a review meeting of the agri-horticulture sector in five northeastern states - Assam, Sikkim, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya. It was chaired by Union minister of state for agriculture and farmers' welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Assam agriculture minister Atul Bora, Nagaland agriculture minister G. Kaito Aye and senior central and state government officials attended the meeting. Joint secretary (marketing) in the department of agriculture, cooperation and farmers welfare (DAC&FW), Government of India, P.K. Swain, said Meghalaya has not yet furnished utilisation certificates for funds released to it under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18. In Nagaland, Swain said the mission's progress in 2015-16 was not satisfactory and many utilisation certificates were pending. In Assam, utilisation certificates for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana are pending, he added. Assam is yet to submit utilisation certificates for Rs 136.39 crore released in 2017-18, Rs 35.84 crore released in 2016-17 and Rs 61 lakh released in 2015-16. On soil health card scheme, Neerja Adidam, joint secretary, integrated nutrient management, DAC&FW, said, "One year of the second cycle of the scheme has ended but there is little progress (in the five northeastern states). The second cycle will end in May 2019.

28, May 2018
Business Standard, New Delhi
Centre readies Rs 200 bn Maha irrigation package

The Centre is considering a Rs 200 billion irrigation package for drought-hit areas of Maharashtra, which see the highest incidences of farmer suicides in the country. The package, which is expected to be announced soon, will provide funds for completion of 108 major and minor stalled irrigation projects in the state. These projects, located in drought-prone as well as other areas, are those where 50 per cent of the work has been completed and the project has been stalled since then. On completion of the projects, an extra 7.75 lakh hectares of land will come under irrigation in the state. Around 75 per cent or Rs 150 billion of the funding for this package will come from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)’s long-term irrigation fund while the remaining Rs 50 billion is expected to come from the Centre’s coffers, Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari told. “It (the package) is for the distressed farmers who are committing suicide due to the severe drought. A formal cabinet note on the same is expected to be moved soon,” Gadkari, who is spearheading the initiative, said. The total package will be of around Rs 200 billion out of which 75 per cent will be from NABARD and the rest from the Centre. Gadkari said the need for the package arose due the previous the Congress-NCP state government starting 108 irrigation projects for which there was still a requirement of almost Rs 5,000 billion. “We need money for these projects. The Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) had sought funds for it and we are arranging it,” he said.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Heavy rain showers misery on North Karnataka

Pre-monsoon showers, accompanied by high-intensity wind, which lashed north Karnataka districts have left a trail of destruction in the region. Heavy rain, coupled with gusty winds, affected normal life in Gadag-Betageri, Lakshmeshwar, Gajendragad, Naregal and Dambal in Gadag district. Basapur near Lakshmeshwar was the worst hit. More than 30 houses were damaged in the storm. A century-old banyan tree was uprooted as the strong winds swept past Kalakaleshwara village near Gajendragad. Overflowing drains turned Sarvodaya Nagar in Gadag town into an island. Many farm ponds and check dams in the district have been filled owing to incessant rain in the last one week. Tree falls and uprooting of electricity poles plunged parts of the district into darkness. Showers wreaked havoc on the crop at Ramasagar in Kampli taluk, Ballari district. Acres of banana plantation, paddy and sugarcane have been damaged at several villages in Kampli, Hagarabommanahalli and Hosapete taluks. A huge banyan tree fell on State Highway 49 near Kanavi Thimmalapur bringing vehicular movement to a grinding halt for hours. Sirwar, a newly formed taluk in Raichur district, and surrounding villages experienced thunderstorm. Traffic on Manvi-Sirwar Road was affected as more than five full-grown trees fell on the stretch. Heavy rain lashed Mysuru region, including Mysuru city, late on Thursday night and in the early hours of Friday. According to Met department forecast, showers will continue in the region for next couple of days. A 25-year-old woman was struck dead by lightning at Bisalwadi in Chamarajanagar. The victim Seetamma was taking shelter under a tree when the lightning struck her. The Dodarasanakere pond was filled after three decades, owing to copious rain in the region. Kodagu district received widespread rain for over an hour on Thursday night. Madikeri, Napoklu, Talacauvery and Bhagamandala witnessed heavy rain while Virajpet, Gonikoppa, Shanivarsanthe experienced drizzle through the night.

The Tribune, Lucknow
Kairana: BJP falls back on divisive agenda; UP cane farmers restive

A campaigning for the May 28 Kairana Lok Sabha byelections came to an end, there was nervous tension in the air. By its sheer timing, the byelection has acquired a significance far greater than what it is — merely an election to one of the 543 Lok Sabha seats. For the Opposition rejuvenated by the events in Bengalaru, winning Kairana would be another feather in its cap. For the BJP, retaining Kairana is crucial for the cadres’ sagging morale after the defeat in Phulphur and Gorakhpur and setback in Karnataka. For this, the BJP is doing what it is good at – running a divisive campaign — pushing RLD vice-president Jayant Chadhury to bring the focus back on people’s issues by reiterating “Jinnah nahi, ganna chalega” This pretty much sums up the public mood in the region, considered the sugar bowl of the country. Here cane farmers are angry with the BJP government for not having facilitated their sugarcane dues. The deceased BJP MP Hukum Singh had been a vocal champion of the interests of cane farmers. But he was also the architect of the divisive charges of the so-called mass migration of Hindu families from Kairana owing to “poor law and order” under the then Samajwadi Party rule– a charge which was not substantiated by facts and was later taken back by Singh himself. Singh was also present at the controversial ‘Hindu Bachao Mahapanchayat’ on September 7, 2013, at Nagla Madod in Muzaffarnagar where provocative speeches by 40 high-profile politicians and other public figures had triggered riots, killing 65 persons and displacing more than 50,000. Singh’s shadow continues to dominate Kairana bypoll in more ways than one with BJP campaign revolving around agenda set by him. Yogi claims his government, despite inheriting empty coffers, has paid off cane farmers their dues and is restarting mills closed down by previous governments.

The Hindu, Bengaluru
No clarity on Karnataka loan waiver

The Centre is considering a Rs 200 billion irrigation package for drought-hit areas of Maharashtra, which see the highest incidences of farmer suicides in the country. The package, which is expected to be announced soon, will provide funds for completion of 108 major and minor stalled irrigation projects in the state. These projects, located in drought-prone as well as other areas, are those where 50 per cent of the work has been completed and the project has been stalled since then. On completion of the projects, an extra 7.75 lakh hectares of land will come under irrigation in the state. Around 75 per cent or Rs 150 billion of the funding for this package will come from National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD)’s long-term irrigation fund while the remaining Rs 50 billion is expected to come from the Centre’s coffers, Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari told. “It (the package) is for the distressed farmers who are committing suicide due to the severe drought. A formal cabinet note on the same is expected to be moved soon,” Gadkari, who is spearheading the initiative, said. The total package will be of around Rs 200 billion out of which 75 per cent will be from NABARD and the rest from the Centre. Gadkari said the need for the package arose due the previous the Congress-NCP state government starting 108 irrigation projects for which there was still a requirement of almost Rs 5,000 billion. “We need money for these projects. The Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) had sought funds for it and we are arranging it,” he said.

The Sunday Standard, New Delhi
Private firms reap gold from PM Modi's crop insurance scheme

Insurance companies have struck gold with the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) — the ambitious crop insurance scheme meant to help the distressed farmers in the country. While insurance companies earned a gross premium of Rs 22,180 crore, they paid out only about Rs 12,949 crore as claims to the farmers, according to the Ministry of Agriculture’s data for last year. This comes amidst nationwide reports indicating inordinate delays in farmers getting claims or getting paltry claims for their crop loss. Only recently, there were reports from Raigarh district in Chattisgarh of farmers getting claims as low as Rs 5 to Rs 18 as crop insurance claims. Similar reports also came in from some other parts of the country. Launched in April 2016, the PMFBY provides comprehensive crop insurance from pre-sowing to post harvest against non-preventable natural risks at extremely low maximum premium rate of 2 per cent for Kharif crops, 1.5 per cent for Rabi Crop and 5 per cent payable by farmers for annual commercial or horticultural crops. The balance of actuarial premium is shared by the Central and state governments. Data from the Agriculture Ministry says that about 1.20 crore farmers benefitted from the PMFBY scheme in 2016-17 and a total of 12,949 crore claims were paid to the farmers by the insurance firms. However, the insurance firms received total Rs 22,180 crore as gross premium, including Rs 4,383 crore from farmers and Rs 17,796 crore from states and Centre as a subsidy. Agriculture expert Devinder Sharma said the scheme has many flaws, and it appears to have been deliberately designed to benefit insurance companies.

27, May 2018
Business Line, Mumbai
Cotton exports may hit 4-year high on price rally, weak rupee

India's 2017-18 cotton exports are likely to jump nearly 30 per cent from the year before to a four-year high of 7.5 million bales, as climbing global prices and a weaker rupee boost overseas demand, the head of an industry body told. Increased supply from India could drag on a rally in international prices and would likely compete with shipments to Asia from exporters like the United States, Brazil and Australia. “We can end the season with exports of 7.5 million bales,” said Atul Ganatra, president of the Cotton Association of India (CAI), adding that higher international prices would drive up shipments. The country has exported 6.3 million bales (170kg a bale) so far in marketing year that started on October 1, he added. Last marketing year it shipped out 5.82 million bales, according to data compiled by the state-run textile commissioner's office. ICE cotton futures hit four-year highs earlier this week on buying from Chinese hedge funds, amid expectations of an increase in exports from the US after trade war fears with China receded. Indian rupee has fallen more than 6 percent in 2018, making Indian cotton cheaper for overseas buyers, said Nayan Mirani, partner at leading cotton exporter Khimji Visram & Sons. “There is export demand but supply of good quality cotton is limited as the season is coming to end,” he said. Indian cotton is being offered around 84 to 86 cents per lb on a cost and freight basis (C&F) to buyers in Bangladesh and Vietnam, compared to over 92 cents from the United Sates and Brazil, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm. He declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak with media. Meanwhile, the country's cotton imports could drop to 1.2 million bales in 2017-18 from 3 million bales the year before, said Ganatra at CAI.

The Indian Express, Hyderabad
In Telangana, govt plans Rs 5 lakh life cover for farmers

The Telangana government said it is working on a scheme to provide life insurance of up to Rs 5 lakh per farmer in the state. The state government plans to pay the entire premium every year on August 1. Announcing the decision, Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao said, “We are already giving Rs 8,000 per acre under Rythu Bandhu towards investment support and supplying free power round the clock. Now we have come out with a unique life insurance scheme for the farmer.” The insurance scheme will commence on August 15 and farmers will be given insurance bonds, he said. The entire premium will be paid by the government, and the funds for the same will be budgeted. Every year on August 1, the total premium amount will be credited to LIC, the implementing agency, he added. To a query, Rao said that irrespective of the reason for which a farmer dies, including natural reasons, the insured amount will be paid to the nominee within 10 days of the claim. The CM said the premium amount would have been less in case of accidental insurance, but the government had decided to provide life insurance in order to help the family of the deceased as it was the government’s responsibility. “Small and marginal farmers in Telangana account for 93 per cent. There are 18 lakh farmers whose holdings are less than one acre. Their livelihood is entirely agriculture and farming. When the farmer dies for any reason, his family will face a lot of hardship. So we have decided to provide Rs 5 lakh insurance coverage to the farmer. This is another step forward by the government,” he said, addressing LIC officers.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha seeks extension for tur procurement drive

Maharashtra Cooperation Minister Subhash Deshmukh and Pasha Patel, chairman, State Commission for Agriculture and Prices, have approached Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan and minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Shekhawat to seek an extension for the procurement of tur (arhar) after the state failed to meet its procurement targets for the second time this season. May 15 was the last date of procurement in Maharashtra after which tonne of tur was seen lying outside the procurement centres in key pulse producing regions of the state. Farmers cannot take back their produce and the centres have been shut. The Centre has granted permission to Maharashtra for the purchase of 44.60 lakh quintals of tur from February 1. The state government has now sought another extension for procurement until June 30. Patel, who is in Delhi to meet officials of the agriculture ministry said that he is hopeful of getting another extension from the Centre. “Union minister Radha Mohan assured us of an extension after we impressed upon the urgency of procuring tur from the farmers who had registered in the procurement drive. They cannot take their produce back and the procurement centres are shut,” he said. “The second extension granted by the Centre was of not much use since the storage space could not be arranged. The private warehouses are only willing to store 1.50 lakh tonne of tur and that too give us only a part of their storage space,” he pointed out. Despite a revised deadline, the state could manage to procure only 31 lakh tonne of the produce from 2 lakh farmers, leaving over 2 lakh more without any hopes. According to industry people, storage continues to remain an issue with warehouses remaining full. Some 90 warehouses in Nanded, Parbhani and Hingoli districts are packed while 18 private godowns have been taken on lease.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Paddy sown early destroyed

A few days after report was published, ‘In Muktsar dist, paddy sowing on before date’, the Agriculture Department swung into action and destroyed paddy crop sown in advance in some fields. Department officials said the state government had this year set June 10 as the date to begin sowing of paddy. Baljinder Singh Brar, Chief Agriculture Officer, Muktsar, said, “In all, 32 villages affected by waterlogging of the 236 villages in the district have been given an exemption by the state government and the farmers there can sow paddy a month in advance from the set date. However, the water table is decreasing in other parts of the state. So, the farmers are stopped from advanced sowing.” Meanwhile, Karanjit Singh, project director, Agricultural Technology Management Agency, said, “The state government had delayed the sowing by five days from June 15 to June 20 this year to save the extra consumption of water. The state has 14 lakh tube well connections and the sowing delayed by five days will save 24 lakh million litres of water. If any farmer sows the paddy crop before the set date, strict action will be taken against him.” Some famers start sowing early because they try to get two crops in the prevailing crop season. They first sow the ‘satthi’ variety which matures early and then the ‘1121’ basmati.

Business Line, Mumbai
Renuka Sugars eyes ethanol, branded sugar

Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd, which has been acquired by Wilmar Sugar Holdings of Singapore, plans to ramp up its ethanol capacity and expand the reach of its branded sugar. Wilmar holds about 39 per cent stake in the company and has also made an open offer for acquiring 25.14 per cent shares. It is probably for the first time that an MNC has taken a stake in Indian sugar company. New incoming Executive Chairman of Shree Renuka Sugars, Atul Chaturvedi, told that the new management was keen on enhancing the ethanol business especially when there is a glut of sugar in the Indian market and international prices are subdued. Chaturvedi said that today Indian market is ready for branded sugar, therefore Shree Renuka's brand Madhur needs a lot more push in the market. The Indian consumers are also getting conscious about purity and hygiene, he said. He pointed that in the late 1990s, sale of loose, unbranded edible oil was very high and branded oil sale was a small segment. Today the situation has reversed. Similarly branded sugar sales is also growing, which is an opportunity for the company. He said that the Center is very proactive on ethanol, which is also an opportunity for Shree Renuka. The company already has an annual capacity of 12 to 14 crore litres of ethanol but with additional investments, the production can increase substantially. It should also be kept in mind that the crude oil prices are rising and the rupee losing ground. Therefore it makes sense to make more ethanol, Chaturvedi said.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Rythu Bandhu: call to cover tenant farmers

Several farmers’ unions in the State called for a road blockade on May 31 to protest against exclusion of tenant farmers from the Rythu Bandhu scheme. They said the scheme should also cover tenant farmers and those in ‘shift cultivation’. The State government’s Rythu Bandhu scheme provides financial help of Rs 4,000 a acre to farmers in each cropping season. Pasya Padma of Telangana Rythu Sangham said, adivasi farmers practising shift cultivation should be given pattadar passbooks and tenant farmers loan eligibility cards. Sayanna of Telangana Rytanga Samithi said there were about 11 lakh tenant farmers. “About 70 per cent of farmers suicide were among tenant farmers.”

Business Line, New Delhi
Tepid start to kharif planting: rice and cotton acreage lower than last year

Mounting cane arrears during the current sugar season do not seem to have deterred farmers from bringing more area under sugarcane, according to official data released by the Agriculture Ministry. The sowing has taken place in a total of 65.52 lakh hectares (lha) so far, which was around 6 per cent lower than 69.84 lha covered during the corresponding period last year. All crops, barring sugarcane registered a drop in area covered as compared to that in same period last year. The cultivated area of sugarcane, on the other hand, increased by 1.75 per cent over that of the previous year. This was despite the fact that farmers have been reeling under the rising cane arrears from sugar mills, which have been plagued by an overproduction of sugar in the 2017-18 season, that resulted in a crash in market prices. Even though these are early days of sowing and better monsoon, as forecast by the India Meteorological Department, may dramatically change the situation. The drop in acreage has been substantial in the case of rice and cotton. The planted area has so far come down by 30 per cent to 7.82 lha and 1.52 lha in cotton and rice respectively. There is substantial reduction in Haryana and Punjab, where early sowing of cotton is normally taken up. The precariously low water storage levels in reservoirs used for irrigation could be one of the main reasons for tepid improvement in sowing. According to data released by the Central Water Commission, the average water storage in 91 reservoirs monitored by it was 18 per cent as compared to around 20 per cent during the corresponding period last year.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Training on modern eri rearing held

In continuation to its efforts to strengthen the eri farmers of Nagaon and Morigaon districts of the state, a three-day hands-on training programme on “Quality Control and Organic Dying of Eri Silk Yarn” was organized by the Institutional Advanced Level Biotech Hub, Nowgong College, Nagaon, said a press release here. The inaugural meeting was chaired by Dr Sarat Borkataki, Principal, Nowgong College and proceedings of the programme were initiated by Dr Bhuban Chandra Chutia, co-coordinator, Institutional Advanced Level Biotech Hub of Nowgong College. Dr KK Medhi, coordinator, RUSA, Dr CM Sarma, coordinator, IQAC, Dr Farishta Yasmin, coordinator, Institutional Advanced Level Biotech Hub were present along with three experts on organic dying. The experts were led by Chandan Keshab, head of the Boko-based NGO Guldasta. Twenty eri silk rearers from Morigaon and Nagaon districts of the State and a good number of Nowgong College students participated in the training programme. Chandan Keshab and his team members demonstrated different types of natural dyes and the process of their preparation from mehendi, onion, jackfruit tree, amla, lac etc. An exhibition of different eri silk products was also organized along with the training programme. Ajit Sarma, Extension Officer, Department of Sericulture, Nagaon interacted with the participants on the different existing Government schemes formulated to benefit the people engaged in the eri sector. Dr KK Medhi, president of the valedictory function, spoke on the importance of eri silk and its demand in the domestic market. He encouraged the eri rearers to take eri-culture as commercial ventures. Dr Medhi also maintained that it could be a skill-based course in colleges and universities.

The Asian Age, Bengaluru
Write off farm loans or face bandh on Monday: BSY to HDK

Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly in Karnataka B S Yeddyurappa announced that his party would call for a state-wide bandh on Monday in case CM H.D. Kumaraswamy dithers on waiver of crops loans released to farmers by public sector banks and cooperative banks. He told this soon after leading a walkout by legislators of his party that the delay in writing off loans by the coalition government mirrored its apathy towards farmers. “We have decided to call for Karnataka bandh. And since elections will be held in R.R. Nagar Assembly constituency on Monday, we decided not to support the bandh in Bengaluru city. We have called upon all private transport operators to suspend trasnport service for a day to support the cause of farmers,” he added. Mr Yeddyurappa, who was recognized as leader of Opposition by Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar before the trust vote, charged that Mr Kumaraswamy had promised to waive farm loans worth Rs 53,000 crore, including those from public sector banks. “It was you (Mr Kumaraswamy) who promised waiving farm loans within 24 hours (after assuming office). The farmers will not be ready to buy your stories that you head a coalition government and it has its own compulsions. You have to announce it in this special session itself. Else, we will prepare an action plan to launch our agitation across the state," he said. Mr Yeddyurappa said he would not comment on the Congress as it was already out to "finish" the JD(S). He, however, said the BJP's struggle was against the "anti-farmer, anti-people and corrupt government of Kumaraswamy."

26, May 2018
The Tribune, Jhajjar
BPL families rue substandard wheat

A case of supplying substandard quality of wheat to a depot under the Public Distribution System (PDS) has come to the fore in Dawla village in the district. The BPL families in the village have refused to take the wheat and the depot holder has complained to the Food and Supplies Department. The state government provides 5 kg wheat per month per person of BPL family at a nominal rate of Rs 2 per kg through its PDS depot. “We are poor but cannot take risk of falling sick by consuming the rotten wheat, thus, we have denied taking this grain. The department concerned should immediately replace it with a superior quality grain,” said Prem, a BPL ration card holder. Bharti Singh Dube, a BPL card holder, said the wheat was of a poor quality and it was not even fit for feeding animals. “Wheat in over 10 bags has so far been found unfit for consumption. The grain has turned black and is stinking too. The ration-card holders have refused to take it and the Food and Supplies Department has been informed about the matter,” said Yashpal, depot holder. He said he had been running the depot in the village for the past few years and it was for the first time that substandard wheat had been supplied. Officials of the Food and Supplies Department had assured him of replacing it with good quality wheat. Joginder, Assistant Food and Supply Officer (AFSO), admitted that poor quality of wheat in over 10 bags had been supplied to the PDS depot in Dawla village.

Daily Excelsior, Srinagar
CS reviews implementation of Agricultural Extension Scheme

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Secretary, B B Vyas chaired the meeting of the State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) to review the implementation of the Sub- Mission on Agricultural Extension (SMAE) under the National Mission of Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET). Principal Secretary, Finance, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Administrative Secretaries of the Departments of Animal & Sheep Husbandry, Agriculture, Floriculture, Horticulture, Rural Development and other senior officers were present in the meeting. Director Agriculture Jammu, who is also the State Nodal Officer SMAE-ATMA gave a detailed presentation in regard to the achievements of various departments during 2017-18. The Committee also discussed and approved the State Extension Work Plan (SEWP)-2018-19 of Rs 33.29 crore under the Mission with focus on convergence, transfer of skill and technology to farmers, farmer awareness campaigns, demonstration activities and training/capacity building of field functionaries of Agriculture, Animal & Sheep Husbandry, Horticulture, floriculture, sericulture, fisheries and other allied sectors. Chief Secretary called upon concerned departmental heads to focus on convergence with the Rural Development Department and ensure that part of the MGNREGA resources are utilized for construction of water harvesting structures, small irrigation khuls, cattle sheds, vermi compost units, pits and other activities beneficial to the farming community in the villages. He emphasized on holding interactive sessions with farmers groups and preparing a compendium of best agriculture practices and hosting information related to research and innovation, best agricultural practices, government schemes and success stories on ATMA Website for the benefit of the farmers. He urged the concerned Administrative Secretaries and HoDs to focus on initiatives that shall contribute towards value addition of the agricultural produce and promote a shift from subsistence to commercial farming in the State.

The Times of India, Ghaziabad
Farmers say they will self-immolate in EPE protest

Farmers whose land was acquired for the Eastern Peripheral Expressway held a mahapanchayat and decided to boycott the road’s inauguration by the Prime Minister this Sunday. They are upset that their demand for a 15km service road along the expressway has not been met. The farmers have announced they will march to the inauguration site and warned they would self-immolate if security agencies tried to stop them. Nearly 5,000 farmers from 18 villages have parted with 344 hectares of land for the expressway. The farmers, while giving away the land, had demanded a 15km service road running parallel to the EPE, which has been developed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). The contention of the farmers was that in the absence of a service land, the EPE will cut off all 16 villages along its way with practically no connectivity. The 135-km-long EPE enters Ghaziabad at Bihing village. After running for 27.7 km through 16 villages, it enters Gautam Budh Nagar via Arifpur. “The NHAI has not paid heed to our demands and we suspect that after the inauguration of EPE, the agency will abandon the service lane project altogether,” said Salek Bhaiya, secretary, Vikas Sangharsh Samiti. “We will boycott the PM’s inauguration ceremony in Baghpat on Sunday and will block the expressway,” said Choudhary Manoj Pradhan, convener of Vikas Sangharsh Samiti.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Global warming may have ‘devastating’ effects on rice

As carbon dioxide rises due to the burning of fossil fuels, rice will lose some of its protein and vitamin content, putting millions of people at risk of malnutrition, scientists warned. The change could be particularly dire in southeast Asia where rice is a major part of the daily diet, said the report in the journal Science Advances. “We are showing that global warming, climate change and particularly greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide — can have an impact on the nutrient content of plants we eat,” said co-author Adam Drewnowski, a professor at the University of Washington. “This can have devastating effects on the rice-consuming countries where about 70% of the calories and most of the nutrients come from rice.” Protein and vitamin deficiencies can lead to growth-stunting, birth defects, diarrhoea, infections and early death. Countries at most risk include those that consume the most rice and have the lowest gross domestic product (GDP), such as Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, Mr. Drewnowksi said. The findings were based on field studies in Japan and China, simulating the amount of CO2 expected in the atmosphere by the second half of this century — 568 to 590 parts per million. Current levels are just over 400 ppm. Researchers found that iron, zinc, protein, and vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B9 — which help the body convert food to energy — were all reduced in the rice grown under higher CO2 conditions. “Vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels decreased by 17.1%; average Vitamin B2 by 16.6%,” said the report. On average, protein content fell 10.3%, iron dropped eight percent and zinc was reduced by 5.1%, compared to rice grown today under current CO2.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Govt hikes import duty on wheat, almond, 3 more items

Citing circumstances for immediate action, the government hiked the import duty on five items, including wheat, shelled almond, walnut, and protein concentrate, to as much as 100 per cent. The goods are imported from developed nations, especially the US. Invoking “emergency powers” to increase import duties under Section 8A of the Customs Act, the Finance Ministry increased basic customs duty on walnut in shell from 30 per cent to 100 per cent. The duty on shelled almond was hiked to Rs 100/kg from Rs 65/kg, while that on wheat, the basic customs duty has been increased to 30 per cent from 20 per cent. Import of protein concentrate will now be subject to 40 per cent duty, up from 10 per cent. However, the duty on protein concentrate and textured protein substance has been raised to 40 per cent, from 30 per cent, according to notifications issued by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). The government had last week told the World Trade Organization (WTO) that that it would raise duties by up to 100 per cent on 20 products such as almonds, walnut, wheat, apple and specific motorcycles imported from the US, if Washington fails to roll back high tariffs on certain steel and aluminium items. On March 9, US President Trump imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel and aluminium items, a move that has sparked fears of a global trade war.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha food processing industry braces for plastic ban

The impending policy decision barring single-use plastics and a ban on PET bottles after a 3-month window has left the Maharashtra food processing industry in a state of flux. Several horticulture associations have opposed the move and have urged the government to deliberate upon alternative packaging solutions. Maharashtra is a major producer of oranges (40%), grapes (50%), mangoes, strawberries and guavas, accounting for 14.5% share in the country’s fruit production. Additionally, Maharashtra is among the largest exporter of grapes, mangoes and about 97% of India’s total grape wine produce comes from the state. According to the National Horticulture Board data, Maharashtra stands second in the country with fruit production of 103.96 lakh metric tonne. According to Akhilesh Bhargava, chairman, Environment Committee, All India Plastics Manufacturers Association (AIPMA), 20,000 tonne of PET goes into the packaging of fruit drinks and fruit produce packaging annually in Maharashtra alone. Sopan Kanchan, president, Grape Grower Association of India says the plastic ban has put the grapes industry in complete distress. “We are facing challenges even at the nurseries, where plastic is used to securely keep the saplings. Now, suddenly, we have been forced to seek alternatives without any form of support or viable alternative. The implementation of the ban should have had a longer deadline, for us to prepare in advance. Further, if PET bottles are also banned, the end-product would be impacted, grape juice and wines are all mostly sold in PET bottles. What we need is to invest in research to seek viable recycling mechanisms, instead of a blanket ban on plastics,” he added. In the middle of peak summer, a ban on PET bottles will impact a major segment of fruit-based consumer goods — specifically cold beverages like juices, squash, pulp and puree.

The Hindu, Hyderabad
Seed, fertilizer stocks ready for kharif

Minister for Agriculture Pocharam Srinivas Reddy has stated that the government is ready with required quantity of seed and fertilizers for the coming kharif season and the investment support given under Rythu Bandhu scheme should be helpful to the farming community to procure inputs without any problem. Speaking at the seed mela organised by Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) in collaboration with local ICAR research institutions and some State government agencies here, the Minister stated that 7.5 lakh quintals of seed of various crops and 8 lakh tonnes of fertilisers had been kept ready for the kharif cultivation. Indian Institute of Rice Research (IIRR), Indian Institute of Oilseeds Research (IIOR), Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR), Directorate of Poultry, National Seed Corporation (NSC), Telangana State Seed Development Corporation (TSSDC), Telangana State Seed and Organic Certification Agency (TSSOCA) also participated in the seed mela. The Minister stated that the government was also helping farmers to raise seed by offering 50% subsidy on breeder seed and the State had come a long way from queues and incidents of stampede for seed and fertilizer. The government had also decided to provide insurance cover to farmers.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Shriram Bioseed, KeyGene in rice research pact

Shriram Bioseed, the hybrid seed business of DCM Shriram, and Key Gene, an agri-biotech company based out of the Netherlands and US, have signed an agreement for a multi-year research programme. They plan to develop improved rice hybrids for higher yields, increased tolerance to abiotic stress and better grain quality. “Key Gene’s innovation platforms will be used to boost these important traits in Bioseed’s rice germplasm,” Paresh Verma, Director Research at Shriram Bioseed, said in a statement. “The goal is to benefit the rice farmers by providing them with seed of high performing hybrids,” Arjen van Tunen, Chief Executive Officer of KeyGene, said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Why your rice is becoming less nutritious

When scientists want to figure out how climate change might disrupt the world’s food supplies, they often explore how rising temperatures could shift growing seasons or how more frequent droughts could damage harvests. In recent years, though, researchers have begun to realise that the extra carbon dioxide that humanity is pumping into the atmosphere isn’t just warming the planet, it’s also making some of our most important crops less nutritious by changing their chemical makeup and diluting vitamins and minerals. Now, a new study has found that rice exposed to elevated levels of carbon dioxide contains lower amounts of several important nutrients. The potential health consequences are large, given that there are already billions of people around the world who don’t get enough protein, vitamins in their daily diet. “When we study food security, we’ve often focused on how climate change might affect the production of crops,” said Lewis H Ziska, a plant physiologist at the US Department of Agriculture and a coauthor of the new study. In the study, published in Science Advances, Ziska and his colleagues exposed experimental rice fields in China and Japan to the same elevated levels of carbon dioxide that are expected to occur worldwide later this century as a result of fossil-fuel burning and other human activities. Most of the 18 varieties of rice that were grown and harvested contained significantly less protein, iron and zinc than rice that is grown today. All of the rice varieties saw dramatic declines in vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B9, though they contained higher levels of vitamin E. The researchers focused on rice because more than 2 billion people worldwide rely on it as a primary food source.

The Tribune, New Delhi
Worries pile up for border farmers, paddy season on, but wheat not sold

The recurrent Pakistan shelling and firing on Indian villages along the 198-km-long International Border (IB) have left the entire farming community in despair as farmers have been not able to carry out normal agricultural activities in their fields. During the last one week, thousands of farmers from border villages have fled their homes and taken refuge at relief camps following intense shelling on the entire border belt from Paharpur on the Kathua-Punjab border to the Chicken’s Neck area of Akhnoor in Jammu district. The agricultural land within the radius of five kilometres from the IB, measuring about 1.25 lakh hectares, falls under the firing and shelling range. The rabi crops, especially wheat, have been lying unattended in deserted houses, even as the farmers’ concern about the next paddy crop is mounting. The villagers are unable to get their fields ready to raise seedlings prior to the transplantation of paddy. Another worry is the non-availability of labour from outside the state. Labourers, particularly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, are not ready to work in fields under the present hostile border conditions. “We had bumper crop of wheat this year but it is now lying unattended at our homes in Treva, a village close to the IB which has been heavily shelled by Pakistan. The situation turned volatile on border just after we harvested wheat crop. We did not get the time to sell our produce in the market. We don’t have any other source of income, how will we sustain our families?” asked Rattan Lal, a 58-year-old farmer staying at a relief camp in Government Higher Secondary School, Salehar, Jammu. Choudhary Dev Raj, president of the RS Pura Basmati Rice Growers Association, claimed that nearly 1 lakh to 1.25 lakh hectares in the border area, known for its world-class basmati, was directly affected by Pakistan shelling.

The Tribune, Ferozepur
8,991 farmers get Rs 58-crore debt waiver

As many as 8,991 marginal farmers of the border district were given debt relief of Rs 58.73 crore by Cooperation and Jail Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. Sukhjinder Randhawa claimed that the Congress government had fulfilled the poll promise of waiving farm loans.

24, May 2018
The Tribune, Bathinda
Bank agrees to raise loan limit, farmers call off stir

On warpath against the curtailment of crop loan from cooperative banks ahead of the sowing season, the farmers called off their stir after a meeting with a team of top officials from Chandigarh, headed by Punjab State Cooperative Bank MD Dr SK Batish. BKU Ekta Ugraha district president Shingara Singh Mann said: “The cooperative bank officials have agreed to extend the farmers a crop loan of Rs 13,000 per acre. Besides, they will get another Rs 2,000 per acre as and when NABARD released funds to the cooperative banks.” He said it was decided to initiate bank transactions for 11,000 farmers, who had become members of the cooperative societies over the last two to three years. Mann said they had also raised the issue of farmers who were denied benefit of the debt waiver scheme despite meeting the criteria. Subsequently, he said, the district bank officials were asked to verify the cases of such farmers and prepare a new list for the debt waiver. He said they had called off the agitation over the issue for now, though they would continue to fight over other issues like the farmers being booked in cheque-bounce cases. Earlier during the meeting, all stakeholders had agreed to the maximum credit limit of Rs 12,000 per acre, but Cooperation Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa intervened and ordered to further increase the amount to Rs 13,000 per acre, stated a release issued here.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Centre Unveils Model Contract Farming Law

The agriculture ministry released the Model Contract Farming Act, 2018, which lays emphasis on protecting the interests of farmers, considering them as weaker of the two parties entering into a contract. The ministry says that it is a promotional and facilitative Act and not regulatory in its structure. In addition to contract farming, services contracts all along the value chain, including pre-production, production and post-production, have been included in the Act, a statement from the ministry said. “The final Model Act - State/UT Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018 has been approved by the Competent Authority,” it says. Farm minister Radha Mohan Singh released the Act along with Ministers of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Parushottam Rupala and Krishna Raj. The Act says that the contracted produce will be covered under crop/ livestock insurance in operation. Also, contract framing will be outside the ambit of APMC Act. Protecting farmers, the Act says that no permanent structure can be developed on farmers’ land or premises. “No right, title of interest of the land shall vest in the sponsor. Promotion of Farmer Producer Organization (FPOs) / Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) to mobilise small and marginal farmers has been provided,” says the Act. The FPO and FPC can be a contracting party if so authorised by the farmers, it says. “No rights, title ownership or possession to be transferred or alienated or vested in the contract farming sponsor etc,” it adds. A Contract Farming Facilitation Group (CFFG) for promoting contract farming and services at village and panchayat level will be provided. The concept of Contract Farming refers to a system of farming in which bulk purchasers including agro-processing/ exporting or trading units enter into a contract with farmer(s) to purchase a specified quantity of any agricultural commodity at a pre-agreed price.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Centre urges states to adopt model act on contract farming

Amid estimates of record production of agricultural and horticultural produce this year, the Centre released a model act on contract farming and asked states to adopt it to save farmers from price volatility. The proposed model law - State/UT Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2018 - intends to integrate farmers with agro-industries and exporters for better price realisation by mitigating market and price risks. Once adopted by states, it will formally facilitate entry of private players into the farm sector as it would induce competition and ensure assured and better price of farm produce to farmers through advance agreements. It can offer assured price to farmers and save them from a problem of plenty -- a situation where farmers opt for distress sale when bumper crops cause a glut in the market. “There is unanimity among the states to adopt the ‘model contract farming and services’ act in its true spirit so as to ensure assured market at pre-agreed prices,” said Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. The proposed law was unveiled here in presence of agriculture marketing ministers from several states including Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Farmers to cut vegetable supply for 10 days

The prices of vegetables and milk are set to go through the roof as farmers have decided to sell their produce in their backyards and not in mandis for 10 days beginning June 1. The decision has been taken in protest against non-remunerative prices for vegetables and Milkfed’s move to slash the price of milk by Rs 9 per litre. BKU chief Balbir Singh Rajewal said farmers were resentful and 172 farmer outfits had come together to get their due from the Centre as well as the state governments. No farmer would go to mandis to sell any farm produce, he said. For a change, people could visit villages to get their supplies at prices fixed by farmers and get to know the problems faced by them, he said. After decades of false assurances, farmers had realised that direct action was the only option before them. So far no government had implemented the recommendations of the Swaminathan report, waived farm loan in toto or given wages equivalent to a class IV employee to farm hands, he pointed out. To add to their woes, the prices of diesel had gone up, making farming unviable.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Farmers will get all sugar mill dues: Yogi

Amid growing concerns over mounting cane dues of sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath promised that every farmer will get “each and every paisa” the mills owe them for their produce. The Chief Minister gave the assurance while launching the campaign for the Kairana bypoll at Ambehta in Saharanpur. “Our government will ensure that no injustice is done to our farmer brothers. It is our responsibility to see to it that no farmer is exploited,” he said. “We will make sure that every farmer gets each and every paisa of the cane dues. Those who try to exploit farmers will be sent to jail,” he told the crowd. Mr. Adityanath targeted the previous governments and accused them of not working for the welfare of the farmers. “My government creates solutions and not problems. The previous governments closed sugar mills. We, on the other hand, are getting them to start work again. It is being done for the welfare of the farmers. If they are happy the State will prosper,” said the Chief Minister. The sugar mills in the State are yet to pay over ₹12,000 crore to the farmers for the cane they had bought in the beginning of the crushing season. After speaking at length on issues related to farmers, Mr. Adityanath slammed former CM Akhilesh Yadav for the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots. “Akhilesh Yadav can lend his candidate to other parties (RLD candidate Tabassum Hasan) but he can’t come to Kairana to campaign because he has blood on his hands of the innocents killed in the Muzaffarnagar riots,” he said.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Govt to unveil another sugar package soon

To help clear massive cane arrears, the Centre is exploring a raft of proposals, including offering an interest subsidy of more than Rs 1,300 crore on loans to sugar mills to raise their ethanol production capacity and creating a buffer stock of 3 million tonnes of sugar for a year, sources told. The options are aimed at containing a current slide in sugar prices that has bled the industry, and also help mills manufacture more biofuel to diversify their product basket and cut reliance on sugar sales revenue. The government will have to bear a carrying cost of Rs 1,200 crore a year for the creation of the proposed buffer stock. Moreover, a two-year moratorium on repayment on the loans for increasing ethanol production could be provided to sugar mills. The government will pay a part of the total interest burden over five years, which is expected to be in excess of Rs 4,400 crore. While the Centre has been helping the sugar industry clear cane dues in recent years through loans and interest subsidy, the steps haven’t prevented arrears from piling up in regular intervals when sugar prices drop, thanks to generous and unreasonable hikes in cane prices by both the Centre and states like Uttar Pradesh. In June 2015, the Centre had offered a loan package worth Rs 6,000 crore with a 10% interest subsidy on it for one year. In December 2013, it had announced a loan package of Rs 6,600 crore, with a 12% interest subsidy for five years. However, as has been pointed out repeatedly, unless the basic issue of cane pricing is resolved by the central and state governments, massive arrears will keep surfacing in future as well. Nevertheless, the latest push to ethanol will help mills improve their margins. At present, the country has production capacity of 270 crore litres.

Business Line, Mangaluru
How a farmers’ group is reviving the jackfruit

A farmer producer organisation (FPO) in Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada district is putting the humble jackfruit back on the table. Long ignored in the region, the jackfruit actually lends itself to being transformed into a value-added product or two. However, not much attention is paid to its cultivation by most farmers as it is not the main crop and does not require any work. Often, jackfruit grown in the backyard goes waste; only a few small or micro units in the private sector manufacture value-added products from it in coastal Karnataka. Now, Pingara Horticulture Farmers’ Producer Company Ltd, located near Vitla town, about 50 km from Mangaluru, is aiming to change that. K Ramkishor, President of Pingara Horticulture, told BusinessLine that 1,000 farmers within a 15-km radius of Vitla are members of the FPO, which is supported by the Karnataka Horticulture Department. He said the FPO members were inspired by the efforts of Shree Padre, a farmer from Kasaragod in Kerala, who has been spreading awareness about the neglected crop’s potential for the last decade-and-a-half. He said the FPO produces value-added jackfruit products such as papads, finger chips and halwa. The Pingara FPO has the capacity to process around 400 kg of raw jackfruit a day. This can go up to 600-700 kg a day, though sustaining it in the off-season is difficult as the FPO employs 18 people, mostly women, he said. The FPO prepares around 1,000 pieces of papad and 5 kg of chips a day. It produces around 50 kg of jackfruit halwa in a week. It is also working on a kind of jackfruit payasam and hopes to market the product soon. Ramkishor said the FPO collects raw jackfruit from farmers’ doorsteps. Some also deliver the fruit to the FPO. The farmers are offered Rs 2 a kg if the jackfruit is collected.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maharashtra grants sale licences for 370 varieties of Bt cotton

The Maharashtra government seems to have stepped up its vigil against co-marketing of Bt cotton seeds. This kharif season, the state government has granted sale licences for 370 varieties of Bt cotton from 42 seed companies. Farmers have been urged to purchase seeds from these companies, top officials of the state agriculture department said. This is a fallout of the action taken by the government against co-marketing of brands for Bt cotton seed companies. The brand marketing licences of as many as 74 companies have been scrapped, officials said. The action follows the state’s decision against co-marketing of brands for Bt cotton seed companies. Selling Bt seeds that are produced in other states under different brand names is termed as co-marketing. A couple of months ago, Maharashtra had made it mandatory for Bt cotton seed companies in the state to submit seed samples, which they wished to sell in the market, to government-approved laboratories for getting them tested in order to obtain sale licenses. MS Gholap, director of agriculture, inspection and quality control (I&QC) said that seed companies were required to get the DNA and DUS tests done and submit the acknowledgement from the laboratories to the agriculture department for obtaining licences. The step was taken to prevent the sale of illegal varieties in the market, industry observers said. Gholap pointed out that there are three agriculture universities in the state that conducts such tests in addition to Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune. DUS testing is way of determining whether a newly bred variety differs from existing varieties within the same species (the distinctness part), whether the characteristics used to establish distinctness are expressed uniformly (the uniformity part) and that these characteristics do not change over subsequent generations (the stability part). DNA markers are used for assessing the genetic purity.

TBusiness Line, Kochi
Re-exporters allowed to import pepper

The Union Government has permitted 78 companies to import duty free 2,500 tonnes of black pepper under the Indo-Sri Lankan FTA. A decision in this regard was taken at a meeting held in New Delhi on May 9 when these 100 per cent export oriented companies approached DGFT for permission to import a total quantity of 17,254 tonnes. However, the Commerce Ministry has allowed only the yearly quota of 2,500 tonnes as per the FTA norms with a specific direction that imports should be carried out as per the MIP notification at prices not less than Rs 500/kg. These 78 companies which process and re-export will get 32 tonnes each. A single company has filed application to import 2,500 tonnes while three applicants for 1,000 tonnes each. In the applications, these companies have to show an agreement clause with a Sri Lankan exporter against which only the DGFT will issue license, Kishore Shamji of the Kochi based Kishore Spices said. He said smuggling in large quantities as well as official imports of 300 tonnes at below MIP in April had hit prices. Any improvement can happen only if illegal routes are plugged. However, spice exporters pointed out that MIP notification has not helped improve pepper prices in the domestic market with the rates moving southwards and hovering at Rs 360-380/kg depending on the grades. Gulshan John, past president of All India Spices Exporters Forum told that exporters are in discussions with the Commerce Ministry for easing the MIP notification norms at least for companies which are involved in re-exporting pepper after value addition. The government has sought data from the industry to prove its version, as the MIP notification has hit exporters in the country hard. He alleged that MIP norms has created a black market for pepper imports and also boosted smuggling.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Sugar price, shares surge on revival package buzz

Sugar rates as well as the share prices of its makers have started firming up on a buzz that the government is toying with the idea of coming up with a fresh package to support the ailing sugar industry. This ‘incentive’ may be given so that sugar companies can pay their dues to the farmers. In the spot market, sugar price increased in two days across mandis. Even in the last two days, the shares of sugar firms have headed northward after a long period of underperformance. According to market rumours, the government is considering several proposals which it received from the industry and political heavyweights. One of them is to fix a price limit for sugar mills below which they cannot sell sugar. This will come with a condition that mills will clear cane farmers’ dues which, according to Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma), have already surpassed Rs 210 billion and on April 15 it was to the tune of Rs 216.75 billion. There is a possibility of 2-3 million tonne of buffer being created but the problem is of the money to buy sugar. However, if sugar price is fixed for mills at a certain limit below which sugar cannot be sold, that will help arrest distress selling by mills to raise funds. The issue may come up for discussion in a Cabinet Committee Of Economic Affairs meeting next week in which the sugar industry’s woes may be discussed. According to trade experts, a political heavyweight has requested the government to build a sugar buffer stock, increase ethanol price and take other measures.

23, May 2018
Business Line, Bengaluru
At 33.26 mt, wheat purchases exceed target by 4%

Procurement of wheat by the Government agencies stood at 33.26 million tonnes (mt), exceeding the targeted 32 mt for the 2018-19 marketing year (April-March). A Statement from the Food Ministry said that the purchases were higher by around 16 per cent this year as compared with last year’s 28.72 mt. Purchases have been higher in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on higher market arrivals with the country witnessing a record wheat output. As per the latest estimates by the Agriculture Ministry, wheat production is hitting a new high of 98.61 mt (98.51 mt) against the targeted 97.50 mt. In Punjab, the agencies have procured about 12.61 mt of the total arrivals of 12.66 mt, about 8 per cent higher than last year. Similarly in Haryana, the wheat procurement is higher by around 18 per cent at 8.73 mt over last year. The market arrivals have slowed down considerably in these two states indicating that the procurement process was in final stages. In Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the daily market arrivals are around one lakh tonnes. In UP, the purchases, so far, are higher by around 71 per cent over last year. Procurement in UP stood at 3.6 mt (2.1 mt). In MP, the procurement has exceeded the targetted 6.7 mt for the year.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Edible Oil Imports Can Slip this Year

Edible oil imports may drop this year because of working capital issues, currency weakness and higher duty on palm oil, industry executives said. “Earlier, banks would give an additional 60-90 days window to edible oil importers beyond the stipulated 120-days’ time to repay the working capital loans. But that has completely stopped after the alleged PNB scam surfaced,” said Angshu Mallick, chief operating officer of Adani Wilmar, which markets oil under the brand name Fortune. “Banks have tightened liquidity to the sector. The market is on a waitand-watch mode.” According to Mallick, tightening of credit flow to the sector has also resulted in reduction of inventory level in the market. “No one is keen to hold back stock. They are trying to liquidate it at the earliest so that repayment to the banks does not get affected,” he said. Palm oil is the most widely consumed edible oil in the country, accounting for nearly 63% of the country’s vegetable oil imports. Last March, the government raised import duty on crude palm oil to 44% from 30% and that on refined palm oil to 54% from 40%. This increase has affected its consumption in the country. The move reduced the price difference between soya oil and palm oil. While palm oil is available in retail stores at Rs 74-75 per litre, soya oil fetches Rs 77-78 per litre. Although the industry is seeing a 10-15% shift from palm oil to soya oil, consumption of palm oil in the lower stratum of the society may take a hit due to the price rise.

The Economic Times, Chandigarh
High Earnings Last Year Drive Farmers to Grow More Basmati

Basmati rice is set to gain acreage in India, largest exporter of the premium rice, as the farmers earned higher remuneration in the last season. Farmers in basmati-belt states are growing more of the cereal instead of cotton and regular rice compared to the last year. The forecast of normal monsoon in India is also enticing farmers in rice growing states of Punjab, Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir to grow more basmati. A normal monsoon boost output of other crops including cotton and farmers earned less than expected in the fibre crop in the last season. “The increase in area of basmati is on expected lines after farmers earned well in the previous year,” Vijay Sethia, president All India Rice Exporters Association told. He said that the area would increase by more than 10 per cent this season. Despite the revival in basmati cropping pattern, the exporters are anxious of challenges in international trade including stagnant market, looming US sanctions on Iran and newer European residue norms. Sethia urged for stricter regularisation of pesticides in the country to meet newer residue norms in international trade. “The government needs to regularise pre-harvest chemicals to boost the stagnant basmati trade,” he said. The area under basmati had come down by 7-10 per cent in the last year due to low international prices in 2016. In Punjab, second largest grower of basmati, the area of basmati is expected to increase by more than 20 per cent as farmers are keen to grow more basmati than the last year. Basmati was grown on around 5-lakh hectares in the last season in the state. Lower than anticipated earning from cotton last season is also exhorting farmers to grow rice in Punjab.

Business Line, Chennai
Set sugarcane pricing free: Industry body ISMA to Govt

The Indian Sugar Mills Association has urged the government to free sugarcane pricing in the coming season and voiced concerns against possible controls on sugar sales. Sugarcane arrears could double to about Rs 40,000 crore in the coming season if cane prices continue to be set at artificially high levels even as sugar prices drop, it said. In separate representations to the Ministry of Food and Public Distribution last week the Association said that sugar mills may not be able to start operations in 2018-19 (October – September) due to mounting losses and arrears owed to farmers. India too should follow the global norm of linking sugarcane price to 70-75 per cent of revenue from sugar. But mills here pay 90-100 per cent of revenue for cane. With sustained surplus production in recent years, exports are a necessity but high raw material price is a handicap, according to ISMA. Earlier, the Government-appointed Rangarajan Committee had recommended a revenue sharing model between mills and farmers. Even the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices which sets the crop prices has recommended the measure with the provision that when cane price falls below cost of production the gap should be filled from a dedicated fund. Cash-strapped sugar mills face more losses in the coming season and banks are reluctant to support their working capital, it said. Despite sugar mills owing farmers around Rs 20,000 crore, cane continues to be a preferred crop because of attractive prices. Cane production in the coming season will again support the current year’s surplus sugar production of 320 lakh tonnes (lt) against a domestic consumption of 255 lt. Sugar prices have dropped to about Rs 26,000 a tonne, about Rs 9000 – 10,000 below the cost of production. The Association also requested the government not to revert to controlled releases of sugar to buoy prices.

Business Line, Kochi
Stop rubber dumping; set import price, says industry

Minimum import price on rubber is needed to avoid dumping, say stakeholders citing a serious drop in production triggered by imports and low prices. Quoting data at a meeting of a Task Force in Kochi, growers and processors pointed out that imports were increasing even during high cropping months of September-February, This underlines the need for a clear policy on how much, when and what to import. “It is not only the quantum of imports, but also timing that created the problem”, they said. Rubber Board figures also revealed that imports had grown 10 per cent to an all time high of 469,433 tonnes 2017-18 due to favourable price, rising consumption and less than expected production. Santhosh Kumar, Senior VP, Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, who participated in the meeting told that they have strongly argued for a minimum import price for rubber along the lines for pepper. The price of domestic rubber should not be less than the cost of production, which is now hovering at Rs 170/kg. There was also demand to utilise the import duty collected for supporting rubber cultivation by extending price support and replanting subsidies. Currently 40 per cent of the Indian consumption is being imported and further imports would adversely affect the growers’ interests. Admitting that rubber imports had been consistently increasing from 2008-09 to 2017-18, Rubber Board Chairman and Executive Director, MK Shanmuga Sundaram said at a different function that imports are projected at 450,000 tonnes in 2018-19. The production during January-March 2018 was 10 per cent lower mainly on account of intermittent rains and relatively low rubber prices. The projected NR production is considerably lower as compared to the production potential, he said addressing the 176th meeting of the Rubber Board.

The Financial Express, Pune
Sugar prices jump Rs 50-80 on buffer stock speculation

Sugar prices rose by Rs 50-80 per quintal on market speculation that the government may create a buffer stock of about 30 lakh tonne of the sweetener and fix a minimum price for the sale of the commodity by the mill owners to traders in addition to probably bringing the release mechanism back. According to Mukesh Kuvediya, secretary general, Bombay Sugar Merchants Association, sugar prices have gone up on these market rumours of the possible creation of a buffer stock and fixing of a minimum price for sale of the commodity. Ex-mill sugar prices were Rs 2,600-2,650 per quintal for S-30 grade and `2,660-2,750 per quintal for M-30 grade. Since exports are not viable for millers at present because of the non parity in international and domestic prices, additional measures were required to rein the downslide in sugar prices, he said. If these measures are taken, prices have to improve further, he said. At present, the demand in the market is slack with excess sugar production. Though the government had mandated mills to export 20 lakh tonne, there is still an excess of 50 lakh tonne, according to industry observers. Slight improvement in prices still does not bring much cheer to Maharashtra mills. This season, Maharashtra has seen a record production of 107.05 lakh tonne of sugar after crushing some 952.21 lakh tonne of cane at a recovery rate of 11.24%, said Sambhaji Kadu Patil, Sugar Commissioner of Maharashtra, adding that last season production this year beat last year’s record of over 105.14 lakh tonne of sugar. Of the 187 mills that crushed cane this season, barely 3 mills are still functioning and season may come to an end in a couple of weeks, he said. Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will soon meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and request him to address issue of excess sugar in state.

Deccan Chronicle, Warangal
TJS chief picks holes in agri sop

Telangana Jana Samiti chief Prof. M. Kodandaram Reddy alleged that the TRS government was helping realtors, instead of farmers, with the Rythu Bandhu Scheme (RBS). He said while only 97 lakh acres were under cultivation across the state for the kharif season, the TRS government was giving away crop investment subsidy under the RBS for 1.4 crore acres. “The uncultivated land is the property of realtors who use it for business purposes. We have seen people coming in swanky SUVs to take RBS cheques. As a result of this, Rs 1,720 crore is going to realtors and non-land cultivating owners This is proof enough that there are loopholes in the RBS and we call upon the government to revise it and ensure that it benefits only the farmers.” he said. Prof. Kodandaram suggested that the state government could have given Rythu Mitra ATM cards so that the farmers could purchase agricultural requirements like seeds and fertilisers. He was speaking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a training programme on political awareness for party workers at Erragattu on the outskirts of the city. Speaking about training classes on political awareness being held by the TJS, he said the party intended to educate its workers about government policies and the working of the government so that they could work better and create awareness in the rural areas. They would also understand the party ideology. “Our party men will tour villages and hold mandal level membership campaigns soon. They need to be knowledgeable and not just be flag-bearers of the party. We are going to complete these training programmes by this month end.” he said.

21, May 2018
The Tribune, Jammu
Adopt five Ts for farm revolution: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the mantra of five essential Ts — training, talent, technology, timely action and trouble free approach — for bringing a technological revolution in the agricultural sector. He asked the agricultural scientists that their endeavour should be aimed at doubling the earnings of the farmers through technological innovations. The Prime Minister was referring to climatic changes, including rapidly melting glaciers and water scarcity in the country with majority of farmers depending on rains for irrigation, and said their (agricultural scientists) approach should be “per drop, more crop”. PM Modi said this while delivering the convocation address at the 6th convocation of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-Jammu (SKUAST-J) on its main campus at Chatta. During his 28-minute speech, the PM urged the agricultural scientists to revisit their strategies that must meet the growing challenges of climate change and paucity of water. “You are not carrying mere degrees, but letters of hope for the ‘ann data’ of the country — farmers — who have high expectations from you,” he told the passouts. “We have to revisit our strategies and focus should be technological revolutions in the field of agriculture. Therefore, a new culture has to be invoked into farming in the country. I urge those passing out today to always keep their student mindset alive. Only then you will be able to develop a better model for farmers of the country,” PM Modi said amid the applause from students and faculty members. Modi said, “Over 400 degrees have been awarded here today. I congratulate all of you, particularly our daughters who are doing wonders in sports, education or any other field. I can see a sparkle and confidence in your eyes which is needed for dreams and challenges ahead,” he said, maintaining, “Whatever you studied was within the classroom, but now, a big, open classroom is waiting for you outside.”

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Farmers to get funds for irrigation wells, orchards via DBT: Minister

Farmers will now receive funds for irrigation wells and orchards directly into their bank accounts through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) method, Maharashtra Minister for Employment Guarantee Schemes (EGS), Jaykumar Rawal, said. “Earlier, funds for irrigation wells used to be given to the shop keepers against the material purchased and orchard funds were given to the nurseries. Now farmers will get the funds directly in their bank accounts and hence will be the beneficiaries,” Rawal said. Rawal reviewed schemes, district-wise, related to MNREGA, EGS, irrigation wells, orchards and Samruddh Maharashtra Jankalyan Yojana over a period of two days in meetings held at the Sahyadri state guest house. Giving information about the decisions taken during the review, Rawal said the EGS department was extensively implementing the irrigation wells scheme. “This scheme has proved to be a revolutionary one for farmers. It is expected that work on 76,000 such wells currently underway will be completed soon, as per the planning done in this meeting,” he said. “The funds required for material like cement, sand, steel etc, used to be given to the shopkeeper through gram panchayats. From now on, money will transferred to the farmers accounts through DBT,” he stated. He said money for purchase of saplings to set up private orchards, planted under Kalpvruksh Orchard scheme with funds made available from MNREGA, would also be transferred directly into bank accounts of farmers. “The profit from the produce goes to the farmer. The funds for purchasing saplings for orchards used to be given to the nurseries but now this fund will also be transferred to farmers’ bank accounts through DBT. This will enable the farmer to purchase saplings from government or registered nurseries,” he said. He further said a decision had been taken to encourage mulberry plantation as there was good scope for a silk industry in the state.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Onion prices crash in MP

Onion prices dropped to a low of 30 paise per kilogram in some markets of Madhya Pradesh this week, showing up shortcoming in the state government’s much-touted Bhavantar scheme. Under the scheme, the government pays farmers part of the difference between the average wholesale price and minimum support price (MSP) to cushion the farmers from huge financial losses. Last year, the farmers’ agitation in the state had started at the same time over the price of onions, which sold at the lowest price of 50 paisa per kilogram, eventually leading to police firing in Mandsaur that left six persons dead. In some Mandis of Rajgarh and Neemuch, the lowest price of onion was 30 paisa to 50 paisa per kg since farmers started selling onion under the Bhavantar scheme. The maximum price was reported to be Rs 5-Rs 6 per kg. In the past two years, the state government purchased onion on MSP — first at Rs 6 per kg and then Rs 8 per kg — but this year it was brought under the Bhavantar scheme, under which the traders will purchase onion from farmers at mandis and the government will pay farmers the difference between the MSP and the average wholesale price. The MSP rate this year is again Rs 8 per kg. Mandi secretary at Narsinghgarh in Rajgarh RK Jain said the price didn’t fall that much but admitted that Rs 1 per kg was the lowest price of ‘onion of poor quality’. Kedar Sirohi, a farmers’ leader from Harda, said Bhavantar had hit the farmers hard. Traders have joined hands to purchase onion at a throwaway price and convinced farmers that the government would pay them the difference between the MSP and sale price, he said. The fact is that farmers would get the difference between the MSP and average wholesale price, not sale price.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Seed manufacturers, traders to face action

The legal metrology department raided seed manufacturing firms and booked 154 cases and seized Rs 2.35 crore worth seeds and imposed fines across the state. Legal Metrology chief Akun Sabharwal said a recent departmental inspection had found that seed manufacturers and traders were mentioning the manufacturing and expiry dates and also did not have proper licenses. During inspections, it was found that the companies were fudging on weight of the packets. Mr Sabharwal said if anybody was found to be involved in such activities, they would be arrested. The department booked 28 cases in Nizamabad and seized seeds worth Rs 59.2 lakh and 14 in Nalgonda where seeds worth Rs 3.5 lakh were seized. In Karimnagar, seeds worth Rs 2.29 lakh were seized and 13 cases booked. Fourteen cases in Peddapalli yielded seeds worth Rs 88,000. Fifteen cases were registered and seeds worth Rs 52.3 lakh seized in Medchal while in Wanaparthy 13 cases were booked and seeds worth Rs 16 lakh were seized. The department also conducted inspections at CMR mall and Vara Mahalakshmi (Dress and sarees materials) stores at Secunderabad.

DNA, Vidisha
After waiting for 4 days at mandi, MP farmer dies

A 65-year-old farmer collapsed and died at an agricultural market in Madhya Pradesh after waiting in the scorching heat for four days for his crop to be weighed up and sold. Opposition Congress lambasted the BJP government over the incident which took place at Lateri Mandi in Vidisha district two days ago. The deceased farmer was identified as Moolchand Maina, resident of Bijukhedi village in the district. “My father had come to the Mandi to sell chana (gram) four days earlier and was waiting for the produce to be weighed and sold. He collapsed on while still waiting for his turn,” said Narmada Prasad, his son. Sub Divisional Magistrate Ashok Manjhi said the situation arose as several farmers reached the Mandi at the same time, and await their turn. “Moolchand was registered with the Mandi and he had received an SMS, asking him to bring the crop for weighing. But many farmers arrived at the same time, so they had to wait,” Manjhi said. A compensation of Rs four lakh would be provided to Maina’s family, he said. Sub-inspector Banwari Lal Sharma of Lateri police station said that Maina collapsed due to the heat and strain, and died of a heart attack. Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia targeted Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the incident. “This is the situation of farmers in my state, where they have to keep waiting for weighing up their harvest. Why the food providers have to die every day. @ChouhanShivraj ji, don’t do politics and perform Rajadharma otherwise history will never forgive you,” Scindia tweeted. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh claimed that farmers have to wait for four or five days to sell their produce at Mandis across the state. Mandis are governed by the Madhya Pradesh Mandi Board, a state agency.

20, May 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
54 lakh ha covered as kharif sowing picks pace; cane area up

Sowing in the current kharif season has commenced in right earnest with an area of 54 lakh hectares (lh) brought under cultivation, according to data released by the Agriculture Ministry. A total of 55 lh was covered during the same period last year. This is despite the fact that the total live storage capacity in 76 reservoirs used for irrigation stood at 22.66 billion cubic metre (bcm), which was 19 per cent of the total capacity. As per the data released by Central Water Commission on Thursday, the storage levels during the corresponding week last year stood at 23 per cent of the total capacity. The India Meteorological Department, however, has forecast a normal monsoon this year, raising the hopes for a bountiful harvest, third time in a row. Sugarcane which was planted over 47 lh accounted for much of the area covered so far. Significantly, the sugarcane acreage is marginally higher than 46.44 lh during corresponding period last year. The increase is surprising considering farmers are currently smarting under mounting sugarcane arrears as a bumper cane production last year and consequent glut in sugar production, pulled down the prices of the sweetener, prompting the Government to intervene. While the sugarcane sowing in Uttar Pradesh is pegged at 21.52 lh, in Maharashtra and Karnataka it was 8.75 lh and 4 lh respectively. Jute and mesta, on the other hand, were sown over 5.44 lh as against 5.68 lh during the same period last year. Much of the 1.09 lh under rice was reported from Assam, Mizoram and Tamil Nadu, the Agriculture Ministry data showed.

The Pioneer, New Delhi

The Government has decided not to hike the prices of foodgrains sold via public distribution system (PDS) for one more year. Foodgrains are supplied at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 3/kg for rice, Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 1/kg for coarse grains via ration shops under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the Prime Minister has approved to keep central issue price of rice, wheat and coarse grains unchanged at the rate of Rs 3/2/1 per kg, respectively for further one year. “By keeping the central issue price of food grains unchanged under the NFSA, the Government has shown its commitment towards the well-being of depressed class, he said. Under the NFSA, which was passed in Parliament in 2013 during the previous UPA regime, there is a provision for revision of the issue prices of foodgrains every three years. At present, the Government supplies 5 kg of subsidised foodgrains to each person per month to over 81 crore people via 5,00,000 ration shops in the country, costing the exchequer about Rs 1.4 lakh crore annually. NFSA was rolled out across the country in November 2016. NFSA provides for coverage of 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban population for receiving foodgrains at highly subsidised prices of Rs 1/2/3 per kg for coarse grains/ wheat/rice respectively. Coverage under the Act is under two categories - households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and remaining households as priority households. AAY is therefore a part of NFSA. In Delhi, over 72.73 lakh people are taking subsidised foodgrains under the NFSA.

Business Line, New Delhi
Higher cane subsidy needed: Pawar

The former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has written to the Prime Minister’s Office, seeking a hike in sugarcane subsidy to Rs 10 per 100 kg from the current Rs 5.50.The government had recently announced the subsidy to help sugar mills clear their dues to farmers. The support is likely to cost the exchequer around Rs 1,540 crore. To tackle surplus sugar output this season, the government had also mandated mills to export two million tonnes (mt) till September under a Minimum Indicative Export Quantity scheme. Pawar asked the government to make export of 8—9 mt of sugar mandatory and to extend the scheme to September 2019. Sugar output in the ongoing season is estimated at a record high of around 32 mt. In 2018—19 too, production is likely to be at record levels, according to market players. A buffer stock of 5 mln tn sugar should be created and a sugar release mechanism implemented to stem the fall in sugar prices, he said. Under this mechanism, the government imposes a certain quota on a commodity that can be sold in the open market, to maintain a balance between supply and demand. A separate package providing for soft loans for seven years is needed, he said.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Low onion prices making farmers cry

Onions are making farmers shed tears for the second consecutive year. Onion is selling for between Rs 3.50 and Rs 8 a kg at the Ahmedabad agriculture produce market committee (APMC), but is fetching Rs 20 to Rs 25 a kg in retail. At the Mahuva APMC, the biggest market yard for onion trading in the state, the price is between Rs 6.5 and Rs15 per kg. However, at APMCs far from Mahuva, the situation is much worse. For example, at Visavadar APMC, onion is selling at Rs1.25 to Rs 2 a kg. Farmers are forced to give their produce to villagers for free. Gordhan Paghdal, the sarpanch of Kuba (Ravani) village in Visavadar, said, “Gordhan Dobariya, a farmer from the village announced that the onion crop in his field would be available for free. Many villagers went to his field and took as much as they could carry.” The sarpanch said Dobariya was not even getting the cost of labour invested, which was around Rs2 per kg. He thus decided to give it away for free. The Paghdal said several farmers in the village who were growing onions earlier have stopped doing so. Pratap Sardasiya, a farmer, says, “Apart from the sowing cost, we have to pay for labour to harvest it, which is around Rs 2 per kg. We also need gunny bags, which cost Rs 30 for a 50-kg bag. The farmer also has to take his crop to Mahuva, and pay Rs 4 per kg for transport. If the farmer gets Rs 6.25 per kg, he is incurring a loss.” Ghyanshyam Patel, chairman of Mahuva APMC, said, “Onions that can be stored for five or six months are selling at a premium and only poor quality onions, which are wet, are selling for cheap. Low-quality onion can’t be kept for more than 10 days.”

The Asian Age, New Delhi
Minister concerned over high pulses, sugar prices

Delhi food and civil supplies minister Imran Hussain expressed concern over reports of rising retail prices of pulses and sugar and directed his department officials to daily inspect the city’s markets. The officials of the department, however, informed the minister that prices of pulses and sugar were “stable” in the national capital. "Mr Hussain reviewed the retail prices situation of pulses and sugar. He expressed concern over media reports regarding rising retail prices of pulses and sugar. The department informed that the prices of pulses and sugar are stable in Delhi," a government statement said. The meeting was attended by officials of the marketing and intelligence cell, food and civil supplies department. "There was no price rise either in the wholesale market or in the retail market. Marketing and intelligence cell continuously checks the wholesale as well as retail prices regularly," the department officials told the minister. Mr Hussain directed the department to carry out inspections of the wholesale markets — Azadpur Mandi, Okhla Mandi, Ghazipur Mandi, Keshopur Mandi. He also directed inspection of retail markets across the capital as well. The minister also instructed that teams be sent comprising officials from market intelligence cell, enforcement branch and circle offices of the food and civil supplies department to these markets on a daily basis, it said. The civil supplies minister also sought daily inspection reports and prompt information about hike in prices of pulses and sugar, it added.

The Tribune, New Delhi
No change in PDS rates, says Paswan

The government has decided not to hike prices of foodgrains sold via public distribution system (PDS) for one more year, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. Foodgrains are supplied at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 3 per kg for rice, Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 1 per kg for coarse grains via ration shops under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). “The Prime Minister has approved to keep central issue price of rice, wheat and coarse grains unchanged at the rate of Rs 3, 2 and 1 per kg, respectively, for one more year,” Paswan said. By keeping the central issue price of foodgrains unchanged under the NFSA, the government has shown its commitment towards the well-being of depressed class, he said. Under the NFSA, which was passed in Parliament in 2013 during the UPA regime, there is a provision for revision of the issue prices of foodgrains every three years.

The Financial Express, Thiruvananthapuram
Rubber Board trims NR output forecast by 70,000 tonne

Rubber Board of India has down pegged forecast of natural rubber (NR) production for 2018-2019, about 70,000 tonne lower than what was originally estimated for 2017-2018. Meanwhile, the NR output for the current year has increased a tad by 0.4% over the previous year. The Board has projected NR production of 7,30,000 tonne for 2018-209. Though it had projected 8,00,000 tonne of NR production for 2017-2018, the last fiscal could log only 6,94,000 tonne. “The projected NR production for next fiscal is considerably lower as compared to the production potential, considering the prevailing low rubber prices and extent of untapped area,” Rubber Board chairman and executive director M K Shanmuga Sundaram said. Production during April-December was below expected levels and recorded an increase of only 4.4% as compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. During January-March 2018 it was 10% lower, mainly on account of intermittent rains and relatively low rubber prices, Shanmuga Sundaram said. However, consumption and import of NR touched a new high, according to the provisional data released by Rubber Board. NR consumption has surged 6.4% to 1,110,660 tonne. Import of NR reached an unprecedented zenith of 469,433 tonne, a growth by 10.1% from the previous year. Around 70% of import was through duty paid channel. According to a release by the Board, the import of NR was unusually higher due to favourable price situation, increase in consumption and less than expected production.

Business Line, Chennai
Tamil Nadu sugar mills dub export quota a bitter pill, seek exemption

Sugar mills in the South are seeking relief from export commitments directed by the Centre with those in Tamil Nadu wanting exemption while those in Karnataka feel they have been given a disproportionately high quota. The Centre has targeted 20 lakh tonnes of sugar exports in the current season (October – September) in the backdrop of a huge surplus. This is about 6.5 per cent of average production based on the output of last two years and that of the current season up to February. The South Indian Sugar Mills Association – Tamil Nadu, has sought total exemption from export commitment and be allowed to avail of the sugarcane price support of Rs 55 a tonne announced by the Centre. It has pointed out that production in the current season is about 6 lakh tonnes against 13.61 lakh tonnes and 10.65 lakh tonnes in the last two seasons. So the export quota of 84,000 tonnes is inordinately high. , about 14 per cent of production. This is twice as much proportionately when compared with other major sugar producers for whom sugar output has increased. For instance, UP’s production is about 120 lakh tonnes and the export quota 6.7 lakh tonnes; in Maharashtra it is 108 lakh tonnes but export commitment is 6.21 lakh tonnes. Also, sugar production in Tamil Nadu is less than half its local consumption. Any exports under such a deficit situation will mean more sugar will have to be trucked in from elsewhere to meet local demand On earlier occasions, when there had been a regional deficit, the Centre had allowed limited imports to specific areas. Similarly, when the surplus is primarily restricted to the North and West, exports should also be from there, argue sugar mill representatives. According to industry sources, mills in neighbouring Karnataka also feel the export quota is high for them.

17, May 2018
The Economic Times, Kochi
Board Lowers Coffee Crop Estimate by 10%

The Coffee Board has calculated around 10% drop in the final figure of the coffee crop in the country in 2017-18 over the post blossom estimate it made earlier during the year. The final crop estimate based on crop harvest for 2017-18 is placed at 3,16,000 tonnes comprising 95,000 tonnes of arabica and 2,21,000 tonnes of robusta. There is an overall decline of 34,400 MT (-9.82%) over the post-blossom estimate of 2017-18, which projected 3,50,400 tonnes, said a Board statement. However, it is still higher compared to the estimates of the coffee growers who have said the robusta crop could be around 2,00,000 tonnes. In the case of arabica, the board calculation is more or less close to their estimate. The board said during the year, the arabica production declined by 7.86% and robusta by 10.63% over the post-blossom crop estimate. However, when compared to final crop of previous year 2016-17, there is a marginal increase of 4,000 tonnes. Among the states, the final estimate for Karnataka, the largest producer, is placed at 2,22,300 tonnes comprising 69,025 tonnes of arabica and 1,53,275 tonnes of robusta, recording overall drop of 11.70% over the post-blossom estimate of 2017-18. The arabica production went down by 8.33% and robusta by 13.14% over the postblossom estimate. Among the districts, the major loss of about 16,950 tonnes is reported from Kodagu district followed by Chikmagalur district 9,136 tonnes. The board attributed lack of backing showers in Karnataka after good blossom rain and high temperature for poor crop setting particularly in robusta. The growers were unable to take up irrigation to compensate for scanty showers due to drying up of most of water resources. Further, drought in the previous year resulted in low soil moisture levels leading to improper development of berries, the release said.

Business Line, Lucknow
Dust-storm upsets the mango cart in N India

The dust-storm that hit North India has caused havoc to the mango crop in various parts of the region, leaving farmers in a hapless condition. Farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow said, 40 per cent of mangoes are damaged with fruits falling off due to gusty winds and can be only used to make pickle. All farmers and planters are left in the lurch as mangoes are their only source of income. Harvest-ready mangoes were damaged in the rains and hailstorm. “A hailstorm left spots on the mangoes and the fruit can only be sold at Rs 1 or 2 a kg,” a farmer said. Farmers said that their entire year was dependent on this harvest, and now that the mango harvest was damaged, there was no way in which the loss could be redeemed. The storm, coupled with rains, caused extensive damage to mango farmers in Lucknow and Moradabad in northern Uttar Pradesh. Had the storm hit just 10 days later the damage would not have been so huge. The entire year’s work was destroyed in one night. One of the affected farmers in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district told ANI that he suffered a loss of Rs 1 lakh.He appealed to the government to provide him aid. “It will be good if the government provides us compensation, otherwise we are destroyed,” the farmer said.

Business Line, Mumbai
Govt awaiting States’ inputs on new agri-export policy: Teaotia

The government is awaiting inputs from the States to finalise an export policy for agri products, the draft of which is already in the public domain, Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said. Addressing exporters at an event organised by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) here, Teaotia asked the authority to explore possibilities to multiply exports of agri products with the sea route as it is cheaper. Pointing out that despite growing multiple varieties of mangoes only two-three varieties are being exported now, she asked APEDA to take initiatives to promote export of multiple varieties of mangoes. The country is the largest producer of mangoes in the world around 41 per cent of production.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha misses tur procurement targets on lack of storage

Maharashtra has again missed its tur (arhar) procurement target for the season despite an extension granted by the Centre. Once again, lack of storage space proved to be a major hurdle in the procurement plans. The Centre has granted permission to Maharashtra for the purchase of 44.60 lakh quintals from February 1. The government began a registration drive for farmers from January 19 and some 4.14 lakh farmers had registered in the drive. The state government has now sought another extension for procurement until June 30. Until the next extension comes, procurement shall be stopped. According to senior officials from the agricutlure department, 31,81,000 quintals of tur has been procured from 193 purchase centres. Tur has been purchased from 2,52,877 farmers and is valued at Rs 1,733.53 crore. Chana procurement shall also be stopped. So far, some 18,509 quintals of chana has been procured from 197 purchase centres, valued at Rs 272.14 crore. According to officials, around 30% of the targets are yet to be met while market sources reveal that only 40% of the procurement targets have been met. Along with the bonus, the MSP of tur comes upto Rs 5,450 per quintal. Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh, in a recent meeting, had instructed officials of the State Warehousing Corporation to use private godowns for storing the tur purchased from farmers, if necessary. The ongoing procurement of tur should not be hindered on the pretext of unavailability of godowns, he had said. Small-size private godowns with a storage capacity of less than 1,000 tonne should be preferred, the minister had said. Tur in Maharashtra is priced at Rs 4,350 a quintal, while in Madhya Pradesh it is at Rs 3,950 a quintal.

Business Line, New Delhi
Many sugar mills may not qualify for Centre’s cane price assistance

Nearly 40 per cent of the sugar mills in the country may not be able to take advantage of the recently-announced financial assistance package by the Centre. This is because many in the sector, which is reeling under a supply glut, may not fulfil an important eligibility condition. Acting upon a recommendation made by a Group of Ministers, which consisted of Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, the Cabinet on May 2 decided to give farmers an assistance of Rs 55 per tonne of sugarcane crushed during the current sugar season to bring down mills’ dues to farmers. Even though the assistance is to be given to farmers directly and adjusted from the arrears to be paid by sugar mills, the government said that such sop would be available to only those qmills that have complied with all directives of the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD) during the season. One of them was a directive in February on sugar stocks held by mills. The notification meant to arrest falling sugar prices, asked mills to hold on to 83 per cent of stock they had by January 31 through February; and at end of March 86 per cent of the stock they held as on February 28. In a letter to the DFPD Secretary on May 11, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) has said many sugar mills were not in a position to comply with this condition. ISMA said in the letter, in absence of incentive, if any sugar factory has not been able to comply with the government notifications and does not now have any opportunity of fulfilling the same, “it is not only a fait accompli but an unfair retrospective application of a condition for Government assistance.”

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Over 360 farmers held after clash over land acquisition

The Gujarat police arrested 366 farmers for staging a violent protest in Surka village of Bhavnagar district against land acquisition by state-owned lignite mining firm, Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL), reports DHNS from Ahmedabad. Over 2,500 farmers, including women and children, gathered at the site and opposed mining by GPCL, despite imposition of Section 144 that restricts gathering of more than four persons. The farmers took out a rally to the site and later entered into an altercation with the police. The police, in turn, used about 60 tear gas shells. Anand Yagnik, the lawyer representing the farmers, claimed that thepolice detained women and children who had gathered at the site from 12 villages of Ghogha and Bhavnagar taluka. The clash between farmers and police is the third such incident since April 1. Interestingly, over 5,000 farmers from the region have petitioned to the President, to be allowed euthanasia.

DNA, Mumbai
PM Modi to meet sugar sector reps amid falling prices

Amid rapidly falling prices, rising inventory and inflow of sugar, especially from Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon meet representatives of the ailing industry. A delegation led by former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, comprising representatives from the private and cooperative industry, will seek the Centre’s intervention to stay afloat. The industry will demand an increase in export limit to 8 million tonnes in the next 18 months, considering a record production of 32 million tonnes in crushing seasons of 2017-18 and 2018-19, leaving (higher) inventory of 11 million tonnes. Besides, the industry will press for a rise in sugarcane incentive (for export) to Rs 100 per tonne from the present Rs 55 per tonne, rise in ethanol procurement price by oil companies to Rs 55 per litre from Rs 40.85 per litre, and introduction of quarterly sugar release mechanism in order to curb distress sale. Further, the industry wants that direction from the Centre to Reserve Bank of India and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to grant the much needed working capital term loan to sugar factories, so that they can participate in the next year’s crushing season. Furthermore, the issue of sugar from Pakistan, which has landed in Navi Mumbai, will be taken up by the industry, demanding a relook at the import policy. Already, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have announced that the sale and distribution of sugar from Pakistan won’t be allowed.

Business Line, Coonoor
Rain brightens prospects of post-winter quality teas

It has rained almost every day so far this month in The Nilgiris bringing the much-needed greenery to the tea plantations. This will help South India’s largest tea producing district to manufacture top quality post-winter teas. “The rains have been adequate during peak summer . The forenoons have been sunny. Such a mixture of rain with sun is excellent for the growth of quality tea leaves. This is evident from the greenery along the plantations”, G Udayakumar, Director, Avataa Beverages Billimalai Estate told. Now, after the rains, the bushes are ready for the production of post-winter premium speciality tea”, Avataa Speciality Tea specialist ENR Vejayashekara said. “The rains have increased the succulence in the leaves augmenting the taste, fragrance and quality of the liquor. This May is an excellent month for the production of high-class speciality tea brightening the scope for India to rise in the global market”, he noted. Meanwhile, the UPASI Tea Research Foundation said that all agro-climatic zones in The Nilgiris had received more rainfall in April than in April 2017 and the normal rainfall as measured by the decennial (10-year) average for the month.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Regulator orders more field trials for GM mustard

India’s regulator of genetically modified products has ordered one more round of field trials for the controversy-ridden indigenous GM mustard. But the decision taken by the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee under the Union environment ministry failed to impress the anti-GM lobby that demanded a wider review of the contentious crop developed by scientists at Delhi University. In its last meeting on March 21, the GEAC asked DU’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants to undertake field trials in an area of 5 acres at two to three different locations. The purpose is to generate additional data on the effect of GM mustard on honey bees and other pollinators as well as on honey and microbial diversity. The scientists have been asked to submit a detailed protocol (for the trial) that needs to be approved by the GEAC before the evaluation starts, according to the minutes of the GEAC meeting, released last week. Commercialisation of genetically engineered mustard remained one of the most controversial proposals in the last two years because of strident opposition from the anti-GM activists. The activists denounced the scientific reports in favour of the engineered oilseed and produced documents, questioning the scientific claims and evaluation results. The researchers, on the other hand, rubbished the documents produced by the non-governmental organisation. A parliamentary panel in August 2017, asked the Union environment ministry to find out answers to several queries on the GM mustard before a decision on the marketing of the transgenic crop was taken. Within weeks, the National Academy of Agriculture Sciences led its weight behind the commercial release of the transgenic crop. In its March meeting, GEAC admitted to have received several representations from the critics of GM mustard, but reiterated that the issues flagged in those representations were deliberated extensively in the past.

The Shillong Times, Guwahati
Scheme succour for NE small tea growers

Small tea growers in the non-traditional areas of the Northeast now have reasons to cheer! The Union ministry of commerce and industry has approved the modalities and guidelines of the “Tea Development and Promotion Scheme” for implementation during the Medium Term Framework (2017-18 to 2019-2020) that has a special package for small tea growers in the region. The package is applicable for Meghalaya, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura (non-traditional areas), Sikkim, North Cachar Hills district (Dima Hasao) and Karbi Anglong district of Assam. Under the Rs 394.85crore scheme, there are seven key components covering the broad areas of Tea Board’s operations such as plantation development including small growers, quality upgrade and product diversification, market promotion, research and development, welfare of tea garden workers, programme for tea regulation and establishment expenses. According to the modalities of the scheme, the non-traditional tea areas of North East have a high potential of growing and manufacturing teas that are eminently suited to the consumers tastes. “Efforts made during the previous plan periods have resulted in creating awareness among the small farmers in the non-traditional Northeast states as to the advantages of growing tea which besides creating a perennial asset for generating regular income for the farmers, also plays a significant role in weaning away the farmers from shifting (jhum) cultivation and preserving the environment,” it said. The announcement was conveyed by Tea Board India to all tea producers associations and zonal and regional offices of the Board through a circular dated May 14, 2018. The Centre had already conveyed approval for the modalities and guidelines of the scheme to be implemented with effect from December 29, 2017. Activities eligible for financial assistance include raising tea nurseries by self-help groups (SHGs) and farmers’ producer organisations for new planting and setting up mini tea processing factories with preference to orthodox, green tea and specialty teas over CTC tea.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Small tea growers see gains in Centre’s new framework

The small tea growers (STG) sector will score major gains in the Medium Term Framework that the Centre has approved for the tea industry. The modalities and the guidelines of the Tea Development and Promotion Scheme sent by the Tea Board in December 2017, have now been approved. There is a special package for STG in non-traditional areas in the northeast and in Idduki district in Kerala. The scheme would run from December 29, 2017 to March 31, 2020. “With the 12th plan ending in April 2017, the MTF is a mechanism to provide continuity of the schemes”, a Tea Board official said. There is also a scheme for rewarding the best performers among the big growers through a system of grading, which was started last year. However, marking a distinct identity for the STG segment is a highlight of the ₹394.9 crore package. Indian tea crop output touched 1325.1 million kg in FY18, rising 5.9 %, according to official figures. According to Tea Board chairman P.K Bezboruah, “much of this increased output comes from the STG segment as the organised sector was stagnating.” The STG segment’s share is 46.8%. When contacted, Bijoy Chakraborty, president of the Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association said that the per hectare fund allotment for farm inputs such as fertiliser and pesticides has doubled. The scheme also provides for allocation towards setting up mini-tea factories and for overseas promotion.

The Pioneer, New Delhi
States fail to push Centre’s tree plantation on farmland scheme

Despite the BJP-led NDA being in power at the Centre, a majority of the States ruled by the party or the alliance have come a cropper in implementing the Sub-Mission on Agro-forestry (SMAF). Together, they have failed to utilise nearly Rs 400 crore allotted to them this current fiscal for the Sub-Mission that was launched in 2016-17 to encourage tree plantation on farm land. The initiative was titled ‘Har Medh, Par Ped’. On the other hand, buoyed by the forecast of a ‘normal monsoon’, the Centre announced a production target of 283.7 million tonnes for 2018-19 with 140.2 million tonnes for kharif and 142.5 million tonnes for rabi crops. As per data of Agriculture Ministry, except Gujarat, all BJP ruled States have failed to utilise the funds under SMAF. Gujarat, the only BJP ruled state which has used Rs 308 lakh in the past two years while Rs 411 lakh remained unspent. BJP ruled States-UP, Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Nagaland have not used their funds under SMAF. The Congress ruled states Karnataka and Punjab have used Rs 289 lakh and Rs 121 lakh respectively. “During 2017-18, funds to Maharashtra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Odisha, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland and Mizoram have been released. So far no progress has been reported by the States. In 2016-17, funds to eight States including Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Tamil Nadu were given. But only Gujarat, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh have utilised the funds,” said the agenda note of the National Conference on Agriculture for Kharif Campaign 2018, which was inaugurated by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh. SMAF was launched in2016-17 with an aim to improve farmers’ income especially small holdings farmers. Farmers have been growing trees on their farms for generations to maintain healthy soil and secure food supplies.

DNA, Coimbatore
TN Agri Univ counselling to go online now

Counselling for under-graduate courses in agriculture and science and technology offered by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) will go online from this academic year. Of the 3,422 seats ?being offered by TNAU, its 14 constituent colleges and 26 affiliated privates colleges across the state, 65 per cent will be filled through state quota, TNAU Vice-Chancellor, Dr K Ramasamy told. The rest of the seats would be filled by colleges from the list of students who apply online on the TNAU portal, he added. The university had been receiving application online for the past four years, he said adding from this year counselling would go online. This would be beneficial for students, as they would not need to come here from various parts of the state to participate in the counselling process, the vice-chancellor added. The online application will begin from May 18 and go on till June 17 and verification of documents for special reservation will be held from June 18 to 20. Ranks will be published on June 22 and counselling for special reservation will be held on July 7, Ramasamy said.

The Tribune, Bathinda
4 Farmers commit suicide in 24 hours

In a sign of deepening farm distress, four debt-ridden farmers allegedly committed suicide in different parts of the district over the past 24 hours. Jagraj Singh (50) of Dhingar village near Rampura Phul ended his life by allegedly consuming a poisonous substance. Village sarpanch Harbans Singh said the deceased had gone to his farm last night where he took the step. He owned two acres of land and had a debt of Rs 3 lakh. He is survived by his wife and two children. Budh Singh of Maiserkhana village allegedly committed suicide by consuming pesticide at his agricultural field this afternoon. He was rushed to a private hospital in Maur Mandi where he breathed his last, his family said. Farmer leader Darshan Singh said he owned two acres of land and had a debt of Rs 6 lakh, which he owed to a bank and a commission agent. Another farmer, Paramjeet Singh, ended his life at Sidhana village by allegedly hanging himself from a ceiling fan at his house, his relatives said. He owned a small piece of land and had a debt of Rs 2 lakh. He used to eke out his livelihood by transporting goods. He is survived by his wife and two sons. Amritpal Singh of Dayalpura Mirza village allegedly consumed a poisonous substance at his field. He had a debt of Rs 5 lakh, of which he had paid back Rs 1 lakh.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Wheat procurement up 16% so far, may cross target of 32 MT

Wheat procurement has risen by 16 per cent to 31.87 million tonnes so far in this marketing year and is all set to cross the government's target of 32 MT, according to official data. State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state agencies had procured 27.57 MT in the same period of the 2017-18 marketing year (April-March).

16, May 2018
The Pioneer, New Delhi

Activists protesting the introduction of genetically modified (GM) crops asked the country’s biotech regulator GEAC to take the review of environmental release of GM mustard, assigned to it by the Government, scientifically and with utmost “seriousness”. In a letter to the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), the activists under the umbrella of Coalition for a GM-Free India claimed that the GEAC went about “re-examination” of its decision for commercial release of GM mustard in a completely “facetious and non-serious way”. The GEAC had recommended the commercial use of genetically modified mustard in a submission to the Environment Ministry last year. However, amid protest, the Government referred the issue of commercial release of GM mustard back to the GEAC after receiving representations from various stakeholders. In the letter, which was also marked to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury, the coalition said the minutes of the 134th meeting of GEAC was uploaded. “It is seen that GEAC decided that the applicant may be advised to undertake field demonstration on GM mustard in an area of five acres at two-three different locations with a view to generate additional data on honey bees and other pollinators and honey, and on soil microbial diversity,” the coalition said. It said this decision of GEAC was an “extremely inadequate” in relation to the decision that the government was supposed to have taken, and the fact that GEAC was therefore asked to re-examine the issue of its clearance. “In fact, the Government and GEAC have committed to the nation that there would be a review, and now GEAC is obligated to begin by first stating what its scientific review plan is, and not just have a 13-member meeting in which the review is degenerated to some minor decisions being reiterated,” it said.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
‘High Yield Onions Grown from Night Soil Manure’

An experiment by scientists at the Pune chapter of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has found that manure extracted from night soil leads to high yield among onion crops as compared to that of chemical fertilisers or other manures. The research has enthused the tribal development department of Maharashtra that is now planning to get companies in the state that would collect this manure and sell it to the farmers. The manure was applied on a six square metre plot and bulbs of the ‘Bhima Shakti’ variety of onion planted. In a similar size plot they used the cow dung manure while in another a mixture of the night soil manure, chemical fertilisers and cow dung manure was used. In yet another just chemical fertilisers were used. “We have found that the bulb was bigger and of better quality and also weighed more, for instance the onions from the night soil manure plot weighted 26 kg, whereas the onions on which chemical manure was used weighed at 24 kg,” said Amar Jeet Gupta, principal scientist-horticulture, ICAR-Pune. He said more tests would be needed to see if it can be used for food produced for humans, to check for presence of heavy metals, transmission of human diseases and virsuses. Consultant for the Unicef in Maharashtra, Jayant Deshpande said that there is no reason to be worried as research has shown that manure procured from night soil is not harmful. Ayush Prasad, assistant collector, Pune, said once the final tests are received, the department will get in touch with companies and support self help groups that would collect the manure from twin pits and then would package them and sell it to farmers at nominal rates.

Business Line, Mangaluru
Campco turnover rises to Rs 1,740 cr in 2017-18

The Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative (Campco) Ltd recorded a total turnover of Rs 1,740 crore during 2017-18 as against Rs 1,600 crore in 2016-17. Suresh Bhandary, Managing Director of Campco, said the co-operative procured 52,450 tonnes of arecanut worth Rs 1,453 crore from its grower-members during 2017-18. This included 20,952 tonnes of red arecanut worth Rs 717.75 crore, and 31,494 tonnes of white arecanut worth Rs 735.35 crore. He said that the average rate of red arecanut was atRs 334 a kg (Rs 263)during 2017-18, while that of white arecanut was at Rs 261 (Rs 244). Bhandary said that a volatile red arecanut market in 2016-17 was the main reason for the average growth of around Rs 70 a kg during 2017-18. The red arecanut market went up from Rs 278 a kg to Rs 800 a kg in 2016-17However, the market was quite stable in 2017-18 and did not dropbelow Rs 300 a kg. Campco ’s chocolate factory produced 13,685 tonnes during 2017-18. It produced chocolate products worth Rs 181 crore during the year and ofthis, 1,291 tonnes worth Rs 20 crore were exported.

Business Line, New Delhi
GEAC must take a hard re-look at release of GM mustard, say activists

A body of activists against genetically modified (GM) crops today asked the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee) to take the review of environmental release of GM mustard, assigned to it by the government, scientifically and with utmost “seriousness”. In a letter to the Committee, the Coalition for a GM-Free India claimed that the GEAC went about “re-examination” of its decision for commercial release of GM mustard in a “non-serious way”. Last year, the GEAC — under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change — had recommend the commercial use of genetically modified mustard in a submission to the Ministry. However, amid protests, the government referred the issue back to the GEAC. In the letter, after the minutes of the 134th meeting of GEAC was uploaded, the Coalition said, “GEAC decided that the ‘applicant may be advised to undertake field demonstration on GM mustard’ infive acres at two-three different locations to generate additional data on honey bees and other pollinators and honey, and on soil microbial diversity.” “In fact, the government and GEAC have committed to the nation that there would be a review, and now GEAC is obligated to begin by first stating what its scientific review plan,,” it said. The Coalition, which also addressed the letters to Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan and Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury, said that just asking the applicant to undertake a field demonstration for data generation on three parameters “is inadequate and objectionable.”

The Pioneer, New Delhi

A Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, has sought opinion from the Law Ministry on the legality of imposing cess on sugar. The GoM has also sought a report from the food ministry on the final utilisation of the proceeds from levy of sugar cess. “First question is whether council at all has the power to impose cess, we have decided to refer that to the Law Ministry,” Sarma said after the first meeting of the panel. The GoM will meet next on June 3 in Mumbai. The GoM was constituted on May 4 to look into the feasibility of implementing the Food Ministry proposal of levying cess on sugar to benefit sugar cane farmers. The Food Ministry in its report to the GoM will detail out how it is proposing to disburse the proceeds from levy of cess. The GoM expects the Law Ministry as well as the Food Ministry to give their views by the end of this month. “We must first know whether legally we have the power or not to levy cess.... If the Law Ministry says there is power, Council will exercise that power when it serves public interest,” Sarma said. Under the present Goods and Services Tax(GST) laws, a cess is levied on luxury, sin and demerit goods on top of the highest tax rate of 28 per cent. The GST Council had on May 4 deliberated on the food ministry proposal of imposition of cess of up to Rs 3 per kg on supply of sugar over and above 5 per cent GST rate. As per estimates, the levy of cess could fetch about Rs 6,700 crore to the Government. The Food Ministry also recommended to the Council to cut GST rate on ethanol from present 18 per cent to 12 per cent.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Groundnut purchased at MSP laced with mud, stones

The allegations of malpractices in procurement of groundnut at minimum support price (MSP) seem to be coming true. The investigation by state CID (crime) in the May 5 groundnut warehouse fire in Shapar-Veraval on Rajkot’s outskirts, which gutted nearly 28,000 bags (each weighing 35kg each), has revealed that a huge quantity of mud, husk and pebbles were mixed with groundnuts procured at MSP. Top sources in the agency told TOI that two bags contained as much as 10kg mud, something which is extremely unusual in case of the groundnut crop. “On an average, other bags contained 3kg to 5kg mud. In all, we checked 24 bags. An inquest was done in presence of 11 persons including scientists of Junagadh Agriculture University (JAU) and top police officials after the mud was found,” said an official. This reveals that the quality of groundnut being purchased by the state government at Rs 900 per 20kg is not up to the mark. However, this is no surprise as the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), the government-designated agency for procurement, had earlier too stopped buying groundnut at MSP in Junagadh following complaints of massive irregularities. Officials said that unlike the Gondal warehouse fire, which destroyed groundnut worth Rs 35 crore, in Shapar-Veraval they were able to take samples from 1,200 bags that were not gutted. In Gondal, there was little possibility of ascertaining the quality of groundnut as the entire stock was charred.

The Hindu, New Delhi
More tests required for GM mustard: regulator

The Centre has demanded more tests for genetically modified mustard, a year after clearing the crop for “commercial cultivation.” The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, the apex regulator of genetically modified crops, in a March meeting said that in light of several representations both “for and against” the release of GM mustard, there was a need for more tests. “Applicant may be advised to undertake field demonstration on GM mustard in an area of 5 acres at 2-3 different locations with a view to generate additional data on honey bees and other pollinators and honey, and on soil microbial diversity,” said the minutes of the meeting made public on May 13. Activists said the demand fell short. “What about the fact that GM mustard has never been tested as a herbicide tolerant crop, for its environmental and health ramifications… a point that has remained unaddressed by the regulators,” the Coaltion for a GM-Free India queried in a statement. The clearance for GM mustard has been mired in confusion. On May 12, last year the then GEAC chairperson Amita Prasad said that the crop had been recommended for cultivation. In October, the government did a volte-face and said there was an “inadvertent error” in the announcement regarding mustard and said that “…subsequent to receipt of various representations from different stakeholders, matters related to environmental release of transgenic mustard are kept pending for further review.’’ Union Environment Minister, Harsh Vardhan — who had the final say on the matter said that wider consultations on the release of the crop were needed. Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11), the transgenic mustard in question, had been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University, led by former Vice-Chancellor Deepak Pental under a government-funded project.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Namakkal farmers urge district administration to undertake water audit

With Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announcing that Mettur dam cannot be opened for irrigation on June 12, and delta farmers worried over the prospects of Kuruvai, the farmers in Namakkal have urged the district administration to prepare a draft plan for water management. Faced with issues such as reduced cultivation area, dry wells and grey areas, in addition to poor yield for the last seven years, the farmers clamour for a change in the system, especially in terms of giving compensation to those of them who lose income under such circumstances. “Firstly, as a short term measure, water audit has to be taken up by district administration so that it could advise farmers on going for kuruvai or samba crop cultivation or pulses and millets,” said G Ajeethan, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Banana Growers’ Federation. Expansion of areas under drip irrigation has to be doubled to increase coverage of all crops, he said, stressing to have a barrage or bed regulator in Cauvery for every 10 miles.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
No nod to commercial release of GM Mustard

A committee under Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has turned down commercial release of genetically modified mustard developed by Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants on grounds that more field trials are needed to ascertain its impact on honey bees, soil microbial diversity and honey. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry considered the application related to “Environmental release of Transgenic Mustard Hybrid DMH-11”, which was referred back to GEAC for its re-examination pursuant to receipt of several representations both in support and against after the 133rd meeting of GEAC held on May 11, 2017. The GEAC had recommended commercial production of GM mustard last year and awaits final decision of the ministry. After detailed discussion and keeping in view that the application has been referred back to GEAC for re-examination, the committee has agreed that the applicant may be advised to undertake field demonstration in an area of 5 acres at 2-3 different location. Kavitha Kuruganthi, Co-Convenor, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) says that it is not true that these issues have been addressed, therefore, to record that the representations have been deliberated extensively is an irresponsible stand to take. “The GEAC, as usual, is brushing aside important issues that have been raised in objection to the clearance that it had provided to GM mustard in May 2017. The fact that GM mustard is a herbicide tolerant GM crop is one of the major objections. GEAC does not seem to be addressing this. Similarly, the fact that there is no need for GM mustard, since hybridisation is possible through other means, and that mustard yields themselves can be improved through improved agronomic practices.

The Tribune, Ropar
Ropar farmer on way to prosperity, with herbs

This Dakala village farmer is an inspiration for many. Narinder Singh, who owns just 2.5 acres, has an annual turnover of Rs 3 crore. He grows medicinal herbs and has set up a small-scale industry. The farmer-cum-industrialist is also manufacturing herbal cosmetics as well as health drinks. Narrating his success story, Narinder said it was 12 years ago when some acquaintance sold him a bottle of imported aloe vera juice for Rs 1,000. “There was an aloe vera plant at my house, which my father used for curing various ailments,” he said. When he gave Rs 1,000 for a bottle, he thought of starting his own business. He got 25 acres on lease in and around the village and visited many farm universities, including the ones in Ludhiana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, to learn a few techniques. In 2007, Punjab Ayurvedic Department Director Rakesh Sharma noticed his efforts and advised him to grow herbs and manufacture products. “I had no money for the start-up, but with the help of Sharma, I prepared a paste/powder of herbs,” he said. Things fell in place and soon he was joined by his son Kultar Singh, a mechanical engineer, who left his job at a private engineering college two years ago. Now, one of his daughters and daughter-in-law are also looking after the production units, said Narinder. With a substantial increase in the income, modern technology was introduced in the manufacturing unit and now the company is producing dozens of products, including aloe vera juice, liver tonic, herbal toothpaste, shampoo, soap, hair oil, handwash and other juices. “Our toothpaste is being used by Air India and now our business has become international,” he claimed.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Saudi Checks on Pesticide Residue Push Down Cardamom Prices

Tightening of checks on pesticide residue by Saudi Arabia has hit Indian small cardamom exports, which in turn has pushed down the spice’s price in the local market. The average cardamom price that was hovering in the ₹900-1,000 per kg range has slid to ₹800, even as arrivals remained steady. Saudi Arabia accounts for 90% of cardamom shipments from India. “This decision to tighten monitoring of the shipments happened in the middle of April. As a result the exports have slowed down,” said SPGR Nithyanandan, a leading exporter. Pesticide residue check is not mandatory to get the Spices Board’s certificate that accompanies shipments. Though pesticides are used in cardamom plantations, exporters were not worried about the residue earlier as Saudi Arabia did not insist on strict checks. It is learnt that the country has raised the inspection standard on all the food items. “They are not giving us the required information about what is the level of tolerance and the details of the test,” Nithyanandan said. This has come at a time when India is poised to reach a new peak in small cardamom exports.

The Financial Express, Pune
Sugar from Pakistan leaves sour taste among mills, politicians

Sugar imports from Pakistan at the Vashi Agriculture Produce Market Committee, Mumbai, have irked domestic sugar industry and political leaders. Reports are rife in the market that more than 30,000 quintals of sugar from Pakistan have been imported into the country but neither the market committee officials nor the Bombay Sugar Merchants Association officials are willing to confirm it. The sugar imports have arrived in the market at a time when the sector is in the midst of a major crisis. The sugar production in India has crossed the expected level causing severe decline in prices due to demand-supply gap. In the current season, the country’s sugar production marked a record high of 299.8 lakh tonne till April 15, creating a lot of pressure on prices as well as farmers as they are unable to pay their arrears due to declining prices. The Indian sugar mill association (ISMA) has demanded government support to provide production-linked incentive to sugarcane farmers. The bumper sugarcane crop has led to a serious drop in the prices of sugar in domestic and international markets. Ex-mill prices of S-30 were reported in the range of Rs 2,450 to Rs 2,510 per quintal and Rs 2,550 to Rs 2,650 per quintal for M-30 grade. The industry has been struggling to export the mandated quotas fixed by the government. Sugar mills in Maharashtra have been given a target of exporting 6.2 lakh tonne before September while the country as a whole has been given a target of 20 lakh tonne. The decision for exports was taken with an eye on the glut in sugar. With a bumper crop expected for the next season, sugar prices have crashed with millers reporting selling sugar at Rs 26-27 per kg.

Business Line, Chennai
TN to give a Rs 100-cr push to support collective farming

Small and marginal farmers in Tamil Nadu will benefit from a Rs 100-crore collective farming initiative this year with the State government in the process of identifying villages to implement the programme. Farmers are being organised in a three-tiered structure: Farmers Interest Groups (FIGs) of up to 20 farmers each; Farmers Producers Groups (FPGs) comprising five FIGs totalling 100 farmers; and Farmers Producers Organisations (FPOs) of 10 producers groups each. The first two bring farmers together to achieve economies of scale in production with contiguous areas being farmed as a single unit. The FPOs will play a marketing function. According to a press note, last year over 10,000 FIGs were organised into 2,000 FPGs. Each of the producers’ groups have been given an investment grant of Rs 5 lakh to purchase farm equipment. Apart from using the equipment within the group, these can also be rented out to other farmers. Of the total Rs 100 crore granted last year, over 8,800 equipment including three integrated harvesters, 747 tractors, 1,849 power tillers, 1,369 weeders, 783 rotavators and over 3,400 other farm machines and equipment were purchased benefiting 1.98 lakh small farmers, the note said. The FPGs have also been organised into FPOs and these are now in the process of becoming registered companies. The FPOs are eligible for financial assistance of Rs 20 lakh over a period of two years under the provisions of the Small Farmers Agri-business Consortium. The State government will also support these organisations access equity grant of Rs 10 lakh available under the SFAC, said the press note. In the current year, the official said the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Marketing and Agri Business wing hopes to register at least 50 FPOs as companies. As of now, 45 have already been registered with the Registrar of Companies to become Farmers Producers Companies.

Business Line, New Delhi
Wheat procurement up 16% so far in 2018-19 marketing year

Wheat procurement has risen by 16 per cent to 31.87 million tonnes (mt) so far in this marketing year and is all set to cross the government’s target of 32 mt, according to official data. State-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) and State agencies had procured 27.57 mt in the same period of the 2017-18 marketing year (April-March). Total wheat procurement stood at 30.82 mt in 2017-18 and government had fixed a higher target in view of record output. “There is increase in wheat purchase because more procurement centres were set up this year. As a result, more and more farmers are approaching the centres to sell their produce,” a senior FCI official told. As many as 18,326 centres have been established for wheat procurement this year (17,304), he said. As per the data, wheat buying in Punjab has increased to 12.48 mt (11.55 mt) so far in 2018-19. In Haryana it was 8.71 mt (7.36 mt), while in Uttar Pradesh it has increased to 3.03 mt (1.6 mt). Wheat purchase in Madhya Pradesh has increased marginally to 6.24 mt (6.01 mt). According to the FCI official, the procurement operation in Haryana is almost complete and it will get over in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh by month-end. In Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the procurement will take place till June 15, he added. Although wheat marketing year runs from April-March, the bulk of procurement is done in first three months. FCI and State agencies undertake purchase at the minimum support price. As per the second estimate, wheat output is likely to decline by 1.42 per cent to 97.11 million tonnes in the 2017-18 crop year.

15, May 2018
Afternoon, Mumbai
Acadian Seaplants continues its expansion into the Indian Market

Canada based Acadian Seaplants Ltd. (ASL), a global leader in processing and manufacturing of seaweed-based agricultural products, animal feed supplements, as well as food and specialty ingredients for cosmetics and health care, continues its expansion into the Indian agricultural market. ASL has established its own subsidiary company – a new facility for processing its proven biostimulants powered by the Acadian BioSwitch technology and its own distribution network, according to Jean-Paul Deveau, President and Chief Executive Officer, ASL. Acadian Seaplants was founded by Louis and Jean-Paul Deveau. Since setting up ASL 37 years ago with its products currently being exported to over 80 countries globally, Acadian Seaplants – as a major step in its geographical expansion – has established a subsidiary company in India called Acadian Seaplants India Pvt. Ltd, Deveau said, adding that the Indian subsidiary is looking at meeting the growing demand for quality, natural biostimulants and bionutritional products that increase crop yield, quality and farmers’ return on investment in a sustainable way. “Rapid economic growth and increasing population is demanding more from the farms than ever before in terms of quantity, quality, safety, health and nutrition, which has resulted in intensive agricultural practices. There is an ever-pressing need and demand for agricultural products that are safe for the environment. On the other hand, we are facing depleted spoil conditions and adverse impact of climate change, which are multiplying the challenges in agriculture. It has become imperative to grow more food while using environmentally-sustainable technologies,” Deveau noted. “For the last 36 years, we have been listening to the challenges that farmers are facing in growing their crops. A key differentiating factor of our Arcadian BioSwith technology is that it has a strong foundation of research and science that is supported by researchers worldwide as a proven technology that works where it matters most – in the field,” he added.

The Tribune, Fatehgarh Sahib
Arhtiyas await dues for wheat procured

Resentment prevails among labourers and commission agents against the government for failing to fulfil its promise of clearing the commission, labour charges, stitching and loading bills worth crores of rupees. The payment of wheat procured by various government agencies is also pending. Commission agents alleged that the officials of the procurement agencies were not paying heed to their repeated requests in spite of the fact that the wheat procurement season had ended. Rajesh Singla, press secretary, Arhtiya Association Punjab, said the situation had come to such a point that the labourers were on the verge of starvation because the commission agents had stopped making payments to them and advances to the farmers as they didn’t have sufficient funds due to non-clearance of their bills by the government procurement agencies. He said before the wheat procurement season, the state government had promise the commission agents that their bills of commission, loading, stitching and labour charges would be cleared along with the bills of procured wheat. He said similar assurance was given by the Chief Minister but unfortunately none of the government procurement agency was clearing their commission and labour charges bills.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Assam CM leaves for Vietnam on agri exposure tour

With a view to getting first-hand exposure of the farming practices in Vietnam and taking inputs from the ASEAN nation for revitalising the agriculture sector in the State, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal left for Vietnam this evening. A delegation of 13 MLAs, government officials and 15 progressive farmers from the State had already left for Vietnam under the leadership of Agriculture Minister Atul Bora. The State government took up the exposure visit considering the similarities in climate, topography and agriculture patterns of Vietnam and Assam, and to replicate the same in the State agriculture sector. As part of the exposure tour, the team will visit the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science at Vinh Quynh Tri, Hanoi and the Centre for Technology Development and Agriculture Extension on Monday and interact with officials on issues of mutual interest. The Chief Minister, during his visit, will meet the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Vietnam government, Ha Cong Tuan, Chairman of the External Relations Commission, Hoang Binh Quan and Chairman of the Central Economic Commission, Cao Due Phat, and hold discussions with them. He will also take part in an investment roadshow at Hanoi in the evening. On the other hand, the delegation on May 15 will visit the Vineco Agriculture Investment Production and Development centre in Vinh Phuc, and farming and processing zones in Khoai Chau district. The MLAs, who are part of the delegation, include Ramendra Narayan Kalita, Kamal Singh Narzary, Bhuban Pegu, Numal Momin, Aswini Roy, Teros Gowala, Ramakanta Deuri, Krishnendu Paul, Jogen Mohan, Ganesh Kumar Limbu, Suren Phukan, Rituparna Baruah and Rupak Sharma. The farmers include Binay Lakhak, Karuna Kanta Hazarika, Jiten Sarangfangsa, Bineswar Baglari, Punam Taye, Nabanita Das, Puspodhar Das, Manik Das, Anwar Hussain, Dibakar Roy, Upen Rabha, Dipon Pator, Polandson Rymbari, Dinesh Gogoi and Sabita Kalita.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Crazy about Kesar, Pittsburgh university students camp in Savarkundla farm

The luscious Kesar mangoes have attracted a group of six students from a university in Pennsylvania, US to this picturesque mango farm in Virdi village of Savarkundla taluka in Amreli district. The students Erika Fernau, Ashley Greb, Jordan Sturm and Sophie Caffrey, students of University of Pittsburgh, are on a visit to the Savani mango farm owned by Bhaskar Savani. They are pre dental and pre-health professions. They came here along with Savani’s daughters Amee and Shaily who are also settled in the US. “When I first tasted the mangoes sent by Amee’s parents at the college last year, mango became the best fruit I had ever tasted. It was then that I decided to visit her mango farm in Gujarat,” Erika told. Amee said: “The main purpose of our visit was to volunteer. We went to a school in Bhamodra village in Ahmedabad district and organized a free dental camp. Along with this we went to Virdi village to learn more about the culture, way of life, and people. We wanted to see the difference between how people live in the city versus the village. The girls from US fell in love with the kesar mangoes.” Till 2007 during the President Bush government in the US, Indian mangoes were banned as India did not have phytosanitary protocol for exporting mangoes. “I helped persuade the US department of agriculture to lift an 18-year ban on Indian mangoes, which federal officials feared would carry into their country troublesome tag-along pests. I lobbied relentlessly, shuttling between Washington, DC and New Delhi,” said Savani. After the ban was lifted and the mango was available in the US markets, Amee’s friends thought it was the time for them to connect with the land where this fruit originally came from. the chance to see the Gir lions.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt ‘to link 200 more mandis to eNAM platform this fiscal’

The Government will link additional 200 wholesale mandis to the online trading platform eNAM this fiscal and also encourage inter-mandi transactions, Agriculture Secretary SK Pattanayak has said. At present, 585 regulated mandis in 14 States are linked with the electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) launched in April 2016. “There were initial hiccups but those have been overcome. The eNAM system is now more established. Farmers are very happy and more States have started showing interest,” Pattanayak said. Though the target is to connect 200 more mandis to the eNAM platform this year, the priority will be given to improve the quality and encourage inter-mandi online trading, he said. “We will focus on quality. Once the inter-mandi system is in place, we can link more mandis,” he noted. Online trading on the eNAM platform can be done through the website, trading platform or the mobile App available in several regional languages. So far, 73.50 lakh farmers, 53,163 commission agents and over one lakh traders are registered on the eNAM platform from 14 States. The 14 States include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand. In the first phase, the Government wants to ensure all wholesale agri-mandis adopt online auction and gradually allow trading between mandis in a State and eventually between mandis outside States, thereby setting up a single national agriculture market for the benefit of farmers.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Govt aims to harness big data in agri sector

The government and private companies alike are taking the first steps to deploy big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to gain insights into and offer solutions to problems in India’s agriculture sector. To experiment with such technology, the NITI Aayog, the government’s main think-tank, will start a pilot project on “precision agriculture” using AI in 10 districts to be selected from seven states: Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. This month, the NITI Aayog signed an agreement with software firm IBM to develop a model for crop-yield predictions using AI so that farmers can be provided real-time advisories in these states. While the project is aimed at improving yields through lastmile solutions, the private sector is also wagering money on so-called smart-agriculture systems. Companies such as CropIn and Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions, say they are equipped to provide a range of technologies based on AI in areas such as pest surveillance, climate control, controlled irrigation, and warehouse management. A statement from Bosch said it is looking to offer products in precision agriculture, smart irrigation, remote sensing technology, drone applications, and cold storage solutions that rely on IoT. The Internet of Things essentially refers to smart devices connected to the web. “Bosch smart irrigation controller called Aquazen is an IoTenabled, remotely controlled cross-platform system equipped with Big Data Analytics and Intelligent Irrigation Scheduling. It’s accessible through both web and mobile applications that are hosted on enterprise cloud,” a company spokesperson said. The company also offers polyhouse monitoring systems that can create automatic SMS alerts for any change in temperature, humidity, and soil moisture in such farms. Its sensors can also detect pest intrusions in polyhouse cultivation. CropIn Technology also offers products such as SmartFarm, which it claims digitises every aspect of farming for more efficiency.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
High Yield Onions Grown from Night Soil Manure: ICAR

An experiment by scientists at the Pune chapter of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has found that manure extracted from night soil leads to high yield among onion crops as compared to that of chemical fertilisers or other manures. The research has enthused the tribal development department of Maharashtra that is now planning to get companies in the state that would collect this manure and sell it to the farmers. The manure was applied on a six square metre plot and bulbs of the ‘Bhima Shakti’ variety of onion planted. In a similar size plot they used the cow dung manure while in another a mixture of the night soil manure, chemical fertilisers and cow dung manure was used. In yet another just chemical fertilisers were used. “We have found that the bulb was bigger and of better quality and also weighed more, for instance the onions from the night soil manure plot weighted 26 kg, whereas the onions on which chemical manure was used weighed at 24 kg,” said Amar Jeet Gupta, principal scientist-horticulture, ICAR-Pune. He said more tests would be needed to see if it can be used for food produced for humans, to check for presence of heavy metals, transmission of human diseases and virsuses. Consultant for the Unicef in Maharashtra, Jayant Deshpande said that there is no reason to be worried as research has shown that manure procured from night soil is not harmful. Ayush Prasad, assistant collector, Pune, said once the final tests are received, the department will get in touch with companies and support self help groups that would collect the manure from twin pits and then would package them and sell it to farmers at nominal rates.

Business Line, Chennai
Pulse import norms: Millers worried over deadline, price impact

The Centre’s decision to grant import licences for a total of five lakh tonnes (lt) of pulses for 2018-19 to millers has them worried on the tight deadline and the impact it will have on the domestic and international markets. According to a leading miller, the prices of pulses in Myanmar — a major supply centre —jumped by more than $100 a tonne overnight, following the Commerce Ministry’s notification. The notification called for millers to apply for import licences for 2 lt of tur and 1.5 lt each of urad and moong. Millers can apply for import licences from May 12 to 25. Quotas will be allotted on June 1 on the condition that imports are completed by August 31, the notification said. According to an industry player, who did not want to be named, the main concerns are the impact on the domestic market if the entire annual import of five lakh tonnes arrives in three months. Also, the Ministry has said the quota will be shared equally among the eligible licencees. This is a concern as there are large and small millers with varied milling capacities. B Krishna Murthy, Secretary, Tamilnadu Pulses Importers and Exporters Association, said millers are worried about the August deadline. The cut-off reduces their bargaining power. Quotes of CNF prices from Myanmar for urad (black matpe, special quality) jumped to $600 a tonne from $450, and that of fair average quality to $460. With domestic prices at about $650, imports are unviable.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Castor prices may see recovery on export demand

Castor seed prices, which had largely remained bullish last year since the commodity resumed trading at the exchange in January 2017, have been weakening since the beginning of this year. From the current low, market expects some recovery in the coming months due to export demand. In January 2017, when castor started trading again on the exchanges after one year, prices were around Rs 3,800 per quintal. The opening price of the contract was Rs 3,851 per quintal on National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange and Rs 3,832 per quintal on Multi-Commodity Exchange. Due to lesser acreage, the production had come down last year. Lower remuneration due to subdued prices in the previous year and good monsoon had made farmers to shift to other crops like groundnut, mustard and soybean. The production came down to 1.06 million tonnes. Production, in fact, has been dropping for the previous 5 years from 2.2 million tonnes in 2011-12. Lesser supply saw castor seed pri­ces moving up even during the arrival season. Castor is sown in July-August, harvested in January and the crop arrives in the market between February and April. By April last year, prices had touched Rs 5,000 per quintal, said Ritesh Kumar Sahu, analyst, agri commodities, Angel Commodities. At those high levels, the export demand started diminishing and hence prices corrected to Rs 4,500 per quintal. But for the remaining months, prices remained steady due to lower supply. But by December, prices started falling, as this year’s crop was bigger than last year. Though the acreage has been around three per cent lesser, the yield was 37 per cent higher due to favourable climatic conditions and better seeds.

14, May 2018
Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Maharashtra: No takers for poor quality Public Distribution System tur dal

The state government has decided to sell milled tur dal through the Public Distribution System (PDS) at the rate of Rs 55 per kg when the rate of the same tur in neighbouring Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu is being sold at Rs 30 to 38 per kg. This tur, procured in 2016, by the Maharashtra government is still being stocked in godowns. But this stock is rotting which is why even poor consumers have stopped purchasing from ration shops. Even though the retail rate is Rs 60 per kg, economically-challenged people have no option but to shell out more money to buy good quality tur. To clear stocks, the government on Friday issued a Government Resolution to increase the profit margin of PDS shopowners from Rs 1.50p to Rs 3 per kg. The government has already spent Rs 1500 crore on procurement of this tur dal. According to opposition Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), if the rate of this dal at PDS is not reduced by the government, this tur will rot and tax-payer’s money will be completely wasted. After bumper production of tur in 2016, opposition party members criticised the state for procuring 22 lakh quintals of tur dal from farmers which was deliberately just stored in godowns. The plan to sell milled tur dal in foreign countries and neighbouring state failed due to huge production of tur in other states. “The food and civil supply department took a decision in December 2017 to sell dal through PDS. The Cabinet approved the decision and Instructed officials to implement it immediately. However, implementation was delayed due to administrative procedures till May 2018,” an official of the Chief Minister’s Office said.

The Tribune, New Delhi
No water for sowing cotton, farmers block state highway

Known for rich growth of Narma cotton, Abohar may not maintain its decades-long status this time primarily due to acute shortage of canal water. To air their concern, farmers, on a call given by the Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta-Ugrahan, staged a dharna near the interstate border on the state highway. Union district president Sukhmander Singh led the protest outside Rajpura village on the state highway. Farmers said the Irrigation Department had closed the canal system in the Abohar circle for three weeks in April under the pretext of cleaning sub-canals, but did nothing stating that the state government had not released funds. The officials did not explore the provision of utilising MGNREGA workers’ services. Punjab Agricultural University scientists had advised to start cotton seed sowing by April 20, but water had not been released in the Lambi minor (sub-canal) and Sukhchain minor so far, they said. They claimed that farmers in Bajitpura Bhoma, Rampura, Narayanpura, Himmatpura, Bishanpura, Shergarh, Sherewala, Jhurarkhera, Pattisadiq, Bhagsar and Wahabwala were yet to start cotton sowing. “It may not be possible for them to pay back loans that they had taken from cooperative and other financing institutions,” they feared. Irrigation Department XEN Mukhtiar Singh Rana and Superintendent of Police Amarjit Singh Matwani convinced the farmers to lift the dharna. He assured to get the water released in both sub-canals by midnight.

The Tribune, Dehradun
Spurred by govt, U’khand tops in organic farming

Organic farming isn’t just a fad; in Uttarakhand around one lakh farmers are engaged in it, prompting the state government to claim that it is number one in the country in organic agricultural production. The Uttarakhand Organic Commodity Board offers exclusive services to farmers unlike in other states where organic farming is the preserve of a few individuals. Government officials say the state has a credible certification agency that sets benchmarks for organic agriculture and its produce. Organic farming is spread across 500 clusters encompassing nearly 50,000 hectares of agricultural land. Cultivation of traditional crops such as finger millet locally known as Koda, Barnyar millet known as Jhangora and ‘chaulai’ has got a big boost. To strengthen its organic credibility, the government is readying a legislation. The Act will certify the entire organic produce which could be sold as brand organic items. There would be a provision of a penalty of Rs 1 lakh and a one-year jail term if an individual is found tweaking the non-organic produce. Uttarakhand is famous for rajma, basmati rice and honey whose organic value within and outside the country is enormous. The Union agriculture ministry has recently sanctioned Rs 1,500 crore for the state for three years to promote organic farming. Uttarakhand Organic Commodity Board (UOCB) managing director Vinay Kumar says the state is ahead of Sikkim in terms of organic produce and varieties of organic pulses, which are in great demand in European West Asian markets. The Board is focusing marketing to enable the farmers to get better prices. Biju Negi, who is a strong advocate of organic farming and indigenous seeds, says rampant use of chemical fertilizers has led to falling productivity of land. “The farmers are realizing it that it is now a question of their survival,” he said.

The Pioneer, Lucknow

Sugarcane farmers in the State are in for tough times as their dues have soared to Rs 12,000 crore. With another bumper sugar production expected in 2018-19, there will again be a surplus which will get added to the current surplus of sugar stock in the country. Fears are that farmers may not get their cane price payments quickly and arrears may only rise further next season. Though during 2017-18, UP has crushed and produced record cane and sugar respectively, the low market price of sugar has given a blow to the sugar industry and has resulted in mounting arrears. The 119 sugar mills in operation during the current cane crushing season have so far paid 63.48 per cent of their dues. Of the total 119 mills, 56 mills have closed their crushing. UP Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) office bearers said in Lucknow that the total dues of cane farmers were close to Rs 12,000 crore. The 94 private mills have so far paid Rs 10,727.37 crore to farmers. So far the industry including private, cooperative and public sector, have together paid Rs 20, 609 crore to the farmers. The 24 cooperative mills too owe Rs 1107.09 crore and one corporation mill has to pay Rs 21.17 crore. The arrears of the last season are about Rs 60 crore. Meanwhile, UP has maintained the second spot in sugar production in the country after Maharashtra by producing 1.163 croe MT with a recovery percentage of 10.88 by crushing 10688.83 lakh quintal of sugarcane in season so far.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Govt aims to harness big data, AI in agriculture sector

The government and private companies alike are taking the first steps to deploy big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) to gain insights into and offer solutions to problems in India’s agriculture sector. To experiment with such technology, the NITI Aayog, the government’s main think-tank, will start a pilot project on “precision agriculture” using AI in 10 districts to be selected from seven states: Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. This month, the NITI Aayog signed an agreement with software firm IBM to develop a model for crop-yield predictions using AI so that farmers can be provided real-time advisories in these states. While the project is aimed at improving yields through last-mile solutions, the private sector is also wagering money on so-called smart-agriculture systems. Companies such as CropIn and Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions, say they are equipped to provide a range of technologies based on AI in areas such as pest surveillance, climate control, controlled irrigation, and warehouse management. A statement from Bosch said it is looking to offer products in precision agriculture, smart irrigation, remote sensing technology, drone applications, and cold storage solutions that rely on IoT. The Internet of Things essentially refers to smart devices connected to the web. “Bosch smart irrigation controller called Aquazen is an IoT-enabled, remotely controlled cross-platform system equipped with Big Data Analytics and Intelligent Irrigation Scheduling. It’s accessible through both web and mobile applications that are hosted on enterprise cloud,” a company spokesperson said. The company also offers polyhouse monitoring systems that can create automatic SMS alerts for any change in temperature, humidity, and soil moisture in such farms. Its sensors can also detect pest intrusions in polyhouse cultivation. CropIn Technology also offers products such as SmartFarm, which it claims digitises every aspect of farming for more efficiency.

Business Standard, Mumbai
ASL develops first of its kind bio-stimulants to raise agri output in India

Canadian company Acadian Seaplants Ltd (ASL) has developed first of its kind seaweed-based biostimulants to help farmers raise their agricultural output in India. Powered by Acadian BioSwitch™ technology, the stimulants help reduce the development of weeds in the field which helps multiply germination of plants and thereby yielding higher produce. ASL is the global leader in the processing and manufacturing of seaweed-based agricultural products, animal feed supplements, as well as food and speciality ingredients for cosmetics and health care. With this wide range of products, ASL continues its expansion into the Indian market. Moreover, the company has established its own subsidiary company, a new facility for processing its proven biostimulants and its own distribution network. ASL products are exported to over 80 countries across the globe. The Indian subsidiary of the company is set to help farmers meet growing demand for quality, natural biostimulants and bio-nutritional products that increase crop yield, quality and farmers’ return on investment in a sustainable way. The company, however, didn't divulge its investment plan for India but added that India is an important market for us. Hence, investment will not be an issue, said Jean-Paul Deveau, President & CEO, ASL. The biostimulant and bio-nutritional products are available to the farmers across the country through company's own exclusive provincial distribution network. The establishment of the Indian subsidiary company, processing facility and distribution network, lays the foundation for ASL’s long-term strategy and reflect its commitment to developing pure, natural biostimulants for the Indian market and forming strong, lasting relationships with growers, distribution partners and key partners in India.

The Pioneer, New Delhi

Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar has said that imposition of tax on agriculture income has always been considered by ‘successive Governments’, even as he cautioned that any such move should be taken once the sector is productive and attached to modern scientific methods. He further said the Government think tank will come out with a development agenda for ‘New India 2022’ by July, which will spell out strategy for expediting economic growth. “Taxing agriculture income has always been under consideration of successive governments. We have to first ensure that our agriculture become productive and is put on a modern scientific basis,” he said in a tweet. Kumar was replying to a question on twitter whether taxing agriculture income beyond a threshold is a good idea as presented in the Kelkar report. Taxing the agriculture income has always been a politically sensitive issue and governments have refrained from doing so. Last year , a controversy had erupted after Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy at a press conference had said the agricultural income above certain threshold should be taxed. However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had later clarified that there was no such proposal and the Centre has no power to impose tax on agricultural income. The Niti Aayog too had quickly distanced itself from the comment, saying it was the personal view of Debroy.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
BTC farmer among 12 sent to Vietnam for training

Alongwith 12 farmers of the State, Dibakar Roy, a resident of Hatigarh village under Gurufella of Gossigaon subdivision in BTC has gone to Vietnam for acquiring advanced training in the agricultural sector. Dibakar’s name was approved by the BTC’s Agriculture department along with the other agriculturists. Dibakar Roy, 35, has 20 bighas of agricultural land of his own at his village. Out of it, on 15 bighas, he has sown rice, maize, sugarcane and plantain trees and on the rest he has planted betel nut trees, betel leaf, bamboo and other trees. He is also engaged in piggery, duckery and poultry farming and is earning handsomely from these. He has also engaged other youths to look after these and thus is also contributing towards their livelihood. The district and the subdivisional agricultural officials always keep in touch with him while the Gossaigaon Agriculture Department supplies him better quality seeds, manure, pesticides and other farm inputs, he told newsmen. Roy has now also opened a sugarcane and pulses factory and has engaged many local youths there.

The Statesman, New Delhi
Pulses imports

The commerce ministry has invited applications from millers and refiners of pulses for import of certain amount of pigeon pea, urad and moong dal for the current fiscal. Application process for import of 2 lakh tonnes of pigeon peas/toor dal and 1.5 lakh tonnes for urad and 1.5 lakh tonnes for moong is laid down, the directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) said in a trade notice. It said that the applications will be received till 25 May this year.

13, May 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
FCI wants Rs 1/kg hike in wheat open market sale price in FY19

The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has recommended a base price of Rs 1,890/quintal for selling wheat under the open market sales scheme in 2018-19 (April-March). The proposed price is Rs 100 higher from a year ago. The suggested hike is in line with the increase in minimum support price (MSP) of the commodity for the current marketing year, an FCI official said. For 2018-19, the government has fixed MSP for wheat at Rs 1,735 a quintal, up by Rs 110 from the previous year. FCI may offer to offload the entire surplus stock of wheat during open market sales, the official said. According to FCI data, the government had 13.2 million tonnes (mt) of wheat stocked as of April 1. Adding the 33 mt wheat procured from various States will increase the stock to 46.2 mt — 12.7 mt higher than the average annual need. To be able to sell wheat in the open market, the government will have to increase import duty on the grain to 30-40 per cent as imports come much cheaper at current prices, the official said.

Business Standard, New Delhi
GM a powerful farm tool but address safety, other concerns first: Panel

Genetic engineering is a powerful' tool for developing future crops but before it is used for food, questions on its safety should be addressed and settled at the earliest, a high-powered official panel has recommended. "GM (genetic modification) technology is a powerful tool for developing future crop varieties, with in-built genetic resistance to various biotic and abiotic stresses for reducing crop losses and enhanced input use efficiency, yield potential and quality traits. Their use will be crucial for food and nutritional security of the country and, therefore, research on these must be continued, with the aim of developing safer, more productive and nutritious food crops," the panel on doubling of farmers' income has said said. It says research on GM crops should be done in a more transparent and socially inclusive manner, for wider public acceptance. Concerns of the opponents of GM technology should be addressed, to allay the concerns on food safety, environmental and economic security. The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) had in 2017 approved commercial release of GM mustard but a decision was put on hold due to strong opposition. The panel issued its latest report on Thursday. Which says use of GM cotton in India has provided important learnings, both pros and cons, including the use of genetic engineering to mitigate crop-specific and location-specific problems or challenges in non-food crops. The panel said in the absence of transgenic technology, the world might have had to find an additional 100 million hectares of cultivable land to meet the increased demand for agricultural commodities. The panel has stressed that safety concerns on the issue must be respected. And, the ethical, social and environmental consequences of GM technology that alter the genetic code must be understood thoroughly before widespread application in agriculture.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt to allocate quota for pulses imports on June 1

After capping imports of tur, urad and moong last year, the government released norms for such shipments, restricting the imports to only millers and refiners in 2018-19. Millers and refiners with own processing capacity that intend to import pulses have been asked to submit application during May 12-25, according to a government notification. “The allocation of quota to each eligible applicant shall be notified on June 1,” it said. Traders will have to complete their imports by August 31. The government will distribute the available quota on the basis of annual processing capacity of applicants. The government has capped imports of tur at 200,000 tonnes for 2018-19. The cap for urad and moong is 150,000 tonnes each. The imports were restricted after domestic tur prices plunged due to bumper production last year.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt wants commission agents to be farm-tech savvy

The Union government is toying with the idea of insisting commission agents in mandis have sound knowledge of agricultural inputs as it grapples with the problem of spurious products and high pesticide residues in foodgrains. Last month, a meeting of agricultural officials from the Centre and Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh explored the possibility of making agricultural mandis single window facilities for the sale of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers and pesticides for better regulation of input quality. The meeting chaired by Ashok Dalwai, CEO of National Rainfed Area Authority, also suggested the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee may explore the possibility of considering changes to ensure that “packages of various pesticide formulations are appropriate for use by farmers having small holdings.” “Having smaller packages may help curb the tendency to apply pesticides in higher-than-recommended dosages,” said a source who was present at the meeting. The meeting decided to take basmati as representative crop to begin with and based on its performance to extend it to other crops. It asked the All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA) to identify 25 to 30 blocks, maybe one block per district, where basmati is grown in Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and other States where the aromatic rice has a GI tag. Indian basmati exports to Europe have been hampered by higher-than-permitted residue levels of pesticide tricyclazole. “It is not just European Union. It is now becoming a multi-market problem as many countries have slowly started talking about pesticide residue. Soon it is going to be a widespread issue,” said Rajen Sundaresan, AIREA’s Executive Director. “We would like to have all inputs required by farmers sold from areas in and around mandis so that it makes it possible to have a proper monitoring of inputs,” said Sundaresan.

The New Indian Express, Chennai
LS Speaker, Rs chairman urged to pass pro-farmer bills

Farmers’ organisations across the country urged the LS Speaker and RS Chairperson to ensure early passage of two private member bills aimed at freeing farmers from their indebtedness and to ensure guaranteed remunerative prices for agricultural produces. Representatives of farmers organisations met the Collectors of districts in all States and submitted representations, addressed to the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha Chairperson, and signed by thousands of farmers hailing from even remote villages. In Chennai, the Collector received the memorandum submitted by All India Kisan Sangharsh Committee (AIKCC) representatives who included many women farmers as well as consumers. Thiruvallur, Pudukottai, Perambalur, Ariyalur, Erode, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram, Karur and Trichy are the other districts where the delegations met Collectors. While the bills have been moved in the Lok Sabha by Raju Shetti, MP belonging to Swabhimani Paksha, KK Ragesh, CPM MP, moved the bills in the Rajya Sabha. Kavitha Kuruganti, member of the central working group of AIKCC and Ananthoo of Safe Food Alliance, told mediapersons that both bills - The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018 and The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018 - had the support of 21 political parties. Among the parties which supported these bills are Congress, AIADMK, DMK, NCP, JDU-S, INC (Congress), CPM, RJD, BJD, Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress, AAP, RLD, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, Swabhimani Paksha,YSR Congress Party, TDP, TRS, Samajwadi Party, BSP, INLD, Janata Dal (S), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and CPI. However, the AIKCC did not approach the BJP because the party was acting against the interests of the farmers, it said.

The Tribune, Sangrur
Markfed used old bags to pack wheat in Dhuri, finds probe

The detection of use of old bags against norms by government purchase agency Markfed in Dhuri subdivision to pack purchased wheat has raised questions. Two days ago, DC Ghanshayam Thori had ordered an inquiry. The Markfed authorities had also formed a four-member team after complaints. The team found 8,000 old bags filled with wheat and started further legal action. Last week, after noticing the use of bags of 2009-10 to 2016-17 for packing of wheat in the Dhuri grain market and other purchase centres by Markfed, local arhtiyas informed senior government officials dealing with the purchase. “As per guidelines, the authorities should have used bags of the current year. If they had any shortage of bags, they could have used only last year bags with permission. However, the use of bags older than a year is against the norms,” said the DC. Thori added that they would write to senior authorities of Markfed for strict departmental action against officers concerned. Sangrur District Manager, Markfed, Manjit Brar did not take calls on his mobile phone, but sources said the department had started the process to replace old bags with new.

Business Line, Coonoor
Nilgiris bought-leaf factories shut shop over pricing issue

Tea factories in the small-scale sector, popularly called bought-leaf factories, in the Nilgiris have closed operations from Thursday. They say the price of green leaf set by the Tea Board is unviable. “The Tea Board has fixed the price of green leaf we have to pay to the small growers during May at Rs 14 a kg. If we pay this for the raw material, we should get Rs 86 at the auctions for our manufactured tea.. But 70 per cent of the factories are not getting this price,” Ramesh Bhojarajan, President, The Nilgiri Bought Leaf Tea Manufacturers’ Association told. The Association has for long represented to the Tea Board that it should set the price of green leaf at the end of the month based on the price factories get at the auctions. “But, the Board is forcing us to pay the price it fixes at the beginning of the month and penalises factories which are unable to pay,” he disclosed. “While the Board is setting the green leaf price to help the small growers, it does not take care of the small-scale factories by implementing a formula or strategy to arrest the price fall at the auction. We have already lost Rs 30/kg in the price over a month now,” he reasoned. “May is the peak production month with each factory buying on an average four lakh kg of green leaf and manufacturing one lakh kg of black tea sold through the auction. If the factories lose Rs 30, it works out to a loss of Rs 30 lakh in one month for each factory. So, we have decided to close the factories until the price of green leaf, becomes affordable to us,” he said.

Business Line, New Delhi
US charge of India under-reporting foodgrain MSP unfounded: officials

India will prove at the World Trade Organization (WTO) that the allegations made by the US against it on under-reporting of minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and rice are baseless, a senior government official has said. “The allegations (made by the US) are based on wrong and untenable assumptions. We will show that in the Committee on Agriculture’s (CoA) meeting when it takes up the US counter-notification for discussion,” the official told. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced earlier this week that the country had submitted a counter notification in the CoA on India’s MSP for wheat and rice. The US stated that based on its calculations, it appeared that India had substantially under-reported its MSP. It added that calculated according to the WTO Agreement on Agriculture methodology, India’s MSP for wheat and rice far exceeded its allowable levels of trade distorting domestic support (10 per cent of value). The USTR said that it expected a robust discussion on how India implements and notifies its policies at the next CoA meeting, scheduled for June 2018. “India has always followed the methodology for calculating MSP support diligently and nobody has had issues with the numbers before. We will gladly demonstrate to all members at the CoA that our statistics can’t be faulted at all,” the official said. The US move does not have serious implications at the moment as it leads to a discussion on India’s notified data on agriculture subsidies between 2010 and 2013. “It is not the start of a dispute. It is just a discussion,” the official said.

Mint, New Delhi
Wheat procurement past last year’s level

The government has purchased 30.87 million tonne (MT) wheat directly from farmers within the first 40 days of the current marketing year, surpassing the last year’s total procurement. It was 30.82 MT in the year-ago period. The procurement target for the 2018-19 marketing year (April-March) is 32 MT. Wheat is procured at the minimum support price and the grain is used for distribution through PDS and other welfare schemes.

12, May 2018
Business Line, Ahmedabad
Adulterated jeera consignment seized

The Spices Board has found adulteration in cumin seed consignment by a Gujarat-based exporting unit following which the State Food and Drugs Control Administration seized the 12.5-tonne cargo. Spices Board said, “Quality Evaluation Laboratory of the Board at Kandla (Gujarat) had reported the presence of 23.33 per cent extraneous matter against maximum limit of 3 per cent in the sample taken from the lot, which was a clear indication of adulteration.” Reacting strongly to the incident, Spices Board Chariman A Jayathilak said, “We are absolutely vigilant about the quality of spices consignments for exports. India is the major exporter of cumin seeds. During April-December 2017, jeera was the second-highest exported spice with a volume of 104,260 tonnes at Rs 1,761.70 crore. Earlier in 2016, incidents of beetle-infested jeera exports from India were reported. The Board had stepped in and issued a circular requiring exporters to undergo stricter testing and quality check.

Business Line, New Delhi
‘Allow GM food crops to improve export potential’

PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) urged the Centre to promote and propagate genetically modified (GM) foods to enable India to catapult its agriculture and horticulture economy and make the country one of the largest exporters of agri products. Countries that adopted GM food technologies and their applications to improve the productivity and quality of their agri products have become net exporters of food products from food importing nations in the last couple of years, and India needs to look at this with proactive mindset, said PHDCCI Vice-President Rajeev Talwar while speaking at a seminar on industrial growth. The Chamber also appealed to the government to prepare a ground for 4th industrial revolution in India’s forthcoming industrial policy statement so that all and relevant emerging issues on the industrial front are addressed at the right time. “The time has come for India to prepare a solid ground for forthcoming industrial revolution so that it does not miss out an opportunity to become one of the lead economies in the world in next few years,” he said.

The Pioneer, New Delhi

BJP ‘Kisan Morcha’ opposed the Modi Government’s support to Genetically Modified (GM) crop saying it was not good for the farming community. Nevertheless, it has set out to train BJP workers to impart information in each village on pro-farmer policies of the party in last four years. As the Lok Sabha polls draw closer, BJP ‘Kisan Morcha’ head Virendra Singh ‘Mast’ has organised a three-day National workshop to train BJP workers who would be deployed in each village to do ‘samvad’ (dialogue) with villagers on government’s welfare policies and schemes for farmers. The workshop will be held at Gurugram, Haryana, from May 18 to May 20 and train 220 BJP workers who, in turn, in batches of five each, would visit villages and coordinate in implementing pro-farmers ‘Yojanas’ of the Modi government. He said soon after completing the national workshop for training, the Morcha would set up such workshops in each district by next month. Asked whether he approved government’s backing to GM crop, Singh said he disapproved of “those opposing GM crop in the past supporting it now. .. it is not good”. The issue on having a regulatory mechanism before giving clearance to GM crop is pending before the Supreme Court. A PIL has been filed on the issue. Government has claimed that it has a sound regulatory mechanism in place. Singh, a BJP MP from Bhadohi Lok Sabha Constituency in Uttar Pradesh, said he has been interacting with farmers in each district for past one year and flagged animal husbandry , sheep rearing , tree plantation and water-recharging as areas which he said could increase income and mitigate deteriorating environment around. “Dialogues with farmers in villages would shift the urban-centric discussions to right places,” he said even as he did not favour modes of communication and campaigns like “road shows”

The Hindu, Chennai
Bill to free farmers from debt burden to be introduced soon

In order to liberate farmers of the country from the scourge of indebtedness and to ensure remunerative prices for their produce, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) has demanded an early debate on and the passing of two Bills in Parliament that seek to address the issue. Titled ‘The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018’ and ‘The Farmers' Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill 2018’, the two Bills have been formulated based on a nation-wide consultative process involving 193 farmers’ organisations, Kavitha Kuruganti, one of the committee spokespersons told. On Thursday, farmers’ organisations across the country submitted representations to their respective District Collectors, seeking legal entitlements for themselves, Ms. Kuruganti said. The two Bills contain provisions for seeking debt waiver for farmers and payment of a price that is 50% above the cost of production as per the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report. Rajya Sabha MP K. K. Ragesh confirmed that he would like to move both the Bills as a private member’s Bill in the coming monsoon session of Parliament. “There has been much talk about a fair MSP for farmers in the recent past during countrywide protests. Our party [CPI(M)] has already taken the position that farmers should not be forced to sell their produce below the MSP as is happening now,” he said. In the Lok Sabha, MP Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Paksha Party would be introducing the Bill, Ms. Kuruganti said. The Bills have garnered support from 21 political parties including the NCP, the JDU-S, the Congress, the CPI (M), the RJD, the BJD, the Shiv Sena, the Trinamool Congress and the AAP, according to the committee.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Cashew Exports Value Hit a Record High

Indian cashew nut export revenue peaked to an all-time high for 2017-18 with unit value realisation, though volumes rose marginally. Provisional data from Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI) showed cashew nut export clocked 84,352 tonnes valued at Rs 5,871 crore. While the quantity rose by 2%, the value went up by over 13% from a year ago. The unit value realisation for the year was up by 11% from the earlier year at Rs 696 per kg. “The export value has gone up because cashew kernel prices were at historical high of $5.30-5.40 per pound during the earlier months. The average for the year worked out to about $4.75 per pound,’’ said Pankaj N Sampat, director of Mumbai based Samson Traders. Export volumes have been declining for the last couple of years with domestic production stagnant and import of raw nuts falling due to high prices. “The export quantity used to hover around 1-1.20 lakh tonnes in earlier years,’’ Sampat said. It has improved only marginally in 2017-18. He doubts if exports will exceed 1 lakh tonnes as the domestic consumption has increased. Meanwhile, rupee depreciation and strict monitoring of credit limit have forced cashew exporters to go slow on imports of raw cashew even as prices eased. India imports over 60% of its raw nut requirement for cashew kernel exports. Prices of raw nuts from West African countries have dropped by 15% to 20% from some months ago to range between $1800-1900 a tonne.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Central govt extends assistance to clear dues of sugarcane farmers

Central government has issued orders for extending assistance to clear the dues of sugarcane farmers. In a statement, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ministry said government has decided to provide financial assistance of 5.50 rupees per quintal of cane crushed in sugar season 2017- 18 to sugar mills to offset the cost of cane. The assistance shall be paid directly to the farmers on behalf of the mills and be adjusted against the cane price payable due to the farmers against Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) including arrears relating to previous years. The total assistance would be about 1540 crore rupees, which will directly benefit a large number of farmers and will help the sugar mills in a long way in discharging their liabilities on account of cane price dues of farmers. The decision has been taken to clear the dues of sugarcane farmers that have accumulated to over 20,000 crores rupees.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
India Prepares to Counter US Charges on Farm Subsidy

The government may challenge the US’ accusation that India is under-reporting its food subsidies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on grounds of amount of production which is eligible for support and the currency in which the country reports its subsidies. The WTO Agreement on Agriculture defines subsidies on the total value of agriculture production while the US has challenged India on the basis of support given to individual products, namely wheat and rice. Similarly, the agreement doesn’t state the currency in which countries have to report their subsidy dole-out. The US wants India to report in rupee terms while India submits dollar-denominated numbers to the WTO. The US has identified several areas of potential concern with India’s notification of its market price support for rice and wheat. These include issues with the quantity of production used in market price support calculations, the exclusion of state-level bonuses from calculations of applied administered prices, exclusion from India’s notifications of information on the total value of production of wheat and rice and issues with currency conversions. “Their calculations are incorrect and we will counter them on eligible production and currency issues,” said an official aware of the development. Policies which amount to domestic support — both under the product specific and non-product specific categories at less than 10% of the value of production for developing countries — are excluded from any reduction commitments at the WTO. Earlier this month, India informed the WTO that the outgo on minimum support prices was below the permitted levels for rice, wheat, coarse grains, cotton, pulses, groundnuts, sunflower and mustard seed. The limit for developing countries, including India, is 10% of agricultural production.

Business Line, New Delhi
India under-reports market price support for wheat, rice: US to WTO

The US has dragged India to the World Trade Organization, alleging that it has “substantially under-reported” its market price support for wheat and rice. US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue in a joint statement said the US had submitted a counter notification in the WTO Committee on Agriculture (COA) on India’s market price support (MPS) for wheat and rice. Filed on May 4, this is the first-ever COA notification under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture regarding another country’s measures. Based on US calculations, the Trump administration said it appeared that India had “substantially under-reported” its market price support for wheat and rice. “When calculated according to WTO Agreement on Agriculture methodology, India’s market price support for wheat and rice far exceeded its allowable levels of trade distorting domestic support,” it said. The US expects a robust discussion on how India implements and notifies its policies at the next COA meeting, which is scheduled for June 2018, a media statement said. Lighthizer said the US expected its trading partners to comply with the reporting requirements they agreed to when joining the WTO. “Accurate reporting and improved transparency of these programmes is an important step in ensuring that our trading partners are living up to their WTO commitments and helps achieve more market-based outcomes through the multilateral trading system,” he said. American farmers are the most productive and competitive in the world, and with free and fair trade, they always do well in the international marketplace, Perdue said. “India represents a massive market, and we want greater access for US products, but India must be transparent about their practices. For trade to be free and fair, all parties must abide by their WTO commitments,” he said.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Iran sanctions could swell India’s urea import bill

With the new US sanctions on Iran, our urea import cost is likely to rise. In 2017-18, our import was 6 million tonnes (mt) and a third of this was from Iran, which supplies 4.5 mt annually to the world market. If, due to sanctions, these supplies don’t come to the market, global prices will shoot up. India was importing urea via the UAE route and making payment in dirhams (the latter's currency) during the earlier sanctions period. Now, global urea traders are worried if the UAE would oblige this time, say sources. Urea prices have already been on a rise for a year. Since July 2017, these have risen by a fifth, to $255 a tonne. China has cut urea production on environmental grounds and this has made market tighter. “Iran was an important source for import and its share had increased to 34 per cent in 2017-18, compared to 27 per cent the previous year, due to less availability, especially from China. It’s very early to assess the impact on import and prices. Presently, we are expecting prices to remain soft over the next few months,” said Deepak Chitroda, an analyst from London-based CRU. Two months earlier, the Government of India floated a tender to import a million tonnes of urea through Indian Potash, a canalising agency. A major chunk of this was allocated to those importing from Iran. Part of these consignments have already landed here but those yet to arrive “could be in trouble because making payments for these will now be a contentious issue”, said a source. Of cheer is an expected rise in domestic production capacities, with one mt expected to come on stream this year. The government is also trying to to limit consumption. Some months earlier, it had told fertiliser companies to pack urea in 45-kg bags, instead of the earlier 50-kg ones.

The Financial Express, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala rubber likely to be added to export cluster list

Rubber from Kerala is likely to be added to the Centre’s crop export cluster roster. Earlier, rubber from Kerala, which produces 85% of the country’s supply, was excluded from the list of 50 districts identified for export crop clusters, under the draft national crop export policy. Commerce secretary Rita Teotia has told Kerala officials, who pointed out the omission, that this decision will be reviewed. Rubber from Kerala is likely to be added to the export cluster, if the state government writes to ministry of commerce, seeking this review, she said. Meanwhile, state cabinet decided to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and commerce minister Suresh Prabhu seeking that four districts — Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Ernakulam and Kannur — should be included in the export cluster for rubber. When the Rubber Board of India had sought Rs 220 crore as outlay for rubber, Niti Aayog provided only Rs 132 crore. In the last two years, the funds for the Board has been tight-reined, with the result that subsidy for rubber farmers had to be stopped from 2015. From Kerala, only pineapple from Vazhakkulam and ginger from Waynad had found place in the list of export crop clusters. The draft crop export policy has proposed export clusters for 22 crops. The Kerala government has demanded that as a crop with international market, cashew export cluster should be considered in Kasargode. Clusters for pepper, tea and coconut will also be urged in Wayanad, Idukky and Kozhikode, respectively. Looking at the production side, banana clusters in Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur and Wayanad and turmeric and mango clusters in Wayanad have been proposed.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Kheti Kosh to strengthen farm sector

The government has initiated the process for customisation of the Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) scheme and set up ‘Kheti Kosh’ to receive funding from corporates to strengthen the agricultural sector. Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has been roped in to constitute a committee for formulating a customised FPO policy. A dedicated fund, ‘Kheti Kosh’, is also being set up to receive funds from corporates wishing to donate under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A sum of Rs 50 crore has been approved for the PAU to set up an incubation facility for young farmers and graduates in agriculture, who form their FPOs. The university will train them and help in their capacity building to run collective farmer companies. Since FPOs having a turnover of up to Rs 100 crore have a five-year tax holiday, it is a good business model to be pursued in Punjab. The idea for having a customised FPO policy, based on broad guidelines of the Ministry of Agriculture, germinated during a meeting on agriculture sustainability held in Amritsar recently. Farmer groups, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other stakeholders felt that the FPO policy, which was announced in the year 2008, was not suitable for the state. It was felt that the policy was made according to the needs and the agricultural eco system of Baramati in Maharashtra. The matter was again discussed in a meeting chaired by Governor VP Singh Badnore last Saturday. “Since this collectivisation of small and marginal farmers into producer organisations is regarded as the most effective way to address the challenges of agriculture - improved access to investment, technology, inputs and markets, Punjab can lead young farmers and graduates in agriculture to set up their FPOs,” said Suresh Kumar, Chief Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister.

The Financial Express, Pune
Onion arrivals decline at Country’s largest mkt as wedding season ends

With the wedding season almost coming to an end and summer onion coming into the markets, the focus among farmers and traders alike in Maharashtra is on storage. As a result, arrivals have begun to dip and there is a possibility of a price rise in the next fortnight, according to top market officials in Nashik region. More significantly, cash payments have begun to make a comeback in most markets with cases of bounced cheques on the rise. Market arrivals at Lasalgaon, the country’s largest market for the bulb, dipped to 9,000 quintals from an average of 14,000 quintals in the last week while arrivals at neighbouring Pimpalgaon also dipped to some 12,450 quintals with modal prices dropping to Rs 700 per quintal. Lasalgaon prices have remained more or less steady at around Rs 650 per quintal over the week. The harvest of summer onions is on in full swing. According to Atmaram Kumbhar, chairman, Chandwad Agriculture Market Produce Committee (APMC), demand is usually slack during the wedding season and since the summer onion can be stored, farmers now prefer to store the onion in anticipation of better prices. As a good monsoon is predicted this year as well, one can expect another bumper crop, he said, adding that sowing should commence after June-July and the new crop should hit markets between August to November. That is when one can expect farmers to bring out the stored onion, Kumbhar said. According to industry observers, the high volatility in onion prices stems from lack of storage facilities which have not kept pace with rising production. Maharashtra uses Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and National Horticulture Mission and created 42,282 low cost onion storage structures having a capacity of 9.65 lakh tonne.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Telangana doles out agriculture credit assistance; farmers get Rs 4,000/acre

About 58 lakh farmers in Telangana will get a financial assistance of Rs 4,000 each for every acre of land they own under a programme launched by the Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao. The State government has allocated Rs 12,000 crore for the scheme in the Budget for 2018-19. The farmers will get Rs 4,000 each an acre in the kharif and in the rabi cropping season to support their credit needs. Addressing a gathering at the formal launch, Rao demanded that agriculture should brought under the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) to share the farmers wage burden for farm labour. The State has cleaned up the land records recently to identify the right owners and is in the process of distributing pattadar pass books for farmers. The passbooks come with several security measures. These include anti-copying feature, a QR code that helps in ascertaining the profile and transactions held and a barcode with a unique transaction ID. However, farmers’ unions are demanding the inclusion of over 11 lakh tenant farmers in the scheme and issue of Loan Eligibility Cards. “It should cover all actual cultivators , and the two lakh acres farmed by adivasis on podu lands and farmers with sada bainama (land titles on plain papers),” said Kiran Kumar Vissa of Rythu Swarajya Vedika.

11, May 2018
The Economic Times, New Delhi
Cane Farmers to Get Rs 1,540-Crore Fiscal Assistance

The government will provide Rs 1540 crore financial assistance package to the sugarcane farmers who will get Rs 5.50 per quintal of sugarcane supplied to the mills, said a press statement by the Food Ministry. It said the assistance will directly benefit a large number of farmers and help the sugar mills in discharging their liabilities on account of cane price dues of farmers. The decision is expected to help the industry reduce its cost and farmers get their dues that have touched Rs 20,000 crore. The Food ministry had last week cleared the proposal to giving assistance of Rs 5.50 per quintal of cane crushed. It said it will be provided on basis of actual cane crushed or inter se allocation of earlier estimated 2,800 lakh tonne of cane to be crushed in 2017-18 sugar season, whichever is lower. Further it has set the eligibility criteria for mills to get the said assistance. It said that the mills having ethanol production capacity and who have signed contracts with Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) for supply of ethanol, should have supplied at least 80% of indented quantity of ethanol under ethanol blended with petrol programme (EBP) to OMCs during 2017-18 ethanol season (December, 2017 – November, 2018). The Centre will directly transfer the subsidy to farmers on behalf of mills and be adjusted against the cane price payable due to the farmers against Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) including arrears relating to previous years, leaving the mills to pay only remaining of cane price.

The Pioneer, New Delhi

Due to higher sugar production against the estimated consumption during the current sugar season 2017-18, the domestic sugar prices have remained depressed since the commencement of the season. As a result, accumulated dues of farmers have reached to over Rs 20,000 crore. In order to help sugar mills to clear cane dues of farmers, the Government has decided to provide financial assistance of Rs 5.50 per quintal of cane crushed in sugar season 2017-18 to sugar mills to offset the cost of cane. In order to stabilise sugar prices at reasonable level and to improve liquidity position of mills thereby enabling them to clear cane price dues of farmers, the Centre has issued orders for extending assistance to clear the dues of sugarcane farmers. To provide relief to sugar cane growers, the Centre has already increased customs duty on import of sugar from 50% to 100%. It has also imposed reverse stock holding limits on producers of sugar for the months of February and March, 2018 to stabilise sugar price. The Government has also fully withdrawn the customs duty on export of sugar to encourage sugar industry to start exploring possibility of export of sugar. In view of the inventory levels with the sugar industry and to facilitate achievement of financial liquidity, mill-wise Minimum Indicative Export Quotas (MIEQ) totalling 20 Lakh MT have been fixed for sugar season 2017-18. Further, to facilitate and incentivise export of surplus sugar by sugar mills, Government has allowed Duty Free Import Authorisation (DFIA) Scheme in respect of sugar. In April, 2015, the cane price arrears of farmers reached to an alarming level of about Rs 22,000 crores. A subsidy was provided @ Rs 4.50/- per quintal of cane crushed. As a result of this measure, the sugar prices stabilized and arrears were reduced substantially.

Business Line, Kochi
High raw coconut prices shred exports of value-added products

The high price of raw coconuts seems to have made a dent on India’s coconut product exports and the figures are unlikely to cross the Rs 2,000-crore mark this year against Rs 2,300 crore registered in FY17. Export of value-added coconut products as on February was only Rs 1,600 crore — a 20 per cent drop, CDB officials said, citing the rising price of raw coconuts in the domestic market as reason for the decline in export competitiveness. Though the higher prices of raw nuts were remunerative for farmers, low production across the growing regions have dampened their hopes. The high prices also hit exports of desiccated coconut products and coconut oil. Coconut oil exports last year was around 35,000 tonnes and this was reduced by one-fourth this year. The export of DC powder, which was around 15,000 tonnes in 2016-17, has also come down considerably. Overall, there has been a 50 per cent drop in export quantity of all products except coconut shell based activated carbon. The loss of competitiveness in the export market also affected several coconut based industries and only a select few — who are concentrating in coconut oil shipments — have taken advantage through copra imports under Advance Authorisation Scheme. Pinning hopes on a policy change, oil millers sought permission to import copra on actual user condition (for industrial purpose). However, a meeting at the secretary level in New Delhi came with a rider to get feedback from producing States before moving ahead. As such a move could hit farmers, it would be a challenging task for governments to take a favourable decision due to political compulsions, felt those associated with the industry. Ganesh Kamath, Partner, Vittal Agro Industries Ltd, Kanjangad, told that India’s coconut products have become highly uncompetitive in the international markets. Besides a drastic fall, exports are now on a stagnant level.

The Times of India, New Delhi
India giving rice, wheat output excess support, US tells WTO

India is supporting its rice and wheat farmers with payments that are far higher than the amounts allowed by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the US said in a statement published by the WTO. “It appears that India provides market price support (MPS) for wheat and rice vastly in excess of what it has reported to the WTO,” the US statement said. “India’s apparent MPS for wheat appears to have been over 60% of the value of production in each of the last four years for which India has notified data. Its apparent MPS for rice appears to have been over 70%.” Anything over 10% would break WTO rules, it added. India has made reform of agricultural subsidies a major negotiating issue at the WTO in the past five years. It has won preliminary WTO backing for a system of public stockholding of farm produce for food security purposes, but the US and others have been wary of its plans, warning that payments which encourage production could lead to oversupply and potentially a spillover onto world markets. In its analysis, the United States looked at India’s payments for the four most recent years that it had notified to the WTO, from 2010-11 to 2013-14. The US statement said that India was the world’s second or third largest agricultural producer.

The Financial Express, Pune
Maha sugar mills seek transport subsidy to tackle UP domination

Sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are now proving to be a nightmare for those in Maharashtra. After dislodging Maharashtra from the position of India’s top producer, they have now started capturing markets in Gujarat, Rajasthan and North-East states that are traditionally dominated by Maharashtra. Hit by falling prices and lack of demand, sugar mills in Maharashtra are now seeking a transport subsidy of Rs 250 per quintal from the government in addition to concessional rates for warehousing. Until 2014-15, Maharashtra was the top sugar-producing state which sold its surplus in Gujarat and the North-East. In 2015-16, Uttar Pradesh took the number one spot after the cane farmers there adopted a new variety that has a higher yield. Earlier, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh had about 75% and 25% share, respectively, in markets like Gujarat and the North-East. Now, the situation has reversed with UP serving 75% of these markets, according to industry observers. As a result, Maharashtra’s sugar sales have slowed down considerably and mills have been forced to slash rates. Millers are struggling to find a market for their stocks. Maharashtra recorded the highest ever production of sugar at 106.08 lakh tonne this season. According to senior industry people, the accumulated losses of around 70 mills in the state come up to Rs 2,300 crore. According to millers the carry-over stock from the previous year is around 50 lakh tonne. The season of 2017-18 has seen production touch 320 lakh tonne, leaving an excess stock of over 92 lakh tonne nationally. The lack of demand in the market has made it difficult for millers to sell sugar, thereby making it difficult to make farmer payments. According to Sanjay Khatal, MD, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF), UP millers enjoy logistical advantage — they are geographically nearer to these markets and thus charge less on transport costs.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Maharashtra farmers to launch ‘jail bharo’ protest on May 14

Farmers in Maharashtra will court arrests on May 14 to protest the state government’s “failure” to keep various welfare assurances it had given to them earlier. Leaders of farmers and various political fronts said they are planning the ‘Jail Bharo’ protest at taluka and district levels across the state to draw the attention of the government which is not addressing the issues of farmers. “Despite giving assurances, the government did not implement them. We have conducted various agitations so far like not paying electricity bills, observing fasts, launching a protest march etc., but farmers could not get any relief,” said Kishor Dhamale of Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha. He claimed that farmers are coming forward to participate in the protest and that over two lakh farmers will court arrests. Dhamale demanded the government pay Rs 7,000 crore to milk producers for the losses they have suffered due to the state government’s failure to offer them a good rate for their produce. “Around three crore litres of milk is produced every day in Maharashtra. The government had promised the rate of Rs 27 per litre, but farmers are getting the rate of Rs 20 per litre. They have to bear losses of Rs 21 crore every day which means the losses of Rs 7,000 crore till today,” he said. Meanwhile, Maharashtra State Electricity Consumer Organisation convener Pratap Hogade termed as “false” the state government’s claim of the total electricity bill outstanding of Rs 24,000 crore. “The government is recovering more electricity charges from the farmers. Though they (farmers) get a subsidy, the bills are inflated. We met the chief minister on the issue, but the government is trying to save power distribution company– Mahadiscom,” he alleged. Farmer leader Raghunath Patil said the Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver announced by the state government last year has not benefited the farmers much.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
NE Farm & Food Tech ’18 under way

“The north-eastern region, I strongly believe, could emerge as a major centre for food processing and command a high place both in the domestic and international markets,” Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi said while inaugurating the three-day North East Farm and Food Tech-2018 organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry at the Maniram Dewan Trade Centre here. Speaking at the inaugural function, the Governor said both the Central and the State governments were making synergistic efforts to promote startups and develop entrepreneurship in the North-east. “I also feel happy to share with you that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept the North-east at the heart of country’s Act East Policy and vowed to increase people-to-people contact, trade and other relations with ASEAN members. In the backdrop of the initiatives like Act East Policy, Make in India, Skill development, MSME access to finance through the MUDRA Scheme, creation of North East Food Park, Bamboo Park, etc, Assam and other NE states have geared up to become commercial centres in various sectors, especially the agri-horti sector,” he said. Prof Mukhi said that the availability of agri-horticultural resources and their organic cultivation in NE have created a huge export potential. Moreover, an organized system of certification, production and marketing with better post-harvest technology, supply chain management and branding, NE can become the nerve-centre of an organic hub in accordance with the plan and policies of the present governments at the Centre and in the State, he added. Prof Mukhi outlined some major drawbacks for the food processing industries of the region, like lack of supply chain, storage facilities, packaging, limited use of latest technologies, market linkage, etc, and advocated taking remedial steps to remove these shortcomings. He congratulated CII for organizing this event here and urged industry bodies to work as a catalyst with governments for developing the food processing sector in the region.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
No Change in Cotton Seed Price: Agrimin

The agriculture ministry has decided not to change cotton seed price after the Delhi High Court ruled that Monsanto Technologies’ patents on a manmade gene used in Bt cotton seed variety Bollgard II were not valid. Officials said the government would wait for the judgement of the Supreme Court, where the matter is now being heard. The National Seed Association of India (NSAI) has urged the government to scrap the trait fee on Bollgard II cotton to benefit farmers. “There will be no change in cotton seed price for this season. Planting has already started in some parts of Punjab and will pick up in the coming days. The matter is now being heard in the Supreme Court and we will go by the final judgment,” said an agriculture ministry official. The Supreme Court did not grant a stay on the HC judgement, but justices Rohinton Nariman and Abhay Manohar Sapre sought the response of Monsanto Technology, Nuziveedu Seeds and other seed companies. The matter has been posted for hearing on July 18. NSAI director general Kalyan Goswami had discussions with the Department of Agriculture to scrap the trait fee on Bt II cotton seeds. “We have conveyed to the government and it is up to them to take it forward,” said Goswami. The government had in March revised Bt cotton seed prices, including trait value or tech fees, to support distressed farmers hit by frequent pink bollworm pest attacks. The price of Bollgard II was kept at Rs 740 per packet of 450 gm each, including trait value of Rs 39, which seed companies pay to the technology provider, Monsanto Mahyco Biotech (India). India is the world’s biggest cotton producer with eight million farmers who buy 50 million such seed packets annually to plant on 12.26 million hectares.

The Financial Express, Thiruvananthapuram
Pineapple trade sniffs bonanza in Centre’s crop export policy

It’s a double bonanza for Asia’s largest pineapple market, nine years after the Vazhakkulam Pineapple got the Geographical Indicator (GI) tag. Just when the Vazhakkulam pineapple merchants came together to announce that this market will be a hartal-free zone (free of business bandhs), pineapple has figured high in the potential export basket in the Centre’s draft national crop export policy. “Incentivising pineapple exports, as the draft crop export policy recommends, would nearly double the price realisation of Indian pineapple. At present, because of transportation glitches and fast perishability, only about 12 tonne per day are exported from Vazhakkulam,” said P P Joy, head and senior faculty, Pineapple Research Station, Vazhakkulam, near Kochi. The Centre’s draft national crop exports policy aims to boost agriculture exports from $35 billion in the current year to $60 billion by 2022-23. Apeda has identified pineapple and ginger as crops that will be free from export controls. The crop export policy is envisaged to be notified in a month. “If only there are effective cold chain and similar logistic facilities to ensure longer shelf life for pineapple, the exports can be ramped up. At present,Vazhakkulam Pineapple can be exported only as air cargo because of perishability issues,” says Thomas Varghese, president, Vazhakkulam Merchants Association. In fact, it is to counter losses due to frequent business bandhs in Kerala that the pineapple traders recently took a unanimous stand that they will not respond to calls for trade-hartal. In the current season, pineapple farmers are on their toes due to two reasons. One, there is a slight glut situation. From 3.25 lakh tonne in the last season, pineapple production in Vazhakulam has touched 4 lakh tonne this season. Secondly, the availability of trucks running between Vazhakulam market and buying markets in Maharashtra and other parts of the country has fallen by more than 30%.

10, May 2018
The Tribune, Chandigarh
Basmati regains top slot in agri products’ exports

After three years, basmati has regained the top slot in the exports of agri and processed food category in 2017-18, surpassing buffalo meat. During the year, basmati contributed 22.60% to the country’s total agricultural and processed food products’ exports (value-wise), followed by buffalo meat (21.86%). Buffalo meat has been the highest agri-related export item from India for three consecutive years i.e in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. In 2013-14, basmati was the top agri export item from the country. According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority’s (APEDA) provisional data, basmati worth Rs 26,841 crore was exported in 2017-18 as compared to Rs 21,605 crore in 2016-17. Basmati exports for 2017-18 stood at 40.52 lakh tonnes as compared to 39.85 lakh tonnes during the corresponding period of the previous year. Though the volume-wise growth was not significant, the value-wise growth was around 25%. The rise in exports is attributed to increased buying from Iran and the UAE and higher per-unit realisation. As against per-tonne realisation of around $805 during 2016-17, basmati commanded an average price of $1,028 per tonne in 2017-18. Punjab and Haryana account for nearly 70% of the total basmati production in the country. On the other hand, the total value of buffalo meat exports was Rs 25,988 crore in 2017-18 as compared to Rs 26,303 crore in 2016-17. Industry sources said low realisation and almost flat growth were the main reasons for decline in value. They added that because of ban on trade of cattle for slaughter in certain states, the volume growth was less than 2%, which attributed to decline in value.

Business Line, Kochi
Cashew industry wants ban on cheap imports from Vietnam

Import of inferior cashew kernels from Vietnam have to be stopped and policy loopholes plugged to protect the ailing domestic cashew industry. The domestic cashew industry had weathered Vietnamese competition in 2014 -15 on its own strength. But consequent to the ASEAN agreement, low quality broken kernels are finding their way into the domestic market, broken kernels are mixed in husk and smuggled in, and HS Code of Raw Cashew is used to import at low duty by traders, says India’s cashew promotion body. Imports during April-December 2017 were over five lakh tonnes (lt) valued at Rs 7,325 crore. These issues have been highlighted in the revival package sought by the Cashew Export Promotion Council of India (CEPCI) to the Centre for the resurgence of the crisis-ridden industry. CEPCI, as a short-term measure, has urged the government to impose a complete ban or imposition of 100 per cent duty with increased MIP as well as inclusion of cashew husk imports under the negative list. RK Bhoodes, Chairman, CEPCI, said the import duty on raw cashew nuts should be brought back to zero per cent as earlier to help small non-exporting units. Such gestures should be continued till self-sufficiency is attained in domestic production. Suggesting mechanisation and automation as a long-term solution, the Council pointed out that this was the reason Vietnam was able to procure raw cashew nuts at high price. The mechanised units process 80 kg cashew for Rs 1,300-1,500 while manual units do it at Rs 3,000-4,000. The government should promote mechanisation by extending soft loans that will help in scaling up production and open more job opportunities. Cashew plantations have to be promoted across the country to reach self-sufficiency in raw material. The raw cashew production in India is 700,000 lakh tonnes against the requirement of 1.6 lakh tonnes inviting an import of 900,000 tonnes.

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Cheap China Alternative Hits Indian Guar Gum Prices

Guar gum prices have fallen about 10% in the past one month amid intensifying competition from China. The North American oil drilling industry is relying more on slick water and friction reducer from China which is available at half the price of guar gum, exporters said. Prices of guar gum, which is used in shale gas fracking, have fallen even as oil drilling has increased in North America as crude oil prices have shot up. Guar gum powder has unique binding, thickening and emulsifying qualities, which make it suitable for fracking. “But alternative fracking agents such as slick water and friction reducer from China are posing stiff competition to Indian guar gum,” said PK Hissaria, managing director, Sunita Hydrocolloids. He said guar gum prices had dropped about 10% in a month to Rs 80-82 per kg in the physical market. Competition from Chinese fracking agents comes at a time when the United States has stepped up its oil rigging activities. According to agency reports, US energy companies added oil rigs for a fifth week in a row as they follow through on plans to spend more on drilling this year, with higher crude oil prices boosting their profits and pushing nationwide production to record highs. Drillers added nine oil rigs in the week to May 4, increasing the total count to 834, the highest level since March 2015, General Electric Company’s energy services firm Baker Hughes said last week. Hissaria said India exported about 4.4 lakh metric tonnes of guar gum in 2017-18. “This may go up 10% in the current fiscal. It all depends on how export markets behave in the coming months,” he said.

The Financial Express, Pune
Earnings from oilmeal exports up 48% 2017-18

Earnings from oilmeal exports have increased 48% during the year 2017-18 at Rs 4,758 crore as compared to Rs 3,219 crore last year, revealed the data shared by the Solvent Extractors Association of India (SEA). The overall export of oilmeals in April 2018 dropped to 1,55,069 tonnes as against 2,03,698 tonnes in April 2017, while the export of rapeseed meal has sharply increased to nearly 1,00,000 tonnes, mainly to South Korea, SEA reported. According to the data shared by the association, the overall export of oilmeals during the year (2017-18) has revived and reported at 30,25,538 tonnes as against 18,85,480 tonnes during the same period of last year (2016-17). In term of value, total earning increased by 48% to Rs 4,758 crore from Rs 3,219 crore in the corresponding period, thanks to higher export of rapeseed meal of 6,63,988 tonnes (up by 209%), ricebran extractions 5,94,129 tonnes (up by 77%) and castorseed meal 5,72,762 tonnes (up by 39%). The export of rapeseed meal, de-oiled rice bran, castorseed meal and groundnut meal service by SEA reached 18,37,720 tonnes (valued at Rs 1,850 crore) compared to 9,65,011 tonnes in 2016-17 (valued at Rs 984 crore), up by 90%. The soybean meal FOB prices have moved upward during the year by nearly $100 to $487 in April 2018. During April 2018, Vietnam imported 8,381 tonnes of oilmeals (from 38,367 tonnes in year-ago period); consisting of 400 tonnes of soybean meal, 381 tonnes of rapeseed meal and 7,600 tonnes of de-oiled rice bran extraction. South Korea imported 95,579 tonnes of oilmeals (from 11,639 tonnes in year-ago period); consisting 94,755 tonnes of rapeseed meal and 824 tonnes of soybean meal. Bangladesh imported 15,790 tonnes of soybean meal, while France procured 23,504 tonnes of oilmeals (from 1,144 tonnes in year-ago period); consisting 22,995 tonnes of soybean meal and 509 tonnes of castor meal.

Business Line, Chennai
Fluid political situation in W Asia, mixed crop outlook squeeze mango pulp processors

Uncertain political climate in major markets in West Asia and mixed crop outlook in the domestic production centres are worrying the mango pulp units in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh ahead of the coming processing season. Krishnagiri and Chittoor, the neighbouring districts, in the two States together account for 8-10 lakh tonnes of mango pulp production during a good season accounting for the bulk of the domestic output. But that is in a good year. This year is a different story, output could be down by more than half in Krishnagiri because of the fluid marketing situation in West Asia. For the same reason Chittoor could also be affected and in addition the crop outlook is uncertain. Unseasonal rains earlier this year hit mango orchards during the flowering season say processors there. D Mathiazhagan, President, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri Fruit Processors Association, says in Tamil Nadu the season is expected to start by June with arrivals of Thothapuri variety of mangoes. Crop outlook is not a major concern after last year’s drought-hit low. The units in this hub are likely to process about 2-2.5 lakh tonnes of fruits to produce about 75,000-1 lakh tonnes of pulp. This will add to the carry over stocks of about 15,000 tonnes of pulp available from the last season. This is a rough estimate as processors do not give out such information, he said. Primarily, their main markets in West Asia are strife-torn and sales have been impacted. Units will now have to look more to domestic fruit juice makers to sell their pulp. Last year export prices had started at about $750 a tonne and dropped to about $575. This time around the price outlook is uncertain, he said.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
GM food labelling proposal opposed

The national food safety authority has proposed labelling to distinguish genetically modified food sold in India from other eatables, months after it told the Supreme Court that GM food was not allowed in the country, activists campaigning against GM crops said. The draft labelling regulations proposed by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are inconsistent with the authority's affidavit to the court last year, the Coalition for a GM-Free India said. The FSSAI website had last month published draft regulations that would require all food products containing five per cent of more "genetically engineered" ingredients to display a label. Such labelling is intended to help consumers distinguish between foods that contain GM ingredients and those that do not. In a letter sent to the FSSAI, the coalition has asked the authority to delete the provision for labelling GM food. It has cited an affidavit the FSSAI had furnished in the Supreme Court last year, which said: "The central government has not notified any regulation... in regard to the manufacture, distribution, sale and import of GM foods. Hence, GM foods are not allowed in the country and neither can be regulated till such notification." The coalition has said the labelling requirement "allows for GM foods to come into the food supply chain and on shop shelves, with a simple labelling proviso being fulfilled, when it is illegal to sell GM foods in the first instance". An FSSAI official said the draft rules proposing labels on GM foods were part of the authority's efforts to establish standards for food labelling in the country.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
India Gate Basmati rice: GST profiteering charge against KRBL dismissed

The second order delivered by the National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) went in favour of the firm — and not the consumer — as the first one did. The authority found no evidence of profiteering by Delhi-based KRBL which sells ‘India Gate Basmati Rice’, as alleged by a consumer. The first order over a complaint against Honda car dealer in Uttar Pradesh had also found no evidence of profiteering. In the KRBL case, the complainant, a consumer, had petitioned the standing committee on anti-profiteering alleging that the maximum retail price of ‘India Gate Basmati Rice’ had been increased by the firm between August and October last year. According to the applicant, the price of 10-kg pack of the said brand of rice in August, 2017 was Rs 540, which was raised subsequently to Rs 585 in October. The order, delivered by three members of the authority, including the chairman B N Sharma, said that examination of the company’s summary return (GSTR-3B) for three months last year showed that the input tax credit (ITC) available to the firm as a percentage of total taxable supplies during these months varied between 2.69% to 3%. “However, as the GST rate on taxable outward supply was 5%, the ITC available was insufficient to discharge the GST liability and thus, the balance amount of GST had been paid in cash during the above period and since the ITC available was less than GST liability on the outward supplies, there was no net benefit of ITC which could have been passed on to the consumers, and therefore, there was no violation of provisions of Section 171 of the GST Act,” the order said.

Business Line, Coonoor
Initial strain eases in March

The setback in the country’s tea production in the first two months of current calendar over 2017 was reversed in March with higher output in the North. Consequently, the overall Q1 production was more. The Tea Board’s data for March pegs production at 61.04 million kg (mkg) against 56.16 mkg in March 2017, marking a gain of 4.88 mkg or 8.68 per cent, Rajesh Gupta, compiler of annual Global Tea Digest told. Unlike in January and February when output in North and South India was down, in March, North India managed a higher output, thanks to improved weather conditions and the factories re-opening after the winter closure. In March, North India produced 46.72 mkg against 41.49 mkg in March 2017, marking an increase of 5.23 mkg or 12.61 per cent. South India produced 14.32 mkg (14.67 mkg), a 2 per cent drop due to prolonged winter conditions. In the first quarter, India produced 92.20 mkg (88.91 mkg), marking a gain of 3.70 per cent according `to our compilation’, Rajesh Gupta said. This was possible because of North India producing 53.86 mkg against 49.57 mkg, posting a gain of 4.29 mkg or 8.65 per cent. This increase was enough to offset the loss of one million kg or 2.54 per cent in South India where the output in the first quarter slipped to 38.34 mkg from 39.34 mkg in Jan-Mar 2017.

Business Line, Mumbai
NCDEX gets SEBI nod to set up clearing corporation

The National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange of India (Ncdex) has received in-principle approval from commodity market regulator SEBI to set up a standalone clearing corporation, to be called National Commodity Clearing Ltd (NCCL). The exchange plans to invest Rs 100 crore in the clearing corporation, which is being set up in line with a SEBI directive to de-mutualise commodity exchange operations and promote transparency. The exchange will transfer all its existing technology for clearing trades to the newly formed wholly-owned clearing corporation. “The work on constituting board members and other required infrastructure is currently under process,” Vijay Kumar, Managing Director, NCDEX told. The exchange will use internal accruals to fund the clearing corporation, he said. NCDEX has to increase the net worth of the clearing corporation to Rs 300 crore by September 2019, per SEBI guidelines. NCCL will begin by offering its services to NCDEX and explore opportunities to extend the services to other interested exchanges, said Kumar. The combination of NCDEX’s trading platform, repository services of National E-Repository Ltd and clearing and settlement facilities of NCCL will ensure depth in commodity futures trading, he added. The clearing and settlement covers products spanning agricultural commodities, precious metals and other non-agricultural commodities. By establishing NCCL, the exchange is attempting to leverage its clearing and settlement expertise in the agri-commodity domain, Kumar said. It is also aiming to plug gaps with a robust and stringent risk management and settlement platform for the collective benefit of the agri ecosystem, he added. NCDEX will transfer clearing and settlement, deposit and risk management functions to the new entity soon. The clearing corporation will derisk the functioning of commodity exchanges particularly when the market regulator Sebi is planning to open up the market for a new set of participants including mutual funds, institutional investors and banks.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Sugar outlook remains weak despite govt's cane subsidy: Icra

The overall outlook for sugar remained weak even when the government's cane subsidy might marginally improve operational profitability of the mills, Icra said in a report. "With the reduced cane costs, the total contribution margin is likely to increase by around Rs 500 per tonne of sugar produced, which translates into a one-and-a-half% margin at the operating level," Icra Ratings Senior Vice President and Group Head Sabyasachi Majumdar said. However, he said, in inspite of the expected marginal improvement in operating profitability, the overall profitability outlook for the sugar sector remained weak for FY19.

The Hindu, Kolkata
Tea output rises 5.9% to 1,325 million kg in 2017-18

Indian tea output touched 1,325.1 million kg in 2017-18, rising by 5.9%, according to figures released by the Tea Board of India. Exports too hit a high of 256.6 million kg, rising by 12.7% during this year. “Much of this increased output comes from the STG [small tea growers] segment,” said Tea Board Chairman P.K. Bezboruah, adding that the organised sector was stagnant. An official statement said that 2017-18 exports increased by 12.7% at 256.6 million kg. Egypt, China Pakistan and Russia were among the countries buying more Indian tea. Mr. Bezboruah said that it would be a great achievement if the export level could be sustained. S. Soundararajan, Director, Tea Development Tea Board, said that during 2017-18, output of high value orthodox tea and green tea increased. Both command good prices in the international market. India’s export earnings rose 13.8% in dollar terms and 9.3% in rupee terms in 2017-18. The industry, however, was less jubilant about the production performance saying tea prices had stagnated. Auction prices of tea had risen by an average of 10% between January and December, but remained low between January and April 2018 at about Rs 117 per kg.

The Tribune, Guwahati
White tea fetches record Rs 12,403 a kg

White tea produced at a tea garden in Dibrugarh, Assam broke record in all-India auction by fetching the highest-ever price of Rs 12,403 a kg. The previous record was of Rs 12,001 in 2017. The Jogipather brand white tea, manufactured at Pipratoly Tea Estate in Chabua (Dibrugarh), was bought by Mundhra Tea Co. Found to possess tremendous medicinal and health qualities, the white tea is manufactured from unopened tea buds and the manufacturing cost is very high.

9, May 2018
The Tribune, Chandigarh
Co-op banks reassessing farm loan limit

In the wake of banking crisis and rural indebtedness, cooperative banks are reassessing the credit limit of farmers. Studies by various universities and NGOs have shown that the limit has been misused by beneficiaries for non-farm activities, leading to an ever-increasing percentage of farmers being caught in the vortex of debt. However, the limit has been revised from Rs 27, 000 per acre to Rs 30,000 per acre from this season. Sources in the Cooperative Department said cooperative banks/societies across the state had asked the farmers to submit fresh copies of “jamabandi” (ownership record) so that the limit could be lowered or hiked based on the ownership record. There have been instances where the farmers sold off their land before clearing their account. Another way to prevent the misuse of loans is by doing away with the practice of giving cash to the farmers for purchasing fertilisers and pesticides. They can be rather issued ATM cards. Long queues are witnessed outside suvidha centres for getting copies of “jamabandi”. Since the document runs into 20-30 pages, a farmer ends up paying Rs 20 per page or Rs 400-Rs 600 for the papers. “This is an avoidable burden and can be solved by reverting to the previous practice of asking panchayat secretaries to get the land record of loan applicants from the patwari of the village concerned,” said Bharti Kisan Union chief BS Rajewal. This information is on the Internet and is easy for the panchayat secretaries to download the relevant record and get it verified from patwaris. “This will save the farmers from a lot of harassment,” he added.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi farmers will get trained in new agricultural tech

Come August and farmers in the national capital will learn new techniques of crop production. Under the ‘Smart Krishi Yojna’ scheme, the government plans to develop three demonstration farms where farmers will be taught new cultivation techniques using the latest technology and machinery. In Delhi, agriculture and horticulture contributes about 1% of the state gross domestic product (GDP). According to census 2011, Delhi has 20,000 farmers and 30,000 hectares of land is under agricultural activities. “The cropping pattern of Delhi includes wheat, paddy and mustard. There is a good scope for their market value, hence, intensification of their cultivation is required to meet the domestic consumption. Under this scheme, a first in Delhi, farmers will be provided technology to adopt high-yielding, high-quality varieties of agricultural and horticultural crops,” an official from the government’s development department, said. According to the proposal, the demonstration farms will have training halls, godowns, mushroom cultivation labs, bee-keeping training-cum-production units, solar pumps, and a packaging house with grading and packing machines. The aim is to make farmers capable of enhancing their income and reduce supply dependency on neighbouring states, she said. A budget allocation of Rs 10 crore has already been made against an estimated project cost of Rs 85 crore. The department is now in the process of appointing a consultant to finalise the specific features of the scheme. A typical demonstration farm needs 10-15 acres of land. Officials said the government was scouting for land parcels. “Farmers will be taught urban kitchen gardening for which the government will provide free kitchen gardening kits to interested farmers and even resident welfare associations,” an official said on condition of anonymity. The proposal talks about teaching a section of farmers to shift their cropping pattern from cultivation of agriculture crops to horticultural and floricultural crops as they yield better returns with limited resources.

Business Line, Neemuch
Garlic prices nosedive in Madhya Pradesh

Garlic farmers in Madhya Pradesh are protesting, saying they are being forced to throw away their produce due to a sharp plunge in wholesale prices to as low as Rs 1/kg. Some blame the crash in prices to “a bumper crop” this season, coupled with limited buying interest from traders due to liquidity constraint. The agitated farmers in Malwa — the largest garlic producing region in the State — are also blaming the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for their plight. MP is one of the leading producers of the key kitchen staple in the country. The farmers protested at the Shamgarh vegetable market in the neighbouring Mandsaur district over the plunging prices of garlic. The transportation costs and other expenses are making it unviable to sell the produce in mandis, farmers said. According to mandi sources, the garlic crop commanded a rate of Rs 50-80 per kg in the Neemuch vegetable market in January this year, but prices have been on a downward trend since then. In January last year, the rate was Rs 30-50, while in November-December it was Rs 5-20/kg. Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sabha Chairman Jasvinder Singh demanded that the government provide a minimum support price (MSP) for the entire crop.

Business Line, Mumbai
GM cotton patents: SC refuses to stay order against Monsanto

The Supreme Court refused to grant a stay on a Delhi High Court ruling that the US company Monsanto cannot claim patents on its GM cottonseeds, but the world’s largest seed maker said it is “confident on the merits” of its case. The Delhi High Court last month concurred with Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, which argued that India’s Patent Act does not allow Monsanto patent cover for its genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds. The case is being submitted for an expedited preliminary hearing on July 18, said a Monsanto India spokesman. “We remain confident on the merits of the case. India has been issuing patents on man-made biotech products for more than 15 years, as is done widely across the globe,” the Monsanto India spokesman said. The Centre approved Monsanto’s GM cottonseed trait, the only lab-altered crop allowed in India, in 2003 and an upgraded variety in 2006. The approvals helped turn the country into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of the fibre. Monsanto’s GM cotton seed technology now dominates 90 per cent of the country’s cotton acreage. “The Delhi High Court’s decision in April would provide relief to farmers by reducing royalties and seed prices,” said Kalyan Goswami, Director-General of the National Seed Association of India. Details of the Supreme Court’s refusal to grant a stay on the ruling against Monsanto were not immediately available.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Insect ‘mili bird’, fungus ‘sooty mould’ hit Nalbari farmers

Attack of a small insect ‘mili bird’ followed by a fungus called ‘sooty mould’ has turned into an endemic form in Nalbari district affecting horticultural crops on a large scale. The joint attack of mili bird and sooty mould has created a black layer on the leaves, flowers and fruits of the infected plants. The plants after the attack become weak and gradually dry up. Plants of coconut, banana, betel nut, papaya have been adversely affected in the district. The situation has turned worse since the Agriculture department has remained a silent spectator on this serious problem. Though mili bird and sooty mould generally attack plants like papaya, but now they have started attacking all horticultural crops like mangoes, coconut, betel nut, banana, among others. “As the number of papaya plant is reducing and the population of mili bird and sooty mould are fast growing they are migrating to other crops,” said senior scientist of Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat. He said that to save the plant from the attack of fungus sooty mould, the Agriculture department must carry out massive efforts to wash the infected plants. Senior scientist of Nalbari Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) Dr Mridul Deka said that the small insect mili bird secretes honey dew on the leaves, flowers and fruits and invites fungus sooty mould to the plants. The sooty mould fungus is a black powdery coat which adheres to plants and their fruits. It affects the photosynthesis process of the plants and finally dries them up, he added. The productivity of the infected plants is also reduced. The Agriculture department so far has taken no steps to combat the alarming situation arising in the district. If the problem further continues, the horticultural crops in the district will be destroyed soon, it was alleged.

Business Line, Bengaluru
JD(S) promises farm-loan waiver

With less than a week to go for the Karnataka elections, the Janata Dal (Secular) unveiled its manifesto, which declared that the party would implement a farm-loan waiver in 24 hours of coming to power. The loan waiver would include crop and horticulture loans, and medium-term loans. The poll document also promises free seeds and fertilisers. The manifesto was released by JD(S) State President and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy. The 28-page manifesto also promised free power and 30-kg rice to BPL families. Women get a special mention in the manifesto. Those who vote in the elections will get an incentive of Rs 2,000 while pregnant women will get Rs 6,000 per month for three months before and after delivery. A pension will be provided for widows, differently-abled people and senior citizens. A JD (S) government will also introduce “spoken Kannada” and “spoken English” in all government schools. Skills, hobbies, talent identification from middle-schools will continue until graduation and will be part of a “revised” education system, the manifesto said. The other main parties, the Congress and the BJP have already released their respective manifestos.

Business Line, Chennai
Mango exporters in South worried by new norms in a traditional market

South Indian mango exporters, particularly in Tamil Nadu, are worried about being excluded from Malaysia, a traditional market. It has insisted on irradiation treatment of fruits and restricted the States from which the fruits can be sourced. Exporters understand that the irradiation treatment is to kill mango weevil, an insect pest that lives inside the seed. But their concern is that import permits are limited to mangoes from Maharashtra, UP and Gujarat which it considers weevil-free. According to official statistics, these three States account for one-third of India’s mango production of about 186 lakh tonnes. Malaysian mango imports is estimated at about Rs 100 crore annually, about 10,000 tonnes, and exports from India had been allowed free till 2016. But over the last couple of years the challenges have emerged, according to the Tamil Nadu Agro Products Exporters Forum. The Forum’s coordinator Ka Ve Ezhilan told the government should take up the issue as Malaysia has insisted on irradiation treatment of mangoes but continues with limiting imports of fruits to the three States which it says are weevil-free. In addition, mango exporters have expressed worry over the inadequate treatment facilities in South India. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra account for nearly half of India’s mango production. Apart from irradiation, exporters need treatment facilities such as automatically controlled hot water baths. European countries expect mangoes to be dunked in 50 degrees centigrade water for one hour to kill the fruit fly that lives in the pulp. Japan insists on water vapour treatment for 30 minutes. But the irradiation facility, which Australia and the US also insist on, is only available in Bengaluru; vapour heat treatment in Tirupati; and the hot water treatment in Bengaluru and Tirupati for entire South India. More such facilities are needed, Ezhilan said.

Mint, New Delhi
Monsanto CEO to step down after Bayer deal

Monsanto Co. said chief executive officer Hugh Grant will step down after the seeds company completes a deal to be acquired by Bayer AG. Grant, a company veteran, took over as chief executive in 2003. Along with Grant, other senior executives including chief financial officer Pierre Courduroux and chief technology officer Robert Fraley will also leave following the deal’s close, the company said. German conglomerate Bayer is preparing to close its $62.5 billion takeover of Monsanto this quarter in a deal that will give it control of more than 25% of the world’s seed and pesticides market. Bayer has also been divesting significant assets to win over antitrust regulators for its proposed takeover of Monsanto.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Rapeseed powers oilmeal export earnings in 2017-18; growth up 48%

Earnings from the oilmeal exports have increased by 48 per cent during 2017-18 at Rs 4,758 crore as compared with Rs 3,219 crore last year, revealed the data shared by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA). The growth in the export earnings is attributed to higher export of rapeseed meal at 663,988 tonnes, which more than doubled over previous year; ricebran extractions at 594,129 tonnes (up 77 per cent) and castorseed meal at 572,762 tonnes (up 39 per cent). In a statement SEA stated, “The efforts made by SEA in promoting export of various oilmeals has yielded positive results. The export of rapeseed meal, de-oiled rice bran, castorseed meal and groundnut meal reached 1,837,720 tonnes valued at Rs 1,850 crore as against 965,011 tonnes in 2016-17 worth Rs 984 crore — indicating a 90 per cent jump.Data revealed that FOB price for soyameal increased by over $100 per tonne in the last one year from $386 to $487 as on April 2018. Among the major export destinations for India’s oilmeals were South Korea, France, Bangladesh and Vietnam.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Regulator wants GM label on food products

Seeking to introduce GMO labelling for the first time in India, the food regulator has proposed all packaged food products containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients must clearly state it on their labels. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also suggests mandatory declaration by food manufacturers about nutritional information such as calories, total fat, trans fat, sugar and salt per serve on the front of the pack. Since the country has no provision for GM labelling in its regulatory mechanism, consumers are clueless whether packaged food items they buy have genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. In absence of clear labelling, consumers are clueless about GM ingredients, amid ‘unproven’ concerns among some about their adverse effects. The FSSAI had last month released a 42-page draft notice — Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 — making labels amndatory for products containing 5% or more GM ingredients. Pitching for a colour code, the draft proposes high fat, sugar and salt will be coloured ‘red’ in case the value of energy from sugar is more than 10% of the total energy provided the product. It has similar provisions for transfat and sodium content. Draft says nutritional information may additionally be provided as a bar code. The labelling issue has, however, drawn flak from certain quarters. Stakeholders have flagged the move as inconsistent and ultra vires for FSSAI. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, co-convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, who sent the group’s objections on the FSSAI draft told labelling would allow the GM foods to enter supply chain, though it is illegal to sell them in India currently. “We need preventive action rather than regulatory action,” he said. Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, said, “The GM labelling is an important step but we need advanced lab facilities to check whether the food contains GM ingredients.”

The Hindu, Chittoor
Tomato prices fall in Madanapalle

The farmers of the Madanapalle region, host to tomato farming in 15,000 hectares, are a worried lot with summer heat crossing 36 degrees C, which has its impact on the quality and production of the crop during the last fortnight. Though the output has doubled in the last three months, the prices are yet to pick up. The model price for the number one variety stood at Rs 56 per 10 kg box, and the second at Rs 30 per box. Though the stocks are reaching the Madanapalle market in several loads, the prices are not encouraging, say the farmers. From the last week of April, the produce showed signs of cracks due to intolerance to the abnormal heat. Mercury hardly crossed 35 degrees Celsius in the previous years in the area. For this reason, the first variety loads have dwindled, leaving the second variety to thrive, causing concern at trading. As the undamaged stocks are being sent to all over Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and other southern States, the domestic market has to depend on the loads with cracks and black spots. The trade is unlikely to bring cheers to the farmers till May end or June first week, though it is projected that the stocks reaching the market would increase from the present 360 tonnes a day to more than 500 tonnes. Expecting profits, the farmers of Anantapur district, Chintamani, Rayalpadu and other border areas of Karnataka are also thronging the Madanapalle market. Despite the discouraging conditions, they have some consolation that the price is better than their domestic markets. Market Committee (Madanapalle) Chairman Ratakonda Gurappa Naidu said compared to the other markets in Rayalaseema or the southern States, the trade is not that disappointing.

8, May 2018
The Times of India, New Delhi
CBI probes Rs 1,200 cr UP sugar mill ‘scam’

Former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati may find herself in choppy waters with the CBI taking over the probe into the alleged disinvestment of 21 state-owned sugar mills in 2010-11, which caused a loss of Rs 1,179 crore to the state government. Former minister in Mayawati government (2007-2012) and once her close aide, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, had claimed last year that the “sugar mills were sold on the instructions of then CM Mayawati and BSP general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra”. However, Mayawati had claimed that the sale order for the sugar mills was issued by Siddiqui, who was later ousted from the party. The Yogi Adityanath government referred the alleged ‘scam’ to the CBI on April 12, and asked the agency to look into the “entire sale proceedings of 21 sugar mills” including use of bogus companies and documents in the purchase of seven closed mills in Deoria, Bareilly, Laxmiganj, Hardoi, Ramkola, Chittauni and Barabanki. In its notification the Yogi government sought a CBI probe as the culprits could be from outside the state. Uttar Pradesh’s principal secretary (home) Arvind Kumar told, “There were certain discrepancies in the sale of around 21 sugar mills which were auctioned. The probe has been handed over to CBI.” Sources said CBI has already started reviewing documents related to the sale and FIRs could be registered very soon. The agency will look into the role of “politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen” involved in the scam. The UP government has shared with the CBI a 2017 FIR against two companies which bought mills — Namrata Marketing Pvt Ltd and Girasho Company Pvt Ltd — which sources said were ‘bogus’, and the enquiry report of the state government. The sale of sugar mills at “dirt cheap” prices was flagged by the CAG as well.

The Times of India, Ahmedabad
Exotic pest casts its shadow on pomegranate crop

Just when pomegranate farming was getting popular with dry farmland cultivators in North Gujarat and Kutch using drip irrigation, an exotic pest, Lopholeucaspis japonica, has begun infesting pomegranate plants. A team of scientists from Indian Council of Agricultural Research-National Research Center on Pomegranate (ICAR-NRCP), Solapur, had discovered the first L japonica infestation in a farm in Nakhatrana in Kutch district. The problem was immediately reported by the ICAR-NRCP scientist team that included Mallikarjun Harsur, Sunil Joshi and Ram Krishna Pal. The researchers observed L japonica, during March 2016, on a single pomegranate plant. “In a span of 9 to 10 months, the insect had spread to 58 five-year-old plants causing yellowing of the leaves, stunted growth and poor fruit. Its incidence gradually increased during July and August,” states their report. The pests first appear as white specks and then slowly and completely covers the stem, branches and twigs with insect colonies containing males, females and its immature stages. The averages length of an adult female is between 1.3mm and 1.5mm while it is 0.55 to 0.65 mm in width. L japonica have small microducts. The pest first infests the bark on the branches and trunk of its hosts. Heavy infestations causes senescence — where the plant cell loses its power of division and growth — and causes die-back of infested branches, resulting in premature leaf fall. Dinu Suthariya a Bhuj dealer in pomegranates came across the finding in the NCRP journal, “The state agriculture department has not warned us of any pomegranate infestation. It was only when I read the National Research Centre on Pomegranate ( NRCP) 2016-17 annual report on the infestation that I learnt about the new pest,” he said. “Till now most pomegranate produce is clean and healthy except for a few kilos of stunted fruits. But we have not been issued warnings by Gujarat’s agriculture department.”

Business Line, New Delhi
IBM, NITI Aayog tie up for crop-yield forecasts

Policy think tank NITI Aayog signed a Statement of Intent with information technology firm IBM to develop a crop-yield prediction model using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide real-time advisories to farmers in backward districts. The partnership aims to use technology to provide insights to farmers to improve crop productivity, soil yield and control agricultural inputs with the overarching goal of improving farmers’ incomes, an official release said. The agreement was signed in the presence of NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and Karan Bajwa, Managing Director, IBM India. “Bringing future technologies like Artificial Intelligence into practical use will have tremendous benefits for the practice of agriculture in the country, by improving efficiency in resource-use, crop yields and scientific farming,” Kant said. In the first phase, the project will focus on developing the model for 10 Aspirational Districts in the States of Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the release said.

The Tribune, Kolkata
Labour shortage: Potato prices surge in Bengal

Potato prices have climbed up sharply by 25 per cent last week but officials see nothing unusual. Retail potato prices in most city markets ranged between Rs 18 and Rs 20 a kg, up from Rs 14-15 since the beginning of the week. “Till now, the potatoes arriving in markets were from farmers’ storages which have been exhausted. The crop is now beginning to arrive from the cold storages which have caused the price rise,” said the West Bengal Cold Storage Association (WBCSA) president Patit Paban Dey. Potato prices have also shot up sharply in neighboring Odisha as well as a few other states. For each kilogram of potato coming out of the cold storages, there will an additional price load of Rs 4-5 per kg due to the cost involved in storage and that got added to the prevailing price, he said. The panchayat poll, set to be held in May 14, has created a crisis in availability of labourers of cold storages which accounted for the price rise caused due to a sudden supply shortage in few markets. Former president of the WBCSA Ramapada Paul said cold storages are able to supply only a fraction of the demand due to unavailability of labourers who are unwilling to come owing to pending panchayat election.

Business Line, New Delhi
10-day farmers strike from June 1

An umbrella body of 110 farmers’ organisations, the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, has said that it will not supply farm products such as vegetables, grains and milk to cities across the country for 10 days from June 1. This is in protest against what the organisation has called the anti-farmer policies of the Centre. A nation-wide Bharat bandh will be held on June 10 till 2 pm. The organisation also claimed that farmers are yet to receive the minimum support price (MSP), 50 per cent higher than the cost of production as promised in the Budget. (The body said cost of production is C2 and not A2+FL.) A2 includes expenses — in cash and kind — incurred on seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, labour, fuel and irrigation, while A2+FL covers actual costs, plus value of unpaid family labour. C2 denotes A2+FL, along with costs for rentals on owned land and interest forgone on fixed capital assets. Along with the MSP increase, the organisation has also demanded a complete loan waiver from the Centre. The farmers also urged traders’ organisations to support their June 10 Bharat bandh. The Centre has extended the restriction on the import of urad and moong dal across all varieties, to stabilise domestic prices. According to a notification by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, the import policy on urad and moong, in spilt and other forms, has been restricted with a total annual import quota of 3 lakh tonnes. The restriction will, however, not apply to the government’s import commitments under bilateral/regional agreements and MoUs. Ivory Coast’s recent move to halt the distribution of high-yielding seeds and other advanced tools to cocoa farmers raises concerns regarding quality, production and immunity against diseases. The programme aims to improve cocoa productivity in an effort to tackle the oversupply which has driven prices to their lowest and slashed farmers’ income by more than a third.

The Telegraph, Shillong
Meghalaya seeks Japan help in farming

Meghalaya governor Ganga Prasad met Japanese ambassador to India Kenji Hiramatsu at Raj Bhavan here and sought Japan's support in transferring appropriate technology to develop infrastructure for strawberry cultivation in the state. The governor also urged the Japanese diplomat to review the travel advisory that cautioned Japanese citizens against visiting Meghalaya owing to security apprehensions as the situation has improved a lot in the state over the past few years. Hiramatsu also called on chief minister Conrad K. Sangma in his office at the main secretariat here. Stating that Meghalaya has good climatic conditions for shiitake mushroom cultivation, the governor told Hiramatsu that farmers can benefit immensely if a similar gesture is extended to Meghalaya as it had been done in Tamil Nadu. According to Prasad, the Japan International Cooperation Agency had in the past collaborated with the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, Coimbatore, through YATS Corporation, a private company, and facilitated technology transfer on mushroom cultivation. Japan is the world leader in Shiitake mushroom production. "In our state, we have native species of woody trees that are suitable for Shiitake mushroom cultivation," Prasad said. Meghalaya is also known for producing quality strawberry. The governor told the Japanese diplomat that the technical know-how to generate planting material for strawberry is inadequate in the state. Stating that appropriate steps should be taken to review the security situation in Meghalaya, the governor told Hiramatsu that the initiative would help build a long-term relationship between the people of Japan and India. Hiramatsu, who visited Meghalaya for the first time, said he discussed issues related to the state's infrastructure development and business opportunities, including food processing, with the governor.

Live Mint, New Delhi
Supreme Court rejects Monsanto plea on seed patent order

The Supreme Court refused to stay a 2 May Delhi high court order which held that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian law by companies like Monsanto Inc., and that royalties on genetically modified (GM) technology would be decided by a specialized agency of the agriculture ministry. As a result, the patent held by Monsanto, through its Indian arm Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) over its Bollgard-II Bt cotton seed technology, a GM variant which resists the bollworm pest, was decreed to be unenforceable in India. Monsanto’s appeal challenging the Delhi high court order was brought before a bench headed by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman who sought the response of seed companies over the issue. “Instead of taking intellectual property rights under Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, (PPVFR) Act, 2001, Monsanto took the patent route to exercise monopoly. They licensed this Bt cotton transgenic varieties to many Indian companies in the name of patent. This is held wrong by the high court. This will reduce royalties on seed prices and would give relief to farmers,” said Kalyan Goswami, director general of National Seed Association of India. The division bench of the Delhi high court comprising justices Ravindra Bhat and Yogesh Khanna had permitted MMBL to approach the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority (PPVFRA) under the agriculture ministry for registering the variety within three months, following which the authority would have to decide on a benefit-sharing mechanism. Currently, trait fees on Bt cotton seeds are decided by a price control committee under the agriculture ministry. The court also directed Monsanto to continue with its obligations under the sub-license agreements and allowed “the suit to proceed with respect to the claim for damages and other reliefs”, in the light of the sub-license termination notices issued by Monsanto.” The court’s order came in a case filed in 2015 by Monsanto, through MMBL, against

The Indian Express, Amravati
Chandrababu Naidu seeks PM Modi’s intervention on MSP, free power, crop insurance

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has sought the Prime Minister’s intervention to ‘quickly address’ MSP, free power and crop insurance that have a ‘deep and immediate bearing’ on welfare of the farm sector, which if left unaddressed, would badly hit farmers. The Chief Minister opposed the Centre’s reported move to do away with the free power supply scheme to the farm sector, saying it was ‘completely unjustified’. Naidu opposed the ‘unilaterally proposed amendment’ to the Electricity Act, 2003, coupled with the specific terms of reference to the 15th Finance Commission, saying it would be detrimental to farmers’ interests. “It is learnt that the Government of India is coming up with a proposal to amend the Electricity Act, 2003, which enables the Centre to double down on states not to offer free power to any segment of consumers. Also, Term 4 (viii) of the ToR of the Commission states that “the commission may consider proposing measurable performance-based incentives for states which control or lack of it in incurring expenditure on populist schemes”. These proposals, if viewed together, probably imply the intentions of the Central government to classify free power as ‘populist’ and accordingly penalise the states for offering free power, Chandrababu said. The argument to do away with free power to consumers, including farmers, was ‘completely unjustified’, the chief minister said. Since electricity was on the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, the views of states need to be ascertained in the true spirit before deciding on any legislation, the Chief Minister added. He requested the Centre to withdraw any proposal to amend the Electricity Act. Referring to crop insurance, Naidu said the Centre should make it mandatory for insurance companies to adopt technology from the ensuing Kharif season since there was a need for a robust process, backed by technology, to ensure timely settlement of genuine claims.

7, May 2018
The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Guv advocates capacity building of farmers to reap rich dividends

Curtains fell on the Vibrant North East 2018 with Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi, who was the chief guest, attending the concluding day of the three-day exposition, stated a press release. In his address, Prof Mukhi said the exposition would act as catalyst in transforming the North-east into an organic hub of the country and help the region formulate effective programme to take advantage of the growing demand of the global organic market, which is over 62 billion US Dollar at present. Speaking at the programme held at the AAU Veterinary College Ground, Khanapara here, the Governor said there is an urgent need for training and competence building, investments, marketing, processing, projects and infrastructure development to accelerate the capacity building of the region to sow the seeds and reap the dividends of organic market. He also reiterated that Vibrant North East 2018 would boost the governments’ efforts in creating better awareness towards investment and growth potential of the region. The Governor stated that the northeastern region is mainly dependent on agriculture. Each State of the region is famous for its unique horticultural produce, he added. “I believe North-east will be at top to achieve the target given by our Prime Minister to double farmers’ income by 2022. Our farmers have toiled hard and they are now self-sufficient and contributing to the nation’s endeavour of exporting agricultural produce to other countries,” Prof Mukhi said. Governor paid a visit to exhibition stalls which showcased products and technologies for benefits of farmers, entrepreneurs, youths and other stake-holders. Exhibition displayed products and services ranging from financial inclusion to micro irrigation, horticulture to rural crafts and skill development to entrepreneurship programmes. Organised jointly by the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development and ASSOCHAM, and with the active support of the Ministry of DoNER, Vibrant North East 2018 saw the participation of major Union ministries.

The Hindu, New Delhi
NFL to invest Rs 1,250 crore in 2 years on new plant, energy-saving projects

State-owned fertilizer firm NFL will invest Rs 1,250 crore over the next two years on energy-saving projects in its five existing plants and setting up a new factory in Madhya Pradesh to produce di-nitrogen tetroxide, CMD Manoj Mishra said. Besides, he said, National Fertilizers (NFL) is reviving a closed urea plant at Ramagundam, Telangana, in a joint venture with EIL, FCIL and the State government at an estimated cost of more than Rs 5,300 crore. NFL is also exploring the possibility of setting up a di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) plant in Algeria through a joint venture and under buyback arrangements, he said. “We have posted a record turnover of Rs 8,928 crore during the last fiscal. Urea production and sales were also at all-time highs,” Mr. Mishra told. NFL, which has five plants at Haryana, Punjab and M.P., produced a record 38.1 lakh tonnes of urea in 2017-18 fiscal with 118% capacity utilisation. Urea sales stood at 39.16 lakh tonnes. It imported 4.47 lakh tonnes of non-urea fertilizers like DAP and muriate of potash (MoP) and sold 3.93 lakh tonnes in the domestic market. Total sales of fertilizer was a record 43.09 lakh tonnes. The company has taken up energy-saving scheme at Nangal, Bathinda and Panipat units at an estimated cost of about Rs 650 crore, he said, adding that Rs 220 crore would go towards energy saving schemes at two plants —Vijaipur I & II — in M.P. with a capex of Rs 220 crore. Stating that NFL had bagged an order from ISRO to supply di-nitrogen tetroxide (N2o4), Mr. Mishra said the company would set up a plant at Vijaipur in M.P. at an investment of Rs 350 crore. The annual capacity of this plant would be 1,000 tonnes.

The Economic Times, Hyderabad
Andhra Opposes Cess on Sugar at GST Meet

The government of Andhra Pradesh, headed by Telugu Desam Party that recently exited the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, has at the GST Council meeting opposed the proposal of the Centre to impose cess on sugar. The cess on sugar at the rate not exceeding Rs 3 a kilogram over and above the GST rate of 5% was placed as item number eight on the agenda of GST Council’s 27th meeting through video conference. The justification made by the Centre for the proposed cess was that the sugar industry was in problems and the said collections would be utilised for the welfare of the sector. In a letter addressed to the Chairman of the GST Council, the Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said, “The government Andhra Pradesh is against the imposition of cess on sugar, as it causes additional burden on the common man.” Pointing out that “the levy of cess by the government of India is against the spirit of GST,” the Andhra finance minister said such a move would also result in additional burden on the states. Ramakrishnudu said the Centre had “long back stopped issuing sugar for public distribution and consequently the state governments are forced to bear subsidy burden on sugar supplied through PDS.”

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Despite less rains, maximum kharif crop production last year: Fadnavis

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the state had maximum agricultural production during the kharif season of 2017-18, despite 30 per cent less rainfall, due to effective water conservation schemes of the state government. Fadnavis said that farm production during last year was “historically positive” and was similar to the record one in 2012-13 that was aided by the state receiving 110 per cent of its average rainfall. “Last year, there was 30 per cent less rain but we had maximum production like in 2012-13. This is because of effective water conservation schemes like Jalyukt Shivar which helped to improve soil moisture and also provide irrigation,” Fadnavis said. “We have seen historically positive agriculture growth rate with our all round efforts. In spite of 30 per cent less rainfall last year, we could manage well due to our efforts for sustainable irrigation and an investment-based approach,” he added. He said that the meteorological department had predicted a satisfactory monsoon this year with a forecast of 92-110 per cent of the average rainfall. “This year too, the IMD (India Meteorological Department) has predicted a satisfactory monsoon. The forecast is that there will be 92 to 110 per cent rains. Farmers will benefit,” Fadnavis said. Fadnavis said that for the next month and a half, more concentration was needed on credit supply as well as on implementing the state government’s farm loan waiver scheme. “Collectors should plan and monitor this. Another area of monitoring is crop insurance so as to avoid any last moment rush,” Fadnavis. Fadnavis was speaking while chairing a review meeting of the Kharif season this year. The meeting was attended by cabinet ministers, secretaries of departments, Vice-Chancellors of various agriculture universities, collectors, CEOs of Zilla Parishads among others.

The Statesman, New Delhi
National rubber conference

The All India Rubber Industries Association (AIRIA) is set to organise the national rubber conference 2018 during 7-8 May in New Delhi. The theme of this event is "Technology adoption and market expansion". The event is envisaged as a major "platform for the rubber process and allied industry fraternity, especially in the MSME sector, based out of north India, to deliberate and find solutions to techno-commercial challenges...crucial to its performance", according to a statement issued by the AIRIA-northern region. The two-day conclave will be attended by participants, experts and stake-holders from rubber and allied industries as well as various technical and management institutions.

6, May 2018
Business Line, Chennai
Agripreneurs of Tamil Nadu peel European market for bananas

The first of banana exports to Europe will start in a couple of months through separate private initiatives in Tamil Nadu. This will eventually open the doors to markets in the West for the local varieties. One, the Trieste Port Authority in Italy is funding a project by the Tamil Nadu Banana Growers Federation, which is working with the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, to standardise harvesting and post-harvest facilities for banana exports. Through another project, a buyer based in Vienna, Austria, keen on Indian varieties for the local markets there, is supporting Tirupur-based fruits exporter Ka Ve Ezhilan of Greeneers Agro Products India. The exporter is partnering with the National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) and a consultant in IIT-Madras for a cable conveyor for moving harvested bananas to the pack house. This equipment has been demonstrated to the buyer who has approved the idea, he said. Ezhilan, who is, on his own initiative, investing overRs 10 crore in a pack house for fruits exports in Pollachi, says the first consignment of about 100 kg of Grand Naine variety of banana will be airlifted by the month-end. Then, exports will be stepped up and by September a 20-tonne consignment of the fruit will be shipped out. The objective is to move about 150 such containers a year. Ezhilan says farmers can benefit from a 20-25 per cent increase in prices as compared with the Rs 15-20 a kg they get now. Theni in Tamil Nadu is a major banana cultivation centre but exports are primarily restricted to Gulf countries and South-East Asia, targeting overseas Indians. But now, exporters are targeting developed markets in Europe. While initially, the Cavendish banana will be shipped, he plans to popularise local varieties including Red Banana, Poovan and Kathali.

The Pioneer, Bengaluru

As parties are fighting the crucial battle for supremacy in Karnataka, the BJP released its election manifesto in Bengaluru promising loan waiver as its main plank to the farming community. It said that it would waive off farm loan up to Rs 1 lakh taken from various institutions including nationalised banks. This indicates that saffron party continued its focus on farming community. BJP’S Chief Ministerial face BS Yeddyurappa along with other party leaders released the manifesto. It said “Crop loan waiver upto Rs 1 lakh, including all loans from nationalised banks and cooperatives, in our first cabinet meeting for the benefit of our Annadaatas.” Congress had released its election manifesto both for the state and the region wise has announced rupees 8,165 crore farm loan wavier. All three parties who are fighting crucial battle in Karnataka, the Congress, BJP and JDs have been focusing on farm sector. Continuing its focus on farmers, BJP announced ‘Negilayogi Yojane’ to provide direct income support of Rs 10,000 to 20 lakh dry land and marginal farmers. “Rs 5000 crore ‘Raitha Bandhu Market Intervention Fund’ to support farmers during price fluctuations,” the BJP announced. The manifesto talks about reintroducing Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation Bill 2012. BJP has also announced ‘Mukya Mantri Smartphone Yojane’ to provide free smartphones to women from below povertly line (BPL) families and free laptops to every student enrolling in a college. The party also announced free sanitary napkins to women from below poverty line (BPL) and girl students and at Rs 1 to other women under the new ‘Stree Suvidha Scheme’. It has also announced three gram gold thaali (mangalsutra) and Rs 25000 for marriage of women falling under BPL category under ‘Vivaha Mangala Yojane’.

Business Line, New Delhi
Decision on sugar cess, deferred; Ministers’ group to look into proposal

The GST Council has deferred the proposal to impose cess on sugar and has constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into the same. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the GoM will take a call on the proposal to impose cess at the rate of Rs 3 a kg over and above GST at the rate of 5 per cent. Money collected through cess will be used to provide financial support to the sugarcane farmers. The farmers are having a tough time as they are not getting their dues from mill owners, while mill owners say that the final product price is so low in the market making things difficult for them. However, many States are not in favour of this commodity-specific cess. In a letter to Jaitley, Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister, Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, requested not to impose cess on sugar, as it would cause additional burden on the common man. Further, he said the levy is against the spirit of GST which is ‘One Nation, One Tax’. He pointed out that the Central Government had already stopped issuing sugar for public distribution and consequently, the State Governments are forced to bear the subsidy burden on sugar supplied through PDS. Subsequent to the decisions taken at the meeting, two Group of Ministers (GoMs) have been constituted. The first shall consider issues relating to “Incentivising digital payments in the GST regime”. The second GoM shall consider issues relating to ‘Imposition of cess on sugar under GST’. Both the groups shall submit their reports within 15 days.

Business Line, New Delhi
Dust storm devastates vegetable crops, harvested wheat

The high-velocity dust storm followed by thundershowers which killed over 120 people and left a trail of destruction in parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh damaged much of standing vegetable crops, and hitting harvested wheat crop left in fields, farmer leaders said. “Nearly 50-60 per cent vegetable crops in Kiraoli, Kheragarh and Fatehabad tehsils of Agra Janpath were destroyed in the freak storm and showers that lashed the district,” said Bharat Singh, a farmer leader associated with Kisan Sabha in Agra said. Coming less than 20 days after a hailstorm on April 11 which devastated standing wheat crop in many parts of two other tehsils in the district — Agra and Etmadpur — it adds to the misery of the farmers, he said. Agra and neighbouring areas bore the brunt of the destruction forcing UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to rush back home abruptly ending his election campaign in Karnataka as it attracted widespread criticism. Yudhvir Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Unint (Tikait) leader, urged the State governments of Rajasthan and UP to immediately assess the damage caused by the untimely rains and compensate farmers. “The farmers in the affected areas are in dire straits,” Singh said. Natthi Lal, Secretary of Kisan Sabha in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, said there was nothing much left to be damaged by the latest bout of inclement weather as farms in and around Bharatpur was already ruined by the April 11 hailstorm. But in some areas, harvested wheat was still lying in the field and the farmers cannot get much from the crop as moisture content of the grains is bound to go up, he said.

Afternoon, Mumbai
GI tag to Alphonso mango from Konkan next year

The Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board (MSAMB) has applied for the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the popular Alphonso or Hapus mango from Konkan region so that its original identity is retained. The GI tag is allotted by a Chennai-based organisation to protect uniqueness of products. A geographical indication is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In addition to the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product should be essentially due to the place of origin. MSAMB officials have made it clear that the application for GI is expected to be cleared within a few months so that no other state will be able to use the 'Alphonso' tag henceforth. MSAMB and the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) have also joined hands with the Konkan Bhumi Pratishthan (KBP), who are hosting the Global Kokan Mango Festival at the Nehru Science Centre, until next Tuesday. During the inauguration of the festival, the Union Relied and Rehabilitation Minister, Madhav Bhandari said that the farmers are our original producers and they should be given due credit as they work the whole year round to yield the crop. Nearly 15 key farmer co-operative associations from Deogad, Ratnagiri, Kelshi and Sindhudurg representing 100 mango farm-owners are participating in the festival. Nehru Centre Director S.M. Khened said that the Nehru Science Center receives over 7 lakh visitors, mostly unaware of the farmers’ woes and as such, this event will go a long way in promoting mango.

The Tribune, Jammu
Govt agencies in a fix as farmers sell wheat to private millers

Even as threshing, winnowing and storing of wheat crop has picked up pace in the region, the government-run agencies are still in a fix to set up temporary mandis and procurement centres because farmers are getting better deal for their produce from private millers. The government has fixed the minimum support price (MSP) of wheat at Rs 1,735 per quintal but the farmers are getting between Rs 1,800 to Rs 1,830 per quintal from private millers. There are about 62 millers in the state — 32 in Jammu and 30 in Kashmir. While the Agriculture Department has identified 15 places to set up temporary mandis to procure wheat from the farmers, the FCI has been planning to establish five procurement centres but only if the price of produce falls below the MSP. “We have identified 15 places to set up temporary mandis but the farmers are selling their produce in the open market because they are getting higher rates than the MSP. They can come to our mandis if they don’t get the MSP from the market,” said HK Razdan, Director, Agriculture, Jammu. Razdan said a prolonged drought had impacted overall wheat production this year. “We will have statistics on the overall production in the next 15 days or so,” he said. Satish Bhagat, a procurement officer from the Agriculture Department, said wheat lifting was done by the FCI. “We had written to the FCI for opening 19 procurement centres. Our job is to ensure that farmers get the MSP for their produce,” he said. The Jammu region has 2.48 lakh hectares of agricultural land on which rabi crops, including wheat, are sown. Only 25 per cent of this area is irrigated. Nearly 75 per cent area, which comes around 1.85 lakh hectares, falls in kandi belt in five districts — Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Rajouri and parts of Udhampur.

The Shillong Times, Shillong
Mission Organic progresses steadily in M’laya

About 46,951 hectares of farmlands in Meghalaya have been brought under organic production even as the conversion target of 2lakh hectares by 2020 hinges primarily on the availability of funds under central and state government schemes. Currently, the land conversion process is being carried out through three schemes – Meghalaya Mission Organic, Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD-NER) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY). “The progress has been good. We are in the third year of conversion of 40,000 hectares under Mission Organic while another 6,000 hectares are being converted under MOVCD-NER and another 951 hectares under PKVY. However, the target that has been set to be achieved by 2020 will depend on the availability of funds,” B. Syiem, joint director, horticulture told. The conversion process, which involves selection of land area-wise, observation and finally certification, takes at least three years. While Mission Organic is into its third year in Meghalaya, MOVCD-NER has been implemented since 2015-16, sources in the horticulture department informed. As many as 35,924 farmers have been brought under the purview of the schemes so far. Meghalaya Mission Organic has four key pillars which comprise: Mini Mission 1 (Facilitation and Convergence), Mini Mission 2 (Post Production Facilitation), Mini Mission 3 (Certification and Market Linkages) and Mini Mission 4 (Research and Development). Under each of these mini missions, several key activities have been designed and incorporated to build Brand Meghalaya as a source of certified organic produce, organic food as well as projecting the state as a destination for eco-tourism. “We are combining activities under the mini missions and as of now, the process of organic adoption and certification is under way,” a source in the state horticulture department said. As many as 12 farmer producer companies (FPCs) across the state have been formed under MOVCD-NER so far.

Business Line, New Delhi
Monsanto moves SC over GM cotton seed patents

Monsanto Co has appealed to the Supreme Court against a ruling by the Delhi High Court which decreed last month that the world’s biggest seed maker cannot claim patents on its GM cottonseeds, a company spokesman said. The Delhi High Court last month concurred with Indian seed company Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd (NSL), which argued that India’s Patent Act does not allow Monsanto any patent cover for its genetically modified (GM) cottonseeds. Monsanto has appealed to the Supreme Court, said a Monsanto India spokesman. “In the Supreme Court, we’ll maintain our stand that agricultural products, including seeds, cannot be patented in India,” said Narne Murali Krishna, a company secretary for NSL. ”The judgement of the Delhi High Court has already vindicated our stand.” The Centre approved Monsanto’s GM cottonseed trait, the only lab-altered crop allowed in India, in 2003 and an upgraded variety in 2006, helping transform the country into the world’s top producer and second-largest exporter of the fibre. Monsanto’s GM cottonseed technology went on to dominate 90 per cent of the country’s cotton acreage. But, for the past few years, Monsanto has been at loggerheads with NSL, drawing in the Indian and US governments. The fate of the industry rests on the decision of the Supreme Court, said Ram Kaundinya of the Federation of Seed Industries of India, an industry body formed by the local units of foreign companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dupont Pioneer and Syngenta. “The decision of the Delhi High Court has made biotechnology companies cagey about investing in their businesses because they apprehend that they will lose patents on their expensive technologies,” said Kaundinya. After last month’s court ruling, nearly 107 patents could be deemed void, he said. Seed makers are now scaling down and shelving their research projects, said Paresh Verma, chief of research at Shriram BioSeed Genetics India Ltd.

Business Line, New Delhi
More restriction on urad, moong imports

The Union government has extended the restriction on import of urad and moong dal across all varieties to cover split and other forms to stabilise domestic prices. “Import policy of urad and moong in split and other forms…..are also restricted in addition to urad and moong ….with annual import quota of 3 lakh tonne for all,” said a notification by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. While the government had restricted import of raw or whole moong and urad in a notification dated August 21, 2017, no such restriction on splits or dal (milled) was specified. This allowed traders to import the split variety of the pulse without any restrictions. However, with the fresh notification traders will have to stick to the import quota of 3 lakh tonne for all kinds of imports. The restriction will, however, not apply to government’s import commitments under bilateral/regional agreements or MoUs, the notification clarified.

Business Standard, New Delhi
No online transfer; Telangana farmers to be given cheques

Eight banks designated by the government of Telangana have submitted about six million cheques bearing the names of 5.7 million farmers to its revenue department. The department will distribute the cheques to farmers in the respective gram sabhas in the coming two weeks, who will then encash these to spend on agricultural inputs like seed, fertiliser and pesticide, ahead of the imminent kharif (June-September) crop season. Termed Rythu Bandhu (farmers’ friend), the Agriculture Investment Support Scheme (AISS) would pay to every eligible farmer a sum of Rs 4,000 an acre, costing the state exchequer Rs 57 billion for the season. Despite the growing clamour from the central government on India turning digital, and banks requesting direct bank account transfer, the state government decided to hand over cheques to the farmers, which can be immediately converted into cash. This was after it conducted a poll of 60,000 farmers. “We asked them whether they would prefer account transfer or direct cash support. More than 60 per cent responded, saying cash,” Vijaya Kumar, additional director of agriculture, told. Poll-bound Karnataka announced a similar scheme in this year’s state budget, with cash support equal to half of what Telangana is giving. Karnataka plans to pay Rs 5,000 a hectare of cash to only rain-fed farmers, about 3.8 million beneficiaries. Leading political parties have all included this scheme in their election manifesto. Bank officials say the exercise of printing six million cheques was completed it in a month. The state is going to reimburse the printing costs. That is only the start of the logistical challenge. “About Rs 60 billion would be drawn from various branches in the state in a month, for which we need cash from the Reserve Bank of India, and then transport it to all branches,” said Swaminathan J, chief general manager at State Bank of India (Telangana).

Business Line, New Delhi
Seed shortage may not impact soyabean area

The shortage of certified soyabean seeds is unlikely to have any impact on the coming kharif acreages, as farmers buoyed by higher prices for the oilseed are expected to expand area under the crop in the major producing States such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharasthra using their own seeds. The Agriculture Ministry, at the recent conference on kharif campaign, had estimated that there could be a shortage of around 9,300 tonnes of certified soyabean seeds. The seed shortage mainly was on account of the widespread destruction of seed farms in Telangana, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh due to unseasonal rains last year. VS Bhatia, Director, Indian Institute of Soyabean Research, said the shortage of certified seeds will not have any impact on the acreage as farmers will use the seeds saved from the previous crop. The seed replacement ratio is around 35 per cent in soyabean and farmers have been replacing the seeds once in three years. Bhatia said the outlook for the crop in the coming season was good on forecast of a normal monsoon and the prices have been attractive for most part of the year. “We expect to recoup the area lost to other crops last year. There’s likely to be an increase of 10-15 per cent over last year’s acreage of 10.5 million hectares. Besides Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, we expect acreages to increase in Karnataka, Telangana and Gujarat,” he said. Davish Jain, Chairman, Soyabean Processors Association of India (SOPA), said the shortage of certified seeds is miniscule compared to the requirement of 1.2 million tonnes and will not have any impact on the acreage. “Besides, only around 15 per cent of the farmers use certified seeds, while the rest use their own produce,” Jain said. He attributed the lower productivity of Indian soyabean farmers to the higher usage of saved seeds.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Sugar cess put up for review

Protest by some states, including Kerala, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, prompted the GST Council to order a review of the plan to levy a cess on sugar to “help” sugarcane growers as they complained that the move would only benefit Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and poll-bound Karnataka, while discarding the basic principle of the new regime that focused on removing all additional levies. The cess would have helped government raise Rs 6,700 crore. During discussions on the cess, which stretched for over two hours, these states, with support from Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Pondicherry, argued that imposition of a cess on sugar will also make other states such as Kerala, West Bengal and Punjab demand a similar benefit for rubber, jute and foodgrains. “There will be no end and will defeat the very purpose of GST,” said a source, adding that some of the finance ministry officials were also sympathetic to this argument. While introducing GST, the Centre and the states decided to abolish all cesses and surcharges other than compensation cess (covering luxury and sin goods) for a period of five years. FM Arun Jaitley said after the meeting that cane growers were in deep distress as the cost of sugar production is over Rs 35 per kg, while the market price of sugar is around Rs 26-28 a kg. The cess on sugar was proposed to raise money to compensate farmers for a loss due to surplus production. The states opposing the cess suggested that UP and Maharashtra, which are grappling with the problem, should provide budgetary support as the move is only going to benefit sugar mills in their jurisdictions, although the cess will be paid by consumers across the country to help farmers.

The Financial Express, Pune
Sugar millers from 3 states join hands to form panel

Cooperative and private sugar millers in Maharashtra have decided to form a committee with industry representatives from Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to work on issues currently plaguing the sector, top industry officials have said. At a joint meeting of cooperative and private millers in Mumbai, which was headed by senior Nationalist Congress Party ( NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, the decision to form a committee was taken. The committee would include the president, vice-president and director general of Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma) president, vice president and the MD of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Mills in addition to some senior representatives from the industry such as Ajit Pawar, Harshavardhan Patil among others. Rohit Pawar, vice president, Isma said that the committee would meet sometime next week after which Pawar would seek an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to submit a joint representation from millers across the three sugar producing states. The NCP leader stressed on the need to comply with the government policies and said there is no option before millers but to export. Staring at a bumper production this season and with good crop expected the next season as well, sugar millers in the state are grappling with the challenge of a huge inventory. The country would have around 80 lakh tonne of carry over stock after exporting the mandated 20 lakh tonne this season and another 5 lakh tonne is expected to be exported next season, Ajit Pawar said. Millers have been asked to commence exports at the earliest and fulfils their given quotas. Last month, the government made it mandatory for sugar mills to export 20 lakh tonne sugar in 2017-18 marketing year as per the quota allocated to individual mills. Millers, however, are yet to commence sugar export due to lack of export parity. Millers have been seeking export incentives.

5, May 2018
DNA, Mumbai
Cabinet okays Rs.38K-cr plans for farmers and minorities

The Union Cabinet approved a host of schemes worth Rs 38,000 crore for farmers and minorities — two communities whose sections have been seen not happy with the ruling BJP. They also form two key constituencies that are of great significant ahead of next year’s general elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government cleared an umbrella scheme, “Green Revolution — Krishonnati Yojana”, with a Central share of Rs 33,269.976 crore, besides announcing special assistance to sugarcane farmers. The Centre also renamed and restructured a Multi-sectoral Development Programme for minorities for better implementation at the cost of Rs 3,972 crore. However, Congress was not impressed by the announcements and said farmers have suffered blows under the Modi government. While the worth of agriculture exports has dipped by $10 billion, imports have gone up by $19 billion since 2014, when Modi came to power, said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala. He also referred to a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) paper on a sharp fall in rural wages and food prices. In March, the PM had promised to ensure that the minimum support price of farm goods is fixed at 1.5 times the input cost. It was based on the comprehensive cost of production including land rentals and unpaid-for labour by family members of a farmer. It seeks to sooth groups of farmers protesting mainly in BJP-ruled states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, amid a continuing agrarian distress caused by slugging growth. The government said that some 11 schemes and missions related to agriculture were merged for better coordination and implementation to increase the income of farmers by enhancing production, productivity and better returns on produce. It will incorporate Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), including National Mission on Oil Seeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), with a total central share of Rs.6893.38 crore.

The Financial Express, Pune
Cotton seed companies may cut foundation seed output

Cotton Seed companies are likely to cut down on the foundation seed production this kharif season following the Centre’s announcement last month to cut seed prices by Rs 60 to Rs 740 per packet for the current year. “Right now the distribution of foundation seeds (parent seeds) is going on. The approach of seed companies now is to reduce production. The exact position will be known only after June end,” MG Shembekar, vice president, National Seed Association of India (NSAI) said. Cotton seed producers claim that their production costs have risen by 15-20 % in the past three years, especially since the Bollgard II Bt cotton price was fixed at Rs 800 per packet (450 grams) two years ago. “The main reasons for the production cut are rising production costs, which have gone up by 15-20%, illegal menace of seed sale by the unorganised sector, the pink bollworm attack and approach of farmers towards the cotton crop,” Shembekar said. The drop in prices will hurt the industry leaving little margins for growth, he pointed out. “We had requested the government to raise seed prices after two years of stagnation at Rs 800 a packet (of Bolgard II) to accommodate increasing labour cost, fixed and other costs, including the research and development (R&D). Instead, the government reduced the prices. While the cost of production has gone up by nearly 20 % over the last three years, realisation slumped by 7.5%. This will result into lower production and investment capacity for the next season as the distribution of seed packets for the current season is almost over. The decision of the seed companies to reduce production is also likely to impact investment in the development of new geneplasms and hamper introduction of new seed varieties,” Shembekar said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Eastern UP farmers now truly know their onions

Luring farmers away from their traditional cropping choices is an onerous task. Often, they refuse to switch to a new crop even if the conventionally-grown ones have long become economically unviable. Tata Trusts, a century-old philanthropic organisation of the Tatas, however, made a beginning when it convinced a few thousand small and marginal farmers in eastern Uttar Pradesh to grow onions in the place of wheat and maize. “Soil and climatic conditions in the region were conducive for onions, but farmers were not growing them in a big way,” said Amita Jain, Regional Director of Tata Trusts. “As a result, consumers in the region were dependent on onions coming from other parts of the country,” she added. This prompted the organisation to promote the cultivation of the bulbous vegetable in 2015-16. “We were able to convince around 8,000 families in 11 eastern UP districts to participate in a pilot programme. This helped us arrange a total of 1,250 acres for onion cultivation,” said Jain. As the farmers managed to get a profit of Rs 90,000 per acre, more farmers evinced interest in taking up onion cultivation in the rabi season. The handsome returns were mainly because the productivity of the crop was almost double the national average, thanks to the selection of better seed varieties, improved agricultural practices and cheaper but effective storage facilities. The success attracted the attention of the UP government, which has decided to support onion farmers under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. Currently, Maharashtra accounts for 38 per cent of onion production in the country while UP’s share is abysmal. As onion is a cash crop and can be stored for a long period of time, it can help farmers to realise better returns. According to Jain, Tata Trusts has drawn up an ambitious plan to develop 14 onion-farming clusters in four identified districts in the region.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Finance panel discusses farm concerns with experts

The issues flagged by several stakeholders, particularly the agriculture sector, will be addressed by the 15th Finance Commission, which on a three-day visit to the state. In a session with agriculture experts from the region, Ashok Lahiri, a member of the commission, discussed challenges, priorities and opportunities. The session was organised by the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The concerns raised included building climate resilience into agro-technological packages, improving resource conservation technologies, integrated disease and insect pest management and strengthening precise and accelerated crop improvement. The meeting also discussed how to ensure food and nutritional security for increasing population under increasing per capita income, secure livelihood of a large number of marginal and small farmers, conserve natural resources for future generations and increase participation in agriculture trade. Lahiri said the terms of reference of the commission include how anticipated taxes were to be divided between the states and the Centre, and also how the funds meant for states were to be distributed between them. The commission, he said, had to take into consideration funds to be allocated to several flagship schemes. “The sector-wise allocation of funds is not the mandate of the 15th Finance Commission, yet we will give recommendations on the basis of inputs we got from agriculture experts.”

Business Standard, Lucknow
High oil price may support sugar industry

Domestic sugar sector, hit by slipping prices and mounting cane arrears pegged at Rs 200 billion, is keeping high hopes on a bump in oil prices coupled with an expected all-time high production of 32 million tonnes in 2017-18 to ride over the financial mess. High crude oil prices could prompt Brazil, the world's largest sugar producer to divert 3-5 tonnes of ethanol for fuel, which would ease the market glut of sugar in the coming months, pushing up global prices, industry sources said. "Besides, Pakistan has estimated sugar output to fall by about 2 million tonnes which means the country would be unable to export sugar next season," Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) director general Abinash Verma told. He further said the industry was bullish at the October-December 2018 quarter since Thailand and Brazil would not be playing around during that time and domestic producers could make most of it owing to surplus stock and higher sugar production estimates. At 32 million tonnes, the production would be 55 per cent higher in 2017-18 as compared to the same period the previous year. Thanks to the present glut, sugar mills are reporting ex-factory under-realisation of about Rs 500 per quintal as against the production cost of Rs 3,200-3,300 a quintal. Meanwhile, the industry has urged the Centre to announce sugar export programme in August itself, so the companies could tie up for exports by September and start sending consignments from the first week of October. Earlier, the Centre approved production subsidy of Rs 5.5 per quintal for cane farmers. Talking to newspersons, union food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said it would help mills clear arrears in the backdrop of the retail prices falling below production cost owing to glut. "My ministry also favours mandatory mixing of 10 per cent ethanol in fuel to support the sugar industry."

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Himachal, Punjab, Rajasthan bear the brunt, most crops damaged

A chain of storms that caused rains and hailstorm leading to death of 117 persons damaged a variety of crops in northern India and drenched harvested wheat in parts of Punjab and Haryana. Agriculture experts said the worst affected states were Punjab, Himachal and Rajasthan, where the standing horticulture crops were rampaged by fast blowing winds and hail, which will reduce the quality of the already low expected output. Low output was expected due to the long dry spell that started in December last year with up to 90% less rainfall than normal till April this year. However, a few agriculture experts said that lowering of temperature was good for the sowing of cotton crop. Punjab government officials said nearly 9 lakh quintal wheat was swamped in Bhaktanwala grain market in Amritsar. Amritsar mandi officer Kulwant Singh said most of the wheat had been lifted from other markets and kept under tents. In Jalandhar district, while cucumber, watermelon and muskmelon crops suffered nearly 70% damage due to hail, maize was flattened by rain and high-speed winds, horticulture experts said. Santokh Singh, a farmer from Malsian who cultivated watermelon, muskmelon and maize on over 100 acres, said he suffered total crop loss. “We will suffer losses of lakhs of rupees as the hailstorm left holes in the cucurbit crops and the loss is irrecoverable,” he said. Deputy director horticulture (Jalandhar) Satbir Singh said the rain and hailstorm is likely to have caused over 70% damage to fruit crops in some of the affected areas. “There was some loss of the harvested wheat but it was not very high,” said Jalandhar mandi officer Varinder Kumar said. In Uttarakhand and Himachal, untimely rains and storm have left an adverse impact on fruit flowering, officials said. The flowering season of apples and other fruits, such as pears and litchi, is in full swing.

Mint, New Delhi
India’s sugar output seen hitting record 32 mn tonnes in 2017-18

Sugar production in India, the world’s second largest producer after Brazil, could touch a record 32 million tonnes in 2017-18, trade lobby Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said. If the estimates hold, it would be a staggering 55% increase in production from the previous year. ISMA’s latest estimates indicate that the sugar glut is likely to worsen in the coming months, since India’s annual consumption of the sweetener is estimated at 25 million tonnes. Due to a steep fall in wholesale prices, mills are unable to pay sugarcane farmers on time —currently, these dues are estimated at over Rs19,000 crore. In Uttar Pradesh, sugar mills owed farmers Rs 10,372 crore till 27 April, showed numbers from the Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association. Going by ISMA’s estimates, sugar production in India is likely to be between 31.5 and 32 million tonnes in the 2017-18 season (October to September), compared to 20.3 million tonnes produced the year before. Current estimates by the trade body are a sharp upward revision from its January forecast of 25.1 million tonnes production. The food ministry does not formally release sugar production estimates. A senior food ministry official, who did not want to named, said that mills have already produced 30.5 million tonnes of sugar. However, according to ISMA, till 30 April, mills have produced over 31 million tonnes of sugar and 130 mills, mostly in UP, are still crushing cane. To help mills clear dues to farmers, the centre announced Rs 5.5 per quintal subsidy to farmers. It had earlier imposed a 100% duty on import of sugar, and also mandated that mills compulsorily export sugar. However, mills have been unable to export sugar due to depressed global prices.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Panel suggests sops to increase area under millets, consumption

Coarse cereals, recently renamed ‘nutri-cereals’ by the government, will get the policy support for expansion of cultivation and consumption, if a report of a high-level panel is implemented. Millets such as jowar, bajra and ragi have long been staples for the poor in India, but their production steadily declined over decades due to aggressive promotion of rice and wheat. Low margins for farmers in the absence of a favourable policy is also a reason. In the case of ragi and jowar, minimum support prices don’t even cover costs of production right now. Recommending a course correction, which will also address acute malnutrition among a large section of population, especially women and children, the panel, headed by NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand, has recommended that even as PDS prices of wheat and rice are raised under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), prices of millets be kept unchanged to spur demand. “In due course, once supply of millets under the PDS improves, out of monthly 5-kg basket per person (NFSA) entitlement, 1 kg may be made mandatory for millets,” the panel said in its report. Under the NFSA, selling prices of wheat and rice were fixed at Rs 2/kg and Rs 3/kg, respectively, in 2013. Although prices were to be revised every three years, no revision has taken place as any hike is politically difficult. The rate of coarse cereals, including millets, was kept at Rs 1/kg, but these have rarely been disbursed. In fact, expect Karnataka, no other state actively undertakes procurement of millets. Since the acreage of millet declined by 60% to 14.72 million ha in 2017 from 36.9 million ha in 1966, the panel expressed hope that the Budget proposal of offering an MSP higher than 50% of the cost for millets would help increase the area under cultivation.

Business Line, Chennai
Sugar industry pitches for ethanol-blended fuel programme to ease inventory burden

The Union government should use the ethanol-blended fuel programme to reduce the growing sugar surplus, according to the industry. With the Centre mulling GST incentives for ethanol production, sugar industry representatives, who did not want to be named, said the government should let the industry cut back on sugar production by stepping up alcohol output at competitive prices. Traditionally, the industry makes alcohol from molasses, a by-product of sugar production. But, now, it should be produced earlier in the process, from B-heavy molasses, to divert from sugar. Given the distillery capacity, the industry estimates it can cut back 5 lakh tonnes (lt) of sugar. This is only a temporary measure given the huge surpluses. Significant investments will have to go into enhancing distillery capacity to expand the fuel programme as envisaged by the government, they say. Sugar output in the 2017-18 (October-September) season is estimated at over 310 lt against an estimated domestic consumption of about 240 lt. A similar surplus is expected in the coming season. Sugar prices have dropped to Rs 28 a kg, against a cost of production of Rs 35. Mills’ overdues to sugarcane farmers is pegged at about Rs 18,000 crore. With international prices of sugar ruling even lower than domestic prices, exporting 20 lakh tonnes as suggested by the government is also not viable, they say. As of now, with about 360 crore litres of alcohol output from distilleries — mostly linked to sugar mills — over 155 crore litres are being supplied to meet the 5 per cent ethanol blending in automobile fuel. About 110 crore litres go to potable alcohol and 60 crore litres for industrial use.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Unseasonal rains in North India may slow down wheat procurement

Wheat procurement may slow down for a brief period after many parts of north India received unseasonal rains and hailstorm, wetting the grains lying on the field. The farmers will now have to wait to dry the crop before selling it to the government. “They have to wait so that moisture content in the grain comes down. Even if the grain is covered with plastic sheets, moisture content will be definitely higher in some of it,” Ram Gupta, a trader in Aligarh district said. A severe dust storm, followed by thunder showers, hit parts of Uttar Pradesh, including Agra and Mathura, and Rajasthan on May 2, killing over 70 people and leaving a trail of destruction. The Centre has set a target to procure 32 million tonne wheat in 2018-19 rabi marketing season (April-March). The official purchase has increased 12.5% to 28.2 million tonne as of May 3 compared with 25.07 million tonne in the corresponding period last year, according to Food Corporation of India (FCI) data. This year, the arrival has also shown an increase from last year as in many places wheat was harvested earlier as compared to 2017. According to FCI, the mandi arrival of wheat is estimated at 29.83 million tonne as of May 3, up from 28.22 million tonne in the year-ago period. Procurement in Punjab, which contributes the highest quantity to the central pool, has reached 11.8 million tonne as of May 3 and the target is to buy 11.9 million tonne from the state. The arrival of wheat will start declining from May 10, which is a normal phenomenon every year, said Veena Sharma, secretary of Roller Flour Millers’ Federation of India. Currently, the daily arrival in Punjab is over 1 lakh tonne.

3, May 2018
Business Line, Hyderabad
58 lakh Telangana farmers to benefit from Rythu Bandhu cheque

Around 58 lakh farmers in Telangana will receive ‘Rythu Bandhu’ cheques of Rs 4,000 each for every acre they own. During the week-long cheque distribution programme that begins on May 10, farmers will get the money required to buy inputs for the upcoming kharif season. A similar amount will be given ahead of the rabi season. The State government has allocated Rs 12,000 crore for the financial assistance scheme that is aimed at giving an annual support of Rs 8,000 to take care of the input needs for 1.50 crore acres. The State government’s decision to exclude tenant farmers from the scheme had attracted the wrath of farmers’ unions. A third of the farmers in the State do tenant cultivation. The government has tied up with a few banks so that the farmers are able to encash the cheques without hassle. A State-level corporation has been set up to identify the beneficiaries and supervise the distribution of cheques. “We will distribute the cheques for the rabi season from November 18. We have allocated Rs 12,000 crore in the Budget for 2018-19,” an official of the Agriculture Ministry said. “We will distribute the cheques along with the passbooks from May,” he added.

Hindustan Times, New Delh
‘5 states account for 78% of progress in micro-irrigation’

Micro-irrigation projects under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), critical to making India drought-proof and producing “more crop per drop”, have steadily met targets since the launch of the scheme by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in 2015, according to a recent review. An analysis of the mission, however, shows only a handful of states account for the overall leap. PMKSY is aimed at boosting investment in irrigation and improving efficiency of water use. India’s current irrigation coverage of 48.7% of total sown area means two-quarters of the population engaged in farming are dependent on monsoon rainfall, which often exacerbates agrarian distress even during a partial drought. At the national level, coverage of micro-irrigation networks beat its target for 2015-16: 572,000 hectares against a target of 500,000 hectares. In 2016-17, the coverage was 839,000 hectares against a target of 800,000 hectares. Partial data for 2017-18 shows the government “is on course to achieving or outdoing its target”, agriculture secretary SK Pattanayak said. The target in 2017-18 was 1.2 million hectares and partial data from states showed that 926,432 hectares had been covered. “The achievement (for 2017-18) is likely to enhance as compilation and reporting of works undertaken in the financial year are still being uploaded,” the review report states. States haven’t been able to make equal progress. All northeastern states have made zero progress. Unequal progress means meeting long-term goals can be challenging. Just five states — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu — account for 78% of the coverage expansion during 2017-18. Among the laggards, Bihar was able to add just 86 hectares while Himachal Pradesh added 1,107 hectares. Punjab added 274 hectares. Top performer Andhra expanded micro-irrigation coverage in 186,444 hectares while Karnataka added 164,967 hectares. Gujarat stood third, bringing 143,134 hectares under the irrigation network.

Business Standard, Kolkata
After spurt, Darjeeling tea demand slumps abroad

After an initial boost to Darjeeling tea prices, which rose by over 10 per cent in the international market just after the variety staged a comeback after a year, prices have stopped dropping by 10-15 per cent in the recent past. After a preliminary rise in prices to nearly $45 on average for the first flush, or the year’s first harvest, prices started to fall by 10-15 per cent in mid-April. Kaushik Basu, secretary general of the Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA) told that he learnt that prices in private sales, which make up nearly 80 per cent of total Darjeeling sales, have fallen by 10-15 per cent. Binod Gurung of the Goodricke Group has an explanation for this. He said, “Private sales will come down from the feverish excitement of early flush teas, so this is natural.” Sources in the industry suggest that while the average price hovered around Rs 3,000-3,500 a kg early March, it fell to Rs 1,500-2,000 by early April, and by late April, touched Rs 900-1,000 a kg. Some exporters also explained that bulk purchases by international packeteers and blenders has stagnated even after the world’s most prized tea returned to the shelves of international tea sellers and boutiques. “There has been an increased uptake from boutique tea buyers, which led to prices increasing initially. As boutique tea sales fell, the average prices also fell”, a tea estate owner said. Sugato Dutt, director at Subodh Brothers, a Darjeeling tea exporter, added, “However, bulk buyers and blenders from Europe and Japan are waiting even as they keep a constant watch on prices. It seems that they may buy once prices hover around $20-25 a kg.” Although the Darjeeling tea industry had expected the interest in the international market to be enormous as soon as this tea was made available, the response has fallen short of expectations.

Business Line, Mangaluru
GI tag and branding boost demand for Mattu Gulla brinjal

Efforts by a set of growers — assisted by Nabard financially, and a private university in the form of marketing interventions — have helped boost the prospects of ‘Mattu Gulla’ (a brinjal variety) with geographical indication (GI) tag in Udupi district of Karnataka. ‘Mattu Gulla’ is now seeing better prospects after growers started marketing it with trademark stickers as a stamp of authenticity. For over 120 growers including Laxman Mattu, who live near the seashore at Mattu village in Udupi district, the cultivation of the vegetable is the main source of livelihood. They grow this unique brinjal on around 200 acres of land for almost eight months from October to June. Considering the demand for this variety in the market, traders were earlier marketing brinjal grown in other villages of the district also as ‘Mattu Gulla’. Laxman Mattu, who is also the manager of Mattu Gulla Belegarara Sangha (Mattu Gulla growers’ society), told that though Mattu growers start planting seeds in August, some traders were marketing brinjal from other villages as ‘Mattu Gulla’ in August itself. S Ramesh, Assistant General Manager of Nabard, Mangaluru, said that the bank sanctioned Mattu Gulla FPO (farmer producer organisation) project in 2015. This project got a financial assistance of Rs 9.06 lakh from the Nabard. Manipal Academy of Higher Education’s (MAHE) Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (CSE) stepped in as the hand-holding agency for growers in marketing. ‘Mattu Gulla’ had got the GI tag in 2011-12. Laxman Mattu said that the growers’ society applied for trademark through the Karnataka Horticulture Department after that and got one. HG Joshi, professor at Department of Commerce and Chairperson CSE, MAHE, said that Mattu Gulla has a unique taste which other varieties don’t have. Scientific studies had shown that the taste and aroma that Mattu Gulla are unique.

Business Line, New Delhi
Ivory Coast’s plan to stop cocoa seed supply raises quality concerns

Ivory Coast’s move to halt the distribution of high-yielding seeds and other advanced tools to cocoa farmers could pave the way for problems regarding quality, more erratic production and the spread of diseases, industry sources warn. Output in Ivory Coast surged to a record 2 million tonnes in the 2016-17 season, from 1.2 million 10 years earlier. Last season, it outstripped demand by some 300,000 tonnes, according to the International Cocoa Organisation. “We have invested a lot of money and also other resources to develop productivity,” said one pod counter for a major chocolate maker, estimating yields have risen to 800 kg/hectare, from about 350-400 kg/ha a decade ago. Yet industry sources say illegal cocoa firom protected forests is the main reason for the supply glut and, as a result, halting productivity efforts will fail to make a significant dent in supply, while giving rise to quality issues and disease. Once the schemes stop, farmers are likely to turn to the informal market for seeds, sources said. This could lead to the use of poor-quality varieties, since the planting material is less likely to be vetted and verified.

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab, Haryana wheat procurement 195L tonnes

Wheat procurement of nearly 195 lakh tonnes has been made in food grain states Punjab and Haryana this season, food and supplies officials in both states said on Tuesday. In Punjab, the wheat procurement was nearly 116 lakh tonnes till April 30 as compared to 110.24 tonnes procured in the same period last year. Over 115.23 lakh tonnes (99.6%) has been procured by government agencies. In Haryana, over 79 lakh tonnes of wheat has been procured so far this season. A Punjab government spokesman said that Rs 16,170.47 crore has been disbursed to the ‘arthiyas’ (commission agents) and farmers, which is 93% of the total due amount. Despite reports of wheat not been lifted in grain markets, the spokesperson claimed that over 75.36 lakh tonnes has been lifted from grain markets so far.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Wheat purchases top 27 mt as arrivals pick up

As market arrivals increase, Government agencies such as the Food Corporation of India (FCI) have stepped up the procurement of wheat. Total purchases of the cereal, so far in the 2018-19 marketing season, have exceeded 27 million tonnes (mt), which is about 12.5 per cent more than in the corresponding period last year, according to the Union Food Ministry. The Centre is targeting a procurement of 32 mt in the current year, higher than last year’s 30.82 mt. Procurement in Haryana stood at 7.99 mt exceeding the targeted 7.4 mt and higher than last year’s level of 7.43 mt. Similarly, in neighbouring Punjab, the agencies have already procured 11.5 mt. Last year, wheat procurement in Punjab stood at 11.7 mt. Trade sources said that going by the current market arrivals and the procurement trend, the recent untimely rains across North Indian States do not seem to have had any impact on the wheat output. As per the latest estimates, the Agriculture Ministry expects wheat output to be around 97.11 mt — marginally lower than last year’s 98.51 mt. Procurement in Uttar Pradesh, the largest wheat producing State in the country, has more than doubled in the current season. So far, the wheat purchases in UP stood at 1.72 mt as against last year’s 0.75 mt. Higher procurement has been reported both from the western and eastern parts of the State. In western UP, the procurement, so far, has doubled to 0.9 mt (0.45 mt), while in eastern UP the purchases stood at 0.72 mt (0.29 mt). In Madhya Pradesh, the procurement is trailing last year’s levels, mainly on account of lower market arrivals. Procurement so far stood at 4.78 mt as against last year’s 4.96 mt. In Rajasthan, the purchases have been higher at 0.94 mt (0.69 million tonnes).

The Economic Times, New Delhi
India to WTO: No breach of farm subsidy limits in FY15 and FY16

India informed the World Trade Organization that it did not breach farm subsidy limits in the two years 2014-15 and 2015-16. The outgo for commodities such as rice, wheat and coarse grains in its minimum support programme – the price it pays to farmers when buying their produce – was below the ceiling, it said, putting to rest doubts raised by the US and Australia, among others, that India’s farm subsidies have been increasing. Input subsidies for farmers including support for fertilisers, irrigation and electricity were $24.8 billion and $23.5 billion in the two years respectively, India said in the submission of its domestic subsidy programme to the multilateral body over a week ago. “It is a good development that we are getting updated,” said an expert on WTO matters. The outgo on minimum support prices was below the permitted levels for cotton, pulses, groundnut, sunflower and mustard seed. The limit for developing countries including India, is 10% of agricultural production. Among the permitted subsidies, known in WTO parlance as Green Box, India’s support declined to $18.3 billion in 2015-16 from $20.8 billion in 2014-15. “India needs to relook its agriculture schemes and bring them in the Green Box because of the unlimited elbow room available there,” the expert said, adding that India can fine-tune its input subsidies to farmers and bring them into the Green Box. “The direct benefit transfer for fertilisers is one such subsidy,” he said. In the Green Box category, the amount spent on public stockholding for food security purposes (allocation for distribution and buffer stock) was $17.1 billion in 2014-15 and $15.6 billion in 2015-16. Low-income or resource-poor farmers accounted for 99.29% of farm holdings, the government said in its submissions, citing the agricultural census for 2010-2011. This number was 99.15%, according to the agricultural census for 2005-2006. India provides support to farm producers mainly through operations of the agriculture ministry.

2, May 2018
Business Standard, Mumbai
Cotton farmers look to shift to soybean

Many cotton farmers are reportedly looking to shift to soybean during the coming kharif sowing season, as the oilseed fetched a better return last year. During most of the 2017-18 cotton season (July 1 to June 30), prices have, barring a couple of short-term ripples, remained lower than the minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government. It was only towards the end of the supply season, that prices moved above the MSP of Rs 4,020 a quintal for medium staple and Rs 4,320 a qtl for long staple in the Gujarat spot market, thanks to aggressive procurement by government-owned Cotton Corporation of India (CCI). In contrast, soybean is trading at a 25 per cent premium to the MSP, after initially slipping below the government’s threshold procurement price of Rs 2,850 a qtl. The government recently raised the import duty on edible oils to enable a price increase in oilseeds and edible oils. “We expect at least 15 per cent of cotton farmers shifting towards soybean this kharif season, for better realisation,” said Atul Chaturvedi, chief executive at Adani Wilmar, producers of the ‘Fortune’ brand of edible oil. Cotton farmers had a bad experience last year, especially in Maharashtra, due to an attack by pink bollworm on the standing crop. Around a third of the 4.2 million ha under cotton in Maharashtra was hit by this. Even so, India’s total supply is estimated to be nearly 400,000 bales (a bale is 170 kg) higher at 44.18 million bales for 2017-18, than the estimated demand of 40.1 mn bales, according to the first Cotton Advisory Board meeting. “Cotton farmers are looking to shift to more remunerative crops not only in Maharashtra but also in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Soybean is set to gain at least 12-15 per cent in acreage, primarily from cotton, this kharif season,” said Atul Ganatra, spokesperson, Shree Radhalakshmi Cotton.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Delayed claim settlement mars govt’s crop insurance scheme

The Narendra Modi-led central government’s ambitious Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), in the first two years of its operations, has been set back by issues like low coverage among non-loanee farmers and delayed or non-payment of claims, a high-powered panel has found. If the issues with PMFBY are not addressed in time, they could impact the government’s official target of covering 50 per cent of the gross cropped area (GCA) under insurance by 2019, the panel has said. “Though all complaints, particularly with regards to non-payment, might not be correct, it only demonstrates the need for a robust process backed by technology. That will assure farmers that their genuine claims are being settled in time. Any deviation in this regard will prove to be discouraging and affect the volumes in the long run," the official panel on Doubling Farmers’ Income (DFI) has said in the chapter on ‘Risk Management in Agriculture' in its report. PMFBY, meant to provide a comprehensive crop insurance for farmers at a low premium, was started in 2016. It replaced all other existing insurance schemes except the Restructured Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS).

Business Line, New Delhi
Farmers to stop supplies from June 1: Kisan Mahasangh

The Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, an umbrella body of 110 farmers’ organisations, said it will not supply farm products such as vegetables, grains and milk to cities across the country for 10 days from June 1 in protest against what it called the anti-farmer policies of the Central government. A nation-wide Bharat bandh would be held on June 10 till 2 pm, the group’s leaders, including former BJP minister Yashwant Sinha, told here. “Farmers would stop sending from villages to cities produce such as crops, vegetables and milk from June 1 to June 10 all over the country. On June 6, they would observe a non-cooperation day,” Sinha said. They also claimed that though the government had promised a minimum support price (MSP) that was to be 50 per cent higher than the cost of production, farmers were yet to receive the higher prices. “We have been demanding that the MSP be 1.5 times the entire cost of production including the cost of land. Though the government had declared it in their last Budget, there is no specifications and it is not going to help us,” said Shiv Kumar Kakka, a farmer leader from Madhya Pradesh. The organisations said by cost of production, they meant C2 and not A2+FL. A2 includes expenses, in cash and kind, incurred on seeds, fertilisers, chemicals, labour, fuel and irrigation, while A2+FL covers actual costs plus value of unpaid family labour. C2 denotes A2+FL, along with costs for rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets respectively. The farmers also urged traders’ organisations to support their June 10 Bharat bandh.

The Indian Express, New Delhi
Maharashtra set to get Rs 13,650-crore package, and can thank Gadkari

Its ruling alliance with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra in disarray, and the Congress and NCP closing ranks on the opposite side, the BJP-led central government is all set to approve a “special package” to “address agrarian distress in 14 suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada” worth around Rs 13,650 crore over five years. It is learnt that the proposal is being pushed by Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari who hails from the Vidarbha region. A meeting on the proposal was held in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on April 9. As a follow-up, an inter-ministerial Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) met last week. Official sources told that the EFC has vetted the proposal for Cabinet approval. The proposal states that projects approved under the special package “do not fit into the guidelines for inclusion/funding under the existing schemes [Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP)/Har Khet Ko Pani] of this Ministry (Water Resources). Therefore, Central Assistance in the form of special package is proposed.” The proposal includes 83 surface minor irrigation projects of which 66 are in Vidarbha and 17 in the Marathwada region, and 8 major/medium irrigation projects with a potential across projects of 3,76,915 hectares. “The balance estimated cost of projects of Maharashtra to be completed under this package is Rs 13,651.61 crore as on 01/04/2018, with Rs 3,412.90 crore being the Central Assistance (CA) by Government of India,” the proposal states. The April 9 meeting noted that “CA is also to be reimbursed for expenditure incurred during 2017-18 which would amount to Rs 418.51 crore. These projects will provide additional irrigation potential of 3.77 lakh hectare”.

The Financial Express, Pune
Millers seek ban on chana futures trading

Expressing concern over falling chana (chickpea) prices, the All-India Dal Mills Association has demanded a ban on futures trading in the commodity. In separate representations submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union minister for commerce and industry Suresh Prabhu and Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh, the association president, Suresh Agrawal, has urged the government to ban futures trading in chana, keeping the interests of small farmers and traders in mind as the prices have been ruling lower than the minimum support prices for the past few months. In the representations to the government, Agrawal has expressed concern over declining prices in the physical market and losses being incurred by small traders and farmers on account of falling prices. He alleged that currently, futures trading on the NCDEX is being monopolised by selected companies and big businessmen. “The way these companies and big businessmen are running chana trading in futures market is causing impractical price movement which is hampering the interests of small businessmen and farmers,” he said. An earlier representation was submitted to the government last month on March 17. The association had also last year urged the government to exempt chana from futures trading, keeping in view the excessive domestic production. According to Agrawal, majority of farmers are marginal, who own very less chunk of agricultural land and it appears to be illogical to presume that those farmers who produce 20 tonne of chana, will engage themselves in the trading of thousands of tonnes of the commodity. He alleged that volatility in the trade has disturbed the actual physical trade. A bullish run on a day is followed by a fall in prices thus disturbing trade, he alleged. While the settlement of deliveries are done on the 20th of every month, there is volatility in the market after the 10th of the month, Agrawal said.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Onion glut drags price down by half

Onion, the staple of Indian kitchens, is currently retailing at around Rs 15 a kilo because of higher yield in Bengal this year compared to 2017, but market observers say this price level could be hard to maintain. Sources in the agri-marketing department said the state had produced nearly five lakh tonne of onions, around two lakh tonnes more than last year, the bulk of it coming from Hooghly, East Burdwan, Nadia and Murshidabad. Officials attribute the improved yield to more farmers taking up onion cultivation across Nadia and Murshidabad. In Malda and Birbhum, many cultivators have switched to onion in the hope of profiting like those who did last year. According to the finance department's statistical handbook, Economic Review, the land under onion cultivation in the last financial year was around 32,000 hectares. In 2014-15, the area was 25,310 hectares. With production of onion shooting up, particularly of the rabi variety, supply to the markets has increased and wholesale and retail prices have fallen. A kilo of onion had retailed for around Rs 27 at this time last year. The current price is nearly half. In the corresponding period in 2016, the price of onion was Rs 24-25 a kilo. "In wholesale markets across Calcutta, including Koley Market, the price of onion has dropped because of increased production," said Kamal Dey, a member of the state government's task force on agricultural produce. Bengal requires 9.5 to 10 lakh tonne of onion a year. The crop is cultivated twice, once during winter ( rabi crop) and again around the monsoon. Since the state lacks proper storage facilities, farmers tend to sell off the season's entire produce even if the price is low. But once supply can't meet the demand, onion is sourced from Nasik in Maharashtra, Akola in Rajasthan and Bengaluru.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Two States, and a multitude of problems

Farmers of Kudrimani village in district cross the boundary of two States several times a day. Their homes are in Karnataka, while their farmlands are in villages such as Satrani and Shinoli in Maharashtra. Every morning, they set out to their fields, carrying ploughs and pickaxes, and cross the boundary to reach their farms. Many of them come home for lunch, have a nap and go back. It is for dinner that they return to Karnataka again. Living in two States poses several problems — they have to deal with officials of two governments even to sell farm produce or, for instance, to sell or buy land and build houses. “If we have work in the Revenue Department, we have to go to Karnataka officials, but if we have work in the Agriculture Department, we have to go to Maharashtra,” says Madhusudhan Pundalik, who lives in Kudrimani. They have been leading such a life for five decades now. This predicament has dictated the political choices of the villagers too. At Kudrimani in the Belagavi Rural constituency, which has a population of nearly 4,000 and 2,500 voters, people have for long been supporters of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), hoping that a merger with Maharashtra will put an end to this hassle. “We no longer believe this will happen and changed our loyalties,” says B.T Ramanrao, a BJP supporter for the past two elections. The general impression here is that rural governance and the cooperative movement is better in Maharashtra.

The Hindu, Meerut
U.P. Sugar Mills body alleges harassment by BJP MLAs

The Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association has alleged that legislators from the ruling party were issuing threats and harassing its local units. In a letter to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, the Association’s secretary general Deepak Guptara alleged that some BJP MLAs and workers had indulged in ‘unreasonable behaviour, unlawful demands and physical harm and threats against its workers’. In the letter Mr. Guptara said: “We regret to bring to your kind notice that there are repeated incidents of threats, manhandling and other cases of harassment against our members sugar factories. What is of grave concern is that almost all these cases involve elected representatives of the ruling party. This offensive behaviour against bona fide employees of sugar factories have left them demoralised and insecure and in many cases the employees are threatening to quit and leave.” Mr. Guptara alleged that ruling party MLAs have been found involved in cases of threats and harassment in factories at Seohara (Bijnore), Babhnan (Gonda), Dhampur (Bijnore), Bundki (Bijnore) and Nigohi (Shahjehanpur). He highlighted that the sugar mills were the biggest organised industrial activity in the State, which faces deep crisis due to lowering of prices. But still the sugar mills were honouring their word on timely payment of the fixed support price for cane so that the farmers do not face any hardship. “The incidents of threats and harassment have the potential to cause deep unrest,” he added. Mr. Guptara requested the Chief Minister to send a “stern message to anti-social elements not to disturb industrial harmony in the State by exerting undue pressure on the sugarmill workers for meeting their unlawful demands.”

Business Line, Chennai
Urad procurement takes off in TN; but industry wants release halted

With Nafed launching urad procurement in Tamil Nadu for the first time, farmers in three districts in Central and northern parts of the State stand to gain. This could be extended in the coming season to the Cauvery Delta districts when arrivals are expected in August, according to reliable sources. As of now, about 100 tonnes of urad have been procured in Cuddalore, Villupuram and Thiruvannamalai districts where the procurement is on. Here Nafed is procuring through the Regulated Market Yards. This has received mixed reaction from the trade and industry. A section of the farmers are benefited as the target for now is just about 3,000 tonnes. The market intervention has not benefited overall from the Government’s procurement of pulses. While State-run Nafed is picking up stocks on one side, heavy releases are happening elsewhere by another public sector agency which is dampening the market, say trade representatives. B Krishna Murthy, a leading miller and Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Pulses Importers & Exporters Association, pointed out that farmers had not been able to sell their produce even at MSP in the market even once during the season over the last one year. For instance, for urad the MSP is set at Rs 5,400 a quintal but in Andhra Pradesh the largest production centre for this pulse, the market price is about Rs 4,450 and in Chennai a couple of hundred rupees more. Traders and millers picked up stocks of urad at about Rs 48/kg about 10 days back and in two days prices dropped to Rs 47, and then hit Rs 44 in a couple of days last week. This has discouraged people from trading, he said. “We are losing thousands on every load by the day,” he said. The government should intervene in the market to support prices and not allow this free fall.

30, April 2018
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Modi hails Uttarakhand farmers for ‘value addition’ process

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the farmers of Uttarakhand’s Bageshwar district for starting the production of biscuits from their agricultural produce and selling them in the market. “In Bageshwar district, main crops sown are mandwa, chaulai, corn or barley. This being a hilly area, the farmers did not get a fair price of their produce. “But, the farmers in Kapkot village decided to come out of this situation and adopted a value addition process and changed the loss incurring equation into a profit-earning one,” the Prime Minister said in his monthly radio programme “Mann Ki Baat”. He said that after these farmers started selling Chaulai (Amaranth) in the form of biscuits directly in the market, their income doubled with the price of grain went to Rs 50 per kg from Rs 25 per kg. “With the hard work of these farmers, the annual turnover of the society has gone up from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 15 lakh and with more than 900 families getting employment here, people have stopped migrating to other places,” he stressed. Modi has promised to the farmers that the government’s initiatives in agriculture will double farm income by 2022. He has been urging farmers and bureaucrats to think “out of the box” to help them increase their income. “Some farmers from hilly areas of Uttarakhand have become a source of inspiration for the farmers across the country. With their collective efforts, they have not only changed their own fortunes but have changed fortunes of the whole region,” he said. He added that it is believed that the land in this area was iron-rich. “Impressed by the bold initiative of these farmers, the administration has also linked this to the National Livelihood Mission,” he said, adding that these biscuits were now being supplied to Almora and Kausani besides being sold to about 50 Aanganwadi centres in the district.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India inks farm export deal with 8 countries

India has signed deals with eight countries, the United States, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Iran for agricultural exports and is scouting for more markets, as it seeks to liberalise trade in farm products, and grow its farm exports. India has also filed market access requests for 35 agricultural products with over a dozen countries, an official familiar with the development said on condition of anonymity. The country has concluded discussion on phytosanitary certification for Indian mangoes with Iran. Phytosanitary certification is a formal declaration by an exporting country guaranteeing that shipments are free of pests and plant diseases, and meet the requirements of the importing country. Similar deals have been signed with Taiwan, which will allow exports of Indian lily bulbs. Canada has cleared Indian mangoes, grapes, pomegranate, banana, litchi, papaya, custard apple and okra for export. Chile has approved coconut fibre and walnut. South Korea and Malaysia too have agreed to buy Indian mangoes. Equador is the latest country to clear Indian rice. According to a new farm export framework that’s in the works, the government is looking to moderate its strategy of placing frequent restrictions on agri-exports to tame domestic consumer prices. The plan is to curb commodity exports only in extreme situations and to boost farm income from trade. The government has promised to double farm incomes by 2022. Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh recently tweeted about increasing the value of agricultural exports to $100 billion by 2022-23. The Dalwai Committee Report on doubling farmers’ incomes also talks about freeing up farm exports. India’s agricultural exports grew five times from about $8.7 billion in 2004-05 to $42.6 billion during 2013-14. This however fell to $33 billion in 2016-17. The country’s net exports (i.e. exports minus imports or the agricultural trade surplus) fell to $7.8 billion in 2016-17.

The Tribune, Mumbai
Maharashtra moots solar power for farm sector

The Maharashtra Government is mooting setting up of wind and solar power projects in various parts of the state to delink power for the farm sector from the regular power grid. Stating this here, Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy Chandrashekhar Bawankule said the state government had set a target to generate 14,400 MW of renewable energy by December 2019, which would cater to the need of over four lakh farmers. “Already 1000 MW of solar power is being generated in Maharashtra and other projects will be undertaken in phases. We are setting up solar and wind power projects in western Maharashtra, Konkan, Aurangabad and Vidarbha, which will be completed by 2025,” he said. “When all projects are completed, 45 lakh farmers in the state will be able to draw power during the day,” the minister said. The Maharashtra Government has already started the process of separating the power supply lines to farmers, so that electricity to farms are not supplied from the regular grid. Electricity for the agricultural pump sets can be drawn only at night when the demand for power from industries is at its lowest. However, farmers have to stay up at odd hours for the purpose. “They are demanding power supply during day time and this is possible only when they can avail solar power,” Bawankule said. He said the state government had supplied 5,500 solar pump sets and another 7,000 would be supplied in phases over the next two years. The state government has set a target to generate 14,400 MW of renewable energy by December 2019, which will cater to the need of over four lakh farmers. Chandrashekhar Bawankule, minister

Business Standard, New Delhi
Researchers claim rice varieties cure cancer

Can rice cure cancer? Well, if researchers working on a joint project of Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (IGKV), Raipur, and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai, are right, three traditional rice varieties cultivated largely by tribal farmers of Chhattisgarh have been found to possess qualities that can cure lung and breast cancers. Their preliminary findings, however, have been strongly disputed by the medical fraternity and activists who are working relentlessly in creating cancer awareness. They have contended that such claims are hard to believe and have not been substantiated by the medical science. ‘Lycha’, ‘Gauthan’ and ‘Maharaji’ — the three traditional rice varieties — have long exited the state’s large scale cultivation scene and are presently confined to a few backyard farms by local communities. Of these ‘Lycha’ cultivated in and around Dhamtari, Kondagaon, and Kanker districts of Chhattisgarh has been known to cure skin diseases. ‘Gauthan’ and ‘Maharaji’ cultivated in and around the districts of Mahasamund and Dhamtari have also been known for possessing medicinal qualities among the locals. But, these were never commercially exploited as majority of farmers had stopped cultivating these varieties. However, students from the IGKV, who have been working on these varieties for the past two years, took samples from the three rice varieties for further research to the BARC. Preliminary experiments done through methanol extracts from the three varieties in the BARC, when tested for their anti-cancer efficacy in human breast cancer cells and lung cancer cells, stopped their multiplication. Among these, Lycha extract was most effective in killing human breast cancer cells. “The initial result clearly show that these rice varieties have anti-cancer properties, which if established through proper research and supplemented by strong marketing efforts, could be boon for millions of cancer patients all over the world,” Deepak Sharma, coordinator of the joint project by IGKV and BARC told.

Hindustan Times, Barnala
‘Declare agriculture a public service with guarantee of minimum wages’

Author and veteran journalist P Sainath stressed the need to declare agriculture a public service with a guarantee of minimum wages during a lecture held at Tarksheel Bhawan. He also urged farmers to do away with corporate control on agriculture. Sainath demanded a 20-day special session of Parliament for lawmakers to debate various issues pertaining to agriculture and cautioned people against water scarcity. He said even though the water crisis has hit India as a whole, it is more acute in Punjab, where farmers depend on water-guzzling paddy. Sainath, who has studied agriculture upheavals extensively in the last more than two decades, reached Punjab on a 15-day visit to study the agrarian crisis. He said a war-like situation is developing on the agrarian front with successive governments working for profitability of multinational companies (MNCs) rather than farmer welfare. The agrarian crisis would soon turn into a social crisis, he warned. “Successive governments might be political adversaries but have adopted a similar approach in pursuing economic policies and benefitting corporates at the cost of farmers. It is time that farmers from across the country follow the path shown by 50,000 farmers of Maharashtra who took out a 180-kilometre march from Nashik to Mumbai. Now, farmers need to join hands and encircle Parliament, making lawmakers frame policies that benefit farmers,” he said. He said farmers should demand a 20-day special session of Parliament to discuss farm issues and for three days, the discussion should be on the national draft farm policy and credit structure. “For three days, the discussion should be about the water situation in India and ways to overcome it and on the type of agriculture needed. Another three days should be devoted to suicide victims and agrarian crisis. Farmers need to check which political parties try to disrupt proceedings,” said Sainath.

The Telegraph, Bhubaneswar
Odisha CM unveils new projects

Odisha Chief minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated a number of infrastructure projects at the Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT). The foundation stone of the infrastructure development project of the varsity was laid along with the National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP). The chief minister congratulated the OUAT for its achievement in the field of agricultural education, research and extension. "It is necessary for the varsity to maintain the upward trajectory and develop the university as a model at national and international level," he said. Foundation stone of infrastructure projects such as teaching complex, College of Agriculture, Chiplima, laboratory complex, College of Horticulture, Chiplima, laboratory complex, College of Fisheries, Rangeilunda, Geo-Spatial Technology Centre, College of Agricultural Engineering and Technology (CAET), Bhubaneswar, High-Tech Agri-Machine Centre, CAET, Bhubaneswar, workshop for straw chopper-cum-seeder, CAET, Bhubaneswar, godown, processing unit and threshing floor, Centre of Pulses Research, Berhampur, seed godown and processing facility, Krsihi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Bargarh and seed godown and processing facility, KVK, Deogarh were laid on this occasion. Besides, completed infrastructure project such as model examination hall, College Of Agriculture, Bhubaneswar, Kamala Pujari Girls' Hostel, Bhubaneswar, boys' and girls' hostel at College of Agriculture, Bhawanipatna, and seed processing and store house at KVK, Bhadrak, were inaugurated. The NAHEP project entitled "Branding the University for Excellence and Equity in Agricultural Education Producing Skill Graduates of Enhanced Employability and Entrepreneurship" has been awarded to OUAT on a competitive basis under Institutional Development Plan from amongst 75 state, central and deemed agricultural universities of the country. "The project aims to create a student centric learning system, enhance faculty competency and make the academic governance more efficient to achieve excellence in education," said vice-chancellor Surendranath Pasupalak. State Planning Board member Kamala Pujari spoke about her life and struggles.

Business Standard, Kathmandu
Nepal to implement agreements made during PM Oli's India visit

Nepal has started the preparatory tasks to concretise three agreements that were made during Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli's visit to India last month. With his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi stepping Nepal next month for the third time, preparations to bring the agreement into action has started, The Kantipur reported, quoting sources. "The three different issues that are said to be 'game-changing' are being prepared to be concretised in Kathmandu, the High Source inside Nepal's foreign ministry informed. In the draft agreement, the time period of its implementation is also stated, the Kantipur reported. Oli who was on a three-day visit to India early this month signed a number of agreements which was termed as 'game changing' by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). During the visit, co-operation over connectivity and the agriculture sector were agreed upon. The co-operation over the railway connectivity between Raxaul of India and Kathmandu, inland water connectivity and the agriculture was also agreed. The officials from both the nations are working over the issues. Meanwhile, Nepal is looking forward to the agreement to study the railway connectivity with other countries. The Nepal government is making preparations over the proposal to link the East-West railway to the International Railway Link via Siliguri in West Bengal to Bangladesh. But, the cabinet of Nepal shall make the decision to agree over. As per the source quoted by the esteemed newspaper, Nepal is keen to link Raxaul directly to Kathmandu using electronic rail. As per the quote, an unidentified official said that the agreement during Prime Minister Modi's upcoming visit to Nepal will have a timeframe for the completion. The source further added that the study over the rail link will be completed within a year.

Live Mint, Mandya
Karnataka elections: Mandya farmers plan to revive stir ahead of polls

Angered by failed promises and false assurances made by successive governments, farmers in Mandya district are trying to revive a farmer movement in the run-up to the 12 May Karnataka assembly elections, hoping unity will bring better bargaining powers. Considered the epicentre of Karnataka’s farmer movement, Mandya has seen about 200 farmers committing suicide in 2015 and 2016 due to distress over droughts and mounting loans. Farmers here are looking to Darshan Puttannaiah, the son of late farmer leader and legislator K.S. Puttannaiah, to take up their cause. But it will be an uphill task for Darshan, despite the Congress giving him full support. He is pitted against C.S. Puttaraju, the Janata Dal (Secular) member of Parliament from Mandya. And the task of fighting for the seat won’t get any easier after the government’s decision not to release water from 8-23 April led to heavy losses. Doreswamy, a farmer, said farmers took out loans and went in for sowing based on information released by the water board. “From gold, cattle, land to even LPG cylinders were pledged by people to raise money for sowing,” he said. Debt is the biggest cause of farmers’ suicides, but the Karnataka government’s farm loan waiver of Rs8,165 crore benefits only about 2.2 million of the over 40 million farmers in Karnataka, according to farmers in the region. Now, they face a new challenge, villagers said in Pankanahalli, a hamlet of about 2,000 residents in Mandya district—micro-finance, which encourages women to take up short-term loans. “We know the burden of debt but we know that the women will take care of the household, should something happen to us. But now, they are also under the threat of going into debt,” Soombanahalli Suresh, a farm leader said. said.

29, April 2018
The Economic Times, Mumbai
‘Better Infra Can Cut Fertiliser Subsidy Leakage’

To cut pilferage in the fertiliser subsidy mechanism, the government must expand infrastructure, issue licences to new retailers and put in place a strong grievance redressal system, according to a study by consulting company MicroSave. MicroSave’s study for think tank Niti Aayog and the department of fertilisers is with regards to the government’s decision that from this kharif season, payment of subsidy to fertiliser companies will be initiated on actual sales to farmers, an agriculture ministry official told. Earlier, the process would start once companies produced documents showing dispatch of fertiliser to district headquarters. Crop planting in the kharif season is set to begin by May-June. Till the last rabi season, on a pilot basis in 16 districts across 11 states, companies were getting subsidy after farmers purchased fertilisers post Aadhaar identification. Officials said the target in the coming years will be to ensure direct transfer of subsidy to farmers as is happening in the case of LPG. The government’s decision to change the contour of giving fertiliser subsidy to companies on actual sales made to farmers through point of sale (PoS) devices is aimed at streamlining the Rs 70,000-crore annual subsidy it gives to the sector. Currently, farmers get urea and 21 grades of phosphatic and potassic fertilisers at subsidised rates. The government also wants to prevent over-invoicing, plug leakages, reduce diversion, ensure that supply chain losses will be the responsibility of the fertiliser company, predict real-time demand and track actual utilisation by farmers. “Our study indicates that the government, however, must clear plans to double retailer commission and proactively consider issuing licences to new retailers to streamline the nationwide launch,” said Mitul Thapliyal, associate director, MicroSave. Also, there is need to improve communication and create awareness among farmers and strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism, said Thapliyal.

The Hindu, New Delhi
‘Growth in farm loans dips sharply in FY18’

Growth in bank loans to the farm sector declined significantly in the financial year 2017-18 while overall non-food credit growth remained unchanged, from the previous fiscal, latest data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed. Credit to agriculture and allied activities rose 3.8% for the year ended March 2018 as compared with a 12.4% in the previous year. The farm sector is in distress in several parts of the country with many State governments announcing loan waivers to farmers in the last few years. Retail credit such as home and auto loans grew 17.8% for the year to March 2018 compared with a 16.4% rise. Overall non-food credit growth of commercial banks in 2017-18 remained at 8.4% as in the previous year.

The Financial Express, Ahmedabad
Amul-like cooperative model advocated for cotton farming sector

Taking inspiration from Amul, the most famous cooperative model in India, the textile industry wants to implement a similar model in cotton farming. Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and over-a-century-old Maskati Cloth Market Mahajan (MCMM) are preparing a detailed report on it to submit to the central government. Both the trade bodies will also discuss it with the cotton farmers of the state. According to GCCI and MCMM, India is the second-largest cotton producing country in the world but as compared to China, Australia and the United States, yield in the country is too small. Cooperative model in cotton farming will not only help the farmers to increase their income but it will also be beneficial for the entire textile sector’s value chain. “We have discussed about Amul like cooperative model in cotton farming sector with the textile sector and taken an initiative to explore opportunities in it. We are working on this idea and will suggest the government to implement it. Most of the farmers in India are small and marginal, their combined efforts shall help the farmers and entire value chain of textile sector,” said Shailesh Patwari, president of GCCI. GCCI and MCMM are going to organise three-days ‘Farm to Fashion — Indian Textile Global Summit’ at Ahmedabad from May 4-6. In this summit, experts will educate the cotton farmers of Gujarat about cooperative model and convince them to join the effort. Gaurang Bhagat, president of MCMM said, “This global summit will be a forward looking event with discussion on present scenario, strength and future outlook of the industry. Farmers are the key part of textile industry. It is first necessary to make them understand about cooperative model as it is for them. Our experts will educate cotton farmers and convince them to join the drive.”

The Hindu, Kolkata
Assam Co. insolvency deadline set for July 23

The National Company Law Tribunal’s Guwahati Bench has extended the last date for the corporate insolvency process for Assam Company (India) Ltd. to July 23, 2018. This is the first major tea company to face insolvency proceedings. Significantly, industry players have expressed apprehension that other tea companies may also face similar proceedings. Sources said at least four big tea companies, with gardens in Assam and West Bengal, and a petrochemical firm had filed expressions of interest with the Resolution Professional. Dhunseri Tea chairman C.K. Dhanuka said this would help his company expand its presence. Dhunseri has gardens in Assam and Malawi in Africa, with total production of 21 million kg. Vinay Goenka, chairman, Warren Tea, too confirmed his firm’s interest. Tea Board Chairman Prabhat K. Bezboruah, also the MD of Bokahola Tea Company, said the organised tea sector was facing challenges. A recent paper on the Assam industry by the Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations said cost increases had outpaced the growth in prices and that this posed a major challenge. “There is a viability issue as prices have not risen in tandem with operational costs of production,” said Arijit Raha, secretary general of the Indian Tea Association. However, some industry veterans, speaking on conditions of anonymity, said the industry, on its part too, had failed to raise yields. While a few more big firms may face bankruptcy proceedings, the trend was unlikely to become pervasive, they said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Bring law to give MSP legal status: HC to U’khand, Centre

Giving a boost to the long pending demand of farmer organisations from across the country, the Uttarakhand high court has suggested the Centre and the state government “provide legal status to minimum support price (MSP) by bringing a suitable legislation”. The step, if taken, will make it a legal right of farmers to get the support price for their produce. The court, while disposing of a public interest litigation (PIL) on redressal of farmers’ grievances in the backdrop of incidents of suicides in Uttarakhand, on Thursday also directed the Centre and the state government to implement “broader recommendations” of the M S Swaminathan committee on providing higher support prices on all notified crops to farmers based on comprehensive formula (C2) of calculating cost of production. The direction comes at the time when the Centre has been fine-tuning a robust mechanism to procure all notified farm produce at MSP. A detailed framework of the mechanism, giving different options to states, is expected to be approved by the Cabinet soon. The Centre has, however, already made it clear that the support price would be at least oneand-a-half times more than the production cost.

Business Line, Chennai
Centre restricts import of yellow peas for 3 months

The Commerce Ministry has amended the import policy of Yellow Peas (Pisum sativum) putting it on the restricted list through a notification on April 25, 2018. Peas import, previously on the free list, has now been restricted for three months from April 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018. During this period, a maximum of one lakh tonne is allowed including the quantity already imported in April so far. This means the quantity that has arrived as of the date of notification and shipments backed by irrevocable commercial letters of credit and advance payment made through banks before this date are exempted, the notification said. With this, yellow peas — on which the Centre had levied 50 per cent import duty last year — joins the list of pulses put on the restricted list since August 2017 in a bid to arrest declining prices of pulses. Previously, in separate notifications it restricted tur (pigeon pea), urad (black matpe) and moong (green moong).

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Centre shifts Tea Park to Odisha

In a major setback for the tea industry in Assam and the State government, the Centre has overturned a proposal to set up a Tea Park in Amingaon and shifted it to Dhamra Port in Odisha. Sources said that officials of the Indian Tea Association (ITA) and Indian Tea Exporters’ Association (ITEA) had paid a visit to the Port for an on-site assessment and had made a recommendation for the port as it is cost effective compared to the Kolkata Port and the Inland Container Depot at Amingaon. Sources said that Ministry of Commerce and Industry has selected a location near the Dhamra Port for setting up a tea park on the lines of the ‘Dubai Multimodal Commodity Centre, Tea Centre, Jebel Ali Free Zone’. Setting up of tea parks in India would promote the country as an investment destination, establishing India as a manufacturing hub by attracting the global tea brands. Such parks would ensure integration of various facilities with the creation of world-class infrastructure and common centre for availing various services for the tea growers and the exporters, sources said. Consequent to interactions with the stakeholders and CEO of the Dhamra Port, the Tea Board had decided to take a call on its feasibility after the starting of the containerised movement from the port. The Tea Board had also communicated with the Department of MSME, Government of Odisha for seeking land around Dhamra Port for the proposed Tea Park. However, trouble continues to plague the project in Odisha. The Adani Group had been communicated for availing facilities required for setting up of the Tea Park, but in spite of repeated reminders by the Tea Board, a response from the Adani Group is yet to be received, sources said.

The Economic Times, Kochi
China Price Dip may Hit India’s Garlic Exports

India is set to lose the gains made in garlic exports in the last couple of years with the fall in prices of the spice from China. A surge in Chinese garlic prices saw Indian exports spiral, recording the largest growth among the spices in 2016-17 at 92 % to reach a new peak of ₹307 crore. The robust growth continued till October last year after when a big crop pulled down Chinese garlic prices, eclipsing India’s advantage. China accounts for nearly 70% of the global garlic production and its variety is less pungent and bigger in size than Indian ones and is preferred by buyers in the US and Europe. Indian exports are mainly focused on Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. Chinese garlic is currently priced around $450 per tonne compared with $200 per tonne for Indian ones. “On the face of it, the Indian prices look less. But the bigger size of Chinese garlic, taste and the enormous duty advantage China enjoys with several Asian countries have virtually driven the purchases away from India,’’ said Vinay Agarwal, director of Ginny Food, a leading exporter.

Business Line, New Delhi
DBT in fertiliser a big hit among farmers : Survey

Three out of five farmers in districts where direct benefit transfer in fertiliser sector (DBT-F) was tried on a pilot basis gave their stamp of approval to the new scheme over manual system of fertiliser distribution. The Centre rolled out DBT-F across India from April 1 after successful completion of three pilot rounds which covered 2, 6 and 14 districts. However, there are still concerns about the average transaction through point-of-sale (POS) device which still remains high, according to a survey of DBT-F roll-out in 14 districts in 11 States, where the scheme was implemented on an experimental basis. “The transaction time currently is about 5 minutes, while around 2-2.5 minutes will be an ideal time. At the rate of 5 minutes per farmer, a retailer will be able to cater to only 120 farmers a day, while on an average up to 300 farmers turn up at the shop buying fertilisers during peak season,” said Mitul Tapliyal, Associate Director of MicroSave, the consulting firm which carried out the study. The study also found that nearly 3.4 per cent of farmers fail to get their Aadhaar authentication done despite three attempts for a host of reasons including the inability of POS machine to capture the biometrics correctly and poor network connectivity. However, it showed that the successful authentication has improved as compared to earlier pilot phases. One of the major recommendations of the report that MicroSave submitted to NITI-Aayog on December 22 was to increase retailer commission. There is a need to deal with possible retailer attrition in future as low fertiliser sale commissions and additional operational hassles would make unattractive for retailers. Consequently, the Cabinet in a meeting held last week of March, almost doubled the dealer commission from Rs 180 per tonne to Rs 354.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Farm exports recover, register a 15% rise in FY18

India’s farm exports reversed a three-year slide and posted an over 14% rise to $38.2 billion in the last fiscal from a year earlier on robust demand for marine products and rice, showed the latest official data. Interestingly, shipments of buffalo meat — the third-largest item in the farm export basket — posted a near-3% rise in value and a marginal rise in volume in FY18, despite a crackdown on illegal abattoirs in Uttar Pradesh last year. What bolsters the notion of a recovery in farm export is the fact that, in volume terms, as many as 27 of the top 40 items that make up around 95% of total agricultural shipments registered a rise in FY18. In fact, export volume of six of the top 10 items accounting for around 70% of agricultural and allied product shipment rose in the last fiscal, vis-a-vis FY14 when farm export value had touched a record $43 billion. “This suggests our farm and allied sector exports in the last fiscal could have breached the earlier record if key commodity prices in the export market would not have remained subdued last fiscal,” a senior commerce ministry official told. Analysts said the rise suggests many of our products are becoming competitive again due to a pick-up in prices in competing nations, even though global commodity prices are yet to recover fully. Also, a strong show by the marine products segment continues to lift agricultural exports. The rise in the outbound shipments of farm items exceeded a 10% expansion in the overall merchandise exports in 2017-18.

The Indian Express, Chandigarh
Punjab Governor: Hopeful that Happy Seeders will make farmers happy

With five months left for the harvesting of paddy in Punjab, the state government has urged Governor V P Singh Badnore to spearhead a think tank that will interact with farmers on how to manage paddy straw, the Governor said at a one-day workshop here on “Stakeholder initiatives to address crop residue burning in the state of Punjab”. Badnore said farmers of Punjab were knowledgeable and wanted options and solutions to their problems rather than awareness. “Farmers are already aware of the disadvantages of straw burning. I am ready to go to each district with teams and together we can make a difference,” he said. According to statistics presented during the workshop, farmers in Punjab and Haryana burn at least 35 million tonnes of paddy straw within a 25-day window every year during October and November, which has contributed to widespread air pollution in states extending up to the National Capital Region (NCR). Punjab contributes to 55 per cent of crop residue burning. Last year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked the Punjab government to talk to farmers and draw up an aid plan to stop straw burning. In February, the NGT again asked four northern states, including Punjab, to submit a comprehensive policy to reduce straw burning. “We’ve had a good discussion today,” Badnore said. He said that nowhere in the country will anybody find the sort of interaction and intervention that Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has with farmers.

Business Line, Chennai
TN may tap PPP or JV model for Rs 400-cr agri supply chain project

As part of a Rs 400-crore modern supply chain management project for fruits, vegetables and perishables, Tamil Nadu is exploring options of a public private partnership or a joint venture model, according to officials concerned. The Rs 398.75-crore project, spread across 10 districts, involves establishment of over 58 primary processing centres with cleaning and grading facilities. The project will be funded through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development under the Nabard-Warehouse Infrastructure Fund which will provide 95 per cent of the cost. The balance funding will be from the State through the Agricultural Marketing Board. The biggest of the facilities is coming up at a cost of about Rs 52 crore at Pochampalle including Rs 39 crore for export-oriented processing of mangoes, according to officials. Civil works for this facility will be completed by June-end and in the next 4-5 months equipment — including irradiation facilities for mangoes — will be in place. By the year-end, the project will be in place, the official said. Hyderabad-based Icrisat is the process consultant and Ernst & Young is in the process of studying the possibility of Public-Private Partnership for the supply chain project. The government is keen on including the private sector and Farmer Producer Organisations, groups of farmers brought together in company-style structure, to run the primary processing facilities in PPP model or in joint venture. In this context, the State government is also examining the option of amending the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act to involve private sector players. It will see if private-run markets can be encouraged along the lines of regulated markets. The facilities are coming up in major production centres including Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Ramanathanpuram, Coimbatore, Dindigul, Theni, Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Tiruchi and Ramanathapuram.

The Tribune, Faridkot
Transport mafia still active, allege commission agents

Already facing tough time in selling their wheat crop, the farmers in this area are now shouldering the burden of paying “post-sale bribe” to some politically connected transport contractors for the movement of procured wheat from mandis to storehouses of food agencies. The contractors have imposed Rs 2 per bag illegal “tax” on the commission agents for the lifting of the wheat, but to ease the burden of the commission agents, some farmers are also making contribution to the “tax”. The Food and Supplies Department has assigned the job of shifting the procured wheat from mandis to storehouses to private contractors. Some of these politically connected transport contractors are forcing the commission agents to pay them Rs 1.50-Rs 2 per bag (50 kg each) to shift their procured wheat to storehouses. “Due to delayed lifting, mandis are bursting at the seams and unless we pay the bribe, our stocks are stuck,” said a commission agent in Faridkot. “For this reason, arhtiyas and farmers are agreeing to contribute to the bribe to clear the wheat glut so that some space is created in the mandis,” he said. The longer wheat stays in the mandis, more is the weight loss. Most of the wheat is harvested with moisture content between 10 and 12 per cent. The commission agents have to pay the farmers as per the weight noted at the time of its procurement. The delay in the movement of wheat after the procurement leads to its weight loss as the moisture content falls under scorching Sun, causing financial loss to arhtiyas. Atinder Kaur, District Food and Supplies Controller, Faridkot, said charging such fee by the transporters from the commission agents was illegal. “We will take necessary action, if there is any such complaint,” she said.

27, April 2018
Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Additional 4 lakh farmers to get benefit of loan waiver in Maharashtra

The state cabinet fulfilled demand of Maharashtra Kisan Sabha to include farmers between 2001 to 2009 in the loan waiver scheme. It will benefit an additional 4 lakh farmers. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, the cabinet has decided to include farmers who were not included in loan waiver scheme in 2008 scheme of the Union government and in state government’s 2008 loan waiver scheme. “Farmers who had taken agriculture loan from district cooperative and nationalised banks during 2001 to 2009 will get benefit of Chhatrapati Shivaji Shetkari Sanman Yojana,” said Fadnavis. He said there will be around four lakh farmers who will get benefit of this decision. He added, the exact figures of beneficiares is yet to calculate. The amount of loan waiver is also yet to calculate. State government has disbursed more than Rs 15000 crore in account of more than 35 lakh beneficiary farmers. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) led government announced its historic farm loan waiver scheme worth Rs 34,020 crore on June 22, 2017. The state has given extension for third time to apply to asel benefit of the scheme. About 77 lakh farmers applied under the scheme in all, according to government numbers. Out of these, 55.02 lakh farmers were found to be eligible for receiving benefits of the scheme as per stated parameters. The government approved 45.52 lakh farmers as primary beneficiaries of the scheme.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Telangana CM warns leaders on agriculture sops

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao believes that farmers’ decision to voluntarily give up the agriculture investment subsidy being handed out by the state government could have a negative impact on the image of the TRS party. He does not want government officials and party leaders to publicise the issue. The government has announced that every farmer will be given Rs 4000 per acre per crop as an investment subsidy. However, the scheme has invited criticism as people believe that rich farmers do not need the money. Keeping this in mind, the government has called upon rich farmers to voluntarily give up the investment subsidy being offered to them. Arrangements for the distribution of cheques to farmers as were discussed at the Collectors’ Conference held a few days ago. Sources who attended the Conference revealed that the Chief Minister said that the opposition parties were likely to use the farmers’ decision to voluntarily give up the investment subsidy as a reason to defame the government. He said that they would say the government had no interest in helping the farmers and that it was pressurising them to give up the subsidy. Gram Sabhas will be conducted for the distribution of cheques under the scheme. Farmers who choose not to accept the subsidy must fill up a form informing the officials of their decision, and their cheques will be retained by the government.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Good monsoon may push farm output to new high

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said predictions of a normal monsoon bode well for the harvest season in 2018, which according to the agriculture ministry, is set to rise by around 2.23 per cent to a record 283.7 million tonnes (MT) in 2018-19. Of this, around 141 MT is targeted to be produced during the kharif season of 2018, against the actual production of 138.46 MT in 2017, while 142.5 MT is projected to be produced during the rabi season of 2019, compared to this year’s actual production of 139.02 MT. “The first two years of this government were challenging due to back to back droughts in 2014 and 2015, but we have managed to overcome those and gave a definite direction to agriculture from being production- centric to income centric,” Singh said during his inaugural address at the annual two-day kharif conference. The government has taken several steps to improve the condition of farmers and lower their cost of production, most of which will start showing results from March. India’s pulses production in 2018-19 is set to rise to 24 MT, against 23.9 MT last year. In Budget 2018-19, the government announced a decision to provide a minimum support price (MSP), which is 50 per cent more than the production cost. It also recently announced a hike in MSP for copra and jute, 60 per cent more than the production cost.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Grain target for 2018-19 set at 284 mt, kharif MSP to be raised

The agriculture ministry has set a target to raise grain production by over 6 million tonnes to record 283.7 million tonnes in 2018-19 crop year on hopes of normal monsoon. The grain output in the 2017-18 crop year (July-Ju­ne) is estimated at an all-time high 277.49 million tonnes, as per the second advance estimates released by the ministry in February. The record production in last couple of years has led to fall in prices of agri-commodities and level of distress in farm sector. “The Indian meteorological department has forecast normal monsoon this year, which indicates the likelihood of good crop production in the coming kharif season,” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said at a national meet on agriculture for kharif campaign. The minister said the minimum support price (MSP) for kharif crops will be fixed 50 per cent higher than the cost of production as anno­unced in the budget this year. Singh said the government would soon announce a scheme to ensure that farmers get the MSP price announced by it, if rates fall below the benchmark price. Agriculture commissioner SK Malhotra said the ministry has set a target of 141.2 million tonnes in the kharif (summer-sown) and 142.5 million tonnes in the rabi (winter-sown) season, taking the total grain target to 283.7 million tonnes in 2018-19 crop year. In 2018-19 crop year, the ministry aims to increase grain production by 6.2 million tonnes – 2.9 million tonnes in wheat, 2 million tonnes in rice and 1.3 million tonnes in coarse cereals. Rice production target has been finalised at 113 million tonnes in 2018-19 from estimated 111.01 million tonnes in the current crop year. Target for wheat output has been kept at 100 million tonnes, up from 97.11 million tonnes estimated for the 2017-18 crop year.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Ministry hikes target for foodgrain production

Banking on the forecast of a normal monsoon, the Ministry of Agriculture has set a target to increase foodgrain production to a record 283.7 million tonnes in 2018-19. That would be a 6 million tonne increase from the second advance estimates of 277.5 million tonnes in 2017-18. “The Indian Meteorological Department forecast of a normal monsoon is a good signal for production of the upcoming kharif crop,” Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said at the National Conference on Agriculture for Kharif Campaign here. The normal monsoon of the last two years had led to record production of foodgrain. The challenge was to ensure that farmers incomes also rose, said Mr. Singh, reiterating the government’s Budget 2018-19 promise to set minimum support prices at 50% higher than the cost of production. There was a special focus on millets, which were being branded as nutri-cereals, this year, said Agriculture Commissioner S.K. Malhotra.

Business Line, Chennai
Paddy, rice fall on arrivals

Heavy arrivals of paddy and rice have dampened prices across Tamil Nadu and the major urban consumption centres including Chennai market, say leading traders. Tamil Nadu is a major market for produce from Odisha, West Bengal and Gujarat apart from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. But arrivals in recent weeks have dropped because transactions are down, say trade sources. Till a few weeks back, rice prices of new stocks were ruling steady in wholesale at about Rs 38 a kg. But now some of the fine varieties are down to Rs 34-35, while boiled rice variant fetches about Rs 35-36. Sales are also down due to holiday season as hostels and other institutional buyers will not be in the market, according to Amara Visweswararao, President, Tamil Nadu Food Grain Merchants Association. Normally, the wholesale market in Chennai which sells about 600 bags (of 25 kg each) daily around this period sells just about 100-200 bags. Also, traders are waiting for further drop in prices and rice millers are flush with paddy stocks. Over the last 20 days about 3,400 tonnes of paddy has come in at Ammoor. This is about 30 per cent more than that in 2016. At Vridhachalam, during the peak arrival season between January and March about 25,000 bags (of 75 kg) arrived on a daily basis comparable with last year. Fine varieties fetched up to Rs 2,200 a quintal, down about Rs 300 over last year, against an MSP of Rs 1,660. According to AC Mohan, Secretary, Federation of Tamil Nadu Rice Millers and Paddy, Rice Dealers Association, open market sale of rice in the State is estimated at about 91 lakh tonnes (lt) annually. Local production will account for about 76 lt and the balance comes from other States. For now, the trade estimates there is a 5-lt surplus in the market with the trade.

Business Line, New Delhi
Raw jute MSP hiked to Rs 3,700/quintal

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of raw jute to Rs 3,700 per quintal for the current fiscal, from Rs 3,500 per quintal in the previous year. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The increased MSP is based on recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices. The CCEA also gave its nod to the recently restructured National Bamboo Mission, for which Rs 1,290 crore was allocated in the Union Budget, for the remaining period of the 14th Finance Commission, an official statement said here. The mission envisages the holistic development of the bamboo sector by effectively linking bamboo farmers to industry and also local artisans who make products based on bamboo. Under the mission, the government plans to bring additional 1 lakh hectares under bamboo cultivation by allowing bamboo to be grown in non-forest as well as private land. The bamboo mission, first launched in 2006-07, has so for covered 3.62 lakh hectares in cultivation, set up 39 bamboo wholesale markets and 40 bamboo bazaars, but still has a lot of scope for further expansion as an industry, the statement said. In another major decision, the Cabinet extended long-term agreement for supply of iron ore to Japan and South Korea for another five years. While the quantity of iron ore exported to Japanese steel makers would be in the range of 3-4 million tonnes per annum, their counterparts in South Korea would be supplied anywhere between 8,00,000 tonne and 1.2 million tonne a year, the statement said. The exports will be carried out through MMTC Ltd. It also approved the declaration of scheduled areas in many districts in Rajasthan which have sizable population of Scheduled Tribes (STs).

The Pioneer, New Delhi
Rs 1,290 cr bamboo mission OK’d; 1L farmers to benefit

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) with an outlay of Rs 1,290 crore for two years, a move aimed at benefiting one lakh farmers. The CCEA also increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of raw jute by Rs 200 per quintal to Rs 3,700 per quintal for the 2018-19 crop season. "The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved Centrally Sponsored Scheme of NBM under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) during remaining period of 14th Finance Commission (2018-19 and 2019-20). An outlay of Rs 1,290 crore (with Rs 950 crore as Central share) is provisioned for implementation of the Mission during the remaining period of 14th Finance Commission," said the statement issued by the Government. It approved empowerment of executive committee for formulation of guidelines of the NBM and to make the changes therein, including cost norms for various interventions as per the "felt needs" and specific recommendations of states. "It is proposed to bring about one lakh hectare area under plantation and it is expected that abut one lakh farmers would be directly benefitted in terms of plantation," the release said. The Mission will focus on development of bamboo in limited States where it has social, commercial and economical advantage. The States include, the North Eastern region, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The new MSP for the raw jute would yield returns of 63.2 per cent over the weighted average A2 + FL (covers actual paid-out costs plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour) cost of production, the release said. "The increased MSP is based on recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)," it said. The decision would benefit jute farmers mainly in West Bengal, Assam and Bihar.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Maharashtra government finally decides to stand for suffering farmers

The Maharashtra government finally stepped in to help out the farmers and announced medium intensity drought in eight out of 398 tehsils in the state. Yavatmal, Washim and Jalgaon are the three districts that are facing this precarious situation. Following the water shortage and crop losses in these areas, the government finally took the decision to help out the agrarian community. The government also declared various relief measures for farmers in these areas. A Government Resolution (GR) declaring a medium intensity drought in these tehsils was issued, after a review of the crop situation, damage caused by unseasonal rains, ground water level depletion and losses suffered by farmers due to other reasons. Ralegaon, Digras, Ghatanji, Kelapur and Yavatmal tehsils in Yavatmal district, Washim tehsil in Washim district and Muktainagar and Bodwad in Jalgaon district figure in the list. Earlier, the government used to declare the list of scarcity-hit tehsils by March-end however, this time around looking at the ground reality, the government announced the drought. It may be recalled that parts of Maharashtra received unseasonal showers in the last two weeks which damaged some summer crops as well as led to loss of livestock. As a result, the government swung in to the action to help out the farmers. The farmers in these eight tehsils will get relaxation in the land revenue tax, their crop loans would be restructured and the loan recovery will be stayed temporarily. Further, these farmers will get 33.5 per cent concession in agriculture, water pump bills, and school, college fees of farmers' children will be waived, which the government has made clear. According to a Revenue department official, the water conservation drive undertaken by the government has led to an increase in the ground water levels across the state. It has resulted in declaration of water shortage later than usual, during summer.

DNA, Mumbai
Maharashtra to include farmers from 2001-09 in loan waiver scheme

In good news for four lakh farmers in Maharashtra who could not repay their farm loans availed between 2001 and 2009, the farmers will now be eligible to avail benefits of loan waiver package announced by the Devendra Fadnavis government. The state cabinet decided to include these four lakh farmers into the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana which is the loan waiver scheme. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis informed the media that as per primary estimates, four lakh farmers would benefit from this decision. Addressing the media after the cabinet meeting, the chief minister said that when the previous Congress-NCP government announced its loan waiver in 2008-09, these farmers were not included in it. He said that these farmers could not avail loan waiver benefits even during this year since his government had included farmers who availed loan after last loan waiver scheme which is 2009. That is the reason, Fadnavis said, “We decided to include farmers who availed loan between 2001 and 2009 which they could not repay. This is a historic decision as now all the eligible farmers would be able to avail loan waiver benefits. Those who availed the loan for shed-net, poly-house and growing Emu birds would also be waived for these farmers.”

The New Indian Express, Chennai
Water woes force Cuddalore farmers to switch over to horticulture crops

The transition from agriculture to horticulture is happening in the district with the rains playing the spoilsport. Vegetables, fruits and flowers find a place among farmers, where paddy and sugarcane ruled the roost earlier. In the past two years, horticulture cultivation increased by 16.7 per cent. Due to the erratic monsoon and lack of water in several localities, farmers in the region are switching over to horticulture. Paddy, which requires abundant water, is fading out with vegetables and fruits leading the pack, said horticultural department officials. It was found in a study by the horticultural department that horticultural crops account for at least 45 per cent in the region and vegetable cultivation witnessed a 2 per cent rise in the past two years. According to the data, cashew cultivation accounts for 30 per cent, while vegetables and fruits have cornered 15 per cent. A senior horticulture department official said, “Horticulture is leading in several parts of the district, including delta region, which are facing water scarcity due to the erratic monsoon. For the first time, Thanjavur, the rice bowl of the state, has also seen farmers laying their hands on vegetables and fruits.” As paddy and sugarcane cultivation is not fetching good return, there are many takers for horticulture, the official added. N Kannan, a farmer from Kaganankuppam, is betting big on lady’s finger cultivation followed by guava and brinjal. Soil is conducive and less water is needed for their farming. Despite being a coastal town, Cuddalore region is known for its fertile soil. There are also many takers for cultivating flowers and many have tried their hands on marigold cultivation. From 2013 to 2018, entire acreage has been reduced to 8,13,000 hectares, according to officials. For the past 10 years, horticulture in state improved by 2.63 lakh hectare to 4.78 lakh hectares, according to data.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Wheat crop over 200 kanals of land destroyed in fire

The standing wheat crop on 220 kanals of land was destroyed in devastating fire in various areas of Kathua district causing a heavy loss amounting to several lakhs of rupees. As per reports, standing wheat crop in the fields of 22 farmers of Kathua Balan Paien in Rajbagh area was completely destroyed in fire. Reports said fire broke out suddenly at wheat field of village area. The devastating fire engulfed the nearby wheat field and it spread out in nearly 160 kanals of the adjoining area. The farmers ran away to their fields to control the fire with green bushes and drove tractor on standing wheat crops to control it to spread out nearby area. A police team and fire tender reached on the spot to control on the fire. Nearly 160 kanals of ready wheat crops turned into ashes within few minutes. The cause of fire was stated to be short circuit as live electric wires were passing through the filed. But there was no loss of life or injury suffered by any human being or animal. Another incident of fire was reported at Nagari and Barnoti area yesterday and standing crop nearly on 70 kanals was destroyed. The fire tender was rushed to the spot to control the fire which otherwise could have spread to more area. The entire year hard work of the farmers was turned into the ashes due to the devastating fire. The affected farmers demanded the compensation from the Government for their sustenance.

The Economic Times, Mumbai
In M’rashtra,95% of Tur Collected is Unprocessed

Of the over Rs 3,000 crore worth tur procured last year by the Maharashtra government, over 95% is yet to be processed to make dal out of it, which may lead to losses of Rs 1,000 crore. Since the procured tur has a limited shelf life, the stock that has been damaged will have to be thrown away.

26, April 2018
Business Line, New Delhi
A tech punch for biodiversity

The Institute of Bioresources & Sustainable Development (IBSD) is spreading its wings across the North-East. After Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim, last week a chapter was inaugurated in Mizoram by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. A body under the Centre's Department of Biotechnology, IBSD’s mandate is to help in development activities through the sustainable use of bio-resources of the region. It also undertakes fresh research and development for path-breaking action and results. Through these chapters, Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director, IBSD, hopes to bring together different departments, institutes and universities which will create a bio-tech hub in the region through technological interventions and develop technological packages. In Mizoram, in particular, IBSD plans to start outreach activities which “will be centred around sustainable technologies for protected and open cultivation of important vegetable crops in farmers’ fields and set up IBSD’s Main Hub Mizoram”. It also envisages setting up a pilot project for protected cultivation of high-quality horticultural, agricultural and ornamental crops. This will be accompanied by open field demonstration for farmers of innovative technologies for the production of French beans, bird’s eye chilli and sticky pumpkin in open conditions. The idea is to set up units to serve as nucleus facilities that will finally become centres of excellence for high-value commercial cultivation. Farmers and unemployed youth will receive training in production, post-harvest management and marketing. Sahoo feels Mizoram has a huge potential to become a bio-tech hub in the country due to its rich biodiversity, climatic conditions and good air connectivity. In recent years, IBSD has pioneered the cherry blossom (Sakura) initiative in the North-East and organised the country’s first cherry blossom festival in 2016 in Meghalaya.

Business Line, New Delhi
A tech punch for biodiversity

The Institute of Bioresources & Sustainable Development (IBSD) is spreading its wings across the North-East. After Manipur, Meghalaya and Sikkim, last week a chapter was inaugurated in Mizoram by Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla. A body under the Centre's Department of Biotechnology, IBSD’s mandate is to help in development activities through the sustainable use of bio-resources of the region. It also undertakes fresh research and development for path-breaking action and results. Through these chapters, Prof Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director, IBSD, hopes to bring together different departments, institutes and universities which will create a bio-tech hub in the region through technological interventions and develop technological packages. In Mizoram, in particular, IBSD plans to start outreach activities which “will be centred around sustainable technologies for protected and open cultivation of important vegetable crops in farmers’ fields and set up IBSD’s Main Hub Mizoram”. It also envisages setting up a pilot project for protected cultivation of high-quality horticultural, agricultural and ornamental crops. This will be accompanied by open field demonstration for farmers of innovative technologies for the production of French beans, bird’s eye chilli and sticky pumpkin in open conditions. The idea is to set up units to serve as nucleus facilities that will finally become centres of excellence for high-value commercial cultivation. Farmers and unemployed youth will receive training in production, post-harvest management and marketing. Sahoo feels Mizoram has a huge potential to become a bio-tech hub in the country due to its rich biodiversity, climatic conditions and good air connectivity. In recent years, IBSD has pioneered the cherry blossom (Sakura) initiative in the North-East and organised the country’s first cherry blossom festival in 2016 in Meghalaya.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
‘Nexus’ of traders, officials exposed

With seizure of 500 quintals of wheat brought from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, the authorities stumbled upon a nexus of traders and government officials, who were hoodwinking the procurement process by drawing payments from the state exchequer without actual delivery of wheat. The authorities came across the racket when some truckers left 500 quintals of wheat brought from Aligarh at a place outside the grain market in Kharkhoda town of Sonepat district late Monday evening and disappeared. The authorities, who were already on alert amidst reports of arrival of wheat from UP, seized the stock and began investigations. Deputy Commissioner Vinay Singh said three traders of the grain market, who were suspected to have brought the wheat from Aligarh, fled. The wheat, he said, was packed in bags bearing Punjab mark. “We have seized the registers of the market committee as well as the procurement agencies and a team of senior officials is probing the matter by counting the actual quantities of wheat arrivals in the grain market,” said the DC. The authorities suspect that the wheat brought from Aligarh was to be supplied to the procurement agencies against the commodity already shown to have been procured by the government and payments already released. Sources said under the nexus involving traders, officials of the FCI and market committee, entries were made in the registers showing procurement of wheat without actual delivery of the commodity. Since, the government norms prescribe that the payment must be released within 72 hours of procurement of crop, however, the officials released payments even before receiving the wheat. Later, the traders brought wheat from UP or other neighbouring states where it was available at Rs 150 to Rs 200 below the MSP and sent it to the FCI warehouses in connivance with the officials.

Millennium Post, Mandla
Bamboo will be treated as a grass: PM

From now onwards, bamboo will be treated as a grass and not a tree, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. Addressing a gathering of tribals in Mandla town of Madhya Pradesh to mark the National Panchayati Raj Day, Modi said since tribals had to face punitive action for felling bamboo, the government had decided to categorise it as a grass. "Due to insufficient availability of bamboo, the country imports it. But if farmers grow bamboo on the fence of their fields, it could well be another source of earning which can help change their life for the better," he said. The Prime Minister started his speech welcoming the people in Gondi language spoken by Gond tribals. "There is no paucity of funds for development work today... What is needed is ensure the right use of these funds." Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar said Modi was keen on village development, and that being the reason, the allocation under the head had been quadrupled. "By 2022, a New India will emerge under the leadership of Narendra Modi," he said. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan promised that electricity would be made available to every village of the state by October, adding: "Rs 2 lakh crore will be spent towards the welfare of tribal population of Madhya Pradesh," Chouhan added.

Business Standard, New Delhi
Distortions creep into e-NAM platform

As the Centre looks to widen the electronic trading platform of e-NAM in more states, a high-powered panel of experts on integrating commodity spot and futures markets has found that data of trading done manually is being fed into the electronic platform after the auction is completed in many mandis (APMCs). This is in violation of the concept of transparency and fair price discovery. “In APMCs, strictly speaking, online auction of commodities on the eNAM platform is not taking place and the data of manual trading is being recorded in the system after the auction is done offline,” the panel said, listing out the operational limitations and challenges of e-NAM. The committee was chaired by Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand. The panel was set up by the finance ministry a year ago. Its report was submitted to the government in February. The report has been considered by the Union finance ministry’s department of economic affairs and is now in the public domain for comments. The panel said details being fed manually into the e-auction platform included details about buyer, seller, seller’s address, commodity name, quantity and auction rate. That apart, the panel found that many agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) do not have operational assaying labs for grading commodities prior to putting them up for online auction. “Though some of the labs do have some basic instruments like moisture meter and weighing machine, this is a major deficiency noticed in the majority of APMCs thereby affecting the prospect of introducing an online trading platform in APMCs,” the panel’s report said. APMCs need to be equipped with basic assaying equipment, including automatic analysers for both physical as well as chemical quality, it said. Also, few mandis were pushing commodities with large arrival volumes out of e-auctions due to time constraints. The panel also found significant variation in the arrival data of AGMARKNET and eNAM.

The Financial Express, Pune
Extension for Maharashtra arhar procurement drive

The Centre has granted extension to the Maharashtra government for procurement of tur (arhar) under the Price Support Scheme (PSS) up to May 15 for the kharif season of 2017-18. Until April 18, the government has procured some 25.45 lakh quintals from the key producing regions of the state and has met nearly 65% of its target which has been set at 44.67 lakh quintals from February 1. According to officials, the government began a registration drive for farmers on January 19 and some 4,57,833 farmers have registered themselves in the drive, of which tur remains to be purchased from 25,3816 farmers. Around 34.70 lakh quintals of tur remains to be procured. Along with the bonus, the MSP of tur comes up to `5,450 per quintal. The total amount of purchase comes up to Rs 1,387 crore, of which dues of Rs 559 crore have been paid to farmers, the officials said. Tur procurement was stopped in some parts of the state because of lack of storage space. Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh, in a recent meeting, had instructed officials of the State Warehousing Corporation to use private godowns for storing the tur dal purchased from farmers, if necessary. The ongoing procurement of tur from farmers should not be hindered on the pretext of unavailability of godowns, he had warned. Small-size private godowns with storage capacity of less than 1,000 tonnes should be preferred, the minister said. Tur in Maharashtra has declined to `4,200 per quintal while in Madhya Pradesh it ruled at `3,800-3,900 per quintal. According to Ajit Relekar, Joint MD, Maharashtra State Warehousing Corporation (MSWC), the Corporation, along with the Central Warehousing Corporation, is making provisions for the storage of tur near the procurement centres. Tur purchase was stopped in between and the Warehousing Corporation had then made arrangements for storage of 6 lakh quintals, he said.

Business Line, New Delhi
Farm credit: Lack of disaggregated data hampers targeted delivery, says official

The inability of banking institutions to provide disaggregated data on farm credit flow is hampering the targeted delivery of institutional credit to small and marginal farmers, a senior agricultural ministry official said. It is said that farmers of small and marginal holdings, who constitute nearly 85 per cent of the farming community, get only 15 cent of the institutional credit and nearly 60 per cent of their credit needs are met through other sources. The credit outflow to the agricultural sector has been increasing every year, and this year the government’s disbursement target for agriculture is a whopping Rs 11 lakh crore. But the question to which the government needs an answer is where this money is going, said Ashish Kumar Bhutani, Joint Secretary, in the Agriculture Ministry. He was speaking at a seminar organised by FICCI. One of major worrying factors for the ministry is that big farmers are cornering a larger share of the credit available for agriculture under priority sector lending. “We have been requesting the banks to give us disaggregated data under appropriate heading so that we know who has accessed the credit. But they have expressed their inability to provide such data,” said Bhutani. If they are at the forefront of the digital revolution , why are the banks not in a position to give such data, he wondered, adding that this data is crucial to make sure that the credit is made available to the needy. “The fact that as many as 4.8 crore farmers have registered with a portal that the ministry has created has helped the officials to get most of their details, such as size of landholding, ownership details and land records, since last year. But we are unable to get the financial details from banks,” he said.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Farmers upset as FCI ‘slows’ purchase

The delay in wheat procurement by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is posing problems for the farmers as also the state government. With wheat arrival at its peak, the government is pushing the FCI to go full throttle on procurement. The agency has bought just 8.62 lakh metric tonne (LMT) of 81.27 LMT procured so far, much lower than its target of 20 per cent of the total arrivals. The problem has been reported in Amritsar, Mansa and Bathinda districts, where farmer unrest over the issue has started. Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary, BKU, said while the lifting of foodgrain from the mandis was still an issue, with the original unregistered truck unions not getting any tenders for procurement, farmers who were taking their produce to mandis allocated exclusively to the FCI were facing more hardships. "The procurement is bare minimum. Even where the FCI has started procuring wheat, there is a shortage of gunny bags, leading to heaps of grain piling up in the mandis," he said. Of 1,834 mandis in Punjab where wheat procurement is on, the FCI is procuring wheat in 438 mandis. Of these, in 292 mandis, the FCI is the only agency buying the grain, while it is sharing the work with state agencies in 146 mandis. Sanjiv Bhaskar, general manager, FCI, who is officiating as head of Punjab region, said though he was aware of the problems in mandis allotted exclusively to the FCI in Amritsar and Bathinda, the issue had been resolved and they had started purchase in large quantities. "But this year, the wheat arrivals are slower than last year. We are making the necessary market interventions and to the best of our abilities," he claimed.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Govt Meets Rs 10 Lakh Crore Credit Disbursal Target

Agriculture credit is growing every year and reached Rs 10 lakh crore last fiscal, the government said while stressing upon the need to increase the flow to small farmers as well as providing loan access to tenant cultivators. The agriculture ministry will soon bring a proposal before the Cabinet for improving lending to small and marginal farmers based on the recommendations of the Sarangi committee. “The target for the current financial year has been enhanced to Rs 11 lakh crore,” said Ashish Kumar Bhutani, joint secretary in ministry of agriculture.

Business Line, New Delhi
ICAR staff protest demanding pay parity

Non-scientific personnel working in a number of research institutions affiliated to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) are on a protest demanding pay parity with their peers at the headquarters here. The protest has affected operation of experimental farms in different ICAR labs and even extension services, claimed the Central Joint Staff Council (CJSC), which spearheads the agitation. Over 1,500 ICAR staff in the Assistant Grade working in different laboratories are protesting against an anomaly that crept in since 2010 at the time of implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission. Other staff from most of 108 ICAR units as well as over 600 Krishi Vigyan Kendras too resorted to the two-day pen-down strike. “Way back in 1997, a Union Cabinet committee cleared the unification of Grade II (Assistants and Stenographers) posts in ICAR research institutes and that in ICAR headquarters in Krishi Bhavan and a pay parity. While we were given pay parity subsequent to the order, the authorities didn’t merge the cadres,” said Satyendra Kumar, a CJSC office bearer and a staff at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi. “While we were paid the same salary till 2010, the staff at headquarters managed to get a higher grade for themselves. This is ironic that all Grade-II staff whether working in ICAR headquarter or constituent laboratories are recruited by the same agencies and have similar qualifications, said Shailendra Jha, associated with an ICAR lab in Rae Bareilly. According to a senior ICAR official, their grievance is genuine but there are procedural problems in getting the issue ironed out. “When we approached the Finance Ministry, it pointed out that the staff at the headquarters have been drawing salary at a higher grade and parity would mean they need to be brought a grade down,” he said. “It is a tricky situation,” he said.

Business Line, Ahmedabad
Jeera gains as arrivals drop and exports rise

After hitting a low of Rs 150-155 a kg at the Unjha spot market in North Gujarat in March, jeera (cumin seed) prices are on an upward journey, as arrivals shrink and export orders pick up. The spice commodity’s prospects turned bearish after various trade bodies estimated higher production — in the range of 3.75-4.40 lakh tonnes — primarily on higher acreage and favourable climate. Jeera production for the previous year was put at 2.75 lakh tonnes. “After correcting about 20-22 per cent from the peak levels within a span of about three months, prices have recovered by about 5-7 per cent. This shows that the bearish trend is over and now jeera prices will head upwards as the crop may not be as high as expected,” said a exporter-trader source in Unjha. A steep fall from the peak of Rs 21,000 a quintal in December 2017 to Rs 15,860 in March 2018 was attributed to increased arrivals at the beginning of the harvest season in February. Earlier in February, jeera futures had touched low levels last seen during June 2016 on expectations of 25-30 per cent rise in production than the last year. The most active May delivery contract on National Commodities and Derivative Exchange is at Rs 15,765/quintal. However, a revival in the recent tradehinted at an upside. Daily arrivals hovered around 30,000 bags (each of 55 kg), as against the expectation of 50,000 bags considering the bumper crop. Traders maintained that with arrivals dropping and export enquiries increasing, prices are firming up. Global demand for Indian jeera has firmed up as Syria and Turkey crop will arrive only around June-July. Mandi sources maintained that export enquiries have been good as India is the only jeera supplier to the world market currently. However, the progress of monsoon and Syrian crop are to be watched for.

The Assam Tribune, Shillong
Meghalaya Governor launches Mission Lakadong

Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad launched the five-year ‘Mission Lakadong 2018-2023’ programme, a convergent mission of the Directorate of Horticulture, Department of Agriculture and other departments of the State. Speaking on the occasion, the Governor said Meghalaya’s climatic condition is conducive to cultivating a variety of spices, the prominent ones being turmeric, ginger, chilli, black pepper and bay leaf. “Jaintia Hills district is home to one of the finest turmeric varieties in the world and the most famous one is Lakadong turmeric with a curcumin content of more than 7 per cent, which is highly sought after by the market,” the Governor added. He further said that Lakadong turmeric is a rare type and has the potential to change the lives of countless farmers if its uniqueness is properly exploited. There is an established demand for the variety and buyers are willing to pay a premium for its quality. Despite negative influence of middlemen, the Governor said that at least 1,000 farmers are engaged in the cultivation of Lakadong turmeric in Laskein and Thadlaskein blocks, covering an area of about 2,500 hectares. He also said that the production of 10,000 metric tonnes of Lakadong turmeric per year is not sufficient to create an impact in the world market and encouraged the farmers to produce at least 50,000 metric tonnes per year and more than double the area. Mission Lakadong was launched to give an exclusive focus to Lakadong turmeric, and to put in place targeted interventions aimed at the improvement of livelihoods of turmeric farmers.

The Tribune, Jalandhar
Punjab’s wheat yield at all-time high

Punjab has recorded an all-time high average per acre wheat yield of 21.5 quintals, which is way ahead of the highest average per acre yield of 20 quintals in 2011-12. A combination of right weather, prolonged cold conditions, sowing of right varieties of wheat by farmers, enhanced farmer awareness and timely pest and yellow rust control in the Doaba region has led to high production in Punjab. The state was expecting 125 to 130 lakh metric tonnes of wheat arrival in its mandis this time against 119.76 lakh metric tonnes arrived during last year. Punjab, which has 35 lakh hectares under wheat cultivation was expected to produce around 180 lakh metric tonnes this time as against 176 lakh metric tonnes of the crop produced during rabi season of 2017. Though 125 to 130 lakh metric tonnes will straight away land in mandis for sale, the rest of the crop will be used by farmers and other consumers for domestic consumption. Farm experts observed that the biggest role in enhanced production of wheat in Punjab was played by timely control of yellow rust and aphids — the deadly pest, which sucks sap from leaves and maturing grains. The Punjab Agriculture Department had set up 238 surveillance teams for the control of yellow rust, which mainly attacks wheat crop in districts falling in Shivalik foothills like Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, parts of Jalandhar, Ropar, parts of Nawanshahar and Mohali.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Sugar millers need more incentives for viable exports: Report

Even as the government has imposed the minimum indicative export quota (MIEQ), the domestic millers will need more incentives to make sugar exports viable because of weak international prices amid a global supply glut, said a report. The government last month allowed export of 2 million tonnes of sugar under the MIEQ scheme for the 2017-18 marketing year, in order to clear surplus stocks and improve cash flow to millers for making payment to sugarcane farmers. India Ratings in its report said the introduction of MIEQ will help in reversing the price trend in the domestic market. However, it was quick to add that the market would still be in surplus, and the dent on the bottom line and credit profile of domestic sugar mills from exporting at the current prices could be greater than the benefits, unless the government announces further incentives for exporters.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Sugar falls to lowest level in 28 months

Sugar prices have declined to their lowest level in 28 months owing to distress sales by mills on account of storage problems. Storage problems are because of a production glut this season. With the output being 30 million tonnes by mid-April and 227 mills still in operation, the industry is now forecasting production at a record 31.5 million tonnes for the season 2017-18 as against 20.3 million tonnes during last season (October-September). At the beginning of the crushing season, i.e. October last year, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) had estimated sugar output at 25.1 million tonnes, and later revised it to 29.5 million tonnes. Since the output has never been this big, mills did not build storage facilities over the past few years. “Not only small and medium units, leading sugar producers too are selling their stocks. Renting storage facilities in far-flung areas may be expensive. Hence, distress sale is preferred,” said a senior executive of a leading Uttar Pradesh-based sugar mill. Against the cost of production of Rs 36 a kg, sugar is trading at Rs 25.50 a kg (ex-factory) and Rs 29 a kg in the wholesale market. Sugar prices have declined by 10.2 per cent in April alone and 24.56 per cent since the current crushing season started in October. Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said an informal ministerial panel was exploring options like production-linked subsidies, imposing a sugar cess in accordance with the Sugar Cess Act and a cut on the goods and services tax (GST) on ethanol. These options are being explored to help mills clear cane arrears of Rs 190 billion.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
To save water, sowing of paddy delayed

The falling water table in the state has forced the state government to delay the sowing of paddy nursery and transplanting it by five days. A notification by the Agriculture Department has directed farmers to start the nurseries only after May 20 from the previous date of May 15. Similarly, the date for transplanting paddy has also been delayed till June 15 from June 10. This has been done following recommendations of Punjab Agricultural University and the Punjab Pollution Control Board that the water table was falling by 2.5 feet every year. Data by the PPCB shows that 14 lakh tubewells in the state draw an estimated 24 million litres of water during this period. Delaying the sowing and transplanting by just five days will save water enough to meet the needs of all the state households for two years. Kahan Singh Pannu, Chairman, PPCB, said: “We welcome the step to delay sowing by five days. Paddy varieties now grow in less time and hence it should not be a problem.” Noted environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal has said this was a welcome initiative as the groundwater table in a major portion of the state came under the “dark zone”. As per studies, area under paddy increased from about 2.27 lakh hectares in 1960 to 30 lakh hectares in 2016. And the total irrigated area increased from about 38 per cent to 98 per cent, of which 73 per cent is irrigated by tubewells.

25, April 2018
The Financial Express, New Delhi
Apex court refuses to quash Allahabad HC order upholding UP govt’s move on sugarcane dues

The Supreme Court refused to quash the Allahabad High Court’s order last year upholding the UP government’s competence to waive the interest payable to cane growers by sugarcane factories for delayed payment of arrears. A bench led by justice Ranjan Gogoi upheld the UP government’s decision to waive the interest on the ground that even though sugarcane falls in the concurrent list, both the state and the Central government legislations would operate simultaneously. Urging the court that farmers of the country were in “dire straits” and penal interest should be paid by mill owners to cane growers for the delay in payment of cane price for 2011-15, VM Singh, convener of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, had challenged the power of the state to waive the interest. He argued that sugar mills take supplies of sugarcane from farmers in terms of the statutory provisions which mandate payment of cane dues within 14 days. However, these mills take months and years to clear farmers’ dues or even refuse to do so, thus making it difficult for farmers to pay interest and penalties on late payment of their loans taken to raise the cane, he said in his petition. According to Singh, non-payment of cane price is a regular issue, which brings misery to more than 4-5 million sugarcane farmers in UP and around 30-40 million across the country. The HC, while upholding the state’s right to waive interest, had set aside the order passed by the UP government whereby it had waived the interest of around Rs 2,000 crore payable to cane growers by sugarcane factories for delayed payment for 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The Tribune, Karnal
Arhtiyas bringing wheat from UP, Rajasthan to be booked

The district administration has directed all secretaries of market committees to register cases against arhtiyas procuring wheat from other states at less rates and selling it in Haryana at the MSP and those found with fake documents of farmers. In all, 11 licences of arhtiyas have been suspended — 10 in Taraori and one in Indri grain markets — for their alleged involvement in procuring wheat from Uttar Pradesh or Rajasthan. “Notices have been served on several arhtiyas in Karnal and Gharaunda grain markets for illegal trade of wheat,” said Sushil Kumar Malik, Zonal Administrator, Haryana State Agricultural Marketing Board (HSAMB). “The state government has ordered that illegal trading of wheat from UP and Rajasthan must be stopped. We have directed all market committee secretaries to keep a vigil on the trading of wheat from other states,” said DC Aditya Dahiya. “It has come to the notice of the administration that some traders are bringing wheat from other states with fake documents of farmers,” he added. Sources said the illegal trade could be carried out only with the help of employees of procurement agencies.

The Tribune, Karnal
Field fires: BKU seeks Rs 40,000 per acre relief

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) has demanded a compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for the loss to farmers, whose wheat and sugarcane crops were damaged in fire last week. Sewa Singh Arya, state BKU president, said: “Farmers have received a double blow. Earlier, their crops were damaged because of unpredicted rain.” Deputy Commissioner Aditya Dahiya said, “The government has ordered a special girdawari. The Revenue Department has started making a list of affected farmers and calculating the loss. The administration is sending daily reports to the headquarters.” District Revenue Officer Rajbir Dhiman said, “We are filling a 14-point pro forma that includes whether or not the crop was insured and the economic condition of the farmer.”

Business Line, New Delhi
Cane arrears: Govt mulls compensation options

The Centre is considering various options to help sugarcane farmers whose arrears have ballooned. The options include giving a production subsidy to sugarcane farmers, slapping a sugar cess on sales, reducing GST on ethanol being procured from sugar mills, and increasing the purchase price of ethanol for sugar mills. The decision was taken at a high-level inter-ministerial meeting of Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Shipping and Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari here. Officials from the Prime Minister’s Office as well as from the agriculture, commerce, and finance ministries also attended the meeting. Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh was expected to be there, but did not attend. The options will be placed before the Union Cabinet soon, Paswan said, adding that there could be more meetings if the issue needs more deliberation. The issue of mounting sugarcane arrears is a politically sensitive one, which the Centre cannot afford to overlook, particularly with polls around the corner in Karnataka. Sugar production in the country has already exceeded 30 million tonnes (mt), whereas the annual domestic demand is around 25 mt. According to an industry source, the final production figures could be 31.5-32 mt as several mills have not yet completed crushing. The steep fall in ex-mill sugar prices, which are nearly Rs 8,000 lower for every tonne of sugar produced, has severely affected the payment of arrears, which have mounted to Rs 19,000 crore. Though the Centre has encouraged sugar mills to go in for exports by slashing the export tax, they have not picked up as prices in the global market are rather low at present. The Minister said that reducing the GST on ethanol from the current 18 per cent to, say, 5 per cent will encourage more diversion of sugarcane into ethanol production.

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Chana prices below MSP, add to farmers’ misery

After wheat price crashed soon after the harvest season started, chana price has also fallen below the government’s minimum support price (MSP), forcing farmers to hold the stock even as it means more misery for them. Local traders in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are quoting about Rs 1,000 less than the MSP of Rs 4,400 a quintal announced by the Central government. Price pressure on chana has come mainly due to bumper yield and higher acreage under pulses. Since Madhya Pradesh accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the country’s total chana production, lower prices means many farmers would be affected. This could anger the farmers and could have a bearing on state elections. “Last year, chana prices were very high and that is why the area under it went up. Secondly, dry peas coming from Canada are now being used as adulterant in chana besan (gram flour). So, that is the reason chana prices have crashed,” said Vijay Sardana, an agri-market expert and member of the Sebi Commodities Derivatives Advisory Committee. What seems more disturbing is that market prices for chana have fallen in Madhya Pradesh in spite of the state government starting procurement since April 1. It dashes farmers’ hope of getting higher price for their produce and their income doubling as promised by prime minister Narendra Modi. The gloomy picture does not end there for farmers. As state agencies are yet to start procurement of wheat in most parts of Bihar, the wheat-growers are struggling to find buyers who could offer them price at par with the MSP. Official sources said that the government does not have enough storage facilities in the state to procure wheat. This has led to rate for wheat falling below Rs 1,500 a quintal as against the MSP of Rs 1,735.

Business Line, Kochi
Chinese buying could pep up global pepper prices if production drops

Global pepper prices are likely to recover in the near-term, with China emerging a leading importer of Vietnam black pepper after the US. Earlier, Chinese used to import pepper through cross border trade and now it is officially using its customs frontiers. Quoting figures from the Vietnam Pepper Association, sources in the trade said that Chinese imports have gone up considerably from 3,112 tonnes in 2015 to 14,510 tonnes in 2017 and in the first three months of 2018 the numbers have gone up to 6,979 tonnes. However, the sources said the Chinese procurement will not impact prices on account of excess pepper production globally. But the situation can change if overall production is affected and the rates can be blown up to any extent, sources said adding that the global prices for quality pepper (machine cleaned) are now in the range of $3,000-3,250 per tonne (Rs 214/kg, which is equivalent to MG1 grade delivered at Kochi). Earlier, China had a major interest in white pepper and now they have started concentrating on black pepper in the wake of rising domestic consumption. Meanwhile, KK Vishwanath, Coordinator, Consortium of Pepper Growers Association, said that the MIP notification issued by the Commerce Ministry started impacting pepper imports which has come down to 1,300 tonnes last month from 6,000 tonnes earlier. Asked whether the emerging situation will help revive the prices in the domestic market, he said that it would take some time due to increased inflow of stock by Karnataka farmers. Farmers need funds to meet their loan repayments as well as to prepare for monsoon agriculture activities. There are challenging times ahead for these farmers – who are predominantly coffee and areca growers – both in terms of lower yields and commodity prices.

Business Standard, Mumbai
Cotton seed firms warn of output cut

Squeezed between rising cost of production and falling realisation, cotton seed companies are planning to cut production for the kharif sowing 2019 which may impact India's 8 million farmers adversely. Cotton seed producers claim that their production costs have risen by 20 per cent the past three years, especially since the Bollgard II Bt cotton price was fixed at Rs 800 per packet of 450 each two years ago. But, after stagnating for two years, the government of India decided to cut its prices by Rs 60 or 7.5 per cent to Rs 740 per packet for the current year. The cut was announced at a time when seed companies initiated awareness programmes for farmers to help them adopt best farm practices to fetch higher yield from the same sowing area. Last year, many farmers in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana reported huge cotton output loss due to pink bollworm attack on the standing crop. The decline in output in major producing states prompted the government to reduce its cotton production forecast 5-7 per cent for harvesting season 2016-17. "We had requested the government to raise seed prices after two years of stagnation at Rs 800 a packet (of Bolgard II) to accommodate increasing labour cost, fixed and other costs including the research and development (R&D). Instead, the government cut its prices by 7.5 per cent to Rs 740 a packet. While the cost of production has gone up by nearly 20 per over the last three years, realisation slumped by 7.5 per cent. This will result into lower production and investment capacity for the next season as the distribution of seed packets for the current season got almost over. Seed supply would impacted heavily next year," said Satish Kagliwal, Managing Director, Nath Seeds and Founder President of National Seed Association of India (NSA

The Asian Age, New Delhi
Crop burning not a problem in city: Delhi government

There is no requirement for framing any policy with regard to crop burning as no such incident has been reported in Delhi, the Delhi government told the National Green Tribunal (NGT). “The incident of crop burning is not a problem in Delhi. It is further submitted that no such incidence is being reported by any of the district magistrates of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. Accordingly as of date there appears to be no requirement for framing of any policy in regard to crop residue,” the Delhi government said in an affidavit. It also said that its development department has been issuing advisories to district magistrates in order to ensure prevention of any incidence of crop residue burning in the national capital. However, the policy in regard to the situation may not be required in Delhi as there is no report of agricultural crop residue burning as of date, it said. In case of any fire incident occurring and after learning about the cause of of the same, appropriate policy or guidelines will be framed without delay in future,” it said. The tribunal, however, said that it wanted to verify the statement and asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to file an affidavit within a week. The NGT said it would consider later the plea filed by the Delhi government seeking exemption of `2 lakh which was imposed on it for not filing action plan to stop crop residue burning. The matter is posted for next hearing on May 17. The Punjab government had earlier faced the NGT’s wrath for not taking effective measures to provide financial assistance and infrastructure facility to farmers to encourage them not to burn agricultural residue in their fields.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Electronic Trade Among Local Mandis via eNAM in the Works

India plans to enable trades among its otherwise localised farm markets to enhance transparency in the sale and purchase of agricultural output, leveraging the electronic-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform that now hosts 585 large agri-mandis. The inter-mandi trade will facilitate more competition among trader and more choices to farmers, say agriculture ministry officials. In the past two years, more than 9.3 million farmers have sold 169.40 lakh tonne quantity farm produce worth Rs 43,050 crore through the e-NAM until April 19. Further, about 1 lakh traders and 60,000 commission agents have been registered under e-NAM. “We are trying to add 200 more mandis this year. Also, we want to improve the quality of transaction. By quality, we aim that we should start with inter-mandi trading and put logistics in place,” said Shobhana K Pattanayak, secretary, department of agriculture, cooperation & farmers' welfare. Pattanayak said it was not enough to trade but the system required to have the whole ecosystem in place – storage facility, transportation, e-payment, and the settlement. “With all these things in place, it will be easy in the next phase to scale up otherwise it will be unsustainable,” Pattanayak said. Officials in the agriculture ministry say that with inter-state and inter- mandi trade, the trader will get the facility to bid in any of the mandis through online operations. Also, once the mandis were fully integrated, this will help farmers sell their produce bypassing traders and commission agents. “The states are keen to have inter-mandi and inter-state trading,” said an official.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
GoM Moots Cess on Sugar, Subsidy for Cane Farmers

Imposition of a cess on sugar, a production subsidy to sugarcane farmers and reducing goods and services tax on ethanol are some of the suggestions put forward by a group of ministers headed by Nitin Gadkari that is looking into the rising sugarcane arrears. The meeting was attended by food minister Ram Vilas Paswan and petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan, apart from key officials. The food ministry will soon prepare a draft cabinet note on the sugar crisis. These suggestions will be circulated to various ministries before being presented to the cabinet, say government officials. Sugar arrears to be paid to farmers by sugar mills has touched close to Rs 20,000 crore, says the industry. Sugar mills say they are unable to pay farmers due to a fall in sugar prices in the domestic market. Sugar production is up almost 50% at 30 million tonnes this season, said the industry. “Some of the important suggestions from the meeting are that we want to give production subsidy (to farmers). Secondly, sugar cess should be imposed, and third, GST on ethanol should come down to 5%. We will decide on these suggestions,” said Ram Vilas Paswan after the meeting. Paswan added that it was not necessary all suggestions will be implemented, and that another round of meetings could take place. Food ministry officials said that rather than cess, the GST Council can impose duty on sugar which can be earmarked for the sugar development fund. The fund will help farmers get payments if the market price falls below the benchmark rate fixed by the Centre. They also said the government was exploring a reduction in ethanol price by reducing 18% GST levied on it and mandatory purchase by the petroleum ministry.

The Times of India, New Delhi
GoM proposes sugar cess to clear arrears of cane farmers

A group of ministers has zeroed on production-linked subsidy scheme for sugarcane farmers, imposition of sugar cess and reducing GST on ethanol as a part of the government’s bid to clear the rising arrears of farmers. Currently, arrears have scaled more than Rs 19,000 crore and nearly half of it is owed by Uttar Pradesh millers. “There were several suggestions like production linked subsidy, sugar cess and reduction of GST on ethanol from 18 % to 5%. We will place all the three proposal before the Cabinet,” food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan told. Sources said government will soon take a call on the quantum of sugar cess per kg that could be levied, while the production-linked subsidy could be of around Rs 5 per quintal of sugarcane, which would be debited to the farmers’ account directly. Petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said the proposal to reduce the GST on ethanol will definitely be pushed since this is a clean fuel for automobile. “We have assured that the petroleum ministry will ensure procuring the entire ethanol that millers will produce,” Pradhan told. The proposals have come amid allegations from some farmers in Western UP and Haryana that millers have stopped issuing indents. Indents are written commitments by sugar mills to farmers that they would purchase the crop from the pre-demarcated areas at the announced rate.

The Asian Age, New Delhi
Government releases Rs 400 crore drought fund

With Bundelkhand region reeling under severe drought, the Centre has released Rs 400 crore as part of a relief package to the affected area which covers significant parts of both politically crucial UP and MP. Government think tank Niti Aayog had earlier this month held a high level meeting with top officials of agriculture, drinking water & sanitation and other concerned ministries to review the situation in Bundelkhand. The decision to release the funds was taken during this meeting, official sources said. In addition to this, several measures to counter the drought situation there are said to have been suggested by Niti Aayog like building of check dams and conservation of water. The relief package for Bundelkhand is understood to have also focussed on the importance of providing monetary relief to farmers in the region owing to crop losses which they have suffered over the years. Several districts of Madhya Pradesh which fall under Bundelkhand like Sagar, Chhatarpur, Damoh, Tikamgarh and Panna are facing severe drought, as are the districts of Uttar Pradesh which come in the region like Mahoba, Banda and Jhansi among others. While relief package is expected in one way bring succour to the region, at the same time it could serve as a potent political move what with Lok Sabha polls less than a year away. How much significance the Narendra Modi-led NDA regime attaches to the region could be gauged from the fact that in February this year the Prime minister had announced a defence industrial corridor for Bundelkhand which would link Agra, Aligarh, Jhansi and Chitrakoot belts and bring in investments worth Rs 20,000 crore there as well as employment opportunities. In 2016 also when the region had faced drought, the Prime Minister had formed a high level committee under chairmanship of home minister Rajnath Singh to look into the relief measures for Bundelkhand.

Business Line, Mumbai
Mahindra Agri charts out plan to double farmers’ income in 4 years

Mahindra Agri Solutions has drawn a detailed business plan and grouped 52 clusters across the country under Mahindra Agri Village to double farmers’ income in four years by hand-holding them in the pre-harvest stage and directly linking their produce with market for better realisation. With its intervention, the company has already increased yield by 7-20 per cent in cotton, chilli, paddy, sugarcane, banana, maize, pomegranate, groundnut and soyabean crops. The 52 identified clusters consist of 218 villages and 12,000 registered farmers across 15 States. Ashok Sharma, Managing Director & CEO, Mahindra Agri Solutions, said the company has already done the baseline survey of Mahindra Agri Villages to identify the pain points and working with different institutes to devise a customised action plan. At the pre-harvest stage, he said the company — based on input from consumer centres — will advise farmers right from what to grow, introduce best practices to improve yield, provide them with irrigation solution to reduce cost and give financial assistance through Mahindra Finance. Post-harvest, Mahindra will buy back the produce from farmers and sell it directly to consumers through modern retail chain. The company has set up its first distribution centre at Sonipet near Delhi and similar centres will come up close to each Mahindra Agri Villages, he said. Sharma said the buy back of produce from the farmers will be done in a transparent manner and there will be no compulsion on farmers to sell it to the company. The company is taking help from the local government bodies including panchayats to utilise funds allocated to different farmers benefit schemes. “The buy back from farmers directly will cut off the middlemen and since the produce are picked up from farmgate, they will also save on transportation cost. A portion of these benefits would be passed on to the farmers,” he said.

The Economic Times, Kochi
Spices Export Volume Jumps 20% in Apr-Dec

Spices exports from India increased 20% in terms of volume and 4% in value in the nine months to December 2017 from a year ago. India exported 797,145 tonnes of spices valued at Rs 13,167.89 crore during the period, according to the Spices Board. In dollar terms, spices exports were pegged at $2,041.23 million, up from $1,880.02 million in the year-ago period, spelling a 9% increase in value. “India has been able to sustain the demand for its trademark spices in international markets in the face of stiff competition and stringent food safety regulations that now define the international commodity trade,” said Spices Board chairman A Jayathilak. However, Jayathilak said, exports of spices such as chilli, decreased in value despite an increase in export volumes. “This happened because of volatility in international spices trade. The fact is Indian spices have become a trusted global brand, but there is an imperative need to give a huge impetus to value-added products and sustain their quality and flavour.” Chilli was the largest exported spice at 353,400 tonnes valued at Rs 3,241.83 crore in April-December 2017, as against 260,250 tonnes valued at Rs 3,460.83 crore in the year-ago period. Cumin was the second most exported spice, recording an increase of 15% in volume and 19% in value. A total volume of 104,260 tonnes of cumin fetched Rs 1,761.70 crore, as against Rs 1,480.79 crore through 91,024 tonnes a year ago. Small cardamom registered the maximum export growth in terms of both value and volume during the period. A total of 4,180 tonnes of this spice, valued at Rs 456.01 crore, was exported.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Students in hostels to get subsidised wheat & rice

The government will provide 15 kg of wheat and rice per month to an estimated 1 crore students in all hostels with at least two-third of students from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes -- a scheme that could cost the exchequer up to Rs 4,000 crore annually. The move comes at a time when different political parties are trying to reach out to dalits and other backward classes ahead of assembly election in some states, and the general election which is due next year. Announcing this decision, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the government will provide grains at BPL rate which is Rs 4.15 per kg for wheat and Rs 5.65 per kg for rice. In the Ambedkar hostels where all students belong to SC/ST, each student will get 15 kg of wheat or rice per month at BPL rates, he said. "In all other hostels, be it government or private, where two-third students are from SC, ST, OBC and OBC among minorities, 15 kg of wheat or rice will be provided per student per month at BPL rates," Paswan told reporters here. He said that in such hostels, even students belonging to general category would get subsidised grains. All-girls hostels would also be entitled for subsidised foodgrains. Terming it as an historic decision, the minister said that it is estimated that 1 crore students would benefit from this scheme. "The Centre will bear the entire cost of the scheme," he said, but did not disclose the subsidy burden on the central exchequer. However, sources said the subsidy burden could be around Rs 4,000 crore. Paswan asked States to soon provide the list of beneficiaries so that scheme could be rolled out. Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the Centre provides highly subsidised foodgrains to over 80 crore people of the country.

24, April 2018
Business Line, Beijing
Protectionism in all forms should be rejected, India tells Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

India on April 24 said protectionism in all its forms should be rejected and reaffirmed its belief in an economic globalisation which is more open, inclusive and equitable, amidst new trade barriers cropping up across the world, especially in the United States. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in her address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Council of Foreign Ministers in Beijing raised the issue of protectionism. “The SCO countries have been connected historically through shared commonalities, which we are constantly rejuvenating,” she said. “India is committed to working with SCO to strengthen our economic and investment ties. We believe that economic globalisation should be more open, inclusive, equitable and balanced for mutual benefits. “Protectionism in all its forms should be rejected and efforts should be made to discipline measures that constitute barriers to trade,” Ms. Swaraj asserted. She called on the eight SCO nations to promote liberalisation and facilitation of trade and investment to inject greater impetus into the world economy. “In this respect we must continue to diversify cooperation in the fields of innovation and digital economy, science and technology, energy, agriculture, food security, amongst others,” she said. The Trump administration had earlier this month announced tariffs on aluminium and steel besides about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports across 1,300 categories of products to counter China’s trade practices. Condemning the aggressive move, China’s Ministry of Commerce retorted the nation was ready to take measures against U.S. products with the same intensity and scale. The SCO, a permanent intergovernmental international organisation created in 2001, comprises eight member states including India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russian, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Hindustan Times, Allahabad
UP agri deparment nod to new, better variety of maize for farmers

After years of research and trials, a scientist of Sam Higginbottom University of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SHUATS), Allahabad Shailesh Marker has developed a new composite variety of white seeded maize—SHIATS Makka-2—that is more sturdy and gives more yield than other regular and already available varieties. Having proven its effectiveness, SHIATS Makka-2 has now also received a go ahead from the Uttar Pradesh agriculture department for plantation by farmers. Professor, department of genetics and plant breeding at SHUATS, Shailesh Marker had procured the germplasm of white seeded inbred lines from CIMMYT or the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Mexico in 2005 and developed this variety under the guidance of SHUATS vice-chancellor Prof Rajendra B Lal and the then director (research) Prof SB Lal, who inspired him to carry on his work in the right direction. “This variety has a yield potential of 35-40 quintals per hectare and matures in 85-90 days. It is also resistant to Maydis leaf blight, Cervularia leaf blight which are common threats to maize in India. It also has good quality traits like 8.4 per cent protein, 4.6 per cent oil and 81 per cent starch content, which is a highly prized input for many industrial products,” shared Prof Shailesh Marker, who is also director (research) of SHUATS, Allahabad and has a PhD from Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture and Technology, Udaipur under his belt. He said that SHIATS Makka-2 was a composite variety due to which farmers need not buy seeds every year like hybrids and can use the same seed consecutively for 3 to 4 years without any yield loss. “Due to its white coloured flour it can be mixed with wheat flour to make different food products thus helping in fortification of food,” he added.

Business Line, Mumbai
At Rs 9,000 crore, Patanjali could be top bidder for Ruchi Soya

Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurved has placed a Rs 9,000-crore bid to acquire the debt-ridden Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd (RSIL) through the ongoing insolvency process under the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). Over 26 companies have expressed interest in acquiring India’s largest edible oil maker. The bid placed by Patanjali could be the highest, according to sources close to the development. “At over Rs 9,000 crore, Patanjali’s bid could be one of the highest bids, even though all the bids are yet to be officially opened,” said a source. Among the assets going through the insolvency process under NCLT, Ruchi Soya has attracted interest from the maximum number of companies. The company expects the process to be completed by June 13, another source said. The short-listing is expected to start this week, while an announcement is expected in 7-10 days, though a decision may take up to May 15. When contacted, a spokesperson for Patanjali confirmed that the company is interested in the deal, but declined to divulge the details of the bid. A Ruchi Soya spokesperson also declined to comment. Patanjali was earlier a distributor of Ruchi Soya’s products. The others in the race for Ruchi Soya include ITC, Emami, Godrej Agrovet, Sakuma Exports, Phoenix ARC, AION Capital Partners, 3F Oil Palm Agrotech, Singapore-based palm oil firm Musim Mas, global investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the Indian subsidiary of US-based Cargill Corp, Singaporean palm oil company Golden-Agri Resources and Malaysia’s Sime Darby Bhd. None of the bidders could be immediately contacted for comments. Ruchi Soya is the largest edible oilseed extraction and refining company in India, with a 3.72 mtpa capacity. It is also the largest player in the cooking oil and soya foods category in the country. The company’s debt stood at about Rs 12,000 crore as of December 31, 2017.

The Tribune, Sangrur
Crop gutted, Sangrur village to compensate farmers

With the government not yet coming up with an announcement to award compensation to farmers who lost their crops to fire recently, residents of Ladda village here have decided to pool funds to provide relief to them. The villagers have also decided to manufacture their own fire tenders by installing required equipment on mobile water tankers. All villagers have decided not to donate wheat to any other village religious place and formed a committee comprising leaders of Congress, SAD, BKU Ugraha and other farmer organisations to collect wheat and dry fodder for the aggrieved farmers. “I have not seen any farmer getting required compensation for his burnt crop. This year, we have decided to compensate our farmers on our own, instead of begging for any government help. All villagers would contribute to compensate the farmers for the loss of crop,” said Harbans Singh Ladda, BKU Ugraha Dhuri block leader. Four days ago, a fire caused by alleged spark in electricity lines destroyed standing wheat in around 50 acres and stubble in 200 acres. Villagers alleged that their losses could have been less had the fire tenders reached on time. “Fire tenders were busy in other villages and came late. We have decided to instal the required equipment on water tankers and use them as fire tenders in case of exigencies,” said Parmjit Singh Ladda, president of village Gram Sabha. The village has a population of around 5,000.

Business Line, Jhajjar
Haryana CM orders survey of crop loss

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar ordered a special girdawari (revenue survey) to assess crop loss caused by fire due to high-velocity winds. While addressing farmers and dealers here, Khattar said the State government is also working on different alternatives to increase the prescribed limit for procurement of mustard and bajra. The Chief Minister congratulated the farmers for bumper wheat production in the state.

The Tribune, Mumbai
Maha farmers struggle to get crop loans

Farmers in Maharashtra are struggling to obtain crop loans from banks for the kharif crop ahead of the monsoon as the state government’s farm loan waiver programme flounders. According to farmers’ groups such as the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, agriculturists who are approaching banks for loans to buy seeds, fertilisers and other inputs are being turned away as the earlier loans taken by them are yet to be waived off. “The government is yet to process most of the applications for loan waiver which is making it difficult for farmers to apply for fresh loans,” Member of Parliament Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana said in Parbhani earlier this week. Though the Maharashtra Government promised to waive farm loans worth Rs 34,000 crore to benefit 89 lakh farmers, loans worth just Rs 14,388 crore (of 46 lakh farmers) have been written off till March 31 this year. According to bankers, another 30 lakh farmers have stopped repaying loans taken after June 30, 2016 — the cut-off date for the loan waiver. It is alleged that political parties were instigating farmers not to repay loans taken even after the cut-off date in the expectation that the deadline would be further extended. With farmers in many parts of Maharashtra refusing to sow if they were not provided with fresh loans, the Fadnavis government has called a meeting of the state level bankers’ committee (SLBC) on May 2 to sort out the issue. The government wants banks to disburse crop loans worth Rs 63,000 crore ahead of the coming kharif season. Disbursals in the same period last year amounted to around Rs 54,000 crore. Farmers’ organisations are demanding that bank managers be ordered to disburse fresh loans to those who have not borrowed any money after the June 30, 2016, even if they have stopped repaying earlier loans.

Business Line, New Delhi
Row over basmati GI tag: Madras HC to hear Madhya Pradesh petition today

Whether farmers in certain districts in Madhya Pradesh would be able to call the aromatic rice that they grow as basmati or not would depend on the outcome of a petition being heard in the Madras High Court. The Madhya Pradesh government recently filed a petition challenging the March 15 order of the Assistant Registrar of Geographical Indications (GI) which denied the GI tag to the aromatic rice grown in Madhya Pradesh. In its plea that would come up before a division bench comprising Justices R Subbiah and PD Audikesavalu, the State argued that the order “relied on an extraneous and non-statutory metric such as popular perception to dismiss the case for GI tag.” The GI status is currently available only to basmati grown in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. Madhya Pradesh, which has sizeable basmati cultivation, approached the Madras High Court a few years ago for extending the GI tag to the aromatic rice grown in the State. Basmati is a Rs 35,000-crore industry in the country that produces roughly 60 lakh tonnes of the aromatic rice, of which 40 lakh tonnes is currently exported. As per its petition, there are around 80,000 farmers particularly in districts like Raisen and Vidisha who have been growing the rice for several decades. The denial of the GI tag would mean these farmers would not be able to sell the produce as basmati, leading to lesser income for them. Recently, the State government claimed 50 per cent of basmati rice imported by the US and Canada goes from Madhya Pradesh. According to an industry source, quality of the basmati rice grown in many parts of the State is better than its Haryana counterpart, which has been granted the GI tag.

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Poland forms Bengal group

Poland has formed a working group, comprising representatives of the government and industry, to prepare a business strategy focussed on Bengal. This comes after a memorandum of understanding was signed earlier this year at the Bengal Global Business Summit between the state and the Silesian province of Poland for exploring opportunities in mining and power. "The next step has been taken. A Bengal project group has been formed. The ministries involved include energy, foreign affairs, entrepreneurship and technology. There are business partners and chambers of commerce. This group is entirely focussed on Poland-Bengal co-operation," said Adam Burakowski, the Polish ambassador to India. The ambassador added that a delegation from Bengal is expected to participate at the European Economic Congress, scheduled to be held in Poland from May 14. "There is a special panel on Poland-Bengal business and co-operation," said Burakowski. The event agenda on the website of the European Economic Congress lists Bengal power minister Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay as a speaker along with additional chief secretary Sunil Kumar Gupta and Vandana Yadav, managing director of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Bengal is keen to develop one of the biggest coal blocks in the country - Deocha Pachami - with estimated reserves of around 2,000 million tonnes. Sources said the state might tap Polish expertise to lift coal from the block. According to Mohan Goenka, honorary consul of the Republic of Poland in Calcutta, Poland has a significant scope to expand business relations with India because of its access to advanced technology. "I have never seen so much of interest from Poland, especially in Bengal," Goenka added.

23, April 2018
Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Agri Deptt, NSCL finalize draft MoU for establishment of Seed Processing Unit

A meeting of Senior Officers of Department of Agriculture, Revenue Department and representatives of National Seed Corporation Ltd.(NSCL) Mohali, Chandigarh was convened here, under the chairmanship of Showkat Ahmad Beigh, Secretary Agriculture Production Department, J & K to finalize the draft Memorandum of Understanding between the two institutions for establishing Seed Processing and Storage Unit on 16 Kanals of land at Village Taraf Manjali Tehsil & District Kathua . The proposed unit is a welfare step of the Government of India & the State Government for the benefit of farming community. For the first time National Seed Corporation of India Limited is establishing Seed Processing Plant in the J&K State for the benefit of the farming community. It may be recalled that the initiative for the establishment of Seed plant in the State was taken by Union Minister of State in PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh who is also the MP from Kathua-Doda Parliamentary Constituency for the benefit of the farmers of the State last year after taking the issue with the concerned Union Ministry. The setting up of the unit is aimed at augmenting quality seed supply to the farmers which shall be readily available to them in adequate quantity and at the right time. Seed being the most vital and crucial input for crop production can boost productivity and production and in turn increase the income of the farmers. This step will ultimately help in doubling the income of farmers of the State in the years to come. With the establishment of this unit at Kathua, the farmers of the State will get a big relief as the State Agriculture Department is presently procuring the processed seed from Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The quality seed will be timely available in the State from next sowing season.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Basmati growers’ body opposes GI tag to MP for aromatic rice

The Centre should protect the global reputation of basmati rice and not give Geographical Indication (GI) tag to other states, including Madhya Pradesh, for the premium grain as it would negatively impact the industry and millions of farmers, a basmati rice growers and exporters' body demanded. The Basmati Rice Farmers & Exporters Development Forum (BRFEDF) said that the government should protect basmati the way France has done for Champagne.

Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Khairwood trade will lead to prosperity of farmers: Morcha

Opening up of the trading of Khairwood at farmers’ will, lead to prosperity of farmers. This was stated by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Kissan Morcha, State president Rajinder Singh Chib during a press conference at the party Headquarter, Trikuta Nagar. Kissan Morcha expressed its confidence in the decision of the Alliance Government in which their long pending demand about the Khair wood was addressed. Rajinder Singh Chib said that the Khairwood tree is found in the farms of farmers on the hilly terrain. Katha and many Ayurvedic medicines are evolved from this very particular tree, but as it was banned to cut the trees in the State for the last 40 years, the farmers of the State have suffered a lot earlier. And now when, the ban was lifted on cutting the trees, the rate which was being allotted for the wood was very meagre amount of that available in the nearby states. He remarked that in J&K, farmers were getting the rate of 800-850 (CFT) as compared to the 3500-4000 (CFT) in the neighbouring states. He exclaimed with joy that the Government has now decided to open this now and as the result, now the State farmer has got the right to sell the Khair Wood at his will to any place at the market rate. And thus the farmers of the State express their gratitude towards the Alliance Government for considering their long pending demand. Kissan Morcha State general secretary Raghuvir Singh Manhas and Sunil Sharma, Deepak Sharma and Rattan Lal Sharma were also present in the press conference.

The Hindu, Chennai
L-G trying to sabotage free rice scheme: Puducherry CM

Puducherry Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy assailed Lieutenant Governor Kiran Bedi for “disrupting and putting obstacles” in the implementation of the free rice scheme. Narayanasamy said the elected government was committed to distributing free rice to cardholders. “No force can stand in the way of implementation of the scheme,” he said. The Chief Minister said the file seeking approval of Ms. Bedi for the implementation of the scheme was yet to be cleared by the Lt. Governor. The scheme had been accorded conditional approval with Ms. Bedi directing that the affluent sections be weeded out. Mr. Narayanasamy made it clear that by blocking the implementation of the scheme, Ms. Bedi was trying to cast a slur on the image of elected government. “I met her personally and sought her approval. The government had sanctioned ₹180 crore to supply free rice for six months,” he said making it clear that rice would be available at 10 kg per card holder for Above Poverty Line (APL) families and 20 kg per card holder for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. “This sort of negative stand on the part of Ms. Bedi cannot be accepted...things will change in the next six months,” he said. Mr. Narayanasamy had a word of praise for the Centre for awarding Puducherry government a certificate on the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). Puducherry was the first in the country to associate banks in extending loans at 3% interest to each of the beneficiary. While the Centre was providing ₹1.5 lakh, the Puducherry government allocated another ₹1 lakh. The beneficiaries were also sanctioned loans to the tune of ₹3 lakh each.

The Assam Tribune, Imphal
Manipur ginger fest concludes

The first ever State-level Ginger Festival-cum-Business Summit, which was inaugurated at Parbung in Pherzawl District on Friday, concluded today. Cultural show, products exhibition, seminar, workshop, musical nights, etc., were the highlights of the festival. Chief Minister N Biren Singh, Power Minister Th Biswajit, Forest and Horticulture Minister Th Shyamkumar, Manipur Tribal Development Corporation (MTDC) Chairman and Thanlon MLA Vungzagin Valte, Chief Secretary Dr J Suresh Babu and other high-ranking officials of the State Government also attended the inaugural function. In his speech, the Chief Minister announced that a ginger processing unit with a solar drier system and packaging facility would be set up at Parbung as his Government has earmarked Rs 75 lakh for ginger farming on 200 hectares of land under Mission Organic in the area. A sum of Rs 10 crore has been earmarked to construct cold storages at 13 places in the State. Forest and Horticulture Minister Th Shyamkumar said that the Horticulture and Soil Conservation Department has been working closely and in better coordination with the people of different districts under the new Government. Churachandpur DC awarded: Deputy Commissioner Shyamlal Poonia of Churachandpur district was awarded the Excellence in Public Administration Award during the 12th Civil Services Day held at the conference hall of the Secretariat, South Block. Chief Minister N Biren Singh presented the award in presence of the top brass of the State Secretariat and other higher-ranking police officers. Singh also feted the Executive Engineer of the Manipur Police Housing Corporation, Ningombam Romedy Singh, and the Special Class Contractor of the Manipur Police Housing Corporation, H Muan, for completing construction of Nute Bazaar (Women’s Market) in Churachandpur district within four months.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Surge in sugar output causes price crash; govt calls meeting

The government is staring at a “sweetener” crisis as sugar production surges, prices crash across states and sugarcane arrears owed to farmers climb past Rs 19,000 crore. Amid the sugar industry’s demand for speedy intervention to tide over the crisis, including subsidy for export of sugar or bulk buying by the government so that a price correction takes place in the domestic market, an emergency meeting by a group of ministers is scheduled to be held next week to find a way out. Sugarcane arrears have been a politically volatile issue, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, the two states which send about one-fourth of MPs to the Lok Sabha. About half of the Rs 19,000 crore cane arrears is due only in UP. The sugar glut has brought the ex-mill price down to Rs 26-Rs 28/kg, against the cost of production of Rs 36/kg. Sources said after issuing a few warnings to the sugar mills for non-payment of cane arrears to the farmers, the government has realised the surplus production, falling global prices and huge losses being suffered by the mills need to be addressed. “The meeting will deliberate on each issue. Until and unless there is price correction, there will be no improvement. The government has to take some bold decisions quickly,” said an official, who did not wish to be named. The sugar production has crossed 30 million tonnes against the domestic consumption of about 25 million tonnes.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Tea Board to boost domestic consumption

Tea Board of India is planning to come out with a strategy to promote consumption of tea in the domestic market. Consultancy firm Deloitte has been entrusted with the task of studying consumption patterns and coming out with necessary recommendations, sources said. Enquiries showed that a preliminary report, mapping out the consumption pattern, had already been received and the final report, expected next month would provide the regulator with inputs necessary to chalk out a strategy to drive domestic consumption. It is understood that while overall consumption had increased in India, per capita consumption was still low. It was learnt that the study would also look at prices that had remained flat. “Although, per capita consumption has increased to 800 grams now from [the] 700 earlier, Indians still drink lesser tea per person as compared with even some of their neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka,” Tea Board India chairman P. K. Bezboruah told. Deloitte had been asked to validate this finding which had found place in the preliminary report. It may be mentioned here that of the 1,200 million kg tea produced in India, about 1,000 million kg is consumed internally. This is, however, on the strength of India’s population and not due to high per capita consumption . However, prices have remained stagnant. Available data showed that auction prices of teas had remained between Rs 121.6 per kg (2012) and Rs 134.4 (2017). To boost consumption, the ITA had been campaigning since 2012, starting with business-to-business roadshow in 2012 , gradually moving to BTC (business-to-consumer) formats and then, directly targeting youth.

22, April 2018
Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Farmer cheque delay comes as a breather

The postponement of distribution of cheques to farmers under the Rythu Bandhu scheme (investment subsidy to farmers) has come as a blessing to banks that are reeling under a severe cash crunch. After days of uncertainty, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao put off payment of cheques to farmers from April 19 to May 10. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had released Rs 2,000 crore to the banks for the purpose of the farmers’ investment subsidy scheme and the money was not to be used for any other purpose the RBI had stipulated. According to an earlier schedule, the TS government was to distribute 58 lakh cheques in three phases starting from April 19. Thanks to the postponement, the RBI is now allowing the banks to use the money released for the farmer subsidy for regular purposes. Almost all banks in the state are facing shortage of currency and ATMs across the state are running dry, so the latest development is a big help for banks and their customers. The state government will distribute all the 58 lakh cheques in a single phase starting May 10 and continue for a week. The RBI now has to release Rs 5,246 crore at a time and the officials say the central bank has promised to do so. If the funds are not available with the banks, the amount will be deposited in the farmers’ accounts, the officials said.

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
Finance minister Etela Rajender asks bankers to resolve cash crunch

Telangana Finance minister Etela Rajender asked bankers to address cash crunch issue on a war-footing. The minister took part in the State-Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) meeting here which was attended by the officials of all public sector banks. Mr Rajender said the plight of the people in semi-urban and rural areas is even more pathetic with no cash in ATMs and banks. He said that during his frequent visits to the districts on official tours, the major complaint that was received was about lack of cash in banks and ATMs due to which farmers, beneficiaries of various government welfare schemes, NREGA labourers were facing severe hardships. However, the bankers informed the Minister that the situation would come back to normalcy within a week with increased supplies from the RBI. The bankers said that they would restore 70 per cent ATMs within a week and half of the ATMs have already become operational. The cash in ATMs is also being filled twice in a day to meet the demand. Etela asked the bankers to keep adequate cash available in rural areas since the government is going to start the distribution of Rs 4,000 per acre sop for Kharif season from May 10 to over 58 lakh farmers. He asked the bankers to collect uniform charges from farmers while clearing cheque in all the banks. Stating that 62 per cent, who are receiving the benefit, were small and marginal farmers, the minister asked bankers to assist them in availing the sop without any trouble. He also asked the bankers to meet 100 per cent targets for disbursal of crop loans for the ensuing kharif season.

The Financial Express, The Financial Express
Government renames millets as Nutri Cereals

The government has renamed jowar, bajra, ragi and other millets as “Nutri Cereals”, dispensing with the nomenclature “coarse cereals”. The move is aimed at removing a lingering perception that these grains are inferior to rice and wheat, even as their health benefits are larger. In a notification earlier this month, the agriculture ministry said, “the central government hereby declares millets comprising Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi/Mandua), Minor Millets — Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun), Proso Millet (Cheena), Kodo Millet (Kodo), Barnyard Millet (Sawa/Sanwa/ Jhangora), Little Millet (Kutki) and two Pseudo Millets (Black-wheat (Kuttu) and Ameranthus (Chaulai) which have high nutritive value as “Nutri Cereals” for production, consumption and trade point of view.” According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, compared to rice Fox tail millet has 81% more protein, Little millet has 840% higher fat, 350% higher fiber and 1,229% higher quantity of iron. There has been demand to declare these crops as Nutri Cereals to boost its demand and allow farmers to get higher prices. Even noted agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan had suggested the name change in 2006. Millets hold great potential in contributing substantially to food and nutritional security of the country and thus they are not only a powerhouse of nutrients, but also are climate resilient crops and possess unique nutritional characteristics, the government said. It highlighted that recent research findings show millets contain anti-diabetic properties and millet-based food have low GI and reduces the postprandial blood glucose level and glycosylated haemoglobin. To popularise the consumption of these nutritious cereals, the government has already decided to include millets in the Public Distribution System (PDS) with the objective of improving nutritional security of the country.

Business Line, Chennai
GST takes the steam out of branded rice

Millers are rueing that branding of non-basmati rice in the southern States has been effectively wiped out by the levy of GST on branded rice. Unregistered brands stay outside GST with a clear disclaimer on the packaging, but this means brands lose their individuality. Any rice mill can use any trade name or brand and it has become quite common for a number of rice mills to use the same brand if it was popular in a local market. Effectively, branding has lost its meaning in the non-basmati rice segment, say industry representatives. Prior to the levy of GST, rice was largely not taxed under VAT in the South — the major rice consuming centre. Milling technology had been upgraded and mills were moving towards branding over the last decade. Unlike in major processed food segments where brands span large geographical areas, in the non-basmati rice segment innumerable brands came up with each being a dominant player in regional markets. Each district in the State will have a number of brands, said AC Mohan, Secretary, Federation of Tamil Nadu Rice Millers and Paddy, Rice Dealers Association. Of the large number of brands, possibly 1-2 per cent were trademark or Agmark registered. But with the levy of GST, rice traders are reluctant to stock registered brands because of GST implication. They deal in branded and unbranded varieties and this was the complication. Mohan says millers have stopped using registered brands and market rice with the mill name or a generic name. For instance, there are over a dozen mills marketing rice under the ‘Apple’ brand in Chennai and elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, he remarked. However, there are still a couple of popular brands in southern districts that are now restricted only to organised chains of retailers or large department stores.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
In poll season, farmers turn apple of politicians’ eye

With an eye on the upcoming Assembly polls in Karnataka, all three major political parties in the state are making a desperate bid to woo the farming community by talking big about addressing the agrarian crisis. In the hope of gaining political mileage, all parties have, interestingly, assumed the ‘pro-farmer’ stance. Over the last few months, the Congress, the BJP and the JD(S) have not only been accusing each other of ‘failure’ to resolve issues that are bothering farmers but are also making tall promises to resuscitate the sector, if voted to power. Congress president Rahul Gandhi promised loan waiver and proper Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops if his party came to power. The BJP has said it would set aside Rs 1 lakh crore for irrigation projects. BJP national president Amit Shah has promised the effective implementation of Centre-sponsored schemes like Pradhan Mantri Soil Health Card and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. The party has claimed that no farmer in Karnataka would commit suicide if it comes to power. The JD(S), which continues to campaign on its pro-farmer plank, has made the biggest pro-farmer pitch so far. In a bid to steal a march on its opponents, JD(S) president and its chief ministerial face H D Kumaraswamy has claimed that he would waive farm loans worth Rs 54,000 crore within 24 hours of his party coming to power. He has also promised to adopt Israeli technologies to transform agriculture in the state. He even travelled to Israel to study its agricultural practices.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
India exports record 3.95L tonnes of coffee in FY18

Coffee exports from India, Asia’s third-largest producer and exporter, reached an all-time high at 3.95 lakh tonnes in the 2017-18 fiscal on strong demand for instant coffee, according to state-run Coffee Board. The country had exported 3.55 lakh tonnes of coffee in the previous year. “The coffee exports were at all-time high in FY 2017-18 because of increased shipments of value-added products, especially instant coffee,” a senior board official told. There was an increase in instant coffee output because of improved production capacity. The country largely exports Robusta variety of coffee, the volumes of which also showed a jump in the 2017-18 fiscal in view of strong demand and record domestic production.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Maharashtra: Over 24K govt officials applied for crop loan waiver

More than 24,000 government officials were found to have applied for the Maharashtra government’s Rs 34,000 crore crop loan waiver scheme, even though they were clearly not eligible as per the norms. “More than one lakh applications were filed by people who do not comply with some or other criteria. Surprisingly, 24,221 of them were state government officials,” a senior government official said. Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil had recently stated that names of some government officials were found in the list of loan waiver applicants, and these names were removed. But this resulted in need for more scrutiny and delay in the implementation of the scheme, he had said. The official said that around 1.30 lakh applications were rejected as they didn’t meet some or other criteria. “One of the basic criteria was that beneficiary should not have any other major source of income apart from agriculture, and most of the rejected applicants had other sources of income, such as shops, government or semi-government jobs, or some were elected representatives,” the official said.

The Hindu, Jaipur
Rajasthan farm loan waiver scheme set in motion

The Rajasthan government’s Cooperative Department set in motion the scheme for loan waiver up to ₹50,000 each for farmers, announced by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in this year’s Budget. Special camps will be organised across the State for distributing loan waiver certificates to small, marginal and other farmers. Cooperative Minister Ajay Singh Kilak said here that about 2.8 million farmers would benefit from the scheme, which would be applicable to the loans obtained from cooperative banks and institutions. “The outstanding loans as on September 30, 2017 are covered in the scheme. The lists of eligible small, marginal and other farmers will be released shortly,” he said. According to the norms laid by the Cooperative Department, the marginal farmers are those who have land holdings measuring up to one hectare, while the small farmers have land holdings of one to two hectares. Other farmers, who own land holdings measuring above two hectares, will get the debt waive-off in decreasing proportion to every additional hectare of land. Mr. Kilak said the farmers eligible to get the relief under the scheme could authenticate their loan as well as waiver amount at e-mitra centres. Besides, the district level committees will scrutinise the lists to ensure that they are free of error. The Minister said a grievance redressal committee and a monitoring committee had been appointed to ensure the scheme’s implementation in a transparent manner. The nine-member monitoring committee will be headed by Additional Chief Secretary, Finance Department.

DNA, Mumbai
Raju Shetti demands Parl session for farmers’ issues

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetti has demanded holding a separate Parliament session dedicated to the issues of farmers. Shetti is going to send letters to all the Gram Panchayats requesting them to pass a resolution on this issue. Shetti on his letterhead has informed that he would be meeting the President of India to request for a separate Parliament session. Shetti informed that he would be asking the Gram Panchayats to pass two resolutions seeking complete loan waiver to farmers and seeking an assured price for the farm produce which would equal 1.5 times that of input cost. Shetti informed that it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had promised during his Lok Sabha election campaign of 2014 that farmers would be provided with assured price equaling 1.5 times that of input cost but the promise is yet not fulfilled. Shetti informed that he would ask all the Gram Panchayats to pass these resolutions on May 1 and send a copy of the same to the president, vice-president, prime minister and Lok Sabha speaker. Shetti said that he had organised a roundtable conference of various leaders from Opposition parties and there were 32 leaders present for the roundtable in New Delhi on March 28. He informed that all these leaders have supported the proposal for a separate session of Parliament and both the resolutions which is why he would be writing to all the Gram Panchayats.

Business Line, Kochi
Report payment discrepancies: Spices Board tells cardamom growers

The Spices Board of India has urged cardamom growers to report discrepancies, if any, in payment related to cardamom sold through auctions. The farmers, who have not received their payments from auctioneers even after the due date, are requested to inform the Board in writing with proof of sale for appropriate action. The Cardamom (Licensing and Marketing) Amendment Rules 2014 stipulates that the auctioneer shall pay the growers, whose cardamom is pooled, the applicable sale value of the cardamom sold in an auction within ten days of the auction. However, various reports have pointed to delays in making payments to the cardamom growers and the Board has decided to invoke the bank guarantee of auctioneers if there is a default in payments.

Business Line, Kochi
TN’s hill banana plantations wilt under elephant, viral attacks

Rampaging wild elephants coupled with Bunchy Top Banana (BTB) disease have hit Hill Banana growers in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. Found only in the Palani Hills of Dindigul, hill banana — locally called ‘Virupakshi’ — is a highly remunerative crop that can be harvested in 18-36 months. This specific variety has a commercial importance and it caters only to Chennai market with a sales of around 50,000 fruits per day in the price range of Rs 60-80/kg, said TVSN Veera Arasu, Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Hill Banana Growers Federation. However, wild elephants straying into the fields in search of food and water have wrought havoc in several areas, causing financial loss to farmers. The hill banana crop is the livelihood of farmers in 29 villages in the region. But without any adequate insurance protection available, farmers are starved of funds to start the next crop. “I have lost around Rs 40 lakh in the last season due to the damage caused by wild elephants in my farm. Majority of the farmers here are scared to come back to banana cultivation,” he said. Arasu, who was in Kochi recently to attend the farmers conclave organised by the Kerala Farmers Federation, told BusinessLine that the banana acreage has also come down to 3,000 acres compared to 16,000 acres five years back. The threat of damage discourages new entrants to take up banana cultivation. “To control the elephant menace, we have an assurance from the authorities to set up trenches and solar fencing for crop protection,” he said. “We have successfully controlled BTB disease in the early 2000 with the help of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University. As the virus started attacking the plants again, we have approached the National Research Centre for Banana, Tiruchi, along with TNAU for remedial measures”, he said.

DNA, Mumbai
Women raise farmers’ issue during CM’s Parbhani event

Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was in for a nasty surprise when two women activists of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana protested over the issue of loan waivers and farmers’ suicides in the state, while the CM was going for e-Bhoomipoojan of various development works at Parbhani. Just when the CM and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari laid foundation stones for various development works at Parbhani, the women’s wing president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sabghatana, Rasika Dhage suddenly rose from the public and protested. She said, “Mr Chief Minister you are doing nothing on farmers’ suicides. While farmers are committing suicides by self-immolation, you are busy laying foundation stones of projects. You have neither paid the compensation to farmers’ affected by attack of pink bollworm on cotton nor have you paid sufficient crop insurance to farmers. The need of the hour is complete loan waiver to the farmers.” When Dhage raised slogans and started moving towards the stage, the police prevented her. Sharmila Yeole, students’ wing leader of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana rushed towards stage and shouted slogans. The CM assured them that he would discuss the issue with them after the function. Fadnavis assured the public that he would hear both of them patiently. Fadnavis said that he was aware of such incidents and his government was doing the needful. Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti had announced demonstrations in front of the CM during his Parbhani tour. Comrade Rajan Kshirsagar and other were detained by police before the function. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana spokesperson Yogesh Pande said that if the government does not act in time, there would be much intense agitation next time during his functions.

21, April 2018
Business Standard, New Delhi
Foodgrain procurement under MSP regime not as costly as feared

The government has allayed the fears of exorbitant cost of managing the procurement of farm produce under the proposed new minimum support price (MSP) mechanism. Officials said the mechanism could be applicable for the procurement of 12-15 million tonnes of food crops, largely pulses and millets. The remaining crops, for which the government declares MSP, will either come under the existing procurement mechanism as in rice and wheat or oilseeds and maize, whose prices have traditionally been more than the MSP barring few years, say 2017. The Centre declares MSP for almost 23 crops that includes, cereals, pulses, oilseeds and millets. These together account for around 300 million tonnes annually of which rice and wheat together command an overwhelming majority of 210 million tonnes or almost 70 per cent. Rice and wheat procurement will continue under FCI. Of the remaining 90 million tonnes, 58 million tonnes is maize and oilseeds. Officials said historically, maize and oilseeds prices have remained over the MSP in most of years barring few years, for instance 2016 and 2017. Their prices are governed by global markets, which can be controlled by tariff policy. Price fluctuation is more grave in the remaining 40 million tonnes of millets and pulses. Here, prices have remained below MSP. Out of this 40 million, the suggested procurement models of Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS) on the lines of Madhya Pradesh Bhavantar Yojana), or the direct procurement scheme called Market Assurance Scheme (MAS) will be used for 30 per cent of the production. In other words, PDPS or MAS will be applicable if prices fall below MSP for 12-14 million tonnes of farm produce spread over two seasons of rabi and kharif.

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Haryana seals borders as wheat prices crash in neighbouring states

With huge quantities of wheat from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan finding its way into Haryana owing to crashing of prices there, the Haryana government ordered sealing of its porous borders with these states. The Palwal grain market, that has proximity to these three states, has been closed for further procurement after it was discovered that 3.73 lakh metric tonne of wheat has already been procured against 2.98 lakh MT purchased during the entire season last year. Additional Chief Secretary (Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs) Ram Niwas on Thursday wrote to DGP BS Sandhu, requesting him to seal border entry points to prevent unauthorised movement of wheat into Haryana’s grain markets. “We have reports that some traders in grain markets of Delhi, UP and Rajasthan, where the prices of wheat have dipped Rs 150 to Rs 200 below the MSP, have been making an easy buck by selling wheat purchased from there in our mandis,” Ram Niwas told. Sources said besides Palwal, reports of wheat coming from other states have also been received from Sonepat and Karnal. The authorities in Karnal cancelled the licences of six arhtiyas from Taraori town after they were found bringing wheat from UP for sale in the mandi. Karnal District Food and Supplies Controller (DFSC) Kushal Boora said they were caught by a team of officials with wheat brought in an unauthorised manner from UP and hence their licences were cancelled by the Market Committee authorities. Sources said against the MSP of Rs 1,735 per quintal, wheat was available for Rs 1,550 to Rs 1,650 in the open market in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan because of poor government procurement. Difference in rates is a huge temptation for traders, as arrival of additional 1 lakh MT wheat in Palwal means that some unscrupulous traders might have earned around Rs 20 crore, sources said.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Higher arrivals pull onion prices down to new low

With onion prices at their lowest level in calendar year 2018, exporters said the Centre should bring back incentives to ship out more bulbs, to help stabilise prices and provide better returns to farmers. As the harvest of the rabi onion crop gains pace across the key producing regions of Maharashtra and Karnataka, prices have declined drastically, leaving growers in tears. At Lasalgaon, the largest onion market in the country, prices have crashed by over 80 per cent since early January to their lowest level for the year. At the retail end, onions are being sold at Rs 10-15 per kg across cities. Harvested now, the rabi crop, which accounts for 65 per cent of the country’s onion output of around 21 million tonnes, is stored and supplied till the kharif crop is harvested in October. “The crop has been good in all producing regions and that’s influencing prices,” said Jaidutt Holkar, Chairman of the Lasalgaon APMC. He expects prices to stay at these levels for several weeks. Nodal co-operative agency NAFED is expected to begin buying 25,000 tonnes in Lasalgaon this week. The steady fall in prices and removal of the minimum export price has resulted in increase of shipments overseas. “There is good regular demand coming in from countries in the Gulf, Sri Lanka and the Far East,” said Ajit Shah, an exporter in Mumbai and President of the Horticulture Produce Exporters Association. Per DGCIS data, onion exports during the April-January period stood at 12.97 lakh tonnes valued at Rs 2,609 crore as against 24.15 lakh tonnes valued at Rs 3,106 crore in 2016-17. “To increase exports, the Centre has to reintroduce the 5 per cent incentive (under the Merchandise Export from India Scheme), which would help us compete,” Shah said. The Centre had withdrawn the incentive last September.

Business Line, New Delhi
ICRIER suggests a radical change in cropping pattern

Cultivation of water-intensive rice and sugarcane crops should be shifted to the eastern regions of the country due to water availability issues, the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) said in a report. “Rice cultivation needs to be shifted from the north-western water-stressed States like Punjab to the water-abundant eastern region, while sugarcane needs to be shifted from the water-scarce tropical regions of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh to the traditional water-abundant sub-tropical region of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,” it said. The report suggests strengthening of marketing opportunity of sugarcane and procurement policies of rice in the water-abundant States of eastern region. It also calls for setting up markets for the less water-intensive crops that give much higher value applied in water scarce States. Emphasis should be on adoption of irrigation technologies and practices that encourage water savings, such as micro irrigation system in sugarcane and rice, the research body said. “Though increasing land productivity has been closely scrutinised by researchers and policy makers, the emphasis towards improving water productivity, particularly in terms of irrigation water applied by farmers, has been very limited,” the report said. While Punjab uses almost double the amount of water than West Bengal for irrigation to produce 1 kg of rice, and triple than that of Bihar, profitability of paddy cultivation on per hectare basis remains very high in Punjab due to robust procurement policy and highly subsidised power, the report added.

Millennium Post, New Delhi
India FY18 coffee exports at record 3.95 lakh tonnes

Coffee exports from India, Asia's third-largest producer and exporter, reached an all-time high at 3.95 lakh tonnes in the 2017-18 fiscal on strong demand for instant coffee, according to state-run Coffee Board. The country had exported 3.55 lakh tonnes of coffee in the previous year. "The coffee exports were at all-time high in FY 2017-18 because of increased shipments of value-added products, especially instant coffee," a senior board official said. There was an increase in instant coffee output because of improved production capacity with setting of up new units. The country largely exports Robusta variety of coffee, the volumes of which also showed a jump in the 2017-18 fiscal in view of strong demand and record domestic production. The top three export destinations are Italy, Germany and the Russian Federation. The board has pegged coffee output at a record 3.50 lakh tonnes for the 2017-18 crop year ending September 2018.

The Financial Express, Pune
India’s first consignment of Alphanso to US begins journey

The first consignment of Alphanso mangoes from the country has left for the US market from Vashi in Mumbai after getting approvals from American quarantine officials. The first consignment of 16 tonnes has been done through KB Exports, Rambo International and Kaushal Continental. Sunil Pawar, MD, Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) said around 1,500 tonnes are likely to be exported to the US, 4,000 tonnes to Europe, 20,000 tonnes to UAE and 12,000 tonnes to other nations. This means a total of 37,500 tonnes will be exported from Maharashtra this season, he said. Last year, some 32,500 tonnes were exported from Maharashtra, he said, adding that there is a 15% rise in exports this season. So far, around 40 tonnes have been exported from the Vashi centre to Russia, England, Italy and France. Primarily Alphanso, Kesar, Bangnapalli variety of mangoes are being exported to overseas countries. With a good mango crop expected this season, alphanso exports from Maharashtra are expected to increase by 15% this year, top officials of MSAMB had said. During the start of the season, the first consignment of some 12,000 kg of alphansoes had left for Italian shores. South Africa is another new market that is being explored and a delegation was in India last month to explore possible opportunities. Exports to this new market are likely to commence from next season, they said. This year, total production is expected to touch some 4 lakh tonnes. Export to the US has begun and is expected to commence soon to Australia. Japan and Korea are other markets where Indian alphansoes are popular. MSAMB officials who handle mango export said all facilities have been readied for export. Australia and South Korea are some of the new markets that have opened up to Indian mangoes.

The Sentinel, Guwahati
Now it's 'fertilizer syndicate' here, how will farmers be helped?

An active syndicate seemed to have sprung up in the Assam agriculture department which is supplying dubious and low-quality fertilizers to farmers in the State, a complaint regarding which has been lodged by Jorhat MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa to the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers as well as to the State Chief Secretary. In his letter, Tasa has said that he has been receiving complaints from various stakeholders that some fertilizer manufacturers are supplying poor-quality fertilizers in the State, thereby causing huge loss to the farmers here. Tasa says he has also learnt some officials with “unholy alliance with dubious suppliers” on the plea of maketing tie-ups with urea, DAP and MOP manufacturers have “in fact allotted urea/DAP/MOP to dealers against lifting of dubious fertilizers, more particularly in the case of single super phosphate, zinc, growth promoters, soil enhancers etc”. The BJP MP has requested the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers to initiate a thorough inquiry into the matter and take stringent measures to bring the errant officials and individuals to book. It has been alleged that a section of officials of the Brahmaputra Valley Fertilizer Corporation Limited (BVFCL), State agriculture department and a local fertilizer entrepreneur are in cahoots to supply low-quality fertilizers to farmers in the State. The MP has also referred to “various circulars in this context from the ministry wherein it has been stipulated to issue quality certificate” from the agriculture department concerned after testing the material at their end. Guidelines of the relevant circulars have not been fully adhered, he says in his letter.

Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Now, only mangoes from Konkan to be called Hapus

From now on, mango produced only within the Konkan region of Maharashtra will be called Hapus (also known as Alphonso mango), which is considered a superior variety of the fruit, with great demand worldwide. The districts included at Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Raigad. The decision was taken by the Geographical Indications (GI) registrarin Mumbai, while hearing a petition filed by mango traders and agricultural research institutes from Konkan. A GI tag gives a regional identity to a product. It is a name that corresponds to products from a particular region. Only producers in that particular area can use the GI tagged name for their produce. It is done under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act. Other popular products that have been GI tagged in India earlier include Darjeeling tea, Chanderi sarees, Coorg oranges. The registry of GI, Mumbai, rejected individual applications filed by four producers of Alphonso mangoes in Konkan to patent their produce as Hapus. The petitioners included Dapoli university, Kokan Hapus Udpadak Sangh, Ratnagiri Hapus Udpadak Sangh, and Devgargh Hapus Udpadak Sangh. After hearing the applications, the Controller General of Patents, Design and Trade Marks, Om Prakash Gupta then suggested instead of GI tagging separate names, all mangoes from Konkan will get the Hapus tag. It will be formally given after applicants submit a fresh application. Gupta, who is also registrar of GI said, “The word Hapus cannot be GI tagged under separate names. It then becomes generic and loses its purpose of patent. I suggested the petitioners at the hearing to GI tag Hapus from the geographical western coast of Maharashtra, that will be Konkan Maharashtra. They have filed their applications again with this correction.”

The Economic Times, Nashik
Wholesale onion price hits low of Rs 600/quintal

The average wholesale onion price at the country’s largest market for the kitchen staple at Lasalgaon in Maharashtra continued to fall, touching a season’s low of Rs 600 per quintal. The previous low of average wholesale onion price was recorded at Rs 611 per quintal on July 10 last year. The wholesale prices have dropped almost 20% in the past 10 days. Harvesting of the summer crop is in full swing and farmers are bringing their produce in large quantities to the market, said APMC sources. “As there has been enough arrival from all onion-growing regions, there has been a drop in demand for Nashik onions. This is the reason the average wholesale onion price have dropped to Rs 600 per quintal,” said sources.

The Tribune, Moga
Farmers seek relief for crop damage

Farmers have urged the state government to grant adequate compensation to them against losses to their wheat crop at the time of harvesting because of intermittent rain followed by hailstorms that lashed the region for the last few days. They also demanded compensation due to fires triggered by short-circuits on overhead electricity wires passing through the fields. Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary, BKU (Ekta), claimed that thousands of farmers in the state had suffered losses due to rain and fires. He said many farmers in Sangrur, Patiala, Moga, Amritsar, Faridkot, Gurdaspur and some other districts had suffered huge losses due to heavy rain and hailstorms. The farm union has claimed that more than 1,000 acres of wheat had already been damaged in fire incidents across the state and reports of such incidents were still coming daily. The state power corporation must plug lose wires to protect the crop or power supply on rural feeders must be stopped till the harvesting is completed, he demanded. However, officials of the Agriculture Department said the overall damage to wheat due to rain and hailstorm was limited in Moga, Faridkot and Patiala districts with on the whole not more than 2 per cent losses.

20, April 2018
Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Basharat for ensuring sustainable irrigation facilities for horticulture

Jammu and Kashmir Minister for Horticulture, Syed Basharat Ahmed Bukhari reviewed the status of progress made by the committee constituted for inspecting the sites identified for providing and developing irrigation facilities on community basis in orchid areas falling in Karewas of Kashmir division. The Minister also took stock of the implementation of directions passed in earlier meetings and sought detailed report of the progress achieved by the committee and recommendations being made thereof. The meeting was attended by Secretary Horticulture, Manzoor Ahmad Lone, Director Horticulture, Jammu, Anuradha Gupta, Director Horticulture, Kashmir, Manzoor Ahmad Qadri, Additional Secretary Horticu-lture, Dr Subhash Chander, Deputy Director Horticulture, Mohammad Yousuf Dar besides committee members along with concerned officers of Horticulture Department, PHE, I&FC and other departments. Underlining the importance of enhancing the productivity and revamping horticulture sector of the State, the Minister emphasized on providing better and sustainable irrigation facilities for horticulture and asked the concerned officers to take innovative initiatives on modern scientific lines for exploring possibilities to improve irrigation facilities for horticulture growers on community basis through community ponds, tanks, bore wells and tube wells. The Minister asked the concerned officers to go for the exploration for possibility of water from bore wells and other irrigation sources and explore four areas – Shangus and Kokernag from the South and Kharchak and Bandipora from the North that has been identified for developing irrigation facilities. Basharat Bukhari directed the officers to identify more areas where irrigation facilities are needed to be taken on community basis for assured supply. Stressing on optimal utilization of resources and funds, the Minister called for clubbing different components to benefit the public at large. He directed the senior functionaries to personally monitor the status of work on the schemes in the districts.

Business Line, Chennai
Experts favour MSP for all millet varieties

Benchmark pricing of millets will encourage farmers to grow a wide range of millet varieties, according to Saurabh Garg, Agriculture Secretary, Government of Odisha. While a minimum support price is announced just for ragi (finger millet) a diverse range of millets are cultivated including kodo millet, foxtail millet and barnyard millet. But there is no organised procurement and farmers do not get remunerative pricing. Addressing a seminar on “Millets, Monsoon and Markets” organised by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, where experts called for a national mission for millets, Garg said the diverse range of millets with relatively short shelf-life and region-specific cultivation meant that a centralised system would not be possible. In the backdrop of talks on the possibility of including millets in the public distribution system for strengthening nutrition, he said ragi may possibly be the best-suited variety. Nearly 90 per cent of the millets cultivated in Odisha is ragi, he said. Experts urged the Centre to launch a National Millet Mission in the context of 2018 being the National Year of Millets. Stefano Padulosi, Senior Scientist from Bioversity International, said setting up a nationwide Millet Committee will help create an environment for experience sharing and synergy across nutrition, agriculture and health. Millets are a durable range of ‘climate smart’ crop and should be seen as a part of a diverse diet in marginalised areas. Vilas Tonapi, Director, ICAR – Indian Institute of Millets Research, said the government is preparing to launch a millet policy spanning production, procurement, processing, consumption and distribution.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Government to replenish pulses buffer stock from Nafed procurement

The Centre is planning to replenish the buffer stock of pulses, maintained by the consumer affairs ministry, from the procurement made by Nafed under the price support scheme rather than buying afresh. This will save extra expenditure as well as ensure adequate supply in the market, officials said. According to consumer affairs ministry data, out of 20.5 lakh tonne of pulses procured for the buffer stock since October 2016 under the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF), as much as 7.9 lakh tonne has been sold in the open market as of April 16, leaving a stock of 12.6 lakh tonne. Since pulses have shelf life of about a year, the government keeps selling the commodities, apart from supplying to defence forces. “Since the decision was to maintain a buffer of 20 lakh tonne pulses, the consumer affairs ministry is considering a request from the agriculture ministry for transfer of pulses,” a government official said. While some pulses have already been purchased by agri cooperative Nafed under the price support scheme (PSS), they are also buying the pulses this year to support farmers, he said. The agriculture ministry runs the PSS and at the request of a state government asks Nafed to buy pulses and oilseeds to support farmers, when market prices fall below MSPs. Maximum 40% of the production of the state can be procured under PSS under this scheme and Nafed is reimbursed by the Centre the losses, if any, as it sells the procured commodities in the open market. In 2017-18, Nafed has been asked to buy 33.89 lakh tonne of kharif pulses and oilseeds and 30 lakh tonne from the rabi-grown crops. More than 25 lakh tonne of the commodities have already been purchased by it only from the kharif season and about half of it are pulses only.

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Govt trying to bail out sugar sector

As cane arrears mount, the Centre is on the lookout for a fresh bailout package for the sugar industry which is grappling with excess stocks and depressed prices of the sweetener. “The mandatory export scheme has not had the desired impact,” a senior government official said, adding that the Centre would now explore avenues to provide relief to the sector. However, the official ruled out any possibility of offering subsidies to the sector. According to the Minimum Indicative Export Quota scheme, the mills have an obligation to export 7.5% output of its production capacity. Sugar production in the country has touched an all-time high of 30 million tonnes, which is five million tonnes more than the annual domestic consumption leading to a dip in prices of the sweetener. According to government data, the sugar mills owe cane growers Rs 18,044 crore in arrears, the highest in recent years. “Sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh owe Rs 8,869 crore to cane growers, while arrears in Karnataka is Rs 2,420 crore and in Maharashtra, it is Rs 2,213 crore,” the official said.

The Times of India, New Delhi
Kisan Agri Show in December

India's largest gathering for agriculture, Kisan, is scheduled from December 12 to 16, 2018 in Pune. This will be the 28th edition of Kisan exhibition that started in 1993. This year, over 200,000 farmers from across India are expected to visit the fair in five days. Seven hundred-plus exhibitors are expected to display their products and services and the display will be spread over 20 acres of expo ground. Alongside the product display, concurrent programmes include conferences, live demonstrations, Startup Pavilion and theme arenas. A B2B pavilion is also planned to initiate business dialogue. As a new initiative, Kisan organisers are inviting associations and trade bodies working in the agriculture sector. A platform will be offered for them to host conferences, meets and theme arenas. Working together with these organisations, Kisan aims at offering solutions to the challenges faced by the Indian farming community.

Free Press Journal, Mumbai
Maharashtra government to start Rs 5084 crore power distribution scheme for farmers

Maharashtra government approved a scheme to provide electricity connection through a High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) to farmers for their agriculture pumps. The decision was taken at a meeting of the state cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Power Minister Chandrashekhhar Bawankule told. The scheme, estimated to cost Rs 5048 crore, will benefit around 2.24 lakh farmers who are awaiting new power connections, the minister said. “Two farmers will share a transformer through HVDS lines, to be provided to farmers during August 15 to March 31 next year,” Bawankule said. At present, 10 to 15 farmers are provided electricity through 65 to 100 kilovolt-ampere (kVA) lines, the minister said. “In the present set-up, farmers get low voltage electricity and there are cases of power tripping due to defects in transformers,” he said. “For Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, a budgetary provision of Rs 600 crore has already been made. State power distribution utility Mahavitaran will take a Rs 2500 crore loan (for the project) and the state government will stand guarantor,” he said. Stating that Maharashtra is self-sufficient in electricity, Bawankule said, “We have achieved the demand of 23,100 MW and are able to provide uninterrupted power supply. There is no load-shedding.”

The Economic Times, Kolkata
Monsanto Case: Govt to Unveil Plan on Cotton Seed Prices Next Week

India’s farm ministry will announce its course of action on cotton seed prices by next week after the Delhi High Court judgement that said Monsanto Technologies’ patents on Bt cotton seed variety Bollgard II were not valid. Officials in the agriculture ministry said that they want to assess the implications of the order on cotton seed prices for which the ministry is the regulatory agency. Meanwhile, the agriculture secretary said that the normal monsoon forecast by the weather office was a shot in the arm for the sector and good for the agriculture economy. He added that they expected growth in productivity due to availability of water and agriculture growth to be better than that in the previous years. The National Seed Association of India wants the government to scrap the trait (tech) fee on Bollgard II cotton seeds which is Rs 39 on each 450gm packet of cotton seed that costs Rs 740. Seed companies say that with planting yet to start, farmers will benefit from this. “By next week, the course of action the government needs to take…we will see. After reading the judgment, if there are any directions to the government-…we will abide by that,” said Shobhana K Pattanayak, secretary, department of agriculture, cooperation & farmers’ welfare. Pattanayak added: “The Delhi High Court judgment pertains to the dispute between two parties (Monsanto and Nuziveedu), where we are not the party. But we will see the implication of the order passed as we are the regulatory agency where seed price is concerned.” Government officials said that the court has given clarity as to what should be the trait fee and whether a particular trait is patentable. India is the world’s biggest cotton producer with 8 million farmers who buy 50 million such seed packets annually to plant on 12.26 million hectares of land.

The Telegraph, Guwahati
Record price for Assam tea

Assam tea got its best price for first flush on Tuesday when Halmari tea from Dibrugarh district fetched Rs 469 in the Calcutta auctions. The previous best price for Assam first flush, also bagged by Halmari, was Rs 422 set at the Guwahati Tea Auction Centre. Halmari garden fetched Rs 469 and Rs 441 for its CTC variety tea of grade broken orange pekoe (BOP) in two different invoices at sale 16 at the auctions. Calcutta-based Star Tea Company bought 125.80 kg of Rs 469 tea while Shiv Tea Company, also based in Calcutta, bought 151.80 kg of Rs 441 tea. The tea, plucked during the third week of March, will be sold in the country. BOP is a little bolder grade, which allows consumers to perceive the aroma and flavour to its fullest. It also provides a unique and very balanced combination of flavour and strength. A majority of Halmari's produce is CTC tea and it has fetched the best prices in the auctions till date, both in the first and second flush. "We get every part perfect, right from plucking to manufacturing, and not worry about quantity. Quality is our only buzzword," Soham Daga of Calcutta-based Amarawati Tea Company Ltd, which owns Halmari tea estate, said. A garden official said Assam first flush is a little more mellow than the second flush and has a "unique" flavour. Assam tea is generally known for the second flush, which comes in May-June and is characterised by its boldness and robustness and is topped with classic flavours of malt and woody astringency. Rabi Dey of Star Tea Company said Halmari garden was known for maintaining quality throughout the year. "The tea which we bought has all the characteristics of a good first flush with a wonderful flavour. This tea will be sold locally," he added.

The Economic Times, New Delhi
Scientists Want to Replace Pesticides with Bacteria

In humans, a healthy microbiome—the universe of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that lives inside all of us—is increasingly recognised as critical to overall health. The same is true of the plant world, and Indigo Ag is among the dozen or so agricultural technology startups trying to take advantage of the growing scientific consensus. Their work is enabled by advances in machine learning and a steep reduction in the cost of genetic sequencing, used by companies to determine which microbes are present. AgBiome, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is studying how microbes can help control sweet potato weevils in Africa, while Ginkgo Bioworks. announced a $100 million joint venture with Bayer to explore how microbes can encourage plants to produce their own nitrogen. Indigo is the best-funded of the bunch, having raised more than $400 million. To develop its microbial cocktails, Indigo agronomists comb through normal fields in dry conditions to see which plants seem healthier than average. They take samples of the thriving plants and “fingerprint” their microbiomes using genetic sequencing.

Business Line, Bengaluru
Soyameal exports lag on reduced bean crop

Exports of soyameal are seen declining by over a fourth to around 15 lakh tonnes in the current oil year (ending September 2018) on reduced oilseed availability for crushing. The shipments of soyameal have progressively slowed over the past four months to 10.25 lakh tonnes (lt) for the October-March 2018 period as against 11.89 lt in the corresponding period last year. “We expect another 2.5-5 lakh tonnes to be shipped in the remaining part of the oil year depending on the residual stocks,” said Davish Jain, Chairman, Soyabean Processors Association of India (SOPA), the apex body of oilseed crushers. Total shipments may touch around 15 lt, Jain said adding that the decline in shipments over last year’s 20 lt was mainly due to the reduced availability for crushing. “There’s is no paucity of demand for Indian soyameal. As it is not genetically modified, our soyameal commands a premium in the international market,” Jain said. France, Nepal, Bangladesh and Vietnam are among the biggest buyers in the current year. On the US-China tariff war, Jain said that there was good chance for the neighbouring country to consider supplies from India. However, China’s requirements are huge, he said. China had stopped importing soyameal from India for the past 6-7 years on quality issues. Also the reports that Russia was considering regulating the genetically modified soyameal could open up new market for India, Jain said. India’s soyabean output had shrunk in the 2017-18 kharif season on account of lower yields and SOPA had pegged the output at 83.50 lt — much lower than the Agriculture Ministry’s estimate of 113.90 lt. SOPA estimates that over three-fourth of the oilseed produced during 2017-18 has already arrived into the markets. Stocks with the crushing units, farmers and traders were estimated at around 32.11 lt.

19, April 2018
Business Line, Hyderabad
ABB pumps water to villages in Telangana

ABB has deployed five high-capacity motors, each capable of pumping 23,000 litres per second, in the Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme, in the parched lands in Mahbubnagar district of Telangana. With a depleted watertable, the only option for farming and drinking is to pump water from the Krishna river to a reservoir nearly 300 metres higher. From there, through a gravity-driven “lift irrigation” system, water is channelled through a canal network to more than 300 villages and to irrigate 1.37 lakh ha of farms. “Best in class technology can be used to manage availability of water and create the last mile connect with farmers,” Sanjeev Sharma, Managing Director of ABB India, said in a statement. ABB partnered with Andritz Pumps to provide this advanced pumping solution.

The Financial Express, Ahmedabad
Cash crunch hits farm economy in Gujarat

Cash shortage has affected routines in Gujarat’s agriculture sector as most of the transactions there are done in cash. Due to currency shortage, farmers are not getting payment for their produce in APMCs across the state and the situation is critical in some rural areas where banking facilities are poor. Winter crops such as wheat, jeera, pulses and groundnut are arriving in marketing yards in full force and farmers prefer cash as they need it to pay to others. Moreover, it is vacation time and most of the farm labourers will go back to their home towns. Ramesh Bhoraniya, a farmer and agriculture expert from Naranaka village of Rajkot, said, “After winter crop harvesting, agriculture labourers go back to their home towns for vacation and farmers have to pay their salaries and contract amount. Farmers are unable to make any payments to their labourers and others as sufficient cash is not available at this time.” The situation is not so good in villages and small towns in the state. According to the commission agents, urban areas’ farmers are accepting payment partly by cheques but in villages, nobody is ready to accept cheques. “All the APMCs across the state have currency shortage and as a result farmers are selling their produces at lower rates for cash. As the banking is not strong in rural areas, it takes about a week’s time to clear cheque, therefore farmers prefer payment in cash,” said Atul Kamani, president of Saurashtra APMCs Commission Agent Association. According to the state government official, this is because of some issue in printing of new notes and soiled notes. Gujarat Urban Cooperative Banks’ Federation (GUCBF) also has written to the Reserve Bank regarding the short supply. The state government is in touch with regional office of RBI and hoping for smooth supply of currency shortly.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Central agri officials interact with State farmers

Union Agriculture Secretary SK Pattanayak and Joint Secretary (Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture) Dinesh Kumar interacted with farmers in several places, including Morigaon and Kaziranga, during their recent visit to Assam. During their visit on April 12-13, the two central officials participated in a meeting of Coordinated Horticulture Assessment using Management using geoiNformatics (CHAMAN) project here, said an official statement issued here. Later, they visited the Integrated Cold Chain Project at Tetelia and the Vijaya Nursery at Khetri on the outskirts of the city. They also interacted with farmers of different farmers producers companies at Amlighat in Morigaon district. Pattanayak and Kumar also went to the Hathikuli Tea Estate in Kaziranga and also met various farmers at Nagaon.

Business Line, New Delhi
Govt must support pulses & oilseeds, too, not just rice and wheat: Crisil

The government may have to shift its focus on procurement from rice and wheat to other crops such as pulses and oilseeds to arrest falling agricultural profitability, an industry watcher said. “There are a number of crops such as urad, tur, maize, groundnut, soyabean, bajra, rapeseed and mustard whose weighted average mandi prices are trending below the minimum support prices (MSP),” said CRISIL Research Director Hetal Gandhi. She said the India Meteorological Department’s forecast of a third year of normal monsoon would be a sign of relief and hope for the rural economy. But, bumper production in the last two years has led to a sharp drop in farmer incomes. “Our assessment indicates that crop profitability has dropped across 9 of 15 States when one assesses 14 key MSP crops covering over 50 per cent of the sown area. We believe the issue lies in not announcing minimum support prices but procuring them,” she said. These States are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh, which account for close to half of India’s gross sown area. A key factor for fall in profitability in these States was depressed crop prices especially in pulses and oilseeds. As on February 2018, prices of jute, tur, urad, soyabean, mustard, groundnut, bajra and maize continue to trend below their MSP. Gram too has joined the list since December 2017, she said. “Higher procurement of rice and wheat and limited bandwidth with government as well as infrastructure issues have restricted benefits to flow for other MSP linked crops,” Gandhi told from Mumbai. As of now, the only crops that see substantial procurement by the government are rice and wheat.

Afternoon, Mumbai
Maharashtra Govt plan to ease farmer's agricultural woes

In an attempt to address the farmers distress, the state government approved a scheme to provide electricity connection through a High Voltage Distribution System (HVDS) to farmers for their agriculture pumps. The scheme, estimated to cost Rs. 5,048 crores, will benefit around 2.24 lakh farmers across the state who are awaiting new power connections. The state Power Minister Chandrashekhhar Bawankule announced this decision, which was taken at a cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. He said, “Two farmers will share a transformer through HVDS lines, to be provided to farmers during August 15 to March 31 next year. At present, 10 to 15 farmers are provided electricity through 65 to 100 kilo-volt-ampere (KVA) lines. In the present set-up, farmers get low voltage electricity and there are cases of power tripping due to defects in transformers”. “For Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, a budgetary provision of Rs. 600 crores has already been made by the government. The state power distribution utility, Mahavitaran will take a Rs. 2,500 crore loan for the project and the state government will stand guarantor,” he added further. “Maharashtra is self-sufficient in electricity. We have achieved the demand of 23,100 MW and are able to provide uninterrupted power supply. There is no load-shedding for industrial, residential and commercial consumers anywhere in the state. For agriculture purpose, eight hours electricity is provided on day to basis. There are around 700 feeders where villages and farms have a common electricity connection and we are undertaking a scheme to separate them,” Bawankule pointed out. The Power Minister further stated that the government will complete 2,000 MW solar power projects by December 2019. The tendering process is complete. These projects will help over 5,000 farmers.

Mint, New Delhi
Govt sees output levels of key crops improving

The forecast of a normal monsoon this year is a shot in the arm for the agriculture sector and the government is hopeful that both productivity and production of key crops will rise from the previous year (2017-18), a top agriculture ministry official said. “The Met department has forecast that monsoon will be 97% of long period (50-year) average in 2018 and this forecast is higher than the 95% (of normal) rains seen in 2017,” said Shobhana Pattanayak, agriculture secretary, adding, “this will ensure ample water for farming as well as improve reservoir levels across the country. “We are hopeful that both planting area and productivity levels will improve leading to higher year-on-year output of foodgrains,” Pattanayak said. On the possible impact of successive years of record production leading to lower crop prices, Pattanayak said that the central government has taken several pro-farmer trade policy decisions such as opening up exports of pulses and restricting imports which will show results in the next few months. “We will be ready with a new price support based procurement policy (for pulses and oilseeds) before the Kharif harvest begins (in October) to ensure better prices to farmers,” he said.

The Financial Express, New Delhi
Govt to soon take call on Monsanto trait fee

The agriculture ministry will decide next week whether there is a need to scrap the trait fee charged by American agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto after going through last week’s Delhi High Court order that invalidated the firm’s relevant patents, a top official said. “We are the regulatory authority on cotton seed prices and will go by law as far as judgement is concerned. I will be able to comment after reading the order,” agriculture secretary S K Pattanayak told. Stressing that the court order has come on a dispute between two parties and the government was not part of that, he said “if there is any direction to the government, we will abide by it.” The Delhi High Court on March 11 had disallowed a plea by Monsanto to enforce its patent for its genetically modified (Bt) cotton seed varieties ‘Bollgard’ and the widely used ‘Bollgard II’ in India. A bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and Yogesh Khanna allowed Monsanto to apply for registration of these seed varieties under the Plant Varieties Act (PVA) within next three months. A registration under the PVA would still entitle the firm to charge trait fee. But the question is whether the fee could be abrogated in the interim period. Both Monsanto and Hyderabad-based Nuziveedu Seeds had filed cross-appeals against the High Court’s single-judge order in March last year that ruled that Monsanto’s termination of its sub-licence agreement for genetically modified hybrid cotton seeds with Nuziveedu Seeds was illegal and arbitrary. The single judge had also directed restoration of the sub-licence agreements with the Indian seed manufacturer to use Monsanto’s Bollgard and Bollgard II trademarks as per the GM Technology Licensing Agreement found in the Licensing and Formats for GM Technology Agreement Guidelines, 2016.

Business Line, Chennai
It is advantage retailers in millets; farmers and millers hit

Working capital shortage, technology gaps and low prices to farmers constrain growth of farming and processing of traditional millets, say entrepreneurs involved in sourcing and marketing of millets. As the demand for millets increases in urban centres in the backdrop of known health and nutritional advantages these grains offer, producers and processors often lose out, said those involved in the supply chain in an interaction with. They were taking part in an event on Millets, Monsoon and Market organised by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation. Sridhar Iriventi, Director, Go Bhaarati — which handles over 10-14 tonnes of millets every month — says entrepreneurs have to depend on personal funds as working capital credit is hard to come by. Even large buyers take supplies only on credit and funds could be locked up for about three months at a time. It is the retailers who stand to gain the most as “prices get marked up by as much as 40 per cent in retail outlets,” says Sridhar. Availability of proven equipment is also an issue. “I have half a dozen machines that simply do not work,” he complained. Go Bhaarati works with over 800-900 farmers on an average and it has developed a basket of over 45 millet-based products. It has developed an effective packaging technique that enhances shelf life to about a year without any additives or preservatives. Typically, millets have a shelf life of about three months, he said. “Entrepreneurs in the sector are like heads without bodies,” he remarked addressing participants at the event. They have ideas and can innovate but are handicapped when it comes to implementation. Just the statutory paper work and clearances can weigh them down.

Business Line, Hyderabad
Nabard pegs Telangana credit potential at Rs 83,400 crore

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has pegged Telangana’s credit potential at Rs 83,400 crore for the current financial year, as against Rs 65,590 crore in the previous year. The potential for the current financial year includes Rs 16,000 crore for term credit. Nabard will provide a financial support of Rs 12,200 crore in 2018-19, a growth of 15 per cent. While the long-term refinance component will go up to Rs 5,250 crore in 2018-19 from Rs 4,750 crore last year, the infrastructure support will increase to Rs 3,450 crore (Rs 2,723 crore). The district credit plan and the State credit plan to be prepared by the SLBC (State-level Bankers’ Committee) will consider this estimate, while preparing their plan for 2018-19. This report forms the basis for lending by the SLBC member banks to various sectors in the State. P Radhakrishnan, Chief General Manager of Nabard (Telangana region), said the SLBC could achieve about Rs 63,059 crore by December 31, 2017, as against the credit potential estimate of Rs 65,590 crore for the full year 2017-18. Nabard had disbursed Rs 10,633 crore for 2017-18, showing a growth of 15 per cent over the previous year’s achievement of Rs 9,240 crore. In 2015-16, the assistance stood at Rs 7,226 crore. The bank has sanctioned Rs 6,791 crore for the Mission Bagiratha, the programme launched by the Telangana government to take up irrigation projects. The cumulative disbursal for the programme stood at Rs 3,884 crore so far. This includes Rs 2,154 crore delivered last year. “Refinance to cooperative banks and regional rural banks for crop loans would help them lend to farmers at an interest of 7 per cent. We gave Rs 2,210 crore to the banks last year for this purpose,” Radhakrishnan said.

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Naidu asks scientists to boost agriculture output

Vice President, M Venkaiah Naidu while lauding the contributions of the Assam Agricultural University (AAU) as a pioneering institute towards the growth of the agricultural sector in the north-eastern region, has appealed to the scientists to focus on farmer-oriented research activities to improve the agriculture sector of the country. Naidu was speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural function of the year-long celebrations of golden jubilee of the AAU at Borbheta here. He proposed the idea of having more student-farmer interactions at the field-level to have a better understanding of the problems faced by the farmers regarding cultivation and other related issues to improve the agricultural scenario of the country. “A provision of making students spent certain amount of time with the farmers should be thought before awarding them degrees so that they (students) could work to find solutions to the problems faced by farmers,” Naidu said. The Vice President said the agricultural scientists through their continuous path-breaking research and developmental activities over the years have enabled the country’s farmers in achieving food security. He especially acknowledged the contributions of noted scientist Dr MS Swaminathan in India’s progress in the agricultural sector. Naidu, while pointing out that the scientists were facing new challenges in view of the changing situations in terms of climatic change, decreasing water reserves, soil degradation, increasing human population and several other conditions, threat to bio-diversity cover, said India’s scientists have the potential to ensure food security for the world. He said that agricultural scientists have a great challenge ahead in making India self-sufficient in pulses and oil seeds. Stating that India’s basic culture was agriculture with agrarian economy developing since ages, Naidu said all the stakeholders should join hands together to attract people towards farming so that production of foodgrain and other crops do not decrease.

Business Line, New Delhi
NCDEX Coriander on a weak note

Coriander prices have been under pressure since February. The coriander futures contract traded on the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) made a high near Rs 6,000 a quintal in late January and has reversed sharply lower from there. The prices have tumbled over 15 per cent and are currently at Rs 5,081/quintal. The price action on the chart suggests that the long-term downtrend is intact for the contract. The pull-back from around Rs 6,000 has happened from a 50 per cent Fibonacci retracement level which is a key resistance level. Also, the 100-day moving average at around Rs 5,500 has capped the upside in the contract earlier this month. This leaves the short-term outlook bearish. The possibility is high that the contract can fall to Rs 4,900 in the coming days. Further break below Rs 4,900 will then increase the likelihood of the contract tumbling towards Rs 4,500 or even to Rs 4,350 over the medium-term. The downside pressure will ease only if the contract manages to breach Rs 5,500 decisively. Such a break will increase the possibility of the contract rallying to Rs 6,000 or even to Rs 6,200. Trading strategy: Traders with a medium-term perspective can go short at current levels and also on rallies at Rs 5,150. Stop-loss can be placed at Rs 5,450 for the target of Rs 4,500. Revise the stop-loss lower to Rs 5,025 as soon as the contract moves down to Rs 4,915.

The Financial Express, Pune
Onion prices dip to season’s lowest of Rs 600 per quintal

Onion prices at the Lasalgaon Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), the country’s largest wholesale onion market, continue to be on the downslide. Modal prices at Lasalgaon dropped to Rs 600 per quintal, among the lowest this season, with farmers bringing out poor quality onions for sale, top officials of the Lasalgaon APMC said. Some 10,000 quintals arrived in the market with prices touching a maximum of Rs 716 and minimum of Rs 400 per quintal to average at Rs 600 per quintal. Last week on Friday, modal prices were Rs 630 per quintal with some 17,030 quintals arriving in the market and Rs 640 per quintal on Thursday with 15,665 quintals arriving in the market. According to Jaydutt Holkar, the red onion crop is almost over and summer onions have begun arriving in the market. Farmers usually store the good quality onions in warehouses and storage godowns and bring the rest of the onion into the market. It is currently this poor quality onion which is arriving in the market and therefore prices are also lower. Prices stood at Rs 600 per quintal and this situation will remain the same for another month or so, he said. The maximum storage capacities have been created in Nashik since this region remains one of the biggest markets for onion. Around 47,000 tonne of onion can be stored in Nashik alone through 2,000-odd warehouses. According to Holkar, farmers also create their own storage spaces and this year the storage should be good on the back of a bumper crop, he said. Usually every year, there is a shortage of onions during the monsoon and post-monsoon periods and so the state government has established onion chawls for storing the crop. The state has storage facilities for 15 lakh tonne of onions.

Business Line, Thiruvananthapuram
Rainy season ends in Australia, clearing the air for good monsoon in India

The Australian monsoon may well have ended, the country’s national forecaster said, which removes a potential irritant to the orderly evolution and progress of the Indian monsoon. Monsoon Down Under staying put beyond April could mean a spanner in the works for the Indian monsoon. An active monsoon trough located there topped with a weather system (depression/cyclone) will repel flows bound for India. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said that a Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) wave is active over Central Indian Ocean, helping with cloudiness and possibly fuelling the summer rain regime over South India. The MJO wave is a low-pressure belt that sets up clouds and rain as it circumnavigates the tropics periodically from East to West. A wet MJO phase brings rain, triggers low-pressure area/depression, even onset of monsoon. On the contrary, a dry MJO phase means opposite conditions including dry weather and even ‘break-monsoon’ conditions in which rains shut out for a week or longer midway through the season. On Tuesday, the Equatorial West Pacific was bereft of any significant clouding, which meant that the MJO would weaken before it reaches Australian longitudes. So there is less chance of another monsoon burst this season, the Bureau said. In fact, parts of the southern continent have been in the grip of a record-breaking heat spell. Several locations set records for consecutive days above high thresholds. The Bureau also said that the Equatorial Pacific is expected to witness ‘neutral’ conditions over the coming months as most oceanic and atmospheric indicators do not suggest anything to the contrary. As for the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), which refers to see-sawing temperatures in the western and eastern basins of the Indian Ocean, the value is currently neutral.

Business Line, New Delhi
Sugar price falls; cane arrears cross Rs 20,000 crore on record output

The country’s sugar production has touched a record 29.98 million tonnes (mt) till April 15 in the current season on higher sugarcane output, resulting in arrears to farmers burgeoning to Rs 20,000 crore, according ISMA. The industry body demanded the government provide production-linked incentive to cane farmers as it did in 2015-16 marketing year (October to September). Sugar output of India, the world’s second largest producer, was 20.3 mt in 2016-17. against an annual domestic demand estimated at 25 mt. Sugar production in the current season has crossed the expected levels at 299.80 lakh tonnes, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said in a statement. As many as 227 sugar mills were still crushing sugarcane. Sugar production in Maharashtra has almost reached its past record and mills produced 10.49 mt up to April 15, 2018. Mills in Uttar Pradesh produced a record 10.48 mt of sugar. Crushing operations are almost over in Karnataka and only one sugar mill was operational as on April 15, 2018. The State has so far produced 3.63 mt of sugar. ISMA said sugar prices have been under severe pressure in the last 4-5 months and have fallen by Rs 9/kg across the country. The current ex-mill sugar prices are around Rs 8 lower than cost of production and sugar mills are incurring substantial losses.“Inability to pay cane price because of highly depressed sugar prices has translated into huge cane price arrears. As on March 15, 2018, the cane arrears reported to the government was over Rs 18,000 crore across the country,” ISMA said, adding that arrears could have crossed Rs 20,000 crore now.

The Hindu, New Delhi
Turning crop residue into useful products

To come up with a solution to deal with air pollution in the Capital during the winter due to stubble burning, Kriya Labs, a start-up incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi has come up with a method to convert agro-waste into pulp that can be used to make bioethanol, paper and tableware. The team, led by Professor Neetu Singh, said farmers currently burn rice straw in the field as it is a waste product. However, the process they have developed, will help farmers earn profits from this waste product, which when burnt in the farms of Punjab and Haryana brings down the air quality of the region. Prof. Singh explained that a solvent system developed by Kriya Labs for the process is completely biodegradable, non-volatile, made of natural products and completely safe to use. The start-up hopes to find manufacturers who will use this technology to provide a safe alternative to crop burning. Kriya Labs director Pracheer Dutta, who completed his BTech from IIT-Delhi, said their solution to the problem of stubble burning will not only ensure a pollution-free Delhi but create rural employment by creating wealth from waste and contribute to sustainable development by starting a bio-economy. The project will be on display at the 14th Open House being organised by IIT-Delhi on Saturday, along with several other innovations that the students of the institute have come up with over the past year. Some of these products include an intelligent artificial leg, refreshable Braille display to enable digital access, waterless bathing solutions and a naso-filter that cuts out air pollution. Institute said over 1,000 school students from Classes X and XII will visit the campus, apart from college students and people from the industry. Besides new technology, labs at the institute will be thrown open to the public and lectures on various topics will be given by top faculty members.

Business Line, New Delhi
UP eases norms for gur, khandsari units

The Uttar Pradesh government has relaxed the policy for khandsari and gur (jaggery) to provide sugarcane farmers a viable alternative to sugar mills. The State government has allowed khandsari units to be established closer to the mill gate. They can now come up 8 km from the nearest sugar mill gate as compared with 15 km earlier. “This will help more khandsari units to be set up for timely crushing of sugarcane available with farmers,” the State Cane Department said in a press note. For now, 157 units are in operation. Khandsari is a type of unrefined raw white sugar made from thickened sugar cane syrup. The State government has also waived levies on the production of gur in the State. The relaxation in policy comes in the wake of rising cane arrears due to depressed sugar prices. Jaggery and khandsari units make spot payment to farmers.

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

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

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre to distribute millets via PDS

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

The Hindu, Panaji
Centre to help Goa turn agricultural hub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hindu, Nagpur
Yavatmal farmers pen their woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hindu, Chandigarh
Punjab allows transport of foodgrains on tractors

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

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

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

The Tribune, Faridabad
Late payment, tardy lifting worry farmers

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

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

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

Deccan Herald, Bengaluru
Farmers chalking out stir to corner govt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Line, Kochi
Kamco eyes small agri machinery market

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

The Pioneer, Mumbai

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

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

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

Mumbai Mirror, Srinagar
Saffron production in the Valley nosedives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Telegraph, Kolkata
Bite this Mohini gingerly

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

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

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

Mint, New Delhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pioneer, New Delhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Assam Tribune, Guwahati
Large poppy plantation found in Dhakuwakhona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Chronicle, New Delhi
Wheat crashes below support price

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Procurement: Govt clears transport bar

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

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

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

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Respite for basmati growers

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

Business Standard, Chennai
Rubber output falls 16% in Feb

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

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

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

Business Standard, Mumbai
Bulk edible oil exports unviable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deccan Chronicle, Hyderabad
India among nations to face food insecurity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNA, Mumbai
Urea stocks may gain in long term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mint, New Delhi
Caution ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India Today, Balurghat
Aromatic rice Tulaipanji gaining popularity among farmers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Telegraph, Guwahati
Nasa plant data inspires Assam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Line, New Delhi
Centre may make sugar exports mandatory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Line, Bengaluru
Karnataka seeds AgTech start-ups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Regulate credit to farm sector: Panel

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

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

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

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

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

The Hindu, New Delhi
Cabinet lifts edible oil export curbs

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

Business Standard, New Delhi
Sugar export easing could drag prices

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Court notice to state on mustard procurement

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

Millennium Post, New Delhi
Govt relaxes apple import norms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Line, Mumbai
Rising mercury withers Maharashtra farms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hindu, Shimla
‘Proposed schemes to help farmers’

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

The Financial Express, Kolkata
Comprehensive legislation for organic foods?

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

DNA, Mumbai
Diva farmers wary of Bullet Train route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNA, Mumbai
Stop cultivation of methi at beach: Activists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mint, New Delhi
MSP policy soon: Radha Mohan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribune, Chandigarh
Database of agri input sales on cards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Standard, Chennai
No pepper imports below CIF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mint, New Delhi
Bayer clears EU hurdle for Monsanto deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribune, New Delhi
Rain brings cheer to wheat growers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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