Union Agriculture Minister inaugurates NDDB’s honey testing laboratory

Bhubaneswar: Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Hon’ble Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, inaugurated NDDB’s hi-tech honey testing laboratory and beekeeping training programme for dairy farmers at National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), Anand on 24 July 2020 in the presence of Guest of Honour Shri Giriraj Singh, Hon’ble Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying. Shri Parshottambhai Rupala, Union Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare; Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Union Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying; Shri Kailash Choudhary, Union Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare; Shri Miteshbhai Patel, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), Anand; Shri Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Govt of India, Shri Dilip Rath, Chairman, NDDB and Shri Meenesh Shah, Executive Director, NDDB also graced the occasion.

NDDB is committed to augment dairy farmers’ income through allied activities. This world class honey testing facility has come up as part of its multi-disciplinary laboratory -CALF. This is the only accredited laboratory in the country which can test honey sample as per FSSAI’s latest regulation of 1st July 2020 (as on date) by undertaking authenticity testing by using sophisticated analytical instruments and wet chemical analysis. This NABL accredited laboratory can also test honey as per requirement of BIS, AGMARK, Codex standards and Residue Monitoring Plan (RMP) of Export Inspection Council covering pesticides, antibiotics, heavy metals and wet chemical testing.

Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Agriculture Minister congratulated ministry officials for collaborating with NDDB and successfully establishing a world class honey testing facility at Anand. The Union Minister said that we need to focus on the benefits of beekeeping, its impact on cultivation and income of farmers. The income generated through honey production should contribute to the GDP of the nation. Shri Tomar said the Government of India is committed to doubling farmers’ income. He mentioned about Govt of India’s Rs. 500 crore beekeeping initiative fund under Aatmanirbhar Bharat for infrastructure development related to beekeeping including income generation and capacity building of beekeepers with thrust on women.

Shri Giriraj Singh, Union Minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying said that development of beekeeping will generate employment in rural India and has potential of augmenting income of farmers. Beekeeping acts as a catalyst in increasing yield of agricultural & horticultural crops in the country through cross pollination. Honey bees are vital in sustaining plant biodiversity. He said that authenticity of honey has become a serious issue as suppliers indulge in unethical practices for economic gains. The testing facility at NDDB will help honey farmers, cooperatives and honey industry in producing quality honey for domestic consumption and export by meeting regulatory requirements.

Shri Dilip Rath said that NDDB along with NBB had initiated the drive to promote scientific bee-keeping among farmers by utilising the dairy cooperative network in the country. This state-of-the-art laboratory has been established with Agriculture Ministry’s financial assistance and all the facilities and services related to testing of honey is now available at one place.Our Hon’ble Prime Minister has from time-to-time called for promoting honey industry in the country and to bring a ‘Sweet Revolution’ on the lines of ‘White Revolution’.

Dairy cooperatives can establish value chain for honey alike dairies. Milk unions of Banaskantha (Gujarat), Sundarban (West Bengal) and Muzaffarpur (Bihar) are using their infrastructure for procurement and marketing of honey and Banas, Sudha and Sundarini brands are providing quality honey to its customers. Under National Bee Keeping &Honey Mission, an important part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat, NDDB is committed to the programme and has been designated as the implementing agency.

Source: https://bit.ly/3f3uo7b

Water crisis is becoming a problem for Centre

Although Modi’s BJP dominates parliament after a big win in last year’s election, he needs to tread a fine balance between shifting to less water-intensive crops and ensuring his government produces enough food to feed the poor.

On a scorching summer day in northern India, Ajay Singh sat next to his water pump and scanned his 10 acres of farmland. He once used to grow rice each season to bring in about 150,000 rupees ($2,000) a year, well above the average income in the world’s second-most populous country.

Now on six acres he’s cultivating pearl millet, cow peas, bottle gourd and corn — crops that consume about 80% less water than rice, and also use less labor, fertilizer and electricity. While a water conservation program pays him 7,000 ($93) rupees per acre to plant them, it’s still a gamble: Unlike rice, which the government always buys at a set price, these crops have no guaranteed market.

“I am taking this risk because I have a passion to leave enough water for future generations,” Singh said from his farm in Karnal, an area a few hours drive north of the capital, New Delhi.

India’s 1.3 billion people have access to only about 4% of the world’s water resources, and farmers consume almost 90% of the groundwater water available. As global temperatures rise and overuse of water depletes existing resources, the threat to lives and businesses in Asia’s third-largest economy is projected to grow.

Water shortages are already acute: nearly half the country’s population faces high-to-extreme water stress and about 200,000 die each year due to inadequate access to safe water. Stoked by climate change, the water crisis has forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to try and turn around decades of established farming practices and convince the country’s most powerful voting bloc to change the crops they plant. Water-guzzlers like rice and wheat are out, corn and pulses are in.

“This is just the beginning,” Siraj Hussain, former secretary of agriculture and a visiting senior fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi, said of the program farmers like Singh have joined. “Sooner or later, it will have to be replicated across the country. Ideally, the central government should finance part of the expenditure in providing incentives to the farmers for making the shift from paddy and sugarcane. States alone can not afford such an ambitious plan.”

Powerful Bloc

For Modi, pushing farmers to change is risky business because of their sheer numbers and political power. Farm income is untaxed in the South Asian nation, and water and electricity are heavily subsidized. Lowering the minimum price at which the government buys food grains from farmers could also backfire at the polls.

Although Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dominates parliament after a big win in last year’s election, he needs to tread a fine balance between shifting to less water-intensive crops and ensuring his government produces enough food to feed the poor. That makes incentives like those given to farmers like Singh an important test for whether India can reverse its chronic water problems.

If the program in Karnal is any indicator, the task isn’t going to be easy.

Few farmers in the rice-growing district, where the water table has been declining by 0.7 meter every year, are keen to experiment with new crops. In its first year in Haryana the project anticipates around 100,000 hectares (247, 105 acres) would switch to alternate crops — but that’s only about 7% of the land used for rice cultivation in the northern state.

Farmers love rice and wheat primarily because of stable prices and assured state purchases. These two staples, along with another thirsty crop, sugar cane, are grown in 40% of the country’s gross farmed area but consume about 80% of its irrigation water. Corn and millets may use less water, but their price stability is unproven.

Farming Gamble

In the long run, experts say water shortages will make crop diversification an inevitability. Currently India is the world’s biggest extractor of groundwater — more than China and the U.S. combined — accounting for almost a quarter of the total extracted globally. Between 2000 and 2017 its groundwater depletion increased by as much as 23%.

But the change needs to be carefully managed, said Aditya Pratap Dabas, deputy director agriculture and the officer managing the Karnal project. “Changing the farmers’ mindset is the main challenge in implementing the program.”

Heavier tactics backfire. Protests erupted earlier this year when the provincial government tried to restrict rice cultivation to just half the farmed area in some parts of Haryana. The farmers, some backed by the opposition Congress party, said the government couldn’t deprive farmers of the right to grow crops that fetched the best price.

It will take time to change the mindset of farmers, said Rajinder Singh, 61, an activist with four decades of farming experience who is now urging others to join the program. “The government should give assurance to procure these crops, more access to market and set up infrastructural facilities like cold storage,” he said.

Green Revolution

India’s food policy has remained focused on wheat and rice since the 1960s, when the Green Revolution changed the farming landscape and made the country food self-sufficient for the first time.

The road to becoming the world’s second largest producer of those two staple grains was paved by federal and state subsidies for fertilizer, power and water. The crops are then purchased by governments — even in times of glut — at a minimum support price. For India’s farmers these are hard habits to break.

“Diversification incentives are not a bad idea,” said Ila Patnaik, former principal economic adviser to the federal government and a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “Many of these reforms will have to be demonstrated to farmers before they gain faith in the government. We must also give time for reforms to play out.”

Besides Haryana, some other states have indirect programs to motivate farmers to move to less water intensive crops. Northern Punjab, a major producer of wheat and rice, is offering cash incentives to farmers who use less electricity to extract ground water. In Maharashtra, home to the financial hub Mumbai, farmers are encouraged to use drip irrigation for sugarcane cultivation.

But for Mahavir Sharma, a 63-year-old farmer in Karnal, it was water scarcity in his part of Haryana that pushed him to start experimenting with corn on four of his 19 acres.

Source: https://bit.ly/3jxoVJc

In seed-potato belt, farmers produced less for planting in new season

Punjab produces just over 5% of India’s potatoes. But the state’s Doaba region — covering the four districts of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr — supplies practically the entire potatoes that farmers across the country use as fresh “seed”.

Gurminder Singh Sangha harvested 41,000 50-kg “packets” of potatoes from his 2019-20 crop, as against the previous year’s 43,000. Out of the 41,000 packets, only 25,000 comprised “seed” potatoes, down from the 35,000 of last year. The rest 16,000 packets were regular “table” potatoes for direct kitchen consumption that he sold in December-January.

“I sold twice my normal quantity of table potatoes as the prices in December, at Rs 800/quintal, were four times the level a year ago, and rose further to Rs 1,400-1,500 in January. I needed the money and decided to grow less of my crop for selling later as seed,” says the 38-year-old who cultivates the tuber on 200 acres, 17 of his own and the remaining leased, in Nawanpind village of Punjab’s Kapurthala district.

Punjab produces just over 5% of India’s potatoes. But the state’s Doaba region — covering the four districts of Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr — supplies practically the entire potatoes that farmers across the country use as fresh “seed”.

Farmers in this belt sow their crop between mid-October and end-November and harvest from mid-February to end-March. The harvested tubers are kept in the fields under the cover of paddy stubbles for 2-3 weeks. Once their peels get sufficiently hardened, they are put in cold stores for sale as seeds to farmers both in the kharif (May-July) and rabi (October-November) planting season.

But farmers like Sangha — who supplies to West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Karnataka — have this time harvested a significant part of their produce in December-January itself for selling as table potato. “Growing and selling seed potatoes would have taken longer. When the rates for table potatoes were so good then, it made sense to harvest immediately and sell more of it,” he points out.

Harpreet Singh, a farmer from Sarai Kham village in Jalandhar district’s Nokodar tehsil who grows potatoes of 40 acres owned and 110 acres leased land, has done the same. While his total crop is unchanged at around 30,000 packets, the share of seed-potatoes in that has fallen from 28,000 in 2018-19 to 20,000.

“The seed-potatoes I harvested in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 fetched Rs 400-500/quintal, not covering even half of the cultivation cost. This time, I was getting Rs 1,000-plus even from table potatoes, which hit Rs 1,600 levels by mid-March before the lockdown. Knowing how unpredictable prices are, I sold more produce as table potato and reduced the quantity kept as seed in the cold store,” explains Singh.

Currently, farmers in Doaba are realising Rs 2,000-2,200 per quintal for table potatoes and selling seed at Rs 3,000-3,500.

“We are seeing such prices after more than four years,” exclaims Harjinder Singh of Malliwal village in Jalandhar’s Shahkot tehsil. This farmer has, however, harvested only 10,000 packets from 42 acres, compared to 21,000 from 90 acres in 2018-19. His seed-potato production, too, is down from 16,000 to 7,000 packets.

The above windfall for Punjab’s potato growers may come at a cost though – in the form of reduced availability of fresh seed for planting during the main rabi season from October. And that could put pressure on retail prices, which are already gone up 50% in the last three months.

The seeds planted by farmers are usually the tubers themselves having “eyes” or nodes. These eyes are what sprout and form new tubers underground. The size of the tubers for seed-potatoes has to be maintained at 45-55 mm — as opposed to 70-90 mm for table potatoes — and this is done by regularly trimming the stalks above the ground to prevent extra growth.

When seed-potato supplies are low or prices too high, farmers plant the regular table potatoes that they have stored from the previous crop. But the yields from these are 15-20% less and can go down to 30-35% in the following year. Either way, production gets affected.

According to the Punjab government’s horticulture department, the state’s potato output has risen from 27.24 lakh tonnes (lt) in 2018-19 to 28.77 lt this year. “Normally, around 16 lt of our production is for seed purpose and the balance 12 lt for sale as table potato. But this time round, only 14.5 lt was produced as seed potatoes, out of which 2 lt was already dispatched for kharif and 12.5 lt are still in cold stores,” 

That 1.5 lt of less seed, which will also mean more diversion of table potatoes for planting, could keep prices firm for some time.

Source: https://bit.ly/3jD176F

Policymakers still talk of ‘food security’, it’s time to plan for ‘nutritional self-reliance’

Farmers will need to be supported in perpetuity; they can never become atmanirbhar. The question is how best to support farmers such that India may become nutrition self-reliant

Imagine, while constructing a multi-storey building the contractors discover the building foundation has begun to sink. It is scary, but wait. Now, imagine that even though the contractors know this, they simply decide to continue work rather than alter the plans. That is precisely the state of Indian agriculture today.

Overflowing granaries give us the smug satisfaction of having solved the food security problem — it is actually a momentary cereal surplus phase. It appears so only because India’s per capita consumption of protein, meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables is amongst the lowest in the world, limited by the still appallingly low purchasing capacity of the majority. When the Indian economy eventually reverses the deceleration in growth, as it will someday, our demand for such will double in less than a decade. Climate change will further complicate efforts to salvage the future as inconsistent production gives recurring shocks. Today over 50 per cent of the Indian population is being given free monthly rations. If this was extended by a year, even the illusion of a cereal surplus state would shatter like a sheet of glass.

Farmers will need to be supported in perpetuity; they can never become atmanirbhar. The question is how best to support farmers such that India may become nutrition self-reliant. Policymakers still talk of “food security” which was achieved decades ago, it’s time to plan for “nutritional self-reliance”. These objectives require diametrically different strategies. To that end, it’s time to initiate an eight-step approach to pre-empt the floor from slipping underneath our feet.

First, forecast nutrition requirement for the year 2050, for by then, the population and the economy would have stabilised. Second, draw area production plans for animal husbandry and to grow crops to try and meet India’s nutritional requirement considering agroecological zones and the changing climate. The aim should be to figure out a suitable basket of crops for each area.

Third, based on these area production plans, only incentivise the identified crops and practices in each region by designing a risk and price support strategy for such crops, while allowing farmers the freedom to grow what they want. Fourth, the present farm input (fertiliser, power etc) subsidy regime that incentivises production will need to shift to one of payment for farm eco-system services (for environmentally sustainable agriculture practices like improving soil health, rainwater harvesting, intercropping, planting trees).

Fifth, rather than constantly bickering with farmer unions about costs of crop cultivation, government must reorient to calculating the real cost of growing food, moving away from the strategy of sacrificing farmers’ interests for the sake of cheap food for consumers. Sixth, investment in a robust market intelligence system can help government manage production and price spikes. It has to be independent of the ministry of agriculture, which must, more importantly, issue regular crop advisories to farmers.

Seventh, it is time to prioritise human capital over infrastructure by doubling existing agriculture R&D expenditure and filling all vacancies. In addition to revamping of research and extension systems, and more so, to meet the expectations of traceability and quality produce, it requires stringent enforcement of regulations, collaboration with the private sector and extensive use of digital technologies.

Eighth, begin a twenty-year awareness campaign across India to instil healthier eating habits. As for unhealthy food; tax it and disallow advertisements. Emulating western processed food habits will translate into higher healthcare costs. It is said that the cost of diabetes medication in the USA outstrips its expenditure on oil.

All policies create winners and losers, it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure the losers are adequately compensated to their satisfaction. The establishment believes solutions are known and in private tosses the blame to politicians not having the will to take politically contentious decisions. This is only partly true; let aside the solutions, even the problems are not clearly recognised because the interplay of climate change, environment, biodiversity, livestock, health and big agriculture businesses is too convoluted to grasp.

Lastly, if failure is not independently documented and we continue to frame policies as before, in all probability, we will be providing subsidised food to the masses and continuing with a MGNREGA job work programme to mitigate rural poverty into the distant future.

Source: https://bit.ly/32THjGg

State intervention is needed to make farming economically and ecologically viable

Instead of further liberalisation of agriculture, state intervention for better pricing, investments in water harvesting and an agroecological transition could ensure a more resilient system to weather shocks like the current one.

In rural India, the COVID-related economic crisis should be addressed as a priority, not only because of its social dimension but also because of the need for structural reforms this crisis is revealing. However, the reforms announced by the Narendra Modi government are not necessarily the right ones.

Farming in India has been made economically unviable due to the post-1991 policies. The priority, since then, has been given to industry as well as services. Middle-class consumers have been pampered by successive governments at the expense of farmers, who could not sell their crops at a fair price anymore. This unprecedented neglect of the agricultural sector has resulted in an equally unprecedented gap between the standard of living in the rural and urban parts of the country. While under UPA 2, the urban/rural ratio, in terms of monthly per capita expenditures, was reduced for the first time since 1974, it has jumped from 1.84 to 2.42 between 2012 and 2018. This means that an average urban-dweller today can consume almost 2.5 times more than an average person in a village.

In this context, the Modi government has decided to liberalise India’s agriculture by amending the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act and the Essential Commodities Act to deregulate trading practices in agricultural markets (mandis). Peasants will be allowed to sell their products wherever it is valuable for them and barriers to inter-state trade in agriculture will be lifted. Contract farming will also be introduced in such a way that the buyer can assure a price to the farmer at the time of sowing. This has been touted as the “1991 moment” for the agriculture sector.

The main argument against the APMC Act is that it does not allow the free market to function due to government intervention, thereby denying farmers the opportunity to determine the prices of crops in the marketplace. In theory, this is a valid argument. But as the High-Level Committee headed by Shanta Kumar observed in 2015, only 6 per cent of farmers get the Minimum Support Price (MSP) — 94 per cent already face the whims of the market. This is because of barriers to access for farmers as only 22 crops are procured under MSP. Infrastructure is also inadequate, there are only an estimated 7,000 APMC mandis across India, and procurement depends on the stocks required by the state.

The APMC Act is not the main problem. On the contrary, it has historically been part of the solution — like state intervention in general. Farm pricing is a case in point. The Agricultural Prices Commission (APC) that was established in 1965 gradually included the living costs of farmers to assess the terms of trade between agriculture and industry while determining agricultural pricing. The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) that replaced the APC in 1985 added a 10 per cent mark-up over the MSP to account for entrepreneurial costs. It helped to contain the urban/rural divide. Such practices have been gradually eroded post-1991. The problem, therefore, is not state intervention but the way the government deals with agriculture.

Second, the APMC Act helped India to build up food stocks — part of which, incidentally, should be distributed today. As of June, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) had 832.69 lakh tonnes of rice and wheat in stock, the most since 2005. India managed to weather the 2008 global food crisis only because it had enough food stocks as Indian agriculture was not linked to the international futures market. This was possible due to the procurement done through the APMC Act.

Third, the APMC Act has already been reformed to a great extent. Since agriculture is a state subject, the Act has been modified in 17 states. Some of the initiatives include Uzhavar Sandhai in Tamil Nadu, the Rythu Bazaar in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, the Apni Mandi in Punjab, the Raitha Santhe in Karnataka and the Krushak Bazaar in Odisha. Therefore, it is incorrect to describe the APMC Act as an impediment in alleviating rural distress. On the contrary, the condition of peasants has often been affected when the APMC Act has been diluted. Bihar is a case in point: The APMC Act was revoked in 2006 with the same rationale that further deregulation will attract private investment in infrastructure. Not only has that not materialised, but the existing APMC market infrastructure was also dismantled. As the economist Himanshu pointed out, reforms have “led to proliferation of private unregulated markets which charge a market fee from traders as well as farmers, and without any infrastructure for weighing, sorting, grading and storage”.

While the reforms announced by the Modi government are not the right ones, Indian agriculture does need real reforms. First, it is still too heavily subsidised in favour of the big players. In the Union Budget 2019-20, the allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture was Rs 1,30,485 crore and the fertiliser subsidy alone was estimated at Rs 79,996 crore. However, these subsidies are concentrated on a few crops. As the agriculture economist Bruno Dorin has shown, only three crops receive more than 60 per cent of the so-called “non-product-specific” support to agriculture — rice, wheat and sugarcane, whose market prices are consequently more attractive and competitive. This has led to environmental degradation like the depletion of groundwater levels and monocultures which are a threat to biodiversity. It has also led to the industrialisation of agriculture, that results in the strengthening of a handful of multinational companies, which supply chemical inputs. Liberalisation would only strengthen the role of large companies — including those in the agri-food sector.

Structurally, farming needs to be made economically and ecologically viable in India. Instead of further liberalisation of agriculture, state intervention for better pricing, investments in water harvesting and an agroecological transition could ensure a more resilient system to weather shocks like the current one. After all, the present migrant workers’ crisis has shown that peasants could not/did not want to stay in rural India. The magnitude of the problem may worsen if these workers have to continue living in their villages.

To make India’s agriculture sustainable, the government could draw inspiration from the Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Farming model, which promotes agroecological principles with the use of locally-produced, ecologically-sustainable inputs focusing on soil health, instead of depending on chemical fertilisers. Since the agro-ecological system of farming is more biodiverse in nature, it will make the system more resilient overall and provide a safety net for farmers in case of crop damage due to various factors such as climate change or droughts.

By investing again in agriculture and following, at last, the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan Committee, the Government of India would also help bridge the drastic urban-rural divide — something the MGNREGA had contributed to under UPA 1 and 2. These structural reforms would represent for farmers what the MGNREGA has been for landless peasants — who would most probably benefit from these reforms as well.

Source: https://bit.ly/3hFFpNT

Improvement in economy might slow down or even stagnate in the second quarter

India has had little option but to open up the economy. That has led to some improvement in economic activity towards the latter part of the April-June quarter — but this is unlikely to sustain. In the July-September quarter, we expect the pace of improvement to slow down or even stagnate and fall in some cases..

These aren’t “normal” times or even “normal abnormal” times. What we are going through can at best be characterised as “abnormal abnormal” times.

At the peak of the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008-09, India grew at 3.1 per cent, a good 300 basis points faster than the world average — a speed differential it had maintained in the preceding decade. The COVID-19 pandemic struck at a time when India was growing at its slowest pace (4.2 per cent in 2019-20) since the GFC, crushing, at once, demand and economic activity. These blows have been compounded by unprecedented human misery, fears around safety, and a big reduction in incomes, visibility of income in the near future, and sources of livelihood.

We foresee a 25 per cent contraction in India’s GDP in the first quarter of the current financial year, and 5 per cent contraction for the entire fiscal year. While S&P Global foresees, on average, a 3 per cent permanent hit to GDP in the Asia-Pacific economies (excluding China and India) over the medium run, for India, we estimate the permanent loss at 10 per cent of GDP.

The problem is that the monetary measures announced after the pandemic do not have the heft to trigger a recovery because of rising financial sector stress and lack of fiscal space. Therefore, even as economic data of the past three months signals a move from “free fall” to “uneven improvement”, caution is in order.

The National Statistical Office released its estimate of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for April and May 2020 with the caveat that it must not be compared with previous data because the response rates to its surveys were low following the lockdown. The contraction would have been very deep in April because India possibly had “the most stringent nationwide lockdown in the world”. Also, in March, with only a few days of the lockdown being imposed, the IIP had contracted as much as 18 per cent.

The abnormal abnormality in the data collection process has meant that the proxies for traditional measures and real-time assessment of economic activity are finding favour globally. Last month, the economists Michael Spence and Chen Long noted that, “among the 19 countries and regions that have announced first-quarter GDP, we find that three-quarters of the variation in GDP growth can be explained by differences in mobility during this period”.

In India, too, analysts are relying on alternative sources of high-frequency data such as Google mobility indicators, goods and services tax collections, e-way bills, freight movement and power consumption to gauge the direction and quantum of economic activity. These show that large parts of the economy came to a halt in April, and were followed by uneven recovery till June. The Google mobility indicators show that grocery and pharmacy sectors have recovered the fastest, and retail and recreation the slowest. But, despite the improvements, all of them are below their pre-COVID levels.

So, how does the economic recovery look from here? To a large extent, it will depend on the shape the COVID-19 infection curve takes. Given India’s high population density and weak health infrastructure, the reliance so far has been on lockdown and social distancing. The longer the lockdown, the greater is the impact on livelihoods. That, in turn, necessitates income support for vulnerable households and financial support for susceptible businesses.

India has had little option but to open up the economy. That has led to some improvement in economic activity towards the latter part of the April-June quarter — but this is unlikely to sustain. In the July-September quarter, we expect the pace of improvement to slow down or even stagnate and fall in some cases. This is because of several reasons. First, some regions, where the spread has been faster, have reintroduced containment measures, which will adversely impact economic activity. Second, the partial unlocking of the economy and the back and forth on containment measures will continue to pose a hindrance to supply chains, transportation and logistics. Third, it will take time to restore normalcy in the services sector, particularly in hospitality, travel, sports and entertainment.

After two quarters of contraction, we foresee mild growth in the third quarter. But this is predicated on three things happening: The monsoon turning out to be normal, COVID infections peaking early in this quarter, and an additional fiscal stimulus of 1 per cent of GDP beyond what has been committed so far.

India’s inadequate fiscal stimulus is often contrasted with the largesse of the advanced countries, which are better positioned to spend their way out of the crisis. These countries have followed what the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz calls a “fire-hose” approach to limit the economic fallout. So far, India has followed a calibrated approach, which does not lean much on direct fiscal spending, but comes with a dash of reforms.

There are risks to both approaches. The effectiveness of a generous stimulus is reduced by a rise in precautionary savings among households. Further, if there is a second wave, it raises the question of whether there will be enough fiscal ammunition left. The risk with India’s approach is that too little a stimulus can hurt the productive capacity of the economy and complicate the recovery process.

The interesting twist in the government’s economic package, though, has been the move on economic reforms, particularly in agriculture and mining, which aim to raise the “trend” rather than the “cyclical” rate of growth. These need to be relentlessly pursued, complemented by other reforms to improve the business environment. Only that can create an upside to medium-term growth prospects and over time, help trim the rise in the debt-to-GDP ratio expected this fiscal. This will also make it easier for India to go the extra mile on a fiscal push and pull out of the woods.

Source: https://bit.ly/3fFKzsC

The Lockdown Revealed the Extent of Poverty and Misery Faced by Migrant Workers

This lockdown hunger is not the only worry. Post-COVID, access to safe and nutritious foods would be uncertain if adequate policy measures are not taken.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened India’s hunger and malnutrition woes, more so for the millions of informal workers, on their way back home or struggling to meet two ends in their urban and rural homes. Their embedded informality over labour, land and housing tenure has uprooted and shaken them with loss of income, occupation and habitat, multiplying their already entrenched nutrition vulnerability.

Given the already acknowledged multidimensionality of the nutritional problem and its significant connection to immunity, further oversight or negligence, implicates a heavy toll on these de-facto nation builders, either through COVID-19 infestation, poised now for community spread or en-route the lockdown hunger and its chronic accompaniment, the hidden hunger, often used to denote micronutrient malnutrition.

India ranks low at 102 in the 2019 Global Hunger Index, below its neighbours, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with documented poorer malnutrition level among the rural poor, agriculture labourers and migrant workers, pregnant and lactating mothers and children.

Without urgent, timely and integrated nourishment through supplemental nutrition, special care and institutional rehabilitation, the infestation of this cohort will be rampant while their malnutrition will translate to a heavy toll on the future GDP. With the relevant loss to GDP, estimated between 4% to 8%, it may undo the impetus intended via post-COVID revival and reform packages.

The COVID-19 associated lockdown has suddenly made visible the poverty and vulnerability of the millions of migrant workers. Their informality is not limited to their urban workplaces; back in their rural homes, where they are headed now, they are also informal labourers and farmers.

These landless agriculture labourers, tenants and small farmers are the rural food producers, city-makers, urban manufacturers and service providers, who feed the nation, take care of the citizens in their homes and nurture its health and nutrition. Together constituting more than half of India’s population, this group, however, remains ultra-vulnerable to hunger and hidden hunger, thanks to their informal and insecure tenure. They are the hardest hit with their women and children during the pandemic.

The declaration of extra allocation of cereal and pulses for the next three months to about 810 million people under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana with ration cards reflects the appreciation of this hunger by the government. With studies indicating exclusion and inclusion errors as well as leakage in Public Distribution System (PDS) and estimating a low share of PDS grains reaching the intended, most of these vulnerable groups, however, run the risk of being excluded.

To overcome the ration card limitation, the government has now announced two months of free food to an additional 80 million migrant workers, without a card. Though temporary and not well-balanced, it should at least improve the outreach of pandemic-response food ration — better than the 86%, that is reported by a recent survey. Adequate caution and leakage-plugging, however, is called for, with the participation of local governance institutions and civil society members.

The exclusion challenge, unfortunately, also plague the acclaimed Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme, PM KISAN. The finance minister announced 91.3 million farmers to have received the instalment related to COVID-19.

An ongoing survey by Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University, shows the outreach to just 24%. Considering the number of farmers as per Agriculture Census, 2015-16, the PM KISAN net still excludes 4 out of every 10 farmers. Also not included are the 144 million agriculture labourers (Census, 2011) and about 25 million tenants (NITI Aayog, 2016) — in the absence of land records, an eligibility criteria of the scheme.

The nature, outreach and performance of the food and cash transfer schemes and the persistent hunger and malnutrition of the vulnerable, call for a more holistic nutritional response. And the expanding COVID-crisis hitting harder on these informal workers, demands these measures to be expeditious and inclusive.

The target population is converged in rural India, where the unfinished land reform agenda and changed farming imperatives and agrarian relations have increased informal tenancy along with fallowing of land. With about 25 million hectares fallow land available and efficiency of small farms well documented in terms of higher production and net income, formalisation of tenancy focusing on small farmers can be a big first leap forward.

This lockdown hunger is not the only worry. Post-COVID, access to safe and nutritious foods would be a question mark if adequate policy measures are not taken in ensuring satisfactory production, aggregation and marketing while also making the food available to the vulnerable population.

Land leasing reforms to promote smallholder farming

Evidence suggests that small farms, remain the most adaptive, demonstrating higher efficiency in terms of income and production than larger farms. However, the highly pervasive and increasing tenancy has weakened Indian agriculture, reducing total production, by depriving tenants’ access to credit and other entitlements.

Implementation of the Model Land leasing Act, 2016, developed by the NITI Aayog, can offer the security of tenure to existing rural tenants as well as to the returnee migrants willing to farm. This would potentially trigger productive utilisation of land and labour and augment farm and food production, by enhancing access to formal credit and farm-entitlements.

Gram Panchayats can be empowered to lead village-wise listing of potential tenants and enumeration fallow lands, as demonstrated in Kudumbashree in Kerala and AP. Legitimately, they can also facilitate the convergence of MGNREGS for land development and create opportunities of women groups around farm value chain through livelihoods missions, augmenting rural income and local availability of farm-inputs and processed nutritious food.

Strengthening small-farm diversification and local food value chains

Small family farms, globally and in India are known to absorb more labour while intensifying and diversifying production system in small areas. They can easily shoot up production of pulses, millets, tubers, vegetables, fruits, and livestock-products viz. egg, milk and meat. Availability of this food, rich in micronutrients locally is critical to boosting the nutritional status of women and children already suffering hidden hunger due to constrained production and the supply chain disruption of such foods during COVID-19.

Post-COVID agriculture package announced by the government can be made nutrition enabled, with such steps while also promoting local production and value chain development around nutritious foods, thereby generating more formal employments and income locally for farmers, women and their collectives: self-help groups and Farmer Producer Organisations.

Supporting non-timber forest produce collection, value addition and marketing through livelihood missions and ongoing forestry projects, by the tribal women collectives, is critical to increasing cash flow among the vulnerable tribal communities. Allowing forest-foraging visits by women can increase collection and consumption nutritious forest foods at free of cost, through sustainable biodiversity utilisation and conservation.

With a nutrition-orientation, micro, small and medium enterprises can boost up productions along local nutrition value chains in rural India and thereby improve access to safe and nutritious diets, while also creating local avenues for employment.

Leveraging ongoing pandemic management for a malnutrition-free India

Along with increasing production and availability, enhanced nutritious food absorption esp. by the women and children is critical to address hunger and malnutrition. In this direction, POSHAN Abhiyaan, with its mandate for reducing stunting, under-nutrition, low birth weight and anaemia by 2022, can help in addressing malnutrition management while also assisting in pandemic infection management.

Grassroots public health, nutrition and agriculture functionaries can be deployed with essential health supplies, behaviour change communication materials, home visit planners, advisories on nutritious food production, processing and consumptions with messages epidemics. People’s movement, already envisaged in the Abhiyan, can be reoriented to focus on infant and young child and pregnant and lactating women feeding through a campaign engaging women volunteers. Engaged on wages, these women can also help in nutrition sensitisation and monitoring of informal-worker families at local quarantine centres and their rural homes.

Managing food waste and food loss

Approximately one-third of the food produced is lost or wasted in the value chain. During the ongoing crisis, such food loss or wastage across the value chain must be minimised.

The lockdown has drastically affected the marketing of the food produced by the smallholder farmers. Central and state governments can introduce local procurement and distribution using channels of mid-day meals (MDM) and integrated child development services (ICDS) supplementary nutrition programs, engaging the surplus workforce, women and men, now converged in the villages.

IT-enabled monitoring for evidence-based policy

Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and the latest Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS) reveal that malnutrition is the leading inhibiting factor for a healthier India. Morbidity and mortality arising from infectious diseases hamper the country’s GDP and economy and subsistence living of the poor. It is time to coordinate building a robust IT platform to collect and consolidate relevant data, with a focus on these vulnerable groups, for informed decision making and inert-sectoral synergy.

At a time when hunger and malnutrition are already sitting pretty on the ultra-vulnerable informal workers; the COVID pandemic has compounded their burden. Like the one-health approach, a holistic approach spanning land-agriculture-nutrition is what required to nourish these undernourished and accordingly the policy incentives must be repurposed.

There is an urgent need to go beyond the cash and food transfers imperatives and invest in building nutrition-resilience pathways for coping with COVID19. Formalising land and labour relations in rural areas and localising production and value chain development of nutritious food through small farming and women-collectives can be a dignified way to add assets, incomes and food in the hand of informal workers. This would also help the nation builders now converging in rural India to trigger a rural revival, as Gandhi would have dreamt.

Source: https://bit.ly/2ZzaZXi

Admin expense 3 times more than expenses of research in ICAR: Tomar

He added that till resource allocation improves, agriculture scientists need to think about how to produce best results in the current circumstances.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Thursday pointed out that salary and other administrative expenditure of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is three times more than the actual expenses of research. He added that till resource allocation improves, agriculture scientists need to think about how to produce best results in the current circumstances.

The budget for ICAR is about Rs 8,000 crore out of which Rs 6,000 crore is spent on salary, Tomar said.

Source: https://bit.ly/3h5HySz

PMFBY: Insure your Kharif Crop and Compensate for losses, Know how to Avail Benefits!

Indian farmers face changing weather conditions every year which brings disease on the one side and, troubles on the other side. Due to unseasonal rains, drought, water logging, cloud bursts, or other natural calamities, there is considerable loss of crop of farmers. In such a situation, any farmer who has not yet got his crop insured can get it done soon. The last date for crop insurance for the Kharif season-2020 in Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh has been set as July 15. Under this scheme, lakhs of farmers will get insurance cover on maize and paddy crops.

In Chhatisgarh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh the government has announced the deadline to apply for Kharif crop insurance under PMFBY is July 15. Farmers who want to apply in this scheme can apply before July 15. However, the last date of insurance for the Kharif crop has been set as July 15 to July 31 in almost all the states. If a debtor farmer does not want to take advantage of this insurance scheme, then he can submit his declaration in written in this regard to the concerned bank seven days before the last date.

What is PMFBY?

According to the Union Agriculture Ministry, under the Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme this year irrigated and non-irrigated paddy, maize, soybean, groundnut, tur (arhar), moong and urad are the major crops. The central government has appealed to the farmers to get insurance to avoid the risk of farming from natural calamities. Under the scheme, the damage is paid by assessing the farm-wise loss. Adverse weather causes considerable damage to the crops of the farmers, they go through severe economic loss. The main aim of this scheme is to compensate farmers for the loss of crops from sowing to harvesting due to natural calamities like fire, sky lightning, drought, dry period, typhoon, hail, cyclone, storm, pests, and diseases, etc.

Benefits of PMFBY scheme:

  • Harms because of hail, waterlogging, loss of land, cloudburst, and other natural calamities are secured under PMFBY
  • Benefits are additionally given to the farmers if he/she was unable to sow crops because of unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Yields are also protected for pests and diseases, other local calamities like hailstorms, landslides, cloudbursts, and loss from lightning.
  • After harvesting, the insurance company compensates for the damages to the crops kept for drying in the field for the next 14 days due to unseasonal cyclone, hail, and storm damage on an individual basis.
  • Farmers have to pay a very low premium and the remaining premium is paid by the govt. to provide the full amount insured to the farmers for crop loss in any type of natural disaster.
  • The use of technology has been encouraged to a great extent. Smartphones, remote sensing drones, and GPS technology are being used to collect and upload crop harvesting data to reduce delays in claim payments.

Risk Cover From Sowing to Harvesting

The Agricultural Insurance Company of India (AIC) runs this scheme. PMFBY provides financial protection to farmers from many risks from sowing to post-harvest.

Premium to be Paid

A farmer has to pay a 2% premium for the Kharif crop and 1.5% premium for Rabi crop. The PMFBY scheme also provides insurance cover for business and horticultural crops. In this, farmers have to pay a 5% premium. The government gives more than 80% of the amount as a subsidy.

General Exclusions

Losses arising out of war and nuclear risks, malicious damage, and other preventable risks are excluded in his scheme.

Objectives of PMFBY

To offer sum and financial backing to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crops as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.

  • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and new and latest agricultural practices.
  • To support the farmers to stabilize their financial gain and continuance in farming
  • To give legitimate credit to the horticulture area; which will add to food security, crop expansion, and improving development and intensity of agribusiness segment other than shielding farmers from production risks.

Eligibility Criteria

All farmers including tenant farmers and sharecroppers growing the notified crops in the notified areas are eligible for coverage.

Compulsory Component

All farmers availing Seasonal Agricultural Operations (SAO) loans from Financial Institutions (loanee farmers) for the notified crops would be covered compulsorily.

Voluntary Component

The Scheme would be elective for the non-loanee farmers.

How to Apply Online for PMFBY

A Farmer who wants to apply for this crop insurance can apply online through PMFBY’s official website https://pmfby.gov.in/

  • Click on ‘Farmer Corner’
  • Click on Register Button
  • New farmers can register themselves by filling the registration form.
  • Now log in as farmer with your details
  • However, if you had already registered, you can see your application status through your Login details.

Documents Required

  • Farmer’s Photo
  • ID card like Passport, Aadhaar card, PAN card, driving license, voter ID card.
  • Address Proof like driving license, voter ID card, passport or Aadhaar card
  • Bank Account Details
  • Field measles number
  • Detail evidence of crop damage in the field

How to Report Crop Loss in PMFBY

  • Visit official website https://pmfby.gov.in/
  • On the home page, click on Report Crop Loss section
  • A popup will appear to show you insurance companies’ details, such as Company Name, Contact No., Email Address, and Headquater Address.
  • You can directly contact them to Report Crop Loss

Insurance Companies Empanelled

Department of Agriculture, Cooperation, and Farmers Welfare(DAC&FW) have an impaneled Agriculture Insurance Company of India(AIC) and some private insurance agencies presently to participate in this Government-sponsored crop insurance scheme based on their monetary quality, infrastructure, manpower, and expertise so forth. The impaneled private insurance agencies at present are listed below;

1) ICICI-Lombard General Insurance Company Ltd.

2) HDFC-ERGO General Insurance Company Ltd.

3) IFFCO-Tokio General Insurance Company Ltd.

4) Cholamandalam MS General Insurance

5) Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Company Ltd.

6) Reliance General Insurance Company Ltd.

7) Future Generali India Insurance Company Ltd.

8) Tata-AIG General Insurance Company Ltd.

9) SBI General Insurance Company Ltd.

10) Universal Sompo General Insurance Company Ltd.

Let us tell you that, the Central Government started the very ambitious ‘Pradhan Mantri Crop Insurance Scheme’ on January 13, 2016, to remunerate farmers. PMFBY is a substitution scheme of the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and replaced as the revised National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS). It is exempted from the service tax.

Farmers can contact the insurance company’s toll-free number 18002005142 or 1800120909090 or contact the insurance company and agriculture department specialist for the claim. Farmers can also send their queries at help.agri-insurance@gov.in. A time of 72 hours is fixed for this. In case of loss, the farm-wise loss is assessed and paid.

Source: https://bit.ly/2CyfUi4

Organic Farming Market Changing Strategies to provide Competitive edge | Picks Organic Farm, Organic Farmers, The Indian Organic Farmers

Latest released the research study on Global Organic Farming Market, offers a detailed overview of the factors influencing the global business scope. Organic Farming Market research report shows the latest market insights, current situation analysis with upcoming trends and breakdown of the products and services. The report provides key statistics on the market status, size, share, growth factors of the Organic Farming Market. The study covers emerging player’s data, including: competitive landscape, sales, revenue and global market share of top manufacturers.

Top players in Global Organic Farming Market are:

Picks Organic Farm (United Kingdom),Organic Farmers Co. (India), The Indian Organic Farmers Producer Company Limited (India), Bayer AG (Germany),Camson Bio Technologies Limited (India),ZUWA Organic Farms Pvt Ltd (India),The Monsanto Company (United States),Blue Yonder GmbH (Germany),Vero-Bio (Netherlands),Bunge (United States)

Brief Overview on Organic Farming

Organic farming is defined as the agricultural system which uses biological fertilizers derived from the plant as well as animal wastes. It mainly improves agro-ecosystem health that includes soil biological activity, biodiversity, as well as the biological cycle. The numerous benefits of using organic farming for agriculture, such as soil fertility, combats soil erosion and reduces the greenhouse gas emission as compared to other forms of agriculture

Recent Development in Global Organic Farming Market:

In 2016, According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the farms in the United States is produced and sold more than USD 7.6 billion in organic commodities which are certified. Therefore, this will, in turn, propel the growth of the organic farming market.

In 2014, According to an article published by Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (India), more than 44.4 million hectares of land is occupied by organic agricultural activities. Hence, it will affect the growth of the market in the future.

The Global Organic Farming Market segments and Market Data Break Down are illuminated below:

Study by  Application (Agricultural Companies, Organic Farms), Crop Type (Fruits, Vegetables, Oilseed & Pulses, Others), Farming Type (Pure Organic Farming, Integrated Organic Food), Method (Crop Diversity, Soil Management, Weed Management, Controlling, Other Organisms)

Market Drivers

  • Growing Farm Labor Issues Owing to Higher Costs and Availability
  • Favorable Government Initiatives to Propel the Adoption of Organic Farming
  • Improving Profitability in Farming through the Adoption of Advanced Technologies

Market Trend

  • Technology Advancement in Organic Farming

Market Challenges

  • Lack of awareness regarding organic farming

Market Restraints:

  • Limited Technical Knowledge Possessed By Farmers toward Organic Farming
  • Issue related to Low Adoption Rate of Organic Farming

Market Opportunities:

  • Rising Demand from Emerging Economics such as China and India

Region Included are: North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Oceania, South America, Middle East & Africa

Country Level Break-Up: United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, South Africa, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Germany, United Kingdom (UK), the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Turkey, Russia, France, Poland, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, India, Australia and New Zealand etc.

Analyst at AMA have conducted special survey and have connected with opinion leaders and Industry experts from various region to minutely understand impact on growth as well as local reforms to fight the situation. A special chapter in the study presents Impact Analysis of COVID-19 on Global Organic Farming Market along with tables and graphs related to various country and segments showcasing impact on growth trends.

Data Sources & Methodology

The primary sources involve the industry experts from the Global Organic Farming Market including the management organizations, processing organizations, analytics service providers of the industry’s value chain. All primary sources were interviewed to gather and authenticate qualitative & quantitative information and determine the future prospects.

In the extensive primary research process undertaken for this study, the primary sources – Postal Surveys, telephone, Online & Face-to-Face Survey were considered to obtain and verify both qualitative and quantitative aspects of this research study. When it comes to secondary sources Company’s Annual reports, press Releases, Websites, Investor Presentation, Conference Call transcripts, Webinar, Journals, Regulators, National Customs and Industry Associations were given primary weightage.

Source: https://bit.ly/32hDwlN