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Soil and water health card for farmers

Bank of Maharashtra has launched a soil and water health card to help farmers increase soil productivity by appropriate use of fertilizers. It helps the farmers to ascertain the nutrient status of their farm lands.

R K Gupta executive director said that it will give farmers the level of nutrients available in their farm land so that they can administer correct dosage of fertilisers. This will help improve soil fertility and crop yield.

The state-focused lender is the only bank providing such facility and has already disbursed 500 cards in Bhigwan, Pune through Mahabank Agriculture Research and Rural Development Foundation.
The bank along with Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilisers is analysing soil samples at its Soil Testing Lab in Bhigwan.

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West Bengal to get Rs.500 crore for agriculture productivity.

West Bengal Chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced Rs 500 crore project. Project includes to construct around 800 check dams, water harvesting structures and surface flow minor irrigation schemes. The project will help to improve agriculture productivity by preventing soil erosion and by recharging ground water acquifers.

The chief minister announced this scheme through Facebook. She said that Our Government has taken up an environment-friendly scheme named 'Jalatirtha' to conserve surface and rain water to provide round the year assured irrigation to the people by construction of Check Dams, Water Harvesting Structures and Surface Flow Minor Irrigation Schemes. The Scheme taken up in four districts of Bankura, Birbhum, Purulia and Paschim Medinipur will help to prevent soil erosion, recharge ground water aquifers, improve production and productivity of agriculture, fishery, duck - rearing and animal feeding etc.

The post includes around 800 structures like Check Dams, Water Harvesting Structures and Surface Flow Minor Irrigation Schemes will be constructed under Jalatirtha, which will help irrigate area of nearly 32,000 hectares benefitting around 64,000 farmers.

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Seeds of ruin.

Indian farmers are neck-deep in debt. Of the 89.35 million farmer households in the country, 43.42 million (48.6 percent) are reeling under the yoke, says a recent survey report of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), under the Union ministry of statistics and programme implementation. The report was released on May 3, 2005 and discussed in Parliament the next day. The situation is paradoxical, as the Indian economy has recorded a growth rate of over six percent during the post-1991 liberalisation era.

The pro-liberalisation lobby considers this phenomenon insignificant as agriculture's contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen drastically in recent years and stands at a mere 24 percent today. So, the economy is largely immune to upheavals in this sector. But what cannot be ignored is the fact that 60 percent of the country's population thrives on agriculture.

The report implies a link between the debt-trap and farmers' suicides. It says Andhra Pradesh (AP) has the highest percentage of indebted farm households (82 percent or 4.9 million households) in the country. By December 2003, when the survey was concluded, at least 3,000 AP farmers had committed suicide. Police records show the numbers to be thrice more. Following AP is Tamil Nadu (74.5 percent), Punjab (65.4 percent), Karnataka (61.6 percent) and Maharashtra (54.8 percent). All these states have also witnessed farmers' suicides in the more recent past. The amount of outstanding loan is very high in Punjab, AP and Karnataka. A study by R M Vidyasagar and K Suman Chandra of National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, also suggests the link between debt and farmers' suicides.

But some other economists disagree. Agriculture economist M S Sriram of Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) argues: "Higher indebtedness in these states can possibly be attributed to a larger requirement of working capital. Why should we see indebtedness as something negative? It is also very much a part of the wealthy states. For instance, Punjab's agriculture is capital intensive and guzzles up a lot of working capital."

What makes the debt-trap more dangerous is the heavy dependence on professional moneylenders, who charge annual interest rates as high as 60 percent. The NSSO survey says they comprise the second most important source of loans for farmers (26 percent), after banks (36 percent). Despite their 100-year-old existence and grassroots reach, cooperative institutions are a poor third source (only 19.6 percent). In case of an agrarian crisis, farmers have little access to institutional credit due to their inability to repay and have the only option of approaching moneylenders, explains the NIRD study. Repeated crop failure and the inability to repay moneylenders leads them to suicide. In AP, 57 of every 100 indebted households owe money to moneylenders.

Rajiv Kumar, chief economist, Confederation of Indian Industry, points at another malaise: "Indian farmers suffer from a poor credit delivery system. Since they deal with high-risk farming, proper insurance mechanism is essential; only ensuring credit isn't enough." Eminent economist A Vaidyanathan concurs: "In India, credit delivery is driven by supply, not demand, which forces farmers to enter the debt-trap."

An interesting finding of NSSO's survey is that many of the country's poorest states have a considerably better debt record: Bihar (33 percent), Uttar Pradesh (40 percent), Orissa (48 percent) and Jharkhand (20.9 percent). "A majority of the farmers in these states are involved in survival farming and hence have lesser access to credit. This makes them look debt-free," explains Peeyush Bajpayi of New Delhi-based research firm Indicus Analytics.

The same could be the reason for the people belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes having lower debtburden compared to those from other backward castes and other castes. "The statistics don't indicate the extent of their poverty, which is much more severe. Only because they are not plugged into the credit loop, they are invisible," says Kumar. The size of land is also directly proportional to indebtedness. For indebted farmers owning over 10 hectares (ha) land, the debt load is of Rs 76,232; it lessens gradually to Rs 6,121 for those owning less than 0.01 ha.

"This high indebtedness is due to reduced agricultural investment in the post-reform era," says Kumar. Addressing this concern at the World Social Forum, 2004, development economist Utsa Patnaik pointed out: "Rural development expenditures, which averaged 14.5 percent of GDP during 1985-90, were reduced to eight percent of GDP by the early 1990s as part of the deflationary policies advised by the Bretton Woods institutions [World Bank and International Monetary Fund]. Since 1998, rural development funds have been reduced further, averaging less than six percent of GDP. In real terms, there has been an average annual reduction of about Rs 30,000 crore in development expenditures during the last five years."

Development economists also say the states that have been successful in agriculture were earlier habituated to free power, cheaper inputs and high yielding variety seeds. But with the investment in agriculture declining, the cost of production went up, shrinking profit margins. For example, in AP the power tariff was increased five times between 1998 and 2003. According to New Delhi-based agriculture economist Rahul Sharma, the cost of production has gone up by 300 percent since the 1990s. Private marketing of costly 'wonder' (read genetically modified) seeds and other agricultural inputs also lure farmers into the trap of input traders.

The survey highlights the fact that farmers dependent on crop cultivation are more vulnerable than those involved in other types of farming activities. Of every 100 indebted households, 56.9 percent are involved in cultivation, mainly of staple crops. In contrast, those engaged in animal husbandry and poultry are relatively much better off (3.2 percent of indebted households). Farmers involved in horticulture and plantation activities also comprise a mere 4.1 percent of the indebted households

Food and trade analyst Devinder Sharma draws serious conclusions from these facts. Because of decreasing domestic support, farmers in developing countries will shift to the seemingly more profitable horticulture and plantation crops, while developed countries will continue growing food grain crops with domestic subsidy arrangements. This will again lead to the phase of "ship-to-mouth" existence for developing countries, which will be forced to buy food grains from developed nations.

Though the NSSO survey has not been analysed by economists in detail, the initial conclusions indicate that Indian farmers are one of the biggest causalities of the free economy. The worst is yet to come.

Courtesy: newindpress on sunday, 1thJuly 2005
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Agriculture, allied products exports up by 9% in FY05

NEW DELHI, JULY 3: Exports of agricultural and allied products registered over 9% growth at Rs 27,111.41 in 2004-05 as against Rs 24,844.48 crore in 2003-04. In dollar terms the growth was over 11%. India’s overall export target for 2004-05 exceeded by 50%.

According to an official statement, rice, pulses, tobacco, spices, nuts and seeds, cashew, guar gum meal, castor oil and processed food items among others have shown a substantial growth in exports.

In addition, dairy and poultry products also showed a record increase of over 65% in dollar terms in 2004-05 as against the previous fiscal. Gems and jewellery exports increased by over 29% touching $13.7 billion dollar in 2004-05 as against $10 billion in 2003-04. Exports of chemicals and related products registered a growth of more than 27% to touch $12.6 billion in 2004-05 from $9.9 billion in 2003-04.

Exports of petroleum products during 2004-05 touched a level of $6.7 billion, which is an increase of over 90% from $3.5 billion in 2003-04. Similarly, exports of engineering goods increased from $10 billion in 2003-04 to $14.5 billion during 2004-05, registering a growth of 38%. Merchandise exports reached $79.2 billion dollar in 2004-05, a growth of 24.1% in dollar terms. This was the highest since 1974-75. Overall India’s share in world exports showed an increase from 0.66% in 2000 to 0.82% in 2004.

Courtesy: The Financial Express, 4thJuly 2005
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Agriculture ministry urges for remunerative cotton prices

The cotton prices causes worries around, the ministry of agriculture urged the Ministry of Textiles to monitor cotton prices and ensure that they do not fall below minimum support price (MSP). Agriculture Ministry wants farmers to be paid remunerative prices for their produce.

The farmers Agriculture secretary Radha Singh has suggested its imperative for the Cotton Corporation to get its procurement act in place in 10 states to see prices don't fall below the minimum support price (MSP). Cotton is ready for harvesting and reports from North India indicate prices are already falling, with some farmers settling for much less than the MSP.

There is a fear that because of a glut in the market farmers may not be paid their dues and might move away from cultivating cotton the next year. This would not only push them into a debt trap but result in imports. The MSP for lower quality cotton is Rs 1760 per quintal and for higher quality Rs 1960 per quintal. But in Haryana, cotton is already being sold for Rs 1650 per quintal.

Cotton has been grown over 90 lakh hectares this year, compared to 78 lakh hectares previous year. Therefore, the crop is expected to be a bumper 194 to 200 lakh bales.

Courtesy:, 18th October '04
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Agriculture output to remain the same as last year: FM

Agricultural production in India should remain at similar levels to last year despite concerns that a poor monsoon rainy season so far will hit output, Finance Minister, Mr P Chidambaram said on Wednesday.

“We expect agricultural production to be at the same level as last year, overall,” Mr Chidambaram said. “For some crops there will be a deficiency; (for) some crops there will be a surplus over last year.”

The comments come as economists and research houses pare down their economic growth estimates for India because of below-normal monsoon rains, on which the farm-dependent Indian economy relies on heavily in the absence of a sophisticated irrigation system.

The monsoon rains were 13 per cent below the long-term average in the monsoon season that runs from June to September, a senior weather official told Reuters earlier this week.

Courtesy: The Navhind Times, 8th October '04
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Kisan credit card to cover term-loans for agriculture

In consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI), NABARD has revised the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Scheme to cover term loans for agriculture and allied activities under the new KCC scheme.

The introduction of the scheme is on the lines of the Model Scheme prepared by NABARD.

The KCC Scheme introduced in August 1998, has since stabilised, with major share of crop loans being routed through it. At the inception of the scheme, it was envisaged that in due course of time, investment credit requirements of farmers -- allied and non-farm activities may also be covered under the scheme.

Since these activities are currently outside the ambit of the KCC scheme, farmers have to approach the banks separately for their additional requirements every time, entailing additional time and cost, and observing banks' procedural formalities including documentation.

Keeping the above in view NABARD has revised the model KCC scheme.

RBI asked the banks to keep it informed about the progress in this regard on a monthly basis, in the specific format introduced by the central bank.

Courtesy:, 8th October '04
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India hopeful of better winter crop output

As India targets higher growth during the winter crop season to make up for an expected shortfall in summer crops, agricultural scientists are forecasting better prospects due to recent rains.

"Widespread rains over the last week are expected to improve rabi (winter) crop production significantly, though they have damaged standing crops in some areas," the crop weather watch group of the agriculture ministry said Tuesday after its weekly review.

According to the India Meteorological Department, rains occurred in all parts of the country except central India last week, past the normal four-month monsoon season from June-September.

Rains have been particularly good in the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

"Agricultural scientists feel that besides adding copious moisture to soil, these post-monsoon rains have reduced temperature and this would help growth of rabi plants," the official statement said.

"Rains in the monsoon season, which ended on Sep 30, were below normal by 13 percent with as many as 13 of 36 meteorological sub-divisions receiving deficient rains," it said.

Courtesy: New, 5th October '04
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Late withdrawal of rains to boost winter crop output

The critical rabi (winter) crops are expected to get a boost following late withdrawal of monsoon that has resulted in filling of the depleted water reservoirs.

Against the backdrop of 12% shortfall in rains this monsoon, the government on Tuesday said the late withdrawal of south-west monsoon this year is likely to result in more rains in southern parts of the country, translating into improved water-level in reservoirs and benefiting rabi crops.

“The weather in September and the coming months is likely to help the present crops as well as rabi crops for which sowing would begin next month,” the Crop Weather Watch Group said after its weekly review meeting here.

Courtesy: Economic Times, 29th September '04
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Horticulture mission to diversify crop pattern unveiled

As part of efforts to promote diversification in the agriculture sector, the Centre has launched a national horticulture mission to help farmers shift to a better commercial proposition.

“You will see the results of the horticulture mission in a few months,” a senior ministry official said, adding efforts were on to provide ’linkages’ in this endeavour.

A large chunk of fruits and vegetables go waste in the country every year due to lack of proper utilisation, the official said, adding the mission aims at providing food processing, cold storage and other facilities to prop up the cultivation of these commodities.

The official, however, said it could even take two years for the mission to succeed in case of some fruits and vegetables. Following a 10.5% drop in kharif production, the government has decided to provide incentives to states for increasing and diversifying production.

Courtesy: Economic Times, 27th September '04
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Zero tillage farming spreading in India

The new method of cropping with zero tillage is spreading in India and elsewhere in south Asia, according to the annual report of the Consultative Group on Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Through the efforts of the Rice-Wheat Consortium (RWC) for the Indo-Gangetic Plains and its many partners from public and private sectors, farmers in south Asia have begun using practices that save water, fuel and other inputs and allow them to diversify their cropping systems, says the report by CGIAR, the supervisory body for agricultural research institutions which have revolutionised age-old practices.

The most prominent of these practices -- zero tillage to sow wheat after rice--was used on nearly 1.3 million ha during the 2003-04 wheat season, a dramatic increase from only a few years ago. The rapid expansion of zero tillage was made possible by the adoption of specialised implements--"seed drills"-- for sowing directly into unploughed soil and crop stubble.

Courtesy: PTI, 27th September '04
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Vanilla output to rise in coming years

Vanilla cultivation is expected to pick up in the coming years after a modest beginning a few years ago, according to a senior government official.

The area under vanilla crops is likely to rise to about 15,000 hectares by 2007 from 3,400 hectares now and 1,600 hectares some two years ago, C J Jose, chairman of the state-run Spices Board, told a two-day planters' conference that concluded on Tuesday.

The country's vanilla production rose to 131 tonnes in the year to March 2004 from 92 tonnes in the previous year and 60 tonnes in 2001/02.

Courtesy: Economic Times, 7th September '04
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Special export packages for tea & coffee sectors

After announcing the first-ever foreign trade policy, the government on Wednesday said it would bring out a trade leveraging policy apart from a special package for textiles, tea and coffee sectors.

"India has never leveraged trade. I am going to work on trade leveraging policy. We have to see trade as a net forex generator and net forex earner," commerce minister Kamal Nath said at a Ficci seminar. He said there was a need for special emphasis on some sectors in which the country had natural abilities.

Courtesy: Economic Times, 2nd September '04
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India, US Sign Pact On Agricultural Biotech R&D

In an effort to boost cooperation in agricultural biotechnology research and development, India and the United States have entered into an agreement on Tuesday. A letter of intent to this effect was signed by minister for science and technology and ocean development Kapil Sibal and US ambassador David C Mulford on Tuesday.

Mr Sibal said that the main objective is to develop pest resistant agricultural produce and to improve food production in the country. The critical focus will be on the production of rice and wheat. As per the agreement, the department of biotechnology (DBT) of the government of India and the United States Agency for International Development of the US will coordinate between the two countries.

The programme will encourage the creation of partnership to bring together Indian and US institutions to pursue agricultural biotechnology research projects of mutual interest including technology development, technology diffusion, biosafety and related policy activities.

Courtesy: The Financial Express, 30th June '04
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WTO hopeful for breakthrough on agriculture

The World Trade Organisation today said the framework for discussion on agriculture subsidy would be ready by mid-July and the multilateral body is using some unconventional ways to break the deadlock on the contentious issue. WTO deputy director general, Mr Kipkorir Aly Azad Rana said at a CII seminar that the Geneva based organisation has set a new chair on agriculture.

Wide differences between the developed and the developing nations was one of the key reasons for breakdown of the Cancun ministerial conference of the WTO in September 2003. He said that agriculture was the most contentious issue in WTO as the issue of food security was most critical in developing countries. India believed that the issue must be tackled in a holistic manner as there were issues of exports, market access and subsidies.

Courtesy: The Navhind Times, 13th Apr '04
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India's oilseed exports seen doubling on good crop

India's oilseed exports are likely to nearly double in the year to March 2004 on the back of a good quality bumper crop, a top industry official said on Tuesday. Exports of top-quality groundnut and sesame seeds, used by the snack industry, are expected to touch 320,000 tonnes in 2003/04 (April-March) compared with 174,359 tonnes in the previous year.

India's oilseed output is likely to rise to 23.8 million tonnes in 2003/04 (November-October) from 14.9 million tonnes a year ago, according to the Central Organisation for Oil Industry and Trade (COOIT). Good weather and an increase in the area under oilseed cultivation have boosted production.

Groundnut, used in chocolates and to make peanut butter, is sold mainly to Indonesia, the Philippines and Europe. China, the United States, Turkey, Egypt, Taiwan and the Middle East import Indian sesame seed. India, a traditional importer of palm and soybean oils, resumed exports of groundnut oil in October after a gap of about four decades following a surge in world prices.

Courtesy: Reuters, 6th Apr '04
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Sugar prices drop on higher free-sale quota

Sugar prices have slumped on the back of the announcement by the government for releasing as much as 2 lakh tonne extra free-sale sugar for the month of March. Sugar prices fell by a whopping Rs 800 per tonne following the central government's announcement. The total free sale sugar quota has now reached 12 lakh tonne for March.

Courtesy: Business Standard, 3rd Mar '04
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Cotton prices record a new high

Price spurts by more than Rs 1,000 per quintal compared to last year, courtesy higher exports especially to China. Cotton prices in the Andhra Pradesh have touched a new high in the state with prices touching Rs 3,000 per quintal.

This is in sharp contrast to the last two years when prices were below Rs 2,000 per quintal. The season has witnessed average cotton prices of Rs 2,500 per quintal. Surprisingly, despite crop yields being high this year prices have continued to rise. Market sources attribute this phenomena to higher exports from the country, especially to China.

Courtesy: Business Standard, 9th Feb '04
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