Saturday, April 5, 2014

Farmers' wish list for 2014 elections

The whole India is engaged in elections,  the16th Lok Sabha  elections and also some of the states are having Assembly elections, most of the parties have finalized their manifestos with a pack of poll promises. Like in every election, political parties consider the farmers and agriculture are very serious subject before going  to the poll, and soon after the results they ignore the problems and left to the farmers' fate. Farmers have to blame themselves for their perils since they are not active enough to make the political parties as the agrarian crisis is a priority agenda. During the election process, the farmers and farmer groups are working for their individual causes  and political motives. Most of the farmer unions are affiliated with the political parties which work for their electoral prospects  and farmers also forget about their agricultural problems , busy with local issues by dividing  themselves  in to social class, economic status and political party basis.

Each and every class of society have been achieving  their demands by unity though they are a small group of people. But being a 55% percent of the population and a biggest vote bank in India, the farming community  failed to achieve their wishes  and get rid of their problems. If the farmers have collectively agitated on their farming issues they will definitely get benefitted, but they are mediocre educated, lack of leadership skills, lack of  direction and socially segregated  which are the hindrances for their collective bargaining. In the 2014 elections , the political parties must consider the agrarian crisis is a prioritized issue  to help the Indian farmers in all aspects such as making agriculture as a profitable profession and providing a respectable economic and social status to the farmers.

If the political parties really have a commitment and affection on farmers, they should include the below said farmers' wish list in their manifestos and these must be implemented once they come to power.
1.     Implementation of Prof. M. S. Swaminathan Committee’ recommendations (National Commission of Farmers).                                     

2.     Special Financial plan (Budget) is required for agriculture and agro allied industries. (Not included irrigation).
3.     All farmers need to be provided Institutional credit with nominal interest rates i.e 4% and the amount should be based on their crop pattern and farm size.

4.     9 hours uninterrupted quality power supply to agriculture ( Day time).

5.     MNREGS program should be linked up with agricultural operations like transplantation, weeding, harvesting and so on which can solve the man power shortage problems to the farmers. Panchayats have to co-ordinate with Department of rural development in the allocation of MNREG works based on the villagers’ discretion.

6.     Agriculture, Revenue, Irrigation, marketing & warehouses, animal husbandry, fisheries, such as agro allied department ministers should be farmed as special cabinet ( Empowered Group of Ministers for Agriculture) which works for farmers empowerment. This cabinet should meet every month, the issues to discussed and resolved. The group should consider the suggestions of all farmers’ organizations, peasant organizations and voluntary organizations.
7.     The CACP(Commission for agriculture Cost and prices)  should be declared as  an autonomous organization, it should be restructured with new terms and references. CACP should consider all prescribed 12 factors and also other issues  like inflation, cost of living and losses due to import - export  policies while formulating the price recommendations.  
8.     Risk mitigation  fund for bonus on food grains to compensate the losses by natural calamities if anything occurred. Establish a Price stabilization fund ( Market intervention fund) to insulate the farmers from market price fluctuations.

9.     A required capacity of warehouses should be constructed since we don't have enough godown facilities to store the grains. The market yard godowns should be renovated and fully utilized, funds need to be allocated for market yards development. Value added agriculture , food processing unites, supply chain facilities must be created.                                    

10. Establish a farmers’ income commission for measuring the farmers’ economic conditions, all old age farmers should get monthly pension for their social security and all peasants’ children should get free education with hostel facility.

11. Empowerment of women farmers like capacity building and giving right to land ownership. Allocating unused lands to women self help groups / Dalit women groups. The farm wages should be equal without any gender difference.

12. National Rain fed Area Authority (NRAA) has been working on cloud seeding and artificial rains; in fact all these efforts are not really helpful to the farmers. Incorporate a State Rain fed/Dry land area authority to identify the suitable crops, harnessing the water resources for at least to cultivate two acres of land and save the lives of draught animal.  Identifying the viable alternative livelihood activities. Protecting and preserving the water bodies like natural lakes, ponds and village tanks.

13. Establishing crop based growers group (Kind of Collective farming /General Body of farmers Ex: Mulkanor cooperative, Ethonda PACS) for power of collective bargaining. The government should provide the support like credit facilities, subsidized inputs, Special markets, warehouses, processing units and so on.

14. State owned Agriculture Finance Corporation to be established. It shall be to assist in the development of agriculture and agricultural industries by making loans to farmers, co-operative societies, private companies, public bodies, and other persons engaging in agriculture or agricultural industries.
15.  A farmers friendly seed bill should be formulated that shall regulate the quality of seeds, sales, imports and exports. Plans should be evolved for 100% certified seed replacement. The government should allot some funds to agriculture universities to develop hybrid verities with the association of the farmers and the seed should be supplied through Seed Corporation. Promoting the indigenous (native varieties) seeds by incorporating the village level seed bank groups / Seed villages   (like Dwacra/SHG) with incentives and that will create a network among them to share and exchange.

16. Promoting Organic farming and sustainable cultivation practices. Encouragement programs for organic fertilizers, conversion of solid waste to bio – fertilizers.

17. Agriculture should be modernized by Information technology and Bio technology. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is the best possible way to create awareness among the farming community which is  not only on prevailing prices but also about the possibility of exploitation by middlemen.  In order to access the ICT, free mobile phones to be provided to the prospective farmers each cost Rs.1500 which connects the markets digitally.

18. Decentralization of Powers to farmers in Co-operatives societies and Market Yards to strengthen the co-operative system.

19. Encouragement programs on back yard farming and family farming in urban locations.
20. Promoting the Agro tourism.

21. Promoting Exceptional Agriculture Regions for farming, the integrated approach of EARs will be including all farm-related schemes with respective panchayats and local farmers. They must be empowered to decide which crop to grow, what seeds to use, whether they should take to organic farming or use chemicals, whom to sell to and at what price. This EARs will encourage organic farming, aromatic, medicinal plants and exotic plants for international markets.

22. Subsidy up to 50 % on Solar powered water pumps for all farmers .

23. Successful corporate companies should spend at least 1% of their net profits for agriculture through government networks which is the part of their CSR, the spending amount will be eligible for tax benefits.

24.  The formation of cooperative societies which facilitates the farm implements on lease basis. Encourage the private companies for custom hiring tractors and farm machinery. Formation of sufficient number of agro service centers in entire state for better extension services, each center must cater services for at least 4000 acres under supervision of sufficient extension staff. These centers also provide farm machinery on rental basis like custom hiring centers.

25. Establish Rural Business Hubs for horticulture produces. These rural business hubs will serve as one-stop-shops that offer various agricultural inputs and services to farmers, including weather information, crop management advice, and access to markets and finance. will improve the horticulture produces value chain in the region by increasing productivity and linking farmers with private retailers/ processors and other stakeholders, leading to increased income at all stages - production, processing, distribution and retail.To increase farmer incomes in the region, these hubs are teaming up with public and private sector partners to demonstrate best practices and strengthen producer-processor-retailer linkages to better address the challenges related to production, price, and marketing that farmers face in the region.

26. We have around 50% of tenant farmers; very few of them are getting bank loans. Government should arrange some fund as a guarantee for banks  towards tenant farmer loans.

27. Crop insurance schemes should be developed by making village as a unit which must cover all risks from sowing to marketing with an affordable premium. The loss claim settlements  should be cleared within 60 days of the calamity.

28. Comprehensive Land Usage policy: The farming land area should be calculated as per population growth statistics and based on that only the agricultural land has to be converted to any other purpose.

29. Mobile clinics for Draught/Dairy/Herd animals, medical camps must be conducted in villages with certain schedules.

30. Protect and promoted the native breeds ( Nativ cows/ Ongole breeds), bull,cow and buffalo production programs. Financial medical assistance to Gosalas ( Cow herds).

31. Improved Sheep/goat/Pig herd programs, loan facilities, Insurance facilities. ( Small farmers and landless laborers owned these herds) Meat processing, production and export facilities in rain fed regions.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Why we need Agroforestry !!

The increasing population will need a lot of household wood products, paper products, packing material and fire wood. To meet the growing demand we can't rely on the forests alone, so private agroforestry is  inevitable.  India's per capita consumption of paper and paperboard is less than 10kg and whereas China is 72kg. The productivity of timber in India is only 0.7 cubic meters /ha/year whereas the world average is 2.1 cubic meters /ha/year. India's forests are covered in  69 million hectares i.e.  19.5% of the country's area, the  availability of forest land per person in India is one of the lowest in the world at 0.08 ha, against an average of 0.5 ha for developing countries and 0.64 ha for the world. The demand for timber was  85 million cubic meters in 2008 and now it is expected to cross 153 million cubic meters by 2020, the supply of wood from forests  are projected  to 60 million cubic meters by 2020. This means India needs to depend on imports or else agroforestry in private and community lands for its growing wood requirements.

Increased cost of cultivation, non availability of farm labor, higher farm wages and various reasons farmers are switching to less investment and less labor intensive farming like short term commercial crops and forestry plantations. Agroforestry system is mostly practiced by  the large farmers who have alternative source of income rather than agriculture, It won't viable to small farmers  since they need annual returns on agriculture for their livelihood. But some of the areas the small farmers  also cultivating the  agro forestry  by  inter cropping  the food crops between the rows up to one or two years or till the trees get  bigger, which is a good sign for food security and wood security.

Leucaena and Eucalyptus trees are widely cultivated in Andhra Pradesh which give the guaranteed farm income and the yield of each acre is used to be between 25- 30 tonnes  for  every four years as the trees are harvested only after 4 years.The wood pulp is being used in paper industry and as well as plywood, particle boards and wood veneer. The waste wood has been used in bio mass power generation plants as a substitute to coal and other fossil fuels to reduce the green house gas emission. In Prakasam district alone has more than  one lakh acres have been cultivated and  producing  10 lakh tonnes of wood valued around Rs 390 crores annually. The market price has increased  recently up to Rs.3900 per tonn  due to the shortage of wood and fair competition among the firms in industry which is a lucrative income for farmers. Most of the progressive farmers  would like to adopt agroforestry model for sustainable agriculture to improve the farm productivity and profitability.

Indian has achieved self sufficiency in food production, now we should focus on ecology,  preserving our fossil fuels and also cater the growing wood demand caused by population growth and economic development. The agroforestry system is capable to sequestrate the massive amounts of carbon  that helps to mitigate the danger of green house gas concentrates. We can implement this system in large barren lands, farm boundaries to improve soil fertility and water conservation. There is a remarkable scope in agroforestry  to focus on the ecological issues, biomass production,  cattle fodder and various outputs to industries as well as employment generation.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Incredible challenges in Indian tobacco Industry

India is the third largest producer of tobacco which is 681 million kilos, next to China and Brazil and the second largest exporter of tobacco with 228,025 Metric Tons, next to Brazil. We have around 130,000 tobacco farmers, among them 89,855 were registered with Tobacco Board as a Flue cured Virginia growers with cultivated area of 2,15,000 hectares. Around 38 million people are directly or indirectly involved in various phases of tobacco industry for their livelihood.

The Indian Tobacco Industry contributes ₹ 4,980 crores of foreign exchange through exports and ₹ 17,415 crores through excise duties on tobacco products. Over 120 million Indians smoke, i.e. 10% of the world's tobacco smokers live in India and 102 billion sticks produced in India every year. India produces the tobacco which has lowest levels of pesticide residues.

We have some incredible challenges in our tobacco Industry which need to overcome.

India is the 6th largest illicit cigarette market in the world and about 16% of Indian tobacco products are illegitimate which the value is 1900 crores of rupees and hundreds of crores cigarette sticks are smuggled  in to the Indian market. Some of the studies say that the contraband market is may increase to 23% by 2016. The growing share of illegal cigarettes is reducing the demand of domestic tobacco industry, erstwhile in 2005/2006, the cigarette market size was 109 billion sticks and now it is reduced to 102 billion. This adverse situation threatens the life of 38 millions of tobacco dependents and big loses to Indian government since the illegal cigarettes evade the all kind of taxes like excise, customs, VAT and others.Allowing legitimate foreign brands into the Indian market is a wise decision to combat the contraband trade and prevent the losses of tax revenue. On top of that the Indian consumers’ tastes have changed and they are looking for world class products.

Indian Tobacco Industry is operated by a few domestic players and there is no effective competition. Farmers are not getting the prevailing price through monopolistic and unfair trade practices by domestic trade cartel. One biggest Indian company is controlling the 80 percent of market and it buys more than 60% of the cigarette variety leaf with lesser price which is nearly 50% below of global average. The company makes heavy margin but the farmers being paid by non-remunerative and unfair prices.

The UPA government banned the FDIs in tobacco industry in 2010, the Japan tobacco international was the victim of Inconsistence policies of the Indian government on FDIs and it has closed its operations in Dec2011. In April, 2012, some of the US trade bodies sent a representation to Indian Ambassador to USA, to consider the abilities of foreign companies to participate in Indian tobacco market and also they opposed the FDI Ban in Indian Tobacco Industry.

Tobacco farmers have been agitating against the monopoly and unfair trade practices and also not allowing FDI’s  is against to the Competition Act 2002 which prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and also promotes the free and fair competition within the economy. The Department of Industrial Policy and promotion (DIPP) should rethink and review the FDI policies to allow foreign investments in tobacco industry since they allowed foreign investments in other industries. Indian farmers are looking for permanent solution to prevent the tobacco trade cartel's deceptive, monopolistic and unethical trade practices. They are eagerly waiting for international tobacco companies to participate in Indian tobacco industry for getting fair price among the competition and moreover the Indian farmers would like to be competitive to garner the major share in world market.

India has been a forerunner in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO- FCTC) which is aimed to reduce tobacco cultivation and restricting the all kind of supports to tobacco farmers. India ratified the FCTC in 5th Feb, 2004, it is the Regional Coordinator for the South-East Asian Region and India has a legal obligation to implement the FCTC guidelines. Most of the Indian tobacco growers don't know about the FCTC, the Ministry of Health never discussed and notified to tobacco farmers while signing this agreement, now Indian government is pressuring the farmers to go out of tobacco cultivation. Cultivation is farmers’ birth right and they have right to grow any legal crop of their choice. Consuming tobacco is a social problem; the government should control the same by creating awareness and educating the civil society. As per article 17 of FCTC, the government should provide economically viable alternate livelihoods to the tobacco farmers while implementing the FCTC guidelines, there is no such thing or any scientific exercises were not conducted so far. FCTC treaty is autocratic and forcibly imposed one, Indian tobacco farmers are opposing the several articles in FCTC guidelines.

Protecting public health is unquestionably noble objective, controlling tobacco cultivation is  a complex and socio-economic issue that needs a pragmatic approach  and make involvement of key stakeholders at every stage for their smooth economic livelihood transition.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

India needs nutritionally enriched Food security

On July 5th the Food security ordinance was approved by the President of India, the ordinance will guarantee 5 kg of rice or wheat or millets  a month to poor at a discounted rate of Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Re. 1 respectively.  Food security means ....not only  providing  5 kilograms of subsidized food grains but  also that should ensure the nutrition security. I don't  think  that 5 kgs of food grains is not enough to feed  one person per month. Average consumption per year for each person is around 178 kgs. ( 15 kgs per head/monthly) and average family size in India is  4.8 persons,  so each family needs at least  65-70 kgs of grains per month.  Food habits have been changing gradually, people are slowly shifting from grains to more protein and nutritional based foods. Edible oil, pulses  are good source of nutritional values , each person needs minimum 1kg of edible oil and the same way 1kg of pulses per month, though which  is less than nutritionist 's recommendations  i.e. 16kgs of edible oil and 20kgs of pulses per capita. I don't know, how come this bill is going to ensure the food security by just giving  5 kgs of grains and the same way how it's going to reduce the malnutrition by just giving grains without any nutritional food items.

India ranked 65 among the 79 countries which are listed in global hunger index. ( High number means most vulnerable) . As we know  that our working class poor people are still in calorie deficient and they definitely need the nutrients to get strength, endurance and productivity at their workplace. The UPA-2 government is trying to mesmerize the people that it is doing a big favor to below poverty line by the Food Security Act. The edible oil and pulses are essential for human beings to sustain proteins, vitamins and minerals. The market prices of edible oil and pulses are very high and have been increasing , the government  doesn't have any control  over the prices and price mechanism . The nutritional food items  must be reasonably priced to consumers, then only the people will get comprehensive food security otherwise it 's  going to be a futile exercise.

The Public Distribution Systems is not functioning efficiently,  it’s all corrupted and controlled by the second fiddles of local MLAs. Everybody  knows that the PDS food ration is going to the black markets and  also too many   fake ration cards. The PDS system shall be pruned to remove the bottlenecks  in supply chain of food distribution especially  for  this upcoming Food Security program. The UPA's National Food Security bill doesn't have any time bound or any target orientation.  There is no clarity in elimination of malnutrition and how many people will be moved out of hunger in next 5 years or next 10 years and so on. The Bill is just targeted for 2014 elections for their electoral prospects and it is political hoax .

The government must focus on 4 Ps i.e. Production, Procuring, Preserving and Proper distribution of food grains. Food security act will not only serving the poor but also encourages the production of food grains which is directly  benefit to the farmers since the consumption will be more. At the same time, the farmers should not be burdened  with the cost of subsidizing the supply. India needs to be self sufficient in food grain production to meet this new demand, so the agriculture should  have high priority in National Food Security program.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My way of thinking on GM crops

Developing countries are adopting the Biotech crops at faster rate, Genetically Modified (GM) crops have been cultivated more than 1. billion hectares worldwide, 10 % of the world crop lands were planted by GM crops in 2010, 17.3 million farmers grew GM crops in 2012. India cultivated 9.4 million hectares of GM crops in 2010. Major scientific academies and regulatory bodies of the world from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, France, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Russia, Australia and  New Zealand  have completely  endorsed the safety and efficacy of the science and technology of GM crops. Most of the developed nations experience with Biotechnology crops are  reliable, alternatives to traditional pests, reduced input costs, quality in crop yields and finally income benefits to farmers.

Achieving food and nutritional security is tough task, we need to try all possible options like GM and conventional. Malnourishment still exists in India, India ranked 65 among 79 nations in global hunger Index. ( High ranked = Most vulnerable).Everyone concurs that sustainable agriculture plays a critical role for future food needs and better environment. The first green revolution achieved by applying the chemistry and petroleum, but now the Biotechnology, information technology and renewable energies are crux  for the next green revolution. It's something modern way of thinking for food security, economic development and environment. Now the most of farming community has been dependent of information, communication and technology, they are adopting modern growing techniques of precision farming  like  System of Rice Intensification Method  in paddy cultivation, modern farm implements, organic farming and also cultivating the transgenic commercial crops like BT cotton.

Applying Biological solutions instead of Chemical applications has been growing in agriculture. In India, lot of hurdles to integrate the biotechnology into agriculture research I.e technical, political, environmental, intellectual property, biosafety and trade related issues. Based on the demand, it is suggested to implement Biotechnology applications in strategic areas where the agriculture get more gains. As we know that, parliamentary standing committee and a Supreme Court of India jointly appointed the Technical Experts Committee (TEC) to perceive the pros and cons on GM Crops, TEC has recommended a ban on field testing of GM crops which are under development in both public and private labs for a decade, but it was dismissed by the courts and now the Environment and Forests Ministry has allowed the field trials on 20 GM crops such as cotton, rice, tomato, groundnut, potato, corn, sorghum, okra, brinjal, mustard, wheat, watermelon, papaya, sugarcane, rubber, castor, banana, pigeonpea and chickpea. Out of 20 crops, field trials were initiated for only three crops ( Cotton, Corn, Mustard) upon obtaining the no objection certificates from the state governments. 

All these actions indicate that India has positive approach towards transgenic crops, the real challenge is that how the scientific regulatory bodies monitor the process of trials and research. The regulatory precautions should be implemented very meticulous and ultimately those crops must not negatively affect on human health and  environment or animals and other crops. In India lot of apprehensions on GM crops which are related to safety aspects of human health and environment, let us wait and watch.. how the scientists and policy makers are going to address the public apprehensions on the GM crops which are now in field trials  Everything should be transparent in the field trial process and the research data, nothing should be hide, farmers and consumers must be better informed.

GM seeds are expensive and the technology is protected with stringent intellectual property laws and patented. Some of the international seed companies are monopolizing the business by merging the small seed companies and they are pushing their GM seeds in place of conventional. To break the monopoly of big biotech companies, government should encourage the extensive research and field trials through private companies and universities, so that  the enhanced competition will help the small and marginal farmers to afford the GM seeds. Nonprofit organizations and public sector scientific agencies should focus on safe and effective application of biotechnology to the extremely important crops for the benefit of small and poor farmers.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dairy farmers are in dire crisis

India is the largest producer and consumer of the dairy milk in this world producing around 130 million tonnes and the total world production estimates 730 million tones.  FAO estimated 85% of all milk worldwide was produced from cows and the rest is from other species ( 11% Buffalo ,2% got and 2% others.). USA is the second largest producer of milk and the first largest producer of cow's milk. Israel dairy farms are very productive with an yield of 12,546 kgs of milk  per cow per year.

Indian Dairy farmers are in crisis with increased cost of production and non remunerative prices. Return on investment for dairy farmers are very less due to increased costs of feed and medical expenses for animals. Earlier, the cattle used to depend on grazing, natural resources and crop residue for fodder which are decreasing now. The milk farmers are forcibly depend on the packaged cattle feed to increase the milk production, eventually the cost of production has increased. Feed cost has been increasing up to 30- 50 percent from past four consecutive years, but the milk procurement prices have not increased comparatively. Health care also big burden, vaccination and De-warming costs have been increased.

The productivity of the cattle is based on the caring and managing, farmers are slowly decreasing their non performance animals and switching over to efficient breeds like Jersey and Holstein Friesian. Investment on these exotic cattle is heavy burden for the farmers and these breeds need more feed, water and caring since they are not native animals. Farmers are struggling to get loans for milking animals and also the bank charges are very high up to 12% interest rate and insurance cost is additional. With the increased cost of production including  expensive breeds the dairy farming is not remunerative, so the farmers are slowly decreasing their herd size and some of the farmers have giving up the dairy farming.

The procurement prices have not increased comparatively with milk market selling prices, in fact the procurement prices have reduced in Oct and Nov months of 2012. The Andhra Pradesh farmers have faced a bitter experience called "MILK HOLIDAY" due to the false market analysis by milk marketing companies. They have imported low-priced Skim milk powder by estimating that the milk production is going to be less for this year but there is a  consistent growth in milk production. Most of the milk marketing companies including Co-operative sectors have reduced the procurement prices and some of them have stopped to collect the milk from farmers. Animal fodder is the biggest problem for the farmers, decrease in grazing land, natural resources and drought situations  leads tough time for animal fodder. Last year, the dry forage was sold at Rs.2.00 per kg in some arid districts of  Andhra Pradesh. The loan facilities for cattle are too tough for small farmers, a rural poor woman who wants to buy a buffalo she gets the loan with high interest rate up to 14%  with a great struggle, where as in the cities the car loan get approved with 7-8 percent  interest rate without any hurdles.

Our Indian Dairy Industry is in chaotic situation, India is the largest milk producer in the world, ironically...

whereas chemical mixed adulterated milk is widely available in the market.

whereas milk consumption is very less and 68.72 Kg/capita/year.

Whereas The Food and safety standards authority of India ( FSSAI) has announced the 68% of the bulk milk supplies have found to be unsafe and substandard quality.

Indian government has opened the gates to FDI's and excited to enter in free trade agreements, already France's DANONE is aggressively marketing it's dairy products in Indian market associated with Dynamix Dairy- Baramathi ( Maharashtra), New Zealand's FONTERRA and DANONE  are interested to acquire major stack in  Hyderabad based Tirumala Dairy products. As we know that all largest milk producing countries are keen to enter in Indian market, most of the developed nations' dairy farming is massively funded and heavily subsidized by the governments with various income support plans like  i.e.  Milk income loss contract payment, Market loss assistance, Dairy Income loss assistance programs, dairy Indemnity, milk marketing fees and so on. Such huge subsidies keep the International milk prices down which are going to affect very badly on our Indian dairy industry. we should oppose as strong as possible to protect our Indian dairy Industry against dumping.

In order to protect our dairy farmers, the milk procurement prices should be fixed based on the cost of production as the practice where implemented in crop farming. The banks should liberalize the policies in cattle loans for Individual farmers to buy one or two animals and Government should  arrange interest free loans to the dairy farmers. Government should invest in co-operative dairies and allot matching grants of subsidies for remunerative milk procurement prices. The government need to take some steps on milk promotion programs by offering small quantity of milk to school going children, lactating women and pregnant women to boost milk consumption. The Indian milk marketing companies including co-operatives all together should run a united advertising campaign which shall create an importance of milk in our daily life.. like by California Milk processor  Board.

We shall have to try all possible options to rescue our milk farmers, if not they will give up dairy farming, therefore India may encounter serious milk shortage which leads to malnutrition.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Plate full food ends up in Landfill

A survey by University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Bangalore says that  annually, Bangalore alone wastes 943 tonnes of quality food during weddings and the total food wastage in the city is estimated at Rs 339 crores. As per data from the solid waste management department of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), around 140 tonnes of leftover food is collected daily from the hotels and restaurants in the city which nearly 50 percent is good to consume. India is facing the loss of Rs.50,000 crores worth of food items.  United states, the food waste worth is $180 billion every year, Canada's food waste is approximately 40 percent and worth of $27 billion, around 5.3 million tonnes of food waste goes to trash in UK that's worth is £12 billion, the food wasted in Italy can feed the entire population of Ethiopia. The FAO estimates  that more than 30% of the global food production goes to garbage that counts 1.3 billion tonnes which can cater to 3 billion people.

Food waste can be occurred in three levels 1. Farm level ,2. Distribution level, 3. End user level.

The major food waste happens in the farm level. Before harvesting, the crop losses could be with  pest, birds, rodents and wild animals and the natural disasters also can cause for crop damages. Losses may be high in harvesting process since the machine harvesters are unable to detect the difference between ripen and half grown crops and also it collect some part of the crop and the rest will be left in the field itself. Some crops like horticulture produces must be harvested by hand picking only, then some root crops may damaged  by careless hand harvesting and acute labor shortage lead to the yield loss as crops are not harvested and decayed in the fields.

At the distribution level, supply chain & value chain losses are very frequent due to lack of storage facilities, no proper transportation and unable to access the markets on policy issues. A nation-wide study on quantitative assessment of harvest and post harvest losses for 46 agricultural produces in 106 randomly selected districts was conducted by CIPHET in 2010 revealed that wastage in fruits and vegetables is between 5.8 - 18.0 % for different crops. Wastage are lower for other items as compared to fruits & vegetable: for crop (3.9 -6.0%), cereals (4.3-6.1%), pulses (4.3-6.1% ), oilseeds (6.0%), Meat (2.3%), fish (2.9% ) and poultry(3.7%). Although the food stored in proper facilities, some portion get waste by the pests and microorganisms, supermarkets always reject the produces for slight cosmetic imperfection though they met the edible standards. Retail stores, farmers markets and whole sellers are losing huge amounts in unsold fruits and vegetables, we can't ignore the export losses in food products since they don't meet the agriculture, safety and health standards. Altogether, a significant quantity of food produced goes waste during the processes of pre & post harvesting, supply & value chain.

Food waste can be seen everywhere in our daily life, in kitchen at home, restaurants, in big fat weddings, gala parties, in work place canteens  and so on. Some social behaviors have lead to food waste like cooking surplus food, ordering excess food in the restaurants, load-up the plates with more than sufficient items in buffet. Once in a while when we check our refrigerator, we may find some leftovers and uneaten food that ends up in the trash can. Super markets promotion sales also push the consumers to buy more than enough food and which is frequently throw away.

Waste happens in throughout the food system in all stages like farming,  transportation, processing, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants, food service providers and  households which accounts  around 40% of the food we produce.

Recycling and disposal expenses are additional burden to the food waste, all uneaten food ends up in our landfills which generates green house gas emissions and it is estimated that 14% of the world’s CO2 emissions are caused by food waste itself. This huge waste of food puts heavy pressure on agriculture as it must provide for growing  population that is wasting up to 2 billion tonnes of food a year. Agriculture consumes  70% of water reserves in the process of food production, 3000 liters of water required for our daily food needs, management of water is the key for our food production and water is going to be more expensive in future. One more important issue is land usage, if we lose the food with wasteful habits  the demand will be increased for extensive usage of  land for farming and livestock. The food waste has ripple effects on other industries like energy, fertilizers and pesticides which are produced by coal, chemicals, fuel, natural gas and so on, all these incremental cost is driven by uneaten food.

Wasting a food is a cultural habit, by not wasting food we can express ourselves as well mannered and responsible. The most important thing is... to buy only whatever our actual need and use it completely. The super markets should liberalize their purchase practices  i.e. rejecting the food stocks for just small flaws in physical characteristics. Government should set a national goal to reduce the waste and sensitize the public against the waste of food by creating awareness and should encourage the NGOs who are working against food waste. Modern engineering and technologies should be implemented in  Pre/Post harvesting stages and fully integrated infrastructure should be created for transport, storage and processing. Elimination of  food waste will provide a lot more food for growing population, it reduces the carbon foot print and mitigates the heavy load on agriculture.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Re−shaping the small and marginal farmers

Three quarters of the world's farmers cultivate small plots of land, India is the land of marginal and small farmers, the average size of farm land holding is 1.16 hectares ( 2.86 acres). 85% of the Indian framers are cultivating the 70% of farm lands which are below two hectares each, more than 60% of the farm produces come from the small farms only. The productivity of the small farmers is the solution for growing population food needs, the future of the Indian sustainable agriculture is depends on the performance of these small and marginal farmers only. Most of small farmers cultivate the farm land with the support of their family members and local labor which the quality of the work is higher. They spend more time on mulching, trellising, weeding, removing the rock stones, soil conservation and building the irrigation systems which are a part of good agriculture practices . They grow multiple crops and sow as soon as they harvest, small farms have been the most efficient for sustainable and bio-diversified way of agriculture.

India's land holdings average size has been decreasing i.e. 1.16 hectares ( as per 2011 data) and at the same time the number of land holdings are increased to 138 million which are caused by the population growth and family subdivisions. Some researchers argue that small farm land holdings' output is always low and their operating expenses are high. I feel, the farm size is not a constraint for the productivity, small farms are sustainable and the efficiency also more or equal to large farms. Numerous studies have confirmed that there is an inverse connection between the size of forms and yield per hectare, the smaller they are the yield is greater, the contribution of output is higher for marginal and small farmers and they grow high value crops like fruits and vegetables. But small and marginal  farmers have been facing lot of problems like credit and Indebtedness, land titles and tenancy issues, low level education and skills, globalization challenges and climate changes.

The Western model of agriculture is being forcibly advocated by some agricultural policy analysts and economists which is really applicable for only large land holdings. As per Indian agri profile, we can't shift our small farms to larger farms that will cause a decline in food production and also the unemployment of displaced workers that's  going to be a big problem. It is very clear that the Western model of agriculture can't support our Indian agriculture like heavy mechanized, less labor-oriented, chemical-based, high-input agriculture. Actually we should adopt the Eastern model of agriculture which have been implemented in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia and China. The far east agriculture practices like experimenting with high yield verities, controlled use of fertilizers, drip irrigation, effective use of manpower, multiple cropping and custom made small farm equipments are exactly appropriate to Indian farm lands. Moreover, Indian small scale family farmers can't afford to heavy farm equipment, extraneous inputs and hired workers, so the Eastern style of agriculture is the way forward for India.

While small shops, hawkers, farmers markets are being wiped out and replaced with super markets and hyper malls, the small farmers loss their customers. The large super markets always need the consistent supply, competitive price, high quality produces with safety standards, this will be a big challenge for the small farmers since most of the farmers deliver their produces to local vendors and open markets. Supplying to large chain supermarkets is a great opportunity to the small farmers, to confront the same, the government should enact the collective farming by combine all small farm land holdings in to a farmers' cooperative for mutual benefit. Under this model, the farmer will be an independent share holder and collectively utilizing the supply chain/value chain with their own operated marketing societies or private processors.(Just like dairy co-operatives).

This is the time to reshape our Small scale farm production and marketing systems since we are allowing the FDIs in retail trade, to integrate with big chain retails markets the small and marginal farmers should be strengthened with modern technologies and policy reforms. We wish the small and marginal farmers avail the market opportunities for better prospects.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I am against to hunger and poverty, not to the technology

Achieving Food and Nutritional security is not easy task, we need to try every option either genetically Modified (GM) or Conventional. The food grains which are cultivated today are not absolutely wholly natural, most of them are altered and hybridized by selective breeding or chemicals or Viruses. We need to depend on modern technologies to get bumper yields, drought tolerant and disease tolerant crops for growing food needs. The government and the progressive thinkers should focus on public understanding on Agriculture technology research.

I am not against to the technology ...but especially in food crops part we have some concerns about safety of human health and environment. We already have so many conventional verities of food crops for centuries which contain rich health & nutrition values.  The agritech researchers are mentioning that the GM food contains same nutritional values as non GM, then why we need GM Food crop?! why can’t our researchers develop new verities by hybridization and natural selection instead of genetically engineering? Food security is not only providing food for all but also the bio - safety must be ensured, the bio technology  has to develop the food crops without compromising safety and regulatory aspects.
The BT Cotton was developed and introduced in India in 2002 and still the farmers have mixed opinions on the crop. Monsanto claims that the BT cotton  plays a beneficial role in increase of production and reduction of  the costs of cultivation. But the farmers are complaining that the cost of cultivation has been increased comparatively with the traditional verities and the yield per acre did not increase. We have reports on livestock dying allegedly on consuming Bt cotton plants and Farm workers are suffering with allergies including rashes, itches, and irritations while working in GM crop fields. The mainstream scientific community argues that all safety tests have been done but there is no systematic research to address this serious problem.

In India, there are a lot of apprehensions associated with GM foods chiefly relating to the safety aspects both for the environment and for human health. There are fears that novel genes and genetic constructs could escape into the environment and create monster plants like weeds that cannot be destroyed or new, recombinant pathogens like bacteria and virus for which there are no cures. That is the reason there is a strong appose on BT Brinjal and the protesters are claiming that the  BT brinjal is a threat to plant biodiversity, flaws in the data on the gene inserted into the brinjal, no long-term toxicity and cancer-safety tests were done which leads to kidney and liver damage. The technology needs improvement and the safety aspect will have to be tested far more rigorously before it can be declared that GM crops are indeed a safe source of food.

The GM companies should focus their R&Ds on the crops like drought tolerance, salinity tolerance and alkaline tolerance. Farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation since most of the  cultivatable lands have been converted to non agriculture purposes. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought , high salt/alkaline content in soil will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable lands. Ethanol based Transgenic Sugarcane, maize and sugar beet crops have to be developed for support Bio fuels instead of fossil fuels. Genetically Engineered Tobacco plants are required for medical use. Modified Subabul, Eucalyptus and Bamboo plants are required more tonnage for paper production. We expect the crop science  or agriculture research  outputs should be safe for human health and environment. The safety tests and systematic research should be conducted under regulatory measures before launching any crop which is genetically engineered. I am  against to hunger and poverty, not to the technology.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

FCTC - The imposed treaty

Recently the Tobacco Institute of India has given awards to the tobacco farmers on their achievements. I met some of the farmers who attended the awards function , in  casual chat one of the prospective farmer mentioned  that he doesn't know  what FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) means until he attend the award ceremony. Most of the  tobacco growers don't know about the FCTC which was  ratified by Indian government in  5th February ,2004. The world Health Organization ( WHO) adopted the FCTC in May 2003 to reduce the tobacco consumption to protect the global public health and this is one of the most quickly ratified treaties in United Nations history. FCTC formulated the policies for the member countries to adopt the better strategies for  tobacco control, those might be mandatory and some of them are provisional.

India is so active in FCTC treaty and was the one among the first signatory countries. Even prior to FCTC, India has been working on tobacco control by several  legislations like COTPA  (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act) i.e. ban on smoking in public places, ban on underage sales, prohibiting the tobacco sales within 100 yards of  schools and hospitals  and restrictions on tobacco advertisements & sponsorships. Proactively our Union Health Ministry proposed that all new films have to flash a static anti-tobacco message during a smoking scene.  The government initiatives are not only with consumption part but also in production and distribution, government is enforcing the heavy taxes to control the tobacco consumption .The tax on tobacco products  in India is are complex and vary for tobacco products, cigarettes taxes are calculated by the length and the process of manufacturing which accounts approximately 38% on retails price and the Bidis (tobacco rolled in a leaf) are taxed very low averaging 9% on retail price.

India is the third largest producer and second largest  group of smokers, over 120 millions of Indians smoke which counts 10% of the total world's tobacco smokers and over 250 million people across the country use tobacco products like gutka, cigarettes , bidis and other kinds. Tobacco will be responsible for 13% of all deaths in India, it counts around 900,000 deaths per year. Worldwide, every 1 in 10 adult deaths  are caused by tobacco and it kills more than 5 million people per year. The World Health Organization warned that if the same consumption patterns continue, more than 8 million people will die per year by 2030. Everybody has the same questions, why farmers are growing tobacco even that is harm for human health and why governments are allowing tobacco cultivation even lot of health organizations and social groups are advocating a ban on tobacco. Tobacco cultivation is a part of Indian agriculture system, it is legally cultivated agriculture crop and globally trading commodity. Tobacco is the best cash crop among all cash crops… in terms of high value returns and suitable to most environments, on top that it’s a labor intensive crop which helps to improve the rural employment .Indian Tobacco Industry is providing livelihood to more than 25 million people in the country, the tobacco contribution to India’s GNP is about 10%.

Consuming tobacco is a fatal addiction and social problem, it keeps the health in hazard. The problem should be dealt with public awareness, anti smoking campaigns by government and other advocacy groups  have not much influenced the tobacco farmers neither threaten to tobacco cultivation nor encourage them to leave the crop. But the FCTC regulations are simple forcing ban farmers from cultivating tobacco. Indian government never consulted and asked the tobacco farmers' opinion before ratifying the treaty in 2004, it's an autocratic decision. The Indian tobacco farmers were not against  to our national tobacco control law like COTPA or any legislation which prohibits tobacco consumption, they do concern about public health but imposing FCTC regulations on tobacco farmers without consulting them is unacceptable, FCTC planned to force all the governments to keep the tobacco farming industry in jeopardy. Indian farmers are opposing  several articles of the FCTC like  9 and 10 which are dealt with regulation, testing, measuring and disclosure of contents.

FCTC proposals will affect our tobacco farmers and industry, more than 30 million of Indians livelihood will be devastated. Especially in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, tobacco growing is the main source of livelihood for farmers and moreover India is the place where the tobacco grow year-around. AS per FCTC  articles 17 and 18, the government should provide technical and financial aid assistance for economical transition to all stake holders whose livelihoods are seriously affected as a consequence of tobacco control programs, but after so many research and field trials they identified that it takes so many years. However,  now the working group abandoned its original mandate and came out with new set of recommendations like restrict/stop all financial and technical support for tobacco farming; mandate the seasons when tobacco can and cannot be grown; limit, then reduce, the land area where tobacco can be grown, dismantling all tobacco governing bodies  and reduce tobacco production. These irrational destructive proposals are going to be destroy the million lives of tobacco dependents by not offering economically viable alternative crops and livelihood.

I think the FCTC treaty is autocratic  and imposed one, because the veto powered nation- United States of America haven't ratified the same and other large tobacco production countries like Argentina, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Indonesia were never signed the treaty. If India implements these guidelines, then non signed countries may dump their tobacco products ,they will increase their production and it may lead to contraband trading, then Indian tobacco farmers livelihood will be in trouble and the Indian economy will go down i.e. almost Rs.13,500 crore of excise revenue and Rs 4,160 crore of export revenue. I am not against to tobacco control, government is spending millions of tax payers' money towards public health and creating awareness on tobacco consumption risks but  I request our Indian government to refuse these unreasonable, imposed FCTC proposals and think in a pragmatic approach to help tobacco farmers for their smooth economic livelihood transition.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Indian farmers need a restructured CACP

The well know basic economic principle for the marketable produces is : Cost of production +  considerable percentage of margin= Price of the product. But this basic principle is not applied to Indian farmers, their farm products are sold at horrible losses. The government and the government  advisory commissions are forcing the farmers to sell their produces with very less prices which are not even matched to the cost of production. The government fixes the Minimum Support Prices ( MSP) for major agriculture commodities  by the  Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP) recommendations. The CACP considers various valid  points to determine the support / remunerative prices for the agriculture produces. Nevertheless, the CACP has not been recommended the  remunerative price for farmers from past  ten years.

Based on the " Cost of the production theory of value",  each and every product or service price can be decided by the  cost  for producing  the same. CACP has been considering  the Cost of Cultivation (C2) while  assessing the agriculture commodity prices, but there is some serious flaws in  calculation criteria which causes the underestimate of  actual costs and moreover the MSP doesn't even equal to the actual Cost of Cultivation.  As we know that how the input costs have been increased from past few years such as fertilizers, labor cost, diesel, fodder and cattle feed. The average labor wages have increased by 75% in past three years and the fertilizers are more than doubled. But the CACP has announced the MSP hikes for  2012-2013 crops are ranging  from  16% to 53% on 2008 -2009 data. CACP has been using the old data ( 2008-2009 )for assessing the current crops support prices and also the data of 2008-2009 itself had contested by the farmers organizations  in terms of number of samples and calculation mechanism.

CACP usually depends on Department of Economics and Statistics (DES) of Department of agriculture for data collection and the data contains the information of Area/Production/Yield (APY). But there are some controversies on interpretation of the data among the determining of MSPs and other purposes like  calculating GDP, planning commission and economic indicators. Sometimes CACP also collects the data on its own but it's not collecting ample number of samples and also while computing the cost of production there is no consideration for crop insurance, marketing and transportation cost paid by the farmers. Still, the CACP's recommended MSPs are faulty and unfavorable to the farmers and they are losing  Rs.240,000 of crores every year for just because of underestimated MSPs by CACP.

All farmers organizations have been reiterating  for National Commission on Farmers recommendations  for fixation of the remunerative price i.e. C2 +50% profit margin on C2, but the CACP is computing the prices on the obsolete data of 2008-2009. It has to take previous year data for computing the consecutive year prices and it should consider all prescribed 12 factors while formulating the price recommendations.  Not only 12 aspects but also other issues like inflation, cost of living for farmers, and losses due to import - export  policies. However, Indian farmers need a revived CACP since it fails to protect their best  interests, it should be dismantled and restructured with new terms and references.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ఎరువులు, విత్తనాల సమస్యలతో ఖరీదైన ఖరీఫ్

భారతదేశ రైతులు వాడే రసాయనిక ఎరువులు ఇతర దేశాలతో పోల్చితే చాల తక్కువ, మన దేశం లో ఎరువుల వాడకం పూర్తిగా రుతుపవనాలపై ఆదారపడి ఉంది. వర్షాలు సకాలంలో వచ్చినట్లయితే మరింత పంట దిగుబడి కోసం మన  రైతులు ఎరువులను ఎక్కువ మోతాదు లో వాడుతూ ఉంటారు. ప్రస్తుతం ఐరోపా దేశాల  రాజకీయ ఆర్థిక పరిస్థితులు వలన ప్రపంచ దేశాల మార్కెట్లు ఒడిదుడుకులకు గురి అవుతున్నాయి, భారత దేశం ఆర్థిక వ్యవస్థ కూడా ప్రతికూల పరిస్థితులను ఎదుర్కుంటుంది. మనదేశం వాడే రసాయనిక ఎరువులు ఎక్కువ భాగం దిగుమతుల ద్వార సమకూర్చుకుంటున్నవే, అయితే ప్రపంచ దేశాల మార్కెట్లు అస్థిరత వలన మన రూపాయి విలువ ఘోరంగా పడిపోయి మనము దిగుమతి  చేసుకోబోయే ఎరువులకు ఎక్కువ ధర చెల్లించాల్సిన పరిస్థితి కనబడుతుంది. అలాగే ఎరువుల తయారీకి కావలసినటువంటి చమురు, నాప్త, సహజ వాయువు యొక్క ధరలు పెరుగుతూ ఉండటం వలన ఎరువుల ధరలు కూడా తప్పనిసరిగా పెరుగుతున్నాయి.

ఇప్పటికే పెరిగిఉన్న వ్యవసాయఖర్చులతో  మన  రైతులు సతమతమౌతుండగా, పెరగనున్న ఎరువుల ధరలు రైతులను  మరింతగా భాదించనున్నాయి. భారత దేశం దిగుమతి చేసుకునే ఎరువులలో ముఖ్యమైనవి  DAP, యూరియా, పోటాష్,  అయితే విరివిగా వాడబడే DAP ఇప్పటికే Rs .987 .00  ( 50 Kg ) కాగా, అది మరింతగా పెరిగే అవకాసం లేకపోలేదు. అలాగే  పోటాష్ Rs .720 .00  ( 50 Kg ) కాగా , రూపాయి విలువ పతనంతో పోటాష్ ధర మరింత పెరిగే సూచనలు కనిపిస్తున్నాయి. ఎరువుల ధరలతో పాటు క్రిమి సంహారక రసాయనాల ధరలు కూడా పెరుగుతున్నాయి, మన రైతులు ఎక్కువగా వాడే ఇమిడా క్లోప్రిడ్ (IMI) , ఎసిటామి ప్రైడ్ (ACE) వంటి పురుగుల నివారణ మందుల ధరలు ఇప్పటికే  Rs .100 వరకు పెరిగిఉన్నాయి. రూపాయి విలువ తరిగి పోవడం, రెండు శాతం వరకు విధించిన కేంద్ర ఎక్సైజ్ సుంకం, కెమికల్ ధరలు పెరగ డం వంటి కారణాలతో వీటి పెంపు అనివార్యమైనది.

అంతర్జాతీయ మార్కెట్లో రూపాయి విలువ తగ్గడం, ఎరువుల సబ్సిడీలలో కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వం కొత విధించడం, పెరిగిన చమురు ధరల వంటి కారణాలతోఎరువుల ధరలు 30% వరకు పెరిగాయి. మన ప్రభుత్వం ఏప్రిల్ 2012 నుండి ఇప్పటివరకు ప్రధాన ఎరువులైనటువంటి DAP, NPK(నైట్రోజెన్, ఫాస్ఫరస్, పోటాష్) ల పై 27% వరకు సబ్సీడిలో కోత విధించింది. గత ఆర్ధిక సంవత్సరంలో DAP మీద Rs 19,763  (టన్ను) సబ్సీడి కాగా, ఈ ఆర్ధిక సంవత్సరంలో అది Rs 14,350 (టన్ను) కు తగ్గించబడింది. అదేవిధంగా  MOP ( మురియేట్ అఫ్ పోటాష్)  మీద సబ్సీడి గత ఆర్ధిక సంవత్సరంలో Rs 16,054 (టన్ను) కాగా అది ప్రస్తుతం Rs 14,440 (టన్ను) కు తగ్గించబడింది. నైట్రోజెన్, ఫాస్ఫరస్, పోటాష్ వంటి పోషక ఎరువులపై సబ్సీడీలను  వరుసగా 11.6%, 32.6% మరియు 10.3% వరకు తగ్గించడం జరిగింది.

మన ప్రభుత్వాలు తగినంత స్థాయిలో సబ్సీడీలను అందజేసి రైతులను ఆదుకోవాల్సిన అవసరం ఎంతైనా ఉంది. సరైన ధరలు లేక, రుణ సౌకర్యాలు లేక, పెరిగిన ఉత్పత్తి ఖర్చులు భరించలేక సతమతమవుతు  వ్యవసాయం చేస్తున్న రైతులకు సబ్సీడీలపై కోత విధించడం ఆశానిపాతం లాంటిది. ఒకవేళ ప్రభుత్వం రైతులకు కల్పించే సబ్సీడీలను తొలగించదల్చుకుంటే, రైతులకు తాము పండించిన పంట ఉత్పత్తుల ధరలు తామే నిర్ణయించుకునే స్వేఛ్చ నివ్వాలి,  తమ పంట ఉత్పత్తులను దేశంలో ఏ ప్రాంతం లోనైనా అమ్ముకునే అవకాశం ఇవ్వాలి అంతే కాకుండా వ్యవసాయ ఉత్పత్తుల ఎగుమతి విషయం లో ప్రభుత్వం జోక్యం చేసుకోకూడదు.  ఈ UPA  ప్రభుత్వం గత కొన్ని సంవత్సరాలుగా పెట్రోల్ ధరలను పెంచుకుంటూ పోతుంది. పెంచిన ప్రతిసారి ఏవో సాకులు చూపుతూ, నష్టాల్లో ఉన్నాయంటున్న ఆయిల్ మార్కెటింగ్ కంపెనీలకు తమ సహాయ సహకారాలు అందిస్తున్నాయి. మరి అదే నష్టాలలో ఉన్న భారతీయ రైతులకు వారి పంట ఉత్పత్తులకు గిట్టుబాటు ధర ఎందుకు నిర్ణయించరు?, ప్రోత్సాహకాలు మాట అటు ఉంచి ఎరువులపై సబ్సిడీలను తగ్గించడమేమిటి? ఆయిల్ మార్కెటింగ్ కంపెనీల విషయంలో చూపిన శ్రద్ధ  60  కోట్ల మంది  రైతుల పై లేకపోవడం ఏమిటి, అంత  నిర్లక్ష్యం ఎందుకు?

కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వం తన లోటు బడ్జెట్ ను పూరించే ప్రయత్నం లో కొన్ని కఠిన నిర్ణయాలను తీసుకుంది వాటిలో భాగంగానే ఎరువులపై సబ్సిడీలలో కోత విధించింది. ఈ రసాయనిక ఎరువులలో తగ్గించిన సబ్సిడీల మొత్తాలను యధాతదంగా ఆర్గానిక్ ఎరువులు మరియు సహజ ఎరువులకు మళ్ళించడం జరుగుతుందని మన కేంద్ర వ్యవసాయ శాఖ మంత్రి గారు గత మాసంలోని ప్రకటించారు. మనము, మన ప్రభుత్వాలు తప్పనిసరిగా ఆర్గానిక్ వ్యవసాయాన్ని ప్రోత్సాహించాల్సిందే, కాని మన రైతులలో ఎక్కువమంది రసాయనిక ఎరువుల పై ఆధారపడి వ్యవసాయం చేస్తున్నారు, రసాయనిక  ఎరువులపై సబ్సిడీలను తగ్గించడం వారికి పెను భారం కానుంది, తప్పని సరిగా వారి నుండి నిరసన ఎదురవుతుంది.. కేంద్ర ఎరువులు మరియు పెట్రోలియం మంత్రిత్వ శాఖ  ప్రకటన ప్రకారం ఎరువులపై సబ్సిడీలను నేరుగా లబ్దిదారులైన రైతులకే అందేట్టు చేయడం అనేది ఎంతో ఉపయోగకరమైనది. దీని వలన ఎరువుల డీలర్ల , రిటైలర్ల అవకతవకలను నివారించే అవకాశం ఉంటుంది. అలాగే మన రాష్ట్రం లో డీలర్ల వద్ద గత సంవత్సర నిల్వలు ఉన్నందున అవి పాత ధరలకే విక్రయించే విధంగా మన వ్యవసాయ శాఖ అధికారులు జోక్యం చేసుకోవాల్సిన అవసరం ఎంతైనా ఉంది , దీనివలన కొంత మేరకు పెరిగిన ధరల భారం నుండి బయట పడవచ్చు. రైతులు కూడా రసాయనిక ఎరువులు మరియు క్రిమిసంహారక మందుల వాడకం తగ్గించి వ్యవ సాయాధికారులు సూచనల మేరకు ఆర్గానిక్ ఎరువులు వంటి సహజమైన మరియు ఆధునిక పద్ధతుల్లో సాగు చేయాలి.దీని వలన ఎరువులపై పెట్టే పెట్టుబడి కొంత తగ్గించు కోవచ్చు.

ఇక విత్తనాల విషయానికి వస్తే  పరిస్థితి అందరికి తెలిసిందే, పెద్ద పెద్ద క్యూలు, రాత్రింబగళ్ళు జాగారాలు, పోలీసులు, లాఠిచార్జీలు,  ఇంత చేసి పొలం లో నాటిన తర్వాత మొలకెత్తని నాసిరకపు విత్తనాలు. మన రాష్ట్రములో ప్రధానమైన వ్యాపార పంటలైనటువంటి ప్రత్తి, వేరుసెనగ  విత్తనాల పంపిణీ లోనే ఈ ధోరణి  సాగుతుంది. ముఖ్యంగా ప్రత్తి విత్తనాల ధరలు, రాయల్టీల తో రైతులను బలి తీసుకుంటున్నాయి, ముఖ్యంగా Monsanto తాము అమ్ముతున్న BT ప్రత్తి విత్తనాలతో గుత్తాధిపత్యం కొనసాగిస్తుంది, తమ టెక్నాలజీలను ఇతర విత్తన కంపెనీలకు అందించి లైసెన్సు ఒప్పందాల ద్వారా తమ BT విత్తనాలను ఇతర కంపెనీలు కూడా అమ్మే విధంగా ప్రోత్సహిస్తూ మార్కెట్ లో మరే ప్రత్యామ్నాయ విత్తనాలు దొరకకుండా రైతులను పూర్తిగా తమ BT చక్రభంధం లో బందీలను చేస్తున్నాయి. ప్రస్తుత ఉన్న పరిస్థితులలో రైతులు తమ పంట విత్తనాలపై సార్వభౌమాధికారం ఎప్పుడో కోల్పోయారు, టెక్నాలజీ అనే వలయం లో చిక్కుకొని  కంపెనీల చేతిలో కీలు బొమ్మలుగా మారిపోయారు.

ప్రతి మూడు సంవత్సరాలకొక మారు మెరుగుపరచిన నూతన BT వంగాడలంటూ ధరలను తమ ఇష్టానుసారంగా పెంచుకుంటూ పోతున్నారు. ఒకప్పుడు కేవలం 6 % గా ఉండే ప్రత్తి విత్తనం ఖర్చు ఇప్పుడు దాదాపు 35%  వరకు పెరగింది అంటే,  ఈ విత్తనాల కంపెనీలు తమ వ్యాపార లాభం కోసం రైతులను ఏ విధంగా బలి తీసుకుంటున్నాయో మనం అర్థం చేసుకోవచ్చు.రైతులుగాని, రైతుసంఘాలుగాని టెక్నాలజీ కి తాము ఎప్పుడు వ్యతిరేకం కాదు, అయితే టెక్నాలజీ పేరుతో విత్తన మార్కెట్ ను, రైతులను తమ గుప్పెట్లో పెట్టుకొని గుత్తాధిపత్యం కొనసాగిస్తే ప్రతి ఒక్కరు వ్యతిరేకించాల్సిందే. మన దేశం లో పటిష్టమైన విత్తన చట్టం రాకుండా ఈ బహుళజాతి  కంపెనీలు మన ప్రభుత్వాలను ప్రభావితం చేస్తున్నాయి అనడంలో కూడా కొంత వాస్తవం లేక పోలేదు.  ప్రభుత్వం తప్పనిసరిగా విత్తనాల ధరలు, నాణ్యత విషయం లో జోక్యం చేసుకొని విత్తన కంపెనీల ఆధిపత్యాన్ని నియంత్రణ చేయాలి.

ముఖ్యంగా ఈ ఖరీఫ్ సీజన్లో  రైతులకు కావాల్సిన విత్తనాల డిమాండ్ ను ముందుగానే లెక్కించి వారికి సరియైన సమయంలో అవసరమైన మొత్తంలో అందేట్లు మన రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వం చర్యలు తీసుకోవాలి. నకిలీ విత్తనాల తయారీదారులపై  చర్యలు తీసుకొని అవి మార్కెట్ లో సరపరా లేకుండా చూడాలి. వేరుసెనగ, సెనగ వంటి విత్తనాలపై ప్రస్తుతం అమలులో ఉన్న సబ్సిడీలను కొనసాగించాలి. మన రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వానికి చెందిన AP seeds  ని బలపరచి, విత్తనాల మార్కెటింగ్ లో కొన్ని విశేషఅధికారాలు  కల్పించాలి. ప్రభుత్వ వ్యవసాయ విశ్వవిద్యాలయాలు, పరిశోధన సంస్థలు తమ వంతు కృషిగా దేశీయ పరిజ్ఞానంతో  బహుళజాతి కంపెనీలకు ధీటుగా కొత్త వంగడాలను సృష్టించాలి. రైతులు కూడా సంఘటితమై విత్తనాల సరఫరా, నాణ్యత విషయం లో ఎప్పటికప్పుడు వ్యవసాయ శాఖ అధికారులతో సమన్వయ పరచుకోవడం వలన ఈ విత్తన పంపిణీలో ఒడిదుడుకులను అధిగమించవచ్చు.

ఇప్పటికే పెరిగిన ఎరువుల,పురుగు మందుల ధరలు, పెరిగిన విత్తనాల ఖర్చు, తమ ఉత్పత్తులకు గిట్టుబాటు ధరలు లేకపోవడం, ప్రతికూల వాతావరణ పరిస్థితులు మొదలగు వాటితోఈ ఖరీఫ్ సీజన్  చాల ఖరీదైన సీజన్ గా మారింది . ఈ పరిస్తితి ఇలాగే కొనసాగితే వ్యవసాయం చేయలేం అంటూ రైతులు వాపోతున్నారు, వ్యవసాయ అధికారులు మరియు ప్రభుత్వము వారికి  సహాయ సహకారాలు అందించి  చైతన్యపరుస్తారని ఆశిద్దాం.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Subsidy CUT, Rupee DIP = Fertilizer prices UP

India uses low quantity of  fertilizers against the global average, the monsoon plays major role on consumption pattern in India, a  good rainfall makes  higher usage of fertilizers for enhancing crop yields. Due to Euro zone crisis the world  markets are volatile, Indian economy  also experienced the same negative impact. India has been depending on imports for its major soil nutrient needs and the Rupee value has gone down with new record level so the fertilizers prices are expected to raise. The components for making fertilizers like naphtha ,fuel and natural gas prices  have been increasing year by year and if the fuel price increases, invariably it is going to affect on fertilizer prices.

Indian farmers are already suffering  from high input costs and  the steep increase in fertilizer prices are going to be more burden for them. India imports a quarter of urea, 100% of potash and almost 70% of DAP (Diammonium Phosphate).  DAP  is widely used by Indian farmers, the price has gone up to Rs.987 per bag( 50 Kilos)  and it is expected to be increased more with rupee dip. similarly  Potash has increased to Rs.720 per bag( 50 Kilos). Not only the fertilizers and also the pesticides, insecticides and herbicides prices  have affected  by  rupee slide. Acetamiprid (ACE) and Imidacloprid (IMI) are widely used pesticides in India, their prices have also increased by Rs.100.

The price of fertilizers and pesticides  may increased by 30% due to rupee value decline and subsidy cuts. The government has  decreased the subsidy on DAP and other NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash) fertilizers by 27% since April 2012, the subsidy for DAP was Rs 19,763 in last fiscal  year now it is  Rs 14,350 per tonne similarly the subsidy for  MOP (Muriate of Potash)  has been fixed at Rs 14,440 per tonne against Rs 16,054 last fiscal. The subsidies for nitrogen, phosphate and potash nutrients have also been lowered by 11.6%, 32.6% and 10.3% respectively. The raw materials for producing fertilizers prices have also increased due to rupee depreciation. so invariably, the kharif crops going to be very expensive for  farmers with raised input costs.

Every Farmer need subsidies since they have been incurred losses without remunerative prices, non availability of credit ,high input costs and many more adverse reasons. If the government feels the subsidy on fertilizers must be reduced  then it should allow the farmers to fix the prices for their produces on their own like other industries and also the government should not intervene in agriculture exports. The UPA government has randomly  increasing  the petrol prices to save the Oil marketing companies from their losses, why can't the government do the same thing for the farmers by fixing the  remunerative prices for farm produces. In fact, the government reduced the fertilizer subsidies as part of their austerity measure to match the fiscal deficit  but the government is claiming that the reduced subsidy funds are going to be diverted to organic manures and bio fertilizers. Actually the organic farmers are very less, organic farming is picking up  but reducing the subsidies on chemical fertilizers are ridiculous since 90% of the farmers are depend on the same.

Ministry of chemicals and fertilizers has intended  to give the subsidies directly to the farmers, it's a welcome move because the retailers are misusing the subsidies and it's not reaching to the real beneficiaries.  At this point of time the government officials should ensure the  fertilizers are sold at MRP prices and most of the retailers might have the old stocks which they got with old prices, they are trying to sell the same stock with new increased prices, the government officials must control the traders not to sell with increased prices. At least it will give little relief to farmers against the increased input costs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monopolistic and unfair trade practices in Tobacco trade

Tobacco is one of the best cash crop in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and some parts of Orissa and more than 200,000 registered growers are cultivating tobacco. Why do farmers prefer  tobacco is.. it's a non perishable, yield  & value  is high per acre and easy to market. India is one of the biggest producer of Flue Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco which is used for cigarettes all over the world. Tobacco board estimated crop size for this year (2011 and 2012) is 264 millions i.e. Andhra Pradesh  at 162.5 million kgs and Karnataka at 101.3 million kgs. Tobacco contributes a significant amount  to the national economy , the government earned central excise revenue of RS 13,500 crore by selling cigarettes and foreign exchange of RS 4,163 crore from exports of tobacco and tobacco products during 2010-11.

Andhra Pradesh is the biggest producer of the FCV  quality tobacco in India. Despite natural disaster "Thane" in this year, the tobacco yields are better  but the threat is with price decline. The tobacco prices were peak in 2008- 2009 i.e. Rs.115/ kg and the price came down to Rs.90/kg in 2010- 2011 and now the average price is lesser than last year price. Farmers are in misery  and inescapable position to sell their crop with lesser price,  their distress is not only with the fallen price but also with increase of associated costs of plantation to packing. The labor wages have gone up for grading & bundling, and the  barn fuel  ( firewood & char coal) cost also increased. Farmers are not getting remunerative price and the net realization is negative by calculating all these expenses, farmers have no choice to switch to other crop since they don't have proper irrigation facilities. 

Tobacco board is the sole regulator of tobacco crop, it has right to fix the crop size every year and it arranges the convention every year with traders and growers to  discuss  various issues on tobacco trade. The tobacco board auction system is excellent and appreciable but the Board is not strong enough to control the traders.  Ironically, Tobacco board enforce their rules and regulations on miserable  farmers by  imposing penalties on excess production and others, but it never tried to get the better price for farmers by negotiating the traders. Board shows over enthusiasm to protect the traders' interest in the name of foreign exchange and excise revenue. Since GOI signed in treaty  with World Health Organization's  Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) , the tobacco board act as a nodal agency to reduce the crop size with its registered growers and it can encourage to alternative crops but it should not suppress the farmers' right to get the better price.

A very few companies are operating the tobacco trade, the major players are ITC ( India Tobacco Company) , GPI ( Godfrey Phillips India) and some others. Traders are bidding very lesser quotes by convincing various deceptive reasons  like International market has excess stocks , don't have enough export orders, price cut due to competition international markets, Non tobacco materials in the tobacco bundles and  tobacco is not properly graded by the farmers. Of course, the traders are misguiding the farmers by all these unjustifiable reasons..... though the global market stocks are huge, the demand for India grown tobacco is high since it's the best for filter cigarettes. Some of the traders are making direct  unauthorized purchases from the  farmers  by offering less price, Tobacco board has failed to curb such illegal purchases since it doesn't have proper vigilance on non auction trading.

The tobacco cartel make deals with each other traders and  they fix the market price internally and control the market without offering remunerative price to farmers, especially the trade is under control of two companies i.e. ITC and GPI . ITC is the most powerful conglomerate and market leader in Indian tobacco trading and cigarettes manufacturing,   It has diversified into other industries  such as  hotels, FMCG, Lifestyle stores, paper and commodities to continue  its dominance and market share. Surprisingly, the RTI query has revealed that the government has equity in  tobacco companies, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) has Rs.3500 crores of investment  in ITC. If the  largest state owned corporation involved in a tobacco company, the company will definitely get the competitive advantage over its competitors and  it receives special treatment for its own initiatives. ITC may influence the government to protect its business interests, it's a complex of involvement.  Tobacco farmers have been protesting  and denouncing the Monopoly Trade Practice of ITC , no action taken by the government so far and moreover the UPA government has banned the FDIs  in tobacco industry  and  this is nothing but protecting the dominance of existing players like ITC, GPI and VST .  Department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has to review the policies once again and they should liberalize the policies to allow FDIs in tobacco industry.

However, The frustrated  farmers have been  demonstrating  their agony and unrest in various forms i.e.  boycotting the auctions and staging the dharnas,  but the traders are not flexible to pay the remunerative price. Government of India and State government need to take necessary steps to help the tobacco farmers in this crisis situation, the required price hike should be  at least 15% over than last year  since the cultivation expenses were gone up  . The Government has to finance the State Trading Corporation of India or any Tobacco growers’ societies to  make purchase the tobacco  with better price and if possible the central government should allot some  bailout fund to the tobacco board which can compensate to the  distressed tobacco growers . I strongly support the FDIs in tobacco trade because the farmers will get fair price among the competition of traders and manufacturers. If the Government doesn’t curb the traders’ deceitful practices, then the tobacco will be UNHOLY crop for farmers.