Agriculture, GS-3, Uncategorized

Overseas investors continue to shun oil palm industry

The Hindu

Issue The government’s allowed 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in oil palm plantations last year but has failed to draw even a single investor.

Analysis

  • India spends huge amount on imports of edible oil every year.
  • Attempts to increase the area under oilseeds in India have not been very successful, but demand has been rising perennially.
  • Palm oil imports constitute nearly 75 per cent of the total edible oil imports. Palm is generally the cheapest commodity vegetable oil and also the cheapest oil to produce and refine globally.
  • The Government of India has been trying, for many years now, to reduce its dependence on imported edible oils, by encouraging farmers to take up palm cultivation.
  • In 1992, the Oil Palm Development Programme (OPDP) was launched in six Indian States.
  • In 2004-05, the scheme was introduced in six more States, including north-east India — Mizoram, Tripura and Assam.
  • This was followed by an “Oil Palm Area Expansion” (OPAE) programme in 2011-12. But palm cultivation in the country has not really gained traction.
  • Indonesia and Malaysia are the two major palm oil producers globally, producing nearly 85 per cent of the global output.
  • The best growing conditions for palm trees exist in a small band around the equator, limiting the number of places the crop can be successfully farmed. These regions coincide with the rainforest zones.
  • More and more environmentalists are opposing the rapid expansion of palm plantations at the cost of rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia. As a result, companies have been looking for other geographies to expand the plantation.

Constraints in Expansion

  • First and foremost, lack of large land tracts is a major constraint. The industry wants the government to declare palm oil as a plantation crop to move it out of the Land Ceiling Act. The current policies of the Centre do not allow companies to either acquire or lease land beyond a specific acreage as defined by land ceiling norms. Thus, there is no scope for the corporate sector for large scale plantation of oil palm.
  • A second limitation is the weather. Palm requires humid weather throughout the year. The harsh Indian summer impacts both crop development and yield. In hot summer months, the recommended irrigation is 300 litres per plant per day. This limits the regions where this crop can be grown.
  • A third constraint is the lack of infrastructure. Close proximity between farms and processing mills is a must. The fresh fruit bunches should be processed within 24 hours of harvest to obtain good quality oil. A delay leads to build-up of free fatty acids.
  • Last but not the least, there’s the lack of trained and experienced farmers who can successfully make money out of this crop.

More space

  • In order to encourage its cultivation in the country as a part of its effort to reduce imports and ensure edible oil security, the government came out with a National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP).
  • NMOOP envisages bringing an additional 1.25 lakh hectares under oil palm cultivation through area expansion approach in the States including utilisation of wastelands. The States currently engaged in oil palm cultivation are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and West Bengal.
  • Oil palm developers, however, say that the potential of this crop could be realised effectively if there is a separate oil palm development board, a separate import policy for palm oil and a separate budget for oil palm industry development besides relaxation of land ceiling norms.
Agriculture, GS-3, Uncategorized

Water Crisis: Why has it reached such proportions?

As the summer sets in, many parts of the country are said to face one of the worst water crisis in the history. Reservoir levels in many states have come down alarmingly. Also, drinking water situation in states like Maharashtra is equally alarming. Ganga, which was to provide water to 1/3rd population of the country, is witnessing lower and lower water levels every year. Ten states had declared drought last year and with depleting water levels in reservoir it’s getting worse. In 91 major reservoirs of the country water level is just 25% of the capacity with monsoon still two months away.

How bad is the situation?

This is one of the worst water crises in recent decades. The situation is acute in western parts of the country and equally concerning in southern states. Around 330 million people in India are affected by drought, according to the government.

  • The Marathwada region in India’s western Maharashtra state is badly affected, reeling under the worst drought in decades. In Latur, Maharashtra, the looming fear that the survival instinct can turn lethal on account of the water crisis, has led authorities to invoke Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code that bars the assembling of more than 5 persons near wells and other water collecting sources.
  • Currently, water levels in the 91 major reservoirs in the country have dropped to less than one-third of their capacity at 29%, as per the Central Water Commission’s report. This is considered the lowest in the decade.
  • Also, agriculture is largely dependent on a mere 400 BCM (billion cubic metres) of groundwater, which is again fast depleting.
  • Rivers are faring no better. The Ganga, regarded the lifeline of North India, catering to a quarter of India’s population, has been experiencing a much-reduced flow. To a great extent the river’s water level is determined by the groundwater reserves of the areas along its course. With the water table shrinking further over the years, and the delay in the melting of the Himalayan ice this year, the shortage is being acutely felt.
  • In South India, while the Krishna River basin is badly affected, Cauvery and Godavari basins are facing deficiency.

Reasons behind the crisis:

A combination of factors apart from inadequate monsoons has led to this crisis. It has been caused by an amalgamation of natural and man-made factors. The rampant plundering of groundwater reserves for agricultural and industrial purposes, contamination of underground drinking water sources, the cultivation of water-intensive crops such as sugarcane in vulnerable areas, and the damming of rivers in the upper reaches have been instrumental for this catastrophe.

Also, the rapid growth of population and its growing needs has meant that per capita availability of fresh water has declined sharply from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres over the past 50 years. The global average is 6,000 cubic metres. As water demand is expected to rise further, the pace of supply is expected to fall further.

Effects:

This situation has been in the making for several years, and will likely aggravate in the coming days.

  • This is the worst time for agriculture and industries, with even power generation coming to a halt at the National Thermal Power Corporation’s station in West Bengal’s Farakka. This will affect also affect prices of cereals and other essential commodities. On the farming side, crop cycles tend to get affected as a result.
  • Depleting groundwater levels are the biggest threat to rural livelihoods and food security. There’s been a 6% dip in share of groundwater wells within 10 metres below the ground. This depth is the threshold beyond which farmers have to start using deep-water equipment, which adds to their hardship.
  • Mispricing of water has meant that large parts of Indian cities do not have access to regular water supply. Two of India’s 5 biggest cities are unable to meet the recommended quantities of water supply. Most of the water goes to privileged classes.

What needs to be done?

Land reclamation and efficient soil and water management, with well-planned seasonal crop mixes using short-duration varieties, should form part of a comprehensive strategy to protect and boost monsoon-dependent agriculture.

  • India’s monsoon-forecasting models need to be supplemented with emerging methods in data science, irrigation and seed use, and evangelised with communication technology-driven extension methods.
  • The stereotype of the Indian farmer needs to change from the haggard punter on rains to an Internet-savvy manager of nature. This needs fiscal and policy commitments. Agriculture is a state subject under the Constitution, and the kind of responsibilities required to overcome the monsoon’s challenges need active central intervention.
  • Cooperative groundwater management should be accorded top priority. This involves government at all tires, empowering local groups with the understanding of the status of groundwater on a regular basis, so that extraction does not exceed the sustainable limit.
  • Desalination and recycling are two other viable measures with strong support from experts. Recycling in addition to being cost-effective, also takes care of the problem of wastewater and is therefore, a much better long-term solution.

Conclusion:

At present 4 billion people worldwide are affected by the shortage for at least one month every year. Latest studies show that the impact of the crisis is most acutely felt by about 1.8 billion people for six months in a year. The World Economic Forum rates “water crises as one of the three greatest risks of harm to people and economies”. What India needs is a permanent wake-up call, not a snooze button in the form of news reports of water crisis cropping up once in a few weeks or months. Measures such as those suggested above needs to be complemented by conservation efforts from the grassroots level.

Agriculture, GS-3, Uncategorized

No sanctity for sovereign guarantee

Livemint

Issue

A mismatch between the value of stocks kept in warehouses and loans taken against them.

Context

It has been found that the stocks of foodgrains kept in the warehouses of the Punjab government are inadequate to cover the loan against such stocks, so the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has directed banks to set aside 15% of such exposure.

Food credit

  • Food credit, a pre-emptive credit for procurement, stocking and distribution of foodgrains, is the first charge on bank lending.
  • This means, banks must disburse food credit before giving any other loans. They give such loans to the Food Corp. of India (FCI) as well as various state government agencies.
  • FCI, responsible for the distribution of foodgrains, lends price support operations to safeguard the interests of the farmers and maintains buffer stocks of foodgrains to ensure national food security.

Backing of sovereign

  • While the State Bank of India, the nation’s largest lender, leads the consortium of banks for disbursing food credit, the RBI assesses the credit limit for each bank, which typically reflects their share in deposits.
  • The banks don’t seem to be meticulous in checking the quantity and quality of foodgrains procured and kept in warehouses as their loans to FCI is guaranteed by the central government, and the respective state governments stand behind the agencies that procure foodgrains on behalf of them.
  • Simply put, their exposure to food credit is guaranteed by the sovereign.

Fear factor

  • Technically, there is no difference between the state and a corporate defaulter (Kingfisher).
  • Still, the banks would neither dare to move court against Punjab nor stop lending to the state agencies for foodgrains procurement simply because they will have to do business in the state.

What can banks do?

  • Currently, the interest rate on food credit is uniform across all states, based on the weighted average of the loan rates of five large banks.
  • The least banks can do is raising the interest rate on cash credit for procurement and stocking foodgrains in a state like Punjab, factoring in the risk premium.
Editorials, Uncategorized

From Plate to Plough — The big thirst

Article Link

Maharashtra is facing one of the biggest water crisis in recent decades. In Latur, where the traditional sources of water have run dry, Section 144 has had to be imposed to prevent into a water riot. Trains carrying water are now being despatched to Latur. Even, the high court intervened in the case of IPL matches and asked these to be shifted out of the state to save about 60 lakh litres of water.

Back-to-back drought has exposed the vulnerable water situation not just in Latur but in more than 250 districts (out of 678) in India.

Reasons behind the crisis:

  • Maharashtra has only 18% of its cropped area under irrigation cover compared to an all-India average of 47% and states like Punjab with 97%. Maharashtra is also hugely under-investing in developing its irrigation cover, just Rs 7,000 crore compared to Rs 25,000 crore in Telangana.
  • Sugarcane cultivation is also to be blamed. Sugarcane occupies about 4% of gross cropped area in Maharashtra’s agriculture but takes away almost two-thirds of the state’s irrigation water. Such a huge inequity doesn’t exist in any other state.
  • Also, water and power for agriculture in the state are highly subsidized and it artificially creates excess demand, triggering a scramble for these scarce resources.

What needs to be done?

The first thing needed is removing the elitist biases in public policymaking and resource allocation.

  • But, just pouring more money will not have the desired results. Maharashtra needs a white paper scrutinising its irrigation expenditures and irrigation potential, created and utilised, in comparison with similar states to find out why huge investments in the past haven’t yielded results.
  • The government has already decided that in the next five years, no new sugar factories can come up in Marathwada. It’s a welcome step, but care should also be taken to monitor the existing 20 sugar factories.
  • Also, when water is scarce, the only way to manage its demand is either by raising its price progressively with use, or by rationing quantity.
  • The government should also consider making drip irrigation almost compulsory for sugarcane. Drip will save almost 40-50% water.

Conclusion:

It’s not the first time, and certainly won’t be the last, that trains had to ferry drinking water in water-stressed areas. Their frequency and coverage may increase, unless some major corrective actions are taken. This crisis should be seen as an opportunity for change that can benefit the masses. The deepening crisis has also inspired a section of opinion-makers to intensify their demands for a nationwide river-linking project — touted to be a long-term solution. But, without assessing the environmental impact and human displacement such a mammoth initiative will trigger, any attempt at linking rivers can result in an even bigger catastrophe. For Maharashtra government, the situation is so dire that it will have to find an immediate solution to prevent a law-and-order problem spiralling out of control.

Agriculture, Editorials, Uncategorized

eNAM-National Agriculture Markets

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched an online national agricultural products market platform that will integrate 585 wholesale markets across India.

  • The launching of e-platform for marketing of agriculture products is being done with the aim to provide more options to farmers to sell their produce.
  • This initiative is part of implementation of the roadmap for doubling income of the farmers by 2022.

What is National Agriculture Market (NAM)?

NAM is an online platform with a physical market or mandi at the backend. NAM is not a parallel marketing structure but rather an instrument to create a national network of physical mandis which can be accessed online.

  • It seeks to leverage the physical infrastructure of mandis through an online trading portal, enabling buyers situated even outside the state to participate in trading at the local level.

NAM is said to have the following advantages:

  • For the farmers, NAM promises more options for sale. It would increase his access to markets through warehouse based sales and thus obviate the need to transport his produce to the mandi.
  • For the local trader in the mandi / market, NAM offers the opportunity to access a larger national market for secondary trading.
  • Bulk buyers, processors, exporters etc. benefit from being able to participate directly in trading at the local mandi / market level through the NAM platform, thereby reducing their intermediation costs.
  • The gradual integration of all the major mandis in the States into NAM will ensure common procedures for issue of licences, levy of fee and movement of produce. In a period of 5-7 years Union Cabinet expects significant benefits through higher returns to farmers, lower transaction costs to buyers and stable prices and availability to consumers.
  • The NAM will also facilitate the emergence of value chains in major agricultural commodities across the country and help to promote scientific storage and movement of agri goods.

Are existing APMCs or mandis capable of handling NAM?

Experts say that infrastructure available for NAM at local markets varies from state to state. The NAM platform is being supported by agriculture ministry, which is bearing maintenance costs for each mandi.

  • The integration cost for local mandis and customisation of software, training, etc, will also be paid for by the ministry as a one-time grant of around R30 lakh at the time of accepting the mandi in the national network.
  • However, the running costs of the software at the local level, staff costs for quality check, etc, will be met with the transaction fee to be generated through the sale of produce.
  • The key reason behind this support is to avoid any upfront investment by the mandi when it integrates into NAM, and enable it to support the running cost through additional generation of revenue.

Such a platform was necessary to address the following challenges:

  • Fragmentation of state into multiple market areas.
  • Poor quality of infrastructure and low use of technology.
  • In the traditional mandi system, farmers generally procured very less price for their crops as they had to pass through various intermediaries at the physical marketplace. This not only adds costs but also handling costs.
  • In addition, the farmer has to face obstacles in form of multiple tax levies and licenses and weak logistics and infrastructure in India.

How will NAM operate in the current form?

The 21 mandis where NAM is being formally launched would offer trading in commodities such as chana, castor seed, paddy, wheat, maize, onion, mustard and tamarind. But fruits and vegetables, where there often are prices fluctuations, are yet to be included in the NAM platform.

What needs to be done from here?

  • Experts say that as long as fruits and vegetables are kept outside the purview of NAM, the volatility in prices would continue, thus depriving farmers from getting better prices.
  • Barriers hampering interstate transfer of agricultural commodities also have to be removed. High taxes and levies imposed by states such as Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh on agricultural commodities trade have to be brought down; this would boost interstate trade and farmers’ income.
  • With very few big buyers likely to be interested in buying the small lots that farmers will have to offer, aggregators will be needed and the trick will lie in ensuring it is not the same aggregators who control the mandis that get to dominate NAM.
  • Care will have to be taken, similarly, to ensure markets do not get cornered by speculators or cartels that drive prices up or down.
  • Considerable effort will also be needed for the clearance mechanism to work.

Conclusion:

Eventually, the success of NAM will depend upon whether farmers get a higher price for their produce or not and whether this reduces price volatility—in which case, introducing a system of market-makers needs to be tried at some point in time; bringing in large retail chains will help but with the central government opposing FDI in retail, this looks tough, though it is possible the new FDI window for pure food retail may attract big food retailers. And since most state governments have a history of blocking supplies when local prices go up, it will be critical to ensure the states on the platform don’t resort to their old tricks in times of supply shortage.

Agriculture, GS-3, Uncategorized

Rashtriya Gokul Mission

Enhancing the productivity of the indigenous breeds of India through scientific management


 

Potential to enhance the productivity of the indigenous breeds of India through professional farm management and superior nutrition is immense. For this it is essential to promote conservation and development of indigenous breeds.

The “Rashtriya Gokul Mission” aims to conserve and develop indigenous breeds in a focused and scientific manner
It is a focussed project under National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development, with an outlay of Rs 500 crore during the 12th Five Year Plan

Importance & need for conservation of indigenous breeds:

  • During 2012-2013, about 45 million cattle were ‘in milk’ and contributed around 59 million tonnes of milk
  • Cattle not only contribute substantially to milk production but are also used as draught animals, for agricultural operations and transport in rural areas
  • Most of the agricultural operations by small farmers are performed by bullocks
  • They also provide cow dung (organic manure), cow urine (medicinal value)
    Indigenous cattle are categorized as Zebu and are suited for draught power because of the presence of a hump
  • Indigenous cattle are well known for their quality of heat tolerance and ability to withstand extreme climatic conditions
  • Studies indicate that temperature rise due to global warming will negatively impact milk production
  • The annual loss in milk production of cattle and buffaloes due to thermal stress in 2020 will be about 3.2 million tonnes of milk costing more than Rs 5000 Crore at current price rate
  • The decline in milk production and reproductive efficiency will be highest in crossbred cattle followed by buffaloes. Indigenous Breeds will be least affected by climate change as they are more hardy and robust
  • Some of the indigenous breeds have enormous potential to become high yielding commercial milch animals under optimal farm management
  • The pre-requisites for the development of a breed are- a) the presence of a minimum base population and b) a wide selection differential for economic traits
  • The indigenous dairy breeds with potential for development as commercially viable milch cattle in a shorter time frame are- Sahiwal in Punjab; Rathi and Tharparkar in Rajasthan; and Gir and Kankrej in Gujarat
  • If these breeds are selectively crossed with bulls selected through sibling and progeny testing, the offsprings would be commercially viable. In this manner the entire population of the breed can be upgraded in a few generations

Objectives:

  • To undertake breed improvement program for indigenous cattle breeds so as to improve genetic makeup and increase the stock
  • To enhance milk production and productivity of indigenous bovines
  • To upgrade nondescript cattle using elite indigenous breeds like Gir, Sahiwal, Rathi, Tharparkar, Red Sindhi <What is a non-descript cattle? Answer in comments>
  • To distribute disease free high genetic merit bulls of indigenous breeds for natural service

Implementation:

  • State Implementing Agency (SIA)- Livestock Development Boards (LDB)
    State Gauseva Ayogs- Mandated to sponsor proposals to the SIAs and monitor implementation of the sponsored proposal
  • Participating Agencies- All Agencies having a role in indigenous cattle development. Ex- ICAR, universities, Colleges, NGOs and Gaushalas with best germplasm

Components:

  • Establishment of village level Integrated Indigenous Cattle Centres viz Gokul Gram
  • Strengthening of bull mother farms to conserve high genetic merit Indigenous Breeds
  • Establishment of Field Performance Recording (FPR) in the breeding tract.
    Assistance to Institutions/lnstitutes which are repositories of best germplasm
  • Implementation of Pedigree Selection Programme for the Indigenous Breeds with large population
  • Establishing Gopalan Sangh- Breeder’s Societies
  • Distribution of disease free high genetic merit bulls for natural service.
    Incentive to farmers maintaining elite animals of indigenous breeds
  • Heifer rearing programme
  • Award to Farmers (Gopal Ratna) and Breeders” Societies (Kamadhenu)
    Organization of Milk Yield Competitions for indigenous breeds
  • Organization of Training Programme for technical and non technical

Gokul Gram:

  • These are Indigenous Cattle Centres and will act as Centres for development of Indigenous Breeds
  • They’ll be established- a) in native breeding tracts and b) near metropolitan cities for housing the urban cattle
  • A dependable source for supply of high genetic breeding stock to the farmers in the breeding tract
  • Self sustaining and will generate economic resources from sale of milk, organic manure, vermi-composting, urine distillates, and production of electricity from bio gas for in house consumption and sale of animal products
  • Also function as state of the art in situ training centre for Farmers, Breeders
GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

Blue Revolution: 3000 crore scheme for fisheries sector

  • An umbrella scheme for integrated development and management of fisheries
  • Approved by Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA)
  • It is Central Sector Scheme on Blue Revolution
  • Will be implemented at an outlay of Rs. 3000 crore for a period of five years in all the states including North East States and Union Territories


Key facts:

  • The scheme will cover will cover multi-dimensional activities for development and management of inland fisheries, aquaculture and marine fisheries
  • All activities under ambit of it would be undertaken by the National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) towards realizing Blue Revolution
  • The scheme aims at development and management of fisheries and aquaculture sector to ensure a sustained annual growth rate of 6-8%
  • It focuses mainly on increasing productivity and production from aquaculture and fisheries resources both inland and marine keeping in view the overall sustainability, bio-security and environmental concerns

Components of Scheme:

  1. National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and its activities
  2. Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture
  3. Development of Marine Fisheries, Post-Harvest Operations and Infrastructure
  4. Strengthening of database and Geographical Information System (GIS) of the Sector
  5. Institutional Arrangement for Sector
  6. Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) and other need-based Interventions

Convergence:

  • It provides for suitable convergence and linkages with the Sagarmala Project of the Ministry of Shipping, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), MGNREGA, National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) etc.
  • It also encourages increasing entrepreneurship development, private investment, Public Private Partnership (PPP) and better leveraging of institutional finance for Fisheries Sector

rainbow-revolution

Agriculture, Editorials, GS-3, Uncategorized

The Killing Fields and Why Agriculture Cannot Wait

why is the land-owning class across India waving the flag of rebellion, demanding a slice in the quota pie for education and jobs?
The truth is that the business model of agriculture has broken down.
The combination of shrinking holdings and withered returns has led to economic and, therefore, political and social marginalisation of the land-owning class.
Desperate for returns, farmers borrow high-cost capital. Unsurprisingly, 52 per cent of them are in debt.
In 1925, Malcolm Darling wrote in The Punjab Peasant, “The peasant is born in debt, lives in debt, dies in debt and bequeaths debt.” His words ring just as true in 2016. The surround sound system of India’s political economy is screaming “it’s agriculture, stupid”.

Implication of near-zero growth in agriculture:
1. demand deflation
2. poor sales and profits
3. Industrial and manufacturing growth is tepid
4. The thesis of consumption-driven, investment-led growth is grounded
5. Consumption—despite the demography and proclaimed depth of domestic market—is jittery and uncertain as income of 48% rural population is uncertain.

India’s agriculture grew at -0.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent in 2014-15 & 2015-16 FY.
Translated, half of India’s workforce, which lives off less than a sixth of the national income, had two successive years of near-null growth.
Other issues facing by farmers:  fall in global farm produce prices, falling exports and near-zero support in pricing.

Consider the arithmetic of politics. Over 70 per cent of the populace and hence the biggest voter base lives in rural India. Shorn of technical definitions, 133 million households live on a monthly income of roughly `5,000.

Consider the arithmetic of economics. Growth is the outcome of consumption that drives job creation, creates incomes and fuels investment to accelerate job creation and incomes in a virtuous cycle. Unless agriculture is made viable, the aspiration for sustainable momentum will remain an aspiration.

Agriculture is not different from any business. The farmer requires operating capital, irrigation infrastructure, inputs, insurance coverage like any industry, connectivity and access to markets and a controls-free eco-system. Fact is, over half the farmers lack access to formal credit and live with usurious rates—there is much lament about farm loan waivers, but corporate loans are written off with impunity. Irrigation is essentially at the mercy of the rain gods.

Agriculture can be designed viable. How?
The Aadhar-based Jan Dhan accounts afford expansion of access—for credit, insurance and direct delivery of subsidies, and capital cost subvention. The idea of soil health tests and migration to drip irrigation systems can be on mission mode—just as it has been done in rural electrification.

The system of free power is really a regime of no power. This has led to disastrous fall in water levels as farmers are mining for water. Technology and innovation allow for flexible structures—for instance, for shifting farmers to metered power regime subsidised by a pre-paid recharge coupon  system. The online national agri-produce market—Amul II, I have argued for—is taking shape, but needs a deadline. Food inflation is largely about pulses and vegetables’ output—it calls for the Centre to push states to create special zones.

If there can be PPP for roads, airports and power, why not for agriculture? India needs to confront the ghosts and institute a template for contract farming with a regulator to ensure supply-demand predictability for farmers and consumers.

At the dawn of Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru famously observed “everything can wait but not agriculture”.
There is no disputing the inter-dependence—the need to make agriculture viable for a deep and robust economy.

 

 

Agriculture, GS-3, Uncategorized

Focus on reviving agriculture needed

Agriculture GDP:

  1. (-)0.2% in 2014-15
  2. 1% in 2015-16

 The distress in agriculture is due to two factors:

  1. The crash in global commodity prices
  2. Deficit rainfall for two years in a row
  3. 10 states have declared drought this year.

Forward and backward linkages :

Low agriculture growth also affects the prospects of manufacturing and services. For example, tractor sales have declined.

A two-pronged strategy is required:

  1. Raising productivity and incomes of farmers
  2. Climate-resilient agriculture

Increase in productivity:

  1. Investment in infrastructure such as irrigation, rural roads and electricity.
  2. Public investment in rural infrastructure is crucial.
  3. The PMKSY and RKVY are good initiatives.
  4. Water-use efficiency has to be increased.
  5. The use of drip irrigation should be encouraged.

Climate-resilient agriculture (CRA):

  1. Diversified cropping systems in view of climate-related risks.
  2. Crop insurance for risk mitigation: Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
  3. Research and extension systems.
  4. Reforms in fertilizer subsidies: These are overdue and subsidies should be directly given to farmers.
  5. Legalizing tenancy increase private investment in agriculture.
  6. Remunerative prices and development of markets: national agricultural market, an online platform for selling agricultural produce
  7. Farmer producer organizations (FPOs) have to be strengthened.

FPO:

FPO is one of the important initiatives taken by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation of the Ministry of Agriculture to mainstream the idea of promoting and strengthening member-based institutions of farmers.

As per the concept, farmers, who are the producers of agricultural products, can form groups and register themselves under the Indian Companies Act. These can be created both at State, cluster, and village levels. It is aimed at engaging the farmer companies to procure agricultural products and sell them.

Agriculture, GS-3, Science & Tech, Uncategorized

Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO): Developments and Concerns

What is GMO?

  • GMOs can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which thegenetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination
  • It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between non related species
  • Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods
  • Recently in India, GM mustard crop was introduced, which was later withdrawn. There is a raging debate going on advantages and disadvantages of GMOs
  • For a long time, further study was requested by farmers, environmentalist on GMO crops

<Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is a body under the Environment Ministry that regulates the use of genetically modified organisms>

Why are GM foods produced?

  • GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantageeither to the producer or consumer of these foods
  • This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both
  • Initially GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers and have concentrated on innovations that bring direct benefit to farmers (and food industry generally)
  • One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection

What really is India’s recently developed GM mustard?

  • A team of scientists at Delhi University led by former vice-chancellor Deepak Pental has bred DMH-11, a genetically modified (GM) mustard hybrid
  • Hybrids are normally obtained by crossing two genetically diverse plants from thesame species
  • The first-generation offspring resulting from it has higher yields than what either of the parents is individually capable of giving
  • But there is no natural hybridisation system in mustard, unlike in, say, cotton, maize or tomato
  • What team has done is, that they have created a viable hybridisation system in mustardusing GM technology
  • The resulting GM mustard hybrid, it is claimed, gives 25-30% more yield than the best varieties such as ‘Varuna’ currently grown in the country

Is there a need, in the first place, for developing a mustard hybrid?

  • In 2014-15, India imported 14.5 million tonnes of edible oils valued at $10.5 billion
  • With the country’s own annual edible oil production stuck at below 7.5 million tonnes, of which mustard’s share is roughly a quarter
  • So, there is need to raise domestic crop yields and cut dependence on imports
  • Hybrid technology is a potential technique to boost yields, as has been successfully demonstrated in a host of crops

What are the environmental risks?

  • GMOs contaminate forever. GMOs cross pollinate and their seeds can travel far and wide
  • It is impossible to fully clean up our contaminated gene pool
  • Genetic engineering allows plants to survive high doses of weed killers, resulting in higher herbicide residues in our food
  • GMO crops are creating ‘super weeds’ and ‘super bugs,’ which can only be killed with more toxic poisons

Are there any advantages?

Insect Resistance

  • Some GMO foods have been modified to make them more resistant to insects and other pests
  • This means the amount of pesticide chemicals used on the plants are reduced, so their exposure to dangerous pesticides are also reduced

Stronger Crops

  • Another benefit that GM technology is believed to bring about is that crops can be engineered to withstand weather extremes and fluctuations,
  • This means that there will be good quality and sufficient yields even under a poor or severe weather condition

Environment Protection

GM crops often requires less time, tools and chemicals, and may help with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion and environmental pollution

More Nutritious Foods

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), some GM foods have been engineered to become more nutritious in terms of vitamin or mineral content.

Economic Benefits

  • Larger production leading to increased farm income, reduced poverty, low food prices and thus reduced hunger and malnutrition.
  • Besides new food products are also included, diversifying food varieties

Then, Why has there been so much concern about GM foods among some public interest groups, activists and consumers?

  • Since the first introduction on the market in the mid-1990s of a major GM food(herbicide-resistant soybeans), there has been concern about such food among activists and consumers, especially in Europe
  • In fact, public attention has focused on the risk side of the risk-benefit equation, often without distinguishing between potential environmental impacts and public health effects of GMOs
  • Consumers have questioned the validity of risk assessments, both with regard to consumer health and environmental risks, focusing particulary on long-term effects
  • Consumer concerns have triggered a discussion on the desirability of labeling GM foods, allowing for an informed choice of consumers

What further developments can be expected in the area of GMOs?

  • GM organisms are likely to include plants with improved resistance against plantdisease or drought, crops with increased nutrient levels, fish species with enhanced growth characteristics
  • For non-food use, they may include plants or animals producing pharmaceuticallyimportant proteins such as new vaccines