Monday, January 3, 2011

AgriUpdate 2010, the year that was....

Ayyappan got the reign of ICAR (1 January, 2010)

Dr S. Ayyappan, the most coveted authority on Fisheries sector and the former Deputy Director General (Fisheries) for a long duration has been crowned with Director General of ICAR & Secretary, DARE. He has followed the designated post after Mangala Rai retires on December last year.

Bt Brinjal halted by Jairam

Year 2010 witnessed, strong comeback story of Bt, with Environment Minister Sh. Jairam Ramesh putting an indefinite moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal, in view of lack of consensus among the farm fraternity and non-readiness of general public for the acceptance of Bt Brinjal and their apprehensions about multitude of issues involving health risks and environmental threats. The not much sought decision came after conducting public consultation and debate among the stakeholders in 5 cities of country (9 February, 2010). Whole episode and month long hearing seen large amount of hues&cries and confrontations among supporters and the anti-groups, and even the ministries, particularly the Environment&Forest, Agri and Science&Tech drawing flaks on one-another, which surely become a good reason for TRPs to the electronic media and meaty material for the print media, which the farm sector was derided since a long.

PK Basu takes charge as Agriculture Secretary to the GOI

Prabeer Kumar Basu, has taken charge as Secretary, Agriculture & Cooperation on 2nd March, 2010. He replaces Shri T. Nanda Kumar who retired from service on February 28, 2010 on superannuation. Mr. Basu is 1976 batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre. He served in various capacities in the Government of Bihar during his tenure, particularly in Finance, Industries, Agriculture & Cooperation and Energy. He was appointed Additional Secretary in the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation from March, 2007 to November, 2009 before being elevated as Special Secretary in the Ministry from November, 2009.

Agriculture loans exceed target by 13% in FY10

Agricultural credit flow by cooperative and public sector banks exceeded the target by 13 per cent in 2009-10. The flow of credit to the agriculture sector increased significantly and banks have surpassed the target by extending Rs 3,67,000 crore worth of loan to farmers. The farm credit was extended to as many as 4.82 crore farmers last year and banks gave crop loan to 91 lakh new farmers. According to official data, public sector banks lent Rs 2,75,000 crore of farm credit, while co-operative and RRBs loaned Rs 58,000 crore and Rs 34,000 crore respectively.

Land acquisition in a trouble

Land acquisition has never been in such controversy in the country, as in the recent years, which even forced the giant corporate houses like, TATA, Vedanta and POSCO to rollback their projects. It has also witnessed the adamant approach of Environment&Forest ministry joining the anti-groups of NGOs.

Rohtas Mal appointed as President – TMA

Mr. Rohtash Mal, ED&CEO, Agri Machinery Group, Escorts Ltd., has been appointed President of the Tractor Manufacturer Association (TMA) for 2010-2011. Mr. Mal succeeds Mr. Anjanikumar Choudhari, President-Mahindra. Mr. Mal graduated from the IIT, Delhi, and is an alumnus of IIM-Calcutta. Before joining Escorts Agri Machinery Group in 2007, he worked with the Bharti Group for over six years and for two years as the CEO of their agri-business.

Photosynthesis is now possible in petri dish too

In a major breakthrough, team of scientists at University of Cincinnati, Ohio has produced sugar from solar energy, using plant, bacterial, frog and fungal enzymes. They have focused on making an artificial photosynthetic material, which uses plant, frog, fungal enzymes and bacteria, trapped within a foam housing, to make sugar from sunlight and carbon dioxide. This technology establishes an economical way of harnessing the physiology of living systems by creating a new generation of functional materials that intrinsically incorporates life processes into its structure. These revolutionary findings about this latest photosynthetic technique have been published in the Nano Letters Journal.

Pawar’s power play

Sharad Pawar, the not so pleased minister with his current portfolio issues such unwarranted statements that ire the senses of common man and in cases, judiciary’s too. Either in the times of drought, flood, food inflation, Bt Brinjal moratorium, grains rotting or, farmers’ suicide, he looked much helpless. In a bizarre move he has been elected as the ICC chief, please do not confuse it with any agriculture or, farmers’ organization; it is World cricket governing body, International Cricket Council. But, here the million dollar question is, what an acting agri minister doing in the cricket pitch, when reform on many of the fronts in the farm sector is still in wait of its field day, taking a huge toll on the food production and the farmers’ very livelihood.

Nutrient based Fertilizer Subsidy implemented

After a great lull and long time demand from the Fertiliser Industry, Government has implemented the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) regime. The move is well considered to be in the direction of promoting the need based fertilizer application, streamlining the availability, regulating the prices and dumping of chemicals as witnessed across many of the irrigated rice bowls of India. The NBS regime was implemented with effect from 1st April, 2010.

Normal monsoon recorded in 2010

A good well spread monsoon across India, except Eastern parts has excited farmers, policy makers and other stakeholders for a buoyant economy.

IARI fee hike episode

In an uncalled for dramatic event, India’s premier Agricultural School, IARI & other Deemed Institutes under ICAR proposed almost 900% (more than 12 times) fee hike (from Rs 6,000 to 67,000 per semester) in their tuition fee, which came as surprise to all. But, at last ICAR pacified and latter rolled back the unprecedented hike after students gone for strikes and no work motion for continuous 3 days.

Rasi started exclusive Hybrid Vegetables Division ‘HyVeg’

Rasi Seed, one of the biggest cotton seed producers has made a foray into hybrid vegetables, with the Seminis man and well known authority in Indian Vegetable Seeds sector, Dr Arvind Kapur joining his team as CEO of the Hybrid Division and its corporate office is based at Gurgaon.

Amarjit Singh Nanda joins as Animal Husbandry Commissioner to GOI

Dr Amarjit Singh Nanda, director of research, GADVASU, Ludhiana, has joined as animal husbandry commissioner of India, the highest post in the field of animal production and health in India. Dr Amarjit Singh Nanda, director of research, GADVASU, Ludhiana, has joined as animal husbandry commissioner of India, the highest post in the field of animal production and health in India.

Anjani Kumar Chaudhary quits M&M

After a tenure spanning a decade at the Mahindra Group, the last five of which were spent leading the Farm Equipment Sector as President, Mr. Anjanikumar Choudhari retired from his role on March 31, 2010. Dr. Pawan Goenka, President - Automotive Sector, assumed the additional responsibility of the Farm Equipment Sector, and re-designated as the President - Automotive and Farm Equipment Sectors with effect from April 1, 2010.

NMMI launched

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the implementation of the existing Micro Irrigation Scheme (MIS) as the National Mission on Micro Irrigation (NMMI) during the 11th Plan period with an outlay of Rs.8032.90 crore, of which Rs.3409.26 crore will be contributed by the Central government, comprising 40% subsidy for general farmers and 50% subsidy for small and marginal farmers. This Mission will result in 2.85 million hectare to be brought under micro irrigation; savings in use of irrigation water, fertilizer and electricity; increase in production and productivity of crops.

IVRI awarded best SAU award

Among the State Agricultural Universities and Deemed Universities, the Best Institution Award for 2010 has gone to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar. The major accomplishments of the IVRI include recognition of High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), Bhopal, as OIE approved reference laboratory, seventh in the world, for highly pathogenic avian influenza diagnosis. The awards were given on the ICAR Foundation day celebrated every year on 16th July.

Drought haunts eastern India

Severe monsoon failure in the Eastern parts of the country hit the agricultural production in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam and Eastern Uttar Pradesh. This caused a state of dilemma for the region’s farmers, as till recently these parts is known to receive more than sufficient rainfall and promises to be the seat of the 2nd Green revolution, which is blessed with highly fertile alluvium soil of Gangetic belt and enough surface irrigation resources.

Escorts win Indian Tractor Industry’s largest order

India’s leading tractor manufacturer, Escorts Ltd., set a new benchmark by winning Indian tractor Industry’s largest ever deal for tractors, valued at Rs 185 cr. by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. Escorts has been chosen to supply 1430 units of its premium range of powerful ‘Farmtrac’ tractors to Tanzania which is implementing a national ‘Food Sufficiency Programme’ aimed at making it a food surplus country.

Moderate hike for Wheat MSP, as Pulses get more

GOI, on the recommendation of CACP revised the MSP for wheat, rice and pulses. There was a marginal hike of Rs 20 a quintal in the support price of wheat to Rs 1,120, but the prices of masoor and gram dals have been raised sharply by up to Rs 380 a quintal to encourage farmers to grow more. There is also an increase in mustard MSP by Rs 20 to Rs 1,850 per quintal. Safflower MSP has gone up to Rs 1,800 from Rs 1680 a quintal. Barley MSP has been increased to Rs 780 from Rs 750 per quintal.

Food rotting reported all over

Thousands of tonnes of foodgrain found rotting in the FCI godowns across the country due to apathetic

attitude of the concerned authorities and lack of storage space. Even the SC has lambasted the Food &

Civil Supply ministry over the issue and asked the Ministry to freely distribute the foodgrains lying outside the godowns but Agri ministry, Govt and PM refuted for the same.

M&M institutes Agriculture Awards

Mahindra & Mahindra, the largest tractor manufacturer and supplier has started the Samriddhi Awards for honouring the Indian farmers. The awards would be given under six categories to farmers, agro-entrepreneurs an agro based industries for delivering farm prosperity through their involvement in various links of agri value chain which help the farmers to maximize the value they create.

Borloug Institute to be established in Bihar

After ICRISAT another International Institute got a place over the Indian map, with the proposal of establishment of Norman Borloug Institute at PUSA, Bihar. The state is now in a mood of jubilation on announcement of establishment of the new internationally acclaimed institute known as the Borlaug International Institute which is famous for its study of Green Revolution and its after-effects. This Institute will function under a determined quality staff from Mexico.

Controversies hover over Seed Bill

Seed Bill caught into controversy over issues of mandatory registration of varieties which was previously voluntary, GM crops regulation, compensation mechanism and more stakes for private sector at the cost of farmers. Many states are demanding for the inclusion of price control mechanism in the proposed bill.

Food Security Act; still a farsighted dream

Food Security Bill caught into hold due to various reasons of faulty enumeration in BPL families and planning commission’s reluctance to budge over giving it a green card. It is speculated by most of the people and policy makers that UPA-2 is knowingly delaying it, to use its credit for incumbent govt. on election time to reap over the benefits of the same, alike MNREGA and loan waiver, which become the lifeline for the UPA-2.

NBRAI all set to get a nod from Govt

The much-awaited National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill (NBRA Bill) could not make it to the parliament for its final nod this time too, as the parliament ended its winter session without passing a Bill. NBRAI was much talked mainly due to the Bt Brinjal episode involving infighting between different ministries with their differing views and agendas over the same.

ASRB goes pre and mains

Year 2010 seen much awaited reforms in the recruitment process of Agricultural scientists, as the pattern of selection from a single exam has moved to 2 stages, with ASRB conducting first pre and only the qualified candidates sitting for mains. Ultimately, the interview assures the final candidature of the aspiring farm scientists, which in turn of results gets recommended to be inducted into the prestigious services.

NDRI cloned male buffalo calf “Shresth”

National Dairy Research Institute, NDRI, Karnal has achieved yet another feat by successfully cloning a male buffalo calf named ‘Shresth’. Scientists of N.D.R.I Karnal made this achievement during early hours today through the new and advanced ‘Hand-guided Cloning Technique’. The hand-guided cloning technique developed at NDRI, is an advanced modification of the “Conventional Cloning Technique”. Earlier the NDRI has produced the world’s first cloned buffalo calf on 6th February, 2009 followed by second on June 6, 2009 and third on August 22, 2010.

RBI divested its 50 % share in NABARD

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on October 30, 2010 divested its 71.5% stake in National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), to the government, bringing down its holding in the bank to 1%. The stake transfer has been valued at Rs 1,430 crore. Following this, the government stake in the development financial institution has gone up to 99%. The move is in line with the Indian central bank’s strategy to bring down its holding in the development finance institutions and pass on the majority control to the government.

India explores Chinese way of storing grains

In the view of growing resentment among the masses and the apex court from the reports of spoilage and wastage of lakhs of tonnes of food grains in FCI godowns across the country, Ministry of Food Distribution and Civil supplies gone into the serious action mode and decided to expand the existing capacity of available storage spaces with the procurement agencies. Regarding the same, Minister of State for Agriculture, Food distribution and Civil Supplies, Prof. Thomas and other concerned authorities made a quick trip to China to learn the expertise on modern grain storage techniques from the neighbouring country.

Kapil Mehan joins Coromandal Int’l

Coromandel International has appointed Mr Kapil Mehan, Tata Chemicals former executive director, as the managing director of the firm on 19th October, 2010. Mr Mehan would replace Mr V Ravichandran, who resigned. Mr. Mehan joined Coromandel as Chief Executive Officer on September 20, 2010. Earlier in 2003, he has worked as Chief Operating Officer of Coromandel's fertiliser business. He is a graduate in Veterinary Science from PAU, Ludhiana and also holds postgraduate diploma in management from IIMA.

Natural Rubber prices to remain tight in 2011

Increasing demand from rubber manufacturers coupled with stagnant production could lead to a shortage of upto 5 lakh tonnes in the country in the next 5 years time. Country’s rubber supplies peak October-January, but this year unseasonal rains have been hindering tapping. India, world 4th largest producer is likely to produce around 8, 50,000 tonnes of natural rubber in 2010-11, down 4.8% from the earlier estimate of 8, 93,000 tonnes, after heavy unseasonal rains affected tapping. So, in the view of increasing demand and unfavoured production conditions, the global prices are bound to fly the sky.

4th Indian Horticulture Congress concluded

Under the leadership of Dr KL Chadha, Horticultural Society of India (HIS) in association with Skill Foundation of India (SFI) organised 4 day long International Horticultural Congress at New Delhi. The event also witnessed a Horticulture Expo with the presence from many of the stakeholders from both the public and private sectors.

Harder days ahead for MFIs

After much hype and hoopla, Micro Finance sector reached to its low with much of the revelations about the operations and fraudulent dealings with naïve small and marginal famers, particularly the women. To regulate the same, first time in the country, Andhra Pradesh has come up with a bill to monitor the Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) which are under scanner for allegedly imposing exorbitant interest rates and coercive loan recovery methods. The legislation, if passed without any amendments, would spell doom for the microfinance industry.

Unseasonal rains caused havoc

The untimely rains in November-December months have affected crops and livelihood in the entire central, southern and western parts of the country. Though, no estimated data has been released by the state governments, losses worth many crores have incurred due to the unseasonal deluge. These rains have just shot up the prices of many of the commodities in the market. The worst affected crops are paddy, onion and grapes.

US bullying India

US pressing India hard on the wide ranging issues of FDI investment and opening the Indian market for the MNCs and US based companies, Monsanto and Wallmart. Since the Diwali time visit of the US Head Barack Obama, States officials have issued many of the contradictory statements, including hitting of the Indo-US relations and Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture (KIA), which has fruited least to the benefit of both the nations even after its much talked launch and aspirations out of that.

Dow Agro Chemicals facing ban

Dow Agro Sciences India Ltd. faces ban on purchasing of chemicals in India, following its persistent refusal to respond to show-cause notices over charges of bribery. CBI had recommended for blacklisting the firm as it was found guilty of bribing government official for pushing three substandard pesticides.

International Parthenium Congress 2010

3rd International Parthenium Congress held on December 8 – 10, 2010 at New Delhi under the patronship of Dr RS Paroda and Dr. M. Mahadevappa. This year’s conference theme was “Integrated Management of Parthenium linked hazards to plant, human and animal health for sustainable Biodiversity”, as the weed has attained a national status in several countries including India.

Jairam’s Climate change(d) stand

Today, as everyone is facing the brunt of the climate change and India is one among the victim of the naturally happening man-made catastrophe. But as per the earlier policy of GOI and Environment ministry, the view of India was to go for emission cuts purely on voluntary basis, rather than the changed view of Mr Ramesh, on the basis of growth equity and in accordance with common but differentiated responsibilities in their respective capabilities. The stand is clear deviation from earlier ones and no binding clause, so, astonishing everyone for the same and ask for Environ Minister come clear on the same from the Cancun. Developed nations have already caused much harm to the fragile environment but always blaming the underdeveloped economies for all the global woes. But due to widespread pressure from the league of developed economies, the policy seems to have change its course.

UP mega Food Scam

In the season of scams, another mega scam joins the league with the amount exceeding Rs 25,000 crores in many of the districts of Uttar Pradesh. CBI, the investigating agency in the case is expected to register more than 5,000 FIRs across the state, wherein lakhs of tonnes of food grains means to be distributed for BPL and economically weaker section of the society siphoned to other states and even to the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Sanjaya Rajaram awarded with 5th Dr. MS Swaminathan award

Dr Sanjay Rajaram, the renowned Wheat Breeder and World Food Prize laureate has been bestowed with 5th Dr MS Swaminathan Award. He is currently heading the wheat improvement programme of CIMMYT, Mexico after the demise of Dr Borloug. He is involved in the development of more than 450 wheat varieties at CIMMYT during his three decade old association with the premier institute. Earlier the award has been given to likes of Norman E. Borloug, GS Khush, SK Vasal and Rattan Lall for their unmatched service to the farmers and agriculture at global level.

Onion does it again

The powerful Onion is again back in news, with its skyrocketing retail prices, in the view of heavy losses incurred mainly due to the untimed rains in western and southern parts of India (including in regions of Nashik, Pune and Gujarat, the main onion producing and exporting centres). But the noxious role of arthiyas and other middlemen are also to be blamed for the same. Government forced to ban the exports and import Onions from Pakistan to check the prices and it was under control within two weeks but still it is unaffordable for many, as it is touching Rs 50 per kg.

Cotton; export check in the times of bumper harvest

Even as country is heading towards record cotton production this year over a good monsoon. The govt., agri and commerce ministry is still to solve the riddle of surplus production and its utilization/ trade. Most of the farm commodities are stored in open, they are found to get rot, in view of any rains/ or, natural and man-made disaster. Gujarat has only estimated some lakh crores of loss due to this inaction, leaving aside the unreported losses spread across cotton growing states.

Satisfactory agriculture growth in 2010

Riding on a strong performance by the agriculture and services sectors, the Indian economy posted a better than expected growth rate of 8.9 per cent for the second quarter of 2010-11. The farm sector grew 4.4 percent from a year earlier due to a good monsoon and a low base effect, up from 0.9 percent in the corresponding quarter a year ago. The recovery in agriculture is likely to have a positive impact on rural demand in the coming quarters and maintain the positive momentum in the economy.

India opposes to global call for the ban on the usage of Endosulfan

India, the largest producer and consumer of Endosulfan has opposed the global ban of the ill-fated chemical, after much dramatised events of anti-pesticide lobby groups documented and presented many cooked data and stories of health and environmental impacts of the same, mainly in the cashew plantations of Kasargod district of Kerala in the view of its rampant use. Indian side has clarified its stand of not favouring the move to ban the pesticide in lack of any strong evidence and review done by several committees, declaring Endosulfan as safe for both human beings and ecology.

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