Thursday, May 19, 2011


Inter-state Horti Fair

27-30 May, 2011

Agri Pavilion, Nr Gate No. 2, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi

National Horticulture Board (NHB)

ICAR – Industry Meet 2011

23rd May , 2011

A.P. Shinde Symposium Hall, NASC
National Agriculture Science Center(NASC) Complex
Dev Prakash Shastri Marg
New Delhi - 110012

Chief Guest
Shri Sharad Pawar, Union Minister of Agriculture & Food Processing Industries

Guest of Honor
Shri Harish Rawat, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing

Key Speakers
• Dr. S Ayyappan, Secretary, DARE and Director General, ICAR
• Shri P K Basu, Secretary, DAC, Govt of India
• Shri Rakesh Bharati Mittal, Chairman,
CII National Council on Agriculture and VC & MD Bharti Enterprises Ltd.
• Shri Salil Singhal, Chairman, CII NCA & CMD P I Industries Ltd.
• Dr. S Mauria, Assistant Director General, Intellectual Property & Technology Management

R Vaidyanathan
Confederation of Indian Industry
India Habitat Centre, 4th Floor
Core 4A, Lodi Road
New Delhi - 110 003
Tel.: 011- 24682230-35 Ext-252
Fax: 011-24682226
Email :

Monday, May 16, 2011

The wheat mountains of the Punjab

M.S. Swaminathan

The arrival of large quantities of wheat in the grain markets of the Punjab-Haryana region is a heart-warming sight, while poor storage is a matter of national shame.

It was in April-May 1968, that the country witnessed the wonderful spectacle of large arrivals of wheat grain in the mandis of Punjab like Moga and Khanna. Wheat production in the country rose to nearly 17 million tonnes that year, from the previous best harvest of 12 million tonnes. Indira Gandhi released a special stamp titled “Wheat Revolution” in July 1968, to mark this new phase in our agricultural evolution. The nation rejoiced at our coming out of a “ship to mouth” existence. Later in 1968, Dr. William Gaud of the U.S. referred to the quantum jumps in production brought about by semi-dwarf varieties of wheat and rice as a “green revolution.” This term has since come to symbolise a steep rise in productivity and, thereby, of production of major crops.

Wheat production this year may reach a level of 85 million tonnes, in contrast to the seven million tonnes our farmers harvested at the time of independence in 1947. I visited several grain mandis in Moga, Khanna, Khananon and other places in the Punjab during April 23-27, 2011 and experienced, concurrently, a feeling of ecstasy and agony. It was heart-warming to see the great work done by our farm men and women under difficult circumstances when, often, they had to irrigate the fields at night due to a lack of availability of power during the day. The cause of agony was the way the grains produced by farmers with loving care were being handled. The various State marketing agencies and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) are trying their best to procure and store the mountains of grains arriving every day. The gunny bags containing the wheat procured during April-May 2010, are still occupying a considerable part of the storage space available at several mandis. The condition of the grains of earlier years presents a sad sight. The impact of moisture on the quality of paddy is even worse. Malathion sprays and fumigation with Aluminium Sulphide tablets are used to prevent grain spoilage. Safe storage involves attention to both quantity and quality. Grain safety is as important as grain saving. Due to rain and relatively milder temperature, grain arrivals were initially slow, but have now picked up. For all concerned with the procurement, dispatch and storage of wheat grains in the Punjab-Haryana-Western U.P. region, which is the heartland of the green revolution, the task on hand is stupendous.

Farmers in Punjab contribute nearly 40 per cent of the wheat and 26 per cent of the rice needed to sustain the public distribution system. The legal entitlement to food envisaged under the proposed National Food Security Act cannot be implemented without the help of the farm families of Punjab, Haryana and other grain surplus areas. Farmers are currently facing serious problems during production and post-harvest phases of farming due to inadequate investment in farm machinery and storage infrastructure. The investment made and steps taken to ensure environmentally sustainable production and safe storage and efficient distribution of grains will determine the future of both agriculture in Punjab and national food security.

On the production side, the ecological foundations essential for sustainable food production are in distress. There is an over-exploitation of the aquifer and nearly 70 per cent of irrigated area shows a negative water balance. The quality of the water is also deteriorating due to the indiscriminate use of pesticides and mineral fertilizer. Over 50,000 ha of crop land in the south-west region of Punjab are affected by water logging and salinisation. Deficiencies of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Zinc are affecting 66, 48 and 22 per cent of soils in Punjab respectively. No wonder factor productivity, i.e., return from a unit of input, is going down. Unless urgent steps are taken to convert the green revolution into an ever-green revolution leading to the enhancement of productivity in perpetuity without associated ecological harm, both agriculture in Punjab and our public distribution system will be in danger. Worried about the future fate of farming as a profession, the younger generation is unwilling to follow in the footsteps of their parents and remain on the farm. This is the greatest worry. If steps are not taken to attract and retain youth in farming, the older generation will have no option but to sell land to real estate agents, who are all the time tempting them with attractive offers. Global prices of wheat, rice and maize are almost 50 per cent higher than the minimum support price paid to our farmers. Our population is now over 1.2 billion and we can implement a sustainable and affordable food security system only with home-grown food.

A disturbing finding of Census-2011 is the deteriorating sex ratio in the Punjab-Haryana region. The female-male ratio among children has come to its lowest point since independence. Already, women are shouldering a significant portion of farm work. If the current trends of youth migrating from villages coupled with a drop in the sex ratio continue, agricultural progress will be further endangered. The prevailing preference for a male child is in part due to the fear of farm land going out of a family's control, when the girl child gets married. I hope the loss of interest in taking to farming as a profession among male youth will remove the bias in favour of male children. I foresee an increasing feminisation of agriculture in the green revolution areas. While the drop in the sex ratio should be halted, steps are also needed to intensify the design, manufacture and distribution of women friendly farm machinery.

Tasks ahead: The first task is to defend the gains already made in improving the productivity and production of wheat, rice, maize and other crops. For the purpose of providing the needed technologies, it will be advisable to set up soon a Multi-disciplinary Research and Training Centre for Sustainable Agriculture at the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. This centre can be organised under the National Action Plan for the Management of Climate Change developed under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister, which includes a Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. Such a centre should initiate a Land and Water Care Movement in the Punjab in association with the farming community. The other urgent task is the promotion of appropriate changes in land use. Over 2.7 million ha are now under rice leading to the unsustainable exploitation of the ground water. Our immediate aim should be to find alternative land use for about a million ha under rice. This will be possible only if farmers can get income similar to that they are now earning from rice. Possible alternative crops will be maize and arhar (Pigeon pea). Quality Protein Maize will fetch a premium price from the poultry industry which is fast growing in the Punjab. Arhar being a legume will also enrich soil fertility as well as soil physical properties. Other high value but low water requiring crops like pulses and oilseeds can also be promoted. At the same time, there could be diversified basmati rice production in over a million ha. In addition to Pusa Basmati 1121 which occupies the largest area now, Pusa Basmati-I (1460) and Pusa Basmati 6 (1401) can be promoted. These have resistance to bacterial leaf blight. Varietal diversity will reduce genetic vulnerability to pests and diseases.

For handling the over 26 million tonnes of wheat which will be purchased during this season, a four-pronged strategy may be useful. First, distribution through railway wagons could be expanded and expedited. One wagon can handle 2,500 tonnes. Currently 30,000 to 40,000 tonnes of wheat are being dispatched each day through wagons. With advanced planning, this quantity can be raised to over 1 lakh tonnes per day. They can be dispatched to different States for meeting the needs of PDS, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), School Noon Meal Programme, Annapoorna, etc. Second, the present Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and godown storage systems can be improved with a little more investment and planning. In Punjab there are 146 mandis and 1,746 Purchase Points. They could be grouped and their infrastructure improved. Third, storage in modern silos, like the one put up at Moga by Adani Agri-logistics, and another one coming up in Amritsar, should be promoted. This will help to adopt an end- to-end system from the point of view of procurement, cleaning, quality assurance, safe storage and distribution. The cost of building silos to store a million tonnes of food grains may be about Rs.600 crore, if the required land is made available by state governments. An investment of about Rs.10,000 crore would help to establish a grid of modern grain storages with a capacity for storing, in good condition, over 15 million tonnes in the Punjab-Haryana-Western U.P. region. Lastly, export options can be explored after taking steps to make food available to the hungry, as suggested by the Supreme Court. Also, we should ensure that adequate food grains will be available for implementing the proposed Food Security Act. Export should be done only if the global food prices are attractive and if the profit made is distributed as bonus to our farmers, as suggested by the National Commission on Farmers.

It is time that we organise a National grid of grain storages, starting with storage at the farm level in well designed bins and extending to rural godowns and regional ultra-modern silos. Post harvest losses can then be minimised or even eliminated and food safety ensured. Unless the prevailing mismatch between production and post-harvest technologies is ended, neither the producer nor the consumer will derive full benefit from bumper harvests.

( M.S. Swaminathan is Chairman, MSSRF, and Member of Parliament of the Rajya Sabha.)

Harvest the agriculture theme for profits

Aarati Krishnan

While there are several options for investors wanting to go with the ‘agro' theme, makers of agricultural inputs present a particularly ripe opportunity.

Even as India's population burgeoned by 17 per cent in the last 10 years, its farm output expanded at just half that rate. Despite growing demand for food, the land devoted to agriculture has dwindled in the last 20 years.

With extra money to spend, Indians are including more pulses, milk and meat in their diet, but the output of these products is simply unable to keep pace. There's not much you can do about all these alarming trends. However, you can hedge yourself and make money off them, by owning stocks that play on the agriculture theme.

The money is in agro-inputs

While there are several options in the listed space for investors wanting to green their portfolio with the ‘agro' theme, makers of agricultural inputs present a particularly ripe opportunity owing to three factors. For one, earnings for such manufacturers tend to be less volatile than those for agro-commodity companies, which are subject to the vagaries of weather and commodity price swings.

Two, companies manufacturing agricultural inputs are a better way to play on the “rural consumption” story than FMCGs, two-wheelers or retailers. Rural incomes have, in recent years, been rising fast on the back of large hikes in support prices for key food crops and social schemes such as the NREGA. However, aren't rural folk likely to plough back their higher income into quality seeds, fertilisers and other farm inputs, ahead of looking to splurge on shampoos, skin creams or SUVs?

Three, the markets for agro inputs feature relatively few listed players, making for fairly strong companies that dominate each segment. Scanning the listed universe yields 93 sugar makers and 155 tea processors, but only 20-odd fertiliser makers, 13 large manufacturers of pesticide and three companies producing seeds.

If the above points have convinced you to invest in the agri theme, here's what you should look for.

Fertilisers: More friendly policy

Fertiliser stocks have begun figuring in the portfolios of institutional investors in the past year, after being cold-shouldered for many years. And why not?

Despite whimsical monsoons in this period, the ten leading listed fertiliser makers delivered a 16 per cent compounded annual growth rate in profits and a jump of 12 per cent in sales over the past three years.

Prospects for companies in the sector have turned brighter on the widening gap between domestic demand and output of fertilisers and greater affordability as farm product prices have galloped ahead of fertiliser selling prices. There has also been a decided shift from a fluid to a facilitative policy environment.

Phosphatic and complex fertilisers have been moved to a nutrient-based subsidy scheme, prompt cash disbursals of subsidy have replaced delayed payments by way of bonds and the subsidy element is also being dynamically benchmarked to global prices.

The higher earnings visibility has been duly noted in the markets and fertiliser stocks have been marked up to double digit PE multiples.

From here, fertiliser stocks may not turn out to be multi-baggers, but they still offer scope for healthy gains given that valuations (average PE of 10 times trailing earnings) are still at a big discount to the broader market.

So if you are looking to add fertiliser stocks to your portfolio, which ones should you buy? One, the phosphatic and complex fertiliser makers appear more attractive for a 2-3 year time-frame than the urea-makers.

The current policy stress on balanced fertiliser use means that Indian farmers need to replace some of their urea application with phosphatic and complex fertilisers, which means stronger demand prospects for the latter.

A sure indication of the unsatisfied demand for complex fertilisers comes from the 33 per cent shortfall between their domestic output and consumption, which is met by imports (the gap is 20 per cent for urea).

Two, players with strategic tie-ups for sourcing of inputs or, better still, those integrated backwards into production of feedstock (natural gas, rock phosphate and phosphoric acid) may be better placed to hold on to margins.

With the nitrogen component in fertilisers directly linked to the crude oil price table, raw material volatility is likely to punish margins, particularly as the industry moves from a cost-plus subsidy to a flat subsidy regime.

Three, the producers with the lowest costs (that come from scale and procurement advantages) are likely to emerge the winners as the policymakers take baby steps towards decontrolling fertiliser prices.

Agrochemicals: Thriving through diversification

With no pricing controls, a thriving market in contract manufacture of ingredients and quick adoption of new brands by Indian farmers, Indian agrochemical makers have been in a sweet spot in recent times.

That reflects in the really strong 26 per cent CAGR in sales and profits managed by the clutch of 14 leading agrochemical companies in the past three years.

The PE multiples of agrochemical companies, however, haven't improved across the board. The re-rating in this segment has been confined to two sets of players. One, the Indian arms of multinational companies such as BASF and Bayer CropScience that have recorded scorching growth mainly by building good brands and products targeted at lucrative niches and crops.

Two, very large Indian players such as United Phosphorus and Rallis India, which accelerated growth by diversifying across crops and regions.

While United Phosphorus has aggressively expanded exports by using its low-cost manufacturing strengths and acquiring products overseas, Rallis has leveraged its extensive distribution reach in India, rapidly diversifying its domestic product by churning out new formulations.

A third set of Indian agrochemical companies have notched up strong growth by contract manufacturing and supplying products to the huge global market for off-patent agrochemicals. These stocks continue to languish at single digit PEs, as they are perceived as commodity plays; but may hold scope for gains linked to profit growth as well as expansion in valuations.

Investors in agrochemical stocks, however, should look to avoid just one key risk — that of concentration. While concentration in one or two products exposes earnings to the risk of a ban or phase-out of that particular product (endosulfan, for instance), concentration on a crop (for example, cotton), makes earnings vulnerable to technological advancements. The dent created by Bt cotton in the demand for insecticides have forced many agrochemical makers to scramble and diversify into other target crops.

Friday, May 6, 2011

CII Recommendations on Agriculture and Food Laws

A CII team, led by Mr Rakesh Bharti Mittal, Chairman,CII National Council on Agriculture, and Vice Chairman & MD, Bharti Enterprises, met Mr Sharad Pawar, Union Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries, on 24 March in New Delhi, with suggestions to revitalize the Food Processing and Agriculture Sector, deepen private sector engagement and raise farmer income.

Some of the key CII recommendations were:

· Broaden the definition of agriculture produce to include processed food products, to ensure that products of the food processing industry would get the same benefits as fresh produce.

· Remove the cap in priority sector lending, by including all advances to the Agriculture & Food Processing Industry across the value chain in the category of Direct Agri Priority Sector Lending (PSL), without any limitation on the size of investment in plant and machinery.

· Nil Goods and Service Tax (GST) on food processing will also help to curb unnecessary food inflation.

· Exempt fruits, vegetables and other perishables from the APMC Act and also give farmers the freedom to sell directly to food processing companies / aggregators /processors etc in addition to selling through government or private mandis etc. This will help reduce wastage.

· The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) needs to ensure that the Food Safety and Standard Act is implemented soon to ensure food safety and quality.

Mr Pawar said that revitalizing the food processing sector is a high priority issue, and assured CII that the recommendations would be considered by the Ministry.

Mr. PK Basu, Secretary, Agriculture and Cooperation, and Mr Ashok Sinha, Secretary, Food Processing Industries, were also present at the interaction.

Food Laws & Regulatory Issues

CII presented recommendations on Food Laws and regulatory issues to Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, in New Delhi on 24 March. The CII team was led by Mr Rakesh Bharti Mittal. The key recommendations were:

· Implementation of the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) as soon as possible

· Enforcement of a single law (FSSA) governing all issues across the country, to avoid duplication of laws at the state level

· Ensure that all the scientific committees and panels meet frequently

· Provide adequate transition time to industry, especially SMEs, for implementing the new requirements

· FSSAI could establish an Institutional Advisory Body (an independent body) consisting of representatives from the industry, whose views are necessarily considered by the scientific panel, since they are the most important stakeholders in the entire process

· Harmonization of food standards with international laws such as Codex, EU, USFDA, etc.

· Schedule 4 of ‘Licensing on Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) / Good Hygiene Practices

(GHP)’ may be issued as guidelines.

Mr Azad assured CII that:

· FSS Rules and Regulations would be notified at the earliest

· FSS Rules and Regulations would subsume all other state laws

· Adequate transition time will be given to industry to comply with the new requirements under the FSS Regulations

· The Scientific Panels should meet at least once in two months, or more frequently, to clear the backlog.

Indo-US Cooperation in Agriculture

CII, in partnership with the US-India Business Council (USIBC) organized a roundtable on ‘Indo-US cooperation across the Agriculture Value Chain’ on 30 March in New Delhi. Mr Paul Conway, Senior Vice President, Cargill Inc, and leader of the USIBC Food & Agriculture Mission, said that US companies doing business in India need to need to understand agriculture at the state level, and engage at this level, to rejuvenate agriculture in India. Mr G C Pati, Additional Secretary, Agriculture, expressed the hope that the two countries could collaborate to eventually open up a completely new frontier of economic development,by unleashing an enormous amount of value-creation based

Food Security through Sustainable Agriculture

CII organized an interactive session on Achieving Food Security through Sustainable Agriculture,’ on 3 March in New Delhi. Attaining food security is becoming a major challenge which can be met only through proper and efficient use of technology localized for the particular area, said Mr Martin Taylor, Chairman,Syngenta AG. He pointed out that today we have technology to produce enough with the existing land holdings to feed the world in the coming years. However, the need is for proper dissemination of this technology. He felt that the extensive network of distributors, dealers and retailers on which the farmers depend to a great extent for advice, could serve as an efficient model for technology transfer. Dr Swapan Dutta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science), Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), said that the challenge ahead include production of quality seeds, efficient supply chains, a dynamic and flexible agri-policy, an efficient regulatory system and adequate investment for commissioned projects.

Mr Salil Singhal, Co-Chairman, CII National Council on Agriculture, and CMD, PI Industries Ltd, said that CII is actively working on various issues in agriculture in close collaboration with government bodies in order to rejuvenate Indian Agriculture and overcome food security concerns.

Long Live EndoSulfan !

There are many twists and turns in the story of Endosulfan global phase-out plan than merely the health and other environmental issues.

Endosulfan, one of the most effective and widely used broad spectrum pesticide, has been in use in Indian agriculture for not less than half a century. It has been recently making news with a lot of hues and cries about its possible role in causing malfunctions to human health and environment.

There were some reported cases of excessive use of endosulfan in Kasargod district of Kerala after years of aerial spraying in the region undertaken by Kerala Plantation Corporation Ltd. in cashew orchards, which is alleged to be the cause behind all the health related problems faced by the people of the region. According to Kerala government figures, there are 7,200 severely affected people, with over 25,000 people suffering the effects of this pesticide in other ways.

Kerala is hardly using 1% Endosulfan and 99% is used in other parts of India like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, and Gujarat. It is interesting to note that there are no reports of pesticide toxicity in other states, farmers, sprayers, and factory workers.

Endosulfan is presently banned in the states of Kerala and Karnataka, along with the ban in 60 other countries, including 27 EU member states and 21 countries in Africa. Strangely, none of the independent regulatory actions in many of these countries have been based on incidences of adverse human health.

The Endosulfan aerial spraying at the cashew plantation of Kasargod is taken up by Kerala Plantation Corporation at highly diluted concentration and faces a lot of air-drift. Here, large scale spraying is done by a public organisation, which is never supposed to go with higher levels of prescribed safety recommendations.

There are over 6000 workers employed in the manufacturing of Endosulfan in various plants of India. About 400 of these workers are employed in the Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL) plant at Eloor, Kochi. There is no report of Endosulfan toxicity among the workers, who used to be more exposed and vulnerable than the people getting affected from the residual effects of chemical sprays and groundwater. They used to work in the manufacturing facility since years without much sophisticated safety gadgets, that too, with direct exposure to highly concentrated dosage at the manufacturing stage. If any health hazards in the form of abortion, causing male infertility, genetic disorders, neural dysfunctions, etc. happen due to Endosulfan, as alleged by a few NGOs, they should be the first victims.

Generics vs Patented

Endosulfan is the world’s third largest selling generic insecticide and India is the world’s No. 1 producer and exporter of this pesticide with 80% of the global market, which accounts for about Rs 450 crore of its Rs 5,200 crore pesticide industry.

There are certain interest groups acting behind the scene which led to the misinformation and hatred against the pesticide, leading to the order of its slow phase-out at recently concluded UN’s Stockholm convention.

India is the leader in generics production and exports, but the MNCs are known for their patented molecules. But in a country like India, where affordability is the key factor for usage, the substitutes would cost dearly to Indian farmers and this will affect the production scenario.

Patented products are expensive and under the monopoly of few companies that can rule over the prices and manipulate the demand-supply to milk maximum benefit out of their products.

There is a clear trade war between the Indian companies, which are major in generic production, and multinationals, which now have the control over research molecules.

The key point to be noted here is that European Union was one of the strongest promoters of Endosulfan and has reaped immense benefits financially from the controversial chemical.

Chronology of events- Mere coincidence or Strategic plot?

  • In 2001, the European multinational decided to phase out Endosulfan.
  • In 2005, the European Commission stopped its 27 member countries from using Endosulfan.
  • In 2007, the European multinational stopped manufacturing Endosulfan, but continued to sell it.
  • In the same year – 2007 – the European Commission made a submission to the Stockholm Convention recommending the consideration of Endosulfan as Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). The European multinational also announced that it would stop selling Endosulfan

by the end of 2010.

  • In October 2010, at the Stockholm Convention, the POPRC recommended that Endosulfan be listed as a POP.
  • Stockholm convention proposes for the global phase-out of Endosulfan in April, 2011.

Facts vs Fallacy

Looking into the allegations and possible role of Endosulfan in the Kasargod area, several committees were constituted to investigate the whole episode and its possible health/environmental effects in the region.

It has been reviewed four times by the central government committees and twice by the Kerala government. Each time, Endosulfan was issued a clean chit. But only NIOH survey concluded that Endosulfan is the cause of genetic problems in Kasargod. On the basis of this finding, certain interest groups waged a tirade.

There is not enough evidence built up by any NGO by conducting house hold survey in the affected areas. Most of the cases are that of poisoning due to misuse and abuse by farmers rather than generalised pollution effect. Advantage of such cheap and effective pesticide far outweighs the disadvantages.

Data and findings put forth by one such non-profit organisation asking for its immediate ban was found to be completely misleading. In their report, the amount of Endosulfan content in the blood and water has been shown as many more times higher than the lethal dosage of the chemical. At this concentration, the survival of human beings is impossible, not to talk about the health effects and genetic malformations!

There are many theories running in the media and society about the reasons for the ill health in the region. An independent study demonstrates that the symptoms in reported cases correspond to those of handi godu, a disease attributed to chronic inbreeding in the region. Another study by BARC indicated high level of natural radiation in the Kerala coastal areas. Besides this, coastal area is found to have vast amount of Thorium in its soil, which substantiates that Endosulfan is not the sole culprit for the health related problems faced by the people of Kasargod.

Pesticide Manufacturers and Formulators Association of India (PMFAI) and Endosulfan Manufacturers and Formulators Association (EMFA) had alleged that an international lobby was behind the move to ban the pesticide. They alleged that on the basis of submissions made by EU, the Chemical Review Committee of Persistent Organic Pollutant had recommended Endosulfan for listing as a (POP), which is based on voting, rather than on scientific data.

The business of protest

Fo the last one decade, it has become a habit to oppose anything new introduced, whether technology or product. Earlier it was hybrids, then GM crops, and now age-old Endosulfan. Developmental organisations/ NGOs have mushroomed across the country mainly doing the business of protest and most of the times promoted or funded by certain interest groups.

If certain section of NGOs protest any new technology/ product and are truly concerned about the environmental causes, why don’t they go with scientific investigation and real fact finding rather than making irresponsible and baseless claims under someone’s influence? They become nothing but self-proclaimed custodians and caretaker for the civic society, without even qualified for being so.

Many NGOs made the most of the situation, but they are least bothered about what the growers are going to face in the case of fallout and how to ensure a food secured nation.

Too much pressure tactics are adopted by these organisations to reach out to the common man without any scientific backing.

Manifold benefits

Endosulfan is a broad spectrum insecticide. It is effective against no less than 60 pests and over a large number of food and non-food crops.

There is no reported case of developing resistance by Endosulfan against any pest in any part of the world.

Safe to crop pollinators like honeybee and other beneficial insects.

In addition to its agricultural use, Endosulfan has, since 2006, been allowed in the USA as a veterinary insecticide for use as ear tags for lactating cows and cattle for control of ecto parasites. This shows that it is safe for use on animals too.

Possible implications

A majority of Indian farmers are small and marginal and so is their purchasing capacity. The Indian market is full of generic products and Endosulfan is one among the largest used pesticide in Indian agriculture. With the global phase-out plan for Endosulfan, Indian pesticide industry has to move in search of newer effective and affordable molecules capable of substituting Endosulfan.

The patented alternative to endosulfan is quite costlier and the patent of most of the patented products is with Europe based multinationals for which the Indian farmer has to pay a huge price.

Endosulfan and alternative cost comparison



(Rs per litre or kg)

Cost per acre (Rs.)




Endosulfan 35% EC





Chlorantraniliprole 18.5 SC





Thiamenthoxam actera





Imidaclorpid 17.8 % SL





Politics in the garb of Endosulfan

Kerala CM and other developmental agencies used pressure tactics through strike and fasting, enforcing the global ban and negotiating for Indian government’s support and public outpouring. Misinformation and superstition is ruling large in the country in the view of the global phase-out proposed by Stockholm convention.

Initially, the Government of India and Agriculture Ministry vehemently opposed the proposal to ban/ punish it for its unproved guilt, but they also yielded after the global insistence and wide across protests.

Even as a global ban has been enforced on Endosulfan, several questions regarding the motive behind the move remain unanswered.

There is NO, mark my words, NO scientific fact of Endosulfan being hazardous to the Human being or even the environment at the level it has been projected! But the biggest surprise is that the media has gone all gung-ho to support the ban against Endosulfan and has played a huge role in misleading the masses!

The uncalled for global ban has to be solely on the basis of sound science and not merely on media reports emerging from certain sections of the society.

In totality, the true story of the Kasargod is that there are people facing health problems, but there are no reports to prove that these problems are due to Endosulfan.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Khushali lati

Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar

Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar (HKB), one stop shop for all kinds of agri-inputs and farm advisories under one roof is the venture of DCM Shriram Consolidated (DSCL) to diversify its presence in retail formats of farm economy, other than its traditional leadership in the areas of sugar and fertilisers.

Opened as just five pilot stores in 2002, today it has made a leap to 275 stores in eight major agricultural states, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The Hariyali outlets has two kinds of formats, one is called a Centre which is based on a campus of two to four acres, with fuel station, banking facilities, farm demonstration area, parking spaces, water fountains and green recreation zones, as well as the retail store. The customer base of each outlet was within 30 km radius this included about 15,000- 20,000 household with a collective total of 60,000- 80,000 acres of land. The other format is called a Store and is in an area of 4000 to 5000 sq ft. From one outlet, farmers can obtain farm inputs, credit and agricultural advisory services.

Besides, the farm services, it caters to all the needs of a rural populace with the provision of grocery, daily consumable goods and varieties of FMCG branded products, suiting the local taste and requirements. These include,

  • Farming Products: Multi-brand agricultural inputs (such as fertilisers, pesticides, seeds, animal feeds, irrigation equipment and tractor parts),
  • Household Products: FMCG, consumer durables, apparel & footwear.
  • Insurance services: Life insurance, crop insurance, health insurance
  • Farm Fuels: Petrol, Diesel, LPG.

Over the time, there has been keen familiarity seen between outlet staff and their customers with respect and due care taken for each and every person visiting the store.

HKB is currently undertaking seed production across seven states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh at 25 locations covering around 45,000 acres of land under contract farming mode and handling over 40,000 MT of varietal seeds of different crops like, Wheat, Paddy, Soybean, Mustard, Sorghum Sudan Grass, Pea, Barseem etc.

Today the differentiator for Hariyali is the Agronomy services that it provides which helps in increasing the productivity and profitability of the farmers.

Pawan Kumar, a farmer of Ladwa village in Kurukshetra district of Haryana, owns 14 acres of farm land, taken up the intercropping of capsicum and onion in the main crop of sugarcane, as it takes enough time for sugarcane to sprout and come up. It appropriately utilises the time and space resource available in between lapse period. He is hopeful of getting an additional income of about Rs. 45,000 from these two vegetables this year.

Under the guidance of HKB agronomists, Suresh Pal, a farmer of Govindgarh of Kurukshetra distt. adopted the Dry seeding of Rice (DSR), where paddy seed sowing is directly taken unlike the conventional methods of raising nursery and going for transplanting operations. DSR technique not only saves lot of water but minimises the labour requirement and thus economises the whole seeding process.

Ved Prakash Saini of Karnal having a total of 8 acres of farm land sown 5 acres of paddy using DSR technique. He is much convinced with the newly introduced technology and expressed that there is too much stake of Hariyali in the upliftment of our daily lifestyles.

DSR technique is being popularised by DSCL under Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), promoted by agencies such as Bill & Milinda Gates Foundation and many other research organisations and corporates for diffusion of conservation agriculture at larger scale.

"Currently, more than 100 acres of paddy field in the Kurukshetra has been using the direct seeding technique leading to massive savings of water and labour cost for the farmers," Atul Jain, head agri-services, DSCL told.

Jain said “Hariyali outlet has become a focal point for the farmers to get vital inputs in increasing yield and fighting disease and pest menace in crops for many farmers in the area and establishing linkage with agricultural research institutes in the region”.

Jain felt elated while sharing that, this rabi season when yellow rust threatened wheat crop in parts of Haryana and Punjab, alerts were sent by Hariyali outlets and recommended use of pesticide ‘Propacanizol’ saved most of the crops.

The credit for the progressiveness of these farmers mainly goes to agronomists of Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar. In the words of the local farmers, Hariyali is “Not just shop but a solution centre”, where we assemble together, discuss variety of farm problems, discuss the same with the staffs here and get lot of queries answered and doubts cleared, but also get the quality goods of daily utilities at the local market price.

Although financially HKB is n yet to breakeven, turnover of HKB, went up to R 223 crore during third quarter of the last fiscal from Rs. 216 crore in the same period last year.

“We thought the outlets should be functional, but at the same time aspirational, we wanted farmers to want to go there, to associate with the outlet, so it had to be enticing, but not intimidating, as they were not used to anything like Hariyali” shared Mr. Rajesh Gupta, President of Hariyali Kisaan Bazaar.

Punjab boasts of a new crop; Summer moong

Punjab, the seat of Green Revolution is now making its real tryst with destiny in the direction of long awaiting crop diversification in the region, which has witnessed no or, little scope for cropping system other than wheat-rice over the years.

The good news is that as per a recently released agriculture department statistics, the area under summer moong is about to touch a remarkable mark of one lakh ha in the state. The area under summer moong has increased 10 times more than the area under the crop during the prevalent moong season, which is from May-end to July. On earlier instances, acreage under moong dal has never gone beyond 10,000 to 11,000 hectares.

The introduction and large coverage under the pulse crop has really promises manifold benefits from the point of farm productivity, i.e., efficient utilisation of time and space, soil health and nutrients replenishment, additional source of income etc. with the least requirement of inputs and management.

In real sense, the prevalent Rice-Wheat monopoly has caused more damages to the farmers of the region than doing any good as in recent days the state has witnessed pleortha of problems like, plateuing yields in wheat and rice, unimaginable loss of production resources like soil fertility, fast depleting ground water table, spikes in the market prices etc. over the years, which is blamed mainly to the traditional practices being followed for the water guzzling crops like, rice, wheat and sugarcane.

Some resource conservation technology like zero tillage/ conservation agriculture for wheat and dry seeding of rice has been introduced to save the day, but to the point of revigouration of soil health and going for overall farm profitability these proved to be much unqualified.

Early paddy being a water guzzler, the government passed the Punjab Preservation of Sub Soil Water Act so that paddy is grown close to rainy season, in mid-June. Following this, the fields would remain vacant for two months, from mid-April to mid-June.

Looking into the lurking opportunity, through ATMA project the summer moong has been officially introduced in the state and only within a year’s time it has covered almost one lakh ha area, which would be a success story worth popularising at wider scale and emulated by other states where such similar situation exists.

Before the 2009 Act was passed, the farmers of the state, after harvesting wheat in April, would either resort to early paddy sowing during peak summer in May or leave their fields without any crop for a month.

PUSA Vishal, PUSA Baisakhi, Muskan, K-851 and SML-668 varieties of Moong are sown on a large scale in this summer season. These varieties get ready in 60 to 70 days and give yield three to four quintals per acre. The summer Moong are sown as early as possible so that it might be harvested before the rainy season sets in.

Earlier also, Punjab Agricultural University has received a research project in 2002 from the Asian Vegetable Research Development Centre (AVRDC), Taiwan for popularising summer moong in several parts of the country, starting with Punjab, in the name of “Popularisation of extra-short duration moongbean cultivars”. This project proved immensely successful in popularising summer moong cultivation in Punjab as its cultivation not only helps to diversify the rice-wheat cropping system but also improves soil health by incorporating nitrogen in the soil.

Pulses provide a significant part of India’s nutritional needs. Yet India’s production of pulses has remained stagnant, making the country increasingly dependent upon imports.

For centuries now, Indian farmers have adopted pulse cultivation as a traditional way of mitigating this risk.

In Indian condition pulses hold significant position, mainly due to more vegetarian population, widely reported cases of malnutrition, cheapest source of easily available protein supplement etc.

Over the years, rice and wheat yields have improved two-fold and even three-fold in the case of wheat, as a result of government schemes and the green revolution effect that has brought better seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, support prices, subsidies, etc within the ambit of farmers. Yet pulse crop yields have remained at a level of only 5–6 quintals per acre, very low compared to those of rice (33 q/acre) or cotton (12 q/acre). Little wonder then that most farmers focus on growing crops where returns are higher.

There seems to be a yawning gap between what is achievable in pulse production and the grassroots reality. Agricultural research in India has produced several high-yield varieties (HYV) of pulse seeds that can improve yields two-fold and are of shorter duration, thus allowing farmers to grow two or even three crops in a year. Drought-tolerant and disease-tolerant seeds are being developed that cut risk considerably. Proper seed-treatment and crop-protection techniques are available that can control disease and pest infestation.

The crop takes only 60 to 65 days to maturity so the extra short duration varieties fit in very well within the available window of time.

Nearly four to five quintals of pulses can be grown on an acre of land after spending Rs 6,000 to 7000 which ensures a farmer a return of not less than Rs 40,000 to 50,000 from every acre within two months.

Soil health improvement and nutrients replenishment is another major reason for going with the pulse, which adds organic matter to the substratum after decomposition, the crop litter acts as natural/ biological mulching material thus ensuring moisture conservation, weed management and minimum nutrient losses. Being a legume crop, it’s having inherent ability of biological nitrogen fixation through the intervention of some microbial agents and thus considerably reduces the fertiliser requirement for the crop growing for the succeeding crops also.

It is grown solely on the available residual moisture in the soil and with the involvement of least farm inputs. Summer moong can also be taken as an intercrop, owing to its short maturity period and fast growing habit without much agronomic care and management. Weed problem are also well taken care of, mainly on account of its smothering growth habit and ground covering ability, well within 2-3 weeks from the time of sowing.

Pulse crops are environmentally sustainable and have a positive impact on the land. They also helps in the mitigation of global warming phenomena by lowering the levels of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the air. Pulses are 18–24 per cent protein, thus providing India’s population with an alternative to animal-based protein i.e., meat, eggs, and milk.

Good ensured returns due to higher pulse market prices.

So, in totality, with the least demand of farm input; Fertilizers, irrigation, labour, capital and pesticides, it is right candidate for the breaking the jinx of rice-wheat monopoly in the region and making the operations more viable and farming more remunerative.

All time high pulses production

Pulses production has been hovering around 13 -15 million tonnes during last decade, while annual domestic demand has risen to 18-19 million tonnes. During 2010- 11, the production of pulses in India, estimated at 17.29 million tonnes, is all-time record. The previous pulses production record was 14.91 million tonnes during the year 2003-04. Among kharif pulses (7.3 million tonnes), pigeonpea (3.15 million tonnes) and blackgram (1.82 million tonnes) production are slated to hit all time higher. It is also estimated that there will be bumper harvest of rabi pulses this year. The all time high production record of 17.29 miiliion tones could be possible primarily due to availability of quality seeds to pulse growers. Apart from availability of quality seeds of high yielding varieties, the strong technology back-up, favourable monsoon, increase in minimum support prices and effective government programmes helped for increasing production of pulses in the country.