AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, September 18, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 

Agriculture in small-scale industry
By P.P.S. Gill
T
HE recent initiatives announced by the Ministry of Small Scale Industry has kindled hopes of entrepreneurs who want to set up units for biotechnology projects and processing agricultural produce. In fact Punjab has already included food processing and biotechnology as thrust areas in the industrial policy. 

Silent crusaders for water harvesting
By Annu Anand
D
ROUGHT in some parts of the country, notably Rajasthan and Gujarat, made big news in the months preceding the monsoon. The media was busy in reporting the gruesome picture of the first drought of the new century. Some even dubbed it the worst-ever in the past hundred years. The print and visual media were competing with each others in bringing pictures and stories of this drought. 

Measures for forest management  
By G.S. Shamet
W
E are losing about 1.3 million hectares forest area annually in the country and most of the loss is reported from hilly areas. For example, a large number of mega hydro-electric projects are being constructed or are in the pipeline in the state. There are even two-three projects within a new kilometre distance in Shimla, Kinnaur and Chamba districts. 

Avoiding spoilage of fruits and vegetables
By Radhakrishna Rao
I
NDIA which is today the largest producer of fruits and vegetables, has been conspicuously lagging behind in processing these horticultural products which not only avoid spoilage but also fetch higher per unit returns. In 1996-97, the total output of fruits and vegetables in the country was to the tune of 127.77 million tonnes. 


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Agriculture in small-scale industry 
By P.P.S. Gill

THE recent initiatives announced by the Ministry of Small Scale Industry has kindled hopes of entrepreneurs who want to set up units for biotechnology projects and processing agricultural produce.

In fact Punjab has already included food processing and biotechnology as thrust areas in the industrial policy. It also proposes to set up “food parks” in the state. This indicates the realisation on the part of the government to provide value addition to agriculture to enable farmers get better returns.

The Union Secretary, Mr D.P. Bagchi, was in Chandigarh last week. The Tribune talked to him to know how the economic resuscitation initiatives on the small-scale industry (SSI) announced by the ministry would help Punjab.

The foundation of Punjab economy is based on agriculture which is no longer profitable. The state faces a problem of plenty with the resultant large-scale wastage and damage in storage, which in itself is a problem. There is no scientific way to store, preserve and save grain (mainly wheat and rice). The stockpile affects quality as well.

The paradox is that the farmers in this grain bowl are deep in debt, agricultural production has reached a plateau, the wheat-paddy rotation is a cause of serious concern, agriculture ecology and economy are adversely affected and the food processing industry is still at the nascent stage.

There are also several apprehensions about the impending impact of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime on Punjab agriculture and farmers.

It is in this background Mr Bagchi’s views were sought to know what in-built linkages were there between the initiatives on the SSI and agriculture in the context of Punjab which has played a key role in making India self-sufficient in food.

He was clear on the following points: There had to be free movement of foodgrain for better returns to the farmers, the WTO regime impact would not be allowed to harm and hamper farm operations, production and processing and food processing industry based on biotechnology shall be encouraged.

Mr Bagchi said biotechnology, information technology in agriculture, coldchains, upgradation of technology of units dealing with farm produce and products, exploiting export potential by improving quality of the produce and providing credit facilities to the units were part of the ministry’s initiatives on the SSI, which covered the agriculture sector as well.

Referring to linkages between the Ministry of SSI and Agriculture, Mr Bagchi said that viable schemes and projects, specifically for biotechnology in the small-scale sector, were available to the entrepreneurs. That would help agriculture both in terms of productivity as well as quality. In the process there would be value addition to the farmers’ economy.

“All protection will be provided to the agriculture sector. Punjab’s contribution can not to ignored. To help the state improve the export quality of its farm produce developing and adoption of biotechnology will go a long way to make it globally competitive”, he emphasised.

In fact, the Ministry of SSI has already created a venture capital fund to promote biotechnology in the assisted sector. The entrepreneurs, in fact, can contact the Department of Biotechnology in New Delhi to get details for setting up units in the small-scale sector. These projects are covered under the recently launched credit guarantee scheme. This will enable entrepreneurs to get projects funded without collateral security.

For the state even produce and product specific schemes could be evolved and introduced. Food security being imperative, therefore, steps have been initiated not to allow Punjab to become a dumping ground for farm and dairy products.

Tariff binding had been introduced and a higher ceiling could always be imposed. At present for almost all agricultural commodities India had already committed tariff bindings of 100, 150 and 300 per cent. Even if India agreed to 40 per cent or at least 60 per cent of tariff binding, still there was no apparent reason of concern as India’s agricultural prices were much below the world prices. The country was not bound to give the minimum market access in the form of import quotas. This should put at rest the farmers’ apprehensions on the impact of the WTO on the viability of farming, he added.

While export subsidy was a non-issue for Indian agriculture, regarding domestic support, it was pointed out even in the CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) workshop series on WTO-2000 proceedings that on the inputs, the subsidy level was around 7 per cent of the value of agricultural output, while, on the output side, due to under pricing, the subsidy level was (-) 38 per cent. Hence the net aggregate measure of support came down to (-) 31 per cent level, much below the level of support permissible under the WTO agreement.

Talking about concern over the possibility of dairy products and rice being dumped, Mr Bagchi said that at present the bound rates for skimmed milk and rice were zero. The government was aware of this issue. The same could be re-negotiated. Even otherwise, the governments were allowed to take other emergency actions (safeguards) in order to prevent swiftly falling prices or surge of imports from hurting any sector of the economy.

Mr Bagchi disclosed that a countrywide census operation would be launched on January 1, 2000, which would enable the ministry to build up a comprehensive data bank on the small-scale industrial units. The Development Commissioner, SSI, after a gap of 12 years, was undertaking this census.

Meanwhile, APEDA is association with the Netherlands still shortly conduct a countrywide survey on the upgradation of the food processing sector with focus on enhancing the value addition in agriculture and setting up of clear production centres to prevent pollution caused by agro-processing units.
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Silent crusaders for water harvesting
By Annu Anand

DROUGHT in some parts of the country, notably Rajasthan and Gujarat, made big news in the months preceding the monsoon. The media was busy in reporting the gruesome picture of the first drought of the new century. Some even dubbed it the worst-ever in the past hundred years. The print and visual media were competing with each others in bringing pictures and stories of this drought. But grassroot and community-level efforts, which were made to fight the drought without any government help, were not highlighted in their proper perspective.

A story bigger than the drought itself was efforts made by communities and individuals to meet the challenge posed by the drought. Several innovative, traditional methods of water harvesting saved the day for a number of villages in the two worst-affected states. Deepening village ponds, recharging dried wells and construction of simple watershed successfully, enabled villagers to face the acute water shortage. Unfortunately, the media largely ignored these efforts in its eagerness to project the horrors of the “worst-ever drought”. An attempt has been made to record such success stories in a study commissioned by Charkha and the National Foundation for India. The study called “paani ghano amol” (water is too priceless) is a compilation of some of the extraordinary stories of rural communities devising their own ways and methods of conserving water in villages of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Villagers are adopting different methods for water harvesting and conservation. They have demonstrated that rainwater can be collected in dried-up ponds, old village wells can be recharged and ponds with plastic lining can effectively hold water. The lining also helps water from becoming saline. In some villages it was found that there was no water scarcity at all, when other villages in the same area were passing through a crisis. “This is the last year when we are using drinking water from government tanks. From next year we will not need this help at all”, says Jaidev, a proud and confident deputy sarpanch of Adloi village in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. The reason for his confidence is a tank that villagers are constructing near the village — it will have the capacity to hold 8,000 cubic metres of water.

Kharkali village of Kochar Ki Daang in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan has a similar story to tell. Houses in this as well as several other drought-prone villages used to be found locked during the summer season. People from these villages waned migrate to other villages from March to June every year, since they had no water to drink during these months. These villages are located in a hilly terrain. But there is no more migration now. With the help of the active NGO, Tarun Bharat Sangh, villages from this area have learnt to store water by constructing small tanks around their dwellings and fields. Stored water in these tanks is now sufficient for villagers as well as their animals in the summer months, in some cases up to June.

The worst-hit Saurashtra region of Gujarat too has its share of success stories. There are crusaders like Premji Bhappa who are spreading the message of “plant a tree and get rain”. Bhappa is also engaged in making people of the region realise the importance of preserving groundwater. “I realised this four decades back. I have been telling people that at the speed at which the water levels are falling, there will be no groundwater left very soon. We can stop this depletion only when we put back into the ground the quantity of water which we draw from it”, says Bhappa. He has been educating villagers how to recharge open wells. The first time he recharged a well was 31 years ago. In 1992, when there was a severe drought, people took to the idea of recharging wells. Since then the message has spread far and wide in the region.

In Bhenkra village of Sabarkundala taluk of Amreli district, local resident Chaganbhai has an interesting tale to narrate. He says his father, Bhagwanabhai, was the first in the village to try out watershed development in his own novel way. He had blocked the village water drain by putting mud and stones to prevent water from flowing out to open areas. Using this experience of conserving water, villagers have benefited through the years. Now, with the help of local NGOs a proper watershed development programme has been started in the village. The watershed is being used to collect rainwater effectively. Chaganbhai is also engaged in teaching various water conservation techniques. Villagers recall that thanks to him, six-seven wells in the village were flowing with water even at the peak of summer this year.

Asakro village in Dhundka taluka has a population of about 2,500 people. But it has never faced water scarcity even during the worst drought years. Village elder Mistry Shyamjibhai recalls that for the past 40 years he has not seen the bottom of the village pond. Thanks to water conservation and constant recharging, even in the month of June the pond has sufficient water for the entire village. Due to groundwater recharging, wells in the village also don’t get dried — some of them have water levels up to 30 feet in summer. In Tatu village in Gadra taluka of Bhavnagar district, villagers have constructed three check dams to hold rainwater.

In Saurashtra, yet another silent crusader is Shyamjibhai Antala who has taken upon himself the task of reviving dried wells in all the drought-prone villages. Through the Saurashtra Lok Manch, Shyamji has taught the technique of recharging wells to some 1200 villages. He has held gram sabhas to train villagers in this technique. Even the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has sought his expertise in bringing about awareness in his own state. Now the Rajasthan Government is also keen to utilise the services of Shyamji.

— Grassroots Feature Network
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Measures for forest management  
By G.S. Shamet

WE are losing about 1.3 million hectares forest area annually in the country and most of the loss is reported from hilly areas. For example, a large number of mega hydro-electric projects are being constructed or are in the pipeline in the state. There are even two-three projects within a new kilometre distance in Shimla, Kinnaur and Chamba districts. Of course, the state government will earn crores of rupees annually by selling electricity to other states. But what will it cost to the people and the Himalayan geology and eco-system? Nobody has bothered to assess the consequences and safety mechanism in case of a major disaster.

There lies the danger of reservoir-induced seismicity as most of the project sites are situated in fault zone of the still fragile Himalayas. The sustainable and unemployment removing hydro-electric projects based on the run of the river system need due attention of the government. Similarly, construction of a road network without proper erosion control measures or faulty alignments is causing havoc in the Himalayan catchment area.

We should strictly follow the forest conservation acts without in any way affecting the development process in the state. Conservation is not necessarily anti-development, it rather ensures sustainable development which is the need of the day. Forest areas should not be allowed to get diverted to other non-forestry uses except under very inevitable circumstances. If anyhow a forest land is diverted, it should be made mandatory to afforest at least five times the area (because survival of the plantations is 20 per cent in the hilly area).

Of late the Forest Department has embarked upon a very ambitious joint forest management (JFM) or participatory approach in the state. The aim is to green all barren and degraded land in the rural area by involving villagers not only in planting but protection and care of the existing forests also. The question arises, will we be successful this time or it simply turn out to be another white elephant? How without proper training in social and rural psyche, the forest officers fit into this new role? They still have the rigid and policing attitude of the yore when forester used to be recruited from police or Army units.

A fullfledged directorate of extension education/social sciences in the state agricultural, horticultural or forestry universities can serve as the centre of excellence for imparting specialised training to forest personnel at various levels. This will help tone up their skills, methodology and strategical approach to make the JFM a success.

There is no need of sending them on forest jaunts in view of the severe financial crunch being faced by the state. The ICAR and some SFDs have taken a lead in starting B.Sc forestry programmes in many universities in the country. Some of the states have already started recruiting them to take on forest expansion and management programme in a big way.

The state can make full use of these forestry graduates by absorbing them in the department to take on JFM/working plan/biodiversity and even biotechnology works more vigorously.

Coming to the grass-roots level, there is a need to establish van vigyan kendras on the lines of krishi vigyan kendras in each district. The Ministry of Environment and Forests can do a lot in this regard and made afforestation really a people’s programme. The two can even be combined as both targets the rural areas for overall development.

The management perspectives in the Himalayas should now be modelled on ecological rather than economic concept. This has become inevitable if we are to safeguard agricultural base in the country, especially the Punjab and Indo-Gangetic Plains.

The adverse impact of deforestation is all visible now. The soils in the northern plains are increasingly treated for various ailments like salinity, alkalinity, low water-table, waterlogging, besides the plethora of problems like drought, flash floods and soil erosion, etc to name a few. The cyclone in Orissa last year or the severe drought of Rajasthan and Gujarat this year is a grim reminder to the effect of large-scale deforestation of the tropical forests.

For Himachal Pradesh the danger of deforestation lies in collapsing of the present Rs 1,000-crore worth of apple and citrus economy. The recent policy decision of the government on “khudro darakhtan malkiat sarkar” giving tree ownership to the cultivators, if followed, will spell doom on the hill ecology. This tantamounts to both horizontal and vertical encroachments on already degraded barren lands. It is an established fact that the intangible benefits of forest species far outweighs the tangible benefits from them.

The Centre should provide a financial package to extend, conserve and protect the valuable forests in the Himalayas. The state suffers a loss of about Rs 1,000 crore annually on account of deforestation and related calamities like drought, fires, heavy rains, flash floods, etc. The adverse impact on the national economy, particularly agriculture, is far more serious and, therefore, needs immediate attention of the planners and the rulers alike.

(Concluded)
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Avoiding spoilage of fruits and vegetables
By Radhakrishna Rao

INDIA which is today the largest producer of fruits and vegetables, has been conspicuously lagging behind in processing these horticultural products which not only avoid spoilage but also fetch higher per unit returns. In 1996-97, the total output of fruits and vegetables in the country was to the tune of 127.77 million tonnes. But unfortunately less than 3 per cent of them are being processed and the export volume is less than 1 per cent of the total production in the country. For a large chunk of the fruits and vegetables grown in the country is consumed fresh at home.

The recent withdrawal of the export duty on fruit and vegetable products has come as a shot in the arm to the food processing industry in the country which is all set to make rapid strides in the years ahead.

The Union Agriculture Ministry is keen that at least 30 million tonnes of fruits and vegetables, constituting 25 per cent of the production, should be processed to avoid spoilage and provide higher returns to the growers. Significantly, up to 30 per cent of the horticultural products perish due to lack of proper storage, poor transportation and inadequate infrastructure. Clearly and apparently, processing fruits and vegetables offers much higher economic returns per hectare compared to cereal crops on account of the value addition and minimisation of spoilage.

Because of its diverse agro-climatic conditions and abundant availability of land and water, India grows a variety of fruits and vegetables that are in great demand in the global horticultural product market. Countries in the Gulf region, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Great Britain are the major importers of Indian fruits and vegetables.

Meanwhile, horticulturists in India feel that changing food habits, a cash rich and upwardly mobile urban middle class and growing health consciousness could give a boost to the popularisation of processed fruit and vegetable products. Among the important processed fruit and vegetable products are fruit pulps and juices, fruit based ready-to-serve beverages, canned fruits and vegetables, jams, squashes, ketchups, sauces, pickles, chutneys and dehydrated vegetables. The technology of freeze drying and dehydration that helps preserve mango, pineapple, citrus fruits and apple is today widely in use. Similarly, fruit jams and pulp concentration technology makes the products light in bulk and weight that permits economy in packaging and transportation.

Way back in early 1990s the New Delhi-based Department of Science and Technology (DST), as part of its “Technology Vision-2020”, had unveiled an action plan to establish India as a major farming country with a stress on fruits and vegetables. As such, it had highlighted the need for expanding the scope and sweep of food processing. The DST’s vision strategy on fruits and vegetables highlighted the fact that processing in the major fruits producing countries in the world are Brazil (70 per cent), Malayasia (83 per cent), and Israel ( 50 per cent).

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Farm operations for Sept

Vegetables

Potato:

— The climate conditions are ideal for sowing early varieties. Take out seed potato from the cold storage and spread in ventilated place under diffused sunlight in thin layers. Turn the surface of tubers once in a day and allow buds to sprout for a week. Sprouts should attain 0.5 to 1 cm length before sowing.

— Use healthy and disease-free seed.

— Disinfect the tubers before sowing with solution of 0.5 per cent Agallol or with 0.25 per cent Emisan/Tafasan for 10 minutes.

— Drill 80 kg of urea, 155 kg of superphosphate, 80 kg of muriate of potash per acre at the time of sowing. Application of the FYM and green manuring is beneficial for this crop, so it should be applied. Omit muriate of potash and superphosphate and half of urea in case of green manured fields.

— For weed control, use Atrataf 50 WP or Tafazine 50 WP @ 200 g or Stomp 30 EC @ 1.0 1/acre or Sencor 70 [email protected] 200g/acre as pre-emergence application or [email protected] 500ml per acre at the stage when most of the weeds have emerged and potato crop showed 5-10 per cent emergence. Use 250 to 300 litres of water in knap sack sprayer and 100 litres of water with power sprayer.

Peas:

— In case pea is to be sown for the first time in a field, treat 40 kg seed of early maturing varieties like Mattar Ageta-6 or Arkal with pea culture. Apply 40 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 50 kg of muriate of potash per acre.

— To control weeds, spray Stomp 30 EC @ 1 litre/acre as pre-emergence application using 150-200 litres of water.

— Avoid early sowing to check wilt/root rot diseases. Control pea wilt by treating seeds with Bavistin @ 1 g/kg seed.

— Avoid early sowing to check the damage caused by pea stem fly. At the time of sowing of peas apply 3 kg of Thimet 10 G or 10 kg of Furadan 3 G in furrows for reducing the infestation by stem fly.

Cole crops:

— Transplant fully developed seedlings (4-6 weeks old) of main season varieties of cauliflower. Apply 100 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 50 kg of muriate of potash before transplanting.

— Sowing of late season varieties of cauliflower like Pusa Snowball-16, Pusa Sowball-1 an Pusa Snowball K-1 can be started. Sow 250 g seed in one marla to grow seedlings for planting an acre.

— To control weeds in cole crops, apply Basalin @ 750 ml per acre four days before transplanting. Herbicide should be thoroughly incorporated into the soil with the help of irrigation or light harrowing. Stomp 30 EC one litre of 750 ml plus one hoeing 35 days after transplanting can also be used.

Onion

— Sow small medium-sized bulbs at 30 x 30 cm to produce bunch onions for table use. Apply 50 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 50 kg of muriate of potash per acre. Irrigate regularly. For seed production, plant large close-neck true to type 3-4 bulbs of onion on 45 cm apart ridges. Keep plants at 30 cm to produce seed.

Garlic

— In the second fortnight of this month, apply 20 tonnes of well-rotten farmyard manure per acre and mix it into the soil. Apply 50 kg of CAN, 155 kg of superphosphate and 50 kg or muriate of potash per acre. Dibble of drill 225 to 250 kg of healthy cloves of garlic. Keep lines 15 cm and plants 10 cm apart. Irrigate immediately thereafter. Repeat watering once a week during this month.

Root crops:

— Start sowing “desi” varieties of radish (Punjab Pasand and Punjab Safed), turnip (L-1, 4-White) and carrot (Selection-21, No. 29) using a 4-5 kg of seed rate of radish and carrot and 2-3 kg of seeds rate of turnip per acre. Keep ridges 45 cm and plants 7 to 8 cm apart. Cultivation of root crops on ridges help in better growth and development of roots and easy harvest.

— Progressive Farming, PAU

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