|AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE||Monday, April 23, 2001, Chandigarh, India|
Nursery management in vegetable crops
Export and competitiveness of Indian potato
THE agriculture economy in the country is in the doldrums and the farmers are in the grip of a crisis. One of the perceived threats emanates from the ongoing process of liberalisation of agricultural trade by way of removal of quantitative restrictions (Qrs) and implementation of the tariff rates regime under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Under the Uruguay Round, agricultural tariffs have generally been bound at 100 per cent for primary products, 150 per cent for processed products and 300 per cent for edible oil. At present, the bound rates of duty in respect of several agricultural commodities are at low levels. Potato is among these commodities with low level of 35 per cent of duties.
In this backdrop it is feared that imports of the agricultural items with low levels of bound duties could increase in the days to come, thereby posing a threat of the food and livelihood security of the Indian farming community in particular with concomitant repercussions on the people at large. It is thus very opportune of examine critically the competitiveness of Indian potato for exports under the liberalised regime.
World Scenario: Potato is one of the most important food crops in the world. In terms of production, it ranks after wheat, maize and rice. Potato production accounts for nearly 50 per cent of total output of 628 million tonnes of all root and tuber crops. Potato is produced in 137 countries the world over. Over one billion people consume potato worldwide, half of them from the developing countries.
Potato is mainly a crop of the developed world. The developed countries share in world area and production is estimated to be 57.8 per cent and 66.2 per cent, respectively with the yield level of 19.4 t/ha. According to the FAO, India ranked fourth in area and production of potato in 1998. The per hectare productivity of potato in India is 19t/ha, being much higher than the world average of 16.5t/ha.
Potato export Patterns: Export of an agricultural commodity is determined by four factors i.e. export surplus, quality production based on sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, comparative economic advantage and infrastructural support subject to the country’s export policy. The export and import of potato mainly take place within European countries i.e. the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium-Luxembourg, France, Italy; and five other countries i.e. Canada, the USA, Egypt, Turkey and Cyprus account for 80 per cent of potato export trade. Only 2 to 3 per cent of about 300 million tonnes of world potato production is traded internationally. India’s share in world potato exports has been quite insignificant and variable. It ranged from 0.04 to 0.44 per cent of world potato exports during 1986 to 1999.
Currently India produces about 28 million tonnes of potato. Potato has excelled both rice and wheat in terms of growth rates. These were for rice area 0.63, production 2.84 and yield 2.26; wheat area 1.50, production 4.54 and yield 2.99; potato area 3.34, production 5.76 and yield 2.34 per cent per annum during 1967-68 to 1998-99. It indicates that export surplus from potato is available in the country.
Ware potato export from India is directed to only six countries i.e. Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mauritius, Singapore, UAE and sometimes to Japan. In 1998-99, these six countries accounted for 91 per cent of 7,181 tonnes of potato exported from the country. Sri Lanka alone had the lion’s share 68.9 per cent in the total export.
As for seed potato export, the Netherlands dominates the world seed potato export market. During 1998, it exported over 226 thousand tonnes of seed potato to 78 countries. These were 33 European countries, 16 African, 17 Asian and 12 American countries. Even though India has a well-established National Seed Production Programme since the mid-sixties, our seed potato exports have been nominal and erratic over the past two decades.
The Netherlands, the USA and Canada are the world leaders in the production and export of processed potato products. In the USA over 60 per cent of potato production is processed, while in India we have an installed capacity to process only 0.3 per cent of our potato output in the organised sector. During 1990-91 to 1998-99, India exported about 1,000 to 5,958 tonnes of processed potato products.
Technical excellence for potato export: Every country is concerned to ensure that the consumers are supplied with food that is safe to eat. The sanitary and phytosanitary or SPS measures are set by the WTO to ensure that strict health and safety regulations are not being used as an excuse for protecting domestic producers. In this perspective, utmost stress is laid on quality production for farm products in these days of globalisation of agriculture. For various reasons, false or true, it is widely held that the farm produce coming from the developing countries falls short of international quality standards. True to this view it is believed in certain quarters that "even it were possible to export Indian potato, there would have been no takers for the produce because they are not of international quality". Potato output in the country should be adjudged on the touchstone of different quality parameters. In India, most potatoes are grown in winter under short-day conditions and harvested from January to March when their is no fresh harvest of potato in most parts of northern hemisphere making it a strategic crop from export point of view. The potato is cultivated in sandy or sandy loam soils in the country. Such soil conditions result in good shape and luster to the tubers. Quality production of this type is preferred for exports to those countries where mechanised processing is preferred.
Technologically Indian potato is highly competitive in the world market as the potato production is free from the prohibited diseases like wart, black scab, ring rot, tuber moth and nematodes, which are the barometer to phyto-sanitary standards. Some of our varieties have been released in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, etc. The Indian potato meet the quality standards in terms of freedom from prohibited diseases, shape, size, taste, skin colour, flesh, dry matter content and so on.
Nitty-gritty of exports: According to Shipping Corporation of India Ltd (SCIL), presently potatoes are exported through non-reefer containers. Due to the perishable nature of the cargo, potato exports would be limited to countries where transit time does not exceed more than nine days. It would not be feasible to export potato to Japan and Europe in reefer containers. The SCIL believes that this may not be commercially viable due to high freight rates of reefer containers. Normally potato and onion are stuffed in 20’ containers. Each 20’ container accommodates approximately 12.5 tonnes of potato. The cargo is packed in 50 kg gunny bags and one door of the container is kept open to ensure sufficient ventilation. Sufficient sailings are available to Malaysia, Singapore, Middle East and Sri Lanka, but limited sailings for East African countries.
The transit time from Mumbai port to Sri Lanka is three days, followed by Dubai four days, Malaysia eight days and Singapore and East Africa nine days. Indicative freight rates per tonne are Rs 1,856 for Sri Lanka, Rs 1,886 for Dubai, Rs 2,263 for Singapore and Malaysia and Rs 5,656 for Mauritius, Madagascar and Seychelles (East Africa). The terminal handling charges are extra and are applicable both the load port and disport (importing country).
Policy implications and strategies: India’s agri-exports face certain constraints that arise from conflicting domestic policies relating to production, storage, distribution, food security, pricing concerns, etc. Unwillingness to decide on basic minimum quantities for export makes Indian supply sources unreliable. Higher domestic prices in comparison to international prices of products of bulk exports like sugar, wheat, rice etc make our exports commercially less competitive. Market intelligence and creating awareness in international market about quality of products need to be strengthened to boost agricultural exports (Economic Survey, 2000-2001)
For sustained export promotion of potato and related products, India has to devise suitable cash compensatory schemes for non-competitive years, besides undertaking surveys of potential export markets and strengthening of exports infrastructure in terms of cold storages, indigenous storage systems and shipping facilities. The data-base on potato exports, price, grade standards, phyto-sanitary standards, consumer preferences, seed standards, etc need to be improved and strengthened. We should also conduct a global survey, particularly in Asian and African countries, to find out the potential markets for Indian potato, analyse the consumer preferences and understand the dynamics of trade, particularly of our competitors.
Export of seed potato should be targeted for Asian countries, particularly the SAARC countries, where our potato need not be tested for adaptation. Export-oriented marketing research should be taken up on priority.
India should hammer out a long-term policy of production of value-added processed potato products and exports which would not only fetch handsome foreign exchange for the country but also will increase the employment opportunities in processing industries. The bound rates for potato should be renegotiated under the current round of negotiations under way in Geneva in order to control the imports and maintain our competitive edge as well.
Nursery management in vegetable crops
AS like cradle, nursery is the place where young seedlings are raised and nurtured before planting them in the main field. For raising a good crop, it is utmost essential that seedling should be healthy, vigorous and disease-free. Seedlings are susceptible to a number of diseases due to its delicate, succulent and highly tender nature. Further, skyrocketing cost of hybrid seeds warrants attention of the grower to produce the seedlings under protected conditions because every hybrid seed has its accountability owing to its high cost which is 20 to 50 times higher than the open pollinated seeds. Raising of nursery under polyhouse or greenhouse and sowing the individual seed of hybrid in potting plug with artificial culture media is a well-established practice in developed countries. However, in our country most of the nurseries are raised under open conditions and it is one of the main reasons of setback to development of hybrid programme during rainy season in North India. Therefore, we have to standardise the nursery raising programme on scientific lines.
If anyhow raising nursery is not possible under controlled conditions and there is lack of other facilities like potting plug, rooting media, etc., then proper attention should be paid to the selection of nursery site and treatment of seed and nursery soil. Recently, soil solarisation has been proved as cheapest and eco-friendly approach for soil disinfection of nursery beds. Soil mulching is done with transparent polythene of 25 to 100 cm thickness during the period of high temperature and solar radiation. Soil should be kept moist before mulching to increase the latent heat and thermal sensitivity of resting structures of soil-borne pathogens, harmful pests and weeds. Following this simple practice, population of soil-borne pathogen, nemotodes, pests and weeds can be reduced to a substantial level.
Nowadays the nursery raising of vegetables had become a specialised job with increasing susceptibility of vegetables to biotic and abiotic stresses. The major nursery pests and diseases are whitefly, cut worms, borers, nemaatodes, dumping off, fungal and bacterial leaf spots. Besides, high and low temperatures excess rains, drought, hot and cold winds affect nursery raising. We can raise our seedlings in low tunnels and low-cost polyhouses. Production of early tomato, cauliflower, capsicum, chillies often have problems in high temperature and high rainfall areas. The use of transparent plastic sheets as low tunnel provides ideal conditions for successful raising of seedling than conventional methods. The time taken for seed germination and seedling growth is reduced under low tunnel is sown in winter months for spring transplanting. The utility of low-cost polyhouses for raising of seedlings of cucurbitaceous vegetables in winter months to harvest early summer crops has been very successful and commercially adopted by farmers in Punjab, Haryana and UP. The seeds sown in polybags show early germination and make faster growth under protected cover. When outside conditions are favourable, seedlings are transplanted along with earth ball in the open field in early spring, the crop starts flowering and fruiting in very short time. This technique is capable of giving highly remunerative yields in northern plains. Besides, the seedlings of tomato, brinjal and chilli also get ready for transplanting in short time for spring planting in plains. The use of shade and agronets has been found very effective in raising of seedlings during high temperature. Shade reduces temperature by 5°C to 10°C and protects the seedlings from sun scorching and harmful effects of high temperature. Agronet protects the seedlings from insects and reduces the vector-borne viruses infestation and damage by other insects.
The borders and beds intended to be used for summer flowering annuals should be cleaned and prepared for the purpose. As soon as the summer flower seedlings e.g. Cosmos Gaillaridia, Compherena, Cochia and Zinnia, etc. are ready they may be transplanted in the above noted well-prepared beds. Transplanting work may preferably be carried out in the evenign followed by water.
Seed should be collected from the already selected winter flowering annuals. After proper drying and cleaning the same may be stored for the next season.
Pruning and training of permanent trees, shrubs and creepers, if required, may be carried out wherever required, liberal quantity of manure may be spread around the plants and mixed well in the soil. Keep on irrigating these plants regularly. Do not allow the weeds to grow around them.
Cannas will be at their best and should now be selected for propagation purposes. If the cuttings of shrubs are not sown, so far, the same be sown early this month.
In the case of large-flowered chrysanthemum, encourage the growth in beds by regular watering. In pots limt the watering to check the growth. In case of small-flowered chrysanthemum, branching may be encouraged by pinching back to 10 cm from the ground.
Major flowering of the rose will be over in this month. Keep removing the faded flowers and suckers from the root stock. Timely watering, weeding and hoeing will keep the plants in good conditions.
For having lushgreen lawns, their timely watering and frequent mowing is very important. Irrigation of lawns through sprinklers is the best for getting excellent results. If the growth of the grass is poor, a light dose of nitrogenous fertilizer may be given.
Foliage plants in pots will have resumed activity. The delicate ones should be moved away from the positions exposed to the direct sun.
The bulbs of nargis and gladiolie which have become dormant and their leaves are dried up, the same may be taken out from the soil, cleaned and treated with some fungicide. Dry them and then store in some cool dry place. The bulbs of calediums and football lilly may be planted, if not planted in the last month.