farmers off MSP
Need for awareness on
can grow in North too
farmers off MSP
EXPERTS of the World Bank and Punjab Agricultural University and related departments of the Punjab Government have laid out priorities for revamping agricultural growth in an environmentally and fiscally sustainable manner, suggesting drastic changes in the present policies. The experts and officials were put together by Dr B.C. Gupta, Financial Commissioner (Development), Punjab. They have prepared a detailed report on the present health of agriculture.
The report has
emphasised that revamping growth in an environmentally and fiscally
sustainable manner is the main challenge. Given political realities,
the reform will need to be accelerated by a programme of public
awareness, education and informed debate. Wide stakeholders’
participation, particularly the farming community, is necessary to
realise reforms that may run counter to the established interests.
The report has pointed three key challenges — restoring growth, promoting sustainable use of natural resources and rationalising fiscal outlay. Two broad groups of policy and institutional options are available for moving forward on these fronts.
The first group relates to price policies and public expenditure and the second deals with reform of key institutions serving the agricultural sector — research, extension, irrigation and regulated markets. The report emphasises that the state government should act in concert with the Central government.
The first priority is to reform the price support and subsidy regime. Output subsidies through minimum support price (MSP) and subsidies on power, fertiliser and water have led to inefficient use of resources and distorted the distribution of income in favour of large farmers. These subsidies have to be contained and, over the long run, eliminated.
Getting the prices right is necessary to provide an appropriate incentive structure for diversification and also to free resources for key public investment that is needed to facilitate diversification.
Regarding the MSP for wheat and rice, the report has recommended that given the political sensibilities, the appropriate transitional arrangement may be to freeze the MSP till the desired correction in relative prices and stocks is achieved.
With regard to input subsidies, in terms of both fiscal drain and efficient use of groundwater, the removal of power subsidy is the priority and is within the ambit of the state government.
The report has said that power used in agriculture has to be charged according to consumption, with metered supply.
The report points out that price and subsidy reforms are likely to adversely affect farmers’ income, at least in the short run. Although large farmers will suffer more, small farmers will also feel the pain. One "sweetener" that has been used in a number of countries (EU, the USA, Mexico and Turkey) to reduce price-distorting subsidies is lump-sum annual income support payment made directly to farmers based on their crop area for phasing out price support. The other option is to provide matching grants to farmers, communities and agri-businesses to facilitate transition to other enterprises.
On managing water in a more efficient manner, the report has maintained that unless this is done, groundwater table will continue to sink rapidly. Rehabilitation of the canal irrigation system and surface drains should be a priority.
For this, increase in the water tariff has to be considered. Punjab’s current water rates recover only about 43 per cent of the overhead and maintenance expenditure.
For revamping agricultural research and extension services, the report has pleaded for privatising some of the services. It suggests exploring private delivery of publicly funded services. With farmer co-financing, this is often a more efficient option, particularly for new skills such as marketing, which are not available under the existing system.
Farmer organisations appear to be weak in Punjab and the government should formulate a policy for strengthening and mobilising them and involving them more directly in technology generation and dissemination activities. It should develop strong linkages with advanced research organisations, both within India and abroad, ensure access to modern biotechnology tools and products as well as upgrade capacity to utilise and regulate these technologies. Modernisation of the marketing system will require regulatory reforms. A priority should be the amendment of the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act to allow the entry of the private sector in the establishment and management of wholesale markets.
To promote agri-business
and high-value agriculture, the mandatory requirement that all produce
should be sold through regulated markets needs to be reconsidered. The
government should also reduce the various market fees, which are the
highest in the country at the moment.
for awareness on ‘organic’ certification
DURING the past few years, organic farming has gained a reputation as a viable alternative to conventional agriculture.
The states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East have largely remained organic in nature and can contribute to foreign exchange earnings.
Organic farming is a holistic system of farm design and management that seeks to create a healthy ecosystem with sustained profitability. It provides weed and pest control through mutually dependent diverse life forms, crop rotation, water management, tillage and cultivation. Essentially, it means farming without the use of chemicals.
The National Steering Committee (NSC), appointed by the Central Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has established a set of guidelines, referred to as the "National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)" based on European/ US/ Japanese and Codex standards.
This was the first formal initiative by the Government of India to bring together the efforts of various institutions and NGOs towards setting laying down organic standards.
Under the NPOP, accreditation procedures and certification procedures have all been prepared and approved by the NSC.
The steering committee has identified six accreditation agencies for the certification of organic products. They are APEDA, Tea Board, Coffee Board, Spices Board, Coconut Development Board and the Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Board under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Each board has developed a set of guidelines for production and cultivation, bio-dynamic preparation, plant protection techniques and other processing aids required for the specific crops they are concerned with.
The boards are also providing assistance in the form of setting up model farms and state-initiated organic agri-input projects.
Certification is an important prerequisite for the acceptability of organic foods as organic by government regulatory authorities, exporters and importers as well as consumers across the world.
World wide, inspection and certification of organic foods is carried out on the basis of two largely overlapping sets of guidelines and norms. These are statutory certification norms and the voluntary/civil certification norms.
Generally, the voluntary certification norms are stricter than statutory norms.
Statutory certification norms are legal guidelines set by governments and relate to the certification of organic produce, import of organic produce, rules regarding equivalence between countries, etc.
The most accepted voluntary certifications are from international agencies like Codex, IFOAM, Naturland, Demeter and the Soil Association.
(The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The main purposes of this programme are protecting health of the consumers and ensuring fair trade practices in the food trade, and promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organisations.)
In India, norms relating to organic foods regulate only the organic exports and not the domestic organic food industry.
The main certification and inspection agencies in India for organic products are IMO Control (Institute for Marketecologie, Switzerland), Skal International (the Netherlands), and SGS (Societe Generale de Surveillance, Switzerland), Ecocert (Ecological Certification, France).
An official "Indian Organic" logo has also been developed, which can be used as an authentication mechanism by manufacturers and exporters of organic agricultural products. The licence to use the logo will be granted to only those exporters or processors whose produce is duly certified by the official accreditation and certification agencies.
APEDA, being an export promotion organisation, is involved in publicising the logo globally.
Export-Import Bank, in association with APEDA, is also engaged in the promotion of organic exports by creating awareness through active participation in international conferences.
APEDA has also identified exclusive agri-export zones for organic produce in India, such as organic apple in Himachal Pradesh and pineapple in Tripura.
The Indian organic industry is growing rapidly and has made inroads into the world market in certain sectors such as tea, coffee, spices, fruit and vegetables, cotton, cereal (basmati rice), neem, dried nuts, oilseeds, pulses and sugar.
Under the various product segments, organic tea has been taken up in a big way in the mid-hills of the Kangra valley.
India accounts for an estimated 11 per cent by quantity and 3 per cent by value in the world market. The Himalayan region provides considerable opportunity for organic farming and exports due to the low consumption of chemical inputs.
With sizeable acreage
under organic cultivation, India has tremendous potential to emerge as
a major supplier of such products in the world market. However, its
exploitation has been limited on account of a lack of awareness of
price premium for certified organic produce, certification
requirements and its cost, inaccessibility of organic inputs, lack of
R&D and the undeveloped market for organic products.
can grow in North too
DEGRADED as well as productive lands can generate income through the cultivation of sandalwood (Santalun Album), which has its origin in the Indian peninsular region and is traditionally grown in South India. In the recent past, however, technological developments have made it possible to cultivate sandalwood in North India as well, particularly in Himachal Pradesh.
Sandalwood can be easily grown up to an elevation of 1200m with rainfall varying from 600 to 1500 mm per annum. It is sensitive to areas having alkalinity, salinity and swamp problems. But it has shown tremendous growth on sloping degraded or marginal land and sites having shallow soil depth.
This is a hemi-parasitic species that requires the association of a host species for the absorption of minerals and water and manufacture food in the day though photosynthesis. This character makes it a special species, as it can’t be grown in isolation. The planting of host species prior to sandalwood plantation is very important in bare sites.
Areas already occupied by shrubs and trees are best suited for raising sandalwood plantations. Lantana is the most favoured host species, with which it grows very well. Sandalwood can tolerate shade during early age, but requires overhead light in the later stages of life. Among other favoured host species for sandalwood are bamboo, shisham, teak, morus, leucaena, acacia, arhar and carrisa, etc. in North India.
Its wood has light yellow, brown and dark brown colours, depending upon the age, which also decide its market price. Its wood yields 3-6 per cent oil, which makes it a much-in-demand tree species.
In its natural zone of occurrence, the southern part of the country, it is most affected by the sandal spike disease and other insect pests. In those areas large tracts of plantations have been wiped out due to this disease. In the North no such disease has been found till date.
It is the most valuable tree species of the country due to its highly valued wood and oil contents. The oil is in great demand in the cosmetic and perfume industry, while its wood is used in the handicraft industry and in religious ceremonies.
The oil is used as fixative in the perfume industry and is the costliest natural fixative. Farmers of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal can earn good money from sandalwood farming. Its wide adaptability under drought and moisture-stress conditions makes it an ideal crop for marginal lands.
It can be propagated through seed as well as through root cuttings. Its seeds mature twice a year, February to June and August to November. The seeds can be sown in the nursery beds after treatment with Gibbrelic acid. Thatching of beds sown with seeds enhances germination. It can be planted in July and August in pits of size 1.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 ft. The pits may be dug in June and filled just prior to the rainy season with lower soil in the upper part of the pit mixed with farmyard manure. Its initial growth on sloping lands has been found to be 30-40 cm a year.
— Vipan Guleria,
Rakesh Mandraria and K.S. Verma