Category: Agriculture & Foodgrain

Food subsidy – reining in bogus claims alone is not reform

According to the medium-term expenditure framework [MTEF] statement recently released by the finance ministry, the food subsidy bill of the union government is projected to increase from Rs 145,000 crore during the current year to Rs 175,000 crores during 2018-19 and further to Rs 200,000 crores during 2019-20. This comes as a big disappointment to all those who have been anxiously looking forward to Modi – government deliver on its reforms agenda especially in regard to food subsidy which is a big resource guzzler – next only to interest payments and pension. Considering that such an assessment [steep increase] is being made less than two years before its term comes to an end implies that no reform is in the...
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Contract farming – enabling environment needed

In his budget speech [2017-18], finance minister, Arun Jaitley had announced union government’s decision to bring a model contract farming Act with the intent to protect farmers from price volatility by ensuring guaranteed price for their produce. As a follow up, a draft legislation has now been released for comments from stakeholders including farmers. The latter have been given 30 days to give their suggestions. Thereafter, a final`model’ contract farming Act is expected to be released in November after incorporating the suggestions. This will serve as a guide for states to bring required legislation. Because of the heavy dependence on rainfall [70% of the cultivated area is rain-fed and even for balance 30% under irrigation, rainfall is a crucial factor...
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Farmers not yet out of middleman’s clutch

The Indian agriculture scenario is known for continued impoverishment of the farmers arising due to vagaries of nature on the one hand and poor realization from selling their produce on the other. Ironically, low price paid to the farmers does not translate in to low price for consumers either; instead, the latter pay high price. If, both farmers and consumers are losing then, without doubt, it is the middleman who is making gain. The middleman/trader exploits every conceivable situation, be it surplus production or shortage to his advantage. Recent developments in Madhya Pradesh [MP] in regard to supply and prices of onion and tomato bear ample testimony to this harsh reality. Early this year [January-February], farmers in the state were...
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PMFBY – no panacea for farmers’ woes

Farmers in India are constantly under the threat of drought and other natural calamities such as floods, hailstorms, pest attacks etc leading to unprecedented loss of crop output. Unable to pay back loans [taken for growing crop and personal consumption needs], tens of thousands of them commit suicide every year. During a recent hearing, the Supreme Court [SC] reprimanded the union government for its slow and inadequate action in dealing with the problem. But, the latter put up a strong defense citing launch of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna [PMFBY] though Attorney General, KK Venugopal [who argued on its behalf] opined it will take time for the impact to be felt on ground. Under PMFBY, a farmer is compensated for the crop...
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Farmers need empowerment, not write-offs

When, prime minister, Modi during his high octane campaign in the run up to assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh [UP] promised loan waiver for farmers [albeit small and marginal/poor] in the state, he might not even have contemplated that state-after-states would be confronted with similar demands. In retrospect, this is precisely what has dawned on the political establishments particularly in states ruled by BJP viz. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana etc. The irony is that whereas, BJP had voluntarily made a commitment in a poll bound state, the demand for loan waiver has surged even in states where it was not a poll promise. Those states have been coerced in to granting waivers using the modus operandi of protests and demonstrations....
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INDIA’S PULSE DILEMMA

While the Government has done its bit to boost the output of pulses, it has done little to check the nexus between politicians and grain traders For several decades, production of pulses in India has fallen substantially short in terms of consumption. This persistent deficit has led to intermittent bouts of spike in prices as imports (needed to plug it) have often come after lag and have failed to reach consumption points in time — courtesy: Handling, storage and transportation bottlenecks. Pulses are an important source of nutrition, especially for vegetarians. It is also a critical component for the diet of the poor. This nutrition-poor link, which is juxtaposed with hike in price, has also been exploited by opposition parties...
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Unholy politician-trader nexus – behind farmers plight

For several decades, production of pulses in India has fallen substantially short of consumption. The persistent deficit has led to intermittent bouts of spike in their prices as imports [needed to plug it] have often come after lag and failed to reach consumption points in time – courtesy, handling, storage and transportation bottlenecks. The import of pulses in large quantity also resulted in huge outgo of foreign exchange exacerbating balance of payment problems especially during times when the macro-economic fundamentals were weak [for instance, during early 90s and 2012-13/2013-14]. This also affected the ability of the government to remain glued to the path of fiscal consolidation. Pulses are an important source of nutrition especially for vegetarians and a critical component...
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Yogi – Modi onslaught on poverty

The just concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh [UP] were fought in the backdrop of deteriorating law and order situation, hostile environment for investment, crumbling infrastructure [sans a few pockets in urban areas], widespread farmers distress, their high level of indebtedness and acute shortage of bare necessities viz. home, food, education, health, water and electricity. The poor investment climate and pathetic law and order discouraged industrialists and businessmen from setting up factories/shops even as existing establishments were facing closure. Together with farming being un-remunerative/losing proposition, this made a deadly cocktail leading to large-scale loss of jobs and in turn, migration of youth en mass to other states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat. Promises galore BJP led by Modi promised liberation...
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Government cap on GM tech royalty hurt the farmer; here’s how

The ministry’s decisions reflect a mindset that views MMBL as an exploitative monopoly. This perception is flawed and out of sync with ground realities Under CSPCO, the ministry fixed the price of cottonseed sales at an ‘uniform’ level and the maximum trait-fee payable to the technology-provider (TP). Given GM Bt cotton accounts for 98% total cottonseeds used in India, the decision was directed primarily at this segment. On July 6, 2016, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech India (MMBL) withdrew its application for environment clearances for commercial cultivation of cottonseeds carrying its Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex (B-II-RRF) technology, which uses genes that not only kill pests but also imparts resistance to the herbicide, Roundup. MMBL has attributed its decision to the “uncertainty in...
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PM agri–insurance scheme – challenges ahead

Farmers in India are constantly under the threat of drought and other natural calamities such as floods, hailstorms, pest attacks etc leading to unprecedented loss of crop output. Unable to pay back loans [taken for growing crop], tens of thousands of them commit suicide every year. It is a national curse. The issue has been debated several times in the parliament wherein parliamentarians across the political spectrum pledge to put an end to it but things have so far remained at a standstill. The Pradhan Mantri Phasal Bima Yojna [PMPBY] launched by Modi – government early this year has come as a beacon of hope. Under PMPBY, a farmer will be compensated for the crop loss by paying small premium...
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