ఎండోసల్ఫాన్ పైన అంతర్జాతీయ నిషేధం: ఆలోచించాలిసిన విషయాలు


ఎండోసల్ఫాన్ అనే అత్యంత ప్రమాదకరమైన రసాయినిక పురుగు మందును అంతర్జాతీయంగా నిషేదించాలని ఈ రోజు (29 ఏప్రిల్, 2011) స్విట్జర్లాండ్ దేశంలోని జెనీవ నగరంలో జరిగిన సమావేశంలో నిర్ణయించారు. స్టాక్ హోమ్ ఒప్పందంలో భాగంగా జరిగిన చర్చల తరువాత ఈ నిర్ణయం వెలువడింది. పర్యావరణ వాదులు మరియు ఆరోగ్యకరమైన వాతావరణం కొరకు పని చేస్తున్న వ్యక్తులు మరియు సంస్థలు ఈ నిర్ణయాన్ని స్వాగతించాయి.

ఎండోసల్ఫాన్ వాడకం వలన కేరళ, కర్ణాటక తదితర రాష్ట్రాలలో అనేక మంది అనారోగ్యం పాలు కావటం జరిగింది. వేల మంది ప్రజలు బుద్ధి మాంద్యం, పుట్టిన శిశువులలో అంగవైకల్యం మరియు క్యాన్సర్ బారిన పడ్డారు. అనేక మంది మహిళలు మరియు అమ్మల ఆవేదనకు ఈ నిర్ణయం ప్రతిస్పందన. ఈ నిర్ణయం రైతులకు ఎంతో మేలు చేస్తుంది. వారిని ప్రమాదం నుంచి తప్పిస్తుంది. ఎండోసల్ఫాన్ నిషేధం వలన ఆర్థిక నష్టం నుంచి విముక్తి లబిస్తుంది.

ఈ నిర్ణయం జరగకుండ కొన్ని పరిశ్రమ వర్గాలు, కొంత మంది నాయకులు మరియు మన కేంద్ర వ్యవసాయ శాఖా మంత్రి అనేక ప్రయత్నాలు చేశారు. ప్రజల శ్రేయస్సు పట్టించుకోకుండా, సిగ్గు లేకుండ స్వార్థంతో, వ్యాపార ప్రయోజనాల కొరకు ఈ నిషేధం ఆపడానికి విశ్వ ప్రయత్నాలు చేశారు. చివరికి, అంతర్జాతీయ సమాజం ఏకాకి గా భారత ప్రభుత్వం మిగిలే పరిస్థితి ప్రస్ఫుటంగా కనపడి నప్పుడు, ఇంకా మొండి వైఖరి అవలంబిస్తే పట్టించుకోరేమో అనే భయంతో, కొన్ని వెసులుబాట్ల కొరకు మన ప్రభుత్వ ప్రతినిధి ప్రయత్నం చెయ్యడం జరిగింది. నిస్సిగ్గుగా భారత ప్రభుత్వ వైఖరి, పరిశ్రమ ప్రతినిధి కనుసన్నలలో రూపొందడం అంతర్జతీయ సమాజంలో అందరిని ఆశ్చర్య పరిచింది. ఇంతటి సువిశాల దేశంలో, ఒక ముఖ్యమైన అంశం గురించి ప్రభుత్వమూ ఎక్కడ చర్చించకుండా కేవలం ఒక వ్యక్తి సూచనల మీద ఆధారపడడం నిజంగా శోచనీయం. ఇది పూర్తి స్థాయిలో దర్యాప్తు చేయవలసిన అంశం.

ఈ నిషేదానికి తూట్లు పొడిచే ప్రక్రియ ఆయా వర్గాలు చేసే అవకాశాలు చాల ఉన్నాయి. వాటిని నివారించాలన్న, భవిష్యత్తులో ఇతర పురుగు మందుల వాడకం గురించి పునరాలోచన చెయ్యాలన్న ప్రజల అవగాహన పెరగాలి. పత్రికల మరియు మీడియా సహకారం ఎంతో అవసరం. ఎండోసల్ఫాన్ విషయంలో వారి సహకారం ఎంతో ఉంది.

వచ్చే పార్లమెంట్ సమావేశాలలో పురుగు మందుల యాజమాన్య ముసాయిదా బిల్లు ఆమోదించే ప్రయత్నం ప్రభుత్వం చేయబోతున్నది. ఇప్పుడున్న రూపంలో, ఈ బిల్లులో అనేక లోపాలున్నాయి. అనేక సవరణలు ప్రతిపాదించటం జరిగింది. కాని, పరిశ్రమలు మరియు కార్పోరేట్ కంపెనీలకు దాసోహం అయిన ప్రభుత్వం ఈ సవరణలు పట్టించుకోవడం లేదు.

డి. నరసింహ రెడ్డి


From Green Revolution to Suicidal Farmers

Introduction

The Great Bengal Famine of 1943, also known as the Holocaust of India, took about 3 million Indian lives. This incident along with the food crises during 1960s stimulated the Indian Government to think seriously in the direction of food security. The Government of India wanted to increase the production of good grains, so that we would not have to depend on imports in order to meet our food requirement.

The urge for food sufficiency let to the birth of Green Revolution in India under the guidance of Dr. Norman Borlaug of Mexico and Dr. M. S. Swaminathan of India. The Green Revolution introduced high yielding variety seed in the irrigated lands of Punjab, Haryana, and West Bengal. The high yielding variety of seed requires fertilizers and pesticides so were supplemented with the same. The agriculture practices adopted as a result of Green Revolution resulted in 100% increase in the production of cereals during 1970 to 1990. During the same period, the population of India increased by 60%. Consequently, the per capita availability of cereals has increased by 30%. Such an impressive growth in the production of cereals made India self-sufficient in food grains.

However, the Green Revolution’s main focus was on the production of only two cereals wheat and rice, other food crops like millets, oil seeds, vegetables, etc. were neglected at the first place. Also, the green revolution was limited to the irrigated parts of India, despite the fact that about 75% of the land in India is rain fed. All the more, the green revolution was beneficial for the large and medium farmers who can afford the increased cost of inputs and mechanization.

Is High Yielding Really Yielding?

High yielding variety (HYV) seeds are more responsive to the three macro nutrients nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK). However, a plant requires 16 macro and 7 micro nutrients for a healthy growth. The high responsiveness of the HYV crops to NPK demands more of these nutrients, which is provided through chemical fertilizers like urea. Crops cannot take these nutrients in solid form; they are absorbed in dissolved state. Thus, HYV required seven times more water than traditional variety of seeds. More water in the plant body makes them heavier and more prone to diseases. In order to save crops from pests and diseases more and more pesticides and chemical are used. These pesticides and chemicals not only kill the harmful insects but also helping insects like butterflies, which helps in pollination.

In order to reduce the weight of the plants, and to make plants stand in the fields scientists working for the development of HYV of seeds, came up with dwarf varieties. These dwarf varieties have shorter stem. One can say that in these dwarf HYV seed the stem part is converted into fruits. Farmers use the leftover stem portion of the crops as fodder for their cattle. Now, since the fodder content is reduced, farmers now sustain lesser number of cattle on their farm produce and require other supplements for their cattle.

The HYV has increased the input cost of agriculture, due to extra cost of fertilizers, pesticides and mechanization in one hand and has deprived farmers of fodder for their cattle. So, if we just look at the overall effect on the life of a small farmer, whose life depends only on his small piece of land and the cattle, the picture is not very clear for him. The small and marginal farmers are still skeptical about the overall benefits of the HYV of crops.


Tale of small and marginal farmers

Green Revolution has shown some great results in the short run. However, if one analyzes the impact of Green Revolution in great in detail, we can see that the fertilizer requirement of the HYV seeds has increased considerable. For example, 300kg of urea is required for one hectare instead of 3kg initially. Due to excessive use of fertilizers and irrigation, the soil has become saline in many part of India. The high pH of the soil is not conducive for the germination of the seeds, in some part of India soil is reduced to the status of concrete. A recent pioneering study sponsored by three United Nations agencies (FAO, UNDP and UNEP) estimated the severity and costs of land degradation in South Asia. This study reports that the cost of degradation of the soil due to salinization is close to $1.5 billion. Also, due to excessive use of ground water for irrigation, the water in majority of the part of India has reduced to half. The chemical based farming has regarded the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the soil.

Failure of the seed in some part of India brought back the thought of the use of their traditional variety of seeds in the minds of farmers. But, farmers couldn’t find any traditional variety of seeds in the market. The entire seed market is packed with the HYV seeds. The traditional variety of seeds, which have been gained there properties over decades, by the process of adaptation and natural selection, are lost now. The traditional varieties have adapted itself to the climate and soil conditions of different areas are no more available. The failure of the crops resort farmers to try new varieties, but the skeptical about new varieties. Even Government of India has not provided any provision to safeguard against the crop failure in the proposed Seed Bill, 2010.


The economic condition of small and marginal farmers is very bad. The rising cost of inputs to agriculture coupled with soil degradation and destruction of village ecosystem has led farmers into the debt trap of moneylenders. The farmers are even prone to commit suicides. The NCRB data shows that on an average about 17,000 farmers committed suicide in India during 1997-2006. In number of suicides are high in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and this is attributed to the failure of the Bt cotton crop in these states. The farmers committing suicides are mainly small and marginal farmers across India.

References

  1. Parikh, K.S. and Upal Ghosh (1991) “Natural Resource Accounting for Soils:  towards an Empirical Estimate of Costs of Soil Degradation in India” Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research Discussion Paper No.48.
  2. Green Revolution: Curse or blessing?; International Policy research institute. (http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/pubs/pubs/ib/ib11.pdf)
  3. Kisan Morcha for amendment to Seeds Bill, The Hindu, Wednesday, Mar 02, 2011.(http://www.hindu.com/2011/03/02/stories/2011030253880500.htm)
  4. Guillaume P. Gruère , Purvi Mehta-Bhatt , Debdatta Sengupta; Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India; IFPRI Discussion Paper 00808, October 2008.

Great seed robbery

The seed, the source of life, the embodiment of our biological and cultural diversity, the link between the past and the future of evolution, the common property of past, present and future generations of farming communities who have been seed breeders, is today being stolen from the farmers and being sold back to us as “propriety seed” owned by corporations like the US-headquartered Monsanto.

Under pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office, various state governments are signing MoUs (memorandums of understanding) with seed corporations to privatise our rich and diverse genetic heritage. For example, the government of Rajasthan has signed seven MoUs with Monsanto, Advanta, DCM-Shriram, Kanchan Jyoti Agro Industries, PHI Seeds Pvt. Ltd, Krishidhan Seeds and J.K. Agri Genetics. The Rajasthan government’s MoU with Monsanto, for example, focuses on maize, cotton, and vegetables (hot pepper, tomato, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower and water melon). Monsanto controls the cottonseed market in India and globally. Monsanto also controls 97 per cent of the worldwide maize market and 63.5 per cent of the genetically-modified (GM) cotton market. DuPont, in fact, had to initiate anti-trust investigations in the US because of Monsanto’s growing seed monopoly. Sixty Indian seed companies have licensing arrangements with Monsanto, which has the intellectual property on Bt. cotton. In addition, Monsanto has cross-licensing arrangements with BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Sygenta and Dow to share patented, genetically-engineered seed traits with each other. The giant seed corporations are not competing with each other. They are competing with peasants and farmers over the control of the seed supply. And, in effect, monopolies over seed are being established through mergers and cross-licensing arrangements. Monsanto, which controls 95 per cent of the cottonseed market, has pushed the price of seed from `7 per kg to `3,600 per kg, with nearly half being royalty payments. It was extracting `1,000 crores per annum as royalty from Indian farmers before Andhra Pradesh sued it in the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission. The commodified seed is ecologically incomplete and ruptured at two levels: First, it does not reproduce itself, while, by definition, seed is a regenerative resource. Genetic resources are thus, through technology, transformed from a renewable into a non-renewable resource. Second, it does not produce by itself; it needs the help of purchased inputs. And, as the seed and chemical companies merge, the dependence on inputs will increase. The failure of hybrid sunflower in Karnataka and hybrid maize in Bihar has cost poor farmers hundreds of crores of rupees. There are no liability clauses in the MoUs to ensure farmers’ rights and protection from seed failure. The seeds that will be used for essentially derived varieties by corporations like Monsanto are originally farmers’ varieties. The Farmers’ Rights and Plant Genetic Resources Act is a law to protect farmers’ rights, but nothing in the MoUs acknowledges, protects or guarantees farmers’ rights. It is, therefore, violative of the Farmers’ Rights Act. The MoUs are one-sided and biased in favour of corporate intellectual property rights. The Monsanto MoU states: “Monsanto’s proprietary tools, techniques, technology, know-how and intellectual property rights with respect to the crops shall remain the property of Monsanto although utilised in any of the activities outlined as part of the MoU”. So the issue here is not technology, but seed monopoly. What is being termed a public-private partnership (PPP) and is being conducted under the supervision of the state is, in fact, the great seed robbery. Rajasthan is an ecologically fragile area. Its farmers are already vulnerable. It is a crime to increase their vulnerability by allowing corporations to steal their genetic wealth and then sell them patented, genetically engineered, ill-adapted seeds. We must defend seeds as our commons. We must protect the seeds of life from the seeds of suicide. Farmers breed for resilience and nutrition. Industrial breeding responds to intensive chemical and water inputs so that seed companies can increase profits. The future of the seed, the future of the food, the future of farmers lies in conservation of the biodiversity of our seed. Navdanya’s research also shows that biodiversity-based ecological agriculture produces more food than monocultures. Hybrids and Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) produce less nutrition per acre and are vulnerable to climate change, pests and disease. Replacing agro-biodiversity with hybrid and GM crops is a recipe for food insecurity. The MoUs will, in effect, facilitate bio-piracy of Rajasthan’s rich biodiversity of drought-resilient crops, which become more valuable in times of climate change. By failing to have any clauses that respect the Biodiversity Act and the Farmers’ Rights Act, the MoUs promote biopiracy and legalise the great seed robbery. According to the MoUs, private companies’ seed distribution will be based on “seed supply and distribution arrangements involving leverage of extensive government-owned network”. In other words, selling hybrids and then GMOs will be subsidised by allowing the use of public land for “technology demonstration farms to showcase products, technology and agronomic practices on land made available by the government of Rajasthan”. Besides the handing over of seed and land, “Monsanto will be helped in the establishment of infrastructure towards the fulfilment of the collaboration objectives specified above through access to relevant capital subsidy and other schemes of the government of Rajasthan”. While public resources will be freely given away to Monsanto as a subsidy, Monsanto’s Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) monopolies will be protected. This is an MoU for “Monsanto takes all, the public system gives all”. It is clearly an MoU for privatisation of our seed and genetic wealth, our knowledge, and a violation of farmers’ rights. Seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. Seed freedom is the foundation of food freedom. The great seed robbery threatens both. It must be stopped.

Do we need a second green revolution after four decades?

http://www.dailypioneer.com/334548/Do-we-need-a-second-green-revolution-after-four-decades.html
April 27, 2011   8:30:50 AM

Prescience or perceptual percipience of pathetic predicament of the peasantry could have propelled the authority to pull them out from the pernicious penury. Preposterous perception and perfunctory implementation of policies couldn’t read the presage writ large for the pro-rata increase in woes of the peasants. The perplexing prattles and prophesies without delving deep into the cause of precarious position of peasantry have made our pithy postulates look helpless.

The resultant paradoxical position is that while we profess for progress and present a picture of advanced agriculture and improved socio-economic conditions of the farmers, but at the same time we are facing the prang as the field realities have not been properly perceived. As such, the agriculture sector with a majority of small and marginal farmers has borne the burnt, and wilting under the pressure from global competitors, burden of bank borrowing and unfavourable climatic conditions. Lastly, the poor peasant has to fight against the onslaught on agricultural lands by the propertied estate developers for perpetration of the concrete juggles on agricultural lands.

Presumptions, however accurate they may be, cannot predicate a pragmatic procedural solution. The causes of the resultant precipitation of present predicament of the peasantry are to be found out first. Over dependence on monsoon, lack of irrigation facilities, heavy burden of debt, escalation of prices of pesticides and fertilisers, competition from global market as a result of globalisation, excessive dependence on paddy cultivation and negligible production of alternative crops and the lack of backward and forward linkages sometimes resulting in sale of the produce in a low rate have prompted the peasantry to proliferate the propensity of despair.

Each point mentioned in the preceding paragraph if analysed and explained would be as lengthy as research paper. But for brevity, the prominent yet perturbing cause which should be pummelled first is the overdependence of agriculture sector and the vagaries of monsoon. Whereas in case of Punjab above ninety-five per cent of cultivable land is irrigated, in Odisha the total area under any kind of assured irrigation system is very less. That leaves the peasantry under the claws of perpetual uncertainties. The need of the hour is creation of irrigation potential through various practical ways, starting from euphemistic proposal of joining major rivers to creation of small water reservoirs with canalisation of water potential and every effort in this regard would be laudable. Even the not so successful concept of lift irrigation in our State maybe given a second thought because there is no alternative to this method in dry areas and this method has taken Punjab to the pinnacle of success in agriculture sector. The other problems besetting the farmers are heavy debt burden, the escalating cost of fertilizers and pesticides and non-availability at the proper moment and supply of quality seeds for cultivation of the crops in time. These prominent points need no further explanation but need a serious consideration by the secretary agriculture department to profess support to apparently shaken peasantry in a paradigm shift of approach.

The scope and profitability of alternate and multiple cropping should be explained to farmers even through demonstration in the fields of rich peasants in their locality. The apprehension associated with these cropping methods in the mind of cultivators regarding marketability of these produces should be allayed. The concept of backward and forward linkages or in a plain way leaving these high sounding jargons, the marketing support and the concept of support price should be extended to primary cultivators. Though the authorities declare support prices for the major crops but the important thing is that the benefit should reach the cultivators. Without marketing support, development of growth centers, krushak bazaars the poverty-stricken peasantry would find it difficult to come out from the present position and without the supports poor peasants should not be exposed to experimentations with regard to alternate and rotational cropping methods, etc.

The present situations emerging out of globalisation are not very conducive for Indian farmers and especially the farmers of Odisha and have set the precognition of a situation of global competition even in food products, and, therefore, preparation to save and equip the farmers to face the unavoidable situations should become the prime most thing in the agenda of the Secretary of the Agriculture Department. The fragile financial condition of the farmers for varied reasons portrayed in the previous paragraphs cannot sustain the jolt because of this economic imbroglio precipitated by globalisation and global competitions. A firm support in various fronts should be provided to this community to prepare, face and survive and succeed even in the global competitive arena. Even we can also strengthen and develop the agricultural produce export policy to pronounce our arrival in global scene.

At the macro level, the Indian agricultural sector and at the medium and micro level, Odisha’s agriculture sector need a little pampering and pat from the authority as agriculture is still our mainstay. Do we need a second green revolution after about four decades?

— The writer is a senior IAS officer


Our farmers are dying, to hell with the World Cup

NARENDRA SHEKHAWAT

Yes, you read it right; to hell with the World Cup; to hell with the celebrations; to hell with all the free land and money being showered by different governments on the players. How can I jump, scream, have gallons of beer and cheer for the nation when a few kilometres away the farmers and feeders of my country are taking their own lives in hordes?

Do you know that, on average, 47 farmers have been committing suicide every single day in the past 16 years in our shining India — the next economic power, progressive with nine per cent growth?

Last month, on March 5, Friday evening, when Bangalore’s watering holes were getting filled up, when all the DJs were blaring out deafening music, when we were busy discussing India’s chances at the World Cup, sitting in CCDs and Baristas — just 100 km away from Bangalore, Swamy Gowda and Vasanthamma, a young farmer couple, hanged themselves, leaving their three very young children to fend for themselves or, most likely, die of malnutrition.

Why did they do it? Were they fighting? No. Were they drunkards? No. Did they have incurable diseases? No! Then WHY? Because they were unable to repay a loan of Rs 80,000 (a working IT couple’s one month salary? 2-3 months EMI?) for years, which had gradually increased to Rs. 1.2 lakh. Because they knew that now they would never be able to pay it back. Because they were hurt. Hurt by our government which announced a huge reduction in import duty for silk in this year’s budget (from 30 per cent to 5 per cent).They were struggling silk farmers and instead of help from the government, they get this! Decrease in import duty means the markets will now be flooded with cheap Chinese silk (as everything else!) and our own farmers will be left in the lurch.

On average, 17,000 farmers have been committing suicide every year, for the past 15 years on the trot. Can you believe it? Most of us wouldn’t know this fact. Why? Because, our great Indian media, the world’s biggest media, are not interested in reporting this! Why? Because they are more interested in covering fashion week extravaganzas. They are more interested in ‘why team India was not practising when Pakistanis were sweating it out in stadium on the eve of the match?’ They are more interested in Poonam Pandey.

The media are supposed to be the third eye of democracy and also called the fourth estate, but now they have become real estate. Pure business.

So any attention from the media is out of the question. Who is left then? The government? But we all know how it works. The other day, I was passing by Vidhan Soudha in Bangalore and happened to read the slogan written at the entrance, “Government work is god’s work”. Now I know why our government has left all its work to god!

Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced plots for all the players. But land? In Bangalore? You must be kidding, Mr. C.M.. So he retracts and now wants to give money. But where will it come from? Taxes, yours and mine. Don’t the poor farmers need the land or money more than those players who are already earning in crores?

A government-owned bank will give you loan at six per cent interest rate if you are buying a Mercedes but if a poor farmer wants to buy a tractor, do you know how much it is charging him? Fifteen per cent! Look at the depths of inequality. Water is Rs. 15 a litre and a SIM card is for free! For how long can we bite the hand that is feeding us? The recent onion price fiasco was just a trailer. Pictureabhi baaki hai doston!

In 2008, Lakme India fashion show venue was in a Mumbai five-star hotel and was covered by 500 journalists and the theme was ‘Cotton’. A few hours drive from there, cotton farmers were committing suicide, 4 or 5, everyday! How many TV journalists covered this? Zero!

Sixty-seventy per cent of India’s population is living on less than Rs. 20 a day. A bottle of Diet coke for us? The electricity used in a day-night match could help a farmer irrigate his fields for more than a few weeks! Do you know that loadshedding is also class dependent? Two hours in metros, 4 in towns and 8 in villages. Now, who needs electricity more? A farmer to look after his crop day and night, irrigate, pump water and use machines or a few bored, young professionals with disposable incomes, to log on to Facebook and watch IPL?

How can we splurge thousands on our birthday parties and zoom past in our AC vehicles and sit in cushy chairs in our AC offices and plan a weekend trip to Coorg when on the way, in those small villages, just a few minutes’ walk from the roads, someone might be consuming pesticide or hanging himself from a tree for just Rs.10, 000? How can we?

There was much panic when there was swine flu. Every single death in the country was reported second by second, minute by minute. Why? Because it directly affected our salaried, ambitious, tech-savvy, middle-class. So there were masks, special relief centres, enquiry centres set up by government to please this section. On the other hand, 47 people are dying, every single day for the past 15 years. Anybody cared to do anything?

It has been observed that within months of a farmer taking his life, his wife follows, either by poisoning the kids first or leaving them on their own. In Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, a distressed woman farmer went to the government seed shop, bought a bottle of pesticide, on credit, went home and drank it. She was under debt for most of her life and now — even her death was on credit!

Centuries ago, there was a Roman emperor, called Nero. He was a strong ruler and also very fond of parties, art, poetry, drinking and a life full of pleasures. Once he decided to organise a grand party and invited all poets, writers, dancers, painters, artists, intellectuals and thinkers of society. Everybody was having a great time eating, drinking, laughing, and socialising. The party was at its peak when it started getting dark. Nero wanted the party to go on. So he ordered and got all the arrested criminals, who were in his jails, around the garden and put them on fire! Burnt them alive, so that there was enough light for the guests to keep on enjoying! The guests had a gala time though they knew the cost of their enjoyment. Now, what kind of conscience those guests had?

NERO’S GUESTS

What is happening in our country is not different from Nero’s party. We, the middle-class-young-well-earning-mall-hopping-IPL-watching and celebrating-junta are Nero’s guests enjoying at the cost of our farmers. Every budget favours the already rich. More exemptions are being given to them at the cost of grabbing the land of our farmers in the name of SEZs, decrease in import duties in the name of neo-liberal policies, increase in the loan interest rates if the product is not worth lakhs and crores. Yes, that’s what we are, Nero’s guests!

I’m not against celebrations. I’m not against cricket. I’m not against World Cup. I would be the first person to scream, celebrate and feel proud of any of India’s achievements but, only if all fellow countrymen, farmers, villagers also stand with me and cheer; only if they do not take their own lives ruthlessly, only if there is no difference between interest rates for a Mercedes and a tractor. That would be the day I also zoom past on a bike, post-Indian win, with an Indian Flag in hand and screaming Bharat Mata Ki Jai. But no, not today. Not at the cost of my feeders. Until then, this is what I say. To hell with your malls. To hell with your IPL. To hell with your World Cup. And to hell with your celebrations.

(The writer’s email is: naren.singh.shekhawat@ gmail.com)

Managing a Rich Harvest, Urgently

We need to both extend procurement, using private or cooperative agencies, and export surplus stocks There is a good news on the farm front. After the dip in 2009-10 due to severe drought, agri-production in 2010-11 has bounced back on its rising trend. The third Advance Estimates for 2010-11 indicate a rich harvest with foodgrains touching a new peak at 235.9 million tonnes. Of this, more heartening is the production of pulses which has registered a quantum jump of more than 18% to touch 17.3 million tonnes, an all-time high. Oilseeds production has jumped by 20% to cross 30 million tonnes, and cotton by a whopping 40% to touch 34 million bales. These are all laudable achievements by Indian farmers, duly supported by scientists, bureaucrats, agri-business, and, of course, the rain gods to give us a normal rainfall year. But now comes the challenge of managing efficiently this bountiful harvest. If this is not addressed seriously, and quickly, it can play spoilsport and turn this bounty into a crisis. First and foremost is the need to hold the price line for the farmers, who have toiled hard in the face of rising labour and energy costs, to ensure that they get at least the minimum support price (MSP) that the government has announced. Already there is a news that in Uttar Pradesh wheat is being sold at . 1,050/quintal as against an MSP of . 1,120 plus, the likely bonus of . 50 per quintal. Earlier, in the kharif season also, paddy prices were below the MSP in several mandis in UP and Orissa. With increasing arrivals of wheat in mandis, the situation is going to worsen. All government machinery related to procurement, be it FCI, Nafed, state agencies, etc., need to be put in high gear. And if these agencies still cannot hold the floor price, the government needs to do some ‘out-of the-box’ thinking and invite the non-governmental agencies to join them under the PPP mode for procurement. Cooperatives (like Iffco, etc), NGOs (like BAIF, etc) and the private sector companies (like ITC, HKBs, etc) could be partners in procurement with government agencies. They could buy at MSP and be given same terms and conditions as given to FCI and state agencies. In particular, this needs to be experimented in areas of eastern region where the government is trying to usher in second green revolution and government procurement machinery is somewhat weak. By bringing in these strong allies in procurement, the country can have a win-win situation. On one hand, farmers can be assured of MSP, incentivising them to adopt modern technologies and raise productivity. On the other, non-governmental agencies can hopefully do the procurement in a more cost-effective manner and make some savings, thereby incentivising them to build backend storage infrastructure that is so badly needed. And, if all this fails, the government should think of the ways and means to compensate the farmers for the loss accruing due to market prices going below MSP. It is going to be challenging, identifying farmers who have sold their produce at prices below MSP, and then transferring money directly to their accounts through an electronic platform using UID. But as they say, the promise of an MSP is a promise by the government, and needs to be honoured to give credibility to its price policy. The other challenge is efficiently managing the grain stocks. Saving an already produced grain from damage is much more cost-effective than producing additional grain with scare land and scarcer water. Currently, the country is saddled with large grain inventories of about 46 million tonnes, more than double the buffer stock norms. And in the next three months, with an expected wheat procurement of more than 26 million tonnes, this is feared to turn into a ‘crisis of plenty’ as the storage capacity with FCI and CWC is limited. Even when states like Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (and more states are treading that path) are selling foodgrains at token prices of . 1 and . 2/ kg, the country is not able to liquidate the stocks, notwithstanding the harsh fact that there are serious problems of delivery to the needy people which require improvisations. The extra inventory, over and above the buffer stock norms, is currently estimated at more than . 40,000 crore, which is not giving any meaningful return to the country. The immediate need, therefore, is to find its appropriate use. One such option is to unload a part of it in the domestic market at a price not below the MSP. The other option could be to distribute more through welfare programmes (subsidised ones), and yet another option is to export part of it to make some profits that can be ploughed back to build modern storage facilities. We feel that the international market for grains is reasonably good and India could export 3-5 million tonnes of wheat and rice each, in a gradual manner, to make some profits by the government agencies and/ or by the private sector. But in the business of trade, speedy decisions are needed. The procurement season has begun, the crop is good, and unless a clear policy direction is given, the country may miss this opportunity. It will not serve anyone’s purpose if excessive stocks kept in the open get damaged and spoiled in rains. Timely decision is the need of the hour, and time is already knocking at our doors! (Co-authored with Rugmini Parmar, Advisor, CACP) ASHOK GULATI CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION FOR AGRICULTURAL COSTS AND PRICES (CACP)

Sales of complex fertilisers soar thanks to new subsidy regime

NEW DELHI, APRIL 20:
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Sales of complex fertilisers have registered a 20 per cent jump in 2010-11, following the introduction of a nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) regime.

The fiscal that ended on March 31 saw fertiliser firms selling 98.3 lakh tonnes (lt) of complexes, containing various proportions of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potash (K) and sulphur (S). This was roughly a fifth more than the 81.9 lt they did in 2009-10.

On the other hand, despatches of conventional fertilisers such as urea and di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) recorded lower growth – 6.7 per cent and 9.3 per cent respectively – while even falling by 16.8 per cent in the case of muriate of potash (MOP).

The spurt in complex sales is largely being ascribed to the NBS, effective since April 1, 2010. Under it, subsidy is provided on fertilisers based on their N, P, K or S content. This was as against the earlier system, where the subsidy was limited to specific products (urea, DAP, MOP) with no real linkage to nutrient content.

VALUE PROPOSITION

The NBS subsidy is currently Rs 27.481 for a kg of N, with these at Rs 29.407 on P, Rs 24.628 on K and Rs 1.692 on S. That translates into a subsidy of Rs 16,648 on a tonne of the popular NPK complex, 12:32:16, enabling it to be retailed at around Rs 9,500. Lower prices (against Rs 10,750 for DAP) and the presence of K (unlike in DAP, which only has 18 per cent N and 46 per cent P) makes it a value proposition for farmers.

“Not only farmers, even companies are finding attractive to market complexes because their prices can be raised quietly without inviting the attention that DAP or MOP would,” an industry source noted.

The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (Iffco) – the leading player in complexes along with Coromandel International Ltd – has virtually stopped making DAP at its Kandla plant, which is now only producing 10:26:26 and 12:32:16 complexes. Even MOP is being increasingly incorporated into complexes, as evidenced by imports that have gone up despite the dip in direct sales.

The other indicator of the increasing preference for complexes is imports, which touched a record 11.7 lt in 2010-11. The importers included Indian Potash Ltd (7.38 lt), Iffco (1.32 lt), Zuari Industries (0.77 lt), Mangalore Chemicals & Fertilisers (0.31 lt) and Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilisers (0.30 lt), besides the likes of Nagarjuna Fertilisers that do not manufacture complexes.

According to the source, complex sales would have easily scaled the 100 lt-mark, but for the political upheavals in North Africa and West Asia.

“The disruption in supply of rock phosphate, phosphoric acid, ammonia and sulphur from these countries impacted our production. Moreover, the cost of these raw materials, too, went up,” he added.

As a result, the year-on-year sales growth for complexes, which amounted to over 29 per cent during April-January, slowed down to 20 per cent by the fiscal-end.

DAP PRICE INCREASE?

Meanwhile, most companies are said to have effected, or are planning to, increase retail prices of DAP by around Rs 600 a tonne for the coming kharif planting season. The maximum retail price, excluding local levies, will go up from Rs 10,750 to Rs 11,350 a tonne. In addition, firms are passing on the one per cent excise duty levied in the recent Union Budget to the farmer.

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