New initiative to popularise organic farming Neha Madaan

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/pune/New-initiative-to-popularise-organic-farming/articleshow/10109905.cms

PUNE: In an initiative implemented by city-based Directorate of Horticulture, around 6,000 hectare of land in the state will be brought under organic farming through 60 projects this year. The initiative aims to increase the area under organic farming by 50,000 hectares, apart from reducing production costs and ensuring good quality produce, free of pesticide residue. The budget earmarked for this is Rs 4.31 crore, which includes cost on components such as vermicompost units, biodynamic compost units, organic farming exhibitions, tours and training, among other things.

According to D G Bakwad, director, horticulture department, growers, who want to delve into organic farming, want premium price for their produce. “We are, therefore, trying to introduce this initiative with two perspectives: Reducing the production cost and increase the product quality. Though farmers try to bring down production cost, the end produce is not purely organic due to the use of both organic and inorganic inputs. The production of organic food has therefore not been consistent,” he said.

He added that producing truly organic food is a highly complex procedure, as the produce has to be certified and the organic inputs required have to be produced on the farm itself, which is a tedious process and requires plenty of labour. “Farmers therefore delve into organic farming only if they are guaranteed premium price for their produce. It is because of the aforementioned reasons that out of the total area under organic farming in the state (7.02 lakh hectares) area that is under certification has come down from 2.77 lakh hectare to 1.5 lakh hectare. Certification itself involves additional expenses, due to which there has not been much stability in organic farming,” he added.

Hence, the initiative. “Earlier, we promoted organic farming by implementing different components to support it; this year however, we changed our implementation strategy. This year, we have implementing this programme on organic farming as a full-fledged project, by bringing about 200 ha under the sway of this initiative in each district of the state, which adds up to 6000 ha in all,” added Bakwad.

It also involves NGO participation, who have been selected to promote the initiative in each district.

Under the programme, Rs 50 lakh have been earmarked for starting vermicomposting units, Rs 1.04 crore for biodynamic compost units, Rs 1 lakh for Cow Pat Pit (CPP) culture unit, and Rs 4.95 lakh for preparation of ‘neem’ powder. The initiative will also have setting up farmers’ groups to undertake organic farming, for which a total of Rs 28.30 lakh have been sanctioned, while Rs 1.01 crore have been allocated for starting organisations that will conduct organic farming workshops. Rs 34 lakh on organising exhibitions, festivals, workshops and seminars on organic farming, Rs 16.60 lakh for tours within the state and Rs 8 lakh for those outside the state, among others allocations, are also part of the initiative.

Indian Organic firms expect to beat slowdown

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/india-emerging/indian-organic-firms-expect-to-beat-slowdown/articleshow/9655159.cms

19 Aug, 2011, 04.01AM IST, radhika nair,ET Bureau

Despite the looming threat of a global economic slowdown, India’s organic entrepreneurs are upbeat on the prospects for an emerging industry. In an industry long dependent on exports, these firms are now finding that rising consumption of organic products by middle class Indians is creating a brand new market opportunity. 

Rajashekar Reddy Seelam, founder of Sresta Natural Bioproducts, which sells under the brand 24 Letter Mantra is planning to increase acreage under organic cultivation.

“We intend to invest around $15 million next year,” said Reddy. Since 2004, when the company was launched, the firm has entered into contract farming arrangements with 10,000 organic farmers. The plan next year is to increase cultivation to 70,000 acres. Reddy’s optimism stems from the estimated 50% growth in demand for organic products in India that is providing a buffer in a time of global slowdown.

“We are continuously increasing shelf space for organic products, which is still a small part of our overall business,” said Thomas Varghese, CEO of Aditya Birla Retail, who runs the More chain of supermarkets.

The Indian organic industry expects its total turnover, including exports, to go up from 675 crore in 2010 to 4,000 crore by 2012, according to the International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture (ICCOA).

The domestic growth comes at a time when industry players estimate that India’s organic exports are growing at 6-7%, down from a pre-recession high of 13-14%. “I don’t think things will get worse,” said Sresta’s Reddy, who along with his peers in the industry are battling multiple issues on the ground as they seek to meet the ambitious growth targets.

Higher prices for organic products are still an impediment. If a household shifts completely to organic food products, the extra spend comes to around 1,500 per month, according to organic producers.

But entrepreneurs justify the higher cost-to-customer as organic farmers need the incentive of higher price since they bear greater risk by avoiding pesticides and incur the cost of certification.

“We have higher per unit transport costs too as our volumes are much smaller compared to non-organic food. Similarly our storage costs are also high,” said Bangalore-based Pro Nature’s co-founder and CEO Varun Gupta, whose company procures, processes, brands and supplies organic food products.

Started in 2006, by Gupta and his wife Nidhi Gupta, Pro Nature-branded products retail in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai and has 3 crore in revenue.

For farmers who supply to organic retailers the cost of certifying their produce as organic costs 9,500 to 19,000 per man day. Companies are now supporting farmers to get this certification. “We provide farmers with know-how and help in the certification process. We work with them to put the internal controls in place,” said a Suminter Organics spokesperson, who did not wish to be named.

Suminter is one of the best known organic companies in the country and was started in 2004 by Sameer Mehra. The company works with small and marginal farmers, mostly in Maharashtra and Gujarat, and has a processing unit in Indore. All the food products they process are exported and almost 60% of the cotton is exported. In 2008, it raised funds from Nexus Venture Partners.

To beat the hurdles, entrepreneurs are using novel methods. IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, Aparna Bhatnagar decided to sell online to keep operating costs low. She launched the e-commerce portal Green and Good Store a little over a year ago. Unlike most other organic ventures, Bhatnagar focuses on non-food products and retails organic apparel, home furnishing, stationery, cosmetics and handicrafts sourced from other certified producers. Bhatnagar has consciously kept prices low, with some apparel priced as low as 300. “Consumers should not have to pay extra for choosing to buy an eco-friendly product,” said Bhatnagar.

Another entrepreneur trying to exploit the e-com platform is Sivakasi based organic cotton fabric and bed linen manufacturer, Creative Textures. The company, which was launched in 2005, turned fully organic in 2008. Today, Creative Textures has a turnover of 12.5 crore and it exports 25% of its total production, while the rest is sold to domestic garment manufacturers, who in turn export the finished products. “We plan to start online retail for the UK market very soon,” said CEO R Balaji, who has already contracted warehouses in UK.

Companies say they need to start investing in marketing and advertising to acquire new customers. But, marketing costs are a burden for organic retailers. “Many of these companies are small players and do not have the financial muscle to support a marketing budget,” said Hemendra Mathur, managing director of SEAF India Agribusiness International Fund.

Entrepreneurs are now trying to overcome this handicap. Last month, Sresta’s Reddy launched a month-long nationwide “Freedom from Pesticides” campaign to raise awareness among consumers. As part of this campaign, consumers can bring any non-organic food products and the company will give them organic products at no charge. “Market development will accelerate growth. We have so far got a good response for our campaign,” said Reddy.

While Sresta’s initiative may be a start, organic entrepreneurs concede the Indian market is a long way away from more developed western organic markets. The US organic food and beverages industry was at almost $27 billion in 2010 and represented approximately 4% of overall food and beverage sales in 2010, according to data sourced from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), a North American organic industry body. The western organic sector is also witnessing acquisitions, a sign of an industry reaching scale.

Among the more prominent acquisitions this year, were the buyouts of Danival, a French producer of organic foods, and GG UniqueFiber, a Norwegian natural foods company, by the US natural and organic food company Hain Celestial, which had $1.05 billion in sales. “We are five years away from such a scenario in India, where organic firms would have reached a scale to acquire or be acquired by a larger company,” said Pro Nature’s Gupta. But Indian entrepreneurs are confident they are on track to reach that target.

Double standards on organic cotton in State?

The unbridled promotion of genetically modified (GM) cotton in the State, including Mysore district, has left organic farmers peeved due to the absence of an institutional mechanism to supply non-Bt cotton seeds in the market.

The cotton seed scarcity that plagued the district and other parts of the State in May mainly pertained to Bt cotton seeds which is used by over 90 per cent of growers in H.D. Kote and other cotton-growing areas of the district.

According to statistics available with the Department of Agriculture here, nearly 40,000 hectares of land was brought under cotton cultivation in 2010. The area is expected to increase to 54,000 hectares this year.

Of the 40,000 hectares under cotton cultivation in the district, the area under organic cotton is around 4,000 hectares. But in the absence of non-Bt cotton seeds, farmers using eco-friendly and organic methods may be forced to switch to chemical farming.

Vivek Cariappa, organic farmer from H.D. Kote, told The Hindu that a large number of farmers shifted from cereals and pulses to cotton, anticipating a good price. As a result, the area under maize, ragi and banana declined. He said that the Government was catering to their requirements by ensuring supply of Bt cotton seeds.

“However, there are scores of farmers who have rejected Bt technology, shifted focus from conventional chemical-intensive practices and are practitioners of organic farming. These farmers have been left to fend for themselves,” Mr. Cariappa said.

He pointed out that though the State’s policy was to promote organic farming, it was encouraging Bt technology.

Contamination

Mr. Cariappa and other organic farmers expressed the view that the germplasm of the non-Bt variety of seeds had been contaminated and that the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad, was the only place in the country where the germplasm of the non-Bt variety of cotton was not contaminated.

Hence, Mr. Cariappa suggested that the State Government be pro-active in funding the UAS to produce non-Bt varieties of cotton seeds. He said that even indigenous cotton varieties such as Jayadhar cotton, which was cultivated extensively in Hubli and Gadag, were not available and it was imperative for the State to intervene and ensure that the germplasm of these indigenous varieties were produced, preserved and made available to farmers.

The Organic Farmers’ Association of H.D. Kote pointed out that each packet of Bt cotton seeds contained a small pouch of non-Bt cotton seeds because it was mandatory for farmers to plant them in the periphery of their fields to prevent contamination of transgenic plants with non-transgenic plants through pollination.

However, Mr. Cariappa said there was no independent laboratory or agency to certify that these pouches indeed contained non-Bt cotton seeds.

The onus was on the Government to establish or appoint an agency to check the seeds and ensure that non-Bt cotton seeds were supplied to farmers.

There is no institutional mechanism to supply non-Bt cotton seeds in the market
‘Farmers using organic methods may be forced to switch to chemical farming’

Organic farming may touch Rs 10,000 cr by 2015: Study

NEW DELHI: The country’s organic farming may touch Rs 10,000 crore by 2015 on account of rising demand for such products as people are becoming more health conscious, as per an industry body survey said.

At present, the size is about Rs 2,500 crore, an Assocham study said.

“The Indian organic farming is expected to grow mainly due to increasing awareness among people regarding these products and rising income levels,” Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said.

Certified organic items, including basmati rice, cereals, spices, tea, fruits, herbal medicines and their value-added products are produced in the country, the survey said.

It said private sector with facilitation from the government has played a pivotal role in driving organic products’ movement in the country, Rawat said.

Currently, India has about 4.5 million hectares area under certified organic farms and the number is growing fast.

The study said, although, the organic farming is picking up pace in India, the sector has been jostling with lack of awareness about benefits of these products.

Therefore, the chamber has suggested to the government to promote training programmes for producers with an aim to enhance their awareness level.

” research and development is another significant area which requires serious attention. Therefore, there is a need to set up research institutions aimed at improving various aspects of organic production across the country, the study said.

Besides, the chamber said the sector should maintain quality of the products, especially, in the wake of concerns raised over the quality of Chinese organic products.

Further, the study said, only the educated and health conscious urban lot consumes organic food as the products are priced 30 per cent higher than the non-organic food, the survey said.

Therefore, Assocham has urged the Agriculture Ministry to take initatives to spread awareness among farmers regarding the benefits of the products. This would help in boosting production, thus, bringing down the cost for growth of the sector.

Area under organic farming rises to 4.4 million hectares

Area under organic farming has grown many-fold in six years to 2009-10 in India on the back of thrust given to the chemical-free mode of cultivation.

From 42,000 hectares under organic certification in 2003-04, more than 4.4 million hectares area was under organic certification in the country as on March 2010, an official statement said here on Tuesday.

For quality assurance, India has internationally acclaimed certification process in place for export, import and domestic markets.

During 2008-09, India produced about 18.78 lakh tonnes of certified organic products.

Of this, nearly 54,000 tonne food items worth Rs. 591 crore were exported. With more than 77,000 tonnes of organic cotton link production, India became the largest organic cotton grower in the world a year ago.

Indian organic exports include cereals, pulses, honey, tea, spices, oil seeds, fruits, vegetables, cotton fibre, cosmetics and body care products.

The Ministry of Agriculture is promoting organic farming in the country under National Project on Organic Farming, National Horticulture Mission, Technology Mission for North East and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

National Project on Organic Farming is being implemented since October 2004 through a National Centre of Organic Farming at Ghaziabad and six Regional Centres located at Bangalore, Bhubaneswar, Hissar, Imphal, Jabalpur, and Nagpur.

The project supports organic input production infrastructure, technical capacity building of stake holders, human resource development through training, statutory quality control of organic inputs, technology development and dissemination, market development and awareness.

Under the National Horticulture Mission and Technology Mission for North East, assistance is provided at rate of 50 per cent of cost subject to a maximum of Rs. 10,000 per hectare (up to 4 hectares per beneficiary) for organic horticulture cultivation.

Assistance is also provided for setting up vermi-compost units at the rate of 50 per cent of cost up to Rs. 30,000 per beneficiary.

Assistance of Rs. 5 lakh is provided to a group of farmers covering an area of 50 hectares for organic farming certification.

Under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, States are being assisted for area expansion of organic food crops, capacity building of farmers and organic input production.

http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/agriculture/article2161662.ece

GM cotton seeds a threat to Indian farmers: Researchers

Dharwad (Karnataka), June 27 (IANS) Leading agricultural research institutions Monday warned that extensive use of genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds was destroying farming bio-diversity and jeopardising the livelihood of over four million cotton growers inIndia.

‘Indian farmers grow 90 percent of hirsutum (species of cotton), of which 90 percent is GM cotton. Desi cotton will only survive if yields and fibre quality will improve and the maturity period reduced,’ said a joint statement by Karnataka’s University of Agricultural Science, Dharwad, company bioRe India Ltd. and Research Institute of Organic Agriculture,Switzerland.

The statement cautioned farmers and other stake-holders that the supply shortage in organic cotton seeds will even effect the global organic cotton market, as India was the world’s largest producer of organic cotton.

‘The global market for organic cotton is threatened by erosion of conventional varieties by GM cotton,’ the statement said, adding that the voracious use of GM seeds amplified the risk of physical and genetic contamination of organic cotton with GM cotton.

The institutions also urged the government to implement policy changes in the sector to promote organic cotton seeds.

‘The provision for the safeguard of organic farmer from contamination of GM crop has to be included in the seed act,’ said the statement, suggesting that a board for organic cotton with financial and implementation powers be formed.
 

Bihar is turning its attention to popularising and promoting organic farming in the state to usher in a new “Green Revolution”

Submitted on 06/21/2011 – 09:20:03 AM

Patna: After good roads, improving law and order, education and health services, Bihar is turning its attention to popularising and promoting organic farming in the state to usher in a new “Green Revolution” in agriculture.

In a bid to spread awareness about benefits of organic farming among farmers, hundreds of national and international organic farming scientists and experts are expected to gather in the Bihar capital here for a three-day conference beginning Wednesday.

“This conference of national and international organic farming scientists and experts will boost the government’s plans of attracting farmers to adopt organic farming,” Bihar Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute Director RK Sohane said.

An official in the agriculture department said the effort was part of the preparation of a progressive agriculture road map for the state for the next five years.

The government has decided to promote organic farming in at least one village of all 37 districts.

“The Bihar government launched an ‘organic farming promotion programme’ early this year for the cultivation of organic crops in all the districts. The government has decided to develop organic villages for which Rs 255 crore has been sanctioned for five years,” an official of the Agriculture Department said.

There is adequate quantity of animal dung, compost, rotten crops and fodder for use in organic farming, the official said.

Agriculture Production Commissioner AK Sinha said that after delivering organic litchi of Muzaffarpur, the government has selected Zardalu mango variety and Katarni rice of Bhagalpur for organic farming.

In April, Bihar became the first state to set up an agriculture ‘cabinet’ to improve the agrarian sector and address the plight of the farmers. This move was seen as not only big news for the millions of farmers of Bihar, but the beginning of turnaround for the agriculture sector.

“This will help Bihar achieve a second ‘Green Revolution’,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh said.

He said that agriculture scientists and farmers had expressed concern over diminishing fertility of the soil due to the constant use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and had requested the government to take measures to improve conditions.

The government chalked out a roadmap for the agriculture sector in 2008.

“Several steps, including promotion of modern techniques of farming, organic farming, use of improved seeds among others, have been taken in last two-three years but it is still a long way to go in developing the agriculture sector,” the Agriculture Department official said.

Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing 81 per cent of workforce and generating nearly 42 per cent of the domestic product.

 

The soil that feeds

Surinder Sud:
There is a direct correlation between soil health and the health of farm animals and human beings
Surinder Sud (surinder.sud@gmail.com)
New Delhi June 14, 2011, 0:48 IST
http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/surinder-sudsoil-that-feeds/438939/

Healthy soil is vital not only for optimum crop production but also for the good health of people and farm animals. Sick soils can neither produce nutritious food nor wholesome fodder. The strong correlation between the physical and chemical condition of soils and the health of people and animals has been borne out by studies and surveys.

Consider these facts. The net shortage of food affects around one billion people who go fully or partly hungry worldwide. But many times, more people suffer from malnutrition and its health consequences despite consuming adequate amount of food. Reason: the food they eat, though enough to satiate their appetite, does not provide all the essential elements of a diet in the required measure. Experts link this to the widespread deficiencies of major and micronutrients in soils, which is also evident from the nourishment available in the food and fodder grown on them.

The situation is truly grave in India. Crops extract more nutrients from soils than are added to it through fertilisers or organic manures. The total “negative nutrient balance” is estimated at a staggering 8 to 10 million tonnes a year. And it is set to reach around 15 million tonnes by 2025. This will surely aggravate health hazards for humans and livestock.

The loss of three major plant nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus and potash – is usually made up, albeit partially, with fertilisers. But, the depletion of equally essential micronutrients, numbering over a dozen, is often not taken care of. Consequently, the deficiency of micronutrients like sulphur, zinc, boron, iron, molybdenum and manganese has been noticed in soils on a wide scale.

Almost half the agricultural land is deficient in zinc, according to A K Singh, deputy director-general (natural resource management) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). “Crops grown in these soils have differing zinc content in shoots and seeds. The level of zinc in the blood serum of males and females in Rangareddy and east Godavari districts mirrors the soil and plant zinc status of these areas,” he says, in a paper on “Soil nutrient depletion and farm health”.

Since the paucity of macronutrients and micronutrients in soils varies from region to region and field to field, its impact on health also varies accordingly. Human beings and domestic animals, who thrive mostly on locally-produced foodstuff, are vulnerable to the health repercussions caused by local soil-fertility aberrations. Wild animals, however, are not affected much because they graze over wider areas, sourcing their food from different sites.

The replacement of organic manure with inorganic fertilisers, especially after the green revolution, is held responsible for the depletion of soil organic matter content and also for the widespread scarcity of micronutrients in soils. The reduction of organic matter lessens the soils’ micro flora-content, adversely affecting the vital process of decomposition of organic matter that releases micro-nutrients to improve soil health.

The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) views human health in a broader perspective as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-bring and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

From this viewpoint, agriculture should not only be deemed merely as means of producing food for man’s survival but also as a protector of human health and well-being. For healthy living, people need adequate and, more importantly, balanced amounts of carbohydrates, lipids, fatty-acids, protein, vitamins and several other macro- and micro-elements. A deficiency or disproportionate intake of any of these elements causes poor health, diseases, debility or even mortality.

In the case of farm animals, too, balanced nutrition is imperative for good health. However, surveys conducted in different zones and states of the country have shown widespread incidences of mineral deficiency in animal nutrition. A survey of the micro-nutrient status of green and dry fodders in the Vadodara district of Gujarat has indicated that these were low in iron, zinc and copper. In fact, zinc and copper deficiency in animal diet has been traced in other areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan as well, where micronutrient malnutrition has been noticed among sheep and other domestic animals. Most districts of Haryana have reported a paucity of zinc and iron. In neighbouring Punjab, buffaloes have displayed molybdenum-related symptoms.

The bottom line, therefore, is that food and nutrition security of people and livestock is not possible without soil health security.

Andhra Pradesh CM says state committed to set target of 9-9.5% growth rate for 12th Five Year Plan

Andhra Pradesh CM says state committed to set target of 9-9.5% growth rate for 12th Five Year Plan

Hyderabad: The Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy today said that Andhra Pradesh is committed to set an ambitious target of 9-9.5% growth rate for the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-13 to 2016-17). He said that during the 11th Plan period all the three sectors of the economy in the State have registered impressive growth and Agriculture sector posted an average growth in excess of 6.5% during the four years of the 11th Plan so far.

The Chief Minister said one secret of our recent success is the effective implementation of FRBM Act. He said a prudent financial management through efficient mopping up of resources and their judicious deployment has continuously decreased fiscal deficits and eliminated revenue deficit altogether. Mr Kiran Kumar Reddy said Andhra Pradesh is the only State to have implemented comprehensive Participatory irrigation management policy with 100% water tax ploughed back, whereby the operations and management of irrigation has become self sufficient. The Chief Minister said that the State is always committed to implement all the developmental programmes that are useful to the larger section of the society, especially the under-privileged with a broad inclusive strategy during the 12th Plan period. He was speaking at the Regional Consultations of Chief Ministers of Southern States on the Approach Paper to the 12th Five Year Plan at Bengaluru today. Here is the full text of the Chief Minister’s speech: It’s my proud privilege to be with this august gathering this morning in connection with the Regional Consultation of Southern States for preparation of the Approach paper for 12th Five Year Plan.

I applaud the Planning Commission for their efforts in getting the views of different segments of the Society in its endeavour to involve the larger public in the Planning process. I take this opportunity to briefly outline our strategies and concerns in designing an approach for the 12th Plan. After achieving a decent growth rate of 7.93% during the 11th Plan so far, Andhra Pradesh is committed to set an ambitious target of 9-9.5% for the 12th Five Year Plan period (2012-13 to 2016-17). The interesting feature of our growth story during the 11th Plan period is the fact that all the three sectors of the economy have registered impressive growth. Agriculture sector whose future in the State once looked very gloomy, posted an average growth in excess of 6.5% during the four years of the 11th Plan so far. Inspired by the performance during 11th Plan, the State is also gearing up for the activity of making preparatory arrangements for 12th Five Year Plan in identifying the appropriate growth strategies and preparing Strategy papers. Development and Welfare have been the twin-agenda of Andhra Pradesh State which is blessed with a competitive edge in several areas and is expected to be so in years to come. The Basic theme of the 12th Five Year Plan is ‘Faster, More inclusive and Sustainable growth’.

It is pertinent to appreciate the theme of the 12th Plan especially in the wake of the growth that has been achieved in the recent past and the need to sustain it for the future generations. One secret of our recent success is the effective implementation of FRBM Act. A prudent financial management through efficient mopping up of resources and their judicious deployment has continuously decreased fiscal deficits and eliminated revenue deficit altogether. Andhra Pradesh had received a number of severe jolts to its economy due to a succession of natural calamities, putting on it a cumulative strain estimated at Rs 20,000 crores. Unless the State is compensated suitably in this regard, it feels increasing difficulties in complying with FRBM norms. There is need to increase the amount of relief provided to victims of natural calamities like farmers, weavers, fishermen etc, considering the rising costs. We are making efforts to increase the production of agricultural crops through productivity enhancement, Crop diversification and optimized input use. We are planning to encourage high value commodities and promote agro-processing industry and agri-business.

Our concern and focus during the 12th Plan would be on improving the functioning of the institutions related to markets, credit and agricultural research and enhancing investment in infrastructure, viz. cold storage facilities, roads, ports. Our plan is to have 835 cold storages in place in 5 years. We want to further promote water use efficiency through micro-irrigation practices. One area of concern is the widening disparity between the rising costs of inputs and the relatively static MSP, causing hardship and agitation among the farmers frequently. We need to refine our formulae for fixing the MSP, that is more firmly indexed to the cost of inputs. Foodgrain Production in the State is expected to touch 300 Lakh MTs by the end of the 12th Plan. Productivity enhancement through Micro-nutrient application and promoting SRI (System of Rice Intensification) to enhance water use is to go upto 3 lakh hectares this year & One million hectares by 2016-17. The tools to achieve the desired targets would be Drip Irrigation in field crops, Seed Replacement, Dry land agriculture, Focus on oil palm development and Market linked supply chain development. There is also the need to consciously promote organic farming through appropriate policy interventions. In addition to crop husbandry, we plan to lay emphasis on the activities allied to agriculture also.

These include taking care of the 92 Lakh farm families engaged in Livestock rearing activities in the State. 3000 para workers are covering the State in breed improvement and support systems to livestock. With regard to enhancement of milk procurement, establishing BMCUs and Laboratories at MCC/BMCU level and procurement centres in villages would be given priority. AP occupies an important place in the fisheries and aqua-culture and we want to maintain the lead. Regarding employment generating programmes in the State, I am proud to announce that the Planning Commission had lauded our performance under MGNREGS in various fora. Under MGMRGS, it is proposed to create employment of 235 crore mandays at an estimated cost of Rs.43,303 crore, undertake repairs of 20,000 Minor irrigation tanks with an outlay of 3,000 Crores and 10,000 KMs of road with an outlay of Rs 1,400 crores during the 12th Five-year plan.

Our endeavour is to ensure convergence of different departments(7) and we are of the opinion that there is a need to redesign the MGNREG Scheme to accommodate the emerging needs. Integrated Watershed Management is also a focused area for us. I would like to bring forth an issue for the consideration of this august gathering. In the current scheme of things, works taken up under NREGS are seriously contending with the requirement of labour for various agricultural operations. As promotion of agriculture and the farmer’s interests is an equally important concern to us, it is necessary to link up NREGS with the Agriculture sector, by including some of the agricultural activities involving labour under the scheme. Andhra Pradesh is the only State to have implemented comprehensive Participatory irrigation management policy with 100% water tax ploughed back, whereby the operations and management of irrigation has become self sufficient.

Planning commission is studying the Regulatory Authority model of the State, which recognizes water as common property as opposed to entitlement model of Maharastra. We have undertaken two major irrigation projects i e Polavaram and Pranahita-Chevella. Polavaram project is not only multi-purpose providing irrigation, power and drinking water, but also benefits adjoining states of Maharastra, Karnataka, Chattisgarh and Orissa. Pranahita-Chevella project provides irrigation facility to 7 drought-hit districts, by using Godavari water that is otherwise going to the sea. In this view, both these projects are of national significance. Rs.12,396 crore is required for completion of 35 prioritized projects in coming 3 years, to create an additional IP of over 36.76 lakh acres in the state. This will support Food security and contributes higher allocations to Nation’s pool.

The share of Centre in all AIBP projects may be increased to 75%, which would speed up the projects. The State is planning to launch Tank Reliant Irrigation Area Development – TRIAD Project which is a feasible alternative is creating Minor Irrigation Sources- Tanks in identified areas/districts for the overall improvement of agriculture productivity and rural livelihoods. Under energy sector, APGENCO will target an additional capacity of 16,000 MW by 2016. TOD tariff, revision of tariff, free supply to ground water and separation of feeders are of priority to us.

Information Technology contributes to 49% of total exports from AP. The State occupies 4th position in India with a share of 15% of the national IT exports. We are planning to create additional direct employment under IT for 1.5 lakh by 2015. Construction sector continues to hold the key during 12th Plan also. Different industries would require about 8 million skilled persons. Employability of even professional graduates is a concern. Quality improvement is the focus.

We need to strengthen the cooperation between educational institutions and industry and business, by providing incentives for providing hands-on training to improve the skills of students. Under Industry sector, tourism has been one of the high priority, and also high performing, sectors in the state. Medical Tourism has been picking up in the state, especially Hyderabad. We want to create special schemes to promote Adventure Sports and Beach Tourism. Skill development is being accorded the highest priority. Rajiv Udyoga Sree has set the pace of employment generation and skill development in A P. The Strategy is in sync with Planning Commission Agenda of 500 million skilled population by 2022. As a part of the Mission ,the State skill development policy, Labour Market information Sytem and H R Planning Mechanism for twelfth Plan will be made ready in six months.

We want to assess and enlarge our experiment with skill upgradation under NREGS, to benefit over 2 lakh rural youth annually. The State is committed to improve Human Development in the State. Addressing the large stock of adult illiterates in the state is the key to achieve 100% literacy rate. There is a need for adult literacy programs targeting 15-59 years age illiterates. We want to squarely involve the SHGs in this movement, as they have a wide spread, influence and a strength of 1.1 crore members. The drop-out rate at Secondary Level during the year 2010-11 is 46.21. It has been planned to bring it down to zero by 2017 by fixing 8% target every year. Operationalization of PPP models in school education, Rating of colleges on performance and Internet-based skill up-gradation are our main concerns. Ensuring quality education at all levels including Universities, would be the goal during the 12th Plan period. The State has achieved substantial progress under various health parameters. However, certain health related issues still require focused attention.

These include: Ante-natal Care, Infant mortality, Maternal Mortality, anemia among women and Under- nutrition. Coordination of ICDS and Health departments for a common monitoring mechanism for vaccination and health related issues is being worked out. Strengthening of public sector primary health care centres especially in rural areas – physical infrastructure, equipment, medicine, and staffing are identified as crucial to health improvement. Providing Safe Drinking Water to all habitations will have to be accorded a special focus including the Fluoride-affected areas. About 56 % of the habitations are yet to reach the fully coverage status and about 42% of the populations has yet to be provided 40 lpd. Increasing number of quality-affected habitations is a major concern for the 12th plan. Construction of Individual Sanitary Latrines and Anganwadi toilets taken up on priority to achieve 100% rural sanitation. The unit cost has to be increased in tune with the market rates to speed up the program.

Under Urban Development the major areas of concern and priority during the 12th Plan would be Effective Local Urban Governance, Planned Formation of Urban Conglomeration, Improved Public Infrastructure, Integrated Slum Improvement, Urban Poverty Alleviation and Environmental sustainability. JNNURM addresses much of the infrastructure and service delivery needs in urban areas. Social Harmony & Welfare would be given due importance during the 12th Plan period. Scholarships and fees reimbursement to SC,ST,BC and Minority students continue to be our priority, with a focus on better targeting and efficinecy. GOI may seriously consider increasing the allocation for OBCs and EBCs to make the process of educational development more inclusive. Social Security Pensions would continue to be offered to old aged, widow, disabled, AIDS affected, toddy tappers. Development of Backward and Interior areas would be continued during the 12th Plan also.

Khammam & Adilabad districts have been included under Integrated Action Plan (IAP). 6 other districts are also required to be included under Left Wing Extremist affected areas. Last but not the least, we need to lay emphasis on improving governance significantly. The poverty can be eradicated faster if we improve the management systems. We need to lay emphasis on implementing the reforms recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission at a faster pace. E-Governance has also to be given much more importance. Transparency, efficiency and effectiveness have to be the watchwords. At the end, I would like to make it explicit that the State is always committed to implement all the Developmental programmes that are useful to the larger section of the society, especially the under-privileged with a broad inclusive strategy during the 12th Plan period.

In fact under each of the important social sector parameters like enrolment, out of schooling, IMR, MMR, mal-nutrition, anemia among women and prevalence of HIV/AIDS etc., backward mandals are identified with a view to lay special focus in these areas and to make them on par with other developed mandals in the State. With the experience of a successful 11th Five Year Plan behind us and with the unstinted support of the Planning Commission from time to time in our development endeavours, I am sure Andhra Pradesh would continue be in the forefront.

Baba Ramdev’s plan for reviving agriculture

Tens of thousands of people had come to Delhi to support the fast of Swami Ramdev that began on June 4. In the early hours of June 5 (the midnight of June 4/5) Delhi police backed by Rapid Action Force sweeped on sleeping protestors using teargas and lathi-charge to evicted them.

Devinder Sharma

Standing on the dais and looking at the sea of humanity that braved the heat of the peak summer season in New Delhi, I wondered what these millions were here for. It had been almost ten hours since the indefinite fast that Swami Ramdev launched and I was trying to read the faces of some of those who I could see clearly from where I was sitting. This was in the afternoon of June 4.

The turn of events in the next few hours have put a permanent blot on the face of Indian democracy.

These were poor people. A majority of them came from the lower strata of the society. They were drenched in sweat. They had poured in from distant parts of the country. Some came in trains, some in public buses, some came as part of better organised bus loads. With their bags on their heads or slung on their shoulders, and quite a large number coming with their families, including small children, they thronged to Ramlila grounds in the heart of Delhi with a great sense of hope and determination which was clearly visible on their faces. Victim of continuous apathy, neglect and discrimination, they were born in misery and will probably live all through in misery. Treated like cattle, and shunned by the perfumed class who are more or less beneficiaries of the corrupt system, they had demonstrated their willingness to walk the extra mile knowing well it was going to be really hard and tough.

As I sat there on the stage, I could see clearly the mired expressions on some the faces I tried to scan. The Incredulous India, as the Shining India brigade would normally refer the million to, had arrived.

Besides the contentious issue of getting back the black money stashed in safe havens outside the country, Swami Ramdev had struck a common cord with the masses. Here is one person with whom I have interacted in recent times who I find has a finger on the real nerve of the nation. Rooted firmly on the ground, he has relentlessly called for changes in a manner that would have direct bearing on the deprived millions. He talked of providing technical and professional education in regional languages, he talked of repealing the draconian land acquisition provisions and also understood how dangerous it would be for not only country’s food security but also the national sovereignty by allowing indiscriminate transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

At a time when the perfumed class chanted the mantra of development — by usurping the natural resources and by displacing the millions — Swami Ramdev talked of empowering the masses. And that is why Shining India in reality hated him, and in lot many ways feared him. Ever since the time I fist sat down with him to discuss what is going wrong with agriculture I found in him someone who was not only receptive but also wanting to understand the complexities and look for viable solutions. To me — and also for him — reviving agriculture and thereby empowering the masses is the key to true economic growth, progress and happiness. I could therefore see in him as an amplifier, someone who could carry the message loudly and clearly. He had the strength to demonstrate that another India is possible. He was keen to help provide viable alternatives.

At a time when the State was colluding with the Corporates to take over agriculture and push farmers out of farming, Swami Ramdev emerged as a strong voice in favour of self-reliance. The charter of demands that HRD Minister Kapil Sibal now frowns at actually had a number of such positive elements for transforming agriculture thereby effectively ensuring household food security and minimising hunger and poverty. It was after a lot of deliberations that Swami ji had narrowed down a vast plethora of issues to some salient features that needed immediate attention. These set of interventions were included in the list of demands that Swami Ramdev had sent to the Prime Minister.

The first set of demands pertained to land aacquisitions. Primarily, the demand was for not allowing agricultural land — whether it is mono-cropped or multi-cropped — to be diverted for non-farm purposes. Even where it is to be definitely acquired given the nature of public utility, permission has to be sought from the Gram Sabhas. It was pointed out very clearly that already the country is in the throes of a crisis given that the demand for food is requiring more area to be maintained under agriculture. For instance, it was pointed out that if India was to grow domestically the quantity of pulses and oilseeds (in the form of edible oil) that are presently imported, an additional 20 million hectares would be required.

Preserving productive agricultural land for cultivation therefore assumes utmost importance. In the United States, the US government is providing US $ 750 million for the the period 2008-13 under the Farm Bill 2008 to farmers to conserve and improve their farm and grazing lands so as to ensure they do not divert it for industrial and private use. On the contrary, India is in a hurry to divest its farm lands and turn them into concrete jungles in the name of development.

India is faced with a terrible agrarian crisis. The serial death dance across the country, with over 2.5 lakh farmers already committing suicide, shows no signs of ending. Much of the crisis is because of the unsustainable farming practices that have turned the Green Revolution to a Gray revolution. Reviving agriculture and restoring the pride in farming form the two most important planks of any nationwide strategy to revitalise the rural economy. The following are some of the key elements of the farm strategy and the immediate approach that needs to be followed:

a) Knowing that GM crops/foods pose serious environmental and health hazards, Swami Ramdev had asked for a 10-year moratorium on Bt-Brinjal and all field trials and commercial release of GM crops. The basic purpose is to ensure that the biotech industry is not allowed to contaminate the environment and thereby destroy the biodiversity that is available. He had also demanded that facilities for 29-biosafety tests that the Supreme Court nominee on the Genetic Engineering Assessment Committee (GEAC) Dr Pushpa Bhargava had called for be first ensured before any GM crop/food is allowed for commercial release.

b) Seed is emerging a major issue of contention for farmers. Over the years, the government has facilitated the takeover by private industry of the seed supply and trade. This has taken away the control of farmers over their seed. Although there were a number of suggestions and approaches that we discussed, finally Swami Ramdev included two major areas of focus in relation to seed. First was the need to regulate seed price considering that industry continues to fleece farmers by charging exorbitantly. Secondly, every district should have a community-controlled seed centre with a gene bank for traditional seeds. The local available seed diversity needs to be protected and conserved at any cost.

c) The use and abuse of chemical pesticides has played havoc with human health, the food chain and also resulted in an unbalanced biological equilibrium in nature. It is now being realised that agriculture can perform much better without the use of chemical pesticides which are not only a drain on the farmers pockets but also is harmful for human health and environment. Following the decision to phase out dreaded chemical pesticide Endusulfan under the Stockholm Convention, the demand was to also ban 67 pesticides which are being used in India but are banned for use elsewhere.

d) A beginning could also be made by ensuring that in the proposed 12th Five Year Plan at least a target to convert 25 per cent of the total agriculture area be fixed for converting to zero pesticides use. Already 40 lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh has been brought under non-pesticidal management by under a government programme and this could be replicated across the country.

e) A National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey had concluded that the average monthly income of a farming family in India does not exceed Rs 2400. No wonder, more than 40 per cent farmers have expressed the desire to quit farming if given an alternative. Because of the dwinling farm incomes more and more agrarian distress is becoming visible. A Farmers Income Commission therefore needs to be setup and income guaranteed to the farmer under a Farmers Income Guarantee Act (FIGA)

f) It is strange paradox that while 32 crore people go to bed hungry every night foodgrains continue to rot in storage. A centralised procurement and distribution network has failed to ensure that food reaches those who need it most. Suggesting for local production, local procurement and local distribution, community grain storage banks need to be established in every panchayat. This will not only minimise grain wastage but also ensure that food reaches the hungry.

g) Education in the Agriculture, Health and Engineering Sectors should also be in Hindi and other State languages.

I don’t think any political party or the common minimum programme of the successive coalitions that ran the country have ever projected such a comprehensive agricultural and rural economy plan. Unfortunately, amidst the din and noise created over black money and corruption, the proposals to revitalise the rural economy by strengthening agriculture were simply ignored. The nation therefore lost a historic opportunity to debate and deliberate on some worthwhile approaches that could usher in self-reliance in agriculture and put an end to farmer suicides. #