Surge in credit not benefiting small farmers

Loans less than Rs2 lakh comprised only 44% of total credit disbursed in 2013, down from 68% in 2000

https://www.livemint.com/Politics/xbk7sf9N4gy0jjStXyLoiJ/Surge-in-credit-not-benefiting-small-farmers.html

Credit to the agriculture sector has grown sharply in less than a decade—from more than Rs1 trillion in 2005 to nearly Rs7 trillion in 2013. Photo: Mint

Credit to the agriculture sector has grown sharply in less than a decade—from more than Rs1 trillion in 2005 to nearly Rs7 trillion in 2013. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Is the surge in farm credit iniquitous? Only 44% of advances are small loans to farmers. The formal credit market may have deepened, with the banked farmer availing more loans, but the informal sector is still holding fort.

Credit to the agriculture sector has grown sharply in less than a decade—from more than Rs.1 trillion in 2005 to nearly Rs.7 trillion in 2013. The Union Budget this year set an ambitious target of Rs.8.5 trillion for 2015-16. However, a dissection of farm loan portfolio of lenders shows that the inequity in credit disbursed has kept pace with the quantum leaps—the share of loans above Rs.10 lakh is going up and over a quarter of the credit is advanced from urban and metropolitan branches of banks, unlikely places for a farmer to avail a crop loan.

Moreover, in the decade between 2003 and 2013, the share of informal sector in loans to agricultural households has been steady at around 40%, implying that those who have availed a loan may be getting more loans, but ignoring those who still depend on the professional moneylender.

Loans less than Rs.2 lakh, the most likely amount to be borrowed by a small or marginal farmer, comprised only 44% of total loans in 2013, down from 68% in 2000. In comparison, loans of more than Rs.10 lakh comprise more than a quarter of the agricultural credit disbursed, compared to 21% in 2000. The declining share of small loans could be due to banks’ reluctance to lend to the small farmer, further accentuated by inherent risks (say, deficit or unseasonal rains) associated with farming. Partly, the decline could also be due to rising costs of cultivation, inflationary pressures, and more people moving out of farming (between 2001 and 2011 more than 8.6 million left farming).

Worryingly, banks lent over 46% of agricultural credit between January and March— perhaps to meet year-end targets —although farm loans are most likely required before the crop season begins, around June and November. Data on what is called the “March phenomenon” is scant; the Reserve Bank of India does not publish month-wise credit disbursed and the only source is a ministry of agriculture task force report from 2010, giving out the numbers for 2008-09. In such a scenario, what is confounding is that the share of indirect credit to agriculture hasn’t changed much. Large-sized loans taken by input dealers, agri-businesses such as food and agro-processing industries and warehousing companies, most likely to be advanced by urban and metro bank branches, fell marginally from 15.5% of farm credit advances in 2000 to 14% in 2013.

Direct credit to individual or groups of farmers, as short-term crop loans and long-term loans for fixed capital investments, still constitute 86% of the total credit to the agriculture sector. However, from 2013, loans less than Rs.2 crore to corporates, partnership firms and farmers’ producer companies engaged in agriculture and allied activities are treated as direct credit. This could have dressed up the direct credit numbers.

“Banks are more than happy to lend large amounts to fewer accounts. Small loans to a large number of farmers entail higher transaction and administrative costs alongside the risks associated with farming,” said R. Ramakumar, professor at the School of Development Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. “The share of direct credit to agriculture rose after 2010—but other indicators like the rising share of large loans and the diversion away from rural areas show the correction is illusory,” he adds.

Preliminary reports from the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) study Key Indicators of Situation of Agricultural Households in India, released in December, amply proves that the surge in agricultural credit in the last decade did not benefit farm households.

More than 40% of credit to farm households were advanced by informal sources in 2012-13- with the moneylender advancing 26% of the outstanding credit. For households with the smallest landholdings, only 15% loans were from institutional sources.

These numbers are hardly any improvement over 2003, when NSSO conducted the first such survey: back then, informal loans accounted for 42% of credit advanced to agricultural households. “What seems to have happened is a deepening of credit market with the same set of borrowers. Earlier, they were taking smaller loans and now they are taking larger loans. But the credit market has not broadened to include, say, the marginal and tenant farmers,” said Himanshu, associate professor at Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and a Mint columnist. “The marginal farmer was mostly out of the formal credit sector and this was not corrected by the surge in agriculture credit,” he adds.

This story has been modified from its previous version to reflect a correction.

Tea companies commit to Non-Pesticide Management in tea; Unilever and Girnar lead the way

After 50 hours volunteers climb down the billboards

August 13th, 2014, Mumbai: In an encouraging turn of events, two of the leading tea companies have come forward in support of Non-Pesticide Management (NPM) in tea. Earlier this week, Greenpeace India released its report “Trouble Brewing”1 highlighting pesticide residue in tea samples. Since then, companies have been coming forward to engage with us. In response, Unilever2 and now Girnar Tea3 have both committed to support the NPM approach, which could lead to phasing out pesticides in tea cultivation. Pilot studies will be the first concrete step in this direction.

“It is very encouraging that the tea companies are taking steps to provide their consumers pesticide-free tea. Unilever and now Girnar Tea have taken the first step in this direction. Greenpeace will continue to urge the tea industry to move towards a holistic, ecosystem-based approach that will gradually phase out pesticides and clean our chai,” said Neha Saigal, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India.

To highlight the urgency of the issue, volunteers had climbed up seven billboards at the Bandra Reclamation Road urging the tea companies to “Clean Chai Now”. After spending 50 hours on these billboards, the volunteers today climbed down acknowledging the progress shown by tea companies.

“We are happy that our efforts are paying off and companies are coming forward to engage with us in a positive way. We look forward to a day when all our tea is free from pesticides,” said Bindu Vaz, one of the volunteers.

Notes to the editor:

1) http://www.greenpeace.org/india/en/Press/Greenpeace-calls-on-the-industry-to-save-Indian-tea-from-pesticides/

2)http://www.unilever.nl/nieuwsenmedia/persberichten/2014/UnileverstartonderzoekinIndianaarmogelijkheidtheetetelenzonderpesticiden.aspx

3) https://twitter.com/TeasAtGirnar

For more information: http://grnpc.org/cleanchai

Follow us on twitter: @GreenpeaceIndia

Contacts:

Shashwat Raj: Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India, +91 9971110144sraj@greenpeace.org

Neha Saigal: Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India, +917760968772nsaigal@greenpeace.org

Report of Expert Committee setup on the Orders of High Court of Delhi to frame a policy for Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Fruits & Vegetables

http://agricoop.nic.in/

Report of Expert Committee setup on the Orders of High Court of Delhi to frame a policy for Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Fruits & Vegetables.New

On the directions dated 5th March, 2014 of the Hon,ble High Court of Delhi in W.P. No. 7495/2010 –Court on its own motion Vrs. U.O.I. & Others the competent authority has decided that the report of Expert Committee to frame a policy for Monitoring of Pesticide Residues in Fruits & Vegetables.

Click here for more details.

 

Pesticides ‘making bees smaller’

Bumblebees exposed to a widely-used pesticide produced workers with lower body mass, scientists

theguardian.com

Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests.
Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

Bumblebees could be shrinking because of exposure to a widely-used pesticide, a study suggests.

Experts fear smaller bees will be less effective at foraging for nectar and carrying out their vital task of distributing pollen.

Scientists in the UK conducted laboratory tests which showed how a pyrethroid pesticide stunted the growth of worker bumblebee larvae, causing them to hatch out reduced in size.

Gemma Baron, one of the researchers from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, said: “We already know that larger bumblebees are more effective at foraging.

“Our result, revealing that this pesticide causes bees to hatch out at a smaller size, is of concern as the size of workers produced in the field is likely to be a key component of colony success, with smaller bees being less efficient at collecting nectar and pollen from flowers.”

Pyrethroid pesticides are commonly used on flowering crops to prevent insect damage.

The study, the first to examine the pesticides’ impact across the entire lifecycle of bumblebees, tracked the growth of bee colonies over a four month period.

Researchers exposed half the bees to a pyrethroid while monitoring the size of the colonies as well as weighing individual insects on micro-scales.

They found that worker bees from colonies affected by the pesticides over a prolonged period grew less and were significantly smaller than unexposed bees.

Findings from the study, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), appear in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Professor Mark Brown, who led the Royal Holloway group, said: “Bumblebees are essential to our food chain so it’s critical we understand how wild bees might be impacted by the chemicals we are putting into the environment.

“We know we have to protect plants from insect damage but we need to find a balance and ensure we are not harming our bees in the process.”

Currently a Europe-wide moratorium on the use of three neonicotinoid pesticides is in force because of their alleged harmful effect on bees.

As a result, the use of other types of pesticide, including pyrethroids, is likely to increase, say the researchers.

Dr Nigel Raine, another member of the Royal Holloway team who will be speaking at this week’s national Bee Health Conference in London, said: “Our work provides a significant step forward in understanding the detrimental impact of pesticides other than neonicotinoids on wild bees.

“Further studies using colonies placed in the field are essential to understand the full impacts, and conducting such studies needs to be a priority for scientists and governments.”

The scientists sprayed the pesticide on the bees’ pollen feed at the concentration recommended for oilseed rape.

Colony growth and reproductive output were monitored for up to 14 weeks.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/20/pesticides-making-bees-smaller

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2664/earlyview

After Bihar tragedy, FAO urges cut in hazardous pesticides

http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/07/30/fao-pesticides-bihar-midday-meal-idINDEE96T07520130730?feedType=RSS&feedName=globalCoverage2

Reuters

30 July 2013

(Reuters) – Developing countries should speed up the withdrawal of highly hazardous pesticides from their markets following the death of 23 children from contaminated food in India, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization said on Tuesday.

The children in Bihar died earlier this month after eating a school meal of rice and potato curry contaminated with monocrotophos, a pesticide considered highly hazardous by the FAO and the World Health Organization.

“Experience in many developing countries shows that the distribution and use of such highly toxic products very often poses a serious risk to human health and the environment,” the FAO said in a statement.

Monocrotophos is banned in many countries but a panel of government experts in India was persuaded by manufacturers that the product was cheaper than alternatives and more effective in controlling pests that decimate crop output.

Although the government argues the benefits of strong pesticides outweigh the hazards if properly managed, the food poisoning tragedy underlined criticism such controls are virtually ignored on the ground.

The FAO said many countries lacked the resources to properly manage the storage, distribution, handling and disposal of pesticides and to reduce their risks.

“Highly hazardous products should not be available to small scale farmers who lack knowledge and the proper sprayers, protective gear and storage facilities to manage such products appropriately,” the FAO added.

Monocrotophos is currently prohibited in Australia, China, the European Union and the United States, and in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the FAO said.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Silvia Aloisi and Elizabeth Piper)

 

Govt flouts its own pest control norms

http://epaper.mailtoday.in/epaperhome.aspx?issue=2732013
By Dinesh C. Sharma in New Delhi

THE regulatory system for chemical pesticides in India is in a shambles. Government agencies are themselves blatantly violating the national law meant to regulate the use of pesticides.

State agriculture departments, agriculture universities, National Horticulture Board ( NHB), Tea Board, Spices Board and other government agencies are promoting the use of harmful pesticides among farmers, a new investigation by the Centre for Science and Environment ( CSE) has revealed.

Pesticide use in the country is regulated by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee ( CIBRC), a wing under the agriculture ministry.

Every pesticide being used in the country has to be registered with CIBRC and the registration is pest and crop specific.

However, this system is being openly flouted by government organisations which are recommending use of pesticides for crops and pests not approved by CIBRC, according to a review of pesticides being used for 11 important crops in the country — wheat, paddy, apple, mango, potato, cauliflower, black pepper, cardamom, tea, sugarcane and cotton.

The pesticide recommendations made by state agriculture universities, agriculture departments and other boards for a crop do not match those pesticides registered with CIBRC, CSE has found. “ This is completely illegal.

A particular pesticide may be registered for a particular pest and particular crop, and its use in any other way is violation of law”, said Chandra Bhushan, who led the CSE study.

For instance, the Punjab Agricultural University has recommended 40 pesticides for wheat, of which 11 pesticides are not registered by CIBRC for wheat. The agriculture department in Mad- hya Pradesh recommends 29 pesticides for wheat, of which nine are not registered. The NHB recommends 19 pesticides for apple, of which 8 are not registered. Similarly, just one of the seven NHBrecommended pesticides for cauliflower is registered with CIBRC. Violations are seen across states and across all crops.

“ What we are seeing currently is indiscriminate recommendations by universities and agriculture departments. Indiscriminate use follows naturally”, said Kavitha Kuruganti of Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. “ As it is, we have approved a large number of chemicals, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors and pesticides banned elsewhere. There is no assessment being done for synergistic effects of cocktails of chemicals being used”. The CIBRC registers pesticides while the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India ( FSSAI) sets the Maximum Residue Limits ( MRLs) of pesticides for crops it has been registered for. Of 234 registered pesticides, FSSAI has not set MRLs for 59 pesticides. A review of MRL status of 20 commonly used and recommended pesticides showed that these limits for 18 pesticides are not complete.

MRLs have been set for broad groups like fruits, vegetables and food grains rather than specific crops while the pesticides have been registered for specific crops.

“ A crop is not supposed to contain residues of a pesticide, which is not registered for it. Otherwise, it will be considered adulterated. If pesticides recommended by state and other bodies are different from the CIBRC registration then the crops produced will be considered adulterated despite farmers following recommendations,” Bhushan said.

A TOXIC TALE

Multiple agencies involved in regulation, no coordination among them

States are recommending to farmers pesticides not registered with the central government

Unapproved pesticides being used for wheat, paddy, mango, apple, potato, cauliflower, black pepper, cardamom, tea, sugarcane and cotton in several states

Maximum Residue Limits ( MRLs) for 59 pesticides have not been set and those which have been set do not cover all the crops for which a pesticide has been registered

The registration process does not have sound provisions to ensure setting of MRLs before registration

No steps taken to ensure compliance with the acceptable daily intake of pesticides and monitoring of pesticide residues regularly