Pesticide-free plan for tea

Project to be taken up in 3 Assam areas

Tea Research Association and London-based Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International have joined hands to develop a more ecological approach to tea production in order to reduce pesticide application.

“The project will eventually lead to development of a toolbox of tried and tested practices to facilitate transition towards ecological production. The project envisages the development of a package of practices in relation to pest management, leading to the adoption of non-pesticide control methods resulting in reduction of pesticide application in tea,” N. Muraleedharan, director of Tocklai Tea Research Institute, said.

The three-year programme will start in Assam in collaboration with the Tocklai institute and tea growers from three different areas – Upper Assam, south bank and north bank. “The bureau had approached us to conduct the project as we are the experts in tea research,” he said.

The bureau is an international not-for-profit organisation that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems of agriculture and the environment.

On an average, a garden spends Rs 8,000 per hectare on pest control measures and this amount can go up when pest infestation becomes huge.

“Three pest management systems will be demonstrated representing transition from conventional to non-pesticide management. Pest management practices selected from those identified in the literature and field studies and ready for validation from current research, will be implemented in these experiments. Experiments within these blocks will evaluate other innovations to be added to the arsenal of practices available. The major pests such as loopers, tea mosquito, thrips, green hoopers and termites will be the target depending on their prevalence in the three selected zones,” Muraleedharan said.

He said with the introduction of the Plant Protection Code, the tea industry is increasingly adopting non-chemical control measures because the choice of approved chemicals is limited. The industry has started using light traps, sticky traps, manual collection and bush sanitation as non-chemical methods.

“India is the second largest producer and exporter of tea in the world after China. This production and trade are powerful engines for economic growth, poverty alleviation and food security, but often, harnessing this power can be difficult. Tea crops suffer from a range of pests and diseases for which pesticides are the main solution but this results in increased production costs and potential risks to human health,” a statement from the bureau said.

“We are evaluating the environmental and economic feasibility of applying alternative methods to manage tea pests and diseases in India. The scientific teams are doing this by fostering better understanding of these ecological approaches to management, evaluating current practices and examining how these alternative approaches can be integrated into tea production to raise overall sustainability of tea production,” it said. This will ultimately look to tackle pests in a sustainable and alternative way, protecting tea growers, workers and the surrounding biodiversity, it added.

Retrieved from – http://www.telegraphindia.com/1150511/jsp/northeast/story_19394.jsp#.VVA4ho6qqko

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Agriculture sector is facing a global challenges in 2015

Agriculture has to produce more raw materials to satisfy the increasing and diversifying demands of a growing world population, which is expected to grow by more than a third (around 2.3 billion people) between 2009 and 2050; these figures are often repeated, and for good reason – the challenge they present to global food production is enormous. Projections show that feeding a world population of 9.1 billion people in 2050 will require raising overall food production by some 70% between 2005 and 2050.

Our demands on agriculture don’t stop at production, the sector must also contribute to economic prosperity and the social well being of rural areas, and help preserve natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity – in the face of pressures from urban expansion, industrialization and a changing climate. There is also a pressing need to protect and restore the quality of existing farmland.

Highly productive and resource efficient agriculture mitigates the problems associated with all of these challenges, because it enables us to have more of everything – more crops, and more biodiversity and natural habitats.

Agriculture is a major contributor to land use change, which often implies the destruction of natural habitats – the single most important driver of biodiversity loss. By protecting crops from pests and disease, farmers can optimize yields on the existing agricultural land base, make efficient use of resources (inc. fuel, time, and capital) and prevent the loss of natural habitat that occurs when agricultural land expands to compensate for crop losses.

Without crop protection, losses for certain crops can exceed 80% of potential yield, and low input farming – as typified by organic agriculture – is estimated as averaging up to 34% lower yields than productive agriculture within the EU.

If we wish to maintain and improve yields and make efficient use of natural resources, the use of plant protection products must continue; there are currently no viable alternatives to pesticide use in either conventional or organic farming. Efficient production technologies are imperative to allow us to close yield gaps; however, society must use these technologies in an appropriate way to ensure that agriculture plays a central role in delivering sustainable solutions.

Pesticides are formulated to protect crops by discouraging, confusing, altering the behaviour, or killing target pests, diseases and pathogens. When we consider biodiversity protection, this raises questions about the impact on non-target species that may be unintentionally exposed to pesticides.

Modern pesticides are characterized by their high efficacy and targeted modes of action; the biologically active characteristics of pesticides that pose risk to non-target species are acknowledged and accommodated in European pesticide regulations. Pesticides are one of the most regulated product classes on the European market, and the real drivers of the large scale loss of biodiversity (including land use change) are not subject to regulation as rigorous as that applied to pesticides.

Science, research and development have given us sophisticated crop protection solutions. While their use is certainly not without risk, a sensible, risk-based approach to EU legislation ensures farmers have access to products that when used correctly have no unacceptable effects on their health or the environment. This same stringent legislation allows European consumers a high degree of confidence in the safety, availability and affordability of their food.

Our industry is committed to providing sustainable crop protection solutions; we believe that for agriculture to be sustainable, it must be efficient, productive and contribute to a resilient natural environment. We are acutely aware of society’s demand that crops be produced with minimal environmental impact – and we know that this can only be achieved if farmers have access to appropriate tools and knowledge of best management practices.

As society embraces the challenge of sustainable agriculture, there is growing consensus on the need to combine high agricultural productivity with well-considered environmental protection; however, Europe’s full potential will only be realised with ambitious science-based policy and political support for innovation. The combined challenges of agricultural production and biodiversity protection require that we exploit proven technologies whilst continuing to invest in the research and development of solutions for tomorrow.

Strong public support for biodiversity protection, a knowledgeable and passionate community of famers, and the engaged expertise of industry can be combined to make the rural environmental more biodiversity friendly and more productive.

Retrieved from – http://agri.eu/agriculture-sector-is-facing-a-global-challenges-in-2015-analysis–news6323.html

TGB announces guidelines to sustainable beverage production and consumption

Tata Global Beverages (TGB), today announced their plans for 100 percent sustainable sourcing by 2020.

Tata Global Beverages’ sustainability strategy rests on five key pillars, of which Sourcing is one. The five pillars are Ethical Sourcing, Water Management, Climate Change Management, Waste Management and Community Development.

The company’s sustainable sourcing strategy has a major focus on sustainable agricultural practices. A key component of this effort aims at achieving optimum productivity, and gradually reducing the dependence on synthetic inputs in the form of Plant Protection Formulas.

Tata Global Beverages’ commitment to reducing the use of synthetic Plant Protection Formulations, in the supply chain, is an integral part of TGBs commitment to greater sustainability to ensure the protection of the environment for the benefit of all.

The document published “Guidelines on Plant Protection formulations” outlines the vision to maintain sustainability in the supply chain by supporting Good Agricultural Practices, collaborations and partnerships, independent certifications, pilot projects and agricultural extension activities.

This applies to all the tea that is purchased either through auctions or directly from suppliers, including subsidiary and associate plantation companies, big and small estates and small holders.

Speaking on the same, Ajoy Misra, MD and CEO of Tata Global Beverages said, “As a responsible player in the natural beverages segment, TGB cares deeply about sustainability and recognises the importance of systematically reducing the use of Plant Protection Products in the tea industry and have been proactively advocating for the same. From bush to cup, we are always conscious of our obligation towards our consumers and seek continuously to maintain and improve the quality of tea production, delivering not just to norms but above and beyond them wherever viable.”

Array

Tata Global Beverages is one of the founding members of trustea, a multi stakeholder initiative led by the Tea Board of India. The Trustea India Sustainability Tea Programme envisions verifying over 600 factories, covering 500,000 workers and 40,000 small holders by December 2014.

The Tea Board of India through its Trustea initiative and the launch of a new Plant Protection Code (PPC) in July this year announced their plans to certify 500 million kg of tea, amounting to 51 per cent of India’s tea supply by 2017.

Tata Global Beverages is in full support of independent third party certifications of sustainable agriculture such as Rain Forest Alliance, Trustea or UTZ from our tea suppliers as evidence that the tea they supply to us is sustainably sourced.

Retrieved from – http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ani/tgb-announces-guidelines-to-sustainable-beverage-production-and-consumption-114080701028_1.html

India Ranks No 2 in Fish Output Globally

With huge coast line to an access of over 7000 km, India ranks number 2 in fish production globally, Indian agriculture minister, Radha Mohan said in Hyderabad.

“India stands world number 2 in global fish production. Further India stands world number two in the sectors of Inland capture and aquaculture. We are number seven in marine capture production/fisheries,” Radha Mohan said while addressing 33rd session of Asia Pacific Fisheries Commission.

“India registered an increase of 92.8% in aquaculture and 15.1 % in marine catches in the last 10 years (2003-12). The share of India’s production from aquaculture is 6.3% of the world. Currently, our total production is 9.51 million tonnes,” the minister adds.

India is bestowed with wide array of natural resources for developing marine, brackish water and inland fisheries and aquaculture holds importance, since enhanced fish production by sustainable aquaculture is the key for ensuring food security and poverty alleviation, the minister opined.
Aquaculture in India relies heavily on inland aquaculture of finfish even though potential for mariculture production of finfish remains largely untapped.

“We are finalising the guidelines for foraying in to mariculture in cages along with cage culture in open water bodies such as reservoirs. The cage culture is aimed at effective and optimal tapping the potential for natural water resources of marine and inland waters,” Mohan stressed.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates, the human consumption of fish is about 80 per cent of the world’s fish production at per capita of 17.1 kilogram which is expected to rise considerably by the year 2030.

“It is necessary that we need to collectively take measures for sustainable increase in fish production. With the capture fishery resources dwindling at an alarming rate, the international community needs to take certain harsh / drastic measures for ensuring continuous supply of food fish.

This underlines the importance that fisheries and aquaculture, directly or indirectly, play as an essential role in the livelihoods of millions of people in the region and entire world from the small-scale fishers and farmers who harvest the fish to the men and women who work in the post-harvest handling and large processing industry,” the Minister said.

Representatives from FAO, the Fisheries Commission and Agriculture Ministry, and delegates from countries of Asia Pacific Region attend the meet.

Asia Pacific Fisheries Commission (APFIC) is an important platform for the governments of APFIC members, international and regional fisheries and aquaculture organisations to discuss important and emerging issues related to the development and management of fisheries and aquaculture in Asia and Pacific region.

Retrieved from : http://www.thefishsite.com/fishnews/23497/india-ranks-no-2-in-fish-output-globally

Broken link in the agricultural supply chain

In the season of elections animal spirits rule. India’s equity markets have been ebullient for some time now. Spurred by a robust inflow of foreign investment capital, markets have reacted favourably. A lot now depends on the ability of the next government to enact meaningful structural reforms, especially in a sector such as agriculture that requires modernization. Will things turn out as expected?
Reforms in agriculture are important for more than one reason. Apart from the huge number of people it employs, fortunes of the retail sector depends on what happens in farms. Infact, FDI in retail and modernization of agriculture are two faces of the same coin.
As far as the economic implications of retail FDI go, attention has been focused exclusively on its impact on the livelihood of local retailers, who are likely to take a hit on competition from the likes of Wal-Martand Tesco. The ability of local retailers to organize into an effective lobby voicing their concerns could perhaps explain this. The actual implications of retail FDI, however, are likely to extend well beyond the narrow confines the debate has been limited to.
Indian farmers are likely to be the biggest beneficiaries of a competitive retail sector, given the imbalances in the agricultural produce market. Restrictions imposed by the Agricultural Produce and Marketing Committee (APMC) Act have effectively barred them from selling their produce at remunerative prices, restricted the size of their potential market, and, most importantly, prevented competitive bidding for the produce.
Currently, the agricultural supply chain is monopolized by powerful middlemen and politically influential local groups who control mandis or wholesale markets—resulting in a huge wholesale-retail price gap. There could be little doubt that allowing FDI in retail, when complemented by scrapping the APMC Act to open up the market for wholesale procurement, will help farmers command better prices for their produce. It is likely to lead to better farming returns, increased production and lower prices for customers.
Insufficient investment in cold storage and other supply chain facilities is another major worry, but something that has been ignored for long. A study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) and Yes Bank points to the enormous shortage of warehousing capacity in India, estimated at around 35 million tonnes. The food grain wastage owing to the shortage is estimated at around 20% to 30% of the total harvest.
The reasons are not hard to find. India’s agricultural storage infrastructure was created at a time when food grains such as rice and wheat formed a disproportionate part of food consumption. It was assumed that dietary habits would remain constant for the foreseeable future. It made sense when rural incomes did not rise significantly. Even in urban areas, where food consumption was more diversified, demand for food grains remained high.
That pattern has changed dramatically in the last decade. With rising urban and rural incomes, food consumption has diversified greatly. Milk, eggs and other protein-rich diets are now a significant part of the food basket. A great part of food inflation is protein inflation, as the demand for these foodstuffs greatly outstrips supply.
Changing this requires fixing the broken supply lines with agricultural markets. For example, transporting milk to cities does not require food storage facilities but chilling plants and fleets of trucks equipped with cooling units. These investments need FDI in agricultural markets that cannot be made by governments not only due to financial constraints but also due to lack of expertise.
Given the gains that farmers and—more importantly—consumers could potentially reap, reforms aimed at strengthening the agricultural supply chain will obviously be welcome. However, reforms uprooting today’s deeply entrenched special interests will be hard to come by unless the political weight of farmers and consumers is combined for better results.
Retrieved from – http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Vpm7RO8SnhkpCtC8QWPwSN/Broken-link-in-the-agricultural-supply-chain.html

UK’s first ‘social supermarket’ opens to help fight food poverty

Britain’s first “social supermarket” opens its doors on Monday, offering shoppers on the verge of food poverty the chance to buy food and drink for up to 70% less than normal high-street prices.

If successful, the Community Shop, in Goldthorpe, near Barnsley, south Yorkshire, which is backed by large retailers and supermarkets, could be replicated elsewhere in Britain.

Community Shop is a subsidiary of Company Shop, Britain’s largest commercial re-distributor of surplus food and goods, which works with retailers and manufacturers to tackle their surpluses sustainably and securely.

It sells on residual products, such as those with damaged packaging or incorrect labelling, to membership-only staff shops in factories. The new project goes one step further, located in the community for the first time and also matching surplus food with social need.

Membership of the pilot store – in Goldthorpe, an area of social deprivation – will be restricted to people living in a specific local postcode area who also get welfare support.

Individuals who shop at Community Shop will not only get access to cheaper food, but will also be offered programs of wider social and financial support, such as debt advice, cookery skills and home budgeting.

The scheme is being supported by retailers, brands and manufacturers, including Asda, Morrisons, Co-operative Food, M&S, Tesco, Mondelez, Ocado, Tetley, Young’s and Müller. All are diverting surpluses to the pilot.

Company Shop hopes to open Community Shops in London and beyond next year should the pilot prove successful and sustainable.

Sarah Dunwell, director of environment and social affairs at Company Shop, said: “With many families facing tough times in Barnsley, Company Shop wanted to do more to match surplus stock with people who really need it.

“I was delighted to help develop and deliver the UK’s first social supermarket. Industry surplus is hard to avoid, but what Community Shop shows is that if we all work together we can make sure that surplus food delivers lasting social good.”

Retrieved from – http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/09/goldthorpe-social-supermarket-community-shop-food-poverty

Whither Indian agriculture?

Media stories of grains rotting in unkempt godowns gives an impression that our country has become the land of plenty and the problem is limited to managing and distributing available food stock.

To an extent this is true when one looks at the increase in foodgrains production over the past 60 years, producing nearly 245 million tonnes of food grains annually from a level of a mere 50 mt after Independence.

The production comes from a land base of around 195 million hectares (mha) of gross cropped area with net cropped area of about 140 mha, which have remained almost static in the last few years.

Nearly half of the arable land will have to depend on the monsoons even if all irrigation sources are fully developed.

Further increased production will have to, therefore, come from improved productivity/hectare.

India is one of the largest producers of many crops and agricultural products, but when we look at productivity/hectare, we rank approximately 10th in wheat and groundnut, 14th in cotton, 17th in rice, and 98th in pulses.

In many cases, our productivity/hectare is lower than of our neighbours – China, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Productivity can be improved by ensuring better irrigation – through public or privately-owned modes, better use of farm equipments, and timely availability and use of better seeds, fertilisers (bio or chemical) and other inputs.

Availability and use of all these would depend a lot on availability of timely agricultural credit and also extension services.

And it is here that a huge problem is staring before us in the immediate future – a very silent structural change that is taking place in Indian agriculture and which has now acquired an alarming proportion – and on which, unfortunately, no one seems to be paying any attention.

The 141 mha in 1971 was operated by 70 million farmers, and by 2012, the same area is estimated to be operated by 140 million farmers.

In 1971, we had only 36 million marginal farmers and 10 million small farmers with an average operating area of 0.41 ha and 1.44 ha and by 2006, we had 84 million and 24 million marginal farmers and small farmers with an average operating area of 0.38 ha and 1.38 ha respectively.

At the same time, the 2.8 million large farms (> 10 ha) operating 50 mha decreased to one million farms operating only 18 mha.

The sub-division of land continues unabated, and we are now adding almost 10 million small and marginal farms every five years to our agricultural system.

This fragmentation of land has serious consequences in terms of owning and using modern technology and farm equipments, and also in provision of inputs including agricultural credit and extension.

The consequences are high transaction cost for farmers, banks and service providers, inability to own or finance farm equipment because of fluctuating incomes of tiny farmers and viability considerations, smaller volumes of produce reducing ability to negotiate at market place etc.

Higher cost of cultivation and lower incomes are a serious disincentive for farmers to continue farming.

No wonder that the NSSO 2003 data indicate that 40 per cent of farmers do not wish to continue cultivation.

Despite this wish to quit farming, farmers would not sell off their land as that is the last piece of insurance they have for times of acute distress.

So they continue farming, albeit inefficiently, so far as their production economics is concerned.

As farmers become more and more inefficient, agricultural production will always be at stress.

So, what is the solution?

The answer is rather simple: Enable aggregation.

We need to find ways that enable these small ownership holdings aggregate to minimum viable size of operating farms without the individual landowners losing their ownership rights.

Cooperative farming, collective farming, producers organisations, joint liability groups (JLGs), leasing out land, or contract farming are some possible ways of aggregation.

While the first three solutions are fraught with capital and managerial issues, and JLGs offer perhaps a temporary and an intermediate solution, a long-term solution can be seen only in leasing out land to individuals and in contract farming where the contract is evenly balanced.

Unfortunately, the present land laws in most states are based on land reforms carried out in the sixties and seventies, and were based on the maxim ‘land to the tiller’.

Leasing out agricultural land is not permitted in most of the major agricultural states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana area of Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, etc. except by Defence personnel, minors, disabled persons and the like.

In Rajasthan, owners can lease out land for a period of five years and must have a two-year break before leasing out again to the same tenant.

In West Bengal, land could be leased out only on share cropping basis with a fixed rent of 25 per cent of produce if the sharecropper purchases inputs and 50 per cent if the landowner purchases inputs.

Agricultural land can be leased out legally on a long-term basis in Punjab, Haryana, Assam, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, but only in Punjab, Haryana and Assam, the landowner has a continuing right of resumption and tenants do not acquire any rights on land whatsoever.

Despite the legal provision, over 80 per cent of agriculture is carried out on the basis of oral tenancy and not legally registered tenancy.

But, what is urgently required in every single State is a reform of the existing land reforms. Land leasing on a long-term basis needs to be made legal with an unequivocal undertaking that the tenant would acquire no right on land.

The tenants in such cases need to be individual cultivators and a ceiling of 5-10 ha on the aggregate land leased in could be perhaps be provided. The process of registration and documentation of the land lease needs to be simple and standardised, and it should be possible to register the land lease online.

This single step would catalyse minimum farm sizes where productivity enhancing investments become possible, and result in a volume of produce amenable to efficient storing, processing or marketing. Unless land leasing laws are modified urgently that allow leasing out land on long-term basis, even the benefits of commodity exchanges and market reforms will not reach the farmers.

We need to act before the production crisis hits us.

Retrieved from – http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/agri-biz/article3851154.ece

APPL to help North-East farmers

APPL to help North-East farmers

Retrieved from – http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/showpage.asp?id=aug2712,11,924,471,489,1101

Restoring the Diversity of Indigenous Agriculture

To see the video, click on the below link –

Restoring The Diversity of Indigenous Agriculture

In an age where multinational agribusiness has casually stripped India of seed diversity, while creating dependence on its GMO seed products, Natabar Sarangi is on a mission to revitalize organic agriculture and reintroduce native rice varieties through seed banking. His fight is not only to repair the damage done to India’s agricultural sector since the so-called “green revolution”, it is to restore an ethic of sustainability and economic justice to farming. It is a struggle for the overall wellbeing of the nation.

Retrieved from – http://www.karmatube.org/videos.php?id=3327

African countries invite Indian investment in agriculture

African nations like Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique invited Indian investors to invest in various sectors, especially in agriculture, saying this has the potential to provide food to both Africa and India.

Diplomats from the three countries showcased the immense potential and urged Indian investors to take advantage of the investor-friendly climate and a host of incentives they were offering.

They were addressing a session on “Doing business with African countries” organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here Thursday.

The diplomats told the investors that by investing in their respective countries, they (the investors) can also reach out to markets in the entire Africa, Middle East and European Union.

With vast unutilised arable land, best agro-climatic conditions, a stable political system and investment incentives including 100 percent repatriation of profit, the African countries offer huge business opportunities to Indian investors, they said.

The diplomats said African nations were ideal destination for investment for Indian investors given the commonalities between India and Africa.

Susan Sikaneta, high commissioner of Zambia, said Indians with their good knowledge of agriculture, expertise and technology should come forward to invest in agriculture in Zambia, which is offering land and other incentives on first come, first served basis.

The central African country has 43 million hectares of land but only six million is being currently used.

“Chinese are coming in big numbers but we love Indians to come. You have passion for Africa. You are not like other countries which are interested only in making money,” she said advising investors not to miss the opportunity.

Eighty percent of Zambia’s 13 million population is dependent on agriculture. The investors can grow and export maize, cotton, wheat ando ther produce.

Maria Fatima G.C. Phume, deputy high commissioner of Mozambique, said only 15 percent of 36 million hectares of arable land in her country was utilised due to lack of agriculture technology.

She said Mozambique, which was one of the world’s fastest growing economies, offers excellent investment opportunities in agriculture,energy, mining and infrastructure.

“The investment in agriculture can not only secure food for our people but also for India. The investors can also export the agriculture produce to other African countries and Middle East,” she said.

With 23.4 million population, Mozambique has Portuguese as national language but English is widely used for business purposes

Jerusalem Amdemariam, minister counsellor, economic and business in the Ethiopian embassy, highlighted the investment incentives like 100 percent exemption from import duties. The investors are allowed to repatriate the entire profit. Agro-processing industries are also exempted from income tax for two to seven years

With 82 million population, Ethiopia is the second most populous African country after Nigeria and with its proximity to Middle East and Europe, offers access to big markets.

She said Indian government was collaborating in road developments and laying new railway lines. Ethiopia offers tremendous business opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing particularly agro-processing,food and beverages, she added.

I.Y.R Krishna Rao, Andhra Pradesh’s special chief secretary, cooperation and agri-marketing, said a delegation headed by state agriculture minister would soon visit Africa to explore investment opportunities in agriculture and allied sectors.

“We should really build up mutually beneficial relationship in agriculture which has tremendous implications in terms of food security in India and as well as Africa,” he said.

Rao said once African agriculture develops, it can to a large extent ensure food security of the world. “As a continent, in terms of agriculture, there is a lot of scope for development there,” he said.

Suchitra K. Ella, chairperson, CII-Andhra Pradesh, said there was tremendous scope for cooperation between India and the three African countries given their historic relationship and the commonalities.

Retrieved from – http://twocircles.net/2012jun21/african_countries_invite_indian_investment_agriculture.html