Friday, April 3, 2009

McDonald's story and Climate change study

1. The story of how Mcdonald's started sourcing potato locally. Until August 2007, all MacFries were imported. The problem was that a specific type of potato, called Shepody Potato, which is used to make MacFries is difficult to be grown the climatic conditions prevailing in India. McCain Foods, McD's Largest supplier of fries, came up with a solution.

The master crop of potatoes is grown in the Himalayas, where the weather is conducive, but these don't make it onto the plate.

Instead, they're harvested in September and rushed, before the Rohtang Pass shuts for the winter, 1,000 kilometres to farmers in Kheda district west of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, where the tubers are replanted. Come March, the now massive Shepody potatoes are harvested and sent to the McCain factory in Mehsana to become MacFries.

2. While the rise in temperature has affected mango flowering this season, Navsari Agriculture University (NAU) has embarked on a project where it will be studying the effects of climate change and pollutants on crops in the most polluted areas.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bad news for Mang Lovers

Bad wheather has hit Mango crops in Gujarat.

Subdued winter coupled with the surprise showers and cyclone last weekend have spelt disaster for the Kesar mango crop in Talala. Mangoes from Valsad and Navsari are also expected to be bitter and costlier. Experts say the yield may be down by around 80 per cent this year.

Saurashtra accounts for nearly 6 lakh tonnes of mangoes per year. This includes different varieties like Kesar, Alphonso, Langdo, Rajapuri among others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Organic Farming: Myths and Facts

Indiainfoline has got this straightforward article about facts on Organic Farming.

The bottomline: Organic farming is essentially a marking tool, and cannot replace conventional farming for food security, quality and quantity of crop outputs. With a growing population and precarious food situation, India cannot afford to take risk with organic farming alone.

With all hype surrounding the organic farming, this article is quite a revelation.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

12% Growth in Agriculture

In India! Actually 12.8%. Gujarat has clocked a growth rate of 12.8% in agriculture and hence become the fastest growing state agriculturally. I dont know how much of the credit for this growth goes to Narendra Modi. Let us hope that the same story can be repeated for the whole country.

Various factors responsible for this growth are water from the Narmada
, investments in check dams, widespread cultivation of genetically-modified cotton, a dedicated power grid for the farming sector that assures regular supply during non-peak hours, and rejuvenation of the extension system by the Chief Minister.

New weed in the town, Cotton selling, Food Processing

1. Wheat import in 2006-07 and public distribution resulted in introduction of five new weeds in 10 states. Now Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology is conducting a surveillance project to detect these weeds.

2. CCI and Nafed bought huge quantity of cotton at MSP. But now there is no one to buy it back. So government has instructed them to sell it at lower price while the MSP obligation will be compensated by the Government.

3. Agriculture Ministar Sharad Pawar bats for food processing industry. Sirji, paach saal mein kuch kiya kyoon nahi?


The Rise of Agriculture

The Economist has got an interesting story on the happenings in the world agriculture market recently. Prices of agricultural produce are rising despite the economic crisis. Part of it is because of shift in use of agricultural land for fuel instead of food. But more prominent reason is the demand form poorer countries. People are consuming more and better nourished, however they are far behind as compared to developed countries.

Lot of companies are milking profits and planning investments considering this boom in agriculture sector. BASF, one of the largest producers of agrochemicals, saw 9% growth last year in agricultural sales, including 16% growth in Asia. The competitors like Agrium, CF Industries, Bunge and Syngenta are also prospering. Monsanto is celebrating the glory of genetically modified seeds.

Investment is also growing. Terra Firma, a private-equity firm based in London, announced it would buy 90% of Consolidated Pastoral Company, the vast Australian cattle holdings of the Packer family, which encompass 5m hectares (12m acres) of land. Nufarm, an Australian agrochemical maker, won approval for its acquisition of AH Marks, one of Britain’s oldest chemical companies, which has a valuable portfolio of herbicides. Last year COFCO, China’s state-controlled food conglomerate, bought 5% of Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer. Al Qudra, an Abu Dhabi-based investment company, said it had bought big tracts of farmland in Morocco and Algeria, and was closing in on purchases in Pakistan, Syria, Vietnam, Thailand, Sudan and India. China Agri-Industries, a subsidiary of COFCO, established a partnership with Wilmar, the world’s largest trader in palm oil. Landkom, listed on London’s AIM market, and Black Earth Farming, listed in Stockholm, have each made big investments in farming in Ukraine. And reports are circulating in China about local investors buying 50,000 hectares of farmland in Argentina, and considering other investments in Argentina and Brazil.

I am sure stock analysts (in India as well) will soon hailing agriculture as next sunrise sector.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

mKrishi from TCS, Flood resistant Rice, Monocrotophos

1. mKrishi, a mobile agro advisory system of the Tata Consultancy Services, is an innovation that allows farmers to send queries to agricultural experts in their local languages through a mobile and receive personalised advice or relevant information in the local language. It also helps literacy-challenged farmers by allowing them to send queries and receive advice and information as ‘voice SMS.’

The end-to-end mKrishi solution has been developed through the integration of technologies such as sensors, solar power, CDMA modem and CDMA network, GPS, handset with camera, binary runtime environment for wireless to develop multiple applications on the handset, client software (on mobile phone), expert console software, and an engine to assist in displaying mobile screens in Indian languages.

2. Plant biologist create a type of flood-resistant rice that is being introduced to India and Bangladesh. This was done using the technique called precision breeding in which they transferred the flood-resistant property from a low-yield, poor-flavor rice to a popular rice known as Swarna.

3. A toxic pesticide, popular among some Indian farmers for ending their lives, is banned in other countries but used widely in India. The effectiveness of Monocrotophos for pest eradication is also doubtful.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

ITC's eChaupal, Sour Grapes

1. A brief case study on ITC's eChaupal. Started in year 2000, it serves more that 50,000 villages through its 7000 kiosks. Each kiosk costs around 1.5 Lakhs and includes a VSAT connection, a PC and a printer. e-Choupal facilitates farmers with the latest weather reports and best farming practices. Additionally, e-Choupal offers various farm-critical services, such as soil and water-testing for the betterment of yields. The softwares have local language support and an easy user interface.

2. Economic cycle is showing its impact on the grape farmers of Maharashtra. The wine consumption has fallen down and with it the demand for grapes. Ironically, farmers shifted to growing wine fruit varietals based from table grapes on projected wine industry demand.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cargo facility in Jharkhand, Mega Food Park Scheme and GI tag

1. Jharkhand would soon get a cargo facility at Ranchi airport to despatch farm produce to the world market. Jharkhand produces several types of agriculture and horticulture products with the farmers in a state having 29.74 lakh hectare of farm land.

2. The food processing sector is expected to attract fresh investments of over Rs 5,000 crore in the next two-three years, according to an industry estimate. The Ministry of Food Processing Industries has received lot of (EoIs) after announcing the revised Mega Food Park Scheme (MFPS) in October 2008.

3. covers a story about how farmers are not yet benefiting from geographical indication (GI) for Kerala’s Palakkadan matta and the medicinal njavara.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Farm Income Commision, Politician speaks and Zameen Organic

1. M S Swaminathan, who needs no introduction on this blog, talks about his expectations from the regular budget. He suggests that all political parties commit to establishing a Farm Income Commission which can go into the totality of the income of farmers from crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-forestry and agro-processing, so as to ensure a minimum take home income to farmers. He also emphasizes on the need for ensuring minimum support price not only for wheat and rice but for a wide range of millets, pulses, oil seeds and tuber crops. Further provision needs to be made for establishing a national grid of warehouses for grains and cold storage structures for perishable commodities. The prevailing mismatch between production and post-harvest technologies should be ended.

2. Sharad Pawar's column on commodityonline. Sounds like a pre-election campaign.

3. An interesting story on Zameen Organic, a
farmer-owned private limited organization aimed at closer collaboration between farmers. Zameen Organic is a pioneering marketing company for Fair Trade, Organic and Pesticide Free cotton in India. They have partnered with Yes Bank to ensure credit flow for their initiatives. The link of their website: Zameen Organic.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Agri Stocks and Bio-Valley

1. With world economy going for a toss and Indian economy performing not as expected, stock market analysts are looking at rural customers as the light in the tunnel. The disposable income of rural India has been on uphill in the past decade. With agricultural sops in the interim budget, stocks of companies in agriculture sector have already started showing the movements (Read: Agri stocks rise on FM focus on agriculture). This article in business-standard also draws that in times of the prevailing uncertainty, it is better to invest in companies catering to the rural market. Detailed analysis of companies like Airtel, SBI, Jain Irrigation, Rallis, Hero Honda, HUL and Punjab Tractors are covered.

However, there is a catch: The improvement in the living standard of rural India has been mainly because of increase in price of agricultural commodities. Monsoon has also been very merciful. Falling commodity prices will definitely have an impact of rural incomes which will be seen after some time with a time lag. And let us pray that monsoon carry on with its mercy for Indian farmers who very much depend on it.

2. Well-known agriculture scientist Dr M S Swaminathan called for the creation of a Bio-Valley on the lines of the Silicon Valley to help India speed up the Second Green Revolution in order to remove hunger and increase the contribution of agriculture to GDP to over 25% and create huge agricultural employment. The proposed Bio-Valley should create a perfect balance between organic farming and green agriculture in an absolutely integrated manner in which genetically modified (GM) crops should be discouraged in a proportionate manner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Barley, Interest rates

1. Barley, a key ingredient for brewing beer promises to be a big opportunity to the farmers in Rajasthan. Companies like Pepsico and SABmiller are partnering with farmers for the supply of barley.

PepsiCo had signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) with more than 1,200 farmers from Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh districts of Rajasthan to produce high yielding malt barley for the United Breweries group (UB).

SABMiller India sources its barley from Rajasthan and Haryana. While it has a contract farming agreement with HAFED, in Rajasthan, it has a barley project called 'Sanjhi Unnati', for which it has tied up with an NGO, Morarka Foundation.

(source: Times of India)

2. Farmers are not benefiting with the lowering of interest rates. Agriculture cooperative banks and regional rural banks are forced to continue with the high interest rates while offering investment credit for agriculture development and allied activities. These banks offer agriculture investment credit at an interest rate band of 11-to-13% a year. The ticket size of their investment loans are typically less than Rs 50,000. By contrast, agriculture investment loans below Rs 50,000 from public sector banks these days are available at 8.5-9.5% per annum rates.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sugarcane SMP, Bill Gates letter, Value Chain Financing and Conservation Farming

1. The sugar industry in the private and the cooperative sectors have united to pressure the government to announce high support prices for the commodity. Is it not surprising? In this cruel capitalist world, people are fighting to increase the price of commodity that they have to buy!

2. Bill Gates writes about his vision about agriculture in Africa in his annual letter. Very valid points brought forward.

3. This interesting article in ET talks about Value chain financing for agriculture sector. In value chain financing, a bank enters into an arrangement with some or all the players in a particular value chain to extend finance to them. A value chain basically constitute of three levels - farmers producing the primary commodity, an SME or an agent acting as intermediately or adding value to the produce and the large firms using this as raw materials.

4. From business standard: Over a thousand agricultural experts from around the world, who had gathered in Delhi last week for the fourth congress on conservation agriculture, deliberated an issue that is vital for sustaining high-growth agriculture without clashing with the environment.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Growing wheat is what you will see around in most of the parts of the countryside right now if you happen to take a drive outside the city. Here are some pictures clicked by Sumit, Golu and Ritesh while we visited the farm after a long time.

Tobacco Alternative, Investments in Agriculture and Padmashree

1. Government is speeding to fight against anything related to tobacco. It has sanctioned Rs.2.17 crore to Rajahmundry-based Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI) to undertake a pilot project on “Alternative cropping system to beedi and chewing tobacco” in various States. The project is aimed at establishing viable and sustainable alternatives to beedi and chewing tobacco crops.

In India, 40 per cent of all cancers are due to tobacco use and as per the tobacco control report, every year 8-9 lakh Indians die because of tobacco-related disease.

And 5.5 million people get jobs in the beedi sector which includes cultivation, processing, manufacture, wholesale trade and retail.

2. Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation paints a rosy picture on the agriculture scene of the country in this article.

3. Padma Shri for innovative farmer. He entered the Limca Book of Records when a mango tree on his mango farm gave an unimaginable yield of 23, 456 mangoes. Yadav, a recipient of many an award, produces close to 92 bags of paddy for every acre while the normal average is around 35 to 40 bags.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

PrimeAg, Farmers-turn-Managers, Food Outsourcing and Sugar Prices

1. An article on Australian food company PrimeAg which borne out with a vision to meet the world's food security. An example of corporate farming we may soon see in india.

2. IIMA is launching a course on Food supply chain management to upgrade the knowledge of the farmers. "The course will cover all challenges and bottle-necks of the supply chain from the times the seed is sowed, till it reaches the consumer. Also, exports and reaching the food to poor will be discussed."

3. Mr Piruz Khambatta, Chairman & Managing Director, Rasna Pvt Ltd says that the food outsourcing business from India has an opportunity of $5 billion as of today. “Only six per cent of the total amount of food produced in the country is processed. This has led to an annual loss of Rs 33,000 crore in the agricultural sector through perishable commodities.”

“Agri business for rural India can do what Information Technology has done for urban India. India should be promoted as the food factory of the world in terms of both production and marketing,” he said.

3. This article in business-standard suggests that raising the retail price for sugar is the only and surest shot to resolve all the problems of the sugar industry.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Conservation Agriculture, Successful Mobile data service

1. The four-day World Congress on Conservation Agriculture (CA), beginning at New Delhi from February 4, will draw up a road map and strategies to promote CA.

Excerpts from the report:

"Presently over two million hectares area in the Indo-Gangetic plain and about two lakh hectares in Andhra Pradesh is under resource conservation technologies, and this is likely to go up at least four-five times in the next five years."

"Farmers who adopted conservation technologies are saving water and energy costs, attaining higher yields and getting more returns. Large-scale trials and farmers experiences show that the available technologies can be adopted in wide range of rainfed and irrigated environments."

2. Thomson Reuters announced that its ground-breaking mobile information service for India's agricultural community Reuters Market Light (RML) has sold over 100,000 three- month subscriptions since its launch just over a year ago.

Reuters Market Light, a pioneer in this field, provides customised and localised market intelligence to farmers in their local language including crop prices from local markets, local weather forecasts, and relevant agricultural news and crop advisory information. RML has built an end-to-end value chain from sourcing through to rural distribution to meet the decision-critical needs of the farming sector over mobile phones. It currently covers over 50 commodities and over 250 markets in the two states.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mobile handsets, Food Processing

1. Cellphone makers are betting on Rural India to revive the mobile phone sales which has started dwindling in top tier cities. Likes of Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Spice are working on different business plans for these markets. This includes a separate distribution model, tying up with microfinance companies to offer handsets at easy instalments and launch handsets customised for the rural consumer. More details here.

The idea that I like the most is from Spice Mobile about "shared handsets". Shared handsets will allow many people to use the same phone with separate connections and hence reduce their cost of ownership.

2. Joint Secretary Ministry of Food and Processing India (MFPI) Ajit Kumar saidlack of food processing facility is resulting in annual loss of over Rs 48,000 crore of perishable and non-perishable commodities in the country. "We process only six per cent of the produce against an average processing of around 50-60 per cent in developed economies," He said.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Advanta deal, Weeds and Advani's promises

1. Agricultural seed technology firm Advanta India Ltdand U.S.-based Arcadia Biosciences have signed a deal to research and develop nitrogen-use efficient (NUE) sorghum, a feed crop, the firms said in a joint statement.

NUE sorghum can significantly cut the amount ot nitrogen farmers have to use, the companies said. Sorghum is also used as a bio-fuel.

2. Weeds are not that bad after all. This article in The Statesman tries to put across this point. “Weeds are important for maintaining crop yield as they protect crops from pest attacks and also maintain soil fertility. Measures like crop rotation to manage weeds and selective removal of weeds should be adopted rather than applying broad-spectrum herbicides"

3. BJP leader and prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani
has promised major overhaul of the agriculture policy and schemes, in case he could lead the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to power at the centre in the coming General election. These included a massive hike in the public spending on the sector and initiative revolutionary new measures to promote agriculture-based based value-addition industries in rural areas. Advani said that in case the NDA was elected to power, the development of rural infrastructure – roads, power, irrigation, storage facilities, etc. – would receive massive fillip.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Farmer protest, American fears

1. Fight between farmers and the industry: This time it is for the use of dam water. More details here.

2. US is concerned about the aggressive cotton procurement by CCI and the chinese counterpart. It says "In order to protect their farmers' income, China and India have dramatically increased government purchases to drive-up domestic farm prices. Although there have been no official statement... regarding how these stocks will be managed, their disposition will certainly affect the US exports and prices". Detailed report in The Hindu.

India-Canada MoU, Fresh baby corn..

1. India and Canada have signed a memorandum of understanding here to extend co-operation in agriculture, including sharing of knowledge technology, marketing of farm products and animal development.

2. Indian baby corn has now carved itself a very definite niche in the regular cuisine of a growing retailers such as Sainsbury, ASDA, Morrison and Sommerfield.

Punjab green fields have become the country’s biggest producers of the commodity for export markets. Bharti Del Monte India Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and DMPL India Ltd. (a subsidiary of Del Monte Pacific Ltd.) has become the country’s largest exporter of fresh baby corn, preferred over the frozen variation, more in the world’s fine dining and haute cuisine. The company's total baby corn exports currently exceed 200 tons, all from Punjab.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

NPM Vegetables, Polyhouse Farming, Consulting via Satellite, Carbon Trade

1. The demand of NPM vegetables, i.e. non-pesticidal management, is high. These vegetables are farm fresh and free of pesticides. Consumers are also happy to pay premium for such vegetables.

The Himachal Pradesh government is promoting farming inside modern greenhouses called polyhouses to improve the earning potential of farmers in the state, especially during the harsh winters. Polyhouses are based on the greenhouse concept to let in heat and light, while preventing the heat from getting out. But instead of the glass on a greenhouse roof, polyhouses are made of cheaper polythene or plastic. By reducing evaporation, they also allow farmers to use sprinkler and drip irrigation systems, thus saving water.

3. Farmers of Northeast can now interact with top scientists of the country and seek solutions to their problems related to farming, market, health and weather dynamics from their nearest Village Resource Centres (VRC).

Carbon emissions are increasingly at the forefront of policy issues, and experts say agricultural practices could play a role in decreasing emissions while providing farmers with a new cash crop.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Warehousing act, Mechanisation and Alternative farming

1. Business-Standard has put up an interview with Anil Choudhary, managing director of the National Bulk Handling Corporation (NBHC), the warehousing, assaying, grading and certifying arm of the country’ largest commodity exchange the Multi Commodity Exchange of India (MCX). He says that the Warehousing Act will ensure liquidity to farmers against their produce.

"it will address one of the major woes of an average Indian farmer, that is, getting liquidity against his produce. Various micro and macro level studies indicate that small farmers contribute over 50 per cent of marketable surplus and ironically, more than half of it comes through distress sale.

"One of the major contributing factors has been the lack of viable alternatives to bring in liquidity against commodities by selling it immediately after harvesting when the prices are virtually the lowest."

2. Punjab Government is all set to put more automation in agriculture. Balwinder Singh Sidhu, Director, Agriculture, says, “The state government is providing subsidy on about 22 different kinds of machines which deal primarily with precision farming, residue management and diversification. While for precision farming we have laser levellers, for diversification, automatic potato planter, maize thresher and potato digger are required. Precision farming also depends on rotary power weeder and tractor-operated hydraulic sprayer.”

3. An alternative to chemical and organic farming: natural farming with zero budget.
The fundamental idea of Zero Budget Natural Farming, as the name implies, is to increase yield by slashing cost and inputs. Fertilisers - both chemical and organic are a strict no-no, you don’t depend on the market for seeds (you use local seeds instead), and this mode of farming needs only 10 percent of the conventional requirement of water and electricity,