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,