Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

‘Conserving indigenous seed varieties need of the hour’

TNN Apr 29, 2013, 02.45AM IST

NAGPUR: Conserving and preserving the indigenous and traditional seed varieties and the overall biodiversity of the country is the need of the hour to counter the increased invasion of biotech and genetically modified crops, said speakers at a seed fair on Sunday.

Speakers at the three-day seed fair-cum seminar organized by a group of organizations working in organic and natural farming voiced their concern over agricultural issues and food security. These organizations included Samvad, Srujan, Gram Samasya Mukti Trust, Dry Land Farming Group, Aamhi Amchya Arogya Sathi and Nisargayan. They called for a direct relationship between the consumer and the farmer to not just bring quality and cheaper produce to consumers, but also seek a feedback on what the consumer wanted from the farmers.

The organizers felicitated veterans like Rambhau Mahajan, Raosaheb Dagadkar, Shobha Sharma, Dadaji Khobragade. Tarak Kate of Dharamitra, an NGO in Wardha, who was honoured with the ‘Beejbhushan’ award for his contribution in development of agriculture in region, raised questions over the seed sovereignty of the country.

Shantilal Kothari, president of the Academy of Nutrition Improvement hinted towards a connect between the lobby promoting GM crops and the government. Sanjay Patil from BAIF Development Research Foundation from Nandurbar said that once millets were considered food of tribals. But soon they will be the future food for all. Out of the 212 known millets grown in the word barring two, all are cultivated in India, he said.

Tejal V from GM Free Maharashtra strongly opposed the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority Bill (BRAI) and demanded a biosafety protection legislation and not an autocratic authority as it would be like an appellate tribunal where no one can even approach court against the order of the authority.

Subhash Sharma, a renowned organic farmer from the region proposed the cause of saving the soil from pollution caused from pesticides, weedicides and fertilizers. He said that it was possible to do successful and profitable agriculture without bringing in any input in agriculture from outside the farm.

Vasant Futane from Samvad attacked the GM crops and explained the scientific effects of these crops. Ulhas Jajoo, Hemant Moharil, R Dhote also expressed their views.

The organizers also decided to bring out a directory of genuine organic and natural farming farmers with information of the food, vegetable, pulses or oil seeds crops grown by them. They concluded the programme claiming that India has enough high yielding straight varieties which can take care of food security of the country.


Farmer population falls by 9 million in 10 years

Rukmini Shrinivasan, TNN May 1, 2013, 07.30AM IST

NEW DELHI: There are now nearly 9 million fewer farmers than there were in 2001, the first time in four decades that the absolute number of cultivators has fallen.

Census data released on Tuesday shows that while the proportion of cultivators to the total workforce has been falling steadily, this is the first time since 1971 that the number of cultivators has fallen in absolute terms.

The office of the Registrar General of India on Tuesday released the primary abstract of census data, which gives the final numbers for India’s population, literacy rates and sex ratio, as also the number and types of workers. Workers are split into four industrial categories: cultivators, agricultural labour, household industry workers and others. Cultivators remain the second-largest group at 119 million after ‘others’ but are now less than a quarter of the total workforce, a decline of over 7 percentage points over 2001.

Over the last 50 years, the proportion of farmers to the total population has been in steady decline, but the fall has not been big enough for the absolute number to go down, given population increases. But in the last decade, the fall in farming has combined with the slowing rate of population growth to create a fall in the absolute numbers of farmers.

As in previous decades, the proportion of agricultural labour has increased; there are now 144 million agricultural labourers, 30% of the total worker population against 26.5% in 2001. “The rise in agricultural labour could be explained by the falling size of land holdings over time,” census commissioner C Chandramouli suggested.

Between cultivators and agricultural labour, there are now 263 million people working in agriculture, over half of all workers. Even as there has been a 3.6 percentage point decline in the proportion of people working in agriculture over the last decade, their absolute number has increased from 234 million a decade ago.

The census also confirms trends thrown up by the National Sample Survey Organization, which is the rise of casual and irregular work. The proportion of ‘main workers’ – those who have worked at least six of the last 12 months – has fallen by 2.6 percentage points, while the proportion of marginal workers – those who worked between 0 and six of the last 12 months – has risen. Within marginal workers, over 80% had worked for at least three months, Chandramouli said.

The census also confirms that female participation in the workforce has fallen slightly while it has risen for men. Delhi, Punjab and Chandigarh have India’s lowest female workforce participation rates, Delhi being the nation’s lowest.



Bihar crosses national average in rice production: Nitish Kumar

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PATNA: Hailing Bihar farmers for breaking China’s record in rice production, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said the state has gone ahead of national average in terms of paddy cultivation and would soon do so in wheat.

“Though Chinese scientists are disputing the feat but it is a fact that a Bihar farmer has broken their record in rice production,” Kumar said, addressing a function to launch Sri method of agriculture.

The CM said the state was already ahead of national average in terms of per hectare production of maize and achieved this in the field of rice in 2012-13.

“We will soon cross the national average in per hectare cultivation of wheat,” he added.

The CM said the state was largest producer of honey in the country.

He said the state has formulated agriculture roadmap for five years which would increase income of the farmers.

Saying that power shortage was a big problem in agriculture, he emphasised on dedicated feeder to provide uninterrupted electricity for farming.

In a veiled attack on his rival Lalu Prasad, he said, “We should always remember from where we began our journey and where we have reached.”

The Bihar CM said faster growth in the state has earned faith of outsiders to invest in the state.



Drive to propagate system of root intensification method of farming

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PATNA: Encouraged by the production of 5.1 million tonnes of foodgrains in the state in 2012-13, the government on Wednesday launched a mega campaign for propagating the system of root intensification (SRI) method on a large scale to give a further push to agricultural growth. The programme was launched by chief minister Nitish Kumar at a function at S K Memorial Hall here, which was attended by about 1,200 farmers.

SRI method was invented in Madagascar some three decades ago, but it was successfully experimented in Bihar where farmers broke world record in paddy production, and the farming technology has leapfrogged.

The agriculture department will hold SRI day in each panchayat either on May 26 or June 9. Training will also be imparted to women farmhands in root intensification of paddy, the main crop in the state. Paddy is grown in 35 lakh hectare in the state. The production of paddy was 10 quintals per hectare more through SRI method in 2011-12, which was an increase of 47% over the production in 2008-09. The agriculture road map has also laid stress on publicity and promotion of this technique.

Thanks to SRI method, Bihar beat the national average of 23.72 quintals per hectare of paddy by producing 25.70 quintals per hectare and wheat production reached closer to national average of 31.40 quintals per hectare. The projection for 2013-14 is 33 quintals per hectare, said Nitish at the function.

“It is tragic that despite being an agriculture-based state, there was no basic facility for milling of the paddy in Bihar, neither there was facility to make milk powder. Our paddy was sent to UP for milling and milk to Punjab for conversion into powder. But now we have set up these facilities in the state, though on a limited basis,” said the CM and added that 76% of the population depends on agriculture in the state.

Agriculture minister Narendra Singh said SRI method was a boon for the farmers as it helped in getting high yield at low cost. Agriculture adviser to CM, Mangla Rai said Bihar recorded 30% increase in production despite drought in 124 blocks in 2012-13. Agriculture secretary Vivek Singh said agriculture is the top priority of the government and the department’s budget rose from Rs 20 crore in 2004-05 to Rs 2,200 crore in 2013-14.



A burgeoning organic market beckons to India’s rural farmers

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Furquan Ameen Siddiqui, Hindustan Times   April 27, 2013

Indian farmers have started to reap dividends from their budding interest in organic farming. It wasn’t long back, around seven years ago, when Indian farmers started to go organic.

In 2006-07, around 4.32 lakh ha reported organic produce — a large portion came from wild and non-agricultural land — which has now reached around 11 lakh ha, as per the recent report ‘The World of Organic Agriculture, 2013’ by FiBL and IFOAM (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).

“The growth rate has reached around 20% per year, much higher than early expectations,” says Krishan Chandra, director, National Centre of Organic Farming.

The current market for organic foods in India is pegged at Rs.2,500 crore, which according to ASSOCHAM, is expected to reach Rs.6,000 crore by 2015.

It’ll still leave us at 1% of the global market. Thus, a huge potential is seen in the nascent Indian organic sector.

“Apart from states like Sikkim or MP, we’re seeing a rising interest in Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, UP and Bihar,” says Chandra.

India outnumbers every other country in terms of organic producers — with an estimated 5,47,591.

Organic products, which until now were mainly being exported, are now finding consumers in the domestic market.

“Even Tier II cities like Nagpur, Allahabad, Gorakhpur and Bhatinda show an increase in organic consumption,” says Sunil Kumar, AGM at Morarka Rural Research Foundation.

According to a survey of 1,000 consumers in ten cities done by Morarka Organic Foods, around 30% of Indian consumers preferred organic products and were even prepared to pay 10 to 20% more for them.

“Soil abused by chemical fertiliser excesses takes more time to produce comparable yields. Although, the cost of organic cultivation is much less, reducing cost incurred in purchasing costly inputs,” says Rohitashwa Ghakar, Project Head, International Competence Centre for Organic Agriculture.

* Regions reap their rewards

Growth: In UP, organic certification has gone up 36 fold in the last six years. The area under organic cultivation rose from 3,034 to 111,644 ha.

However, most of the organic farming  is under a corporate-farmer contract. In Haryana, with hardly any takers till 2008, organic crops today are produced in more than 10,000 ha.

However, Punjab farmers have shown little interest. Of the total 4046 lakh ha of land under cultivation, only a minuscule portion 2104 ha is under organic farming.

Popular organic crops: Nearly 40,000 farmers in UP are growing organic wheat, rice, pulses, maize, and numerous herbs like Tulsi, Ashwagandh, Aloe Vera.

Haryana grows mostly vegetables like tomato, beans, or fruits like summer-squash, melons and mangoes.

“Although I sell the produce in Delhi, most of it goes to retail chains”, says Kanwal Chauhan, a farmer in Sonepat.

Challenges: Punjab State Farmers’ Commission consultant Dr PS Rangi feels that organic farming cannot feed the entire country. “One can grow vegetables or some wheat for personal use, but it can’t be grown on a large scale.” (By Pankaj Jaiswal, Rajesh Moudgil and Gurpreet Nibber)

Growth: In Kerala, at least 40 % of the farming is organic and the state is set to become the second fully organic state after Sikkim in 2016.

From 7,000 ha in 2007, the state has spread organic cultivation to 16,000 ha. In Andhra Pradesh another 11,500 ha would be added to the current 4273.54 ha this year.

In Karnataka, under the organic programmes of the state, an area of 1,18,676 ha has seen organic farming benefiting around one lakh farmers, said R Anuradha, agriculture department.

Popular organic crops: More than grains and pulses in Kerala organic farming is prevalent in cash crops, rice and vegetables.

In Andhra’s smaller towns and villages, people are slowly shifting to organically grown rice, ragi and other millets.

In Karnataka, crops like pepper, vanilla, coffee, nutmeg — which are not available in other parts of India — are a popular choice.

Challenges: In large tracts of the state’s tribal belt like Karnataka and AP, the farmers have engaged in slash/burn farming for generations and do not use any pesticide or fertilizer.

There have been no efforts to take this into account. (By Ramesh Babu, Ashok Das and Naveen Ammembala)

North East
Growth: 30.92 lakh ha out of the net cultivated area of 43 lakh ha in the region have never seen the use of chemical fertilisers.

Almost 89% of farmland is categorised as organic in Mizoram, which passed an Organic Act in 2004. Whereas Meghalaya, a major strawberry producer, eyes a turnout of 500 MT from the current 250 MT a year.

Popular organic crops: Much of the area in the region is taken up by paddy, vegetables and fruits such as grapes.

The more prosperous farmers are into cultivation of medicinal plants, rose and anthurium, primarily for export.

“Mizoram has become the largest anthurium flower producer in India, owing to almost 98% of women anthurium growers,” said Samuel Rosanglura of Mizoram’s horticulture department.

Challenges: Most state governments promote vermi-compost and manure in the region since bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides are difficult to access. (By Rahul Karmakar)

Growth: Gujarat has seen substantial growth in organic farming. It currently utilises around 42,000 ha under organic farming.

Maharashtra has been a front runner in organic farming with around 6.5 lakh ha under it, a huge rise from 18,786 ha in 2005-06.

In Rajasthan, there has been a ten-fold increase. From around 22,000 ha in 2005-06, the state has taken a leap to 2,17,712 ha.

Popular organic crops: Gujarat grows organic wheat, pulses and fruits like mango, chikoo and papaya. While cotton, turmeric, ginger are some crops grown in Rajasthan.

In Maharashtra, cotton, cereals, fruits dominate the organic farming scene. The state has initiated  a pilot project to grow grapes that will produce organic wine.

Challenges: “Tribals who hardly use chemical fertilisers are left out of organic benefits,” says Kapil Shah of Jatan Trust that promotes organic farming. (By Mahesh Langa)



Expo-cum-seminar on indigenous seeds from Friday

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TNN | Apr 25, 2013, 03.59 AM IST NAGPUR:

A group of organizations are jointly organizing a three day seed exhibition cum seminar at Vinoba Vichar Kendra from Friday evening to promote conservation of Indian biodiversity in grains, fruits, vegetables etc. These organizations are Samvad, Srujan, Gram Samasya Mukti Trust, Dry Land Farming Group, Aamhi Amchya Arogya Sathi and Nisargayan.

Speaking to reporters, Vasant Futane of Samvad and a progressive farmer from tribal village of Rawala near Warud in Amravati district said it was the need of the hour conserve the Indian seed varieties, be they in grains, pulses or vegetables etc. “There is a big attack from the genetically modified (GM) crops lobby that was trying to influence the central government in manipulating the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill. We need to conserve our biodiversity and protect our seeds,” he said.

For healthy and safe food, conventional seeds and germ plasm need to be protected from any modification. The GM crops have destroyed many conventional varieties and hence efforts were needed on a war footing to conserve the original varieties, he said.

The exhibition will have on display conventional varieties in grains like jowar, bhagar, nachani, saga, kodo, kutki, rajgira, bajra, rice and maize, pulses like moong, urad, lakhodi, channa, rajma etc, oilseeds like mabadi, linseed, groundnut, mustard, castor and most vegetables. Parallel to the exhibition, talks will be held on subjects like poison in the plate, preserving biodiversity, seed conservation techniques, myths and truths about GM crops. Atul Upadhya, Hemant Moharil, Shantilal Kothari, Shripad Joshi also addressed the media.


Different world

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By GARY DEMUTH Salina Journal
Without his girlfriend’s persuasion, Scott Bontz might never have visited India.
Two years ago, the couple had been looking for a place to visit and volunteer through an international network called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). The organization links volunteers with organic farmers worldwide who seek assistance and also helps people share more sustainable ways of living.
Bontz and his girlfriend, Emily Rude, had great interest in organic farming. Bontz, 51, has worked at Salina’s The Land Institute for 13 years and is the editor of its magazine, Land Report. Emily is a graduate student in plant breeding and genetics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Bontz said he didn’t have a preconceived notion to go to India to volunteer.
“But my girlfriend has had a long fascination with India and persuaded me to go,” he said.
After spending three months in India during the spring of 2011 and working on five different organic farms, Bontz, who lives in rural Gypsum, is glad he made the trip.
He documented his journey through a series of photographs, many of them focusing on small businesses lining the crowded city streets.
“I take pictures of things that interest me,” Bontz said. “I saw a lot of small businesses that seemed to dominate the marketplace. I wanted to convey the different world that I saw.”
About 20 of Bontz’s photographs of India are on exhibit through May 23 in Gallery 708 in the south lobby of Salina Public Library, 301 W. Elm.
Populous and poor
Bontz said he selected these particular photos out of hundreds he shot during his three months in India because they conveyed a common theme of small-scale businesses and people trying to succeed in a populous, mostly poor country.
“Compared to the West, it is poor, hot, loud and crowded,” he said. “But it wasn’t as hot as I expected.”
While volunteering on organic farms in India, Bontz and Emily learned about growing grain crops, vegetables, fruit and indigenous rice without the use of synthetic chemicals. They also worked on a dairy farm.
Blocks of shops
Between the farm jobs, they would take time to visit different Indian cities. Walking along the city streets, Bontz took dozens of photos of small and mostly open-air businesses.
The vendors included fabric stores, fruit vendors, tea shops, a bookstore, an electronic repair shop and a poultry market.
“I would walk along one street and see blocks and blocks of nothing but shops,” Bontz said.
Out of my world
Bontz said he was saddened and sobered to see some extreme examples of poverty and hardship in the cities of India, but he doesn’t regret spending time there.
“I went to India to get out of my own world and see a different world,” said Bontz, who grew up in the Dallas area and lived in California, Utah and Arizona before moving to Salina 13 years ago.
“I wanted to see the different way people lived in a different place,” he said. “Then I shared it with photos.”
— Reporter Gary Demuth can be reached at 822-1405 or by email at



Experts share views on organic farming

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TNN Apr 18, 2013,

ALLAHABAD: A national workshop on ‘Organic farming in horticultural crops’ was conducted at the department of horticulture, Sam Higginbottom Institute of Agriculture, Technology and Sciences (SIHATS), on Wednesday. The workshop was inaugurated by the chief guest Prof Arif A Broadway, director research, SIHATS.

The organic expert from Kerala, Bobby Issac, gave detailed information about organic certification, use of biofertilisers like Trichoderma, Trichogama, Rhizobium, BT (bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis) and their advantage in horticultural practices.

He also spoke on consumers getting more health conscious and refraining from products grown by using chemicals and pesticides.

The delegates found the workshop useful. Prof Thomas Abraham, Vijay Bahadur, Devi Singh, S Saravanan, Saket Mishra, Ashutosh Singh etc attended the workshop. Prof Gautam Ghosh, dean, distributed certificates to the participants.


Direct agricultural marketing in Andhra Pradesh

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Apr 15, 2013

Rythu Bazar, established with the intention of eliminating middlemen, allows consumers to directly purchase good quality produce from farmers.

Rythu Bazars have been established in the major cities of Andhra Pradesh to create direct linkages between farmers and consumers for the sale and purchase of agricultural produce. These Bazars are transforming the environment in which farmers in Andhra Pradesh sell their produce.

Due to direct marketing, farmers are not only making profits but are also safe from the harassment of the middlemen. The government has fixed the prices in a Rythu Bazar 25 percent above other wholesale market prices to motivate farmers to opt for Rythu Bazars.

However, at the same time, the prices are beneficial for consumers as it is still at least 25 percent lesser than the retail shops. In addition, farmers have an organized place to sell their produce and are provided with operational resources like transportation and storage options. An online market information system is developed to help keep consumers aware about the produce and respective prices.

This approach followed in implementing Rythu Bazar is encouraging and sustainable. It offers lessons on meeting consumer satisfaction and running the markets through a well formed management and administration structure.


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Maize growers press for action against seed firms

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Scores of maize growers from drought-prone mandals of Ardhaveedu and Tarlapadu thronged the Prakasam Bhavan here on Monday pressing for action against some firms for allegedly selling them spurious seeds.

Irate ryots led by Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangam District Secretary N. Ranga Rao spread corns with poor growth at the Prakasam Bhavan and drew the attention of officials and non-officials to their plight.

After a long wait, they showed their harvested crop with stunted growth to Prakasam Collector G.S.R.K.R. Vijaykumar and poured out their woes.

Responding to their pleas, the Collector telephonically asked the Markapur police to initiate action against the firms. He asked Agriculture E.Narasimhulu to follow up with the Markapur police to ensure relief to the ryots.

The seed companies through their agents encouraged to grow their hybrid Maize in their fields to get over five tonnes of yield per acre, explained APRS Assistant Secretary D.Gopinath.

The firms promised to pay Rs. 45,000 per acre if the yield fell below three tonnes, Seed Farmers Association Ardhaveedu mandal President P.Ranga Reddy said.

Going by the projection made by the firms, the growers had raised maize in 4,000 to 5,000 acres in 50 villages in both the mandals APRS Tarlabadu mandal Secretary B. Appalaswamy.

“We followed the agronomic practices suggested by the firms and ended up spending Rs. 40,000 per acre” explained a farmer M. Anjaneyulu.

Only six to nine quintals of maize could be harvested by the farmers after the toil, lamented another farmer Y.Srinivasa Rao.

“We could get only Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 8,000 per acre”, added yet another farmer M.V.Ramana from Tarlapadu.

“We have come all the way to Ongole as there has been response from local revenue, police and the Agriculture Department officials”, said a peasant S. Srinivasulu from Narayanpalle.


Sushma Swaraj’s pro-farmer stand on Land Acquisition Bill finds takers in Congress, sets herself apart from Narendra Modi’s right-wing politics

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Having relegated its hardline Hindutva agenda to the backburner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come to acquire an entirely new vocabulary as it tries to expand its support base by focusing on the farmer – a position that could potentially give the shivers to India Inc. For the first time, the BJP is trying to jump onto the land acquisition bandwagon, clearly seeking to emulate the success of Congress vice-presidentRahul Gandhi’s agitations at Bhatta Parsaul in Uttar Pradesh and Niyamgiri in Orissa.

Representing the BJP at the all-party meeting called by Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath to discuss the proposed Land Bill, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj outdid even Rahul’s pro-poor position in her comments and suggestions. In the process, she showed up in sharp contrast to the unabashedly pro-big business policies of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Swaraj suggested that land could be leased to developers instead of being sold, so that the ownership of the land remains with the original land-holder. “Instead of acquisition, it would be better to lease the land to the developer as the land will remain with the farmer and would provide him with regular annual income. If the land is not utilised for the purpose for which it was leased, it could be returned to the farmer,” she said.

Pro-farmer tune

The stand taken by her bore the clear stamp of party president Rajnath Singh, who has been a former agriculture minister. “The land acquisition Bill of 1894 is exploitative and needs to be scrapped. The draft presented by the government needs some changes to make it more pro-farmer. We will bring these matters up in Parliament,” said Rajnath Singh, who is expected to lead the BJP’s response to the Bill in Parliament.

Swaraj was pointed as she articulated her party’s position on the contentious legislation, providing a list of 12 suggestions to Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who has been piloting The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Relief and Rehabilitation Bill 2013.

Swaraj has supported Ramesh’s contention that there needs to be provision for retrospective application of the Bill, especially when it comes to the rehabilitation and resettlement clauses – an aspect that has worried industry.
Seeking a constituency among farmers by assuring higher compensation, the BJP leader argued in the list of suggestions given by her that “a portion of benefits accrued due to the development on the acquired land should be shared with the farmers and other dependents on an ongoing basis”.

Slamming govt

Criticising the government as well as industry, the list of suggestions provided by Swaraj said that there should be proper categorisation of the purpose of the acquisition as the terms are often changed to enable industries to increase their profits. The BJP has also urged the government to amend laws in which the statutory requirements for land are unreasonably high, in order to save land.

“Farmers aren’t good at money management. They splurge on SUVs after selling their land and lose all their money in a few years time. The women of their house are then forced to do odd jobs to make ends meet,” Swaraj is supposed to have narrated. Her suggestions went down well with Ramesh who described them as “constructive”. Ramesh, Swaraj as well as Kamal Nath expressed their commitment to passing the Bill as early as possible.

The BJP leader’s remarks at the all-party meet were an extension of what she had said during her Kisan Mazdoor Aakrosh rally at Narela in North Delhi, when she made a similar promise. “The BJP will fix land acquisition rates in Delhi at four times the current market value,” she had said.

Besides being an attempt to rob Gandhi of his pro-farmer plank, Swaraj’s pro-farmer and seemingly anti-industry suggestions can also be seen as a means to set herself apart from the right-wing politics of Narendra Modi. According to many in the BJP, Modi’s closest competitor for the party’s PM candidate is Swaraj.

In fact, one of her suggestions, perhaps inadvertently, supports the demands of one of Modi’s most vocal opponents in Gujarat, Kanu Kalsaria.

Swaraj demanded that the Social Impact Assessment Study and the Environmental Impact Assessment Study should involve the local MP, MLA and even the NGOs who work in the area.

Modi opponent

Kalsaria, then MLA of Mahuva in Gujarat, had criticised the Modi government for the acquiring land in his area for Nirma’s cement plant. Kalsaria took his agitation to all of Gujarat to protest against the “wrongful acquisition” of land by the state government.

The BJP, along with the AIADMK and the CPI (M) have given their suggestions to the government. The rest have been asked to give them by April 15. The next All Party Meeting will be on April 18.


Agriculture clinic in city tastes success

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By Express News Service – THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

A city-based agriculture clinic, ‘Tabs Green Tech’, gives you a chance to develop an interest in agriculture and extend vegetable farming to household rooftops.

The agri clinic in the city provides consultation for those interested in farming. The efforts of a retired agricultural officer, along with the State Horticulture Department, on various agricultural projects have been tasting success all these years. Their latest project is the launch of rooftop vegetable farming in households in the city by providing training and consultancy, along with sales and services.

Thomas Mammen, a 65-year-old, has spent his retired life on cultivation in his house and conducting classes. After 28 years of service in the Agricultural Department he planned to take up various projects that benefit people. Interested in farming, Mammen first he took to vegetable cultivation on his terrace.

“The project includes rooftop vegetable farming in households by providing those interested with the essentials, either in the form of training or service. The clinic started functioning on April 1. As urbanisation is taking us away from agriculture and the younger generation is totally ignorant of the same, there is a need to promote agriculture,’’ said Thomas.

“To people interested in farming, we provide grow bags with the saplings of different kinds of vegetables such as amaranthus (cheera), long beans (payar), bitter gourd (paavakka), lady’s finger (venda) , snake gourd (padavalam) and others. We would also provide them seeds and gardening tools and equipment,” he said.

The project aims at comprehensive vegetable cultivation both in the city and the rural areas. ‘’It is clear that we get only vegetables with pesticide for our daily use from shops. But by setting up a small vegetable garden in our house and using organic manure, can lessen our health worries,’’ he said.

The project has become a success in residents’ associations, especially in cities. The bags will be distributed to residents’ associations on demand as they have very less land for cultivation in their households. An advantage of the farming is that it takes very less space as the plants are grown in bags which can be kept on rooftops under sun, he said.


Russians Proving That Small-Scale, Organic Gardening Can Feed the World

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When it’s suggested that our food system be comprised of millions of small, organic gardens, there’s almost always someone who says that it isn’t realistic. And they’ll quip something along the lines of, “There’s no way you could feed the world’s growing population with just gardens, let alone organically.” Really? Has anybody told Russia this?

On a total of approximately 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of land, 16.5 million Russian families grow food in small-scale, organic gardens on their Dachas (a secondary home, often in the extra urban areas). Because growing your own food happens to be a long-lived tradition in Russia, even among the wealthy.

Based on the 1999 “Private Household Farming in Russia” Gosmkostat (State Committee for Statistics) statistics, these Dacha families produced:

38% of Russia’s total agricultural output

41% of the livestock

82% of the honey

79% of the sold cattle

65% of the sold sheep and goats

59% of the milk

31% of the sold poultry

28% of the eggs

91% of the potatoes

76% of the vegetables

79% of the fruits

If Russian families can manage such production in their region’s very short growing season (approx. 110 days), imagine the output most parts of the world could manage by comparison. Unfortunately in just the US alone, lawns take up more than twice the amount of land Russia’s gardens do (est. 40-45 million acres).


Why India’s FTA with EU is very bad for its people

G Pramod Kumar Mar 26, 2013

Even as India enters the final phase of the negotiations for its controversial Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with European Union (EU), the country hasn’t taken into account the red flags raised by citizens’ groups and development specialists.

It’s not just some irrational fear based on any ideology, but a real danger that emanates from conditions that India is willing to agree with the EU.  These conditions will seriously compromise the interests of its people at no obvious gain in trade or economic expansion. It will also have tremendous impact on India’d development sector, including food security and access to treatment.

FTAs are bilateral agreements between countries. When it is between rich and poor countries, one cannot expect the rich to be ethical and compassionate. When the rich is habitually exploitative, the poor has to be careful.  Unfortunately, India is not.

Demonstrators carry a giant inflatable medicine pill during a protest against the EU-India summit. Reuters

Its policy mandarins are too eager to integrate its poor with the rich of the North for no apparent gains other than perhaps sharpening its neo-liberal image and ratings.

In a world which already has 356 FTAs between countries, even the little gains that India seems to gain on paper will erode (preference erosion) fast — because of the same countries’ agreement with other countries — while the country will never get back the policy-space that it lost to such treaties. As noted by UNCTAD, “the gains for developing countries from improved market access through FTAs are not guaranteed, and may be short-lived, but the loss of policy space is certain.”

The UPA government is allowing its policy to be dictated by the EU.

The EU-India FTA is a North-South (the treaty between the developed world and a developing country such as India) agreement and hence the alarm. The rich countries don’t get into trade-agreements to help the poor countries, but will want to gain market access in the latter and throttle their internationally agreed trade flexibilities to survive. India, in the process, will squander the benefits it has under international agreements for silly benefits.

In this FTA, India stands to gain very little because close to 69 percent of its agricultural exports and 65 percent of its non-agricultural export already enter the European markets without duties, whereas it allows only less than six percent of the former’s products without duty. Therefore, what the EU is looking for is India lowering its tariffs and allowing easy flow of their products in to the country, which already has a bad trade deficit with all its FTA partners except Singapore and Sri Lanka.

As a Third World Network (TWN) note highlights, India’s additional market gain is very little while it has to significantly open its markets.

India is justified of this present asymmetry because of the huge subsidies and other hidden incentives that the EU products enjoy in their countries. Asking for symmetry is unequal because our tariffs are visible while their subsidies and incentives are invisible.

Under the proposed FTA, India has to remove 90 percent of the tariff, but will the EU lift its subsidies that are disadvantageous to Indian agriculture? No, there is no provision to discuss subsidies in the FTA.  So, in the short and long run, it will be bad for both farmers and agro-industries in India.

Once the FTA becomes active, the EU will flood the market with products in dairy, poultry, sugar, wheat, confectionary, oilseeds, plantation products and fisheries, some of which are strategic for India.  This will directly compromise India’s agricultural sovereignty and its food security. Obviously, an FTA which talks only about tariffs, and not about trade-distorting tricks such as subsidies and other incentives is detrimental to our agriculture.

Incidentally, access to food is a human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) of the United Nations (UN).

Another area that will impact India is opening up of procurement in central and state government institutions.  This is the lifeline of many of Indian industries and medium and small enterprises, including small businesses run by women and other disadvantaged communities. If this is opened to the EU, the SMEs will find it extremely hard to survive.

Imagine a situation when our small vendors have to compete with EU for contracts in Railways or other public sector undertakings. India hasn’t so far given this facility to any other FTA-partner, and acceding to the EU will lead to demands by others.  Small town Indian vendors competing with a high-tech vendor in Japan for government contracts doesn’t sound like level-playing field. It’s not about exclusive, technologically demanding areas, but routine contracts.

Another hidden danger that will directly affect millions of Indians is on public health and access to medicines. If India gives into the machinations of the EU in intellectual properties, it will seriously affect manufacture of generic medicines as it will override TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities (such as compulsory licensing on life-saving drugs) allowed by the WTO.

In addition to medicines, the intellectual property provisions under the FTA cover a whole lot of areas that are detrimental to India. Therefore, activists demand that the provisions should not go beyond what is contained in India’s FTA with Japan.

What has bothered the activists is that the negotiations that began in 2007 have hardly been transparent. Nobody clearly knows what exactly the FTA entails. Signing up with an influential economic block without debate and transparency is not consistent with the principles of a democracy that with India’s level of poverty and socio-economic inequality.

In the recent past, citizen groups have blocked an FTA of Thailand with the US because it compromised the country’s interests. They literally laid siege to the venue of negotiations.
Interestingly India’s concerns come from within.

India’s Economic Survey (2010-11) notes: “While there are benefits from these FTAs for Indian exports, in some cases the benefits to the partner countries are much more, with net gains of incremental exports from India being small or negative. FTAs also lead to a new type of inverted duty structure with duties for final products being lower from FTA partners compared to duties for the previous-stage raw materials imported from non-FTA countries. This acts as a disincentive to local manufacturing which is not competitive against FTA imports because of the inverted duty structure. …… The policy challenge related to FTAs/CECAs should take note of specific concerns of the domestic sector and ensure FTAs do not mushroom. Instead they should lead to higher trade particularly higher net exports from India.”

Who is Manmohan Singh listening to?

What exactly is happening in this government?




AP asserts its right on seed price, royalty payouts

K. V. Kurmanath
Hyderabad, March 25:

The Andhra Pradesh Government has reasserted its right on the pricing of seed and deciding the royalty component. In a first-of-its-kind bill in the country, the State Government has proposed to bring in key changes in the way seed business is carried out.
It also will get powers to withdraw or cancel permission for genetic technologies if they pose a danger to public security.
A copy of the bill has been put online for feedback from various stakeholders.
The Government plans to move the Bill in the Assembly in the next three weeks. While claiming the right for regulation of retail price of the seed and of the royalty component (the fee seed companies pay to firms such as Mahyco-Monsanto for using their genetic technology in cotton), the Government said it could review the price from time to time to consider increased cost of production.
The Bill calls for setting up of State Seed Committee to implement the Act.
Headed by a chairperson, it will have representatives from the farmers’ associations and the seed industry.
It will take a call on issues related to seed production, export and import of seeds, standards and seed registration.

The Act would make it mandatory that all firms register their varieties with the State Register of Seeds, indicating all specifications.
Farmers, however, are spared.
They need not enlist their backyard varieties. The local administration will do that for them.
However, it won’t allow registration of some varieties and genetic technologies to protect ‘public order’ and human, plant and animal life; or to avoid serious harm to the environment.
It also mandates that seed producers, seed processing units and horticulture nurseries to register themselves with the authority.
They are required to submit reports periodically on quality of the output. It also addresses a long-pending demand of seed growers – to honour the agreements with the seed companies.
So far, payments to growers are by and large arbitrary.

The Act comes out with an interesting clause on the performance of the seed.
All packets should indicate the expected performance of such seed under given conditions. Farmers can claim compensation if seeds fail to live up to the claim.


Pesticide usage: Dealers call the shots

Jayashree Nandi, TNN

Mar 30, 2013,
NEW DELHI: Innumerable guidelines, rules and safety standards may be in place to regulate pesticide usage but guess who call the shots? Pesticide dealers. They decide which pesticide and in what quantities are to be used by farmers.

A recent Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study found that government’s extension services to monitor pesticide usage have failed completely in reaching out to farmers. Farmers say they have no option but to depend on pesticide dealers for advice. Recommendations from agriculture universities don’t reach them. They end up using any pesticide indiscriminately no matter how toxic.

The CSE study released last month also found that of the 234 pesticides registered in the country, maximum residue limits (MRLs) have not been fixed for as many as 59 pesticides.

MRL is the maximum concentration of pesticide residues on a crop that can be allowed when it is being sold. “Farmers don’t follow any advice or recommendation on pesticide usage. The extension services have not been able to reach the farming community. The pesticide dealer is the ‘expert’ and the ‘scientist’ for a farmer. This is leading to unnecessary usage of chemical pesticides in many parts of India,” says Yudhvir Singh, member of the international coordination committee – South Asia of La via Campesina and general secretary of Bharat Kisan Union (BKU).

“Farmers also use many banned pesticides like Endosulfan because they are not aware that those have been banned for their toxicity,” he said. Avimuktesh Bharadwaj, the author of the CSE study, said pesticides like monocrotophos and methyl parathion are under the ‘restricted use’ category, but are widely available in the market. “It’s ironical that these pesticides are acutely toxic but are available. Farmers don’t know that there are restrictions on them,” he said. Surender Kumar Rajput’s case is unique. A pesticide dealer based in Ferozepur in Punjab, Rajput is also an organic famer.

“I use only bio-pesticides for my farm. But usually other farmers follow whatever pesticide dealers tell them. The agri-university recommendations are very old so no one follows them. The amount of pesticide they use for each crop is randomly decided by the farmer. One of the most neglected aspects of random pesticide usage is deteriorating soil health,” he said.

Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission adds: “When agri-universities don’t follow any regulations how can you expect farmers to be aware?” Another loophole that the CSE investigation has revealed is that recommendations of many agriculture universities and state agriculture boards don’t comply with the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC)’s rules.

Pesticide use in India is regulated by the CIBRC. Every pesticide being used has to be registered with CIBRC clearly outlining which crop it is meant for. But the study found that many government bodies where recommending pesticides not approved by CIBRC. Farmers also revealed that dealers are paid a ‘commission’ by the pesticide company to popularize a pesticide. “They try to manipulate farmers all the time,” Singh said.

CSE’s review of 11 crops – wheat, paddy, apple, mango, potato, cauliflower, black pepper, cardamom, tea, sugarcane and cotton – shows that the pesticide recommendations made by state agriculture universities, agriculture departments and other boards for a crop do not adhere to the pesticides that the CIBRC has registered for those crops. Recommendations made by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) formed in 2003 to educate farmers about bio-pesticides have not been followed. Farmers use pesticides indiscriminately, even the ones slotted under ‘restricted use’ category.



Return farmer’s land, court tells Jindal Steel Power Limited (JSPL)

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Friday, Mar 22, 2013, 3:59 IST
By Mayank Aggarwal

Jindal Steel Power Limited (JSPL) forcibly acquired land of poor farmers and built a residential colony for its employees in Raigrah district, a Chhattisgarh court has held. The court has ordered the demolition of the colony and directed the company to return the land to its owners.

The order was passed by a Gharghoda local court on March 15, on a petition which was pending since 2009.

According to the petitioner, Haripriya Patel, JSPL’s Jindal Open Cast Coal Mines encroached upon their land in Dongamahua of Raigrah district in 2002 and built a colony on around 1.1 hectares of the land.

The court said it was proved that the JSPL company had encroached upon the land, depriving the original owners of it. The court also observed that the construction of the colony for the company’s employees was done without the permissionof the land owners or even informing them.

The court further observed that even after it was proved that JSPL company had encroached on farmers’ land, the company is still neither willing to buy the plot nor pay rent for it. “We were threatened by JSPL employees against taking on the mighty company. The local officials also discouraged us. My family has been struggling to survive for the past 10 years,” Haripriya’s daughter Kamla told DNA.

She said they had around 55 acres before the company started coal mining operations in the area. “Around 44 acres of our land was used in coal mining and another six acres was used for the colony,” she added.

“The court decision on the 1.1 hectares is just the first step. We will fight for implementation of this order and also for our remaining 44 acres,” she added.

According to local activists working for tribals and farmers in Raigarh, 55-year-old Kamla’s concerns are not false. “The way farmers and tribals have been robbed of their land in Raigarh is unparalleled. All this is done with the connivance of local administration which never heard the people’s complaints,” said Rajesh Tripathi, an activist who is fighting for farmers rights in the area.

“Similar orders have come in the past also, but they were never implemented and farmers never got their land back. Implementation of these orders is a tough fight. There are still so many other cases where companies like JSPL have forcibly acquired land of farmers and tribals,” Tripathi told DNA.



Agriculture revolution takes shape silently

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Faizan Ahmad,

TNN Mar 22, 2013, 03.40AM IST

In the spotlight for creating a world record in paddy production, 35-year old farmer Sumant Kumar has come to realize that too much publicity from the national and global media is adversely affecting his farming.

In 2011-12, the farmer from Darveshpura village in Nalanda in Bihar sweated it out and produced 224 quintals of paddy a hectare (22.4 tons) using the system of root intensification (SRI), which is based on principles of nurturing the roots, enriching soil and giving plants more space to grow. Using these methods, Kumar shattered the world record of 194 quintal/ha registered by China’s ‘father of rice’ Yuvan Longping.

China has not accepted Kumar’s feat. Longping, in an interview to China News Service, trashed the claim that his record had been beaten by saying, “It’s 120% fake. He (Kumar) said they had lots of rain and little sunshine that year, but high yields would be impossible without adequate sunshine.”

Kumar said he never talked about little sunshine. “The Chinese travel to Gaya and Rajgir which are largely barren and possibly Longping thinks Nalanda is also barren,” said Kumar, who is now Nalanda’s most recognized face.

Every day, he has to meet visiting media people as well as officials from the agriculture department, representatives of fertilizer companies and many more. “It is our privilege to receive them in our village. Earlier, we only heard about records in cricket. Now, we are told that records are made and broken in farming too,” said Kumar’s farmer father Ramanuj Pravin, who records each new person’s visit in a diary.

On the list in Pravin’s diary is a team from China’s CCTV news channel, who visited late last month. They quizzed Kumar about his farming techniques and, of course, the dispute over his record.

In 2012-13, the yield came down to 135 quintal/ha and Kumar blamed insecticides and fungal disease. “I laboured hard on the one acre of crop. It was so good that other farmers would come to see it but unfortunately tragedy struck,” he said. “I didn’t take proper care at the fag end due to other engagements. If I have to travel more, farming gets less attention,” he said.

Kumar received the Krishi Karman award on January 15 with a citation and Rs 1 lakh in cash from President Pranab Mukherjee. Kumar, who has been farming since 2007, said he experimented with SRI in 2010 for paddy after government gave incentives and he received special training.

Rajiv Ranjan, who trains farmers to use SRI, said government started encouraging farmers in SRI from 2007 but there were few takers. SRI was originally used to improve rice cultivation but has been adopted successfully for wheat. Cultivation is taken up in a biologically enriched environment. Yields increase by 50% to 100% with a reduction in plant population, use of less water, no chemical fertilizers, said Ranjan. Aerated soil conditions are maintained to rediscover the potential of synergy and symbiosis.

Kumar is not the only farmer of his village who has used this technique successfully. His friends – and competitors – Sanjay Prasad Singh, Nitish Kumar, Krishna and Bijay also grew more than 190 quintal/ha of paddy the same year. “More young people are taking up farming full time and there is a growing sense of competition. This is good,” Kumar said.

Nalanda has traditionally been a hub for agricultural activities, but in recent years the region – to which Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar belongs – has emerged as a green belt due to organic farming of rice, wheat, potato and green vegetables.

About 30km from Darveshpura is another farmer who has grabbed the world record for potato production. The farms of Rakesh Kumar, 36, of Sohdih, yielded 1,088 quintal/ha of potato this year. Sitting on a mountain of potatoes, he said, “I have developed a different pattern of plantation that is usually used in tomato. The result is exciting. ”

Rakesh broke the world record of a Darveshpur farmer, Nitish Kumar, whose potato yield last year was 729 quintal/ha, taking the record from a Dutch farmer.

Rakesh has also become an international figure with Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz visiting him a couple of months ago. He has been selected to attend the International Horticulture Conference to be organized by Griffith University in Australia later this year. Rakesh has been using only vermicompost for vegetable production as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. Rakesh is now trying to replicate the potato success story with onion in the same field. He gives credit to Nalanda’s horticulture officer D Mahto for encouraging the farmers to go for organic farming.

Initially, the farmers were unwilling to take any chance and refused to use only vermicompost. After much prodding, some farmers, including Rakesh, agreed to go for organic farming on a small scale and started with cauliflower. The result, Rakesh said, was very encouraging. He said 345 farmers’ interest groups are engaged in organic farming of vegetables on over 3,000 acres of land. “The economy of the region has changed remarkably. The farmers who earlier rode bicycles are now riding two-wheelers and four-wheelers.

These farmers are being provided marketing facilities through Nalanda Organic Vegetable Growers Federation, which sends their products to Patna, Kolkata and Mumbai. Rakesh said talks were going on to export the produce to Hungary, Ukraine, Japan and Saudi Arabia.


AP releases draft Seed Bill

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Hyderabad, March 22:
The Andhra Pradesh Government has called for opinions from various stakeholders on the draft of the Seed Bill – 2012. The bill promises to protect the interests of the farmers in times of distress and to check malpractices in the distribution of seeds.

“As stated earlier, we have put the draft online. We request them to go through the draft and come out with suggestions by March 25. We will be the first State to have the Seed Act,” State Agriculture Minister Kanna Lakshminarayana said here on Friday.

The Government had set up an experts’ panel with the Principal Secretary as its head.

“It has prepared the draft within the stipulated time. It has been put on apagrisnet and Web sites,” the Minister said.
After reviewing the opinions, the Minister would hold a meeting with the leaders of farmers’ associations and other stakeholders on March 26.


Return to organic roots on city’s menu

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Aakriti Vasudeva,

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 23, 2013

Organic foods are gaining popularity in India for their health and environmental benefits but they are also facing challenges such as high cost and fake products.

Various studies have established that organic foods have higher nutritive value than the conventionally grown foods.

“Many studies conducted have found that micronutrients such as minerals or vitamins such as B complex and vitamin C are found to be higher in organic food than conventional,” said Ritika Sammadar, Regional Head-Dietetics, Max Healthcare.

But the veracity of this claim is yet to be established as a recent study by the Stanford University found “little evidence that organically grown food is more nutritious than conventionally grown ones.”

However, there is little dispute over the fact that organically grown foods have much lower volumes of disease-inducing pesticides. “I believe organic food is the reason why my family does not need medicines and why we don’t fall sick very often,” said Reena Gupta, an organic eater.

The fact that chemicals are not used in growing foods organically, causing little harm to the soil, makes organic foods a darling of environmentalists.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, organic farming reduces the risk of groundwater and soil pollution due to its non-use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Therefore, organic farming is hailed as the best form of sustainable agriculture. Research has shown that organic farming helps combat global warming as it captures the carbon dioxide and incorporates it into the soil through a process called sequestration.

Animal lovers are also turning to organic food as its practices prohibit injecting animals with growth hormones.

Whatever maybe the perceived benefits of organic food, consumers are still deterred by the high prices. However, this is because of various unavoidable factors.

Since no chemicals are involved, organic foods require more labour for the same output, which pushes up production cost. Post-harvest costs are high because organic produce needs to be separated from conventional produce and cost of transportation is high since volumes are low. “The market is still underdeveloped. Also, there are hardly any subsidies available for organic farming,” said Ayesha Grewal of the Altitude Store.

Another problem is fake products. “The problem with the Indian organic food market is sticker marketing. Just because you put a sticker on a product calling it organic, does not necessarily mean it has been certified so,” says Sunil Kumar, assistant general manager, sales and marketing, Morarka Organics.

Organic food is certified so by agencies such as INDOCERT, ECOCERT and SGS.


Delhiites giving organic twist to kitchen gardens

Reena Gupta, Resident of Sarvodaya Enclave, grower of organic vegetables

Alarmed by the toxic contents of food available in the market, many Delhi residents have started growing food the organic way in their own homes.

Whether in pots on the terrace or in a patch of land in the backyard, many Delhiites have taken up urban organic farming. One such farmer is Reena Gupta.

After working for several years in rural development for the World Bank, Gupta saw firsthand the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides in food. She switched to organic food 10 years ago due to health concerns. In fact, her son has only eaten organic food all his life.

But only eating organic was not enough so she began growing her own food two years ago. “I wanted to be sure of what we were eating. Also, I was interested in the process of growing food,” she said.

She has a small patch of land on her terrace where she grew brinjal, radish, carrot, fenugreek, spinach, lady finger, mustard, basil, cherry tomato and beans.  She uses compost from her kitchen or animal waste as manure and uses a combination of tobacco and neem to keep pests away.

Giving back what’s due to the earth

People who gave up jobs and made organic their business

Ganesh Eashwar quit a corporate job and took up organic farming in 1988.

Eashwar, along with his wife Jayashree, bought a wasteland in Bangalore to start growing food the organic way. “We take so much from the earth and none of us ever think of giving it back,” he said.

“You don’t put poison in what you eat, so why would you put it in what you grow?” he asked.

Lack of a market for organic products led them to open their retail store Dubdengreen in the city in 2003.

They source their material from farmers all over the country, most of which is certified organic.

It was with the same intention of finding buyers for organic farmers that Ayesha Grewal opened The Altitude Store at the end of 2009.

“After working towards environmental sustainability in rural areas for many years, I realized that the biggest problem for organic farmers was access to markets. I also found that there was a demand for organics in urban areas. The store was a good opportunity to become a bridge between the two worlds,” she said.



Nature on a plate

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Sunday, Mar 24, 2013

By Shikha Kumar

A few brave restaurateurs are determined to bring the organic food movement to a table near you, writes Shikha Kumar.

The buffet at Bangalore’s Lumiere has the usual suspects on display. But there’s one critical difference: the lettuce salad, vegetable sandwiches, chicken seekh kebabs and biryani are all made of organic ingredients sourced directly from the restaurant’s farms in Ooty, Kodaikanal and Hosur. Even the breads available at the restaurant are made of organic whole wheat, soya, ragi and other grains.

The ‘organic’ food concept has been around in India for a few years now. It is clearly spreading, going by the increasing number of shelves local supermarkets stock organic food on. Arguably, restaurants serving organic food have not taken off with as much gusto but metros are slowly warming up to the idea.

‘Pure’ eating
Tattva, an all-vegetarian gourmet restaurant in Delhi’s Hauz Khas village, opened eight months ago. “The whole idea was to make good quality, healthy food accessible to all,” says owner and executive chef Anuradha Madhusudhanan. Ninety per cent of Tattva’s dishes are in-house innovations. This includes the pearl millet pilaf, the couscous platter and the trivikrama kebabs that are served with an assortment of organic dips.

Lumiere has been around longer. It opened three years ago when owner Manjunath PR decided it was time to re-introduce Indians to the concept of wholesome, unadulterated food. His contention is that ‘organic’ food is what we should eat in the first place since nature has provided us with ways of farming that do not require chemicals.

“With packed lunches in office and fast food items becoming part of our staple diet, this generation doesn’t know the importance of organic food,” says Jeeno Iyte, operations head at Lumiere.

The idea is to work with nature. The people at Lumiere only source produce from their farms and do not use artificial colours or flavours like MSG. “Even our meats are organic. The chickens bred at the farm are not given any hormones, antibiotics or artificial treats,” says Manjunath.

Busting myths

Given the urban Indian’s increasing concern about healthy living, why haven’t organic food restaurants caught on in India in a big way yet?

One possible reason say restaurateurs, is the perception that such food is expensive. That is partially true. Yes, organic produce costs more than regular produce. But the costs are never prohibitive.

At ‘In the Pink Organic Bazaar and Restaurant’ in Bangalore, an average dish costs Rs200 as founder Panish Rao believes that people should be able to try out organic food and feel the difference in taste. “Affordable prices ensure that happens,” says Rao.

Similarly, the lunch buffet at Lumiere is priced at Rs449 inclusive of taxes. Today, Lumiere is getting ample word-of-mouth publicity and feeds about 130-140 people on an average weekend.
Madhusudhanan admits going all organic pushes up costs but it is possible to limit profits so the emphasis is on the food, not the bill. A meal for two at Tattva can cost between Rs1,000-1500 for two depending upon what’s ordered.

Another misconception is that organic food is bland and mainly comprises raw vegetables. Nothing can be further from the truth, says Rao. “You can make desi cuisine like dal makhani using organic ingredients. Organic food is not just about salads or soups.”

Restaurants like Tattva ensure a continued supply of organic produce by sourcing it directly from farmers. This also keeps costs down and benefits farmers too. “There is always a tug of war between demand and supply when it comes to organic food. When middlemen get involved, farmers realise that their produce is not fetching them money and the whole purpose is destroyed,” says Madhusudhanan.

Aparna Karjagi, co-founder, of ‘In the Pink’ has a farming background and has a network of farmers she relies on. She sources all produce, grains and condiments directly from farmers.
So where is the organic food movement headed in India now?

“While I don’t see organic food totally replacing other food in the future, it’s destined to grow. We can’t ignore the fact that we’re eating a whole lot of chemicals in the form of simple vegetables,” says Madhusudhanan.


More farmers in India are rooting for organic farming

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Prudhvi Raju

March 20, 2013

The organic sector has seen growth in the last five years. Using bio pesticides in farming helps bring down the cost to farmers.

Organic living seems to be the new mantra and organic food is gaining ground not only as a viable and sustainable alternative for farmers but also as a healthy option for consumers. Earlier, organic foods were mainly cultivated for export, but recent trends show that the demand from villages and retail stores in cities, along with the benefit to farmers, are driving organic cultivation. Although, this is a good start, there is a growing need to educate farmers and government support is vital to substitute chemical-based farming.

Dr GV Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, feels that it is important for farmers to opt for a sustainable approach. “Either the farmer has to produce bio-pesticides locally or buy them from companies. The latter will increase the market dependence and costs will not reduce. It is important for farmers to be independent,” he says.

He advises farmers to adopt the agro-ecological approach before choosing the crop. This depends on the soil and water conditions along with the local demand for the produce. For instance, in Guntur you can still find residues of pesticides in the soil that were banned 30 years ago. Chemicals and pesticides can also spread from neighbouring fields through water, air and soil. But with specific practices — like maintaining distance in organic cultivation — can bring down the residue levels. Farmers can opt for the incremental approach by which they abandon pesticides initially and follow it up with chemical fertilisers over time.

But one must not expect results immediately as the whole process takes place gradually. Any land can be converted over two to three years with this approach.

Although this process sounds tiresome intially, it actually helps reduce expenses over time.

“These methods not only help in ecological sustainability but also help bring down costs to farmers by a minimum of 10 per cent. Productivity can also be increased by around 10 per cent with good management techniques. If a farmer can get at least 10 per cent better price through proper distribution mechanisms, it will be beneficial,” says Dr Ramanjaneyulu.

The organic food sector has seen a rapid rise. In the last five years, it has grown at around 400 per cent in exports. However, growth in the domestic market is hard to calculate as it is largely an unorganised sector. Around five per cent of farms are certified as organic; but in reality this figure is around 30 per cent as many are into organic farming by default in the country.

With 70 per cent farmers still dependant on chemical farming, taking organic methods to the mainstream will only be possible with investment from the government. The price of organic foods can also be lowered if the subsidy provided on chemical fertilisers is given directly to the farmer. For instance, the government spends around `2,500 as subsidy on every bag of DAP fertiliser. Around six bags are used per acre of land and this costs the government around `15,000 for a single crop. If this subsidy is given to the farmer, he can spend it on organic fertilisers.

In the name of subsidies, the government is helping the industry and not the farmer. By subsidising chemical fertilisers, the government is directly responsible for spoiling the ecology, livelihood and health of cores of people.



60-year-old farmer commits suicide in Gujarat after crops failed

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RAJKOT: In yet another incident of farmer’s suicide, 60-year-old farmer has committed suicide in Ambalgadh village in Maliya-Hatina taluka of Junagadh district.

According to sources, deceased has been identified as Popat Hirapara. Popat Hirapara consumed poison at his farm after his crops failed. Hirapara’s family members said that he has been under depression as his lost his crop and was facing sever economic crisis.

“We have 12 Bigha land and our crops failed due to deficient rain. So, he committed suicide” said Dinesh Hirapara, deceased’ son.

Sources said that at least 38 farmers have committed suicide in Saurashtra region over the last six months, mostly due to crop failure.

Due to late arrival of rain and in adequate rainfall, farmers’ crops failed and suffered huge economic lose leading to suicide.


Tamil Nadu agriculture sector gets Rs 5,189 crore

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Julie Mariappan, TNN | Mar 21, 2013, 03.06 PM IST

CHENNAI: The state, which saw a disastrous crop failure owing to poor monsoon and Karnataka’s refusal to release water, has decided to give more thrust to the agriculture sector, with the AIADMK government allocating Rs 5,189.15 crore for the next fiscal year. Chief minister J Jayalalithaa will shortly announce a relief package for the farmers of non-delta districts, who were worst hit by the poor monsoon.

This was announced by the finance minister O Pannerselvam, while presenting the budget for the year 2013-14. The state witnessed the worst yield in the last irrigation year, with tens of farmers who were unable to overcome the loss committing suicides. The state’s high-level team, including senior ministers and bureaucrats of various departments, including public works department, municipal administration, rural department and agriculture conducted field investigations and upon their report, the state government announced a relief package to the tune of Rs 1,517 crore in February last.

“A drought memorandum is being submitted to the Centre,” Pannerselvam said. Having got the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal notified, the state is now taking steps to have the Cauvery Management Board and the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee constituted.The state government has already moved the Supreme Court praying for a direction to the Centre, as this would ensure that the Karnataka store the stipulated quantum of water for the Tamil Nadu’s irrigation year that begins in June.


Punjab earmarks Rs 66 crore for farmer suicide-hit families

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TNN Mar 21, 2013, 05.10AM IST

CHANDIGARH: Punjab government has earmarked Rs 66 crore for the families of those farmers and farm workers who had committed suicide. The 4,688 affected families will get Rs 2 lakh each. This comes as a big relief for the ailing families.

In its previous 2012-13 plan, the state government had released first installment of Rs 30 crore meant for the families of farmers who committed suicide from 2001 to 2010.

Due to financial crunch, many farmers and farm workers of Punjab are left with no option but to commit suicide. Around 5,000 farmers and farm laborers had committed suicide in Punjab due to financial difficulties in the past one decade.