India’s foodgrain production to rise 2% in 2020-21: Government

Source: Business Standard, Feb 24, 2021

New Delhi: India’s foodgrain production is estimated to rise 2 per cent in 2020-21 crop year to an all-time high of 303.34 million tonnes on better output of rice, wheat, pulses and coarse cereals amid good monsoon rains last year, the agriculture ministry said.

Crop year runs from July-June.

In the 2019-20 crop year, the country’s foograin output (comprising wheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals) stood at a record 297.5 million tonnes (MT).

Releasing the second advance estimates for 2020-21 crop year, the agriculture ministry said foodgrain production is projected at a record 303.34 MT.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar attributed the rise in production to efforts of the farmers and scientists as well initiatives of the central government.

As per the data, rice production is pegged at record 120.32 MT as against 118.87 MT in the previous year.

Wheat production is estimated to rise to a record 109.24 MT in 2020-21 from 107.86 MT in the previous year, while output of coarse cereals is likely to increase to 49.36 MT from 47.75 MT.

Pulses output is seen at 24.42 MT, up from 23.03 MT in 2019-20 crop year.

In the non-foodgrain category, the production of oilseeds is estimated at 37.31 MT in 2020-21 as against 33.22 MT in the previous year.

Sugarcane production is pegged at 397.66 MT from 370.50 MT in the previous year, while cotton output is expected to be higher at 36.54 million bales (170 kg each) from 36.07 million bales in the previous year.

Government to set up 2,500 Farmer Producer Organisations; set to cost Rs 700 crore

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 11, 2021

NEW DELHI: The government is planning to spend Rs 700 crore on setting up 2,500 farmer producer organisations (FPOs) in 2021-22. This will help the government reach out to 60,000 farmers and provide them with a better farming ecosystem.

A group of small and marginal farmers as FPOs will have better bargaining power and financial strength to cultivate high value crops, said officials. This is part of the government’s endeavour to create 10,000 FPOs with a provision of Rs 6,865 crore in five years, they said.

“FPOs will play a key role in successful implementation of the new farm laws which, the government claims, will enhance income of farmers. Whether it’s selling produce directly to traders and companies or contract farming, FPOs will play a critical role in bringing a large number of farmers and huge chunks of land together,” a senior agriculture ministry official, who is directly dealing with FPOs and agriculture marketing, told ET.

Rs 1,100 crore push for rubber plantation in northeast India

Source: Business Standard, Jan 06, 2021

Guwahati/Agartala: Industry body Automotive Tyre Manufactures Association (ATMA) will invest Rs 1,100 crore to undertake rubber plantation in additional 2,00,000 hectares of land in northeast India in the next five years, officials said on Wednesday.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, while participating in a virtual seminar, thanked ATMA for agreeing to invest Rs 1,100 crore for developing a plantation in 2,00,000 hectares of land within a span of five years in the northeastern states.

Acknowledging the good quality of natural rubber produced in the mountainous northeast region, Goyal said that the region is an ideal natural rubber producing zone.

“Natural rubber sells at better prices in the market,” Goyal said and urged the eight northeastern states to work out schemes and coordinate with the National Bank for

Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for loan assistance to the farmers.

Tripura is the second largest natural rubber producing state in the country after Kerala with over 85,038 hectares of land under plantation, producing 74,139 tonnes of rubber annually. Over 1.50 lakh families are directly and indirectly associated with natural rubber cultivation in Tripura.

According to the officials of Tripura Industries and Commerce Department, 90 per cent of the total produced rubber is sent outside the state, earning around Rs 600 crore annually as the state has no rubber based industries..

Natural rubber is cultivated in 16 states in India. With over 600,000 hectares, Kerala tops rubber cultivation, followed by Tripura with over 85,038 hectares under plantation. Other major natural rubber producers are Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Assam and other northeastern states.

Participating in the discussion, Assam Industries and Commerce Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that currently 60,000 hectares of land in the state are under natural rubber cultivation with 26,658.58 hectares under tapping, producing 31,590 metric tonnes of rubber annually and generating revenues of Rs 427 crore.

“The rubber sector in Assam is providing employment to two lakh people. The Assam government plans to increase rubber cultivation from the potential 1.3 lakh hectares to 5 lakh hectares,” Patowary said.

The minister said that ‘Advantage Assam’ has brought in investments worth Rs 65,000 crore in the past few years and with the simplified MSME Act, 2020 and creation of land bank and industrial corridor, Assam will be the next destination for rubber industries.

Requesting JK Tyre, Apollo Tyre, CEAT and MRF to come and invest in Assam, he said that the state enjoys the geographical advantage of accessibility to ASEAN and South East Asian countries. “The ongoing project of Multi-Modal Logistic Park at Jogighopa (on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra River in Bongaigaon district) would boost trade and commerce. It will take only three hours to reach Assam From Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries,” Patowary added.

Good news for farmers! PM Modi to flag off Indian Railways’ 100th Kisan Rail today; details

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Dec 08, 2020

Kisan Rail Train Service: Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi to flag off the 100th Kisan Rail train service of Indian Railways via video conferencing. This Kisan Rail will run from Sangola in the state of Maharashtra to Shalimar in the state of West Bengal. The multi-commodity Kisan Rail train service will carry and transport vegetables such as cauliflower, chillies, onion, cabbage, capsicum, drumsticks, as well as fruits such as bananas, grapes, pomegranate, custard apple, oranges, etc. The loading and unloading of perishable items by the Kisan Rail train service will be allowed at all enroute stoppages with no bar on the size of the consignment.

According to details shared by the PMO, the Modi Government has extended a subsidy of 50 per cent on transportation of vegetables and fruits. The first Kisan Rail train service of Indian Railways was launched on 7 August 2020, from Devlali to Danapur, which was further extended up to Muzaffarpur. As Kisan Rail got a good response from the farmers, the frequency of this train service was increased from weekly to three days in a week. The Kisan Rail train service is said to be a game changer in ensuring fast transportation of agricultural supplies across the country. Also, this rail service provides a seamless supply chain of perishable items. A few months ago, the government had said that in a bid to serve the purpose of India’s farming community, Kisan Rail trains shall be run with multi commodities, multi consignors as well as multi consignees. The Kisan Rail train service shall be operated between fixed Origin – Destination pairs with enroute halts, as well as loading and unloading shall be permitted at any of the enroute stoppages. The Origin – Destination pairs, halts, routes, and frequency of the Kisan Rail train shall be jointly decided by the Ministry of Railways and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.

Sonalika Tractors launches country’s first field-ready electric tractor ‘Tiger’

Source: Economic time, Dec 23, 2020

MUMBAI: Sonalika Tractors on Wednesday launched the country’s first field-ready electric tractor ‘Tiger,’ powered by a 25.5 kW natural cooling compact battery, which gives much lower running costs compared to a diesel tractor, priced at Rs 5.99 lakh (ex-showroom). The company also opened bookings for its maiden e-tractor.

Equipped with the Sonalika transmission, the field ready e-tractor offers a top speed of 24.93 kmph and a battery backup of eight hours while operating with a two-tonne trolley. As an option, the company is also offering a fast charging system with which it could be charged in just four hours.

“Our promise to every Indian farmer to constantly provide technological evolutions to enhance farm productivity and profitability comes packaged with Tiger Electric, where we have bridged the gap between concept and being field-ready, while keeping pace with global benchmarks in farm mechanisation technology,” said Raman Mittal, Executive Director, Sonalika Group at the launch.

Designed in Europe, Tiger Electric is manufactured at Sonalika’s integrated tractor manufacturing facility at Hoshiarpur (Punjab), the company said.

“Tiger Electric is built on the proven tractor platform of Sonalika to guarantee farmer friendliness and remain easy to use as we progress towards an emission-free, greener tomorrow. Tiger Electric operation is no different than regular tractors making it farmer-friendly while cutting off the fuel cost,” Mittal said.

Tiger electric has the same global technology which is offered to European and American farmers, he added.

The e-tractor is powered by a state-of-the-art IP67 compliant 25.5 kW natural cooling compact battery to ensure 1/4th running costs against the traditionally used diesel, the company said.

The German designed energy efficient Etrac motor offers high power density and high peak torque with zero RPM drop for optimal performance, it added.

“Sonalika’s field ready Tiger Electric tractor is our commitment to accelerate India’s march towards a greener tomorrow and stay in line with Government of India’s ambitious move of introducing EVs by 2030,” Mittal added.

Government aims to double farm mechanisation in next 10 years: Narendra Singh Tomar

Source: The economic times.com, Dec 21, 2020

New Delhi: Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said the government is focusing on farm mechanisation and asked the industry to provide small machines and equipment to farmers with less landholding to boost their income.

The minister was speaking at the annual general meeting of Tractor and Mechanization Association on Monday.

Tomar talked about the government’s target to double farm mechanization per hectare in 10 years and said it was only possible with the support from industry, CII said in a statement.

The government’s emphasis is on providing large advanced agricultural equipment to farmers for their field, the minister said.

He urged the members of the association to provide small utility machines to small acreage farmers, so that 86 per cent of these farmers can acquire machines easily and their income can increase, the statement added.

Tomar highlighted the various measures taken by the government during the last six years for the growth of the agriculture sector and augment farmers income.

MANAGE offers ₹4-crore grant for agri start-ups

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Dec 08, 2020

Hyderabad: The National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE) has announced a financial support of ₹4 crore to about 40 agricultural start-ups.

The grant-in-aid is being given under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR)’s Innovation and Agri-entrepreneurship Development.

“The aim of this programme is to promote innovation and agripreneurship by providing financial support and nurturing the incubation ecosystem,” a MANAGE spokesperson said.

The start-ups cover a wide range of areas such as agro-processing, food technology, value addition, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, digital agriculture and organic farming.

“These start-ups are addressing several challenges faced across the agricultural value chain. These start-ups have emerged as a missing link between the farmers, input dealers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers,” he said. The short-listed start-ups were trained for two months at the Centre for Innovation and Agripreneurship (CIA) at MAANGE in various aspects of running the businesses.

“Start-ups are frontrunners and innovative enthusiasts bringing in the transformation in the agriculture sector,” P Chandra Shekara, Director General of MANAGE, said.

Centre to soon launch one-stop agri data infrastructure

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Oct 08, 2020

New Delhi: The government will soon create a common data infrastructure of all farmers in the country, gleaning data collected for various schemes such as PM Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), PM-Kisan and soil health cards, and integrating them with land records, said Ashish Bhutani, Joint Secretary at the Agriculture Ministry, on Thursday.

“This will act as a one-stop shop for data, including access to finance by farmers, start-ups and researchers for developing new apps, so that the benefits reach the grass roots,” Bhutani said while addressing a webinar on artificial intelligence (AI) and digital applications in agriculture organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), jointly with the German Agribusiness Alliance.

‘AI for farmers’

According to Bhutani, developing standards for sharing and improving the quality of data will be monitored closely by the government. “The government is working to provide an enabling environment where private players and the government can work together to bring the benefit of AI to all farmers and consumers. This will also help in bringing down the price for the consumers as well as getting the best price for the farmers,” he said. This common database is expected to be ready by 2022, he added.

He said AI can play a major role in ensuring the targets set for doubling income of farmers, most of whom have very small holding sizes, averaging around one hectare per holder.

Since its launch, PMFBY has been a radical shift in the way crop insurance is implemented in the country. It is the third-biggest programme in the world after the schemes implemented in the US and China, he said. “Technology is the way forward for the implementation of the programme,” said Bhutani, who is also the CEO of PMFBY.

“The entire focus has shifted to using technology for managing food security and other aspects of agriculture. AI can be effectively used in soil monitoring, predictive data analytics and improving supply chain inefficiencies. The National e-Governance project on agriculture, which has been revisited this year, has given focus on using information technology, AI, Machine Learning, etc.”

Gagandeep Singh BediAgriculture Production Commissioner and Principal Secretary of Tamil Nadu government, said the State was one of the first in the country to adopt AI and implement it in farmer welfare programmes. “The impact and utility of digitisation and AI are, perhaps, more beneficial in the agriculture sector than any other sector. Young farmers are taking to digitisation in a big way,” he added.

Sustainable farming

Rajesh Raghavan, MD & Country Manager-India, Husqvarna India Pvt Ltd, said AI is a game-changer to the agrarian community and can play a pivotal role in both the demand and supply aspects of agriculture. AI and allied digital applications can contribute to sustainable precision farming — from crop selection to crop monitoring — thereby improving the profitability of the farming community, he added. A report on use of AI in agriculture prepared by FICCI and PwC, released on the occasion, estimated the global market for AI in agriculture at $0.85 billion in 2019; this is projected to touch $8.4 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 24.8 per cent.

High on agriculture, rural demand driving up power consumption

Source: The Economic Times, Sept 04, 2020

NEW DELHI: Rural demand is driving up India’s electricity consumption, backed by a 3.4% farm sector growth amid 23.9% contraction in GDP in the first quarter of the current fiscal. Primarily agrarian states in the northern and eastern regions are posting healthy growth in power consumption, while heavily industrialised states in the western and southern regions continue to falter due to sluggish recovery in industrial activity. 

While farm activity largely remained unaffected by the lockdown, factors such as return of migrants to their native places buoyed rural demand. The humid weather also added its bit to boosting domestic consumption on all-India basis as people still largely remain indoors and work from home, prompting households to run air-conditioners for longer. 

Analysis of supply data from the national grid operator by rating agency ICRA shows power consumption hitting nearly 98% of the pre-Covid level in August, up from 97% in July. Demand in northern and eastern states grew between 6% and 13% in July, while those in large industrial states in the western and southern regions fell in the same range on slow recovery in industrial activity and renewed lockdowns

“A combination of factors is driving rural demand. One is agriculture, which was not much affected by the lockdown and grew 3.4% even while the economy shrank 23.9% in the first quarter. The return of migrants to their native places has added to rural consumption, helped by household electrification and improved supply,” Girishkumar Kadam, ICRA sector head and vice-president, corporate ratings, told TOI. 

On all-India basis, the humid weather is also aiding domestic demand. “Families are still largely staying indoors and working from home,” Kadam said, adding that people were running air-conditioners for longer hours. 
“But rise in rural or domestic demand is not enough for discoms (distribution companies) to make up for tepid demand from high tariff-paying commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers,” he said. 

Other analysts said demand for electricity from industry will rise only after the flow of material and products stabilise once ready stocks at factories and supply depots are gone and there are no local lockdowns. 

The decline in demand has adversely impacted revenue and cash flow of discoms, especially when the bulk of the consumption decline has come from high tariff-paying industrial and commercial consumers. 

The countrywide lockdown imposed to check the spread of coronavirus knocked off all-India power demand by 13% in the first four months of the current financial year. While the monthly demand recovered to 112 billion units in July, it was lower than the comparable year-ago period. 

PM Narendra Modi launches Rs 1-trillion fund for agri infrastructure

Source: Business Standard, Aug 10, 2020

New Delhi: Agriculture infrastructure projects worth almost Rs 1,300 crore, to be executed through 2,282 primary agriculture cooperative societies, were launched on Sunday.

This is part of the Modi government’s ambitious programme to extend financing facility of around Rs 1 trillion over the next few years to farmer groups and individuals. The financing will be extended to create viable post-harvest infrastructure in villages and generate jobs.

Launching, the agriculture infrastructure fund, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that the country does not face problems in farm production but in post-harvest losses. Therefore, efforts are being made to strengthen post-harvest infrastructure facilities and ensure better income for farmers.

Legal hurdles are being removed and major push for agri-reforms are being given to encourage investment in rural India for creating post-harvest linkages, he added.

He also credited the sixth installment of Rs 2,000 to around nine crore eligible farmers under PM-KISAN scheme, amounting to Rs 17,000 crore.

Meanwhile, under infrastructure fund, the government plans to disburse Rs 10,000 crore worth of loans at concessional rates to cooperative societies, farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), start-ups, and others in the current financial year.

Loans up to Rs 2 crore will be provided to entrepreneurs at 3 per cent interest subvention for a period of seven years. The loans will have moratorium on repayment that will vary from six months to two years.

Already, 11 of the 12 public sector banks have signed initial agreements with the ministry of agriculture for disbursal of the loan amount.

The fund, along with the three facilitating Ordinances – on freeing agriculture marketing, amending Essential Commodities Act and framework for contract farming – are aimed at providing an ecosystem to private firms to encourage them to invest in storage and warehousing in a big way. From the second year, under the agriculture infrastructure fund, that is 2021-22 onwards, the government has targeted to disburse loans worth Rs 30,000 crore each over the next three years.

The duration of the scheme will be from FY20 to FY29 (10 years). The PM reiterated that India has a huge opportunity to invest in post-harvest management solutions and build a global presence in areas such as organic and fortified foods.

Among other steps being taken to ensure a better market to farmers, the PM said the government is encouraging creation of 10,000 FPOs, and funding 350 agri-startups to become agri-entrepreurs. The Centre has also launched ‘Kisan Rail’ to prevent farmers from distress sale of their produce. “What’s heartening is that the small farmers are at the core of this Rs 1 trillion agriculture infrastructure fund. It will empower them to take good care of their produce either by creating their own warehouse or giving it to those who pay them the best. Post-harvest losses have been a major bane for small farmers and this programme especially addresses this,” said KC Ravi, chief sustainability officer at Syngenta India.