Agriculture Policy Briefing

Agriculture Ministry Sows Confusion on Import Duty Rates, Might Provoke Farmer-Voter Ire

The government’s decision to import wheat does not mesh with the agriculture ministry’s claims of a bumper wheat harvest in the last season, reports Harish Damodaran in the Indian Express. It has created policy confusion on import duties and might depress prices during the next harvest season.

The ministry had estimated the 2015-16 wheat harvest at 93.50 million tonnes, up from 86.53 million tonnes in 2014-15 despite it being a drought year, when inadequate rain was aggravated by high temperature. Private trade had disputed the estimate and pegged the output lower, Damodaran reports. The latter’s  estimated of about 80-85 million tonnes production was vindicated by lower procurement.

The agriculture ministry’s estimate has led to confusion on the import duty rate, the report says. First, it was raised to 25 percent, then extended beyond 30 June and reduced to 10 percent in September. Now wheat imports are duty free as the government fears depleted stocks will lead to higher prices.

But imports are happening when farmers have planted 225.63 lakh hectares with wheat because of good rains this year which has resulted in higher soil moisture during the winter planting season. Last winter, 202.28 lakh hectares were planted with wheat. Imports will depress prices and this might not agree with farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab who might make their displeasure felt in the coming assembly elections.

Read the full report here

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I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?