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Will Farmer Producer Companies Live up to Their Promise?

Reluctant-Potato-cows

Cooperatives have a bug implanted in them – board positions to government representatives who wield the veto. This, it is said, makes them open to meddling by people who have no interest in the well-being of the organization. Farmer producer companies, introduced through an amendment to the Companies Act in 2002, are said to fix this lacuna. In this episode of Smart Agriculture broadcast on CNN-IBN and CNBC-Awaaz, we survey four FPCs in Coimbatore, Erode and Dindigul districts of Tamil Nadu. We find that they are good at production and at bargaining for better rates from buyers and workers. But can they become engines of rural enterprise? Will we see them excelling in finance and marketing? Pravesh Sharma, a civil servant, who is managing director of Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium, believes state-level marketing federations of FPCs will do the trick. He also thinks that FPCs are an answer to the fragmentation of land holdings though we did not come across any examples of land pooling. Can government meddling be kept at abeyance when it provides subsidies during the initial years?  Scepticism, of course, should not hold back innovation.

(Top photo: Small holder potato growers bringing producer to a cold storage in West Bengal in March 2015.  Will farmer producer companies be reluctant vehicles for deliverance from small-scale dis-economies?  Photo by Vivian Fernandes)

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

Kallanagouda PatilY 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

RudagiF 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?