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By Rohit Lall, Joint Project Director, National Committee on Precision Agriculture and Horticulture, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India

Climate change presents significant challenges to the agrifood sector, affecting producers’ incomes and food security. Recent climate-smart innovations in agrifood that enhance producers’ incomes while promoting sustainable solutions among farmers will make a big difference to the farming community. Precision agriculture, a key climate-smart innovation, employs advanced technologies and techniques to maximise resource efficiency and enhance crop yields. These technologies allow for targeted and efficient resource use, minimising waste and environmental impact. Let’s explore how precision farming will promote sustainability by reducing the ecological footprint of agricultural activities.

Agriculture remains the cornerstone of India’s economy, serving as the primary source of livelihood for nearly half of the country’s workforce. As such, advancements in agriculture directly impact the prosperity of a significant portion of the population, particularly those with lower incomes. However, the sector faces formidable challenges exacerbated by the effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and shifting seasons, which pose serious threats to agricultural productivity and farmer incomes. Addressing these challenges is crucial to ensuring the long-term sustainability and economic viability of the agrifood sector.

Moreover, India’s agricultural landscape exhibits considerable regional disparities, stemming from factors such as suboptimal input utilisation, limited access to modern technology, and stagnant technological innovation. Additionally, farmers often struggle to realise profitable prices for their produce due to inefficiencies in the agricultural marketing system, resulting in dwindling farm sizes and a decline in land cultivation, as farmers migrate in search of better job opportunities elsewhere. Because land leasing laws make it risky to lease land, increasingly, productive land is being left uncultivated. The dominance of paddy cultivation in Kharif and wheat in Rabi seasons further underscores the need for diversification toward high-value agricultural commodities such as fruits, vegetables, and animal products such as milk, poultry, fish and meat, driven by increasing incomes and urbanisation. Although per capita consumption of food grains has declined over the years, its total demand has been projected to increase due to the rise in population. To facilitate growth in productivity, it is important to ensure that farmers receive lucrative prices for their produce.

In response to these challenges, precision agriculture has emerged as a promising solution, with both central and state governments actively promoting its adoption. Notably, initiatives such as the centre’s flagship scheme Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) – Per Drop More Crop (PDMC) have significantly expanded micro irrigation coverage across the country, making notable strides on the global irrigation landscape. The robust participation of over 300 registered micro irrigation system suppliers registered under the PDMC scheme reflects the growing momentum toward precision agriculture adoption. Today over 15 mega hectares (mha) have been covered under micro irrigation across the country. Additionally, a conducive business environment has incentivised a greater number of Micro Irrigation Systems (MIS) suppliers to expand their manufacturing capacities, further propelling the growth of the sector.  Precision agriculture holds immense potential to enhance agricultural productivity, mitigate the impact of climate change, and improve farmer livelihoods. As India strives towards agricultural prosperity, continued support and investment in precision farming technologies will be pivotal in realising these goals.

To read more click on: https://agrospectrumasia.com/e-magazine

By Rohit Lall, Joint Project Director, National

The Department of Food and Public Distribution is maintaining a close watch over the stock position of wheat and Rice to control prices and ensure easy availability in the country.

 In order to manage the overall food security and to prevent hoarding and unscrupulous speculation, the Government of India has decided that Traders/Wholesalers, Retailers, Big Chain Retailers and Processors in all States and Union Territories have to declare their Stock position of wheat on the portal (https://evegoils.nic.in/wheat/login.html) w.e.f. 01.04.2024 and then, on every Friday till further orders. All the respective legal entities to ensure that stock is regularly and correctly disclosed on the portal.

Further, Wheat Stock Limit is expiring on 31.03.2024 for all categories of entities in States and UTs. Thereafter, the entities have to disclose the wheat stock on portal. Rice stock declaration by all categories of entities is already in-place. Any entity which is not registered on the Portal, may register themselves and start disclosing the wheat and rice stock on every Friday. Now, all legal entities have to declare their Wheat and Rice stock on the portal regularly.

The Department of Food and Public Distribution is maintaining a close watch over the stock position of wheat and Rice to control prices and ensure easy availability in the country.

The Department of Food and Public Distribution

With this infusion of capital, FCI shall also embark upon modernising its storage facilities, improving transportation networks, and adopting advanced technologies.

In a landmark decision aimed at bolstering the agricultural sector and ensuring the welfare of farmers nationwide, the Government of India has announced an increase in the authorized capital of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) from Rs 10,000 Crore to Rs 21,000 Crore. This strategic move shows the government’s steadfast commitment to supporting farmers and fortifying India’s agrarian economy.

FCI, as the pillar of India’s food security architecture, plays a pivotal role in various crucial functions, including the procurement of food grains at Minimum Support Price (MSP), maintenance of strategic food grain stocks, distribution to state governments and Union Territories (UTs), and stabilization of food grain prices in the market.

The increase in authorized capital is a significant step towards enhancing the operational capabilities of FCI in fulfilling its mandate effectively. To match the gap of fund requirement FCI resorts to Cash Credit, Short Term Loan, Ways & Means etc. Increase of Authorised capital and further infusion will reduce the interest burden, reducing the economic cost and ultimately affecting the subsidy of GOI positively. With this infusion of capital, FCI shall also embark upon modernizing its storage facilities, improving transportation networks, and adopting advanced technologies. These measures are essential not only for reducing post-harvest losses but also for ensuring efficient distribution of food grains to consumers.

GoI provides equity to FCI for working capital requirement and for creation of capital assets. FCI is undertaking a comprehensive initiative to create an Integrated IT system, leveraging existing internal systems (FAP, HRMS) and external systems (State procurement portals, CWC/SWC). The E-office implementation has already made FCI a less paper organization. These initiatives of integrated IT solutions serving as the core operational software for FCI, shall provide a single source of information and streamline functions with a common digital backbone.

As a part of enhancing its efficiency, FCI is diligently executing tasks such as cement roads, roof maintenance, illumination, and weighbridge upgrades, enhancing food security. Purchase of lab equipment and the development of a software platforms for QC labs aim to improve quality checking. Studies on “Out-Turn Ratio”, “Shelf-Life”, and “Pest Management for Fortified Rice” complement FCI’s commitment to building an efficient and food security management system. The integration of automated digital equipment further aligns with FCI’s objectives, aiming to remove human intervention for a transparent procurement mechanism and enhance infrastructure for employees, saving on rent and creating assets for FCI.

With this infusion of capital, FCI shall

Extension of FIDF will further intensifies development of various fisheries infrastructures like fishing harbours, fish landing centres, ice plants, cold storage, fish transport facilities, integrated cold chain, modern fish markets, Brood Banks, etc.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved extension of Fisheries Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) for another 3 years upto 2025-26 within the already approved fund size of Rs 7522.48 crore and budgetary support of Rs 939.48 crore.

In order to address the infrastructure requirement for fisheries sector, the union Government during 2018-19 created the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) with a total funds size of Rs 7522.48 crore.  In the earlier phase of implementation of FIDF during the period from 2018-19 to 2022-23, a total 121 fisheries infrastructure projects with an investment cost of Rs. 5588.63 crore have been approved for creation of various fisheries infrastructures. Extension of FIDF will further  intensifies development of various fisheries infrastructures like fishing harbours, fish landing centers, ice plants, cold storage, fish transport facilities, integrated cold chain, modern fish markets, Brood Banks, Hatcheries, aquaculture development, Fish Seed Farms, state of art of fisheries training centres, fish processing units, fish feed mills/plants, cage culture in reservoir, Introduction Deep Sea Fishing Vessels, disease Diagnostic Laboratories, Mariculture and Aquatic  Quarantine Facilities.

FIDF will continue provides concessional finance to the Eligible Entities (EEs), including State Governments/Union Territories for development of identified fisheries infrastructure facilities through Nodal Loaning Entities (NLEs) namely National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), National Cooperatives Development Corporation (NCDC) and All scheduled Banks. The Government of India provides interest subvention up to 3 per cent per annum for the repayment period of 12 years inclusive of moratorium of 2 years for providing the concessional finance by the NLEs at the interest rate not lower than 5 per cent per annum.

The Government of India also provides credit guarantee facility to the projects of entrepreneurs, individual farmers and cooperatives from the existing credit guarantee fund of Infrastructure Development Fund of Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying.

The eligible entities under FIDF are State Governments / Union Territories, State Owned Corporations, State Government Undertakings, Government Sponsored, Supported Organizations, Fisheries Cooperative Federations, Cooperatives, Collective Groups of fish farmers & fish produces, Panchayat Raj Institutions, Self Help Groups (SHGs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Women & their entrepreneurs, Private Companies and Entrepreneurs.

Further, the extension of FIDF will further leverages the financial resources, encourages more investments in development of infrastructure for fisheries and aquaculture both from the public and private sector, thereby promoting economic development and expansion of fisheries and aquaculture sector. 

Extension of FIDF will further intensifies development

The approval will provide additional capital to the various Fertilizer (Urea) Units for the component of marketing margins paid by them on procured domestic gas.

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for determination of Marketing Margin on supply of domestic gas to Fertilizer (Urea) Units for the period from May 1, 2009, to November 17, 2015.

This approval is a structural reform. Marketing Margin is charged by gas marketing company from consumers over and above the cost of gas for taking on the additional risk and cost associated with marketing of gas. Government had previously determined marketing margin on supply of domestic gas to urea and LPG producers in 2015.

The approval will provide additional capital to the various Fertilizer (Urea) Units for the component of marketing margins paid by them on domestic gas procured during the period 01.05.2009 to 17.11.2015, based on rates already being paid from 18.11.2015 onwards.

In line with government vision of AatmaNirbhar Bharat, this approval will incentivize manufacturers to increase investment. The increased investment will lead to self-sufficiency in fertilizers and provide an element of certainty for future investments in gas infrastructure sector.

The approval will provide additional capital to

Bidders allowed to bid for any quantity of rice from 1 to 2000 MT during e-auctions.

In order to increase the availability of wheat and rice in the open market to ameliorate inflationary trends in wheat and rice prices, Food Corporation of India, as per the directions of Govt. of India is offloading wheat and rice in the market through weekly e-auctions. Current phase of offloading of wheat in the open market started from 28.06.2023.

Wheat

Government of India has allocated 101.5 LMT wheat for offloading under OMSS (D). Reserve price for the FAQ wheat and URS wheat has been kept as Rs. 2150/ Qtl and Rs. 2125/Qtl respectively. Till 14.12.23, total 25 e-auctions have been conducted wherein 48.12 LMT wheat has been sold in the open market.

In addition to the above, Govt. of India is also providing wheat to the Semi-government/Cooperative agencies like NAFED/NCCF/Kendriya Bhandar/MSCMFL at Rs. 21.50/Kg for converting into atta and selling to general public at an MRP not exceeding Rs. 27.50/Kg. Till 14.12.23, 86084 MT wheat has been lifted by these agencies.

Rice

Good procurement and stock of rice with FCI will be utilized to cater to the PDS requirement as well as for market intervention. For rice, GOI allocated 25 LMT under OMSS (D) with a reserve price of Rs. 3100/Qtl. Through e-auctions, rice is offered at Rs. 2900/Qtl, with a Rs. 200/Qtl differential cost covered by the Price Stabilization Fund.

Remarkably, 1.19 LMT of rice has been sold in the open market to private traders and bulk buyers as of 14.12.23, a substantial increase compared to previous years. FCI Regional Offices actively promoted this initiative through extensive advertising.

Regular advertisement is being done to ensure that benefits of the OMSS (D) policy can be availed by the general public. All traders and any business person involved in Rice trading and processing can participate for such e-auctions after registering with FCI/m- junction portal.

However, to encourage greater participation, bidders are now allowed to bid for any quantity of rice from 1 to 2000 MT. The rice offered under the Central pool is of excellent quality, and traders are invited to actively engage in e-auctions to ensure easy and affordable availability for consumers in the market.

Bidders allowed to bid for any quantity

 As per new guidelines, manufacturer shall confirm that the tractor model has been submitted for tests and the test report on the same shall be submitted to DA&FW within 6 months.

In a major step towards encouraging ease of doing business and promote trust-based governance, the Government has simplified the process of testing of tractors for performance evaluation on 28th August 2023. Tractor manufacturers shall now be allowed to participate in the subsidy scheme on the basis of CMVR/Conformity of Production (COP) certificates and a self-declaration to be given by the company that the tractor proposed for inclusion under subsidy conforms to the benchmark specifications given by Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare.  Simultaneously, the manufacturer shall also confirm that the tractor model has been submitted for tests and the test report on the same shall be submitted to DA&FW within 6 months. The manufacturers shall give a minimum of three years warranty on the tractor to be supplied under subsidy.

The following process will henceforth be followed for the 4 (four) mandatory tests: 

Drawbar Performance Test: The drawbar performance test through the use of load car may be done at Central Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institute Budni or at Mahindra Research Valley (MRV), Chennai. The manufacturers shall also have an option to get it done from any other Government authorized institute or at their own facilities provided that adequate infrastructure is available to conduct this test. In case of the test done at the manufacturers facilities, the test data as may be provided by the manufacturers shall be included in the test reports released by the CFMTTI Budni or the chosen government authorized institution, with the remarks that the tests have not been carried out by the institute and performance results are self-certified by the manufacturer.

PTO Performance and Hydraulic Performance Test: Manufacturers shall have the option to conduct this test at their facilities and the test data may be provided to the CFMTTI, Budni  or the chosen Government authorized institution for generation of the test report with a self-certification that this test has been carried out as per applicable BIS Codes.  The test data as may be provided by the manufacturers shall be included in the test reports released by the CFMTTI Budni or the chosen government authorized institution, with the remarks that the tests have not been carried out by the institute and performance results are self-certified by the manufacturers. The manufacturers shall also have the option of getting it done either at CFMTTI, Budni or at any other Government authorized institutes/facilities having adequate infrastructure to conduct this test.       

Brake Performance: This test shall be done as per the requirements under CMVR. The test already done under CMVR at the authorized institutions shall not be repeated at CFMTTI Budni or any other Government authorized institutes and the same data shall be incorporated in the test reports.

The detailed guideline also provides for the process to be followed by for testing of tractors at CFMTTI, Budni.

 As per new guidelines, manufacturer shall confirm

Amendment Act enables lakhs of small marginal aquaculture farmers to avoid possible need for obtaining Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances from multiple agencies.

The Coastal Aquaculture Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2023 passed by both Houses of the Parliament of India. The Government intends to reiterate that the coastal aquaculture and activities connected therewith are permitted activities within the (Coastal Regulation Zone) CRZ under the CRZ notifications. The Amendment Bill provides that the registration granted under Coastal Aquaculture Authority Act shall prevail and be treated as valid permission under CRZ Notification with the express intention of enabling lakhs of small marginal aquaculture farmers to avoid the possible need for obtaining CRZ clearances from multiple agencies.

Specific exemption has been granted under the CAA Act, through this amendment for the establishment of aquaculture units like hatcheries, Brood stock multiplication centres (BMC) and Nucleus Breeding Centres (NBC) within the No Development Zone (NDZ) [200m from the HTL] of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).

The principal Act has a provision of imprisonment for a period up to 3 years for carrying out coastal aquaculture without registration. This appears to be a very harsh punishment for an offence of purely civil nature and hence the amendment bill replaces the same with suitable civil instruments such as penalty in line with the principle of decriminalizing civil transgressions.

The Amendment Bill provides for broad basing “coastal aquaculture” to comprehensively cover all activities of coastal aquaculture under the purview of this Act and to remove the ambiguity existing in the Principal Act between the farm and other verticals of coastal aquaculture. This is likely to ensure that no coastal aquaculture activity is left out of the ambit of the Act and operate in an environmentally hazardous manner.

The Government intends to promote ease of doing business in coastal aquaculture by fine tuning some of the operational procedures of Coastal Aquaculture Authority. The present amendment provides for effecting changes to the certificate of registration in case of changes in ownership or size of the activity and for providing new certificate in case of mutilation, damage or loss of certificate etc. It also provides for condoning the delay in applying for renewal of registration with compounded fee which was absent in the principal Act.

The Amendments expressly empower the Authority to appoint Committees which can contain experts, stake holders and public representatives for the efficient discharge of its duties and performance of its functions under Act.

Disease prevention is key to success of coastal aquaculture. Hence, Government intends to create facilities that produce genetically improved and disease-free stocks for use in coastal aquaculture. Such facilities, that is Hatcheries, Brood stock Multiplication centers and Nucleus Breeding Centers can be established only in areas having direct access to seawater and the Government intends to enable and facilitate them. Simultaneously, Government also intends to prevent use of antibiotics and pharmacologically active substances in coastal aquaculture by making express provisions in the Act.

Government envisages introducing global best practices such as mapping and zonation of aquaculture areas, Good Aquaculture Practices, quality assurance and safe aquaculture products, and to facilitate ease of doing business without diluting the core principles of environment protection through introducing suitable provisions in the Act. These will promote production and productivity, traceability, increased competitiveness and entrepreneurship along the value chain and exports in coastal aquaculture sector in a sustainable manner and will lead to sustained raise in incomes and employment in rural areas along the coast.

The Amendment Bill has new provisions for empowering the Coastal Aquaculture Authority to better regulate the activities connected with coastal aquaculture for coastal environment compliance. The amendment bill provides for fixing or adopting the standards for emission or discharge of effluents from coastal aquaculture units, making the owner liable to pay the cost of demolition and cost of damage to the environment, if any, as assessed by the Authority in the true spirit of Polluter Pays Principle and prohibits coastal aquaculture in the ecologically sensitive areas or the geo-morphological features.

Amendment Act enables lakhs of small marginal

Together the formulation of signaling molecules are CODs that help plants mitigate abiotic stress and become climate resilient.

The Government of India (GOI) has granted BioPrime AgriSolutions patent number for the invention of a Novel Bio-Formulation to manage Abiotic Stress in plants and to improve the yield. A unique approach to make crops climate resilient by using extremely small carbon particles called nano dots and molecules that are a part of internal communication systems of plants.

This invention will further demonstrate the use of Carbon Quantum Dots (CQDs) as a way to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis by enhancing the absorption of light by the pigment chlorophyll, which is responsible for capturing light energy in plants. Signaling molecules enhance a plant’s ability to quench reactive oxygen species that wreak havoc when cells are under stress. Signaling molecules like sphingolipids, traumatin also helped halt cell death and boost recovery of affected cells. This helps plants not only in fighting stress but also aiding recovery from it. Together the formulation of signaling molecules are CODs that help plants mitigate abiotic stress and become climate resilient. This is an example of how cutting-edge technology can truly transform agriculture in India and globally.

Speaking on the development, Dr Renuka Diwan, CEO, BioPrime AgriSolutions said, “This technology gives us the means to control photosynthesis in a way that was not possible before. Controlling fate of stressed cells gives us the opportunity to reduce crop losses due to climate change. Our vision is to offer relief to farmers worldwide, struggling with crop loss, temperature fluctuations, drought, resilient insects and diseases by developing innovative technologies that will improve the productivity irrespective of farmland size and enhance the quality and nutritional value of food produced, while not only preserving but enhancing the environment.”

Together the formulation of signaling molecules are