‘Hathei Chilli’ & ‘Tamenglong’ Orange of Manipur got GI Tag
The famous Hathei Chilli and Tamenglong Orange of Manipur have received the Geographical Index (GI) tag.
- Manipur has been promoting these two produce by celebrating the Orange Festival every December and Sirarakhong Hathei festival every August for over a decade now.
About the New GI Products
- Tamenglong Orange: It is a unique fruit crop found mostly in Tamenglong district which contributes over 50% of the state’s annual production. It is famous especially for its well-blended sweetness and acidic taste.
- Hathei Chilli: It is one of the best varieties of chillies with a distinct flavour and colour, grown in Sirarakhong village in Ukhrul district.
Promotion Of Agroforestry In Silk Sector
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on 7th March 2021 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Silk Board under the Ministry of Textiles on a convergence model for the implementation of Agroforestry in the silk sector under the ongoing Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) Scheme.
- To incentivize the farmers to take up sericulture based Agroforestry models.
- This linkage will add another dimension to agroforestry for faster returns to the growers as well as support the production of the range of silks that India is famous for.
About Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF)
- The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC & FW) has been implementing the Sub-Mission on Agroforestry (SMAF) since 2016-17 as part of the recommendation of the National Agroforestry Policy 2014. At present, the scheme is being implemented in 20 States and 2 UTs.
- Aim of SMAF Scheme: SMAF aims to encourage farmers to plant multi-purpose trees together with the agriculture crops for climate resilience and an additional source of income to the farmers, as well as enhanced feedstock to inter alia wood-based and herbal industry.
- There is a concerted effort to include medicinal, fruits, fodder, tree-borne oilseeds, lac host etc. in addition to the longer rotation timber species.
SMAF Scheme & Sericulture
- The initiative of formalizing the collaboration in the sericulture sector is especially targeted for augmentation of sericulture host plants e.g. Mulberry, Asan, Arjuna, Som, Soalu, Kesseru, Bada Kesseru, Phanat, etc. to be cultivated both as block plantations and border or peripheral plantations on farmlands.
- Benefits to Farmers: Planting sericulture based tree species on the farm bunds and rearing silkworms has the potential of creating additional income opportunities for farmers besides their regular source of income from agriculture activities.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
- Recently, Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to seamlessly integrate its land records with the web portal of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
- This integration has been rolled out during the 2019-20 rabi season, with farmers accessing their land details online at the enrollment centres.
- Maharashtra presents an interesting scenario with farmers not opting for crop loans enrolling for the scheme with their own money. Farmers who opt for bank loans are automatically enrolled for the scheme.
- Taking advantage of the lack of stringent verification process, several cases of over-insurance (insurance of more land than in possession) as well as insurance of ineligible people has been noted in recent times.
- Also there were instances of people insuring the same land parcel multiple times.
- This integration will help make the process of enrollment for crop insurance easy as well as help plug the leaks in the process, leading to the better implementation of PMFBY.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
- Launched in 2016, PMFBY provides a comprehensive insurance cover against failure of the crop thus helping in stabilising the income of the farmers.
- PMFBY replaced the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).
- The Weather-Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) remains in place, though its premium rates have been made the same as in PMFBY.
- State governments have the authority to decide whether they want PMFBY, WBCIS or both in their respective states.
- To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
- To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
- To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
- To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.
- Coverage of Farmers: The scheme covers loanee farmers (those who have taken a loan), non-loanee farmers (on a voluntary basis), tenant farmers, and sharecroppers.
- Coverage of Crops: Every state has notified crops (major crops) for the Rabi and Kharif It covers all Food & Oilseeds crops and Annual Commercial/Horticultural Crops.
- Premium Rates: It fixes a uniform premium of 2 percent of the sum insured, to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops, 5 percent of the sum insured for all Rabi crops, and 5 percent of sum insured for annual commercial and horticultural cropsor actuarial rate, which ever is less, with no limit on government premium subsidy.
- Area-based Insurance Unit: It operates on the basis of ‘Area Approach’ i.e., Defined Areas for each notified crop for widespread calamities.Thus, all farmers in a particular area must pay the same premium and have the same claim payments.
- Coverage of Risks: It aims to prevent sowing/planting risks, loss to standing crop, post-harvest losses and localised calamities. The sum insured is equal to the cost of cultivation per hectare, multiplied by the area of the notified crop proposed by the farmer for insurance.
- Use of Innovative Technology: It recommends the use of technology in agriculture. For example, using drones to reduce the use of crop cutting experiments (CCEs), which are traditionally used to estimate crop loss; and using mobile phones to reduce delays in claim settlements by uploading crop-cutting data on apps/online.
- Cluster Approach for Insurance Companies: For more effective implementation, a cluster approach is being adopted under which a group of districts with variable risk profiles will be allotted to an insurance company through competitive bidding for up to three year.
PMFBY comparison with NAIS and MNAIS
Challenges in PMFBY
- One of the major challenges that remain is How to segregate insurance and disaster relief. Insurance products have a commercial basis whereas the disaster relief for small and marginal farmers has a social implication.
- Lack of adequate databases for determining premiums and indemnities and lack of adequate infrastructure create constraints in implementing crop insurance in India, particularly in vulnerable and backward regions like Bundelkhand and Marathwada.
State Level Policy
- Delayed Notification: Many state governments have diluted PMFBY guidelines in their respective state notification as per their own convenience, which goes against the spirit of PMFBY. Delay in notification mean that farmers could not avail claims for prevented sowing.
- Sum Insured Lower than Scale of Finance (SoF): Though sum insured under the PMFBY is higher than in previous schemes, in many states sum insured is still far lower than the SoF. It seems that states have intentionally reduced the value of sum insured to decrease their part of subsidy to be paid for the premium. This significantly reduces the claim received by farmers, as only a fraction of cost of cultivation value is insured.
- Delay in Claim Payments: Many state governments have failed to pay the subsidy premiums on time, as paying these premiums eat into their budgets for the sector. This leads to insurance companies delaying or not making claim payments.
- Wrong Premium Deduction: It is observed that in in many instances, premium was deducted by banks for non-notified crops. Insurance companies receive premiums from farmers, but farmers are not insured for non-notified crops.
- Poor Capacity of Insurance Companies: Most of the Insurance companies involved lack manpower and infrastructure in rural areas. Insurance companies, especially private companies, have no functional office in tehsils and no agents are deployed at the block level, despite provision for it under PMFBY.
- Farmers Not Provided Policy Documents: Farmers have no direct connection with insurance companies. Insured farmers receive no insurance policy document or receipt. Farmers usually are not even aware if their premiums have been deducted and crops insured. Premium deduction by banks without informing the farmer is a huge concern.
- Lack of Coordination And Non-Existent Grievance Redressal Mechanism: There seems to be a clear lack of coordination between banks, insurance companies and nodal government departments (mainly the Agriculture Department).There is also poor coordination regarding grievance redressal. To whom should a farmer approach in the case of wrong premium deduction, non-payment of claim or fake crop-cutting experiments?
- Gaps in Assessment of Crop Loss: Assessment of crop loss remains a major concern because the sample sizes in each village are not large enough to capture the scale and diversity of crop losses. In many cases, district or block level agricultural department officials do not conduct such sampling on ground and complete the formalities only on paper.
- Corruption: There is huge scope of corruption during the implementation of the PMFBY like the previous insurance schemes.There is a nexus between insurance companies and the middlemen, depriving the farmers of their claim.
- Poor Capacity to Deliver: There has been no concerted effort by the state government and insurance companies to build awareness of farmers on PMFBY. Insurance companies have failed to set-up infrastructure for proper implementation of PMFBY. There is still no direct linkage between insurance companies and farmers. Insured farmers receive no insurance policy document or receipt.
- Bangladesh is soon to announce the approval of golden rice for sale and use, making it first country in the world to embrace Golden Rice.
- Bangladesh completed the confined field testing of golden rice at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) in early 2017.
- In Bangladesh, the rice is being developed by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
- Researchers bred the beta-carotene genes into a rice variety named dhan 29, which is grown widely during the dry season in Bangladesh and contributes about 14% of the national harvest.
Opposition in Bangladesh
- Bangladesh farmers and environment groups are angry over the government’s decision to allow commercial cultivation of Golden Rice.
- Activists fear that commercial cultivation would lead to the loss of Bangladesh’s rich bio-diversity. This could further push for public acceptance of genetically-modified crops, eroding the food diversity, traditional seeds, as well as increase corporate control on local agriculture system.
- They claim that in comparison to golden rice, sweet potato has more than 50 times more beta-carotene level. Further, sweet potatoes can be grown on even non-arable land in Bangladesh.
What is Golden Rice?
- Golden Rice is conventional rice that has been genetically engineered to have high levels of beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.
- To create golden rice, scientists modified rice plants with beta-carotene genes from maize. By doing this, rice plants started to produce the rich orange-coloured pigment.
Timeline of Development
- The search for a golden rice started off as a Rockefeller Foundation initiative in 1982.
- The breakthrough was achieved in the year 1999, when two biologists Ingo Potrykus of the Institute of Plant Sciences in Switzerland and Prof Peter Beyer at Freiburg University in Germany, successfully developed the golden rice.
- The first field trials of golden rice cultivars were conducted by Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in 2004.
- Later, additional trials have been conducted in the Philippines and Taiwan, and in Bangladesh.
- The two versions of Golden Rice developed so far- Golden Rice 1 and 2, both Japonica (sticky, dryland) rices.
- According to the World Health Organization(WHO) estimate, about 250 million preschool children are affected by VAD and about 2.7 million children die because of the deficiency. In the given scenario, adoption of Golden Rice could prove to very beneficial to the populations in the developing countries.
- Conventional rice is naturally low in the pigment beta-carotene, which the body uses to make Vitamin A. Golden rice contains this, which is the reason for its golden colour.
- Research has indicated that one cup of Golden Rice can provide up to 50 percent of the daily requirement of an adult for vitamin A.
- The rice has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by Vitamin A deficiency(VAD), which is the leading cause of blindness among children and can also lead to death due to infectious diseases such as measles.
- There are various economic benefits to be gained by countries that adopt Golden Rice. As Golden Rice tackles the issue of malnourishment, better public health allows for poor people to feel healthier and live longer, and therefore spend less on medical care; it can also increase unskilled labor productivity
- There has been storage issue with the Golden Rice as the beta-carotene in rice is unstable in the presence of oxygen. Thus, under normal storage conditions, the beta-carotene in Golden Rice grains will rapidly degrade.
- Under tropical farming, storage, and household conditions, degradation may be faster stillthat may prove even more troublesome for the proposed nutritional benefits of Golden Rice than its initial low levels.
- The Golden Rice should not be stored for more than three months after which it may lose its nutrients, making its consumption insignificant.
Quality and Quantitative Issue
- In 2017, a study by Indian Council of Agricultural Science discovered abnormalities in golden rice traits, and lower productivity in its traits, both qualitatively (lower Vitamin-A content) and quantitively (yield wise).
- Further, it has been noted that Golden Rice does not provide enough Vitamin A, 1.6 ug of vitamin A per gram of rice, as being claimed. One has to consume over 3300 grams of rice to achieve daily intake of Vitamin A. This amount would be too much for anyone living in areas that need the rice.
- Furthermore Vitamin A is fat soluble, so one will need fat in his diet to be able to intake the vitamin A. Unfortunately, adequate protein and fat are not readily available in developing nations where the grain is targeted at. Therefore it brings the debate as to whether this grain will have the health benefits it sets out to achieve.
- There have been raising concerns regarding the ethical implications of introducing Golden Rice.Is it fair to use developing nations as guinea pigs in this experiment?
- So far no research or tests have been done to indicate the human health effects on consumption of this genetically modified crop. It could be deemed inhumane to mass produce a crop without knowing its full implications, possibly putting millions of people’s lives at risk.
- Furthermore, forcing this crop onto indigenous farmers changing their livelihoods and current methods of farming that they have been practicing for their entire lives also raises the ethical questions on the mass acceptance of this crop.
Golden Rice in India
- In 2016, the then President of India, Pranab Mukherjee said that IARI has developed a genetically-modified golden rice enriched with pro-vitamin A along with other such crops.
- In Bihar, a project called Development of Golden Rice is pushing golden rice for various agro-ecological zones. The Rajendra Agricultural University was given financial support o under the national agriculture development programme (Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana).
- Two ICAR research bodies, Indian Agricultural Research and National Plant Genomics Centre, were commissioned the research to develop a hybrid before the rice trait could be introduced in India - by cross breeding it with a local rice variety ‘Swarna’.
- The resulting plants were dwarf with pale green leaves and drastically reduced panicle size, grain number and yield as compared to the recurrent parent, Swarna.
International Rice Research Institute(IRRI)
- Rice feeds half the world daily. In many countries, rice provides more than 60%, perhaps 80%, of calories daily. Vitamin A deficiency is widespread, and is particularly severe in those countries where rice is the staple food.
- For these reasons, the leadership of the project to encourage and facilitate local adoption of Golden Rice has to pass from global to local. And local must include national level, and local government and village level organisation, and family organisation.