Ecohorts Blog


Avenues of Vegetable Production in Hilly Region

Posted in Vegetable Crops by Administrator on the April 22nd, 2008

Himachal Pradesh is gifted with a variety of agro-climatic conditions due to variation in elevation (350m to 7000m) and aspect which makes the state as an ideal one fort the production of a wide range of vegetable crops. To day Himachal Pradesh has emerged as an important vegetable growing state particularly for the production of Tomato, Capsicum, French bean and Cucumber during off season. Due to cooler climatic conditions in lower hill areas of the state as compared to plains ,these crops ripen at the time when the crop is almost over in the plains there by creating a readily available market for the vegetable growers of state .

Vegetable crops are considered most suitable altenate to bring about diversification into the traditional farming systems relevant in hills. The diversification in hill agriculture can be brought through introduction of rare exotic vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, red cabbage, Brussels’s sprouts and Swiss chards. The cultivation of early maturing and short duration crop varieties of traditional vegetables such as tomato, capsicum, french bean, pea, cabbage, cauliflower and ginger will be very helpfuin increasing the vegetable productivityl. A vast spectrum of hybrid varieties of tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, cabbage and cauliflower as well as European carrots suited for microclimates conditions need to be developed to bring higher economic returns. Protected cultivation of vegetable nursery in tunnels and polyhouses to synchronizing the timing of availabilty of vegetables in relation to market demand will also be an important strategy.

With the advances in vegetable breeding and production, many non traditional areas in the plains have started producing vegetables in the season when they used to receive these vegetables from hills therby providing tough competition, consequently, it is only high quality of vegetables produced from hill which can help to withstand competition. Besides it, vegetable produce can provide ample employment potential and suit the small and marginal farmers of the hills. To stabilize economic transformation brought about by off-season vegetables such as tomato, bell pepper, beans, peas, cabbage and cauliflower following strategies could be adopted.

Strategies

a. There is need to develop quality hybrids, suited to agro-climatic conditions of the hills in case of tomato, bell pepper, cabbage and cauliflower. The collaboration between private and public sectors is essential for assured availability of high quality seed at reasonable price round the year.

b. To maintain the seasonality and to lower the cost of production as well as to make cultivation of vegetables sustainable and eco-friendly, stress has to be laid on developing varieties resistant to insect pests and diseases and other stresses like heat, cold, drought and high rainfall.

c. For commercial production, availability of irrigation water is very important. Since water is availability is scarce in some areas, the use of drip irrigation and proper watershed management should be followed. This will help in increasing the area under vegetable in the hills.

d. The efforts should be made to produce the seed of temperate vegetables, such as cabbage, European carrots, radish, garden beets and cole crops as this part of the country is most suited for seed production of temperate vegetables. Therefore full advantage of these climatic conditions should be taken by adopting seed production of thes crops

e. Since the post-harvest losses in vegetables are quite high, there is need to develop suitable technology which could reduce the losses after harvest.

f. Heavy post-harvest losses to the tune of 25-30 percent are responsible for non-availability of vegetables in sufficient quantities to large section of the population. In order to meet challenges of nutritional security, sincere attention is required on creation and strengthening of post-harvest infrastructures on the aspects of post-harvest disease control, maturity standards and harvesting techniques, primary processing and on form waxing, availability of packaging cases and packaging material, pre-cooling, zero-energy cool chamber and cool chain, processing of under utilized vegetables and waste utilization.

Export orientation

In the present scenario of globalization, the production of non traditional export oriented vegetables such as asparagus, bell pepper, celery, baby corn, brussels’s sprout, broccoli and red cabbage should be increased. The demand of these vegetables exists in South East Asia and European countries. The cultivation of these vegetables can be very easily done outdoor in the hills. Therefore stress can laid on the cultivation of these vegetables

Strategies for Export

a. Identification of pocket areas, where these export oriented vegetables can be grown to the standards of international quality.

b. Giving special treatments to vegetables during storage, package, handling and transportation to maintain the quality standards as desired by APEDA.

c. Developing closer links with Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) which has identified vegetables like onion, garlic, potato, okra, bitter gourd, chillies, asparagus, celery, sweet pepper and tomato for export. These vegetables are non traditional and suited for products in the hills.

It is desirable that the diverse and rich agro-ecological farming situations of the State of Himachal Pradesh are explored for the cultivation of variety of vegetables with tremendous domestic marketing as well as international market. Structural changes introduction system via diversification, value addition, harmonious integration of modern and indigenous know how, organized marketing strategies and infrastructural development are needed for the sustainable development in Himachal Pradesh.

Dr.J.S.Kanwar
Former Head,
Deptt of Vegetable Crops,
Punjab Agricultural University,
Ludhiana, India

Managing Financial risk in Farming

Posted in Finance in Farming by Administrator on the April 6th, 2008

Introduction

Spring is probably the most celebrated season in the world. As it breaks the spell of winter in the Himalayan foothills the bloom in Cherry, Plums, Almonds, Pear and Apple trees is delighting the senses. Have a closer look around yourself (Is it really a happy time?) the deeds of mankind or perhaps the unforgiving cycles of nature have changed the outlook for the farming communities. There is anxiety in the eyes, the coffee house and neighborhood cafes are buzzing with bad news about hailstorms, excessive rains and other natural calamities ruining the bloom of spring and in turn hopes and livelihoods of millions, who depend on it.

Lately, the above scenarios have become more and more frequent. It is brewing a socio-economic crisis in the region. There is an exodus from rural areas to the cities in search of alternative career options for the younger generation. Rural unemployment is a major issue. This is creating additional pressure on the cities which are not equipped to handle such a large influx of migrants; the result is urban slums and poverty, food shortages due to reduced lands under cultivation.

Role of Finance

Firstly, farming needs to be looked at as a business (especially by farmers). Cutting edge farm technology is being put to use to improve productivity and quality of produce. On the one hand, the race for cutting edge farm practices and on the other hand there has hardly been any effort by the Government, financial institutions, development agencies or NGOs to reach out to the farmers and educate them about the financial instruments that are now so widespread in the west.

The only financial instruments Government has offered for decades are “crops loans” (or their variants) that have played a part in crippling the farming communities into debt traps and ultimately the Government into a Fiscal mess.

The recent drive by Himachal Pradesh Government, to include Apple and Citrus fruits in the Agriculture Insurance scheme is a positive step. I would like to discuss some Financial Instruments currently available and effectively used around the world that should be put to better use by the farming communities.

“Risks to farm revenues come from two sources: prices and yields. When both prices and yields are insured, so is the product of the two, farm revenues.” President Clinton, Economic Report to Congress, February 1995.

The key risks identified in the above statement are:
Price Risk: This refers to the impact of demand and supply equation of the markets. The supply is related to production risk, owing to weather conditions (deeds of God).The Government is providing minimum support prices for key crops and hence covering the costs to some extent. However, the support prices won’t even cover the cost of production and post harvest expenses in most cases. Price risks can be effectively managed by derivative instruments.

Production Risk:This should be considered as a complicated form of Price Risk because if the farmer doesn’t have the produce his revenues will be zero. Insurance can clearly cater to production risks.

The key instruments worth a discussion are as follows. Please note they are complicated financial instruments and the following discussion is just a brief introduction and shall not be considered conclusive in any way.

1. Crop Insurance
2. Futures and Options
3. Weather Derivatives

  • 1. Crop Insurance:
  • Crop Insurance is the simplest instrument for farmers. It’s purchased by farmers and others to protect themselves against natural disasters viz. hail storms, floods, droughts or the loss of income due to price fluctuations. The two key types of crop insurance are:

    Crop Yield/produce Insurance:

      Hail Storms:

    In the west (Germany and France) hail insurance was started by Co-operatives. Since hail is generally a limited peril and financial risk to private insurance companies is manageable; this has since been in the private domain in developed markets.

      Multi-calamity Insurance:

    This covers the larger/broader perils of drought, floods, disease etc. The earliest of such insurance was implemented in the U.S (1938). These are generally subsidized or provided by Government agencies.

    Crop Income/Revenue Insurance:

    This generally covers the price fluctuations that are rampant during the peak season. These are generally for intra season drops in prices rather than historical benchmarking. Historically benchmarked price support is generally offered by Government agencies and may more appropriately be classed as “support price.”

    (more…)