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While retail inflation inched up to 5.77% in June 2016, what is more striking is the yawning gap between rural and urban inflation. Urban inflation for June 2016 has been captured at 5.2% but the retail prices, also called Consumer Price Index (CPI), in rural India rose by 6.2% in the same month, thus indicating a higher inflationary burden on the already distressed rural folks. While the transportation costs and the ongoing change happening in rural consumption basket could be the reasons for it. “But still the government needs to look at those items which are driving rural inflation even higher than urban inflation,” says Sunil Sinha, Principal Economist with India Ratings & Research. Many commoners (both urban and rural markets) complaint that (actual) street inflation is more than what government data captures.
More worrisome is food inflation which stands at 5.7% in rural markets and over 8% in the urban markets. The combined food inflation, urban plus rural, is at a kissing distance of 8%. Analysts say that it should be the concern of the government since inflation has a (political) cost. However, there is also a benign picture. “The upward price pressure is concentrated mainly in cereals and vegetables and is not broad-based,” says Neha Saraf of Nomura Securities. But the fact remains that the CPI inflation is still above the 5% target that RBI wants to achieve by March 2017. While this year’s budget has been rural and agriculture-centric but its impact would play out in the longer term. In the shorter term, the government should be ultra-careful on inflation front. The inflation at the wholesale front has also presented a grim picture. As per the government data released this week, the wholesale prices rose at 1.6% in June this year, while food inflation crossed 8% mark mainly driven by vegetable prices (17%).
News Source : The Sunday Guardian - New Delhi, 18 July 2016]]>
The centre told the Supreme Court that it had already released Rs 7,329 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for 2016-17, in an effort to ease wage payments for those employed under the scheme, given the drought in large parts of the country. The government, through additional solicitor general P.S. Narasimha, told the court that it has also disbursed Rs 12,230 crore to states to clear MGNREGS wage arrears from 2015-16.
The centre’s response came during a hearing on a public interest litigation filed by Swaraj Abhiyan, a non-profit seeking relief for drought-hit regions in the country. The plea sought timely disbursement of crop loans, drought relief, help in procurement of subsidized cattle fodder and formulation of an integrated water policy. The south-west monsoon, which irrigates over half of India’s crop area, recorded a deficit of 14% in 2015, the second straight year of sub-par rains; in 2014, the rain deficit was 12%. Since then, 10 states have declared drought—Karnataka, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Rajasthan. After recording crop losses, several of these drought-hit states are now facing an acute drinking water crisis. In at least two states, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, Indian Railways is bringing water to parched areas in trains. The apex court told the centre that it had the responsibility to inform states of impending drought. “The central government has a responsibility to tell states that you’re headed for trouble. As the central government, you get a lot of information. Inform the states and ask them to take precautions. It’s not just money, it’s your duty to say please be careful, there’s a drought situation,” the court said.
News Source : Mint - 21 April 2016]]>
The Centre faced tough questions on its handling of drought-like situation in the country, with the Supreme Court asking whether it was not its responsibility to warn the states that such a scenario was likely to prevail in the near future. It also chided Gujarat for not filing an affidavit on the matter, saying “just because you’re Gujarat doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like”. “It is the responsibility of the Centre to inform and warn that these (drought-affected) states will receive less rainfall. If you are told that 96% is crop sown in a particular area of the state but you receive information of scanty rain, don’t just tell them that everything is right and think there is possibility of the Centre telling states about a possible drought,” a Bench headed by Justice MB Lokur said.
The remark by the Bench submitted that 256 districts in 10 states were declared as drought-affected. He clarified that the declaration of a particular area as drought-affected did not mean that it was affecting the entire population of that area as all are not farmers or engaged in agriculture-related occupation. The law officer said the total population in such areas may be 33 crore but “the actual number of people affected by drought is likely to be less than what is reflected in gross population figures of such drought-affected districts”. The Apex Court said that the Centre should adopt modern technology to assess drought situation in states instead of following “eye estimation” (cursory survey of farms) method, which is not even mentioned in Manual for Drought Management. The court directed the Centre to apprise it how many households in drought-hit areas got 150 days employment under MNREGA and asked it to submit a compilation of advisories on drought.
News Source : Millennium post - 21 April 2016]]>
The asset quality of India’s agriculture credit could be significantly affected by the crop damage resulting from the untimely hail and rain of March 2015, according to an India Ratings and Research report. “The NPA (non-performing assets) ratio of the agri-loan portfolio could double for some banks, though the reduction of overall return on assets may be muted at 3-5 basis points (about 10 per cent of the profitability of government banks). “The unseasonal rains followed one of the weakest and most deficient (12 per cent) monsoons in FY15, which has heightened its impact,” the report said. The rating agency added that the situation may worsen if monsoon in FY16 is below normal. Agricultural loans grew 16 per cent in FY15 and have contributed 25 per cent to incremental credit growth since March 2014. With delinquencies in the agri-loan portfolio likely to rise, they will add to the already stressed assets of banks (10.6 per cent of loans on December 31, 2014). India Ratings estimates that system-wide agricultural NPAs as a percentage of total agricultural advances will rise to 8.4 per cent by FY16 from 4.9 per cent in FY14 as the direct result of unseasonal rains. As a result, the gross NPA ratio (on total advances) for the banking system will increase by 30 bps. This will translate into a profitability impact of two to three bps on system-wide post-tax return on assets, the report estimated. The impact of the unseasonal rains will be felt with a lag, as NPA recognition policies for agricultural loans (one or two crop seasons past due) differ from those of corporate or retail loans (90 days past due). India Ratings expects the profitability impact to be felt in the second half of FY16. Governmental support through subsidies may not significantly benefit banks as the amount of support (Rs 2,500/acre) to be provided is marginal compared with the extent of losses (Rs 20,000/acre). Also, it is unlikely that the support money will be used by the affected farmers to repay bank loans. The overnment is also contemplating a loan restructuring package or interest subvention scheme for affected farmers, aimed at providing relief to farmers’ debt obligations.
News Source : Business Line - New Delhi, 5 May 2015]]>
A parliamentary panel has taken dim view of the delay in implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 which provides for distribution of discounted food grains to 67 per cent of the population. It has asked the Union Food Ministry to set up a task force for “quickening’’ the pace of work in the “non-compliant’’ States. Only 11 States have so far operationalised the Act with 25 States “unable’’ to comply with preconditions to improve the Public Distribution System. The Central government has given several extensions since April to States for carrying out the requirement of displaying the list of beneficiaries, computerisation of the targeted PDS, setting up vigilance committees and building modern storage facilities at strategic points for quick movement of food grains. Former Planning Commission Member Abhijit Sen said he had not seen the Standing Committee’s report but the suggestion that a task force be formed is a clear signal that States must be asked to “get their act together” and that there will be “no more extensions.”
Even the States which are implementing the Act are doing so “partially” as most of them have continued with the old set of beneficiaries primarily with the aim of not losing any quota of the concessional food grains under the targeted PDS. The government has so far not articulated its policy on the delay in the identification of beneficiaries on the basis of the socio-economic caste census. Mr. Sen, who was closely associated with the formulation of the Act, emphasised the need for “political will’’ to implement it. “The action has to be at the States’ level. They must have political will to use whatever socio-economic caste census data is available to come out with transparent indicators and make a new list (of beneficiaries).”
News Source : The Hindu - New Delhi, 5 May 2015]]>
Digging teeth into a succulent Indian mango is likely to get costlier for consumers abroad after unseasonal rain and hailstorms between February-end and early-April lashed themango-producing belts across the world’s largest producer during the flowering stage. The Mango Growers’ Association of India (MGAI) estimates that the damage caused is as high as 30 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, among the key mango-growing States, while Maharashtra and Gujarat, which supply nearly 12 per cent of the delectable Alphonso variety overseas, have also been hit. “We are definitely concerned due to the crop damage. There will be a domestic impact but we are not clear what will happen in terms of exports. A target is yet to be fixed but compared with last year, it is likely to be less and prices will be higher due to the limited amount of export-quality mangoes produced this year,” said a senior government official. Popular varieties sold abroad include Alphonso, Kesar, Banganapalli, Chausa and Malda varieties such as Langra and Himsagar.
Procurement prices are already up with supply shortage resulting in export-grade Alphonso mangoes selling at between Rs 3,000 and Rs 3,200 per crate (of five dozen) in Mumbai’s wholesale markets, up from Rs 1,750-1,800 at the same time last year. “We are buying at almost double the price from last year. The quality is poorer and will further impact our prices. A clearer picture will emerge in May when exports usually peak,” said Murtaza Bharmal, CEO of Pune-based MSY Traders, which sells mainly Alphonso, Kesar and Badami varieties to the UK, Bahrain and Vietnam. According to Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (Apeda) data, exports declined 26 per cent in 2013-14 to 41,280 tonnes from 55,585 tonnes in 2012-13. A majority of Indian mangoes are sold in the UAE, followed by the EU led by importers in the UK, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. After the import ban was lifted by the EU this January, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh had stated that the government expected mango exports to increase by as much as 50 per cent this fiscal.
News Source : Business Line - New Delhi, 5 May 2015]]>
Falling basmati prices have left many rice millers and traders to the brink of insolvency over the past four months. The development seems to be a precursor to a renewed agricultural crisis in the state. Rice millers and traders are unable to pay for the basmati purchased from commission agents around five months ago. The agents are now advising farmers not to grow basmati in the coming season. Agriculture Department and Punjab Mandi Board officials are also discouraging farmers from growing basmati. The Mandi Board suffered a huge loss as a large number of farmers shifted from paddy to basmati last year. In 2013-14, the basmati prices peaked to Rs 4,500 per quintal, but this year the prices have not gone beyond Rs 2,400 per quintal. Owing to high prices in 2013-14, the state government encouraged farmers to grow more basmati last season as it requires less water for irrigation in comparison to paddy.
To boost basmati trading, the government announced a waiver of 4 per cent cess (2 per cent market fee and 2 per cent rural development fund) on the purchase of basmati. As over 8.5 lakh hectare area was under basmati cultivation last year, the state suffered a loss of over Rs 550 crore due to non-collection of cess on basmati, said Kulbir Singh Matta, District Mandi Officer, Faridkot. Due to cess waiving, the market committees at Faridkot and Muktsar suffered a loss of Rs 20 crore and Rs 42 crore, respectively. "Despite that, we failed to promote basmati cultivation as its prices crashed in the international market," Matta said.
News Source : The Tribune, New Delhi, 4 April 2015]]>
The Union government has given the states six more months to roll out the National Food Security Act (NFSA), food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said on Friday. The deadline, which has already been extended twice for implementing the food law, was ending on 4 April. Only 11 states and Union territories have so far implemented the Act that was passed by Parliament in September 2013. “The central government has further given six months’ time to the states to implement the NFSA,” Paswan told reporters in Jaipur. The deadline has been extended for the third time so that the remaining states adopt and implement the law within six months, the minister added.
The law aims at providing legal entitlement to 5kg of subsidized food grains per person per month at ` 13/kg to two thirds of the country’s population. At present, the government is allocating foodgrains to 11 states/UTs as per the new food law, while the rest of the states are getting the foodgrains quota as per earlier PDS norms.
News Source : Mint, New Delhi, 4 April 2015]]>
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday said the government will take a call on allowing field trials of GM crops only after the Supreme Court gives its decision. The apex court has fixed September 16 as next hearing for the public interest litigation filed in 2005 by activist Aruna Rodrigues and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, demanding a ban on import and sowing of GM crops in India.
This comes after an RSS-backed outfit, following a meeting with Javadekar, recently said the government has put trials of GM crops on hold.Former environment minister Veerappa Moily in the UPA government had approved GM field trials for crops such as rice, maize, wheat and chickpea. Meanwhile, 45 transgenic crops approved by the genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) during UPA rule for field trials await mandatory nod from the state governments concerned, thus delaying commercial introduction of GM crops. However, with states including Bihar, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu refusing to give mandatory NOC for GM field trials, it has delayed the process of commercial cultivation of various drought, flood and other stress-tolerant GM crops. Agriculture ministry sources told that only states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh Haryana and Maharashtra have agreed to provide NOC for GM trials.
News Source : The Financial Express - New Delhi, 3 September 2014]]>
Energy Minister D K Shivakumar on Monday announced a new scheme, called ‘Surya Raita’, under which farmers will be encouraged to generate solar energy and sell power to the government at a profitable rate. A farmer having a 10 kV solar power facility can earn up to Rs 50,000 a year by selling excess power to the government. It is after using power for her/his own use. About Rs one lakh needs to be invested to instal one kV of solar power. A dedicated feeder will be installed for this purpose. A government order on launching the scheme will be issued in a day or two, he told reporters. Farmers wishing to use solar power for Irrigation Pump (IP) sets are entitled to subsidy under various schemes of the State and the Central governments.
The State Energy department, for instance, offers 90 per cent subsidy and the Agriculture department 50 per cent subsidy. In the first phase, the government has set a target of bringing at least 3,000 IP set farmers in Karnataka under this scheme in the current financial year, the minister added. Farmers’ solar power facility will be connected to the grid. These grid-connected solar power-generating units will be provided with net metering facility to keep a record of power supplied to the grid. The government will pay Rs 9.56 per unit of solar power (generated without obtaining the subsidy) and Rs 7.20 per unit (if any government subsidy is obtained), Shivakumar explained.
News Source : Deccan Herald - Bangalore, 2 September 2014]]>