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The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the international treaty under the World Health Organization (WHO) which entered into force on February 27, 2005. The objective of the FCTC is to provide a framework for tobacco control measures for implementation at the National, Regional and Global levels. So far 181 countries, including India have ratified the FCTC. These countries are called FCTC Parties who meet once in two years in a meeting called Conference of the Parties (COP). The Eighth Conference of Parties (COP8) of the FCTC was held in Geneva, Switzerland from 1st to 6th October 2018. The FCTC decisions are made behind closed doors, with media, the public and tobacco farmers explicitly excluded from the process. This means that the views and interests of tobacco growers are not represented in the debates. The decisions on tobacco control at COP Meetings have effect on the livelihood of millions of tobacco farmers and farm labour connected with tobacco cultivation in the country.
Farmers should be allowed to participate in the deliberations of the Conference to help farmers understand the future course of actions being proposed by the WHO on tobacco control and the impact of these measures on the tobacco crop and the livelihood of millions that are dependent on tobacco in the country

Insects, diseases and weeds are the three main biological factors for losing crop yield and causing huge economic loss to farmers, according to a Study published in the journal, Crop Protection. Amongest these three, Weeds are the most notorious yield reducers leading to India losing an average of $11 billion each year in 10 major crops. In many cases, Weeds arefound to be economically more harmful than insects, fungi or other crop pests said the study which used data from 1,581 farm trials in 18 Indian states, noted the study.
A July 2018 Knowledge Paper, published by industry body FICCI and advisory firm Tata Strategic Management Group, noted that farmers lose a significant part of their income as their crop and produce are attacked by pests and weeds. “India’s per hectare consumption of pesticides is significantly lower than countries with high yield. The per hectare consumption in India is 0.6 kg as compared to China’s 17 kg, Japan’s 12.5 kg,Germany’s 3.7 kg, France’s 3.7 kg and UK’s 2.8 kg,” revealed the Paper. “Therefore, the crops get affected by pests at various stages in the farming value chain including pre-harvest and during harvest. As the productivity is directly hampered due to pests and weeds, it affects the income levels of farmers. It is essential to protect not only the crop but also the produce as on an average 25% of the yield is destroyed during storage and transportation,” added the Paper.
According to the FICCI Paper, crop protection solutions play a vital role in two ways; protecting the crop and produce from pests and increasing the farm productivity. When judiciously applied, the damage of the crop is reduced and the output increases which directly impact the income generated per hectare. Hence, the crop protection industry will play a principal part in government’s aspiration to double farmer’s income by 2022, the Paper noted.
A study Increase in crop losses to insect pests in a warming climate published in the journal Science on August 31, 2018 says warmer climate will increase the metabolic rate of insects, which is the rate at which they digest what they eat. This will make them hungrier and so they will devour more crops causing more crop losses. Also, the rise in temperatures will lead to an increase in population of these pests.

The Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage under the Union Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare states on its portal that “Indiscriminate and injudicious use of chemical pesticides in agriculture has resulted in several associated adverse effects such as environmental pollution, ecological imbalances, pesticides residues in food, fruits and vegetables, fodder, soil and water, pest resurgence, human and animal health hazards, destruction of bio-control agents, development of resistance in pests etc.”
In an article published in Down to Earth magazine, Dr. Leah Utyasheva, Policy Director of Centre for Pesticide Prevention at University of Edinburgh, UK, stated that in India, pesticides are considered to cause around 92,000 suicides every year.
“Since small-holder farmers in India use high strength pesticides and fertilizers to increase farm productivity, the ready access to and wide availability of HHPs make them an easy option for poisoning during acute crises. In comparison with developed countries, where agricultural strength pesticides are only available to licensed workers and where few people now work in agriculture, HHPs are freely sold in shops and stored in homes in rural communities in India,” she writes.

18 Pesticides Banned

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare notified Pesticides (Prohibition) Order, 2018 on August 9, 2018 banning the use of 18 highly hazardous pesticides in the country. Out of the total 18, 11 pesticides are banned with immediate effect and six will face prohibition from December, 2020. Banned Pesticides: Benomyl, Carbaryl, Diazinon, Fenarimol, Fenthion, Linuron, Methoxy Ethyl Mercury Chloride, Methyl Parathion, Sodium Cyanide, Thiometon, Tridemorph, Trifluralin Ban from 31st December 2020: Alachlor, Dichlorvos, Phorate, Phosphamidon, Triazophos, Trichlorfon One pesticide Trifluralin, which is widely used as herbicide, is allowed only in wheat.

India being a predominantly agrarian economy, Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood in the country and a key driver to the economy. The country has made tremendous progress in Agriculture with increasing production levels during the post-independence period, but farmer income has not improved simultaneously owing to some serious flaws in India’s Agricultural Marketing.
Agricultural marketing refers to the buying and selling of agricultural products. Modern day agricultural marketing involves a series of exchanges or transfers from one person to another before it finally reaches the end-user or consumer. There are mainly three marketing functions involved in this, i.e., assembling, preparation for consumption and distribution.
In India, most of the agricultural products are sold by farmers to moneylenders or to village traders. These private traders and middlemen dominate the marketing and trading of agricultural produce thus exploiting the poor farmers due to lack of adequate marketing infrastructure in the organised sector.

Many Constraints

Presence of Too Many Intermediates/Middlemen results in the exploitation of both farmers and consumers with the middlemen offering lower prices to farmers and charging higher prices from the consumers.
Highly Fragmented Nature of Markets across the States denies adequate market access to the farmers on one side and hinders the development of infrastructure required for handling of the growing volume of agricultural produce on the other.
Huge Variation in the Density of Regulated Markets in different parts of the country acts as a barrier in the efficient handling of ever increasing marketed surplus and easy market access to farmers.
Inadequate Marketing Infrastructure restricts the various benefits farmers are entitled ina regulated market environment. These benefits include covered and open auction platforms, common drying yards, cold storage, grading facilities, electronic weigh-bridges.
High Incidence of Market Fee/Charges including commission charges by the licensed agents, development cess, entry tax, purchase tax, weighment charges etc. results in a higher transaction cost and low price realization by the farmers in a regulated market.
Less Remuneration to the Farmers & High Intermediation Cost in a long supply chain deny the remunerative prices to the farmers. Asymmetry in Market Informationamongest the farmers living in distant areas in rural India compels the farmers accepting whatever price the traders offer to them.
Inadequate Rural Farm Credit Facilities compels poor Indian farmers to resort to ‘distress sales’ immediately after the harvest even if the prices are low at that point of time.
Lack of All-Weather Transport Facilitiesin many rural areas of the country obstructs the smooth movement of the agri produce to the marketplace, thus denying fair price to the farmers.
Insufficient Storage Facility causes wastage of agri produce and farmers are left with no choice but to either sell their produce at a low price or to bear huge post-harvest losses.
Unfavourable Conditions and Malpractices in Mandis e.g. deducting money for donations, chanda etc., taking out large amount of grains for sampling, offering lower prices by terming a product sub-standard, adulteration, black-marketing, hoarding of stocks etc. take a toll on farmer income.

Despite India being world’s largest producer for milk and second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, about 40 to 50 per cent of the total production valued of $440 billion (bn) ends up wasting, noted an ASSOCHAM-MRSS India study released in October 2017. The Study pegged the number of India’s cold storage facilities at about 6,300 capacity with a capacity of 30.11 million metric tons, which are only able to store about 11 per cent of the country’s total perishable produce Highlighting that about 60% of this capacity is spread across states of UP, West Bengal, Gujarat and Punjab, the ASSOCHAM-MRSS India joint study noted, “The situation is severe in southern part of India due to unavailability of cold storage units, moreover as the climate is far more hot and humid.”
The study estimated that cold chain market in India valued at $167.24 bn in 2016 is projected to reach $234.49 bn by 2020. The cold chain market has grown steadily in the last few years and this trend is projected to continue until 2020, stated the study.
While there are many positive changes in Indian cold chain market, however high operating costs is a major roadblock for sector’s overall growth. Shortage of adequate infrastructure, lack of trained personnel, outdated technology and inconsistent power supply are other major obstacles in growth of cold chain infrastructure in India, according to the study.

Assessing India’s Cold-Chain Capacity

In order to evaluate the Status and Gaps of the nation’s Cold-Chain Infrastructure, the National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD) under the Union Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare released a Report titled “All India Cold-Chain Capacity Assessment (Status & Gaps)” in 2015. The Report noted that India over the years witnessed a marked increase in production of perishable high nutrition products like fruits, vegetables, meat and poultry products etc. but development of cold-chain infrastructure was not strategically directed, for safe handling and to convey these perishable products to markets, except in the dairy sector. A resultant demand supply mismatch emerged across these agricultural commodities, frequently contributing to wide spread price fluctuations and inflation.
According to the NCCD Report, cold-chain is not just about the “cold” but it refers to all logistical procedures applied, to maintain multiple parameters of finished produce during the pre-conditioning, handling, transport, storage and retail of products. The cold-chain includes varied aspects of packaging, atmospheric gases, biology, injury, humidity, trace ability, infrastructure, people & product flow, besides temperature. In fact, temperature control can only work with all others in synch.
The Report observed that the existing food distribution suffers food losses due to lack of integrated cold-chains.Establishing modern supply chains for perishable food items, not only minimizes the food losses, but also empowers the farmers to reach across to more distant markets. Integrated cold-chain enables the farmer groups proactively connect to various demand centres and take advantage of the National Agriculture Market (NAM). This empowering aspect of cold-chain, allows for a greater geographical spread of markets by countering produce perishability, and is key to gainful and improved value realization for farmers, stated the Report.

Novel Coronavirus outbreak and the lockdowns imposed by Government to contain the virus spread severely impacted farming operations across the country. On-time harvest of standing Rabi crops and post-harvest storage and marketing faced setback in various parts of the country leading to piled up stocks in open fields causing crop damage and fall in prices for the farm products. Rabi crops such as wheat, mustard, lentil, maize, pulses and millets are usually harvested by farmers by mid-April which coincided with the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Even as Union Government provided exemptions to agriculture and allied sectors to ensure uninterrupted farming operations during the initial days of lockdown itself, but implementation of these exemptions has not been uniform across the country. Farmers faced hardships in transport of agri products to ‘mandis’ and movement of farm workers as several local authorities exercised caution putting restrictions on intra-state and inter-state movement.
Further, scarcity of farm labourers has hindered harvesting of Rabi crops and planting of summer crops such as cotton, chillies, maize, pulses etc. with lakhs of migrant workers deciding to head to their native places in the absence of gainful employment during lockdown. With Covid-19 impacting demand in key export markets and causing steep fall in prices in domestic markets, farmers in the country are a distressed lot as they fear huge loss in their earnings despite having a good harvest.

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