Tropical Agriculture

  • ICRISAT, ICAR jointly to fight climate change

    The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) have joined forces to adapt new measures to tackle the growing climate related risks and constraints that prevail in rural areas. According to a press release from ICRISAT, Director General of ICRISAT Dr William D Dar had mentioned in his keynote address that they would hold themselves accountable. “We will measure results and stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers' incomes and over the next decade helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty,” he had said, according to the release.

  • NE temperature increased by 0.08 degree in past decade

    Agartala: Northeast has recorded an increase in temperature by 0.08 degree Celsius in last decade along with static dispersion of seasonal weather phenomena in the region, Regional Director ICAR, Northeast,

  • ADB lends $170 mn to modernise horticulture

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending a $170-million multitranche financing facility for modernising the horticulture industry in Bihar and Maharashtra. This is expected to boost earnings of farmers and other vulnerable rural groups. ADB today approved the facility for the Agribusiness Infrastructure Development Investment Programme, which will fund physical and institutional links a

  • The natural fix?: the role of ecosystems in climate mitigation

    The natural fix?: the role of ecosystems in climate mitigation

    Large cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases are needed if we are to avoid the worst effects of global climate change. This rapid assessment report describes the vital contributions which ecosystems can and must make to improve these efforts.

  • Tropical farmers need productive alternatives

    Your Editorial 'Markets can save forests' (Nature 452, 127

  • Mapping H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza risk in Southeast Asia

    The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 virus that emerged in southern China in the mid-1990s has in recent years evolved into the first HPAI panzootic.

  • On the upswing

    The West Bengal Power Development Corporation's Bakreswar Thermal Power Project in Birbhum district. WEST BENGAL has emerged as one of the fastest-growing States in India and is the third largest economy in the country. So its growing reputation as a preferred investment destination should come as no surprise. The State has registered a high growth in real State domestic product (SDP) over the past eight years and is one of the top-ranking States of the country in terms of growth in per capita income. Despite being one of the most populous States in the country and the State with the highest population density, West Bengal achieved a growth in per capita income of 5.72 per cent in 2004-05, well above the national growth rate of per capita income in the same year, which was 5.2 per cent. In the period between 1991 and 2004, West Bengal's share of foreign direct investment (FDI) was $1,789.3 million. However, between 2004 and 2006 alone, the State attracted FDI worth $119 million, spread over 178 new industrial units that are being set up now. The State's exports also grew from $816.1 million in 1995-96 to $3,769.5 million in 2004-05. In fact, with respect to the volume of export, it has been found that West Bengal ranks seventh amongst all the States. According to different human development index indicators such as literacy rate and life expectancy at birth, the State has performed impressively. In the National Census 2001, West Bengal's literacy rate was estimated to be over 69 per cent as against the national average of 65 per cent. Urban market The sheer volume of the State's market is its primary attraction. With a population of around eight crore, according to the 2001 Census, and with steady economic growth in terms of the net State domestic product (NSDP) and per capita income, West Bengal has more people with greater disposable income than many other States. West Bengal is, in fact, the third largest State in terms of savings, with the commercial banks accounting for almost Rs.855 billion. Besides, West Bengal is ideally located, with a vast hinterland, comprising Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and the north-eastern States, that increases the market size by about another 180 million consumers. West Bengal is also one of the most urbanised States in the country, with an urban population, according to the 2001 Census, of 22.5 million persons, 60 per cent of whom are below 30 years of age. This, in the context of rising incomes and the general boom in urban renewal and economic activity, has resulted in an increasing demand for quality goods and services. Kolkata, the State capital, alone accounts for a consumer profile of around 10 million, and major towns such as Siliguri, Durgapur, Asansol and Malda are also on an upswing. Rural market SUSHANTA PATRONOBISH South City, a Rs.10-billion multi-use project in the heart of Kolkata. It is not just the urban market that is undergoing a paradigm shift; it is happening in the rural sector too. With the enormous potential that exists in agriculture and farm products and food processing and agro-based industries, the State government is looking into investment proposals of considerable value from corporates for the procurement and large-scale marketing of agro products. This is expected to facilitate an increase in rural purchasing power and consumption profile. Agro industries With six agro-climatic zones, West Bengal offers an extensive variety of environments for the development of temperate, sub-tropical and tropical agricultural and horticultural produce. Agriculture contributes 30 per cent of the SDP and employs 57 per cent of the workforce. In fact, the State accounts for 30 per cent of India's potato production, 27 per cent of its pineapple production, 12 per cent of its banana production and 16 per cent of its rice production. The State ranks number one in the country in meat production (including poultry) and is one of the largest producers of fish, satisfying nearly 80 per cent of the country's carp seed demand. West Bengal also accounts for around 10 per cent of India's edible oil production and is the second largest tea-growing State in the country, contributing around 21 per cent of the total production in the country. A study conducted by the Government of India estimates that the investment potential in the State's food processing industry is Rs.154.52 billion over the next 10 years if the processing level is increased from the existing 2 per cent to 10 per cent in the same period. West Bengal has certain intrinsic strengths that give it an advantage in the field of food processing: vast agro raw material resources, six agro-climatic zones, an abundant supply of water from the many rivers across the State, fertile alluvial soil, low-cost and skilled labour, self-sufficiency in power, a large domestic market, and easy access to markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar. In a recent conference on industries, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee emphasised the need for a modern market mechanism in the agricultural sector in the State. "Even though agricultural production is increasing, there is no proper method of preservation. As a result 10 to 20 per cent of the vegetable produce perishes every year mainly because of the lack of a modern marketing mechanism. We want more companies investing in this sector, and that will also help the economy in rural areas grow,' he said. Floriculture, including ornamental plant production, is an emerging industry in West Bengal. The State produces around 58,000 tonnes of flowers every year and has more than 10,000 acres (1 acre is 0.4 hectares) of land devoted to that purpose. Flowers are mainly grown in Kalimpong, Panskura, Ranaghat, Thakurnagar, Bagnan and in regions around the State. The main flowers produced are tuberose, gladiolus, rose, gerbera, carnation and cockscomb, and the countries that import flowers from West Bengal include the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and West Asian states, mainly Sharjah. The State government has already set up a floriculture park at Mungpoo in north Bengal, and a mega flower mart is also coming up in Kolkata at a project cost of Rs.250 million. Apart from these, there is a multi-storied flower market at Panskura, and another floriculture park is being developed at Jagulia in Nadia district. The State government recently received a $33-million proposal for setting up an open-air floriculture park on 200 acres of land at Rajarhat in Kolkata. Iron and steel PTI Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd. is India's second largest integrated petrochemical complex. Apart from being one of the main priorities of the State government's industrial drive, the iron and steel sector is one of the oldest industries in the State. The establishment of the Bengal Iron Works at Kulti in Bardhaman district in 1870 ushered in the era of iron and steel in the State. The growth of the industry in the State is largely related to the proximity of raw materials, skilled manpower, port facilities and the vast market for iron and steel products. In the period 1991-2004, as many as 243 new iron and steel units were set up, involving a total investment of $1,856.8 million. In fact, between 2002 and 2004 alone, 108 iron and steel projects, with a total investment of $414.3 million, were implemented. According to the State government, the largest investment in 2007 also came in the steel sector. JSW Steel of the Sajjan Jindal Group is setting up the 10 million-tonne-capacity integrated steel plant

  • 'Developmental aid is part of neocolonialism'

    Although RAY WIJEWARDENE, 71, holds degrees in engineering and aeronautics from Cambridge, is a Doctor of Science (Honorls causa) from Sri Lanka"s technological university in Moratuwa and has received numerous awards. including the fellowsh