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Spike in yields unlikely to leave Kerala paddy farmers richer

It’s a surprisingly big paddy harvest for Kerala farmers this season. But with the procurement price stymied by the state government's price ceiling, it doesn’t necessarily mean good news for the farmers.

With Kerala itself needing 7,500 tonne of rice per day and production in the state sub-optimal, the government, through its grocery arm Supplyco, procures the crop at R19 per kg. At open prices, the farmer gets only R15 per kg. In the current season, Supplyco has procured as much as 70,000 tonne. The R19/kg procurement price for paddy is reportedly the highest in the country.

The catch, however, is that Supplyco's ceiling for procurement at R19 per kg is 5.5 tonne per hectare. In Palakkad, which has 83,000 hectares under paddy cultivation, many farmers have reported yields as high as 9.1 tonne per hectare.

“This means the farmer may not be able to get the best price offered only for part of his harvest,” a senior official at the state agriculture ministry told FE.

The state has about 300,000 rice growers, mostly small and marginal farmers with average land holding below 0.4 hectare. "Theoretically, the state government could amend the norms, but the ongoing general elections would be the perfect excuse. Even otherwise, the farmer has to run from pillar to post to get the procurement dues,” says M Suresh Kumar, a farmer.

Although the average paddy yield in Kerala is only 2.7 tonne per hectare, Palakkad, with 12 dams exclusively for irrigating rice fields, logs as much as 5 tonne per hectare. But the current harvest yield, expected to average 9 tonne per hectare, has been unheard of.

“What was almost miraculous is that the yield surged when the mercury climbed in November, December and January," says Leelakumari, a senior farm official.

Kuttanad, the other paddy granary of Kerala, is also reporting above-normal yields this season, with some farmers reporting 7.5 tonne per hectare.

"A new variety of paddy, Uma, developed by Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), was used extensively both in Palakkad and Kuttanad. In Palakkad, the shift to machine planting could also have improved the harvest," say the officials.

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Kerala paddy farmers expect a bonanza

Farmers in Palakkad, Alappuzha and Thrissur have pleasantly been surprised by what looks like a bumper paddy crop this season, but some of them, specially those in Palakkad, may not be able to reap the full benefits of the high price for paddy being offered by the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) which has put a quantity-per-hectare ceiling on procurement.

Farmers in Palakkad, who took to machine planting, have reported yields of about nine tonnes a hectare. However, Supplyco ceiling for procurement at Rs.19 a kg is 5.5 tonnes a hectare. But a Supplyco official said that farmers in Palakkad would be able to sell their entire harvest provided they produced a certificate of production from their respective agricultural officers.

The official said that the ceiling had been imposed to prevent cheaper paddy from neighbouring States like Tamil Nadu being sold to the corporation. Supplyco offers the highest procurement price for paddy in the country, the official claimed.

The high procurement price has made it attractive for unscrupulous elements to smuggle in paddy and sell it for a profit, passing the consignments as local produce. Though small farmers would not be able to engage in such operations, agents have been found indulging in it. Paddy sells between Rs.15 and Rs.16 a kg in the open market in Kerala.
Kole area

Farmers in Thrissur’s Kol areas have also reported higher than normal yields this season. Most of Kuttanad is expecting better yields this season despite the unusually dry conditions in December and January. Reports from the area, where harvesting is about a week old, said the yield is in the vicinity of 7.5 tonnes a hectare.

The Supplyco procurement ceiling is 7.5 tonnes a hectare in Kuttanad and eight tonnes a hectare for Thrissur Kol.

The high procurement price has made farmers rush to Supplyco. The corporation has procured more than 70,000 tonnes of paddy this season and about 30,000 tonnes of this is from Palakkad. Procurement in Alappuzha is more than 5,000 tonnes and in Thrissur it is more than 20,000 tonnes. Procurement in Kottyam district has gone up to more than 12,000 tonnes. Central to this season’s bumper crop is the Uma variety of paddy, developed by the Mankombu rice research station of Kerala Agricultural University and released in 1998.

A senior scientist at the Rice Research Station told The Hindu on Sunday that researchers were yet to develop a variety that would out-yield Uma. The variety was developed with the specific conditions in Kuttanad in mind, where excessive acidity and pest attacks are major problems.

The scientist said that yields have been up to eight tonnes a hectare during some of the past seasons and this year the crop has been bit of a surprise because the climatic conditions appeared to be adverse given that there were no rains in November-December. Occasional rain during these months helps wash out the excessive acidity in the soil.

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Kerala lost over 6 lakh hectares of paddy fields in 30 years

KANNUR: Kerala has lost huge expanses of paddy fields in the past few decades and we have just around 2.75 lakh hectares of paddy field left in the state compared to over nine lakh hectares thirty years back thus resulting in major reduction in paddy production, according to experts.

"Though we require over 40 lakh tonnes of rice per year today, our production is just six lakh tonnes and we have to depend on other states for our needs," said A S Anilkumar, agronomy professor at College of Agriculture, Padannakkad, addressing a seminar organized by the Department of Agriculture in Kasargod collectorate on Thursday.

Since the lost paddy fields cannot be reclaimed, then only way is to increase the productivity in the remaining paddy fields through mechanization and modern methods of cultivation, he said. Thought this the issue of labourer scarcity can also be effectively addressed.

"As of now we produce only five tonnes of paddy per hectare, and this should be increased to at least 10 tonnes," he said pointing out that in the states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh the production is to the tune of 20 tonnes per hectare.

Earlier, agriculture minister K P Mohanan distributed Rs one lakh each to ten Padasekhara Samithis in the district in a separate function in the same venue.

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No Machine,Manpower to Harvest Paddy

Paddy farmers in the eastern part of the district are fretting over the shortage of labourers and non-availability of harvest machines.

Owing to it, paddy crop in over 80 hectares of Pambakkuda block panchayat, ready for harvest, is withering. According to farmers, paddy ought to be harvested by this week and if immediate steps are not taken it would lead to heavy loss.

C K Prakash, president, Karshakasangam Koothattukulam area, said it is not easy to find labourers as they have opted for other jobs. The authorities of the local bodies instead of taking immediate steps remain apathetic to the issue, he said.

The two harvest machines available at the block panchayat were defunct as against the requirement of five and no steps have been taken to repair them. The issue will intensify as paddy crop in over 830 hectares in the block panchayat is getting ready for harvest.

“The authorities should mobilise as many harvest machines as possible from other panchayts. If the block panchayat authority continues its apathy towards the issue, we will stage protests,” he said.

Isha Madavan, president, Pambakkuda block panchayat, said paddy crops in the area, including Piravom, Pambakkuda and nearby areas attain maturity at same time which causes hurdles. The block panchayat will take all possible steps to tackle the issue. We are planning to take machines on lease from nearby panchayats, she said.

She noted that labourers were taking up other jobs which has led to a shortage.

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Conserving the nearly extinct navara red rice organically

 The Navara Eco farm is nestled on the banks of the quietly flowing Shokanashini river in Chittur, Palghat district, Kerala. The unique aspect of the farm is that it has the largest navara rice growing field (12 acres) in the State.

“Navara is a medicinal rice variety and its cultivation is almost extinct. Many reasons such as non-availability of pure seeds, low yield and high production cost are attributed for this. The speciality is that this is the only organically grown navara rice farm in the region,” says Mr. P. Narayanan Unni, a third generation marketing executive-turned-farmer, running the everyday activities of the farm.
Mr. Narayanan Unny in his rice field. - Photo: M.J. Prabu
Unlike other rice varieties, which are white in colour, navara is deep red and has been cultivated in the Palghat region for more than 2,000 years but in the last 40- 50 years it has come close to being completely wiped out due to several new hybrid varieties being introduced.


After taking over the farm’s management about 15 years ago, Mr. Unni decided to turn his attention to conserving native rice varieties in the region. He figured out that many of the traditional varieties are fast becoming extinct.

“I desired to work on conserving this specific rice because, apart from being a traditional variety, it is well known among the local farmers. After years of strenuous effort I was able to collect and segregate enough seeds and gradually moved into cultivating solely navara rice in my 12 acre farm,” he says.


During this time, he turned to organic farming in a serious manner and gradually evolved the concept of Navara Eco Farm.

“The journey was not easy,” says Mr. Unni and adds “conserving the variety proved an almost impossible task because sourcing pure seeds seemed uphill.

In some places the variety was already contaminated by other hybrid varieties. In addition the low yield (200 kgs from an acre) made the cultivation commercially unviable.

Added to this were problems faced during conversion to organic farming.

According to him, conversion to organic farming in navara rice was not very remunerative but his interest pulled him on.

Pest control proved a major challenge. “Tulsi and marigold were planted on the field bunds to repel the winged menace. Once pests damaged our four acres. For the next cropping season we trained our workers to catch the pests using nylon nets.”

Being a traditional variety it was grown organically but because of its poor yield and difficulties in controlling pests and diseases conventional method of farming was adopted by some interested farmers to conserve it.

Many moved away to growing other hybrid rice varieties.

The crop is sown for seeds directly in the main field during April and harvested in June. Once the seeds are collected and cleaned it is again sown in December and harvested in February (60 days crop)

Selling price

Approximately from an acre 200 -250 kgs are harvested. The variety is presently being sold for Rs. 400 a kg through personal contacts.

But why organic? Can we not grow this crop using fertilizers?

“Since it is a medicinal rice variety for consumption we decided to adopt only organic methods. We did not want the chemical residues in the harvested grains,” explains Mr. Unni.

Over the years the farm has been able to educate the labourers on effective farming methods specifically tailored for this type of rice farming. Today the workers guide other growers on the best practices being followed at the farm, according to Mr. Unni.

Several awards

The several awards and recognitions conferred by State, central governments and other leading agriculture institutions seem to prove the importance of his work.

Recently the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority conferred the second annual Plant Genome Saviour community recognition award on him.

“The farm has also formed rice clusters for navara and got it registered under Geographical Indication through farmer led initiatives. The entire farm is certified organic from 2006,” says Mr. Unni.

Many scientists, students, authorities of various government departments and agencies are visiting the farm to learn about this variety and its cultivation details.

For details interested readers can contact Mr. Narayana Unni at Navara Eco Farm, Karukamani Kalam, Chittur College P.O., Palakkad Dist, Kerala, India, Pin: 678 104, Phone: 04923- 221177 and 222277, email:, Mobile:09447277749.

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Supplyco to procure 75,000 tonnes of paddy

The Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) will procure a minimum 75,000 tonnes of paddy from Palakkad in the current first crop harvest as against 65,308 tonnes in the last second crop season.

Arumugha Prasad, paddy marketing officer of Supplyco, said here on Friday that 27,194 farmers had registered their names with the corporation to supply paddy as against 19,257 farmers in the last season.

He said Supplyco would procure the entire paddy, and exceed its target in view of the bumper crop owing to good monsoon rain.

Paddy will be procured at Rs.18 a kg., Re.1 more than that in the last second crop of paddy season. Paddy procurement had started last week. Already 1,060 tonnes had been procured.

The major share was procured from Alathur and Chittur taluks.

Twelve private rice mills in Palakkad taluk and 11 mills in other taluks in the district had been authorised to buy paddy from farmers at the government fixed procurement price of Rs.18 a kg. Sixty-eight per cent of the total procurement by private rice mills would be converted as rice and supplied to Supplyco, Mr. Prasad said.

He said 11 out of the 12 officers allotted from the Agriculture Department for the procurement scheme had joined duty on Thursday.

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Puthenkari padam grows rice after a quarter century

 KOCHI: This harvest season, the farmers in Puthenkari padam in Ezhupunna, Alappuzha have a reason to cheer. Their attempt to cultivate pokkali, a traditional variety of rice, in the 140 acre land here which had not seen paddy cultivation in the last 25 years, has yielded results.

Interestingly, the farmers collective had leased out the land from a fish farming group after what could be termed as a struggle against the monocrop farming instead of the 'one paddy, one fish' culture, following rise in salt water intrusion in the land and fall in number of farm labourers over the years. "We held talks with the district administration, agricultural department and panchayats seeking permission to cultivate paddy in the land," said Francis Kalathungal, general convenor, Pokkali samrakshana samithi.

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Tiruvallur farmers ready for Onam

 Red rice, beloved of Keralites, continues to be harvested in Tiruvallur district in small quantities although availability in the city remains low. The farmers of villages including Medhur, Polur, Panapakkam, Pallipattu, Poonai Mangadu and Podhatturpattu time the crop and the harvest it around Onam to meet the demand from buyers from Kerala.

“It is a good variety and resistant to most pests; it also costs lesser to cultivate, takes less time and also brings in more than our regular varieties like BPT and Rupali. This year, one bag of Rupali paddy is being sold at Rs. 930 but TKM 9 is sold at Rs. 1, 100 a bag,” said M. Selvaraj, a farmer of Medhur village where a few farmers have just about finished harvesting TKM9 paddy. Many hotels use red rice to make idli and dosa batter as it adds to the taste.
Farmers in the neighbouring district harvest the crop in time for Onam to meet the demand. Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam
However, in recent years, the land under cultivation of TKM 9 variety of rice in Tamil Nadu has come down.

“The State government had in 1992 permitted the sale of mota rice (the fat kind) to other States. After that, many farmers took to its cultivation. But now that has slowly come down as even Keralites have stopped consuming red rice and are having white rice. In the past decade, the cultivation of varieties including CR 1009 have come down to third of what was being done,” said D. Thulasingam, President, Federation of Tamil Nadu Rice Mill Owners and Paddy – Rice Dealers Association.

However, red rice is not widely available in rice wholesale shops in the city. “We consume only red rice. Earlier, it used to be available more freely. But now we are able to buy only branded red rice in department stores,” said Suseela Peter, a resident of Choolaimedu, who hails from Kottayam.

Though many Keralites such as senior citizen Visalakshi Balakrishnan have stopped consuming red rice for various reasons including non-availability and the time it takes to get cooked, many households will definitely have it for the ‘sadhya’ on Thiruvonam day. “I use red rice only to make puttu and idiyappam,” she said.

On Onam day, homes such as those of H. Shankar of Virugambakkam, who hails from Calicut, would have both red and white rice varieties.

“We will have guests over for lunch and they will like to have red rice,” he said.

M. Nanda Govind president, confederation of Tamil Nadu Malayalees Association, said that only those belonging to the older generation continued to consume red rice.

“Back home in Kerala, though our family cultivates red rice, we exchange it for the white variety. Nobody consumes red rice though it is supposed to have health benefits,” he said.

Diabetologist V. Mohan said that the red rice available earlier had more health benefits as it was less polished. “The rice available today is refined grain. Hence, its glycemic index is high,” he said.

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Water conservation project to improve paddy production

Water conservation project to improve paddy production

The district panchayat is all set to start a water conservation project to augment paddy production in the kole fields of the district.

Under the project ‘Jala Samruddhi’, the district panchayat plans to set up half-a-dozen check-dams in the water canals for water conservation, which is expected to ensure water for two sessions of farming at kole fields.

According to Anil Akkara, the acting president of the panchayat, the project is expected to increase the area of paddy cultivation under kole fields by 8,000 acres and production by 1,600 tonnes.

“At present, farming is being done in 4,000 acres of kole land only once a year. Just before the season, water will be pumped out of the fields, which lay below mean sea level, through the Enamavu canal to the sea,” he said.

Instead of pumping out water into the sea, it will be diverted to various water canals, which will, in turn, help improve the ground water table in the area.

“We plan to set up six check-dams in the 12-km stretch water canals from Puzhakkal to Vyasagiri. The check-dams will maintain a steady water level, which will help solve the severe water crisis in various panchayats such as Mundathikkode, Avanoor, Kolazhy, Kaiparambu, Adattu, Mulakunnathukavu and Wadakakanchery.”

The proposed check-dam at Peringandoor will solve the severe water crisis of Thrissur Medical College to a certain extent, Mr. Akkara added.

The district panchayat will attempt paddy cultivation twice a year in 8,000 acres of kole land. An amount of Rs. 10 crore has been earmarked for the first phase of the Jala Samruddhi project, which is expected to take off in October. The project will be implemented within 780 days.

The district panchayat is also exploring the possibilities of fish farming at the check-dams. “There is huge scope for cage fish farming of varieties such as pearl spot at these check dams,” Mr. Akkara said. They planned to cultivate bamboo on the bunds of the canals, which would fetch the panchayats a tidy income, he added.



'36,000 tonnes of rice to be sold through Maveli stores'

The Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) will sell 36,000 tonnes of rice through Maveli stores during the Onam-Ramzan season this year, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said on Friday. He was speaking after inaugurating the Onam-Ramzan People’s Bazaar at the Putharikandam Maidan here. “The government was planning to market 10,000 tonnes more compared to the corresponding period last year,” the Minister said, adding that it would suffice to check the price rise in the open market.
Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob and Health Minister V S Sivakumar visiting the sales counter of Supplyco Onam-Ramzan Metro People’s Bazaar after the inauguration at Putharikandam in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday | Express Photo
“Despite an increase of 11 to 15 per cent in the prices of commodities sold through the Supplyco, the prices were still 40 per cent lower when compared to the open market,” the Minister said.

“Only 15 per cent of the food consumed in the state is locally produced. Famine in states such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu would seriously affect Kerala. This year, the Onam bazaars would be there for 45 days,” the Minister said.

“The Centre had assured that steps would be taken to ensure that the Food Security Bill does not affect the state adversely,” Health Minister V S Sivakumar, who presided over the function, said.  He also made the first sale. Supplyco managing director Shyam Jagannathan and general manager George Joseph were present.

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Kaipad rice has huge potential

M Govindan, Associate Dean, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics, College of Agriculture, said there are around 4100 hectares of Kaipad rice tracts in the three districts. The paddy production potential of varieties per hectare ranges from 1.9 tonnes (traditional varieties) to 4.2 tonnes (Ezhome).

Considering an average Kaipad rice production of 1.8 tones/hectare, there is a potential of production and marketing of approximately 7000 tonnes of organic Kaipad rice per year, if the entire Kaipad tracts are made cultivable, he said.  C R Elsy, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Cell convener, KAU  said the farmers will have the right to use the name as a brand for their produce. The organic products have good domestic and international market which fetches farmers more income.

The Kaipad way

Rice farming is carried out in a natural way in Kaipad, relying on the monsoon and the sea tides.Neither chemical fertilizers nor plant protection chemicals are used. The tidal flows make the fields highly fertile through a symbiotic relationship between rice crop and prawn, shrimp and fish. The fingerlings of fish, shrimps and prawns, which swim in from the sea and the backwaters after the rice harvest, feed on the leftovers of the harvested crop.

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India State Launches Online Paddy Rice Procurement

India’s southern state of Kerala has introduced a computerized process of paddy rice procurement to prevent delay in payment to farmers and reduce glitches usually associated with manual filling of forms.

In the online process, farmers have to register on the website of the rice procurement agency in the state, Supplyco, within 30 days of planting rice in their fields. With computerization of rice procurement, errors will be reduced and payment will be swift, the Civil Supplies Minister of Kerala told local sources this week. The paddy procurement process in Kerala is expected to be fully computerized by September 2013.

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Crop insurance scheme in Kerala

 Kochi, July 17:  United India Insurance Co Ltd in association with Agricultural Insurance Co of India Ltd is implementing crop insurance scheme in Kerala.

The scheme is applicable for crops such as paddy, banana, etc.

The crops applicable to each district are being notified by the State Government.

A statement issued here said the premium to be borne by farmers is 50 per cent. The balance will be met by the Centre and the State government by way of subsidy.

There is no restriction with regard to extent of farming area. Small-scale farmers can also join in the scheme.

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Heavy rain, floods destroy paddy cultivation in Kuttanad

Kerala : Heavy rain and floods have completely destroyed the second round of paddy cultivation in Kuttanad in the district. Principal Agricultural Officer C.K. Sajitha said out of the 2,985 hectares, cultivation in 995 hectares had been completely destroyed. Cultivation in other areas including Thakazhi and Thalavady has not been affected. However, the threat of bund breach still looms large over these areas.

Positive factor

According to S. Leenakumari, director, Rice Research Station (RRS), Mankombu, the situation was good for farmers who were yet to begin the cultivation. “It is good for those paddy fields where the second round of cultivation is yet to begin,” she said.

K.G. Padmakumar, former associate director of Regional Agricultural Research Station (RARS), Kumarakom cautioned against increasing the area of second round of paddy cultivation known as ‘Viruppu’. “There should be enough space to retain the flood water. If most of the paddy fields are cultivated, then it will result in increase in flood water level. Cultivating large areas of paddy fields could result in delay in beginning the ‘Puncha’ season,” he said.He said there was an increasing trend in recent years to go for cultivation of more areas for the second round. “The obvious reasons are the easy availability of combine harvester machines and favourable rainy season. But the situation has changed this year with heavy rains lashing the district. So it is not advisable to cultivate in large areas. There should be some mechanism to limit the area under cultivation,” he said.

Mr. Padmakumar also pointed out that the heavy rains had come at a good time as salinity in the Vembanad lake was at its highest. “This year the salinity is 14 ppt, which is the highest since 1986. However, the rains will flush out the salinity. The water from the eastern side will bring in the silt that increases the soil acidity needed for cultivation,” he said.However, Ms. Sajitha said the target this year was to bring 13,000 hectares of the paddy fields in the district under second round of cultivation. This was higher than the last year, she added.

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Minimum floor price for native aromatic rice varieties mooted

Kerala : Production of traditional aromatic rice varieties will be enhanced and optimum returns to farmers ensured, Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan has said.

He was accepting recommendations made at a workshop held at the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) here on Friday.

A proposal to procure native aromatic rice varieties at a guaranteed minimum floor price of Rs.40 was put forward at the workshop.

A.K. Gupta, director, Basmati Exporters’ Development Foundation, said strong ties between roller millers-cum-exporters and farmers were important to ensure sustainability of aromatic rice cultivation.

“There should be a healthy, transparent and trustworthy bond between key players for common gain and sustainable farming,” he said.

Even though Basmati had a wider patronage it was yet to get Geographical Indication (GI) tag. However, scented rice varieties such as Gandhakasala and Jeerakasala had been GI tagged.

He said at least 20 per cent of the market price should be guaranteed to the producer. In Delhi 1kg Jeerakasala rice cost more than Rs.100, but the money did not reach the producer.

Farmers could get their due only if links with millers and traders were established and support mechanisms put in place, he said.

Conservation and popularisation of aromatic rice cultivation through farmer participation in farm conservation and seed distribution was suggested.

Speakers at the workshop called for adequate processing facilities with rubberised hullers/roller millers, the Department of Agriculture’s support for supplying seeds with higher productivity, promotion of traditional hand-milled organic scented rice varieties as special premium brands and exploiting their potential in the global market for the benefit of farmers through the support of APEDA (Agricultural & Processed food Products Export Development Authority).

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Rice bran oil gaining acceptance as cooking oil

 Kochi, June 18: 

Production of rice bran oil (RBO) holds immense potential in India considering the surge in paddy production at 150 million tonnes over the last 10 years.

According to The Solvent Extractors Association of India, the rice bran oil production in the country is currently at 9 lakh tonnes (lt) against the potential of 14.6 lt. There is an untapped potential of 5.6 lt.

Japan, Thailand, China, South Korea are amongst the leading countries producing rice bran oil.

B.V. Mehta, Executive Director, SEAI, told Business Line that increased production of rice bran oil would help bridge the shortage of edible oils in India when its full potential of 14-15 lt is exploited.

India, he said, imports about 100 lt of edible oil worth Rs 55,000 crore a year to bridge the gap between demand and supply of edible oils. With full exploitation of rice bran oil, the country could reduce its edible import bills by about Rs 3,000 crore a year.

Besides, the RBO production will give better realisation for paddy to the farmers. Rice bran is an oily layer in between the paddy husk and the white rice.

Various research studies have proved that this oil is good for health and protect the consumer from the danger of coronary heart diseases, diabetes and cancer and good for overall health, he added.

According to Mehta, India produces the best quality of rice bran oil and has emerged as the largest producer of this cooking oil. This has been attained following the efforts taken by the Association to encourage its use among the health-conscious consumers.

The SEAI had taken a six member delegation to Japan to study the latest technology in RBO processing.

With all these efforts, he said many RBO and blended RBO brands entered the market in the last few years and today India started producing the best quality of rice bran oil.

Until recent past, RBO produced in India was mainly used for soap manufacturing and production mix of vanaspati manufacturing. It was through the awareness programme of SEAI that this edible oil has become popular and accepted as health cooking oil, he said.

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Paddy farmers win Plant Genome Award

Palakkad paddy farmers have won the Plant Genome Saviour Community Award for 2012.

The individual awards for plant genome conservation were won by Ciby George Kallingal of Pattikkad, Thrissur and N. Vasavan of Pachapoika in Kannur.

(from left) Ciby George Kallingal and N. Vasavan, who won the individual awards for plant genome conservation; and B. Pradeesh, who was selected for the Community Award for Plant Genome.

The Kerala Agricultural University has sponsored and recommended the awardees. The awards have been instituted through Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right (PPV&F R) Authority.

The first community award, instituted in 2011, was won by pokkali farmers, sponsored by the KAU.
The community award carries Rs.10 lakh, a memento and a citation. The individual awards carry a cash prize of Rs.1 lakh, a memento and citation.

Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will present the awards at a function to be held in New Delhi on May 22.

KAU Vice-Chancellor P. Rajendran; Director of Research T.R. Gopalakrishnan; and IPR cell convenor C.R.Elsy; are scheduled to attend the function.

The Akampadam–Chimpanchia Padasekhara Samithy led by B. Pradeesh has been selected for the Community Award for Plant Genome on the basis of services for protection of traditional varieties and conservation of germplasm.

The samithy also partnered with KAU to produce the first ever varieties developed through participatory research, Kunjukunju Varna and Kunjukunju Priya, as part of the innovative GALASA (Group Approach on Locally Adaptable and Sustainable Agriculture) programme introduced by KAU in 1999-2000.

The germplasm conserved by Palakkad farmers have also been the gene source for many high yielding varieties developed by major research institutions.

Ciby George, a role model for young agriculture entrepreneurs, has been selected for the award based on his excellence in farming practices.

His 20-acre farm is a model one. He grows plantation crops, exotic fruit trees, and keeps domestic animals, pets, ornamental birds and horses in his yard.

N. Vasavan of Kannur is a traditional farmer whose 7-acre farm houses rare collections of germplasms of coconut, cashew, pepper and medicinal plants.

He also cultivates tubers and plantains. Some of his innovative practices such as growing ants to destroy mosquito eggs have inspired scientists to pursue research in such modes of biological control.

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KAU to step up research in microbial inoculant technology

 Kerala Agriculture University is preparing to step up research in microbial technology with the objective of developing a range of bio-fertilizers and bio-control agents to meet the growing demand for eco-friendly options from farmers in Kerala.

Scientists at the KAU have developed potent cultures of Pseudomonas and Trichoderma, bacterial and fungal strains that act against plant pathogens and promote plant growth.

The university has evolved technology for large-scale production and application of bio-control agents. It has recently developed a microbial consortium capable of combating a variety of fungal and bacterial diseases.

“The role of microbial inoculants in sustainable agriculture assumes special significance in the context of their eco-friendly nature, growing demand for organic vegetables, and the rising threat of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables,” says P. Rajendran, Vice Chancellor, KAU.

Essentially, formulations of living organisms, microbial inoculants, when applied to the soil, improve nutrient availability, reduce input of chemical fertilizers, and promote sustainable agriculture.

“We have made remarkable achievements in this area. This is a giant step towards converting Kerala in to an organic state,” Dr. Rajendran said.

Pseudomonas and Trichoderma have been proved to possess a broad spectrum of activity against an array of plant pathogens causing serious crop diseases. The KAU has developed the technology for large-scale production of Pseudomonas in powder and liquid formulation of Pseudomonas and Trichoderma. A simple technique for farmer-level multiplication and field application of Trichoderma in organic manure has also been evolved.

The university has secured the registration of the Central Insecticides Board (CIB) for Pseudomonas.

The mother culture and production technology have been transferred to the State Bio Control Lab (SBCL), Mannuthy, under the State Department of Agriculture and different KAU centres for commercial production.

“Farmers are now fully convinced about the potential of these cultures and the response is so high that the SBCL and university centres are not able to meet the demand,” Dr. Rajendran said.

“All the centres are running on profit. It is expected that the royalty from the sale of mother inoculants will add additional annual revenue of more than Rs.10 lakh to KAU”.

Using mother cultures developed by the KAU, different agencies in the State are producing 1,200 tonnes of bio-control agents annually that can substitute 200 tonnes of fungicides worth Rs.6 crore. They also produce 100 tonnes of bio-fertilizers equal to 1,000 tonnes of nitrogen worth Rs.2.5 crore.

Farmers in Kerala use microbial inoculants extensively for the management of serious diseases and promotion of growth in black pepper, vanilla, cardamom, betel vine, ginger, rice, and vegetables.

Betel vine farmers in Thiruvananthapuram district and spice farmers in Idukki depend heavily on Pseudomonas and Trichoderma for disease management.

The current annual production of bio-fertilizers in India is less than 13,000 metric tons, against a potential demand of 34 lakh tonnes a year.

“There is tremendous potential for microbial industry. KAU has identified this as a sector for advanced research and massive production and hence a centre of excellence has been envisaged,” Dr. Rajendran explained.

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Kottayam bucks the trend in paddy cultivation

 THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Group farming initiatives started three years ago in Kottayam district by self-help groups and farmers have bucked the trend of declining paddy production in the state.

Production went up by 55.2% while area of cultivation increased by 44.9% in the last two years in Kottayam without any government support. 

Elsewhere, the fall continues. Area of cultivation in Palakkad, Wayanad, Alappuzha and Malappuram districts declined by 4%, 18.6%, 2.2% and 11.8% respectively. 

Efforts of farmers from upper Kuttanad, which forms a major part of paddy fields in Kottayam district, yielded a rich harvest. "We began a movement - one acre paddy field for one family. It became a success and various padasekrams followed suit,'' says C J Thankachan, secretary, Thaillam, a group farming initiative that spearheaded the movement. 

He said three panchayats - Thalayolaparambu, Kallara and Manjur - together cultivated paddy in 350 acres of fallow land in the last two years. 

"Many people from Ernakulam had bought paddy fields as real estate investment. We persuaded panchayats involved to pass resolutions, calling for paddy cultivationand provided seed and technical know-how to those who showed interest,'' he said. 

In Mudarakala panchayat, a family wanted to plant oil palms in its 80-acre field. Thaillam convinced them to grow rice, and eventually, the family reaped a hefty profit. 

Environmentalist M K Prasad says the state should provide marketing and transport facilities to encourage farmers. "You can produce 19 quintal rice from an acre, so it is profitable. By cultivating paddy we also regenerate our water resources as one hectare can hold up to one crore litre of water annually," adds Prasad.


Supplyco move benefits paddy farmers

Kerala : Supplyco’s decision to procure paddy in the second phase at a support price of Rs.17 a kg has ensured one of the decent returns for paddy farmers in the recent past.

Supplyco’s initiative has compelled private mills as well to give higher price to the farmers. Supplyco started procuring paddy since 2005 when farmers failed to manage returns that were good enough to cover at least production costs.

Though the Union government announced a support price of Rs.12.50 a kg for paddy procurement, the State government raised it by Rs.4.50 on its own, a release issued by Supplyco here said.

Supplyco had already procured 2.28 lakh quintal paddy during the second season. Farmers were being given their dues without delay. So far, Rs.28.15 crore had been distributed on this count. About 70,000 farmers had received the benefit of procurement.

Paddy production had taken a severe hit owing to drought and intrusion of saline water. Saline water intrusion had caused widespread crop loss, especially in Kottayam and Alappuzha districts. Quality of paddy from some areas had also suffered owing to these reasons.

The rice produced from the procured paddy along with the rice received from the Food Corporation of India was being used for distribution through public distribution shops.

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