WestCoast group wins award for support & development of shrimp farmers

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Mumbai, September 16, 2016: WestCoast Group, a fully integrated aquaculture company has won the ‘Community Development’ award at the prestigious Asia Pacific HRM Congress Awards, for the role it played in the support and development of shrimp farmers in Surat and Navsari districts of Gujarat. The award was received by the Executive Director of the company Ms Shweta Vakil, at a glittering function in Bengaluru recently.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Indian shrimp farmers faced tremendous restriction in getting bank financing, WestCoast, under the able leadership of its Chairman & Managing Director Shri Kamlesh Gupta played a pivotal role in supporting the farmers by extending credit for setting up their farms. Till today, along with credit support, the farmers are also being trained on Good Aquaculture Practices, through on-field training, farmer meetings and seminars. All the support has been consistently ensuring a great improvement in farming methods and a good quality end produce. The company also helped in the financial inclusion of farmers such as opening of bank accounts, securing PAN cards and filing of regular tax returns. It has been in constant dialogue with the bankers and government authorities for making easy bank loans and insurance available for the shrimp farmers. WestCoast today supports more than 1,000 people in Gujarat aquaculture farmer families. This form of farming model created by WestCoast is popularly known as the ‘Gujarat-Surat’ model of aqua farming or ‘Venture Capital’ farming.

“This award is a recognition to our belief in inclusive growth. We came to the scene, when no bank was ready to finance the shrimp farmers, a sector considered to be largely unorganised and affected with seasonal vagaries. Our journey with our farmers has been a win-win, where our farmers have prospered with our support and we were able to gain top export quality shrimps on time. ‘We can grow only if our farmer grows’, has been our motto, throughout this journey,” said WestCoast CMD Shri Kamlesh Gupta.

Asia Pacific HRM Congress award is judged by an independent jury comprising senior and accomplished human resources and CSR professionals from the industry. WestCoast was adjudged for the award for bringing value to the parameters such as community development, corporate social responsibility, farmer empowerment, poverty alleviation, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship.

Mumbai-based WestCoast group is among the largest exporters of shrimp from India and a leading domestic retailer of seafood and other frozen products. It is the country’s first and only fully integrated aquaculture enterprise operating in the west coast of India and Gulf of Cambay in the Gujarat State. The group is engaged in the business of shrimp hatcheries, shrimp farms, and processing & freezing of seafood. It is also engaged in trading and distribution of Shrimp feed and other aquaculture inputs, marketing, retail and distribution of indigenous and imported frozen food products, E-commerce, supply to hotels, restaurants & caterers.

WestCoast exports “Cambay Tiger” shrimps to more than 30 countries including United States and major European and South-East Asian countries. Close to 7,000 tons of Cambay Tiger shrimps are exported annually. The company has also ventured into a path breaking project which is Fish Cage culture and has a vision to produce 10,000 tons of the Best Quality Fish per year within the next three years.

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Economy looks set to bounce back but rains can play spoilsport

By all measures, India looks set to regain its place as an engine of global growth. Scattered evidence points towards early signs of a revival. So much so that the visiting International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director, Christine Lagarde, described India as a bright spot in an otherwise stuttering global economy.

The government believes India will be able to grow at over 8% in 2015-16. The IMF has forecast that India will outpace China as the world’s fastest-growing major economy this year. Other think-thanks also expect likewise.

That said, India’s policymakers face a different challenge: Rain.

Freak and unseasonal rains can wreak havoc by damaging crops. Last weekend’s persistent downpour over 48 hours bears testimony to this. Severe weather triggered by a ‘Western Disturbance’ has caused extensive damage to winter crops ripe for harvest across north and west India.

Heavy rain and hailstones damaged standing Rabi crops in the countryside, which feed all major urban centres in the western and northern states. Rabi crops in at least 20 districts were destroyed while harvested grains in open markets were spoilt and reports suggest that only 10% of crops in these areas had been harvested before the hailstorms struck.

In Maharashtra, the surprise rains have hurt onions. The skyrocketing prices that had retailed at Rs 100 a kg in certain areas in 2013 are still fresh in people’s mind.

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India, Sri Lanka to sign agreements on security, agriculture

India and Sri Lanka are expected to sign multiple agreements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to the island nation, including those on security, agriculture and infrastructure, sources state.

Upon his arrival in Colombo on Friday morning, Prime Minister Modi will most likely be received by high-level political leaders of Sri Lanka, with sources adding that a special ceremony is being organised in honour of the visiting dignitary.

Prime Minister Modi and Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena will later hold bilateral talks, with security, investments, the rehabilitation and resettlement of Tamils and the implementation of 13th Amendment high on the agenda, as per sources.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka will reportedly release 86 Indian fishermen and the two nations will also reportedly revive ferry services between Rameswaram in India and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. (ANI)

India should reform agriculture to meet medium-term growth objectives: IMF

India needs to pursue reforms in agriculture vigorously and reduce the inefficiencies in the public system of food procurement, distribution and storage to ensure medium-term growth and help in job creation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday.

“Reforms in agriculture, in particular to reduce inefficiencies in the public system for food procurement, distribution and storage, as well as lessen impediments to interstate movement of agricultural produce, should be instituted,” it said.

India’s growth in agriculture and allied sectors is expected to be 1.1 per cent in 2014-15, down from 3.7 per cent in 2013-14, due to the impact of low southwest monsoon on both kharif and rabi harvests.

According to a recent report from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Indian farming underwent a major structural shift during the period between 2004-05 and 2012-13. It showed the share of horticulture in total gross value of agriculture rose from 28 per cent in 2004-05 to 33 per cent in 2012-13 while that of cereal crops declined from 30 per cent in 2004-05 to 28 per cent in 2012-13.

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Audio Visual Aids Revolutionizing Agriculture In India

BANGALORE: Rikin Gandhi and his NGO, Digital Green, has developed a pilot project in which videos starring local farmers are made and circulated among other farmers with the aim to revolutionalize the agriculture landscape in India. The videos showcase better and improved methods of agricultural practices than the ones being followed in the region. “I used to harvest around 50-55 kg of yield from my farm, but after learning from the videos, I now harvest around 70 kg,” exclaims Snehlata Sinha, one of the beneficiaries of Digital Green in Sardar Bigha village of Nalanda.
Gandhi’s NGO, Digital green encourages farmers to use camcorders and cameras to record healthy farming practices in the remotest villages with the help of government agencies. As the farmers themselves become a part of the videos that adds to the credibility of the films.
Launched in 2006, this iniative by rikin Gandhi has now reached out to over 6000 villages with the hope to improve the rural professional life of farmers.
Gandhi, an aerospace engineer from MIT, never had agriculture in his mind when he started this initiative.
Due to a minor eye affliction, Gandhi’s application for the US Navy in its space shuttle program did not work out. After that chapter, he had the idea to use audio-visual equipments in a local NGO to engage farmers in cooperative agriculture-related projects. The final outcome was Digital Green.

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CapAleph Advisors eyes Rs 125-crore private equity fund to seed agriculture companies

MUMBAI: Spice maker Eastern Condiments’ promoters, the Meeran family, are turning into anchor investors for a new fund targeting early stage investments in food and agriculture.

CapAleph Advisors, founded by former India Value Fund (IVFA) partner George Thomas, hopes to raise Rs 125 crore private equity fund from domestic institutions and HNIs by December this year. The Bengaluru-based firm plans to follow this up with a similar sized debt fund.

“Food & agriculture is one of the backwaters in India which is under-invested. By providing both equity and debt to entrepreneurs, we want to become the first hybrid investment platform in the space,” said Thomas, a former executive at FMCG giant Hindustan Unilever. CapAleph would be entering a market where investors like Omnivore Partners, SEAF’s India Agribusiness Fund and Rabo Equity Advisors have been building up a portfolio over past few years. But there’s a huge opportunity for more investors as well.

“Around 95% of the companies in the food and agriculture space have revenues of less than Rs 100 crore, so the capital requirement is primarily to set up a new facility or distribution centers or getting technology in the B2B space,” said Hemendra Mathur, MD of Rs 250-crore SEAF India Agribusiness Fund which has backed 8 companies in the space. CapAleph expects to invest Rs 5-25 crore in each company, and take significant minority stake in these ventures, typically over 40%. The firm expects to source the deal flow from professors in agriculture universities, food labs of MNCs like Pepsi and Unilever, besides government labs.

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Machines drive 90% of power in farming, humans’ share drops to 5%

Silently, agriculture in India has gone through a far-reaching change in the past few decades. The share of human power available for carrying out the myriad operations in farming has shrunk to a mere 5% as has that of draught animals, the iconic oxen pulling the plough. More than 90% of the power is now drawn from mechanical sources: tractors and power tillers provide the bulk, 47%; electric motors 27% and diesel engines 16%.

These are the latest estimates thrown up by a study of farm mechanization done by C R Mehta, principal scientist, and his colleagues at the Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering, Bhopal.

Four decades ago, in 1971-72, 60% of the power was provided by humans and animals – 15% by farm labourers and 45% by animals. In 1991-92, this collective share had dropped to 26% (labour accounted for 9%). Tractors have made the biggest stride, from a mere 7% to 47%.

These shares are calculated using an average value of power that a human or a draught animal or any of the machines generate per unit of land, Mehta explained to TOI. An average human being, for instance, can yield 0.15 kilowatt power per hectare of land worked while a tractor can give 30.21kW. Mehta also pointed out that these are figures for power availability while actual consumption may be less.

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Wheat output may surpass last year’s record 95.85 million tonnes: Agriculture Ministry

The country’s wheat production this year is likely to surpass the previous record of 95.85 million tonnes achieved in 2013-14, notwithstanding some crop damage in few places due to recent unseasonal rains, a top Agriculture Ministry official said today.

India, the world’s second-biggest wheat grower, could set a fresh record if the current low temperature continues and there are no rains in the current month, Agriculture Secretary Siraj Hussain told reporters on the sidelines of ‘Pusa Krishi Vigyan Mela’ here.

In its second estimate, the Ministry had last month pegged wheat output slightly lower at 95.76 million tonnes for the ongoing 2014-15 crop year (July-June).

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3 key things that Indian agriculture industry is expecting in Budget 2015

It is a known fact that India is an agrarian economy. No wonder, agriculture remains one of the key focus areas for the Indian Finance Minister while drafting the yearly budget. Do you know what his plans for this industry are this year? Well, the industry doesn’t know that either. We got in touch with few industry experts to know what their expectations are from the Budget 2015, and here they are.

Reforms

People in this industry are hoping that with an increasing focus on developing agriculture sector to meet the food security demand in the country, the government will also introduce reforms in agricultural practices.

MK Dhanuka, managing director, Dhanuka Agritech Limited, told BI, “Lack of technical know-how and awareness of superior farm inputs, among farmers is another challenge. Government has attempted several approaches specially targeting marginal farmers; however present dismal state of farmers shows lack of effective implementation of these schemes. Major overhaul of the sector is the need of hour.”

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Why organic farming has not caught up yet in India

Development of organic agriculture as an alternative tool to address the ill-effects of chemical-based cultivation practices is a recent phenomenon in India. It had achieved dramatic progress in the beginning but could not maintain the pace. The growth of organic agriculture in India has been accomplished by three categories of farmers.

The first category is from no input or low input use zones, practising it as a tradition or by default with no organic certification such as the tribes of north-east region. The second and third groups are certified and non-certified farmers, who have recently adopted organic farming realising the ill-effects of modern agriculture and benefits under organic cultivation.

International scenario

Demand for organic food products is growing rapidly across the globe and amounted to $64 billion in 2012.

Commercial organic agriculture is now practised in more than 164 countries in an area of about 37.5 million hectare representing approximately 0.9 per cent of total farmland along with 549 certification bodies and 732 affiliates of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) from 113 countries.

The leading producers are Australia, European countries, Argentina and the US. Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based on the standards set by the IFOAM established in 1972.

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