The Tamil Nadu government has earmarked half an acre and allotted funds to set up an Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Authority (APEDA)-certified lab at Chinnamanur in Theni district, N Subbaiyan, Director, Commissionerate of Horticulture & Plantation Crops, has said.
He was responding to a representation made by the Confederation of Indian Industry(CII) during a conference on ‘Digital Agriculture,’ organised by the industry body recently.
“The lab will be operational in the next one year,” Subbaiyan added. The CII had highlighted that the absence of an APEDA testing centre is forcing banana producers in Theni to take their produce to Kerala for quality testing for exports.
In his inaugural speech, Subbaiyan listed out some of the initiatives taken by the State government to encourage innovation in agriculture such as theUzhavan app, the Micro Irrigation and Management System (MIMS) portal, and making available 61 parcels of land free of cost for farmers to do R&D.
“In the last 7-8 years, only 2 lakh hectares of land was brought under micro-irrigation whereas 2 lakh hectares have been covered under micro irrigation this year itself,” Subbaiyan said.
“But so far only 4 lakh hectares out of 15 lakh hectares have been covered under micro-irrigation. So there is more to be done,” he added. Pointing out that over 1.5 crore trees were uprooted by Cyclone Gaja, Subbaiyan said the government is aiming to plant 7.5 crore trees (commensurate with the State’s population size) through the ‘Investment in Trees’ initiative under which tree planters will be incentivised by the government if a planted tree stays for more than 6 months.
Speaking at the pre-inaugural session, Ram Dhulipala, Head - Digital Agriculture & Strategic Initiatives, Icrisat, said that while the farmers would be interested in getting information, they would not pay anything for that.
“The only way is to bundle the information with input companies like brand loyalty among farmers,” Dhulipala said, adding that agriculture cannot have a platform-based business model like Amazon.
“In the last 27 months, consumer food inflation has been running lower than general inflation,” said K Venugopal, Co-chairman, Agriculture & Food Processing Task Force, CII (SR), and Whole Time Director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd, at the inaugural session.
He added that five of those 27 months saw negative growth in the consumer price index with food inflation index recording -2.61 per cent in November while general inflation was up 2.3 per cent.
“This 5 per cent gap means that while we as a consumer pay less for our food than we did last year, those who produced it are getting even less,” Venugopal added.
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