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Govt Calls Upon Agri-tech startups to Build Strong Framework For Indian Agricultural Growth

Dec 15, 2017

The agriculture sector in India is grappling with many challenges. Lack of adequate land spaces, diminishing water resources, the adverse impact of climate change and escalating costs are taking a toll on the health of this sector. To counter this, the Ministry of Agriculture and Invest India, an official agency of the country striving to promote investments by acting as a facilitator is all set to join hands to seek solutions to issues that are acting as a roadblock towards agricultural productivity.
 
This initiative between the Ministry of Agriculture and Invest India is set to officially launch the Agri-Tech Challenge at the TiEcon-Delhi Summit on December 15.  
 
The Agriculture Grand challenge is a unique opportunity for Agri-tech startups to solve key challenges being faced by India in this sector. The government has identified 12 key problem statements ranging from providing a fair price to the farmer to the creation of yield estimation models, which can be used by farmers.
 
It is worth mentioning that approximately 54.6% of the Indian population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities (census 2011) with only 17 percent contribution to the country's Gross Value Added. Needless to say, the Indian Agriculture industry forms a major part of the economy. The challenges in the industry have created room for entrepreneurship to come up with various ideas, leading to the formation of various Agri-tech startups.
 
Two solutions, idea stage and ready-market stage, for each problem statement, will be shortlisted under the program. The idea stage startups will get incubation support to go from idea to prototype while the ready market solutions will get to be part of a market access program, aimed at the easy adoption of their innovation.
 
    
Source: Entrepreneur.com



Maldives-China FTA: India breaks its silence

Dec 15, 2017

After the Maldives signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with China in a surprise move, India on Thursday broke its silence on the matter saying that it expected the Indian Ocean archipelago nation to be sensitive to New Delhi's concerns. 
 
Stating that India attached the highest importance to its relations with Maldives, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the two countries "have strong historical and civilisational linkages and also at the people-to-people level. 
 
We are also committed to support democracy, development and stability in Maldives, Kumar said in his weekly media briefing here. 
 
 
It is our expectation that as a close and friendly neighbour, Maldives will be sensitive to our concerns in keeping with its India first policy, Kumar said. 
 
The main Opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) led by former President Nasheed raised a red flag after the FTA was rushed through Parliament on November 29 in a record one hour without any debate. 
 
What was surprising was that it was signed even after Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, during a visit to New Delhi, said that his country would sign an FTA with India first. 
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



Government exploring opportunities to make India USD 1 trillion economy

Dec 15, 2017

The government will explore new opportunities in various sectors like providing BPO service from home, digital healthcare and agriculture to achieve the target of making the country a USD 1 trillion economy.  I have asked my ministry to work in detail over involving more women who can work from home for BPO, Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after meeting industry players to prepare a roadmap to make India USD 1 trillion economy.  The minister said that the suggestions given by companies across various sectors will be compiled by January 15.  We have also received suggestions from Dr Devi Shetty (Chairman, Narayana Health) that there can be bedless hospitals. He says if we can have e-commerce then why can’t we have bedless hospitals where everything can be done on digital platform, Prasad said adding that government will explore opportunity in this area.
 
He said that Google has suggested to make a national policy on digital mapping Indian roads and infrastructure which will be considered.  The meeting was attended industry bodies like Nasscom, Indian Cellular Association and companies from across sectors which Included Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, UPL, IBM, Ola, Uber, Panasonic, State Bank of India, Axis Bank.
    
Source: The Financial Express



U.S. trade chief hails WTO splinter groups as victory

Dec 15, 2017

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement on Thursday that the ministerial conference in Buenos Aires will be remembered as the moment when the impasse at the WTO was broken.
 
The assessment was in contrast to dejected fellow WTO trade ministers who lamented the 164-member trade body’s inability to reach new agreements on electronic commerce, agriculture and curbs to fisheries subsidies.
 
Despite his sharp criticism of the 164-member trade body’s inability to negotiate new agreements, Lighthizer managed to attract enough allies at the meeting to form smaller groups of countries to pursue new rules for open electronic commerce and to break down unreasonable trade barriers on food safety.
 
The U.S. also agreed to team up with the European Union and Japan to work within the WTO to combat the kinds of market-distorting trade polices practiced by China, such as subsidies to state-owned enterprises and technology transfer requirements.
 
Many members recognized that the WTO must pursue a fresh start in key areas so that like-minded WTO members and their constituents are not held back by the few members that are not ready to act, added Lighthizer, who left Buenos Aires the night before the conference concluded on Wednesday.
 
Lighthizer’s endorsement of a new direction for the WTO talks may ease fears that Trump will pull out of the trade body, as he once suggested during his election campaign last year. But the statement made no mention of U.S. actions to block WTO judicial appointments, widely seen as a gambit to win reforms in its dispute settlement system.
    
Source: In Reuters



India highlights agri domestic support at WTO’s Ministerial Conference

Dec 15, 2017

India, a participant in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC) 11 in Buenos Aires, has been a proponent in several areas of work in WTO, including public stockholding for food security purposes, the agricultural special safeguard mechanism, agricultural domestic support and e-commerce. 
 
It has been participating in the conference in good faith and in a spirit of constructive engagement, and has tried its best to engage with members in all formats. It is committed to preserving and promoting WTO and the multilateral trading system with a view to take the agreed agenda of WTO forward.
 
Leading up to the MC and at the MC itself, India’s coalition partners have remained steadfast in their support, not only for a permanent solution on public stockholding, but also on other issues of interest to developing countries.
 
India was supported by over 100 WTO member countries on all agriculture issues, including its proposal to set the direction of agriculture reforms by first eliminating the most trade-distorting form of subsidies used mainly by the rich developed countries.
 
The 53-member African Group, as well as a large number of developing countries, have rallied around and firmly supported India in opposing rules on e-commerce and bringing in new issues such as investment facilitation and micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) into the WTO’s agenda.  
 
During the agriculture negotiations in Buenos Aires, a major country stated categorically that they could not agree to any permanent solution on the public stockholding issue at MC11.
 
This posed a severe threat to a successful conclusion of the conference, as there was a ministerial mandate for a permanent solution by MC11.
 
India was surprised and deeply disappointed that despite an overwhelming majority of Members reiterating it, a major member country reneged on a commitment made two years ago to deliver a solution of critical importance for addressing hunger in some of the poorest countries of the world.
 
This has the potential to irreversibly damage the credibility of the WTO, as a ministerial decision of all countries present in Nairobi was not honoured.
 
India continues to participate in the efforts to draft a credible ministerial declaration. It is firm that any ministerial declaration must reaffirm the principles of the multi-lateral trading system, the completion of the Doha Development Agenda, the centrality of development and the availability of special and differential treatment and other concerns of developing countries.
 
    
Source: FNB News



Agri exports up 19.3% in January-October—PSA

Dec 15, 2017

The country’s export earnings from agro-based products in January to October grew by 19.3 percent to $2.984 billion, from $2.501 billion recorded in the same period last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
 
The latest trade data from the PSA showed the bulk of revenues from shipments of agricultural products, or nearly 45 percent, came from coconut products.
 
Shipments of coconut products during the 10-month period reached $1.614 billion, 43.9 percent higher than the $1.121 billion recorded in the same period last year.
 
Earnings from coconut oil expanded by 48.8 percent to $1.331 billion, from $894.954 million recorded last year. Coconut oil accounted for 82.46 percent of the total coconut products exported during the period.
 
PSA data also showed the value of fruits and vegetables shipped by the Philippines declined by 4.3 percent to $1.220 billion, from $1.275 billion a year ago.
 
Export receipt for bananas, which accounted for 48.52 percent of total earnings, reached $592.194 million, 2.9 percent higher than last year’s $575.762 million.
 
According to PSA data, earnings from other agro-based products, including seafood, reached reached $775.745 million, 12.5 percent higher than the $689.681 million recorded last year.
 
During the period, the country earned $398.023 million from shipments of fish, fresh or preserved shrimps, which was 6.3 percent higher than last year’s $374.597 million. It accounted for 51.31 percent of revenues from the export of other agro-based products.
 
Earnings from shipments of sugar products expanded by 43 percent to $149.012 million, from last year’s $104.226 million.
    
Source: Business Mirror



How e-trading in fruits, vegetables can help farmers beat canny middlemen

Dec 15, 2017

Around 3.30 am every day when Bengaluru is still fast asleep, the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) yard in Yeshwanthpur is abuzz. The largest agriculture produce yard in the state, it is spread over 86 acres in the northwestern part of the city. 
 
The over 200 vegetable mandis at the yard are already a beehive of activity. Much of the fruits and vegetables consumed by Bengaluru — through retail shops, pushcarts or restaurants — pass through this wholesale market. 
 
S Ramesh, a farmer in his mid-50s has travelled all the way from Nagamangala, a town in Mandya district, about 120 km from Bengaluru. He arrived at the market the previous night with a truckload of capsicum grown on his farm. In the absence of a resting place in the cramped mandi, Ramesh and the truck driver take a nap in the truck before they start the day. The auction is yet to begin. Vegetable farmers like him live on hope and prayer. Price fluctuation can make their day or break them. 
 
When the clock strikes 4, the auction begins in hushed tones. While produce such as onion, potato, grains and pulses are auctioned on an electronic platform, perishable commodities like vegetables are auctioned in the traditional method. 
 
 
The auction of vegetables is dominated by traders who are also commission agents. Yeshwanthpur APMC officials put the number of licensed commission agents/ traders at around 180. But the local mandi owners say the number is twice as that, about half of them being unlicensed staying off the radar. 
 
 
A FUTILE WAIT 
Bidding takes place in whispers. There are no loud announcements akin to competitive bidding. Farmers either sell their produce to their regular agents or wait for the one who quotes a better price. But in a yard governed by the agents, waiting for a better price appears futile. 
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



Five things to watch out for on December 15

Dec 15, 2017

The five-judge Constitution bench hearing the Aadhaar case will pass its order on pleas seeking an interim stay on the Centre’s decision directing mandatory linking of the UIDAI number with various government schemes and welfare measures. Attorney General KK Venugopal said on Thursday the Centre was willing to extend the deadline till up to March 31 for mandatory linking of Aadhaar.
 
PARLIAMENT WINTER SESSION
The winter session of Parliament begins today. With 14 sittings, the session will come to a close on January 5. As many as 25 pending bills and 14 new ones, including a bill providing Muslim women the right to seek maintenance in case of triple talaq, are expected to be placed in the winter session of parliament.
 
CHALLENGE FOR AGRI STARTUPS
The Agriculture Ministry, in partnership with Invest India, will launch a grand challenge for agri startups at TiE’s mega conclave for entrepreneurs. Participants will be encouraged to come up with new concepts and innovations for 12 specific areas such as soil health, price forecasting, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, food adulteration, electronic National Agriculture Market, among others.
 
CHINTAN SHIVIR
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar will hold a three-day brainstorming session to prepare a blueprint for a new Haryana. At the session, Chintan Shivir, various ongoing development works and schemes will be reviewed. The Opposition has criticised the session to be held at a luxury private resort as a waste of public money.
 
CASE AGAINST MARAN BROTHERS
A special CBI court will hear the illegal telephone exchange case against former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi. According to the CBI, Dayanidhi Maran, during June 2004 to December 2006, when he was the Union minister for communication and information technology, misused his office and installed a private telephone exchange at his residences in Chennai and utilised the facility for business transactions involving Sun Network. It said he had caused a loss of Rs. 1.78 crore to the exchequer.
    
Source: The Hindu Business Line



WTO: India manages to prevent new deal on ecomm, investment facilitation

Dec 15, 2017

The eleventh ministerial conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ended in a stalemate, without any ministerial declaration as the US reneged on its commitment to give a permanent solution to food stockpiling issues of developing countries. The US' refusal to reaffirm multilateralism and the Doha development mandate in the outcome led to a breakdown in talks at the 164-nation WTO as several countries, including India, opposed the US position. 
 
Unfortunately, the strong position of one member against agricultural reform based on current WTO mandates and rules led to a deadlock without any outcome on agriculture or even a work programme for the next two years, India said in an official statement on Wednesday. India, led by commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu, also claimed victory in preventing any interim solution on fisheries subsidies and a work programme on ecommerce. 
 
WTO director general Roberto Azevedo said WTO members needed to do some real soul searching about the way forward and realise they cannot get everything they want. After hectic parleys and no breakthrough in sight on issues such as ecommerce and farm and fisheries subsidies, the talks were ultimately wrapped up. 
 
Though India was unable to push its agenda on food security forward, officials termed the outcome a positive one and said all of India's defensive interests were intact as it was able to prevent any new deal on issues such as ecommerce and investment facilitation. 
 
 
Despite no outcome on a permanent solution, India's food security programmes are protected as the perpetual peace clause is intact. We didn't yield ground or come out losers, said an official in Indian delegation. In fisheries, India was able to push the commitment to 2019, to prohibit certain forms of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, and eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. 
 
    
Source: The Economic Times



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