Brace for pricier veggies as heatwave delays price drop: Crisil - Business Guardian
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Brace for pricier veggies as heatwave delays price drop: Crisil



Vegetable prices in India are expected to remain elevated in the coming months due to above-normal temperatures until June, according to a report by Crisil. The India Meteorological Department’s forecast of an above-normal southwest monsoon in 2024 offers hope for a potential easing of prices post-monsoon. However, the distribution of the monsoon will be critical in determining the extent of relief for consumers.


NEW DELHI: The onset of a heatwave across India, particularly in the northern plains, has caused discomfort in various regions, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasting severe heatwave conditions in the east and south Peninsular India. While Northwest India may experience relief with expected rainfall and thunderstorms, the intense heat poses challenges for vegetable storage and warehousing. Prices of main vegetables in Delhi’s Azadpur mandi have shown a mixed trend, with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) warning of inflation risks due to extreme weather events. Additionally, a study by PUSAN National University in Korea highlights the heightened vulnerability of people with disabilities to heatwaves, with increased hospitalizations and medical costs, particularly for mental and respiratory diseases. Individuals with brain lesion disorders, severe physical disabilities, females, and those over 65 are particularly susceptible to heat exposure effects.

India’s vulnerability to climate change poses significant risks to vegetable production and prices, with rising temperatures exacerbating pest problems. In FY24, vegetables accounted for about 30 percent of food inflation, despite comprising only 15.5 percent of the food index. Surging prices of tomatoes and onions grabbed headlines, but other vegetables like garlic and ginger also saw triple-digit inflation. Erratic weather patterns have disrupted vegetable supplies, leading to price spikes in recent years. Short-term solutions such as buffer stocks and imports have proven ineffective due to the perishable nature of vegetables.

The lack of infrastructure, including cold storage facilities, further complicates the situation. Weather-induced supply shocks, coupled with uneven monsoon distribution, have kept pressure on vegetable prices high. In FY24, El Niño conditions and below normal southwest monsoon exacerbated the situation, leading to several price shocks. As India grapples with the challenges posed by climate change, addressing the vulnerabilities in vegetable production and distribution will be crucial to ensuring food security and affordability for its citizens.

The volatility in vegetable prices, often driven by weather-related factors, underscores the challenges facing India’s agricultural sector. With climate change increasingly disrupting weather patterns, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heatwaves, floods, and storms are on the rise. These disruptions not only affect crop yields but also exacerbate pest infestations, further impacting production and prices. In recent years, India has witnessed erratic monsoon patterns, with below-normal rainfall in some regions and excessive precipitation in others.

Such uneven distribution of rainfall disrupts planting and harvesting schedules, leading to supply shortages and price spikes. Additionally, prolonged dry spells followed by sudden heavy rains can result in crop damage and post-harvest losses, further exacerbating price volatility. The reliance on traditional agricultural practices and inadequate infrastructure exacerbates the challenges posed by climate change. Limited access to modern farming techniques, such as greenhouse cultivation and drip irrigation, hampers the sector’s resilience to extreme weather events.

Furthermore, the lack of adequate storage and transportation facilities results in significant post-harvest losses, contributing to supply shortages and price fluctuations. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that encompasses both short-term and long-term strategies. Immediate measures, such as the creation of buffer stocks and import regulations, can provide temporary relief during supply disruptions. However, long-term solutions, including investments in climate-resilient agriculture practices and infrastructure development, are essential to building the sector’s resilience to climate change.

Enhancing the availability of cold storage facilities and improving transportation networks can help minimize post-harvest losses and ensure a steady supply of vegetables to consumers. Additionally, promoting sustainable farming practices, such as crop diversification and water-efficient irrigation techniques, can mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on agricultural productivity.

Moreover, fostering research and innovation in agriculture, coupled with effective extension services, can empower farmers with the knowledge and tools needed to adapt to changing climatic conditions. Collaborative efforts between government agencies, research institutions, and the private sector are crucial to implementing holistic solutions that address the complex challenges facing India’s agricultural sector in the era of climate change.

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India permits export of non-basmati white rice to Mauritius



The central government has permitted exports of 14,000 tons of non-basmati white rice to Mauritius.

The central government has granted approval for the export of 14,000 tonnes of non-basmati white rice to Mauritius. This decision is significant considering that the export of non-basmati white rice was prohibited in July 2023 to stabilize domestic prices and ensure food security within the country. The exports to Mauritius will be facilitated through National Cooperative Exports Limited, as stated in the notification by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade. Previously, India had permitted the export of similar rice varieties to Nepal, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of Guinea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Seychelles, the UAE, Singapore, Comoros, Madagascar, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, and Kenya, albeit in varying quantities.

While initially amending the rice export policy, DGFT maintained that the export would be allowed based on permission granted by the government to other countries to meet their food security needs and based on the request of their government. West African country Benin is one of the major importers of non-basmati rice from India. Other destination countries are UAE, Nepal, Bangladesh, China, Cote D’ Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, Guinea, Vietnam, Djibouti, Madagascar, Cameroon, Somalia, Malaysia, and Liberia.

In late August, India also introduced additional safeguards by imposing a minimum floor price on exports of basmati rice to prevent exports of non-basmati white rice, which was already under the prohibited category since July.

The central government extended the 20 per cent export duty on parboiled rice till March 31, 2024. Rice which is partially boiled with husk is called parboiled rice. Initially, the duty was introduced on August 25, 2023, and was due to remain effective till October 16, 2023, aimed at maintaining adequate domestic availability and checking its price.

India in September 2022 banned the exports of broken rice and imposed a 20 per cent duty on exports of non-Basmati rice, except for parboiled rice amid concerns about low production due to a fall in the area under the paddy crop. It later lifted the ban in November.

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Andhra Tobacco prices set to surge following crop failures in Brazil and Indonesia



Tobacco farmers in Andhra Pradesh are poised to gain following decreased crop yields in Brazil, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia due to adverse weather conditions. Auction prices in Andhra have surged to near-record levels and are anticipated to escalate further in the upcoming weeks, ranging from Rs 280 to Rs 290 per kg. Experts predict prices to exceed Rs 300 per kg, representing a 30% increase from initial farmer expectations.

The spike in auction prices is attributed to the participation of small-scale players offering competitive bids. Despite initial concerns about surpassing the Indian Tobacco Board’s target production of 140 million kg, Andhra Pradesh farmers are expected to benefit. The board projects total production to reach 160-170 million kg, as reported.

Trade analysts attributed the price increase to crop damage in Brazil and Zimbabwe. Brazil’s production fell to 440 million kg from an estimated 550 million kg, while Zimbabwe’s crop decreased to approximately 245 million kg from an expected 300 million kg. Meanwhile, drought conditions in Indonesia, another tobacco-producing country, resulted in crop failures.

China, another significant producer, has imposed limitations on tobacco exports to protect its domestic cigarette industry in response to reports of global stock shortages. This action has fueled price increases in tobacco-producing nations, as exporters and cigarette manufacturers rush to secure supplies.

The news report quoted a tobacco exporter as saying that the disparity between demand and production is expected to uphold price escalations for another year. “This is likely to benefit Indian growers,” he said.

According to a report by the global cancer observatory Globocan, by 2040, India is projected to witness a significant increase in cancer cases, reaching 2.1 million. Oral cavity cancer stands out as the most prevalent form among all cancer cases, with India boasting the highest number of such patients globally. Tobacco consumption remains a primary factor driving these statistics.

Around 80-90 per cent of individuals diagnosed with oral cancer have been observed to consume tobacco in various forms, including smoking or chewing.

The lifestyle prevalent in specific areas of the country, particularly in the northern regions, significantly contributes to this issue. In these regions, tobacco smoking and chewing are prevalent practices, serving as major contributors to head and neck cancer, according to the Globocan report.

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Digital surveys with AI to improve crop acreage estimates



India is poised to revolutionize its agricultural statistics system through the implementation of routine digital crop surveys, bolstered by advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. According to officials, this initiative, slated for rollout from the upcoming summer, aims to enhance the accuracy of acreage evaluation nationwide.

Officials highlighted that the adoption of digital crop surveys will enable the government to develop more precise farm production forecasts and facilitate the timely implementation of appropriate trade policy measures. They emphasized that the current reliance on data provided by local officials and field surveys for crop sowing information has sometimes yielded unreliable results, leading to impulsive government responses and potential trade disruptions.

Under the proposed system, state nodal officials will utilize a mobile application alongside relevant web applications to conduct digital crop surveys and collect data on crop sowing. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is spearheading efforts to establish a robust crop survey system integrating cutting-edge technologies such as visual and advanced analytics, GIS-GPS technologies, and AI/ML (machine learning) to enhance the accuracy of sowing estimates.

A pilot digital crop survey was initiated across 12 states last year, with initial findings showing promise. Officials indicated plans to expand this initiative to a larger number of states before implementing it nationwide. Selected states for the pilot phase included Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, among others, chosen based on their readiness regarding prerequisite criteria for Digital Crop Surveys (DCS), including geo-referencing of village maps and digitization of the record of rights (RoR) with ownership details.

Pronab Sen, former chairman of the National Statistical Commission, emphasized the significance of gathering accurate crop sowing data, stating, “Building a robust farm statistics system hinges on accurate data collection. The planned new system will undoubtedly contribute, although it may require some time for full implementation.”

India is on the brink of revolutionizing its agricultural statistics system with the introduction of routine digital crop surveys, backed by advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). Scheduled for implementation starting next summer, this initiative aims to significantly enhance the accuracy of acreage evaluation nationwide.

Officials stress that the adoption of digital crop surveys will empower the government to develop more precise farm production forecasts and enable timely implementation of appropriate trade policy measures. The current reliance on data provided by local officials and field surveys for crop sowing information has proven to be occasionally unreliable, leading to impulsive government responses and potential trade disruptions.

Under the proposed system, state nodal officials will utilize a mobile application along with relevant web applications to conduct digital crop surveys and gather data on crop sowing. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare is spearheading efforts to establish a robust crop survey system integrating cutting-edge technologies like visual and advanced analytics, GIS-GPS technologies, and AI/ML (machine learning) to enhance the accuracy of sowing estimates.

A pilot digital crop survey conducted across 12 states last year showed promising initial results. Officials plan to expand this initiative to more states before rolling it out nationwide. Selected states for the pilot phase included Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, among others, chosen based on their readiness regarding prerequisite criteria for Digital Crop Surveys (DCS). Pronab Sen, former chairman of the National Statistical Commission, highlighted the importance of gathering accurate crop sowing data, stating that while the planned new system will undoubtedly contribute, its full implementation may require some time.

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Industry & Commerce

Need better R&D, higher acreage to meet cotton demand: Sampath Kumar



To enhance cotton production, a pilot project was initiated in 2023-2024, introducing technologies like High Density Planting System (HDPS), Closer Spacing planting, and Production technology for ELS cotton.

India needs to focus on R&D and improved cultivation methods to meet the rising cotton demand in the textile industry at a time when the fiber crop is serving as a cornerstone in supporting the livelihoods of approximately 6 million farmers and an additional 40-50 million individuals involved in related activities, said Raghavan Sampath Kumar, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII). He pointed to what Chandrakant Patil, Minister of Textiles, Government of Maharashtra, wrote in an article recently highlighting that the country stands at the cusp of becoming a global textile powerhouse, with numerous states like Maharashtra, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu spearheading policy initiatives to establish textile parks.

The aim is to propel the industry towards a projected $250-billion in textile production by 2030. Sampath Kumar said the textile industry is undergoing a significant transformation with initiatives like the PLI Scheme for Textiles, Kasturi Cotton Bharat program, National Technical Textiles Mission (NTTM), SAMARTH, and PM MITRA, development of 11 exclusive textile parks, strengthening the textile value chain through technological upgradation and so on. With over 45 million skilled workers, the textile sector is significant for employment and economic growth in India. To boost India’s textile sector’s global competitiveness, promoting cotton cultivation is paramount as approximately 74% of the apparel exported from India is made of cotton. Yet, with cotton being the primary source, there are key challenges and concerns that both the government and industry need to acknowledge and address, Sampath Kumar said.

Firstly, the cotton industry requires revitalization through increased production and strengthening of the value chain. With the introduction of Bt Cotton, India saw a significant surge in cotton production from 10 to nearly 40 million bales annually between early 2000s and FY2014, transforming into a leading producer. Cotton production in India increased steadily and rather steeply from 2004-05 onwards primarily due to a sharp rise in yield. However, continuously evolving challenges of pests and diseases, weeds, salinity and soil degradation, and climate aberrations are causing stagnation post-FY2015, with production at 36.2 million bales in FY2022.

Hence, the cotton industry in India is currently at crossroads and there is an imminent need to find innovative solutions through scientific research. Research on pests particularly pink bollworm, several diseases, herbicide-tolerance enable more efficient control against these challenges, reducing manual labor and potentially increasing yields. All these present enormous opportunities for sustainable growth. However, to achieve the above, there should be an imperative on promoting new concepts like High Density Planting System, to increase yields and improve profitability.

It’s crucial for both government and private sectors to collaborate in adopting and promoting innovative technologies to boost yield and farmers’ income, Sampath Kumar added. To enhance cotton production, a pilot project was initiated in 2023-2024, introducing technologies like High Density Planting System (HDPS), Closer Spacing planting, and Production technology for ELS cotton. HDPS has shown promising results, with Maharashtra farmers reporting a three fold yield increase.

It involves denser sowing, boosting light interception, boll production, and yield while optimizing nutrient and water use and suppressing weed growth. Popularizing such practices will increase overall cotton production, realizing the state’s aspiration to drive the Indian textile industry’s growth story.

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New Govt set to initiate agricultural sector reforms in pesticides and seeds



With the farm Acts no longer under consideration, the government might focus on reforming the input aspect of the agriculture sector, which includes regulations and rules governing seeds, fertilizers, and plant chemicals.

Sources said such a blueprint, which is aimed at making the life of farmers easier, with quicker approvals but not compromising on quality, is in the works as part of the 100-day agenda of Modi 3.0. Also, ways to administer fertilizer subsidy more effectively and cutting down on leakages and diversions to build on the success of neem-coated urea are being thought of.

Few years back, a proposal was mooted in some quarters to conduct a pilot in a few districts of the country on a modified version of the direct benefit transfer (DBT) that would establish some sort of linkage between land holding and the nutrient’s consumption.

Currently, the version of DBT in place involves farmers purchasing their fertilizers through point of sale (POS) devices after undergoing Aadhaar authentication. This ensures that the identity of the person who purchases fertilizer bags is well established. However, there is no restriction on the number of bags that each farmer can purchase. This sometimes leads to excess usage and chances of misuse.

In the case of seeds and plant chemicals, sources said lots of reforms are urgently needed as the regulatory and approval process in India takes a long time. This is because it involves multiple layers.

They said the government could look at creating a favorable policy environment for the agrochemicals sector. This would facilitate an increase in agrochemical exports and position India as an attractive destination for foreign investments. It would also safeguard the interests of small and regional players operating in the industry.

The current process for registration of a new agrochemical molecule in India is often perceived as time-consuming, costly, and a complex procedure by the industry. Only a few large multinational companies and leading domestic players can afford to invest in research and development (R&D) to develop new molecules and get them registered for manufacture and sale.

As a result, only around 280 molecules and 800 formulations (including combinations) are registered in India. Compared to India, this number is double in the European Union (EU) and triple in Japan.

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India eases onion export ban, allows additional shipments to Sri Lanka and UAE



India has authorized the export of a restricted quantity of onions to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sri Lanka amidst stringent export regulations on the staple vegetable. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, in coordination with the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), issued a notification permitting the export of an additional 10,000 metric tons (MT) of onions to both the UAE and Sri Lanka, facilitated through the National Cooperative Exports Limited (NCEL).

This decision comes in the wake of India’s continued efforts to manage onion exports amidst fluctuations in domestic availability and international demand. In March, the Indian government had sanctioned the export of 50,000 tonnes of onions to Bangladesh.

However, despite these allowances, the Indian government has extended the ban on onion exports until further notice. Initially imposed in early December 2023 until March 2024, the ban has been extended indefinitely. Export permissions will be granted solely based on central government approval, considering requests from other countries.

The export of onions from India has been subject to various regulatory measures aimed at stabilizing domestic prices and ensuring adequate supply in the domestic market. In August, the government imposed a 40 percent duty on onion exports to curb price inflation and enhance domestic availability. Additionally, a Minimum Export Price (MEP) of USD 800 per tonne was set for onion exports, effective from October 29.

Notably, the export duty exemption was granted for ‘Bangalore rose onion,’ a specific variety with a Geographical Indication (GI) tag, subject to certification from the Horticulture Commissioner, Government of Karnataka.

In response to rising onion prices, the Indian government has been releasing onions from its buffer stock. The buffer stock, maintained to address supply shortages and stabilize prices during lean seasons, has been expanded to 300,000 tonnes for the 2023-24 season, up from 251,000 tonnes in the previous season.

Furthermore, procurement of rabi onions for the 2024-25 season commenced earlier than usual, with a target of procuring 500,000 tonnes during the rabi season. Rabi onions, harvested from April to June, constitute a significant portion of India’s onion production and play a crucial role in meeting domestic demand until the Kharif crop is harvested later in the year.

India’s decision to permit limited onion exports to the UAE and Sri Lanka reflects a delicate balancing act aimed at managing domestic supply, stabilizing prices, and meeting international obligations amidst challenging market conditions. As the government continues to monitor onion availability and demand dynamics, regulatory measures will likely remain a key tool in ensuring food security and price stability in the domestic market.

India’s Policy Response

As India grapples with the intricacies of onion exports amidst domestic demand fluctuations and international market dynamics, the recent policy measures underscore the complexities inherent in managing agricultural trade. The decision to allow limited onion exports to the UAE and Sri Lanka while extending the ban domestically reflects India’s nuanced approach towards balancing conflicting interests of ensuring domestic availability and meeting international obligations.

The authorization of onion exports to specific destinations comes against the backdrop of stringent export regulations aimed at stabilizing domestic prices and safeguarding food security. The extension of the export ban until further notice highlights the government’s cautious approach in managing onion supplies amid uncertainties in production and consumption patterns.

India’s onion export policies have been subject to periodic revisions and adjustments in response to changing market conditions and socio-economic imperatives. The imposition of export duties and Minimum Export Prices (MEP) aims to curb speculative trading and ensure fair pricing in the domestic market. Additionally, exemptions for specific varieties like ‘Bangalore rose onion’ underscore the recognition of geographical indications and the promotion of niche agricultural products.

The role of buffer stocks in mitigating supply shortages and price volatility cannot be overstated. The expansion of buffer stock levels for the 2023-24 season reflects the government’s proactive stance in enhancing food security and stabilizing prices during lean periods. Moreover, the early procurement of rabi onions for the 2024-25 season signifies strategic planning to preempt potential supply disruptions and mitigate market uncertainties.

India’s approach towards onion exports encapsulates broader policy objectives of promoting agricultural sustainability, enhancing farmer livelihoods, and ensuring food security. By striking a delicate balance between domestic imperatives and international commitments, the government aims to foster a resilient agricultural sector capable of meeting diverse challenges and opportunities.

However, the efficacy of export regulations and buffer stock management hinges on effective implementation and monitoring mechanisms. Timely interventions, informed by real-time data and market intelligence, are essential to mitigate risks and capitalize on emerging opportunities in agricultural trade.

Moving forward, India’s onion export policies are likely to evolve in response to changing global market dynamics, climatic conditions, and technological advancements. Embracing digital solutions and supply chain innovations can enhance transparency, efficiency, and resilience in agricultural trade, thereby bolstering India’s position as a reliable supplier in the global marketplace.

Overall, India’s management of onion exports reflects a multifaceted approach that seeks to reconcile competing priorities of domestic food security and international trade obligations. While challenges persist, proactive policy measures, supported by robust institutional frameworks and stakeholder engagement, are critical in navigating the complexities of agricultural trade and fostering sustainable development. As India continues to navigate the intricacies of onion export management, the emphasis remains on fostering resilience, inclusivity, and innovation across the agricultural value chain to ensure the long-term prosperity of farmers and consumers alike.

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