Agri-value Chains Empowering Farmers for Employment

The complexities affecting sustainable food production attract attention towards profitability, rural employment, poverty alleviation, marketing, policy issues etc. These issues aim at restoring confidence in our farming which has started declining in income generation and profit making. A silent revolution in diets across the country has encouraged diversification towards high-value commodities (horticulture, livestock, fish etc.).These developments have brought into focus the importance of market and processing, and valueaddition to agri-produce. The value chain system consisting of production to consumption is considered ideal approach to address these issues emerging prominently.

The value chain approach involving all stakeholders like farmers, traders, processors and consumers, targets loss prevention to agri-produce, value- addition, rural employment and production of quality raw material and processed products. The value chains are growth catalyst in the Indian agriculture, creating agri-preneurship benefitting all stakeholders. The entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in the development and well being of the society, as it creates jobs, drives innovation and promotes competition which in turn improves productivity as well.

In India, where it is mainly small holders, it as an effective approach. The packaging technology for keeping jasmine flowers fresh and fragrant for 72 hours enabled their export to Gulf countries and the USA. The innovation enabled flowers harvested in the morning from farmers’ fields near Coimbatore to reach retail markets in Gulf countries the next day morning and USA in two days. Every stakeholder including farmers, traders, processors, transporters and exporters involved in the value chain are benefited by earning more.

Millets known for dietary fibre, minerals and bio-active compounds as health foods lost their sheen in rice-wheat based food products and changed habits. Several millet based products from barley, sorghum, foxtail millet, little millets, ragi etc. have been developed through value chains. The products are millet flakes, cookies, khakra, diabetic mix, multigrain roti, and many others. Revival and revisiting millets importance through value chains made everyone including policy makers to include millets in the Food Security Act 2013.

Heaps of waste stem are seen on field borders and roadsides in banana- growing areas. This waste starts stinking in monsoon season and causes environmental pollution besides the natural resource going waste. Innovative idea to extract sap from Scutcher, a waste generated during the process of fibre extraction from pseudo-stem. The sap, a good source of plant nutrients, is further enriched with other organic inputs under anaerobic condition. The product is being packed in plastic bottles and sold in market.

The product not only enhances yield by 10-13% of most crops but has promise of setting up of such units in banana production catchments for rural employment and income generation besides soil health. The value chain on linseed has proved highly promising and successful in rainfed areas. The crop loosing area has started gaining in acreage. Linseed oil is used to make Omega-3 soft gel (capsules) as food supplement, biscuits, poultry feed and Omega- 3 rich eggs. All these products have made a big change and enhanced demand and price of linseed. Everyone in value chain including farmers, processors, poultry owners, marketers and consumers are getting benefited through enhanced income and employment besides health friendly products. Fish in ready- to -cook form was a long-felt need of fish consumers.

This became possible by developing innovative technology of chilled and packed fish products by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Cochin. The technology has been taken by a Kochi based firm registered as incubatee of Business Incubation Centre of CIFT. The firm established a retail marketing network as cold chain of chilled and packed fish products throughout Kerala, under its brand name. The value chains can be formed around a wide range of commodities including foodgrains and oilseeds, fruits and vegetables, flowers, plantation crops, medicinal and aromatic plants, bio-fuel crops, natural dyes, agroforestry, poultry, fisheries, livestock and dairy products. The National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) has focused on development of value chains on production to consumption systems in agricultural sector including crops, livestock and fisheries. The consortium mode approach is followed involving different organizations and groups, such as the public, private, NGOs and the farmer groups.

A total of 51 consortia are supported to develop market-sustainable agricultural value chains. They cover 28 ICAR institutions, 22 SAUs, 38 private industries and 29 NGOs. The value chains comprise the entire set of actors, materials, activities, services, and institutions involved in cultivation and harvesting of a specific food commodity, transforming it into a high-value product and marketing the final product. The systems include innovative technologies from cultivation to processing to packaging. Although the system covers production to consumption aspects, priority is accorded to postharvest processing, quality management and packaging issues.

A number of production and processing technologies have been developed and adopted. Sustainability of a value chain depends on the benefits that stakeholders get and improvements in production process are integral to sustained competitiveness. Several improvements have been made to the existing production processes in rice, millets, guava, jasmine and saffron, which led to increased productivity. For increased income to producers linkages to markets are essential. This realization helps producers of jasmine flowers and guava fruits to establish linkages with traders and realize more income both in national as well as international markets. Jasmine flowers and guava fruits are being exported regularly to Middle-East countries.

Innovation becomes essential to optimize returns from value chain. Innovation in packaging technique has helped in improving the shelf-life of jasmine flowers from 24 to 72 hours, and this has made export of jasmine flowers to the USA possible. Improvement in product development is another aspect, which is important for sustained competitiveness. Innovative value-added products have been developed from millets, fishes and pork, and new entrepreneurs promoted to establish processing units. In agro-processing value chains, consortium on millet foods promoted more than 200 processing clusters across the country.

Aggressive campaigning among rural masses through choupal haats on valueadded foods of sorghum has covered over 12,000 farmers, rural women, entrepreneurs, and self-help groups. Two rural feed processing unitsestablished at Mahabubnagar, Nellore are running successfully. About 50 tonnes of complete feed is being produced by utilizing locally available sorghum straw, maize straw, groundnut haulms and blackgram straw.

A model sheep slaughter house is established for providing hygienic meat to consumers. A scientifically managed pig farm and feed mill unit with a milling capacity of 8 q/hour has been developed. Regular disposal of slaughter house waste in aerobic waste disposal pond helps in maintaining the environmental safeguards in the= farm premises. Three frozen products consisting of oceanic squid tentacles and two dried oceanic squid products have been developed. Instant millet dosa mix containing foxtail millet, split blackgram and rice has been prepared, its recipe has been standardized and nutritional and physical evaluation are being done.

Value- added millet products, cookies and khakara, showed significant difference in breaking strength, cutting strength and snapping force but the products were acceptable for organo-leptic sensory characteristics. A nutri-product from ragi; a mix flour of malted ragi (fingermillet), greengram and Bengalgram in the ratio of 3:1:1 (w/w) has been popularized. This product is popular among the school- going children as energy drink and infant mothers to mitigate calcium deficiency. Micronutrient fortified nutrimix based on pearlmillet and milk solids for weaning purpose has been developed. Entrepreneurship development programme with women self-help group (SHG) has resulted in establishment of two processing units in village Taprana and Darad in district Karnal in Haryana. An MOU has been signed for business incubation and technology transfer of bajra biscuits, snacks and other bakery products.

A value chain on industrial agroforestry in Tamil Nadu addresses the production to consumption constraints in paper and matchwood industrial raw material generation. Model bi-partite, tri-partite and quad-partite contract farming system involving farmers, research institutes, wood- based industries and financial institution as stakeholders are designed. New industrial wood species for pulp, ply wood and bioenergy have been demonstrated. Overall, 7,500 ha area has been brought under the species of Casuarina, Eucalyptus and Melia,involving 2,378 farmers in 30 districts. Jasmine flowers produced in Tamil Nadu are exported to Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Middle East countries and USA.The export of jasmine is projected at 1,350 and 1,500 kg/week to Dubai and USA. A reliable export packaging technology has been developed and used to meet the increasing demand for fresh flowers.

This technology has resulted in reduction of post-harvest losses and increase in flower yield. Guava farmers were trained on good agricultural practices and proper packaging. They are introduced to exporters from Pollachi for exporting guava to Gulf countries. About two consignments (250kg each) are sent by air in a week. Thus, successful and sustainable value chains developed are agro-forestry, flowers, guava and mango, banana, custard apple, ginger, saffron, coconut, protected cultivation, sorghum, bioethanol, millets, linseed, prosopis, natural dyes, biomass, pashmina, meat, milk, dairy products, small pelagics, oysters, and tuna fish. It is hoped that these value chains will remain sustainable and serve as an inspiration for the development of several more agricultural value chains in the future.

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