Market Information at Farmers’ Fingertips in Inida: A New Initiative by NABARD

By Dr. K Parameswaran
Assistant Director, Press Information Bureau, Madurai

New Delhi, Feb 8, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) Timely decisions often make a vital difference to the final results. This is an oft quoted management dictum that is more often followed in default! However farmers in Tamil Nadu have decided to improve their decision making skills with the active cooperation of the National bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

Very often it is the absence of critical information that prevents decisions being made in any timely manner. This is very much so in the matter of agricultural products that are extremely perishable. The farming community very often has to confront some vital questions which has a bearing on their livelihood such as to when should I harvest, at what price should I sell my products, what are the optimal ways in which I can boost my crop productivity, whether favorable weather conditions can be expected or not etc etc!

Information on Mobile Phones

NABARD has embarked on an innovative programme with the help of the modern technology to help rural farmers across this information hurdle. It has entered into an arrangement with the Reuters Market Light (RML), a unit of Thomson Reuters group, to provide farmers with vital information regarding crop prices, weather conditions etc., by using the short messaging services (SMS) that can be sent through mobile phones.

The service will be available on all hand sets and mobile operators. As per the arrangement, RML will provide SMS service connection to members of the NABARD Farmers Club for a period of one year for which NABARD is bearing the annual subscription charges out of its Farmers Technology Transfer Fund (FTTF) a fund maintained by it to promote latest technology among farmers.

RML have been requested by NABARD to provide to member farmers with customized information on a daily basis on spot crop prices of minimum two crops and three markets, taluk level weather forecast, crop advisory, commodity news and other relevant information on market geographies. Accordingly, RML will be seeking preferences from Farmers clubs about crops and markets of their choice for transmission of information.

Around 750 members of NABARD Farmers Clubs from across the Tamil Nadu are to be benefited in the first phase of the programme. In Madurai alone around 200 members will benefit from this experiment.

The formal approval for the project has been accorded by a sanctioning committee headed by Shri R.Narayan, Chief General Manager of Tamil Nadu Regional Office of NABARD.

This arrangement has been commissioned by NABARD based on the data on interested Farmers Club members furnished by District level NABARD officials stationed in different districts across the State. Two members from each Farmers Club have been selected for this facility in whose mobiles the information shall be made available. In turn they are expected to disseminate the information among the fellow farmers.

Free for the First Time!

Shri R.Shankarnarayan, AGM, NABARD, Madurai says that the objective of the initiative to provide cutting edge information using the SMS route is to ensure that farmers get the latest real time price information as also technological inputs to maximize their returns. This facility from RML is already available as a paid service in 15 States across the country such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. However, the facility is being made available free to the farmers in Tamil Nadu, for the first time in India. The subscription is being made available by NABARD.

He also pointed out NABARD was encouraged by the fact that farmers practicing intensive farming of cash crops such as Grapes have leveraged the facility to secure better prices. The facility also gives them the much needed weather forecast to suitably time their harvest.

Development of Software

NABARD has also been instrumental in the development of modern technologies for providing more up to date information regarding agricultural inputs like weather, crop prices, market conditions etc. One of the recent examples of such an initiative is the experiment in Pune, Maharashtra for developing computer software for making information available for farmers.

The Software Institute for Rural Development (SIRD), Pune, jointly funded by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) under its Rural Innovation Fund and by the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India , has developed a unique web-based software to help the farmers of Maharashtra to take investment decisions on farming operations on their land. The Vanarai Trust, Pune, a NGO involved in rural development, under the Presidentship of Padmavibhushan (Dr.) Mohan Dharia has also helped in developing the programme.

The software covers 65 farm and allied activities which are relevant to the agro-climatic conditions prevailing in Maharashtra. The software provides all necessary information related to the selected farm/ allied activities like the quantity and source of inputs like seeds, the farm practices to be followed (spacing of plants, soil nutrient requirements, irrigation requirements, fertilizer/ preventive pesticides applications needed, etc.), expected yield under the farm conditions, the prevailing market prices for the produce and the overall profitability of taking up the activity at farm level. This software can also be used by the financing banks for appraising the farm investments.

- PIB Features