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A few years back Dr. Manmohan Singh openly admitted on a national platform that the Agriculture Extension Services in India had failed. He called for a review and reworking of extension approaches. He suggested that the onus of technology transfer be taken up by corporate bodies and institutions through a public private partnership mode. He further suggested that the role of the Government be converted from an implementer to being a facilitator. The implementers would be private bodies. The source of his comments can be traced to the successful mode adopted by NGOs in implementing development projects. The success of these projects was due to people’s participation and the self help concept.

Similar approaches have been adopted by a number of other agencies.  Groups of people are mobilised to decide how best they can help themselves with part financial support from development agencies. The pesticide industry too has, on a small scale, developed stewardship programmes where they deal directly with the farmers, educating them on the proper use of pesticides. Of course the pesticides used would benefit its sales. All the same they are able to transfer the technology of the right use of pesticides.

Technology transfer is a multi-faceted task; it involves mobilizing the recipient, demystifying the technology, training and skill development in the use and handholding for developing expertise and finally evaluating the impact. This approach is often referred to as Backward Integration. In other words, companies get in direct touch with their customers to educate them on the right use, which ultimately benefits them. A classic example is GrapeNet, an IT-enabled traceability system created by APEDA. GrapeNet traces through the journey of each export consignment of grapes from the farm level.

This backward integration is also beneficial to rice cultivation. India is one of the most important producers and exporters of Rice in the world. Between October 2011 and January 2012, it even topped Thailand, the first time in four years, with 2.3 million tonnes of rice exported. Backward integration applies most to Basmati Rice. Afterall, Basmati Rice is a unique product meant for a niche market and farmers growing it have regularly faced problems in harvesting, cultivation and storage. They also have to protect their produce from several pests most notably the Khapra beetle

A typical scheme for the backward integration of Basmati Rice would be as follows

1.  Basmati farmers could form a group in self-help mode. This group could be a formal Self Help Group (SHG) or function informally. The farmers of the group preferably should be from similar income group to enhance cohesiveness.

2.   This farmers group would require the patronage of a rice miller cum exporter. The patron miller would provide inputs and guidance in the use of the inputs to the group throughout the season.

3.  The patron miller will employ the services of a middle party for the above task. In successful projects, an NGO usually plays this role. In our scheme we envisage this role being played by a middleman (Artia) along with an NGO to support him in input supply, training and technology transfer, handholding and monitoring. The NGO can outsource this from local agricultural experts or technical service providing NGOs.

The Artia plays this role at two stages:-
a.    In identifying the farmers who will form the group, and
b.    While procuring and diverting the Basmati paddy to the patron. At this stage the Artia alongwith the NGO would also do some basic screening for quality aspects.
4.    The patron provides the inputs and pays for the services of the NGO as well as the Artia. The cost of the inputs is recovered from the farmers and sale of their products. The other expenses for the Artia and NGO services should be the same as commission paid. Thus, on the overall the miller is paying the same amount or may be a little more but he is assured of good quality pesticide residue free Basmati paddy.

Out of past experiences an NGO with a budget of Rs. 2.5 lakh can easily provide these services to 400 farmers. The additional cost per farmers comes to Rs. 500, but offers a reassurance that your product is of good quality and residue-free.

This obviously is an outline. There are other dimensions which are easily handled. Once the confidence between the farmers Group-Artia-NGO and Patron Miller are reciprocated, then it is a win-win situation.

The Grapenet experience can be easily adopted for, to develop Basmati-net. A detailed report follows:-

APEDA started its journey in the area of Traceability in the year 2005, which also marked India’s foray in the implementation of a traceability system at the National level.  It all began with APEDA’s experimenting with the first project of traceability in the Grapes sector, especially created for its export to European Union, named as GrapeNet.

The story of the inception of the first traceability system, GrapeNet is quite interesting.  In the year 2004, there were findings which revealed excess pesticide in grapes, leading to the rejection of grapes exported by India, to EU, at a large scale. Many containers were detained at EU ports and the export was on the verge of getting banned.  Considering the need of the hour and in the interest of the grape trade, APEDA took to finding a solution on a fire fighting mode.  Consultation with stakeholders began immediately following which, a regulatory documentation (Residue Monitoring Protocol) was prepared in consultation with NRCG, Pune for pesticide residue monitoring in grapes for the export to EU.   Initially the RMP was implemented on a manual process, which was made IT enabled in the second phase of implementation; this led to berth of Grapenet.

The main features of the Grapenet were:

  1. The software can be easily used anywhere, anytime i.e. a 24*7 system.
  2. Through commonly available internet connection.
  3. Zero paperwork and zero mistakes.
  4. No document can be issued without the software.
  5. Succeeding steps can be carried our only if the preceding steps were complied with.
  6. A single software system is used by all stakeholders, inspite of their physical locations across the state/country.
  7. Provides a single window resolution online.

This was the first stage of the initiation process. The second stage was making the regulation IT-enabled. It was after all this work that India’s unique initiative – a traceability system for the export of grapes to EU took shape as GrapeNet, in the year 2006.

GrapeNet requires all farmers to register with the State Horticulture Department. Their farms are then inspected by the State Horticulture Inspector. The inspection includes Pesticide residue sampling, testing and certification. The Agmark Department also inspects the farm and if found suitable, gives the farmer a Certification.

The main features of GrapeNet are:

  1. Farmer registration by the State Horticulture Department
  2. Farm Inspection by the State Horticulture Inspector
  3. Pesticide residue sampling, testing and certification
  4. Agmark Inspection, Certification by the Agmark Department
  5. Consignment creation and packing details
  6. PSC Inspection and Certification

The implementation of the said system has created a new confidence in Grape exporters and led to an increase in demand. APEDA gained recognition for its pioneering concept, with the e-Governance Award in 2008 and the e-Asia Award in 2009.

The success of GrapeNet encouraged APEDA to replicate the same model for other products. The second traceability system developed and implemented successfully was AnarNet, for the export of pomegranate

Then considering the potential of the export of organic products and the challenges faced by the organic food industry in fraudulent certification, APEDA designed and implemented a traceability system for export of organic products – TraceNet. The TraceNet system bagged two prestigious awards E-Asia Award 2011 and Agriculture Leadership Award 2011.  The E-Asia award was conferred to TraceNet project in the E-Asia award ceremony held in Chinese Taipei on November 4, 2011.

APEDA identified a fourth product bring under the umbrella of the traceability system, which has been named as peanut.net.

All the traceability systems have used GS1 standards at various levels in the supply chain for achieving traceability. GS1 standards in India are provided and supported by GS1 India, an organization under Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Govt. of India.

APEDA’s traceability initiatives have been acknowledged by various international organizations like UNESCAP, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Productivity Organization (APO) and FAO. APEDA has constantly received the invitations from these organizations.  Mr. Sudhanshu, Deputy General Manager has presented the traceability initiatives at their various programs in Korea, Bangkok, Malaysia, Cambodia and Rome. Another highlight is the fact that that India has not only achieved traceability for the specific products with these systems but also was set up a single window certification for them up to the customs point in the export supply chain. Recently, UNESCAP has agreed to publish a publication on TraceNet system in association with APEDA, to be used for capacity building purposes in various countries. This fervor in international organizations for the traceability system is indicative of the acceptability the traceability systems developed and implemented by APEDA.

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