Saturday Sprouting Reads (Agri Food Lifesciences Files, Indian Wool Sector's Woes, Indian Agriculture After the Revolt)
Sherrie Wang has co-authored this interesting paper which uses crowdsourced data from Plantix to draw sugarcane maps at 10m resolution. More than the results, it is the methodology that went into the paper that catches my attention. It could teach a few lessons about the future of data interoperability in Indian agriculture.
Greetings from Hyderabad! Welcome to the February fortnightly edition of Saturday Sprouting Reads!
My name is Venky. I write Agribusiness Matters every week to grapple with vexing questions of food, agribusiness, and digital transformation in an era of Climate change. Feel free to dig around the archives if you are new here.
About Sprouting Reads
If you've ever grown food in your kitchen garden like me, sooner than later, you would realize the importance of letting seeds germinate. As much as I would like to include sprouting as an essential process for the raw foods that my body loves to experiment with, I am keen to see how this mindful practice could be adapted for the food that my mind consumes.
You see, comprehension is as much biological as digestion is.
And so, once in a while, I want to look at one or two articles closely and chew over them. I may or may not have a long-form narrative take on it, but I want to meditate slowly on them so that those among you who are deeply thinking about agriculture could ruminate on them as slowly as wise cows do. Who knows? Perhaps, you may end up seeing them differently.
Saturday Sprouting Reads goes out to 28.5 K+ curious agribusiness readers across the globe.I am accepting requests for unconventional content sponsorship experiments from contrarian agritech startups chasing the holy grail of sustainable impact. Do write to me if you want to collaborate.
[Subscriber-Only]: Welcome to Agri-Food Life Sciences Files
Food as we know it is being unbundled as we speak. It's high time we set the stage to investigate Agri-Food Life Sciences Files.
In this inaugural edition of Agrifood Life Sciences Files:
1) Why do we need to talk about Agri-Food Life Sciences Files?
2) India’s Protein Conundrum: India has a massive protein deficiency crisis and arguably the best livestock model in the world.
If you want to look at the brighter side, arguably speaking with data, India has the best livestock model in the world.
Consider the facts:
a. Income from animal husbandry as % of total farm income has improved from 19.85% to 29.41% between 2012-2019, especially for smallholders, with land less than an acre.
b. India is the world’s highest livestock owner at about 535.78 million.
c. First in the buffalo population of the world, second in the population of goats and fish, second largest poultry market in the world, and stands fifth in the population of camels.
d. There is no MSP for livestock in this country. Farmers face market volatility head-on. As per Ashok Gulati, fisheries are growing at 9% per annum. Milk and meat are growing at 5% per annum.
e. When you study the number of cereal crops allocated directly to human food; used as animal feed, and allocated to other uses (predominantly industrial uses such as biofuel production), India stands tall at 93% ( 2017)
If you want to look at the not-so-bright side, despite being the owner of the world’s largest livestock, India is protein deficient. India has the lowest average protein consumption (at 47 gm per person per day) as compared to other Asian countries as well as developed nations.
3) The Good Food Institute boldly invents a new category in the market: Smart Proteins
Why do we need to create a new category?
To bring down the cultivated meat at $5.66 by 2030, when animal-derived meat in the US currently costs about $4/lb, requires massive collaboration efforts across various players across various scales.
Indian Wool Sector’s Woes
Despite having the world’s third-largest number of sheep in the world with 74.26 million sheep under 42 registered breeds, India’s wool production has been declining over the past few years.
No wonder, India has started importing lambs after 30 years (the last import was during 1993 when India imported the Rambouillet sheep from the US.)
‘Of the 860 Australian Merino sheep imported between December 2019 and February 2020 under the National Livestock Mission, Jammu and Kashmir have received 420, Uttarakhand 240 and Himachal Pradesh 200.’
Obviously, this has a lot of behavioral consequences.
“Imports grew to an extent that even the carpet industry that absorbed Indian fibre began using them. Now, there is no offtake of wool from Gujarat or the Deccan states because it is short-stapled…We get huge revenues from meat exports, so it has become more lucrative for shepherds as wool procurement is almost nil. All states have started promoting fatty breeds
No wonder, sheep meat production has been on the rise, thanks to government-sponsored subsidy initiatives.
Telangana promotes the meat-producing Nellore breed through a subsidised sheep distribution scheme and the breed now comprises 51 per cent of the state’s sheep.
The truth of the matter is this: Sheep care hasn’t gotten as much attention as other agricultural activities.
“During my tenure at the wool board, we just procured wool from sheep herders and sold it to the textile industry. There was no value addition. There were no processing facilities or measures like washing, carding and grading which would have helped in its marketing. The board employees were also not paid on time,” [Mohammed] Sharif, who is also former director of sheep husbandry in Jammu and Kashmir, said.
The administration recently disbanded the board saying “there has been no significant on ground impact on production and marketing of wool and wool-based products.”
Is anyone who talks about ‘Atmanirbhar’ [Self-Sufficient] India listening? Is any agritech entrepreneur listening? An opportunity is sitting out there for value addition and technology intervention to shear wool.
Indian Agriculture After the Revolt
Imagine a massive ensemble “Avenger” cast of experts of Indian Agriculture (of diverse stripes and ideologies) getting together to discuss cordially the current state of affairs after the farmer protests.
That’s what this video is about.
My analysis on Farm Laws and farmer protests so far:
Part-1: Setting the Context 🔒 | Part-2: No Country for Middle-Men | Part-3: In Defense of the Government 🔒 | Part-4: Samudra Manthan in the World of Agriculture: | Part-5: "Annadata" Conundrum" And Mapping the Cultural Wars of Agriculture 🔒 | Part-6: Can I offer you a grey pill on farm laws? | Part -7: Greta Thunberg and the aftermath of Farm Law Politics in India | My TEDx Talk on the need to dialogue in context with the farm laws.
I listened to this two-hour-long video recently and I can tell you, it is one of the finest panel discussions on Indian Agriculture I’ve ever listened to, in a very long time.
It asks fundamental questions about making sense of Indian Agriculture: 1) Does it make sense to separate MSP from procurement regime? 2) Why are there very few agritech startups from West Bengal and the eastern part of the country? (Check out my survey on this ) 3) Why have we made the Punjabi farmers the villain in our current Indian agricultural discourse?
It’s also a master class on the complexity of Indian Agriculture. And just when you think they have covered it all, you get a lovely jolt towards the end from the summarizer of the conversation that the entire discussion missed a crucial point. (I am not going to reveal it. Go find out).
It’s impossible to summarize this long discussion, although I have taken copious notes and I plan to write tangentially about a few themes in upcoming editions.
I wanted to make sure that you check out the video discussion in its entirety.
So, what do you think?
How happy are you with today’s edition? I would love to get your candid feedback. Your feedback will be anonymous. Two questions. 1 Minute. Thanks.🙏
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