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ITC aids farmers in new techniques
Business Standard - 06 Aug 2007

Tobacco major ITC has extended its frontline demonstration of modern cultivation techniques to cover over one lakh farmers this year, in an ambitious private-public initiative that was launched last year.

ITC’s Choupal Pradarshan Khet (CPK) programme, launched in 95 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, is supported by the state governments and various companies engaged in the manufacture and sale of agricultural inputs.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation (BPCL), which sells lubricants to farmers, has extended financial support for this ambitious programme which aims to motivate farmers to adopt best practices in farming.

The Soybean Processors Association of India (Sopa) is also contributing to the initiative.

According to S Sivakumar, chief executive, international business division, ITC, the programme comprises 40,000 CPKs of an acre each in the current kharif season and there will be 60,000 CPKs in the rabi season.

The crops covered under the programme are paddy, soybean, cotton, sorghum, maize and bajra in the kharif season and wheat, pulses, bajra and mustard in the rabi season. The programme will also cover vegetable farming in Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana.

Last year, ITC held 15,000 CPKs, which helped improve yields of various crops by 14 to 29 per cent.

Sivakumar said ITC would also use the programme to understand the reasons why many farmers are unwilling to adopt modern practices of cultivation. “Real farm-level data is critical for any extension work in the future,” he pointed out.

Through this programme, ITC will essentially provide farmers technical consultation and supervision of crops. Technical aspects include soil-testing, balanced fertilisation, foundation seed and seed treatment, water management, weed management, integrated pest management and post-harvest management. The company has deployed over 600 trained personnel for the programme.

The farmers would be charged a nominal Rs 150 each to enroll in the programme, while the actual cost works out to over Rs 2,000.

“It has been decided to charge the farmers to ensure that they are more attentive. Besides, they will be able to demand services from the field staff in the programme,” Sivakumar said.

The CPK programme depends on the Indian Meteorological Department for weather forecasts, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research for farm practices, state agricultural universities and departments of agriculture to answer farmers’ queries, seed corporations and fertiliser companies for inputs, insurance companies for weather insurance and banks for credit.