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ITC starts farm extension services
The Hindu Business Line - 14 Aug 2006

  • To advise 7,500 farmers on best practices.

  • On the field Agriculture scientists will advise farmers about good farm

  • Farmers are being charged Rs 150 for classroom training.

  • Of the 7,500 registered farmers, around 4,000 have opted for weather

 ITC Ltd has now taken the concept of agricultural extension services from the Internet to the farm.

The company, which has been offering "e-choupal" network — an Internet-based forum for sharing agri-related information - has now started a farm extension service.

Called 'Choupal Pradarshan Khet', the new initiative will have agriculture scientists advising 7,500 farmers about good farm practices across Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra during the Kharif season.

Helping hand

Senior scientists from the National Research Centre for Soyabean (Indore) and University of Pant Nagar, as well as post-graduates from agriculture universities will supervise farmers from pre-sowing until the harvest.

They will also undertake demonstrations about good farm practices in 7,500 plots measuring one acre each. While paddy is the main focus in Uttar Pradesh, the emphasis would be on soya bean in the other States.

Mr S. Sivakumar, CEO, ITC-International Business Division, said that a participative cluster model was being implemented, where the registered farmer takes up the demonstration on one acre of his landholding and also bears the cost of all recommended nutrients and protective inputs.

Farmers are being charged Rs 150 for classroom training, product literature as well as around five visits from these agriculture experts during the crop cycle.

For an extra price, farmers can also buy foundation seed and weather insurance.

Hands-on training

Officials from ITC said that although only one plot is chosen in every village, 8-10 farmers were invited to participate in the training.

"The idea is to select an average field that is representative of the village. We are not looking for the best field but the most appropriate one for showing the value of adequate agri inputs and risk mitigation techniques," said an official from the Agri Inputs division of ITC.

Of the 7,500 registered farmers, around 4,000 have opted for weather insurance. Officials at the Agriculture Insurance Company said the weather insurance cover had been customised as per the requirements specified by ITC.

This insurance would cover the crops against excess rainfall during the sowing, vegetative and reproductive phase of the crop at a premium of Rs 250.

Expertise is also being drawn in from various agri input companies such as Khaitan Fertilisers and Chemicals Ltd, Bayer Crop Science, Pro Agro, CLASS India, Tata Agrico and Sygenta India.

"The idea is that these progressive farmers could become agri consultants in their village to create a ripple effect in adoption of modern farming techniques to augment production," said Mr Sivakumar.