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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Agricultural Marketing in Meghalaya – Problems & Prospects

In simple words, Marketing involves finding out what the customers want and supply it to them at a profit. A classical definition is the series of services of services involved in moving a product or commodity from the point of production to the point of consumption.
Agricultural Marketing involves the movement of agricultural produce from the farm till it reaches the consumer. This covers physical handling, consolidation, transport, packing, grading, sorting, cleaning and quality control to simplify sales transaction and meet different consumer’s requirement. For the farmer, the strategic function of marketing system is to offer him a convenient outlet for his produce at remunerative price.

Why Marketing is important?
The importance of good marketing can be conveniently considered from 4 different perspective of the economy, the farmer, the product and the consumer.
As societies and States developed there is a movement of people from the rural areas into towns and cities. Urban population on an expanding average grow about 4% annually. This implies that the number of people needing to be fed by the agricultural sector will double in 16 years. In addition, since the amount of food eaten by each individual normally increase as people becomes wealthier, the supply of food to towns and cities double approximately every 10-14 years.
Therefore urban markets will inevitable become bigger. In addition to improved agricultural skills, the farmers will have to take on greater commercial skills as well. This includes understanding consumer’s preferences, delivering quality produce, market oriented production etc.

Problems and Constraints in agricultural marketing:
Farmers are unorganized and have no voice to air their grievances. They are simple and are also easily exploited. Although most of the agriculture production in our State is subsistence in nature, on the other hand, if farmers are to increase production, more attention needs to be paid to the fact that their output must be marketed at a rewarding price. Therefore commercialization of the small farm sector requires the development of market oriented production as well as development of modern marketing infrastructure and facilities to handle the movement and marketing of produce in an efficient manner.
Some of the major constraints related to the development of marketing of agricultural produce in the State can be outlined below:-

1. Lack of organization: The striking feature of agricultural marketing is the lack of any kind of collective organization among  the producers. The buyers of agricultural produce usually operate in an organized way. Under the circumstances, it is common to find that the producers of agricultural products are being exploited by the purchasers.

2. Forced sales: The farmer in general sells his produce at an unfavorable place at an unfavorable time and usually gets unfavorable terms. Because of poverty and subsistence nature of his farming, he usually disposes of his produces even at unremunerative prices. Specially when there is a glut in the market immediately after harvest,  the prices offered are generally low. The nearest place where the farmer disposes of his produce is his village. The effective price realized by the farmer is further reduced by malpractices like under weighment, unauthorized deductions etc.

3. Superfluous Middlemen: Majority of farmers dispose of their produce in the village itself. The result is the intervention of a host of middlemen between the producers and the final consumers. This in turns create a long chain of middlemen in the marketing channels which results in higher prices for the consumers, while the producer share in consumer rupee also decrease substantially. 

4. Multiplicity of market charges: The marketing charges payable by producers are numerous and varied in unregulated markets and they tend to reduce considerably the return to the producer from the sale of his produce. For instance, the farmer has to pay entry toll before his produce can be taken inside the market. Next, he has to incur carrying charges, weighing charges, commission charges etc. Further, the producer has to depend on the broker/dalal to get into contact with the commission agent/buyer. For their services he has to pay some commission. In addition to the commission, he also has to pay a number of other charges like carting /haulage, unloading the cart/basket etc.

5. Malpractices of markets: In unregulated markets, malpractices tend to be common. These are: 

·         Scales and Weights are manipulated against the seller. This practice is rendered easier by the fact that non-standardized weights are often used and due to absence of regular inspection by concerned authorities.

·         There are all kinds of arbitrary deductions and the seller has no effective means of protest against such practices.

·         Large quantities are taken away from the produce as sample and the cultivators are not paid for them even when no sale is effected.

·         Bargain between the agents who acts for the seller and the one who negotiates on behalf of the buyers are sometimes made secretly such that the seller remains ignorant of what actually takes place.

·         The broker who sells on behalf of the producer is most likely to favour the purchaser with whom he comes into contact daily.

·         When disputes arise, the producer has no means of safeguarding his interest.

6. Adulteration: Adulteration is often resorted to while marketing crops and one of the most important reason is the high amount of refraction  allowed. In most of the wholesale markets, a fixed deduction is made for impurities (say 5%) and the terms are non mutual i.e. a producer offering cleaner produce which has only 1% impurities receives the same price as the producer containing 5% impurities. Naturally when this is the case, the seller takes interest to adulterate his produce to the maximum limit.

7. Lack of information regarding prices: Absence of market intelligence as to prices is another defect that contributes to farmers being unable to take timely and effective market oriented decisions.
Good market intelligence helps farmers to
·         Reduce the risk associated with marketing
·         Check whether or not offered prices are in line with market prices
·         Decide whether or not to store
·         Decide whether to grow produce out of season
·         Decide whether or not to grow different products

8. Distress Sales: The farmer on many occasion has to resort to distress sales specially when there is a glut in the market or whenever the market prices are depressed. Since there are no storage facilities for the farmers in the market, the farmer generally has to either carry back his produce or sell even at uneconomic or throw-away prices. 

9. Inadequate Storage Facilities in the village level: The most common problem faced by farmers is the absence of adequate scientific storage facilities at the farm level. The indigenous methods of storage developed by the farmer do not adequately protect the produce from dampness, insect pest secondary infestation resulting in very high level of post harvest losses. Farmers usually store potato in heaps on the ground usually adjacent to his house. As a result, considerable heat is generated inside the heap which aids in rapid degradation of  produce quality.

Role of Regulated Market:
The State has created considerable infrastructure in the Wholesale Regulated Market in terms of market yard with associated facilities like approach roads, modern auction and grading platforms, Cold Storage, modern trader stores and rural godowns etc. The market is also managed by a market committee with adequate representation from farmers, traders including government and local bodies. This has helped in addressing the myriad problems faced by farmers with orderly marketing of farmers produce thus resulting in faster turnaround time for all the functionaries involved, thereby creating efficiency in the overall movement of produce.
Marketing of Potato in the State was brought under regulation during the year 1996. Subsequently, minor forest produce like Broomstick, Bayleaf and Resinwood were also brought under regulation. Farmer’s participation in the market has also improved which is a step in the right direction. Studies done by experts have revealed that, on an average, farmer get reasonably higher prices by selling their produce at the regulated market yard compared to rural, village and unregulated wholesale markets. Regulated Markets have helped in mitigating the market handicaps of producer sellers at the wholesale assembling level. The regulation has also helped ensure fair play of trade practices and market forces. Besides in regulated markets, market charges are clearly defined and specified. Excessive commission and other charges have been reduced and any unauthorized deductions due to quality are prohibited.

Agricultural Marketing is an adjunct to agricultural production. The production function is complete when marketing is so arranged that the producer is assured of a fair return for the investment made. Unless the farmers get remunerative prices, there is no incentive to go for increased production.
The role of the regulated market in agricultural marketing also needs further strengthening by bringing more commodities under regulation specially fruits and vegetables  and market yards equipped with better and modern infrastructural facilities  like packing units, ripening chambers, electronic scales and balances, Weight bridge, electronic display boards to display current market prices,  Linkage with national markets etc. 
 It is therefore in the fitness of things that the primary consideration for the development of agricultural marketing is to organize the existing system so as to secure for the farmer his due share in the consumer rupee, thus lifting his economic status and improving his livelihood.

(The writer is Agriculture Development Officer, Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and can be contacted at

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ONLINE Soil Health Card for Farmers - An AGRISNET G2C service

                                                                By- C.S.Shabong & Ian Saiborne

Fig. 1 - A view of a Soil Testing Laboratory

            Soil is a natural medium for plant growth. In addition to anchoring the plant, soil also acts as a reservoir for plant nutrients. There are sixteen elements considered as essential for plants by scientists, viz., Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulphur, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Boron, Copper, Molybdenum and Chlorine. These elements are considered essential because, in their absence or deficiency, the plant will not be able to flourish and complete its life cycle. All the essential plant nutrients except carbon, hydrogen and oxygen are absorbed by the plant roots from the soil.           

Soil is a complex matter made of three basic components i.e., soil solids (both mineral and organic origin), soil water and soil air. Different soils differ in their physical and chemical properties as well as the life forms flourishing in it. These components are the results of various factors ranging from climate, organisms, parent materials and age of the soil. This complex natural property of soil governs how the plant nutrients are available to plant roots. In some situations, a particular nutrient is available in plenty, where as others are locked within the different soil constituents making them unavailable to plant roots.

            The soils of Meghalaya are dominated by the laterite group. The hilly soils are mostly derived from gneissic complex parent materials and the plains adjacent to the south and northwestern plateaus have alluvial origin. The soils are fairly deep to very deep and ranging from light to medium sandy loam to clay loam in texture. They are also generally characterized by low cation exchange capacity and low base saturation percentage. Because of their location in humid areas the soils are subjected to strong leaching of cations and other elements from the surface resulting in accumulation of clay and Iron(Fe), Alluminium(Al) oxides in the sub-surface horizons, which impart red and reddish brown color to these soils. The soils are also strongly acidic to mild acidic in reaction with pH readings ranging 4.5 to 6.0.

               The soils of Meghalaya are of moderate fertility, having high organic matter content, which is an important indicator of the nitrogen supplying power of the soils. However they are generally low in available phosphorus with medium to high ratings in available potassium status. The soils favor growing of a wide variety of forest trees, plantation crops and orchards like arecanut, cashewnut, tea, pineapple, citrus, black pepper and banana etc. If external source of nutrients are supplemented in the form of fertilizers or organic manure, these soils can support a continuous cultivation of cereals and field crops viz., rice, maize, millets, pulses, potato and different types of vegetables.  

            The Department of Agriculture has established Soil Testing Laboratory in 3 districts of the State viz. Shillong, Tura and Jowai. These laboratories provide free soil testing services to the farming community where soil samples are routinely analyzed for their different physical and chemical properties including their health and fertility status. Generally soil samples are drawn from arable lands by following certain laid down procedures, before being processed and tested. The results from these different tests are then interpreted, correlated with the soil capacity to support sustained crop production, and whether external inputs like fertilizers are required to be added to the soil. Soil testing is a pre-requisite for moving towards maximizing agriculture productivity and optimizing the use of precious inputs for better margins to the cultivator or farmers. The soil testing laboratory, apart from providing free soil testing service to farmers also issue them a Soil Health Card, a two page document which provides an overview of the laboratory soil test results, as well as a crop and fertilizer dose recommendation.

Fig. 2 - Online Soil Health Card Application

            This soil health card is a document which evaluates the health or quality of a soil as a function of its characteristics, water, plant and other biological properties. The card is a tool to help the farmer to monitor and improve soil health based on their own field experience and working knowledge of their soils. Regular use will allow them to record long term trends in soil health and to assess the effects of different soil management practices. This card is most effective when filled out consistently by the same person over time. It provides a qualitative assessment of soil health. The purpose is not to compare one soil type against another, but rather to use indicators that assess each soil’s ability to support crop production within its capabilities and site limitations.
            As part of its e-governance initiatives under the Meghalaya AGRISNET project, whose vision is to provide improved services to the farming community; the Department has successfully implemented a pilot project, online soil health card in East Khasi Hills district.  Developed and customized for Meghalaya by NIC, West Bengal, the online soil health card uses web services to process all the input data as well as deliver the final e-soil health card via the internet. The application also sends an automatic SMS message to the farmer’s mobile phone at the time of registration of soil sample and when the soil health card is ready for generation at the user level. The first SMS informs the farmer about his SHC registration number while the second SMS informs that the SHC is ready for generation by the user. The online SHC is expected to provide a service level of 15 days or less as compared to more than 30 days in the earlier manual system. Further, if the farmers send properly dried soil sample, the service levels will come down even to less than 7 days. Presently, the SHC can be generated both in English and Khasi language from any Common Service Centre (CSC) or any kiosk with internet connectivity. Work on a Garo version will also be taken up shortly.

(The Writers are working as Agriculture Development Officer (info) and Scientific Officer (Soil Survey) respectively in the Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya)

Saturday, March 26, 2011


                                                            - Syiem, Bary & Shabong, C.S.

Smt. Quency Thangkhiew at her Anthurium Greenhouse

          Floriculture was a passing hobby practiced by flower lovers and enthusiasts and Meghalaya is no exception. The people of Shillong were known for their passion with flowers which adorn their verandah and in lawns of prominent houses in Pine city. However in early 2000, availability of improved planting materials, seeds and other scientific, technical inputs and the increasing market demand, has encouraged growers to exploit the commercial potentialities of this hobby. As one hobbyist in Shillong remarked “this hobby of mine has now become a self paying venture due to the increasing awareness by housewives on this art”. Smt. Queency Thangkhiew, one of the earliest enthusiasts has turned this hobby into a thriving commercial enterprise. Thanks to such entrepreneurs, floriculture is now here to stay and Meghalaya is set to witness a colourful revolution in the days ahead. Thanks to the vision of the State Government to turn Meghalaya into a flower State of India, with the active support and participation of such brave entrepreneurs, the future is rosy indeed.
          Commercial floriculture is a recent phenomenon in Meghalaya, promoted and assisted by the Government of India Scheme “Technology Mission Scheme on Horticulture”. Considering the natural advantages that the State is endowed with and the varied range of agro-climatic conditions available, there is high potential for cultivation of all types of flowers. The rich flora and the many species of orchids growing wild in the State, which is the highest ever recorded in a single concentrated area, is a testimony to this fact.
          Meghalaya also has a very high potential for commercial floriculture due to the many competitive advantages the State has: a favourable climate, diverse agro climatic situations suitable for tropical and temperate flowers, competitive labour cost, proximity to Guwahati and Kolkatta Airport etc. The State is divided into 2(two) major floriculture zones namely; the temperate zone and the sub-tropical zone. The entire East and West Khasi Hills and the upper parts of Jaintia Hills district falls under temperate zone while Ri-Bhoi and the Garo Hills falls under the sub-tropical zone.

Commercial Carnations growing under Greenhouse in Nongstoin Horti Hub 
           Floriculture produce, being a non food crop, was not a thrust area in the overall agriculture development plan of the State till the late 1990’s, where the thrust was on increasing food grains production and productivity. It was in 1993-94 that the Department of Agriculture started to popularize floriculture among flower growers and enthusiast through Government of India scheme. The Agri-Horticultural Society, Shillong aided by the Department of Agriculture also organizes flower show and flower competition in Shillong to promote floriculture. This became an annual event and has brought a lot of awareness to the public about modern floriculture practices and marketing prospects.
          Further, with the establishment of a separate Directorate of Horticulture in the State, floriculture got a boost through the various schemes of the State Government like Development of Floriculture Scheme started in 2000-2001, Setting up of Model Floriculture Centre, Establishment of Floriculture projects at Dewlieh in Ri-Bhoi  and Samgong Horticulture Farm in E.Garo Hills districts through the Technology Mission Scheme on Horticulture. The objectives of the schemes were to focus on the promotional and awareness aspects by providing incentives to the farmers and motivating them to grow traditional as well as non-traditional floral crops and houseplants for commercial purpose. The nature of assistance provided is in the form of providing the growers with diseased free planting material, organic/inorganic fertilizers, plant protection chemicals, garden tools and implements for a minimum area of 2000 square meters, along with a package of practices for commercial production. Each unit is envisaged to serve as a demonstration model for which the Department provides technical guidelines through extension and training. Crop selection is on the basis of existing popularity and market demands. A few of the recommended ornamental crops grown are Orchids, Chrysanthemums, Gerberras, Carnations, Liliums, Strelitzia reginae, Gladiolus, Asters, Marigolds, Statice, Gomphrenas, Helichyrsums, Zinnias, Roses and different kind of house plants etc. The concerted effort of the Department in motivating growers as well as providing infrastructural support in the form of green house, poly house, shade nets and other inputs has led to the establishment of a number of private nurseries especially in the East Khasi Hills district.
          The Directorate of Horticulture has also identified floriculture clusters in the State which are suitable for growing certain high value flowers. East Khasi Hills have been identified for Orchids, Carnations and Gerbera; West Khasi Hills for Carnations; Jaintia Hills for Bird of Paradise; Ri-Bhoi for Orchid, Rose, Anthurium, Lilium and Foliage; West Garo Hills for Liliums and Bird of Paradise; East Garo Hills for Anthurium, Foliage and Bird of Paradise. At present, East Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills and Ri-Bhoi districts have established green house floriculture units in the departmental farms as well as in farmer’s field. The estimated area under floriculture in the State is about 500 Hectares.
          The Rose Pilot project which was initially started at Dewlieh Departmental Farm in Ri-Bhoi district at an area of 0.5 hectare has been a success with a production of 2500 cut flowers per day. Today, Rose, Lilium and Anthurium cultivation has also been extended to farmer’s field in village clusters through self help groups and individual farmers. 
          The Anthurium project at Samgong Horticulture farm is a tourist spot for farmers, high power dignitaries and the common people. This is because of the success of the project taken under the cultivation of the flower. The excellent marketing of anthurium as cut flower gives a phenomenal impact to the farmers which encouraged them to go for commercial group cultivation.
            Commercially, there are several existing limitations in the floriculture development in the State, which needs to be overcome through proper planning and developmental efforts at all levels. However, from a technical point of view, the development of floriculture business enterprises in Meghalaya has a very high potential. This potential can be exploited to improve the socio-economic condition of the State. In addition, being a major export item, it can substantially contribute towards foreign exchange earning of the entire country.
          The India Today ranking of States in India has shown Meghalaya’s agriculture to be faring comparatively better among the Small States in North Eastern Region and the magazine ranked Meghalaya comparatively better. The State has also improved from its earlier overall 5th position during 2006 to becoming 1st among North Eastern States (except Assam which is categorized as a big State) during 2007.  This goes on to show that agriculture, specially horticulture in Meghalaya is on a growth trajectory and the State only needs a boost in resources, better post harvest management, marketing linkages, organized marketing and creation of economy of scale in order to accelerate it to the take off stage. With the right policies of the State Government and adequate fund injection through the Technology Mission for Horticulture Development along with farmer’s and entrepreneurs of the State coming forward to take up commercial floriculture, Meghalaya will not be lagging behind and the vision articulated by the Department of Agriculture will hopefully, flower and bloom in its full glory and beauty.  

(The writers are Agriculture Information Officer and Agriculture Development Officer, respectively working in the Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Meghalaya, the land of wine and honey

                                                                     -By Bary Syiem *
Meghalaya, the land of hynñiew trep and hynñiew skhum is blessed with a variety of agro-climatic conditions favoring cultivation of different types of horticultural crops like fruits, vegetables, flowers etc. The natural vegetation profile ranges from tropical to temperate type and indeed, Meghalaya can appropriately be classed as a Horticulture state.

Sohiong wine being promoted in the Indigenous Plant Festival during 2010
 Under this climatic variation, the state harbors an enormous diversity of plants both domesticated and wild, with an impressive variety of habitats and an ecosystem which is a treasure house where future economy can be sustained.  
          Meghalaya is also the home of many indigenous species of fruit plants which may not be found anywhere else in the world. The horticultural wealth of the state in terms of fruit plants includes Peach, Plum, Pear, Pineapple, Banana, Sohphie, Sohiong, Sohshang, Sohphoh Khasi, Sohlang, Sohbrap etc.
The credibility of Horticulture in this state has indeed been established beyond doubt in improving productivity of land, generating employment and also improving the economic conditions of the farmers and entrepreneurs of the state. But the true potential of horticulture can be reached only through effective diversification of its horticultural strength in terms of value addition to horticultural products, capitalizing on market monopoly of our indigenous fruits and their products, popularization and commercialization of indigenous fruits, plants, indigenous herbs and medicinal plants etc. Constraints in the horticulture sector no doubt exist in terms of marketing facilities, lack of infrastructure, poor management system, inadequate institutional mechanism to support horticulture development as per changing trends etc. Some of these constraints are being addressed by the Directorate of Horticulture through various new schemes and their extension machineries, and as a result, the farmers are able to take up cultivation of horticultural crops on a larger scale thereby enabling them to improve on the production of horticultural commodities.
Despite these achievements, there exists a wide gap between the potential and the actual realization. With increasing population and requirements, diversification of horticultural products has to take place. This will encourage the farmers and will act as an incentive to increase production of various fruits.
          As we know, horticulture produce  are highly perishable in nature but over the years, the people of Meghalaya have found many uses for the many varieties of fruits growing here besides enjoying them for table purposes. These include making jams, jellies, squash, and juices to name a few. Looking towards the future people can now exploit the age old hobby of wine making. This trend which certain NGO,s are encouraging through the Wine Festivals etc, takes full advantage of the rich fruit resources of our state.  Some of the home-made wines that were showcased last year included; Sohiong wine, Sohbrap (passion fruit) wine, Sohlang wine, Plum wine, Pineapple wine, Pear wine and a variety of enticing combinations such as Sohmon with Sohiong wine. This hobby could grow gradually as a cottage industry and then commercialized into an industry, which would automatically boost the economy of the state. 
If fruit production, especially our indigenous fruits, is encouraged, this will provide wine makers with a larger selection. And as wine making gains popularity, fruit farmers will have a better market for their harvest. For instance, when the fruit market is saturated during a particularly good season, many farmers lose much of their profit and product due to inability to sell before the fruit is over ripe.  However, if wine makers become viable customers, the farmer would have a market for his fruit.
          It is sincerely hoped that Shillong wine festival and other indigenous fruit festival will help create awareness not only on the art of wine making but also its commercial potential as an industry which will in turn encourage the farming community to grow more fruit trees and thereby realize the full horticulture potential of our state with an economy to match.

(The writer is Agriculture Information Officer, Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and can be contacted at

Friday, March 11, 2011

Horticulture in Meghalaya - A New Development Paradigm

                                                                                                        - Canning S Shabong *
Meghalaya offers an excellent scope for growing of different types of horticultural crops including Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, Plantation crops, Medicinal and Aromatic plants of high economic value. A wide range of tropical, sub- tropical and temperate fruits such as Mandarin Orange, Pineapple, Banana, Lemon, Guava, Pear, Plum etc. are grown all over the State. A large variety of fruits & vegetables, both indigenous and exotic are grown across a wide range of agro climatic zones. The higher altitudes provides conducive ecosystem to grow traditional vegetables like Potato and Cole crops during the rainy season. Tuber and Root crops such as Sweet Potato and Tapioca, Spices such as Turmeric, Ginger, Chillies, etc. also grow abundantly. Plantation crops such as Tea, Cashewnut, Coconut, Arecanut and other spice crop like Black Pepper have been performing well and offer good scope for area expansion. In the long run, these crops can change the entire economic situation of the people of the State.
th Five Year Plan period. Setting up of Cold Chains, Refer Vans are in the pipeline and these will complement the expected surge in production volumes of high value crops in the medium term.
A paradigm shift in approach, priority and focus has been the hallmark of this initiative, which functions on a "farmer’s first" principle. Recognising that Horticulture Development cannot take place in isolation, the Department will strive towards a total approach
from the farm gate, right up the value chain till it reaches the consumer’s plate.
Further, 5 Farmer’s market and 4 new horti hubs will be established along with cold chain and transportation facilities. These initiatives will further provide a boost to the sector.

Photo : Strawberry Plantation in East Khasi Hills District 
This paradigm shift initiated by the department has the potential to propel horticulture as one of the lead sectors in the State. These new initiatives will not suffice if farmers, entrepreneurs and private sector do not actively participate in this vision. The existing gap between the departmental officials and the farmers needs to be bridged, while closer interaction and partnership is the order of the day. The Directorate has also taken the lead in equipping the farmers and entrepreneurs with the best technology and marketing skills through the expertise of the Horticulture Training Centre, Pune, which is a premier training agency in the field of high tech horticulture.
The total cropped area in the State during 2008-09 was 3.37 lakh hectares which is 15.03% of the total geographical area of 22.42 lakh Ha. The net cropped was 2.84 lakh hectares, which is 12.66% of the geographical area. The total area under fruit crops during 2008-09 was 27.02 thousand hectares. Among the fruit crops, the maximum area is under Pineapple (10.53 thousand ha) followed by Citrus (9.36 thousand ha) and banana (6.52 thousand ha). The total area under vegetable crops was 11.94 thousand hectares. As far as spices are concerned, Meghalaya is one of the leading States in Ginger production (area of 9.28 thousand Ha. with production of 50.28 thousand MT) and also one of the leading producers of quality Turmeric (area of 1.9 thousand Ha. and production of 10.04 thousand MT) of a variety known as Lakadong, which has about 7% curcumin content. Arecanut and Cashewnut are leading plantation crops followed by Tea. The total area under plantation crops is 26.86 thousand hectares.
The State’s foray into high value low volume crops, of which Strawberry is the prominent and successful introduction, has changed the economic landscape of the strawberry growers of Ri-Bhoi district. Other crops like like Rose, Liliums, Anthuriums, Carnations, Birds of paradise are also performing extremely well. High value vegetables like Brocoli and colored Capsicum have been introduced and marketed successfully.
Today, the State has successfully set up Horticulture Hubs in all the seven (7) districts of the State with specialisation in flowers and high value vegetables. Each horti hubs will in turn be served by spokes comprising collection centres and crop clusters of surrounding villages within a radius of 10 Km.
The State is organic by tradition and the Directorate has taken steps to introduce organic certification on select horticultural crops. Initially, the organic products can cater to the existing demand in the metro cities, gradually building scale to tap the export markets in the immediate future. The process of organic certification for Tea, Pineapple, Cashewnut, Ginger, Turmeric and Vegetables have been intiated. Organic manures like vermicompost and bio-fertilizers like Rhizobium and Azolla are also being promoted in farmer’s field.
Use of Green house technology, poly-houses, drip and micro irrigation system, water harvesting structures, fertigation, soilless culture are being popularised in order to minimise risk and help farmers overcome the vagaries of nature as well as to standardise quality of produce and reduce economic losses.
Post harvest management, value addition, processing and marketing are the other priority areas that the Department is giving renewed thrust during the 11 Five Year plan period.

( The writer is working as Agriculture Development Officer in the Directorate of Agriculture, Meghalaya and can be contacted at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

ICT intervention in Agricultural Marketing in Meghalaya - By C.S.Shabong*

            Mr. Freeman Rangtong is a progressive farmer from Umsning. He usually sends his broomsticks to wholesale buyers in Mawiong Regulated Market, situated on the outskirts of Shillong; and Ginger to distant wholesellers including outstation buyers/traders. Being a leading farmer from his village, he was informed by agriculture extension workers that current wholesale market prices in Mawiong Regulated Market and Iewduh (the biggest unregulated wholesale market in Shillong also known as BaraBazar and is managed by the Syiem of Mylliem Dorbar) can be viewed and accessed through the computers installed at the Community Information Centre (CIC) located at Umsning Block Development Office. He soon realised that this is indeed a very convenient way of capturing prevailing market prices with the help of the internet, which can be freely accessed through the CIC’s.

Farmers use market information in two ways- current or immediate information to negotiate with traders, to decide whether or not to go to market and, in some cases, to decide which market to visit or supply. Historical information, such as a time series of prices over several years, can be used to make decisions regarding product diversification or the production of out-of-season crops. It can also be used to help subsistence farmers identify opportunities for a cash income.
The task for providing farmers with timely, accurate and relevant information of economic value has eluded many government authorities because of many constraints. Farmers face the dilemma of what crop or combination of crops to plant in the very first instance and their decision are not always invariably linked to market but rely on traditional agricultural practices followed by their ancestors and forefathers. The next decision that a farmer face is when to plant the crop and this decision is usually based on past experience or those recommended by the extension workers and agricultural scientist. The last and important decision is where he will be able to dispose of the produce which is usually his farmgate or nearby rural primary market. Sometimes farmers also sell directly to itinerant traders who visit farms during harvest time, or take their produce to the wholesale market and sell to wholesale traders or directly to consumers. Few farmers also opt to send or take their produce to a more distant market. In some instances, however, farmers may have relationships with traders who have provided them with some form of credit, and they must therefore sell at least part of their produce through those traders.
               In making the decision on where to sell, farmers must consider a number of factors, such as the costs involved in the marketing of the produce, including transport, packaging, and labour. A key consideration in making the decision on where to sell is the farmers’ expectations of prices which may be obtained in the different markets. In making the immediate decision on where to dispose of produce which has already been harvested or needs to be harvested in the near future, farmers need to be aware of the current prices for the produce in different markets.  Knowledge of current market prices would assist them in the bargaining process with traders.
              Mr. Amit Kharmawphlang, also a local youth, on the other hand is a new generation educated businessman with a Master of Business Management (MBA) degree from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, New Delhi. He regularly sources ginger from Ri-Bhoi district and sends to outstation buyers in Delhi and other States in the country. He also use the internet/email in his day to day business transaction and regularly scans prevailing market prices of ginger, broomstick, pineapple etc. through the internet to locate business and trade opportunities as well as to keep himself informed of market movements. 
             In the year 2003, The Department of Agriculture, Meghalaya under the leadership of Shri. K. N.Kumar, IAS, Commissioner and Secretary, Agriculture, Government of Meghalaya was very keen to use ICT intervention in order to provide quality information to farmers to enable them to take immediate decision of whether to take their produce to the market or whether to wait for favourable prices. Realising that ICT could be quickly deployed to provided  relevant and need based information to market users, which include not only farmers but even traders and businessmen like Mr. Amit.  In order to maintain credibility, the challenge was to provide information that is meaningful, understandable, reliable and impartial, timely and accurate.

The decision to use the internet for desiminating market and prices information through web based application was a carefully thought out step to harness modern Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for agriculture development and ushering an era of market driven agriculture in the State. With the able assistance of the National Informatics Centre, Meghalaya Centre, the Directorate of Marketing and Inspection, Shillong and the Meghalaya State Agricultural Marketing Board, the Department of Agriculture was able to conceive, design and successfully implement an internet based market information system which displays prices and arrival information on a wide range of agricultural commodities grown in the State, in real time. The immediate objectives being speedy collection and dissemination of market information from various Rural Primary Markets in the State for its efficient utilisation, to provide timely agricultural market information to stakeholders in the agriculture sector and any other interested parties, to increase the efficiency in marketing by effecting improvement in the existing market information system, to facilitate improved access of agriculture market information to all stakeholders in the agriculture sector and to maintain a reliable database of agriculture marketing on important local produces of the State.
The Tools used for the project were Microsoft Windows 2000 Server, SQL RDBMS at the Back end and Microsoft ASP with VB and JAVA at the Front end. NICNET servers were used to host the web based application and user id’s were created for all the market users from every District and CD Block and Market Centres within the State.          
            This portal is the first web enabled application in the field of agriculture marketing in the State which utilises the 32 Community Information Centres (CIC) for uploading price and arrival information on a wide range of agriculture and horticulture crops grown locally and marketed through those market centres. These CIC nodes are equipped with Server and desktop computers, VSATs based internet connectivity including 2 trained computer operators. Data on prices and arrivals from various rural primary markets are collected by the Horticulture Extension Officer belonging to the directorate of horticulture during each market day, (usually held once in a week) and  entered online on the portal on the same day.
            Through this portal, price and arrival data of 62 markets and 2 daily markets i.e. Iewduh and Mawiong Regulated Market in the East Khasi Hills are displayed.  The web portal can be accessed at Hence efficient, accurate and reliable agricultural marketing information delivery on crop prices and market arrivals including price trends analysis was made possible for the first time in the State including the North Eastern Region. These prices are also used by corporate business organisation like Frito Lays India Ltd. during their market price feasibility studies. Media channels like Doordarshan Kendra Kissan Channel, All India Radio, Kissan Call Centre, Community Information Centres etc. for further propagation to the masses.
( *The writer is presently working as Agriculture Development Officer, Directorate of Agriculture, Government of Meghalaya, Cleve Colony, Shillong-793003 and can be contacted at


By Dr C.O. Rangad*

The geo-climatic situation of Meghalaya offers an excellent scope for growing of different types of horticultural crops including Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, Plantation crops, Medicinal and Aromatic plants of high economic values. A wide range of tropical, sub- tropical and temperate fruits such as Mandarin Orange, Pineapple, Banana, Lemon, Guava, Pear, Plum etc. are grown all over the state. A large variety of vegetables both indigenous and exotic are grown in many places of the state. The high altitudinal place of the state provides good opportunity to grow vegetables including Potato and Cole crops during the rainy season. Tuber and root crops such as Sweet Potato and Tapioca, Spices crops such as Turmeric, Ginger, Chillies, etc. grow abundantly in the state. Plantation crops such as Tea, Cashewnut, Coconut, Arecanut and Spices crops like Black pepper have been performing well and are coming up with great promise. These in the long run can change the entire economic situation of the people of the state.
Growing of horticulture crops has the following distinct advantage over the traditional food crops:
i)              Most of the horticulture crops are perennial in nature and offer larger bio-mass production;
ii)            Horticulture crops and their products have high potentiality for export and foreign exchange earning;
iii)          It enables productive and economic utilization of cultivable wasteland;
iv)          Generates rural employment opportunities;
v)            Provides viable alternative to shifting cultivation;
vi)          Check soil erosion and improves ecological balance.

  • The total cropped area in the State during 2004-05 was 2, 65,874 Hectares which is 11.85% of the total geographical area (22.42 lakh Ha); while the net cropped area is 2, 19,224 Hectares, which is 10% of the geographical area.
  • The total area under fruit crops is 26.23 thousand hectares.
  • Among fruit crops, maximum area is under Pineapple (9.5 thousand ha) followed by Citrus (8.2 thousand ha) and banana (6.2 thousand ha).
  • Total area under vegetable crops is 11.94 thousand hectares.
  • It has second largest acreage of potato (20.8 thousand ha) after Assam.
  • It has sizeable area under cabbage, cauliflower, radish and chow-chow, which are grown as off-season vegetables and mostly marketed out side the State.
  • As far as spices are concerned, Meghalaya is one of the leading States in case of ginger production (9.2 thousand ha) and also one of the leading producers of quality turmeric.
  • Arecanut and Cashewnut are leading plantation crops followed by Tea. Total area under plantation crops is 17.99 thousand hectares.
  • The State’s latest foray into high value low volume crops namely, Strawberry and commercial floriculture like Rose, Liliums, Anthuriums, Carnations, Birds of paradise is very promising. High value vegetables like Brocolli and Capsicum are also being expanded through the Technology Mission Scheme.

·         The State has demonstrated the vast potentialities on Horticulture Development. The Centre of Excellence for Rose, Strawberry and Anthurium has shown the potentialities of breaking new frontiers in horticultural revolution in the State.
·         Various State Plan schemes under general Horticulture for development of fruits, vegetables, plantation crops and spices were taken up on promotional basis.
·         Under the Technology Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture, more facilities could be provided in the form of assistance to the individual and group of farmers.
·         The area expansion of vegetables, flowers, spices and fruit crops have help in improving the economic livelihood of the farmers.
·         The construction of community tank, Vermi-compost units, green houses, irrigation facilities like tube wells, drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation and the provision of improved power and manually operated farm implements and tools are also the incentives that have made a difference.

·         Fruit Sector: - Khasi Mandari – rejuvenation and area expansion; Pineapple- area expansion and processing.
·         Temperate fruit sector: - plum, peaches, pears, kiwi fruit etc.
·         Indigenous fruit sector: - popularization and commercialization of indigenous crops like sohiong, sohphie etc.
·         Vegetable sector: - production of off-season vegetables, potatoes and seed production.
·         Production of low-volume and high value crops like strawberry, capsicum, broccoli etc. and flowers like roses, anthurium, carnation, bird of paradise etc.
·         Cultivation of cash crops like Black pepper, cashewnut
·         Tapping of ground water potential
·         Improvement and encouraging mechanization in horticulture and processing sector.
·         Integrated Pest management with stress on training of Officers.
·         Stress on Organic farming for spices like ginger & turmeric, fruits and vegetables.
·         Encouraging protected cultivation by using plastic and shade nets in horticulture.
·         Research and Development.
·         Post-harvest management including cold chain, grading, packaging and assured marketing.
·         Involvement of women groups in horticulture activities.

The total number of state plan schemes in the state: 36 Nos
Total number of Nurseries: 24 Nos
Total number of processing units: 2 Nos
Horticulture Hubs: It is now proposed to set up 5 new Horticulture Hubs in addition to the ones at Ri – Bhoi and East Garo Hills District
Cold Chains: They will also be set up to stimulate and speed up horticulture development and marketing.
Tissue Culture Lab:1 No.

o   Low to very low productivity of crops;
o   Lack of assured irrigation facility;
o   Poor agro-mechanisation process;
o   Unscientific land use;
o   Poor economic condition of the farmers, remoteness of the area and backwardness;
o   Non-viability of proven quality planting materials suitable to the State;
o    Inadequate extension service in dissemination of improved production technology to the growers due to lack of  adequate manpower at the field level;
o   Absence of appropriate post-harvest technology;
o   Lack of storage and processing facilities;
o   Lack of organized market infrastructure;

Horticulture crops like Pineapple, Banana, Chillies, Sweet Potato, Turmeric, Tapioca and Papaya have registered significant increase in the area and production. Besides, Tea and Mushroom cultivation has also been successfully established in the State. A scheme for Tea Cultivation which was limited to the three districts only has been extended to other districts also. Citrus Development Scheme aims to rejuvenate the Citrus Plantation /Industry in the State through new planting by setting up of new Orchards and by way of providing Financial Assistance to local tribal farmers. Fruit Development Scheme aims at strengthening the Fruit cultivation including supply of planting materials and financial assistance to Farmers. Horticulture Indigenous plants are also being popularized. Special mention may be made to the programmes under Technology Mission for Horticulture Development funded by the Govt. of India through the State SFAC which is being implemented in all the seven Districts of the State. Under this programme substantial achievement have been made in high value low volume crops namely strawberry and commercial Floriculture like Rose, Liliums, Anthuriums, Carnations and Birds of Paradise. High Value Vegetables like Brocolli and capsicum are also being expanded. By the implementation of this programme, progress have been made in the  increase of productivity of Horticulture crops through Mini Mission II by way of introduction of advanced technology, inputs and high quality  planting materials and also by helping to setup market infrastructure for Rural  and Whole Sale markets through Mini Mission III. The programme has also addressed the post harvest and marketing aspects by encouraging private entrepreneurs to set up post harvest facilities under Mini Mission IV.
The Directorate has proposed several major scheme in the Annual Plan 2008-09 which include proposals for Manure & Fertilizers, Plant Protection, Commercial Crops (such as Plantation Crops, Spices, Mushroom, Experimental Tea Plantation, Package Tea & Indigenous Crops), Horticulture & Vegetable Crops (which includes Vegetable, Grant-in-aid to Hort. Societies, Citrus  Development, Fruit Development, Esstt. of Large Sized Hort. Nurseries, Esstt. of Directorate of Horticulture, Floriculture, Strawberry, Rose, Anthurium & Modern Floriculture Centre).

There has been an increase in cropped area, total production and yield per hectare in many cultivated crops in the State since the commencement of the State. The marked increase in some of the Horticulture crops can be seen in the table below:-
Sl. No
Physical Terms
Rate of increase (%)
Fruit crops
Area in Ha.
Production in MT.
Area in Ha.
Production in MT.
Area in Ha.
Production in MT.
Tuber crops
Area in Ha.
Production in MT.
Plantation crops
Area in Ha.
Production in MT.


11th Plan Target (2007-2012)
Annual Plan 2007-08
Annual Plan
1. Fruit Crops
‘000 tonnes
2. Vegetables
‘000 tonnes
3. Tuber Crops
‘000 tonnes
4. Spices
‘000 tonnes
5. Plantation Crops
‘000 tonnes
6. Floriculture
‘000 tonnes

 The targets on Area, Production and Productivity for Horticulture Crops is given below:-
Area = in Hectares,    Production = in Metric Tonnes, Yield = in Kg / Hec


TARGET FOR 2024 - 25.

I) Pineapple

ii) Citrus Fruits

iii) Banana

iv) Papaya

v)Temperate Fruits

vi) Misc. Fruits

Total Fruits

i) Potato

ii) Sweet Potato

iii) Tapioca

Total Tuber Crops


I) Ginger

ii) Turmeric

iii) Chillies

iv) Garlic

v) Black Pepper

vi) Tezpata

Total Spice Crops

I) Tea

ii) Arecanut

iii) Cashewnut

Total  plantation crops


The Horticulture Directorate is implementing schemes and programmes for upliftment of horticulture development in the State. For the first time , the Department has introduced and encouraged the farmers to opt for low volume, high income, high value short duration cropping venture. In this regard, special mention may be made to the programmes under the Technology Mission for Horticulture Development funded by Government of India through the State SFAC for increasing the area and production of horticulture crops. Under the programme, significant achievement is made on the following:-
1.      Strawberry cultivation and Rose Project in Ri Bhoi District.
2.      Floriculture and Off-Season Vegetables cultivation in East Khasi Hills.
3.      Anthurium Project in East Garo Hills.

Agriculture Marketing plays a vital role in development of rural economy. A properly organized marketing system ensures remunerative return to the farmers for their produce and in turn help in augmentation of production. Meghalaya has immense scope for development of horticulture through diversification and intensification of production plans.
            The market demand for horticultural products is ever increasing due to growth in population as well as economic development and capita income. The most important advantage, however, is the market potentiality of horticulture produces that are grown and can be grown in the state and the feasibility of distant marketing.
In addition, the following issues needs to be addressed:-

v  Improve the productivity of land through production and supply of disease free and good quality planting materials, use of improved adaptable technology etc.
v  Reduce cost of production by mass multiplication of planting materials, efficient use of inputs etc.
v  Improve quality of products by adopting international and national standards.
v  Value addition to horticultural products.
v  Adopt practices like organic farming to capture export market.
v  Strengthen the organizational support and infrastructure.
v  Focus on human resource development in horticulture.

* The author is presently the Director of Horticulture in the Government of Meghalaya