By Vishal Gulati
Chandigarh, July 3 (IANS) The Covid-induced lockdown did not turn out bitter for the kinnow -- a citrus fruit resembling orange -- growers and farm labourers of Punjab and Haryana as they got handsome returns from the natural fruit droppings.
A few years back the self-aborted small oranges, once considered the agricultural waste, were either left in the fields to decay or dumped unscientifically at nearby roadsides.
Now they are being procured for medicinal purposes.
Farm experts told IANS this season the aborted or immature droppings locally called aker' with diameter less than 1.8 cm from kinnow trees between May and June were unbelievable high owing to frequent climatic variations in the past.
And the droppings have ensured strong financial support to the farmers and part-time labourers amid critical financial crunch.
For nearly 25,000 farmers in Punjab's Fazilka district, Haryana's Sirsa district and some pockets in Rajasthan the semi-dry droppings turned out to be windfall as they fetched Rs 50 a kg by selling to a Himachal Pradesh-based firm, Hindustan FarmDirect Ingredients Private Ltd, that is creating value through horticulture waste.
Estimates say the dropping material worth Rs 30 crore was purchased from the growers in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The 'ker' sale proceeds have gone directly in the bank accounts of the farmers.
The company has procured 6,000 metric tonnes of the kinnow droppings this year from the growers against 2,000 metric tonnes in the previous year. In 2018, the procurement was just 750 metric tonnes.
Abohar subdivision in Fazilka is the hub by producing 60 per cent of the state's kinnow with around 33,000 hectares under its plantation. Abohar is normally producing 7-8 lakh metric tonnes of kinnow every winter that fetches Rs 15-18 a kg.
"This time the self-aborted small kinnows were high owing to temperature variations during the last winter and this summer," Naresh Bishnoi, who owns a 50-acre orchard in Abohar, told IANS.
"The flowering (in April) was good, so was the dropping of the immature fruits. We were initially apprehensive that no firm would come forward this time amidst lockdown to buy them from the growers," he said.
One acre normally has 200-225 trees of kinnows. A grower normally earns Rs 15,000 per acre by selling the sun dried droppings at Rs 50 per kg, say farmers.
Also hand-picking of aborted oranges from the farms, their packaging and transportation at and from the procurement centres created jobs amid the lockdown.
"When local people had not business due to pandemic for at least three months, the natural dropping of 'ker' turned out to be a good financial help both to farmers and local labourers, who had no other work opportunity," said Rajinder Singh Sekhon of Dhanpat Siag village in Fazilka district.
He said daily-wage farm labourers managed to earn Rs 500-1,000 a day for the work, a major succour during the lockdown.
Hindustan FarmDirect Ingredients Private Ltd, the company which has been largely purchasing the aborted oranges from the growers in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan for the past four years, said this year the orchards had abnormally high droppings.
Company's Senior Operations Manager Anil Bajaj told IANS the purchase of the horticulture waste has overall improved the economic activity.
The kinnow dropping, he said, is used to manufacture hesperidin that has a huge pharmaceutical market in the Europe.
Punjab is the largest producer of kinnow in the country with over 49,000 hectares of land with 10 lakh tonne of annual output. It is mainly grown in the semi-arid zones of Abohar, Hoshiarpur, Mansa, Muktsar and Bathinda districts.
Haryana's Sirsa and Bhiwani are the hubs of the kinnow, while in Rajasthan they are Sri Ganganagar and Hanumangarh.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at email@example.com)
New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) The government proposes to give the go-ahead for a new credit enhancement non-banking finance company (NBFC) that will act as a guarantor for lower-rated bonds issued by infrastructure companies to help them raise funds at competitive rates.
A credit enhancement structure or a company helps in lifting the ratings of a specific project or a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) executing that project, making it easier for them to mobilise funds from the market at attractive rates.
The need for credit enhancement has become acute during the Covid-19 pandemic as infrastructure companies are under stress and need necessary support to enhance the ratings of their projects and ensure adequate liquidity required for fresh investments.
Government sources said that though the operation of a Credit Guarantee Enhancement Corporation has been revised in view of similar operations being currently offered by a few government agencies, a dedicated structure plan has not been junked and the Centre will go ahead with a new NBFC after further discussions and at an appropriate time.
It is expected that the credit enhancement structure would take shape as planned earlier, wherein infrastructure financing firm India Infrastructure Finance Co Ltd (IIFCL) in a joint venture with the National Housing Bank (NHB) the and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) would set up a SPV known as 'National Infrastructure Credit Enhancement Ltd' or NICE.
Last year, the government provided seed capital of Rs 500 crore to operationalise the SPV but ever since the project has been delayed over further reviews by an inter-ministerial committee.
Sources said now is the right time for the new entity to come into being as it will help several infrastructure projects to take off which otherwise are stuck due to liquidity issues.
In its 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' package, the government has already introduced a 100 per cent Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) for MSMEs to ensure adequate liquidity to the segment hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak. Also, a partial guarantee for stressed MSMEs has been provided for.
However, infrastructure projects entailing large investments will gain a lot from a dedicated credit enhancement entity. The SPV will ensure that the Rs 100 lakh crore investment required in infrastructure over the next five years materialises.
Presenting her maiden Budget last year, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that a credit guarantee enhancement corporation, for which regulations have been notified by the RBI, will be set up in 2019-20. However, it got delayed and may be considered this year.
As per the blueprint of the proposed corporation finalised by the government earlier, the IIFCL will hold 22.5 per cent stake in the new NBFC while the NHB and Nabard could pick up to a 10 per cent stake each.
The NICE will set up a fund to attract infrastructure investments by insurance and pension funds to provide credit enhancement to infrastructure companies. However, its main job will be to act as a guarantor for lower-rated bonds issued by infrastructure companies. This would help these bonds to bolster their ratings.
As per the Reserve Bank of India estimates, more than 85 per cent of corporate bond issuance in India is by borrowers with ratings of 'A' and above. The credit enhancement set-up will help bring even lower-rated borrowers into the bond market.
The proposal on the credit enhancement fund was first announced in the Budget for 2016-17 fiscal by then Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. But since then, the scheme has not taken off due to various regulatory hurdles.
The Centre had earlier mooted the idea of IIFCL and several state-owned institutions like LIC, State Bank of India, and Bank of Baroda to come together to set up a dedicated credit enhancement company.
But the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority's regulations prevented LIC from being part of the fund, while banks could not participate due to the rising NPAs and other commitments.
The government is now looking to bolster infrastructure investment as it is the key to boost economic growth. It is estimated that India needs to spend $4.5 trillion on infrastructure development over the next 25 years.
But a lot lesser amount is expected to be garnered by the government. Innovative funding and financing schemes are thus being looked into to bridge the deficit and allow the sector to grow at the desired pace.