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Saturday, Jun 01, 2002

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Huge agri-database in the making

Mony K. Mathew

Over the last five years, he has been collecting information and digitising them and the database currently runs into more than 1.5 lakh pages contained in more than 300 modules.


THE likely fallout, negative or otherwise, of India joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with respect to different sectors of the country's economy, have been widely debated.

In Kerala's context, the debates have mainly revolved around its implications for the agricultural sector, even as the exact nature of the provisions has remained elusive for many, and certainly for a majority of the farming community.

Mr A.V. Narayanaswami, a coffee planter from the Wayanad district, has taken it upon himself, almost single-handedly, to put together all the relevant information related to agriculture in the emerging global scenario in digitised form, mainly for the benefit of the farmers.

It all started in 1997 when Mr Narayanaswami, sensing the impending changes in the agriculture sector, diversified into nursery operations covering floriculture, horticulture, plantation crops and medicinal and aromatic plants, all under low-cost greenhouses.

He collected over 1,000 varieties of plants and identified and indexed them.

And through a painstaking process, he measured the light, temperature and relative humidity in the greenhouses four times a day and the data thus generated was digitised.

During this period, he also attended numerous seminars and workshops on various aspects of agriculture in Bangalore, Ooty, Coimbatore and Pune.

It was at these extended sessions that he became increasingly aware of the complex WTO norms governing agriculture and also of the fact that there was hardly any source which gave a holistic view of the situation from a farmer's perspective.

He began collecting information on current global practices in agriculture and also on WTO-related subjects such as trade and environment, technical regulations and standards, trade-related investment measures and intellectual property rights.

Over the last five years, he has been collecting information and digitising them with the help of his family and the database currently runs into more than 1.5 lakh pages contained in more than 300 modules.

He has extensively covered the role of associated technical assistance providers in WTO-related subjects, such as International Genetic Resources Institute, World Customs Organisation, World Intellectual Property Organisation, International Grains Council, International Standards organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Mr Narayanaswami is now building a Web site and also plans to start an e-commerce portal giving information on cultivation, calendar of operations, the maximum residue limits of chemicals, phyto-sanitary standards, post-harvest processing, legal aspects of contract farming and commodity market derivatives, among other things.

The target audience are individual farmers, farming families and farmers associations and co-operatives.

He also wants to make available the services of a panel of experts for guidance and expert opinion online.

Mr Narayanaswami feels that his home district of Wayanad has all the ingredients to host an agricultural export zone (AEZ) as advocated in the recently announced Exim policy.

The district has the right altitude and micro-climatic conditions for production of pepper, ginger, turmeric and vanilla, he adds.

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