Emerging Food Safety & Quality Risks in South Asia: Challenges & opportunities for Sri Lanka

Picture by Jeevika Weerahewa, Srilanka

The food systems in South Asia have been undergoing significant transformation. This transformation in this region poses several challenges. Raising farm incomes and getting farmers integrated in high value chains objective is dependent on the outcomes related to different product attributes comprising quality and food safety.

Ministry of Primary Industries and the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute are organizing  two day conference on Emerging Food Safety & Quality Risks in South Asia: Challenges & opportunities for Sri Lanka  on May 8-9, 2017 at the Ministry of Primary Industries Conference Hall, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka.

The aim of the conference is to examine the South Asian food systems comprising rising urban consumption and diversification in production and consumption portfolio and the associated growing pressures for policy changes for adoption of more stringent food safety and quality standards.

Tentative Agenda


Agricultural Mechanization in Nepal

Agricultural mechanization is one of the key processes that will affect the future of smallholder farming systems in Asian countries, including Nepal, where just 8 percent of farmers use tractors, 26 percent use iron plows, and more than 60 percent of intercultural operations are managed by women. Poor infrastructure is a major constraint on the mechanization of agriculture in Nepal. But providing easy credit and raising awareness of financial intermediaries can help to mitigate those constraints and facilitate mechanization.

Divya Pandey/IFPRI

USAID Nepal, through IFPRI, aims to support the Government of Nepal in improving the policy and regulatory environment by reforming the country’s business regulations and supporting the enactment of farmer- and business-friendly input policies and procedures under the Policy Reform Initiative Project (PRIP). As part of this effort, IFPRI conducted several empirical assessments of the issues affecting the promotion of agricultural mechanization (or agri-mechanization) in Nepal.

One assessment addressed the problems and challenges faced by stakeholders—farmers, agrimachinery providers, producers and fabricators, researchers, and traders—and assessed how the adoption of custom-hired services affects farm households across farms of all size. The main objective of this empirical assessment was to identify policy solutions for the strategic implementation of the agri-mechanization promotion policy passed in 2014.


To understand the policy questions in depth, the team conducted a literature review, collected primary and secondary data for analysis of mechanization in Nepal, interacted frequently with a variety of stakeholders, and reviewed the policy environment.

Key Findings and Policy Recommendations

The study on agri-mechanization in Nepal found that smallholder farmers are likely to benefit from the adoption of tractors through custom-hiring services. But they may also have incentives to exit farming and specialize in nonfarm income-earning activities. IFPRI researchers found that operators providing machine services lacked training, which contributed to poor demonstrations and low adoption of machine use among farmers. Because the government had not made mechanization a priority in the past, the sector is currently in a developmental state, and mechanization is not widely recognized as a substantial tool for better crop productivity.

IFPRI researchers also analyzed the policies and provisions governing the agri-mechanization sector, and recommended strengthening Nepal’s agri-mechanization promotion policy and focusing on implementation. Issues surrounding taxation (that is, the custom tariff and VAT) also need to be resolved. Finally, the establishment of networks and coordination with other sectoral and cross-sectoral policies and an agricultural mechanization credit policy are needed.

Read more: Effects of Agricultural Mechanization on Smallholders and Their Self-Selection into Farming: An Insight from the Nepal Terai

Conference: Sustainable Development Goals: Preparedness and Role of Indian Agriculture

Call for Abstracts: Sustainable Development Goals: Preparedness and Role of Indian Agriculture

Source: Flickr (IFPRI) Leveled field being irrigated in eastern Uttar Pradesh, India.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS) are jointly organizing a Conference on “Sustainable Development Goals: Preparedness and Role of Indian Agriculture” on 11-12 May 2017 in NASC Complex, New Delhi, India. The main aim of the conference is to prepare a roadmap for Indian agriculture to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) before 2030.

Globally, poverty and hunger are still twin challenges before human civilization despite specific temporal and spatial efforts. Though extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half since 1992, yet more than 1 billion people live on less than $ 1 a day.  To continue the global collective efforts of Millennium Development Goals, countries adopted renewed set of goals to end poverty and protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of new SDGs. There are 17 SDGs and four are directly related to agriculture: “no poverty”, “zero hunger”, “climate action”, and “life on land”.

Agriculture plays an important role for the livelihood of poor especially in rural areas. However, agriculture sector is currently facing numerous challenges. The question obviously before us is: How can agriculture contribute towards achieving SDGs? What should be the strategy to promote agriculture for achieving SDGs? What lessons other developing countries, especially South Asia, can learn from India or vice-versa?

It is our pleasure to invite you and your colleagues to participate in the conference and contribute abstracts in any of the following topics by 14 April, 2017:

  1. Status of Indicators of SDGs
  • Poverty and hunger
  • Land and water degradation
  • Climate risks
  1. Technologies to Accomplish SDG
  • Genetic enhancement
  • Natural resource management
  • Farm mechanization
  1. Role of Policies and Institutions
  • Backend service system
  • Agricultural marketing and food retailing
  • Agriculture-nutrition linkages
  1. Best Practices in Developing Countries
  • South Asia
  • Southeast Asia
  • Africa

We shall appreciate if you circulate the invitation letter to your colleagues and students for participation and contribution. You can send in 300 words abstract mentioning the topic under which abstract is submitted with complete details of the corresponding author to Vaishali Dassani (v.dassani@cgiar.org).

Concept Note - March 22, 2017

IFPRI South Asia Regional Office

Katrin Park/IFPRI
Katrin Park/IFPRI

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched its South Asia Initiative in 2002 and established its South Asia office in New Delhi in 2005. The South Asia office engages in evidence-based research and capacity strengthening related to food and nutrition security in the region. This research engages in evidence-based policy research and capacity-building activities related to food and nutrition security in the region. This research focuses on agricultural diversification, climate change, markets and trade, nutrition and health, science and technology, and governance. Go here to know more about the new South Asia brochure.

Zero Tillage: A Climate Smart Solution to Downside Risk of Agriculture

Damaged wheat crop. Source: Md. Tajuddin Khan/IFPRI
Damaged wheat crop.
Source: Md. Tajuddin Khan/IFPRI

In March 2015, unseasonal rainfall and hailstorms caused tremendous losses to the standing rabi crops right when they were ready to be harvested. The weather anomaly affected 6 million ha of wheat, 1.7 million ha of mustard and 2.6 million ha of horticultural crops. Agriculture in India is vulnerable to a range of weather shocks like droughts, floods, heat waves, cyclones and storms. Short-duration weather episodes like unseasonal rains and hailstorms pose a special challenge for farmers because few coping strategies are available to farmers even if there are reliable forecasts. Unfortunately, climate models suggest that such erratic and extreme weather events are likely to occur more frequently in years to come. Therefore, it is important to identify different ways to mitigate the impact of such weather events on agriculture.

Agronomists suggest that conservation agriculture practices like zero tillage (ZT) make crops less vulnerable to weather shocks in addition to their other benefits like lower production costs and carbon emissions and conservation of soil nutrients and water. This additional benefit of ZT offers an added incentive to farmers to adopt the technology and to governments to promote its adoption. However, there are few empirical studies using data from farmers’ fields (as opposed to experimental plots or farm field experiments) that estimate the extent of loss reduction due to ZT. An IFPRI discussion paper titled Using zero-tillage to ameliorate of wheat yield losses from weather shocks: evidence from panel data in Haryana, India tries to fill this gap by rigorously estimating the reduction in loss to wheat crop in Haryana due to zero tillage. Authors, Tajuddin Khan, Avinash Kishore, PK Joshi and Divya Pandey find that crop loss due to unseasonal rains was nearly 25 percent less in the ZT plots than the conventionally tilled ones. Farmers, on an average, suffered yield loss ranging between 3.73 and 4.53 quintals per hectare in 2015 due to unseasonal rains. The loss was lower by 1.05-1.1 quintals/hectare in ZT plots. The adoption of ZT helped in reducing crop loss in wheat by 24-28 percent valued at Rs. 1523-1595/ha (approximately, $ 22.5/ha). The loss avoided due to ZT is nearly equal to the prevailing rental rate of the zero-till machine (Rs. 1500/ha) in Haryana.

Zero-till wheat is one of the most widely adopted resource conserving technologies in the rice-wheat systems in Northern India. In rice-wheat growing areas of Haryana, 36.5 percent of all farmers practice ZT in 35 percent of their wheat area. This IFPRI study provides an additional reason for promoting conservation technologies like ZT and rationalizing insurance premiums for crops. Authors argue that if ZT (or other similar practices) help reduce crop damage due to weather shocks, then the adopters of such practices should pay less premium for crop insurance. Reduced premiums will incentivize the adoption of resource conservation technologies. However, rationalizing premium rates requires reliable estimates of potential loss reduction due to different conservation technologies. We need to replicate these studies across different regions, crops and agricultural practices to design better insurance products and to inform policies on promoting conservation agriculture.

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