Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Endangered Species:'The Indian Farmer"

As the World becomes a smaller place and our aspirations increase manifold,there is the spectre of famine and food scarcity across countries.from the late 1800s to the 1970s there has been increased mechanization of tools and methods such as the the Israeli 'drip irrigation' system.

Yet the story of the Indian farmer is different!They haven't heard of Combine harvestors,Zybach's system etc .The bullock and the plough are the symbol even after a thousand years.Governmental apathy,almost no investments from the private sector have led to suicides in Maharashtra,Bengal and parts of Andhra Pradesh.

From what I have seen,the population boom has led to smaller plots of land and in some cases in Punjab the division between brothers has led to such a division that the person holding the smallest portion finds it virtually untillable.

Most shocking is the lack of direct investments or incentives to farmers,many well known companies like Reliance,Bharti Group have bought up millions of acres but their plans are unclear.This lack of remuneration,the divide between big farmers and sharecroppers has led to increased migration to urban areas.

In 1970 the agricultural sector emplyed 68% of the population which in 2010 stood at 39%.The other sectors have developed leaving agriculture at the mercy of the Monsoon and soil erosion.I know of a barber who came to the city in 1968 from Munger,Bihar.Over the years he would go every summer at harvest time but eventually he brought his 3 sons and bought them shops.Now with age he this year sold off his lands and has moved to the city permanently.It is this trend that shows no sign of reversing that is leaving India's fields bereft of expertise and hands to till and sow as well as putting pressure on the urban jungles to provide more facilities or opportunities.

Main cropping season in India:-
(a) Kharif: Crops are sown at the beginning of the south-west monsoon and harvested at the end of the south-west monsoon.
Sowing seasons-May to July
Harvesting season-September to October
Important crops: Jowar, bajra, rice, maize, cotton, groundnut, jute, hemp, sugarcane, tobacco, ete.

(b) Rabi: Crops need relatively cool climate during the period of growth but warm climate during the germination of their seed and maturation.
Sowing season-october-December
Harvesting season-February-April
Important crops: wheat, barley, gram, linseed, mus­tard, masoor, pea~ and potatoes.

(c) Zaid: Bes;des the kharif and rabi crops, there are certain crops which are being raised throughout the year due to artificial irrigation.
The yield is abysmal and combined with Global drought its showing with wheat prices up 50% since mid june.A lack of efficient distribution system with almost 20% of grains,legumes rotting means that inflationary tendencies get built up into the system right at the outset.

My commentary is not an indepth research project but a macro pointer that unless we do something for the farmer and the framing sector in India,supply side inflation cannot be tamed despite whatever pronouncements made by the bureacrats at Delhi,neither will the dream that is India come to fruition what with all the inequality present!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Middle of the Road for Indian Equities in July&August

I have not felt like writing about the Indian markets since last month as they have meandered aimlessly in a narrow range.My prediction was for either 4600 or 5400 on the nifty and today it is 5400...!!Those who followed my reccomendation of buying 5200 Aug call and a 5000 Aug Put have made a 50% return with less risk.

Every month data from the US and Europe shows some uptrends and some downsides,its definite that Europe is in recession.I see a lot of solid companies trading below their book value(BV).The S&P has doubled in value from the low of 666 in 2009 where Europe is below their lows.

Will the Hedge/PE Funds get in and buy in Europe or wait for more clarity before moving?Till then the emerging markets,especially India,have enjoyed unexpected inflows and this liquidity has kept markets high.

The monsoon has been very unevenly distributed,inflation is stable around 6-7%levels as we head into the festive season.The consumer stocks look overbought,nothing much happening in infrastructure or cement stocks.Looks like the markets have a positive bias and every dip will be bought into.After the infamous 'Blackout'and the grid collapse in North and East India,the Government methinks will focus on power distribution cos as well as providing incentives for more generation.

Its a trader's market for the moment,keep tight Stop Losses and book profits whereever you get them.The Futures segment on NSE is at a six year low in terms of volumes but do not let such things frazzle you.