China-made farm equipment 'kept out' of govt purchase

Agriculture dept’s tender notification has a rider on ‘country of origin’ 

The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which recommends quality of products for the government to procure and supply them to farmers in the State, has “omitted” Chinese mechanised farming tools from its list.

The Agriculture department in its short-term tender notification issued on January 13 has incorporated a rider on “country of origin” in two specific cases. The first mention of the restriction has been made in the case of “power-operated grass/weed slasher (power weeder),” wherein it is stated that only those companies which procure engines from Japan, Taiwan, India, Italy and Germany can take part in the process.

The second, and more prominent omission of  “made in China” product, is in the “tractor/tiller /power operated plant protection equipment eligible for supply with subsidy under farm mechanisation and other programmes.”

Here again, the department has put a condition stating: “Engines of Japan, Taiwan, India, Italy and Germany only.” In Karnataka, only one company supplies Italian engines and similarly, Germany-made engines are supplied by a lone company.

With the subsidy market in Karnataka estimated to be close to Rs 250 crore, there are close to 50 companies which bid for such tenders in the State. Speaking to Deccan Herald, Commissioner for Agriculture, Subodh Yadav, said that they had only followed the decision of the committee.

 “I am told by my officials that the technical committee, after having spoken to the farmers, has omitted engines from China on account of on-field concerns. The TAC in 2011-12 dwelt on the issue and its decision has been upheld by the new panel formed for 2013-14,” said Yadav, who took charge a few months ago. 

The Commissioner, however, said that barring the above two restrictions, Chinese products are “allowed” in the remaining category of farm tools. He said the TAC comprises all stakeholders, including the farmers and suppliers of equipment. 
‘Decision questionable’

A supplier, who procures products from China, described the decision as “questionable.” He said the department gets the equipment tested by its own agencies before approval.According to sources in the industry, the decision to “exclude” Chinese products would go against the World Trade Organisation policy on government procurement.

Principal Secretary to Agriculture department Bharat Lal Meena expressed surprise over the “country of origin” specification in the tender notification. “It cannot be done. I will seek explanation from my officers,” he said. Minister for Agriculture Krishna Byre Gowda was not available for comment despite repeated attempts to contact him.

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