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Maharashtra food grain production hit by drought

Marginal decline in agriculture term loans to farmers is a cause of concern to the govt in the year of drought.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | February 1, 2015 8:41:27 pm

Maharashtra government has been warned of decline in food grain production in the year 2014-15 because of prolonged drought situation in some parts of state.

The state focus paper (2015-16) of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development discussed with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis warns, “There will be a decline in food grain production in state (2014-15) due to low rainfall in some parts of state, particularly in Marathwada region.” However, the total total food grain production in 2013-14 was 154.60 lakh metric tonnes.

Fadnavis has convened a meeting with nodal departments to review the situation and take measures. A meeting with Union Minister for Agriculture Radhamohan Singh is also high on the government agenda, sources in the ministry of agriculture revealed to Indian Express. Some of the serious aspects that were discussed includes making available bank loans to the farmers and prioritising the budget to irrigation projects.

A senior officer disclosed, “ The shortfall in food production was expected on account of recurring drought situation in parts of Maharashtra. Currently, we have almost 24,700 villages reeling under drought across state. The most badly hit is the region of Marathwada.”

Although Fadnavis has declared Rs 7,000 crore short term package and Rs 34,000 crore long term (spread over five years) to tackle recurring drought, funds from centre have been disappointing. A senior cabinet minister said, “ The delay in release of funds from centre is a matter of serious concern.”

The shortfall in food grains on account of drought like situation in Marathwada coupled with crop damage due to hailstorm in Vidarbha and North Maharashtra have compounded the problems for the state.

While chief minister is likely to accord higher allocations for the water resources and agriculture in the 2015-16 state budget, there are several factors highlighted during the meeting with NABARD which would require course corrections.

There is a concern about the shrink in the agriculture term loans during the last three years. The report stressed, “ The performance under agriculture term loans during the last three years was not satisfactory and needs to be improved.”

The statistics shows, “The targets and achievements under agriculture term loans during the last three years was as follows: In 2011-12, total agriculture was Rs 24426.66 crore and agriculture term loan was Rs 5248. 61 crore. The share of ATL works to 21 per cent.”

It shows the share of agriculture term loan in total agriculture loan has come down from 21.5 per cent (2011-12) to 20.08 per cent (2012-14).

The ATL are available to farmers for activities other than the seasonal agriculture operations given for more than 18 months repayment period. It is given for the purpose of horticulture, minor irrigation, plantation, seri culture, dairy development, poultry farming etc.

While pegging the production credit requirement for the year 2015-16 at Rs 46634.10 crore , NABARD recommended some course corrections to ensure smooth flow of the credit. It pointed to wide variation in scale of finances approved for sugarcane, paddy and cotton.

The government has been asked to establish a strong integrated marketing system to avoid exploitation by the middlemen. The system should consist of scientific harvesting and collection of farmers’ produce at all collection centres, scientific grading and standardisation, improved and innovative package, appropriate storage and transport, marketing , finances etc.

The state irrigation department admits, “ The irrigation potential of state is mere 18 per cent which is much lower compared to the national average of 44.3 per cent.”

Some of the critical points which are under consideration included bringing 50 per cent of the sugarcane crop under micro irrigation. The government has agreed that water policy should shift from water consumption to water preservation through devises like drip irrigation and water sprinklers systems.

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