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Maharashtra govt to focus on smart agriculture, food processing

Highly placed sources in the government revealed to The Indian Express, “Agriculture sector will remain the highest concern of the state budget this year too."

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai |
March 2, 2017 5:23:08 am

Climate resilient agricultural practices coupled with greater thrust on promoting investments in food processing sector to improve lives of farmers is likely to get greater impetus in the forthcoming state budget. Highly placed sources in the government revealed to The Indian Express, “Agriculture sector will remain the highest concern of the state budget this year too.” However, unlike last year when the prime concern related to relief for the drought hit, the focus in 2017-18 would be on sustainable agriculture.

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Highly placed sources in the agriculture ministry said, “Today, the biggest challenge confronting the farmers is to cope with climatic changes. The kharif and rabi cycles have drastically altered with onset of early summers and delayed winters.” Also the unpredictable rains after the sowing of crops remains a concern.

While acknowledging that good monsoons resulted in 100 per cent sowing, what did affect crops was the long gap between the rains in some regions of Marathwada and Vidarbha which impacted overall production and quality of crops.

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In 2016-17, the state government allocated Rs 25,000 crore for agriculture. Apart from this the flagship jalyukta shivar projects saw investments upto Rs 1,600 crore for drought mitigation the second phase in 5,000 villages. The state government has succeeded in tackling drought in 11,500 villages out of the total 25,000 which were drought hit.The state has 40,000 villages.

While the jalyukta shivar works will graduate into the third phase in the remaining 13,500 villages, real concerns relate to augmenting infrastructure to overcome the erratic climatic changes.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis during his meeting with World Bank Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva dwelt at length on measures taken by his government to tackle the challenges in the agriculture sector due to climate changes.

The Maharashtra government and WB have agreed to work on a Rs 4000 crore project under climate resilient agriculture practices.

The features of these projects include better management of land use, water management, doubling the production, providing soil moisture security among others.

While stressing the need for greater agriculture planning, diversification in crop patterns along with precise weather forecast and adaptation of advanced technology are part of the smart agriculture practices which are being pursued.

The state government is also exploring ways to tap more resources for food processing sector across Maharashtra. Despite 100 per cent FDI, the investments in the sector has been moderate. Sources said, “A region wise plan to ascertain how it would help the farmers is being worked out.”

On Tuesday evening, Fadnavis held a meeting with Pepsico chairperson Ms Indira Nooyi to discuss greater partnership in skill development and food processing sector.

Pepsico India and government of Maharashtra exchanged a letter of intent for mutual collaboration in skill development in Maharashtra with a special focus on ITIs, and upgradation of workers in various food processing plants through joint ventures with the state.

It has agreed for a Rs 180 crore investment in citrus processing facility in Nanded to help improve livelihood of farmers.

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