March 6, 2020 5:50:59 am
BUOYED by a good monsoon, Maharashtra’s Economic Survey has projected a modest but important growth rate of 3.1 percent in the agriculture and allied activities sector for 2019-20.
Not only does this outpace the average sectoral growth of 2.2 percent for the previous seven years, but this is also only the third year of positive growth since 2012-13 for the sector that accounts for 53 percent of livelihood in Maharashtra.
Buffeted by a series of drought years, the state has reported depressed or negative growth in the farm sector since 2012-13, barring a 12.3 percent growth in 2013-14 and 21 percent in 2016-17.
The previous edition of the state’s Economic Survey had pegged a dismal 0.4 percent growth rate for agriculture in 2018-19, but revised estimates now peg last year’s growth in agriculture at negative 2.2 per cent.
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The anticipated growth in 2019-20 comes notwithstanding the failure of banks to meet the annual credit plan for agriculture. According to the report, while the annual target for agriculture in the annual credit plan was Rs 87,322 crore, crop loans worth only Rs 24,897 crore were disbursed until December 2019 while agricultural term loans of Rs 18,147 crore were disbursed until September 2019, a total of Rs 43,044 crore. Farm leaders have contended that the state government’s loan waiver scheme has not enabled small farmers to avail fresh credit.
In 2018-19, a drought year disbursed term loans and crop loans totaled Rs 67,914 crore, also lower than targets.
Economist Prof H M Desarda, a former member of the state’s planning commission, said this is evidence that populist measures will not rejuvenate agriculture in Maharashtra. “Agriculture in the state is unsustainable because the value-added comes only from highly chemicalized and industrialised farm areas.
So crop credit is marginal, the share of agriculture in the state’s income is declining, but there is no corresponding decline in the workforce engaged in the farm sector.
The surveys of farmer suicides have also shown that there is a preponderance of private credit, moneylenders lending at very high rates. We have to ask if the loan waiver makes Maharashtra’s farmer, including the landless, credit-worthy,” he told The Indian Express.
The crop loan waiver scheme — Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana 2017 — was announced in June 2017. Since the inception of the scheme until December 2019, 44.23 lakh farmers were declared beneficiaries, and an expenditure of Rs 19,843 crore incurred.
According to data presented in the Economic Survey report, the kharif season of 2019 witnessed a 2.5 percent decline in area under sowing, from 153.44 lakh hectare to 149.61 lakh hectare.
Area under pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane is expected to decrease while area of cereals and cotton is expected to increase as compared to the previous year. However, the production of cereals and pulses is expected to grow by 9 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
Cotton is also projected to post a considerable growth in production of 24 percent over the previous year. Sugarcane, however, is pegged to experience a 36 percent decline in production, mainly due to torrential rains and floods in western Maharashtra during the cane cropping season.
Following a plentiful monsoon in most parts of the state, the rabi season of 2019-20 witnessed a 5.6 percent increase in area under sowing, from 48.17 lakh hectare to 50.87 lakh hectare. While area under jowar fell in the kharif season, there was an 85 percent increase in rabi jowar sowing as compared to the previous year.
“This means the fodder shortage of the previous year may be considerably resolved,” said Machhindra Gawade, a leader of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana from Georai, Beed district.
Also, while the Economic Survey pegs real Gross State Value Added (GSVA) of
‘Agriculture and Allied Sectors’ to grow at 3.1 per cent, the crop sector that posted a 3.8 per cent decline in 2018-19 is projected to post only a marginal 1.3 per cent growth rate in 2019-20.
It is the other allied sectors, mainly livestock and forestry, that are projected to post healthier growth.
Within the crop sector GSVA, horticulture holds an average 30 percent share; and plants, vegetables, and condiments/spices are all pegged to have increased production in 2019-20.
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