Jathedar Tota Singh Agriculture Minister Punjab today reiterated the firm commitment of the Punjab government to ensure growth and sustainability in the agriculture sector along with the conservation of natural resources specially land, Soil and water. “Diversification of agriculture remains the key objective”, said the Minister was today addressed the media at Kissan Bhawan, he said that the Punjab Government has continued to give greater thrust on development of agriculture during the year 2015. The State had achieved production of 266.68 LMTs of Foodgrains during the year 2014-15. The paddy production during kharif 2015 was about 180 LMTs which was 9 percentage higher than the previous year. The basmati production during kharif 2015 was 32.46 LMTs, though lesser than kharif 2014 but was still 40 percent higher than the production during 2013-14. The area under basmati had risen to over two lac hectares during the last two years. Likewise, the area under Maize had also increased by 22 percent during the last two years. The expected foodgrain production during 2015-16 is over 300 lac LMTs.
He said that alongside the enhanced foodgrains production the State has also done well in the horticulture sector also. The area under horticulture crops i.e. fruits and vegetables had gone up by 23,200 hectares during the last two years and the value of horticulture produce in Punjab has grown up by 14 percent approximately. It is worthwhile to mention here that area under horticulture crops is only 3.96 percent of the total cropped area, but the horticulture is contributing 10.17 percent of the share of State's GDP.The Minister said that the State Government has decided to establish peri-urban vegetable clusters in seven districts namely Sangrur, Hoshiarpur, Patiala, Jalandhar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana and Amritsar. These clusters would be developed in collaboration with APEDA. The farmers would not only be provided technical knowhow, but would also be assisted in marketing of their vegetable crops in these centres
For development of cotton, the Department of Agriculture had initiated two major programs including establishment of Centre of Excellence on Cotton at Bathinda and the launching of Cotton Mechanization Program at Malout. These programmes were made to provide the farmers latest technology support and ensure mechanization of cotton picking, reducing their dependence on manual labour. However, the State's cotton growers had gone through a bad time with a huge loss of crop as a result of pest attack. Although the pest attack had been widespread in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat, the State was first to reach out to the farmers not only to guide them about the measures that need to be taken to save the crop but also to give them timely relief. Rs.644.55 crore had been disbursed to the farmers for the loss of their cotton crop. It has been decided to give Rs.64.45 crore to the agriculture labourers who lost their jobs/ employment as a result of loss to cotton crop.
Furthermore, the State Department of Agriculture has ensured timely supplies of urea and DAP in the State. By December 2015, the State has arranged 11,22,000 MTs of Urea as against the requirement of 10,50,000 MTs. Likewise, 3,79,000 MTs of DAP has already been received as against total demand of 4,50,000 MTs of DAP.Mr. Suresh Kumar Additional Chief Secretary Agriculture divulged the details of the mechanization of the agriculture sector, he stressed in order to encourage mechanization of agricultural operations, particularly at post-harvest stage, 25,988 farmers have been given financial assistance of Rs.66.56 crore during 2014-15. During 2015-16, 24,555 farmers would be provided financial assistance of Rs.72.92 crore to purchase various agricultural implements/ machines. While the Department aims to ensure availability of farm equipment and machines to the farmers, greater thrust continues to develop agriculture service centers in cooperative sector.
Ministry of Food Processing Industry, Government of India has approved a Mega Food Park at Ladhowal , Ludhiana, with an investment of Rs 100 crore to encourage food-processing industries in the State, ensuring value addition to state's crops. The State Department of Agriculture has also made arrangements for proper running of multi-juicing plants at Hoshiarpur and Abohar. These plants are processing kinnows, tomatoes, guava and other fruits
The Minister further added that constant efforts are being made to raise the income level of the farmers by increasing productivity of various crops and reducing the cost of production. In this endeavour the State has established 1585 agro centers in Primary Agricultural Service Societies of the State. The Societies are given 50 percent subsidy on purchase of farm equipment which are rented out to the farmers on a reasonable cost saving them from expensive investment in farm machinery.
For promotion of technology and provision of latest knowledge and information to the farmers, the State Department of Agriculture has established a Centre of Excellence in Citrus at Khanaura (Hoshiarpur), a Centre of Excellence in Vegetables at Kartarpur (Jalandhar) and a Centre of Excellence in Potatoes at Dugri (Jalandhar). In addition, a Centre of Excellence in vegetables is also proposed to be established at Charik (Moga) and a Centre of Excellence in Floriculture will be set up at Doraha (Ludhiana). These Centres not only provide technical support to the farmers but also help them to increase their production with the provision safe and affordable inputs.Minister said that the State Government continued to provide free electricity for agricultural tube-wells. During 2015-16, the Department is expected to provide about Rs.5000 crore as power subsidy to agriculturists and during the last five years, the Government had paid Rs. 22,818.18 crore as power subsidy.
In order to sustain sugarcane crop in about one lac hectares, the State Government has decided to ensure payment of sugarcane at SAP of Rs.295 per quintal. For this, the farmers would be given 50 per quintal from the State Treasury and arrangements have been made to crush total anticipated production of 750 lac quintal of cane during 2015-16 with provision of subsidy of Rs.600 crore to the sugarcane growers.Supply of quality inputs continued to receive greater attention. During the last 9 months of 2015-16, the Directorate of Agriculture has taken 2204 samples of fertilizers of which 116 samples have failed.
Likewise, 3562 samples of agro chemicals were also taken of which 143 samples have failed. Further, legal action with regard to failed samples had continued with launching of prosecution and penalties on the dealers. 98 licences have been cancelled and FIRs have been registered against 33 dealers. The State has achieved a major success in getting the Fertilizers Control Order and Insecticides Control Order amended from the Government of India. The revised orders provide for grant of fertilizers and insecticides licenses to only qualified graduates in agriculture sciences. In pursuance of this notification, the State Department of Agriculture has decided to review all previous licenses to weed out undeserving licensees’. This measure is not only expected to generate more employment for graduates in agriculture sciences, but is also likely to ensure supply of quality inputs.
For the current Rabi season, the State Department of Agriculture has given greater attention on timely sowing of wheat in about 35 lac hectares. The estimated production of wheat during 2015-16 is 168.1 LMTs as against 150 LMTs during the previous year. Pursuing a major change in supply of seeds of wheat on subsidy, the State has implemented Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme during Rabi 2015-16. It has given subsidy of Rs.1000 per quintal to the farmers by transferring the same to the bank accounts of the eligible farmers. In all, more than 3,00,000 farmers have availed the benefit. Of this, over 70 percent farmers were small and marginal farmers.The State has given due thrust on National Soil Health Programme. It has so far issued 1,05,444 soil health cards to the farmers to ensure judicious use of fertilizers and agro chemicals.
Water and soil conservation continued to be main thrust of the State. The Department of Agriculture provided 80 percent subsidy on drip and sprinkler irrigation, whereas it has provided 90 percent subsidy on community underground pipes being laid in the village. 75 percent subsidy has been provided for micro irrigations system coupled with storage tanks solar pumps.Strengthening of marketing infrastructure also received greater thrust attention during the last few years. The Punjab Mandi Board has established a modern AC Fruits and Vegetables Market at Mohali with an investment of Rs.56 crore. In addition, it has also established a fish market at Ludhiana with investment of Rs.8 crore.. The State has established a network of 60,244 kms of link roads, which connect the farmers with over 1821 purchase centres. Of these, the Mandi Board has repaired 8381 kms of roads with an investment of Rs.1385.48 crore during 2014-15. During 2015-16, the Board would repair 7779 kms of link roads with an investment of over Rs.1200 crore.
Minister said that the Department had notified a new policy to provide relief to the families of farmers who commit suicides on 23.7.2015. It has enhanced the compensation to the affected families from Rs.2.00 lac to Rs.3.00 lac. In addition, the Policy also aims to assist families in their complete rehabilitation by giving them preferential assistance and treatment under various schemes of the Department of Agriculture, Horticulture, Education, Social Security and Health.For increasing social security of the farmers, the Department of Agriculture has decided to insure all J-form holders i.e. the farmers who sell their crops in the purchase centers established by Punjab Mandi Board, for health insurance of Rs.50,000 and personal accident insurance of Rs.5.00 lac. 11 lac J-form holders are anticipated to avail this benefit, which would cost nearly Rs.40 crore to the State Mandi Board.
In addition, the State Department of Agriculture has also proposed to Government of India to initiate a plot based crop insurance scheme for the farmers. It has conveyed that the existing block/ village based crop insurance schemes do not meet the requirements of Punjab farmers, as a result these have not been accepted by them. Furthermore, the existing crop insurance schemes do not provide insurance cover for total input cost plus margins of the farmers, as a result are considered to be inadequate. The proposal of the State envisages provision of insurance cover for the total output loss which includes inputs costs plus anticipated margins of the farmers.
Summing up the achievements of the State, the Agriculture Minister stated that though the State has received Krishi Karman Award and Agriculture Leadership Award for maximum foodgrain production in the country, yet it needs to do everything possible to reach out to the farmers, who are facing extreme financial distress. He stated that the government is committed to take every possible step to ameliorate the farmers' economic miseries. The Chief Minister, added the Minister, has written to the Hon'ble Prime Minister and the Union Finance Minister for one time debt relief to the farmers. On its part, the State Government is considering to enact a legislation to regulate non-institutional financing to the farmers as also to provide ownership rights to the cultivators of evacuee properties in the State.