Rs.3,800 crore allocated; crop loan target raised
Even as the State government set an ambitious food grain production target of 120 lakh tonnes for the next financial year, it has allocated over Rs.3,800 crore for the agriculture sector, said to be the highest ever in the State budget.
Besides, the target for crop loans to be disbursed through the co-operative sector has been raised from Rs.3,000 crore to Rs.4,000 crore, which will be interest-free if repaid promptly.
State Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam, in his budget speech on Monday, said that even during 2011-12, the government had an ambitious target of 115 lakh tonnes of food grains as against 75.9 lakh tonnes achieved in 2010-11. However, there had been considerable damage to crops due to cyclone Thane and floods this financial year.
“In spite of this, I am hopeful that the food grain production will be 105 lakh tonnes during 2011-12 due to the timely and prioritized actions of this government. In the coming financial year, the government targets 120 lakh tonnes.”
In a bid to usher in the second Green Revolution, he said that the government took various proactive steps for the development of agriculture and welfare of farmers. The Minister announced that the System of Rice Intensification scheme, which covered about 25 lakh acres in 2011-12, would be extended to 27.55 lakh acres in 2012-13. Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative Programme will be implemented on 15,000 acres and the System of Pulses Intensification would be implemented on 1.6 lakh acres, based on the ‘whole village concept’.
An agri-market intelligence and business promotion centre would be established at Tiruchi to disseminate information on prices. Through this centre, crop and market advisory services would be rendered to farmers.
While 8.48 lakh farmers had been covered under the crop insurance scheme so far, the government had set a coverage target of 10 lakh farmers for the coming financial year.
Micro-irrigation, which benefits 1.25 lakh acres now, would be extended to 1.73 lakh acres. Besides, the government would invest an additional Rs.300 crore to improve warehousing and market facilities. “Our support to promote the agro-processing industry through private-farmers partnership will continue.”
Strongly opposing what he called “ill conceived changes” in the fertiliser subsidy policy of the Centre, which had led to a steep rise in prices of fertilisers, he said that the State government was providing financial support to the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Marketing Federation (TANFED) for procuring and distributing fertilisers. In 2012-13, the present interest-free loan to TANFED would be enhanced to Rs.150 crore to ensure timely supply of fertilisers at a reasonable cost.
Referring to the crop loan through co-operative banks, Mr. Panneerselvam said it would be “interest-free for farmers who repay promptly and Rs.160 crore has been set apart for this interest subvention”.