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Govt to enhance seed subsidy under drought management programme

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The agriculture ministry has in-principle agreed to enhance the seed subsidy under its drought management programme. Cereals, coarse cereals including fodder crops, pulses and oilseeds covered under various schemes of the ministry, will benefit from this subsidy. In view of the deficient rains, this will be applicable for all states where the ministry is implementing its various schemes.

The amount of seed subsidy has been enhanced from Rs 800 to 1,000 per quintal for coarse cereals, including millets used for fodder, from Rs 500 to Rs 700 per quintal for cereals and from Rs 1,200 to Rs 2,000 per quintal for pulses and oilseeds. Some of the major schemes, which will allocate this enhanced subsidy component to the states, are Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, National Food Security Mission, Micromanagement of Agriculture, Initiative for nutritional security through intensive millets, Integrated scheme for oilseeds, pulses, oilpalm and maize and in Eastern India.

Last week, in a meeting of the empowered group of ministers, it was decided to provide subsidy for diesel consumption in various programmes of irrigation, drinking water availability for cattle and accelerated fodder management programme. All the programmes, except accelerated fodder management, are run by the ministry of rural development. Some of these programmes also provide for increase in subsidy for seeds, but only for fodder crops. This seed subsidy is over and above the subsidy announced last week for all crops across states in view of the deficient rainfall, under the domain of the ministry of agriculture, said officials.

This enhanced subsidy is aimed at accelerating the cropping and production of low gestation, high-yielding crops, which have been planned as contingency crops. For places where there have been normal cropping, these funds will encourage farmers to stick to these crops, besides compensating for the high cost of seeds and increased costs of other logistics, explained officials.

The latest crop watch figures available with the ministry of agriculture show that 75.13 million hectare (ha) had been sown under various kharif crops till the first week of August, compared to the average sown area of 79.46 million ha in the corresponding period of the previous year. Major decline (compared to average area) has been reported under rice (-4.8 lakh ha), coarse cereals (-3.35 million ha) and pulses (-1.14 million ha). However, area coverage is up 1.46 million ha in soyabean and 6.2 lakh ha in sugarcane. In coarse cereals, there has been a major shortfall in bajra where the reported area sown is 17 per cent less than last year. In pulses, mainly moong, the crop area has declined by six per cent. Crop area in total foodgrains, including cereals, pulses and coarse cereals, has shrunk by 63 per cent. The condition is relatively comfortable in oilseeds where the total crop area has fallen only by 4.8 per cent. mainly in groundnut.

Further, in view of reports of shortage of urea in some states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar, the department of fertilisers has been advised to ensure the availability of fertilisers, especially urea.

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