Radha Mohan Singh, Union Agriculture Minister, has inaugurated the National Rabi Conference. In his inaugural speech, Singh has proposed to provide finance to 5 lakh joint farming groups of “Bhoomi Heen Kisan” through NABARD in the current financial year. The minister said, “A very large number of landless farmers are unable to provide land title as guarantee, institutional finance is denied to them and they become vulnerable to money lenders.”
The minister informed that in order to achieve the targeted growth of agriculture and allied sector at 4%, from the year 2014-15, various schemes of Ministry of Agriculture have been restructured into specific missions or programmes.
Singh said that cotton, jute and sugarcane are among the main cash crops in India, and during the year 2014-15 the Government of India has approved implementation of Crop Development Programme under the NFSM (Commercial Crops) by following Cropping System Approach to encourage farmers to improve productivity of these crops. This would be possible through use of proper crop rotation, multiple cropping systems, inter-cropping, etc.
He informed that deteriorating soil health has been a cause of concern and leads to sub-optimal utilization of farming resources. Government has, therefore, formulated a mission to provide every farmer with Soil Health Card. Issue of 3 crore Soil Health Cards in the current year, 5.50 crore Soil Health Cards in year 2015-16 and 5.50 crore Soil Health Cards in year 2016-17 is targeted. Besides, 100 Mobile Soil Testing Laboratories (MSTLs) will also be set up in year 2014-15.
The minister further said that there have also been growing concerns about the imbalance in the utilization of different types of fertilizers resulting in deterioration of the soil. The government has framed guidelines under Bhartiya Paramparagat Krishi Vikash Pariyojana to promote organic farming and to develop potential markets for organic products. Aim of the project is to maximize the utilization of natural resources through eco-friendly cultivation.
Singh informed that banks are providing strong credit support to the agriculture sector. A target of Rs.8 lakh crore has been set for agriculture credit during 2014-15. Further, under the Interest Subvention Scheme for short term crop loans, banks are extending loans to farmers at a concessional rate of 7%. The farmers get a further incentive of 3% for timely repayment.
The minister expressed hope that Rabi Conference 2014 would provide a platform for discussion, deliberation and sharing of experiences in charting the course of action in the ensuing Rabi Season.