2006: A year of challenges and new initiatives

INDIA - The year 2006 threw up a number of challenges in the agriculture sector, which needed immediate as well as long-term responses. The year also ended with a number of new initiatives taken by the Government in agriculture and allied sectors.
calendar icon 26 December 2006
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Agriculture received special attention at the highest levels in the Government. Two meetings of Agriculture Coordination Committee were held under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister. A meeting of Ministers of Agriculture and Allied Sectors of all States was called on December 22, 2006 to discuss the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers. The Commission has proposed a National Policy for Farmers.

A National Bamboo Mission was set up to promote development of bamboo sector. The Rs 568.23 crore scheme will work for increasing area under bamboo, promoting marketing of bamboo products and generating employment in the bamboo sector.

Funds for the National Horticulture Mission, launched last year, have been increased by over 30% to Rs. 1000 crore. Significant progress has been achieved by the Mission in one year of its operation towards envigorating horticulture sector in the country. A Central Institute of Horticulture has been established in Nagaland.

Considering the importance of rainfed areas in India’s agriculture, a National Rainfed Area Authority was created in November 2006. The Authority will support upgradation and management of dryland and rainfed agriculture. It will also converge the various schemes being operated by different Ministries in the area of watershed development.

A micro-irrigation scheme was launched this year to promote water efficiency in farming activities.

Agriculture Ministry has taken initiatives to promote modern terminal markets in important cities for fruits, vegetables and other perishables. These markets would provide modern facilities for electronic auction, cold chains and necessary logistics to farmers to sell their produce.

An Agri-marketing Summit was held in September in collaboration with CII, aimed at creating awareness on the agri-marketing reforms and catalyzing private sector investment in agri-marketing business. The North-East Agri Expo 2006 was organsised at Dimapur, Nagaland involving all north-eastern States and Sikkim.

Agricultural credit from institutions had already crossed Rs. 1.14 lakh crore by October 2006 (i.e., in the first seven months of 2006-07) as compared to Rs 1.68 lakh crore in 2005-06). The target of Rs. 1.75 lakh crore set for this financial year is likely to be fully achieved by March 2007.

As against the target of bringing in 50 lakh farmers every year into the institutional credit fold, over 48 lakh new farmers had availed of loans from banks and cooperatives by October itself.

Starting Kharif 2006-07 the rate of interest on crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh has been reduced to 7%. Government has also finalized a package for revival of the short-term rural cooperatives credit structure. The Rs. 13596 crore package will usher in reforms in the cooperatives sector and help the cooperatives to provide easy credit for farming and allied activities.

The scope of Kisan Credit Card (KCC) has been enlarged to include term loans and also to meet consumption needs. By September 2006, more than 6.25 crore KCCs have been issued to farmers.

An Agriculture Summit 2006 was organized jointly with FICCI for promoting public-private partnership in various areas of agriculture. Besides industry and trade representatives, a large number of farmers from across the country participated in the Summit.

A constitution amendment bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha in May 2006 for empowering cooperatives. The bill is presently under consideration of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture.

The Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister visited Vidarbha in Maharashtra in June-July to have a first-hand look at the distress of farmers in the region. The Prime Minister announced a special package on 1st July for six districts of Vidarbha region. Subsequently, the Government approved special rehabilitation package for affected districts of other States. Taken together, the package covers 31 districts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala and involves a sum of Rs. 16978.69 crore. This comprises subsidy/grants of Rs. 10579.43 crore and loans to the tune of Rs. 6399.26 crore.

Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries

The National Fisheries Development Board was set up in September 2006. The Board has started promoting, supervising and coordinating developmental activities in the fisheries sector. It activities cover the entire range of fisheries including aquaculture, brackish water fisheries, deep-sea fishing, seaweed cultivation, and processing and marketing.

The Department has allocated over Rs. 800 crore to States for promoting livestock, dairy and fisheries sectors. The focus of dairy sector has been on rapid genetic upgration of cattle and buffaloes and provision of health cover and fodder.

A Dairy/Poultry Venture Capital Fund has been started. Assistance from the Fund is provided for dairy/poultry projects and is supported further by NABARD.

Livestock Insurance has been started with the aim of providing relief to farmers in case of death of their cattle and buffaloes. The scheme to this effect is being implemented initially in 100 selected districts across the country.

Over 53 thousand fishermen have been extended financial assistance for construction of houses under the welfare programme for fishermen till October 2006. Under the scheme over 12 lakh fishermen are provided insurance cover every year.

From 15 December, 2006 Government has started on-line registration for obtaining Sanitary Import Permit for livestock products.

A number of steps were initiated during the year to control avian influenza (bird flu). A contingency plan has been prepared and a Joint Monitoring Committee regularly monitors the ground situation. Following outbreak of bird flu in some parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in February this year, strict control and containment operations were initiated. This also involved culling over 10 lakh birds and destruction of 8546 tonnes of feed and feed ingredients. A package was also announced to provide relief to the poultry industry affected by bird flu. The package included credit relief and provision of maize at concessional rates.

In 2006, India was declared a rinderpest free country.

Agricultural Research and Education

A World Bank funded Rs. 1190 crore project, National Agricultural Innovation Project, was launched in July, 2006. The project aims at enhancing livelihood security by involving farmer groups, Panchayati Raj Institutions and private sector.

Added thrust is being given to taking research to the farmer’s field. Forty-three new Krishi Vigyan Kendras were opened this year, taking the total number of KVKs in the country to 589.

Besides realising a number of plant varieties, including a wheat variety `Dicoccum’ suitable for diabetic patients, ICAR developed a vaccine against bird flu.

The year 2006 also saw launching of a number of projects in agricultural research including those on seed production, fisheries, exploiting of macro-organisms, transgenics, climate change and intellectual property management.

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