The Union government is finalising two new initiatives -- national food security mission and new additional central
assistance scheme for development of agriculture and allied sectors in the states' plans, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in Hyderabad on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh announced that the National Food Security Mission would be formally launched from Andhra Pradesh to achieve additional production of 3 million tonne of rice, 350,000 tonne of pulses and 500,000 tonne of oilseeds. The mission will be launched in 11 districts for rice and 14 districts for pulses.
Briefing newsmen on the deliberations of the review meeting chaired by the Prime Minister on agriculture and allied sectors in AP at Jubilee Hall here, Pawar said that with a view to incentivise states to allocate more resources for agriculture and allied sectors, the new ACA scheme has been devised by the Union government with an outlay of R 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion) for the Eleventh Plan to enhance public investment in agriculture and allied sectors.
"To get benefit under the new scheme, the state governments are required to prepare the district and state agriculture plans and to maintain baseline share of agriculture and allied sectors in the total state plan expenditure. On its part, the Union government will bear a share beyond the baseline expenditure and provide ACA to states as grant," he added.
He said the National Food Security Mission (NFSM), comprising three components-namely, rice, wheat and pulses-is being introduced with the objective of enhancement of production of rice by 10 million tonne, wheat by eight million tonne and pulses by two million tonne by the end of the XI Plan. The overall outlay for this Mission would be about Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion).
Pawar said that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhar Reddy has been asked to give priority to formulation of district and state agriculture plans, ensure earmarking of sufficient funds under agriculture and allied activities in the state plan and to gear up state implementing machinery to avail of the benefits under these two new initiatives to be launched shortly.
He pointed out that the Government of India has approved a rehabilitation package of Rs 9,650 crore (Rs 96.50 billion) for 16 suicide prone districts of AP where the farmers had committed suicide in the past. The package is being implemented with a time--frame of three years and includes both immediate and medium term measures.
"Though the achievement of the AP government appears to be better but much more remains to be done to realise the goals set under the package. The State government, in particular, needs to step up their efforts substantially for completing the targets under irrigation, watershed activities, horticulture and subsidiary activities for making a dent on the distressing conditions of farmers of the state," he added.
Earlier, in his opening remarks at the meeting, Dr Manmohan Singh said "AP was the first state I visited after I became the Prime Minister. And, today, AP is the first state from where I begin my review of agriculture in different states. I am visiting states to see that our intentions to revitalise agriculture turn into reality. This is because agriculture is a national priority."
"AP has laid great emphasis on agriculture in the last three years. The state plan priorities have given focus to irrigation and agriculture. The expansion planned in irrigation is impressive," he said and complimented the state government for this effort.
However, he said that there were also certain areas of concern and also areas which were promising for the future. "The state is relatively better off in the utilisation of inputs but there is scope for improvement in the yields. This possibility exists in rice, pulses and cotton. There are also large inter-regional gaps in yields and productivity," he said, and pointed out that this was more in evidence in south Telangana, North Telangana and North Coastal Andhra.
Stating that 80 per cent of the farmers in the state are small and marginal farmers, he observed that even after completion of the ambitious irrigation projects in the state, 40 per cent of the state's agriculture would still be rainfed. There are also a large number of vacancies in the state agricultural extension set-up which need to be filled up.
"The state is laying emphasis on expanding irrigation on a massive scale. The numbers are impressive. But the state must ensure that the projects are completed on time, that they produce the desired benefits and that the emphasis is laid on water use efficiency and long-term sustainable management of these projects through the local community.
Pawar said that the prime minister would be visiting Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar. He said that a broad understanding has been reached with the AP government at the review meeting wherein the key thrust areas for the rejuvenation of agriculture sector has been identified.
While reaffirming the commitment of the state to achieve four per cent annual growth in agriculture sector in the state during the XI Plan period, the state resolved to take measures with regard to 11 points. Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that the X1 Plan would be finalised soon.