Aiming to double farmers’ income in the next five years, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Thursday said that farm mechanisation will bring down the cost of cultivation by up to 25 per cent and raise production by 20 per cent.
He also said that raising support price of agri-crops will not suffice, as there is a need to bring down the cost of cultivation, for which, use of innovative farm machineries is the need of the hour.
The Modi government is promoting farm mechanisation in a big way under various programmes and has been setting up more testing and training centres across the country, he added. “Farm mechanisation is key for modernising agriculture sector.
Use of agri-machineries will help increase production by 20 per cent and bring down the cost of cultivation by 20-25 per cent. This is the need of the hour,” Singh said addressing an event on this issue.
Asserting that farm machineries need to be promoted both in agriculture and allied sectors to address labour shortage, the minister said the states should take equal interest and spend allocated central funds for this purpose. “We don’t have shortage of funds. The problem is that states are not utilising funds properly and timely.”
Blaming the previous regime for giving less priority to farm mechanisation, the minister said the focus in the past had been on increasing the minimum support price (MSP) and loan waiver in the name of the increasing farmers income. “But MSP is one aspect. Modi government is focusing on reducing the overall cost of cultivation and boost productivity,” Singh said.
Now, the government is making efforts to address the core challenges facing farm sector, be it improving soil health or providing irrigation to farm fields or for that matter promoting balanced use of fertilisers, he added.
On challenges faced in adopting new technologies, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said, “It is not financing or subsidy that is an hindrance in promoting farm mechanisation. The real issue is that not many of them are aware of innovative farm machines being developed in length and breadth of this country.”
Both public and private companies and even farmers themselves have developed novel farm machineries. “We are working how to bring them together and commercialize at lower price for the benefit of farmers,” he said.
“The PM has given the call to double farmers income. We are trying how to achieve this. To remove drudgery in agriculture and save labour cost, farm mechansisation is must,” the Secretary noted.
The Centre is implementing a sub-mission on agricultural mechanisation under which custom-hiring facilities for agri-machinery are set up with a focus on increasing the reach of farm machineries to small and marginal farmers. There are at present, 1,200 custom hiring centres.
The agriculture minister added that after a sluggish start, sowing of kharif crops like paddy has picked up pace this week on account of good rains in several parts of the country, Radha Mohan Singh. Till last week, total acreage under kharif (summer) crops was down 23 per cent to 215.87 lakh hectare because of inadequate rainfall in June.
Sowing of kharif (summer) crops begins with the onset of southwest monsoon from June and harvesting is done from October onwards. Paddy is the main kharif crop. “Several parts of the country received good rainfall. The monsoon situation has improved and sowing of kharif crops has picked up pace in many places,” Singh told reporters.
The kharif sowing is expected to improve further as good rainfall is predicted for the months of July, August and September, he added.
Echoing similar views, Agriculture Secretary S K Pattanayak said: “Good rains in several states have boosted sowing operations. The gap in sowing area has come down. Till last week, there was a gap of 60 lakh hectare, but this has come down to 30 lakh hectare in just last three days.”
Planting of paddy, pulses, oilseeds, and even cotton is expected to improve in the coming days, said. As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the overall monsoon deficiency has reduced to 9 per cent after several parts of the country received good rains. IMD has forecast overall monsoon to be better than normal this year and the government is targeting a record foodgrains production of 270.10 million tonnes in 2016-17.