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Rain-hit farmers need sops to dry grains: Swaminathan

Rain-hit farmers need sops to dry grains: Swaminathan
In a letter to the Union Agriculture Minister and four state Chief Ministers, Swaminathan has recommended community nurseries for short-duration rice as the water table is now high.

“As soon as the rain stops, incentives may be given for the use of combine harvesters and for grain drying. Grain drying is a must to prevent the development of mycotoxins,” Swaminathan said in the letter. The water table is just now high and, hence, water may not be a problem. Farmers may be assisted in cultivating short duration rice, maize, moong or millets, he added.

“They all require less water and public funds may be used for implementing this contingency plan
to compensate for the losses incurred,” he said. Emphasising on the need for a detailed strategy to manage such unfavorable weather events in the future, Swaminathan has said that there is need for seed reserves of alternative short duration crops.

The reserves of seed are as important for crop security as food grain reserves are for food security. Unseasonal rains and hailstorms during this month have damaged rabi (winter-sown) crops in 106.73 lakh hectares of area across 14 states as against the earlier estimates of 181 lakh hectares. The total cultivable area in rabi season is 600 lakh hectares.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday that the Government is reviewing the norms to raise the compensation limit to farmers in case of drought or heavy rains damaging the crops. Demands in this regard have been made by various states.

“I am seriously reviewing those norms with the expenditure department of the Finance Ministry and you will very shortly hear about that,” Jaitley said.

Responding to a question on change in compensation norms to farmers affected by severe weather conditions like hailstorm or drought, he said, “I am personally in favour of increasing it. We will make a significant increase in that.”

Addressing reporters at the conclusion of the National Executive meeting of BJP here, he said compensation to farmers affected due to crop damage was provided by the central government on the basis of old norms.

According to official data, crop damage due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms has been reported in 106 lakh hectares in 13 states, including Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, in the current rabi season.

The government recently set up an informal group of ministers, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, to look into the issue of raising cap of financial assistance given to farmers whose crops have been affected due to unseasonal rains and other natural calamities.

Also, the Centre had asked state governments to render immediate assistance to farmers from SDRF (State Disaster Relief Fund) which has funds to the tune of Rs 5,270 crore for utilisation during the fiscal. The states had also been asked to submit a memorandum in case the expenditure was more than the available funds.

As per SDRF norms, the state governments can give input subsidy to farmers at the rate of Rs 4,500 per hectare for rainfed areas, Rs 9,000 per hectare for irrigated areas and Rs 12,000 per hectare for perennial crops.
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