M A I N   N E W S

Slowdown in farm growth
Full planning panel meets today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 13
The full Planning Commission, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, meets here tomorrow to discuss the proposals to provide better technical and financial assistance to the agriculture sector and to arrest the slowdown in farm growth.

The meeting is expected to result in the announcement of some sops to farmers in the form of government assistance for improving yield to boost agricultural growth to 4 per cent per annum from the present level of about little more than 2 per cent.

The crucial meeting has been called by the Prime Minister to draft a short-term strategy to boost farm growth, which has stagnated in the past decade, officials said.

The plan panel is alarmed at the food grain situation in the country. Per person production of cereals has fallen from 192 kg to just 174 kg. That of pulses has gone down from 15 kg to 12kg. The availability of other foodgrains per person has fallen from 205 kg per person to just 186 kg per person. This is despite the fact that the government subsidy for the agriculture sector has increased from 5.17 per cent to 7.42 per cent.

In the wake of these statistics, the commission has warned of the danger of food security as various state governments are looking at diversification of agriculture to improve earning of farmers. But, intensive use of new technologies and providing access to scientific research to farmers can bring in the change, the commission stated.

According to commission officials, the meeting will discuss issues such as one-time debt waiver scheme for farmers, easing supply gaps, higher farm credit, a comprehensive crop insurance scheme and crop diversification.

The meeting will also be attended by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and finance minister P. Chidambaram, among others, and study the 12 reports of working groups constituted by the panel.

This apart, the other papers that will be considered during the meeting include the five reports of the National Commission on Farmers under farm scientist M.S. Swaminathan and the eight others of the NDCs various sub-committees.

On the issue of the new scheme for additional central assistance to states, the commission has proposed that it be called Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana where funds to states could be provided based on twin formulae.

The plan panel feels each state can be asked to outline a four-year action plan identifying individual elements like watershed management, extension support and seed availability that can contribute to the specific targets.

Other outcomes of the meeting could be an action plan on food security with a special wheat production programme with an outlay of Rs 8.41 billion covering as many as 138 districts, and distribution of improved seeds for pulses to farmers.

Similar strategies, officials added, could also be announced in the area of farm inputs, horticulture, animal husbandry, research, bringing more area under paddy cultivation and ensuring seed testing labs in every district by 2010.



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