New Delhi: The National Conference on Agriculture for Kharif Campaign-2015 was organized on 7th and 8th April, 2015 at NASC Complex, Pusa, New Delhi. The Conference was inaugurated by Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister of Agriculture and also addressed by Shri M.K. Kundariya, Minister of State for Agriculture. The Conference was chaired by Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation. The two-day Conference was attended by Agriculture Production Commissioners / Principal Secretaries / Secretaries (Agriculture) from State Governments, Senior Scientists from ICAR, Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE) and officials from Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC), D/o Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, D/o Fertilizers, NITI AYOG, NABARD amongst others.
In his inaugural address, Agriculture Minister mentioned that in order to improve the output and outcomes in the Agriculture & allied sectors, the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has taken numerous reforms and policy initiatives. For providing more flexibility to States, the existing schemes of the Department have been brought under 4 umbrella schemes namely; Krishonnati Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, National Crop Insurance Programme and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana. He lauded efforts of farmers, scientists and State Government officials in meeting the challenges of adverse weather and climatic conditions. In this context, he added that despite the drought situation in many parts of the country and 12% deficit rainfall during last monsoon season, we have been able to achieve foodgrains production of 257.07 million tonnes which is only about 3% lower than the record foodgrains production achieved during 2013-14. Having limited scope in bringing additional land under cultivation and rising demand for food, he emphasized on the adoption of new technologies as well as need for diversifying farm activities by promoting horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries. He mentioned that for assuring reasonable prices to the farmers and increasing farm incomes, Government has taken steps focusing on two major elements crucial for agriculture production, i.e., soil and water. To improve soil fertility on a sustainable basis, the Government of India has launched Soil Health Card Scheme with a target to provide 14 crore soil health cards to farmers by 2017. He mentioned that to encourage farmers to adopt organic farming, the Government has initiated “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana”. To ensure water efficiency and its access to every farm, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana would be launched shortly. He informed that to regulate price volatility and to mitigate hardships of consumers, a “Price Stabilization Fund” has been created. For sustainable production of horticulture crops, he emphasized upon the need to develop technology and popularize it among farmers to control attack of pests and diseases by biological methods. He highlighted that for ensuring better income to farmers, the Government has introduced National Agricultural Insurance Scheme and Modified National Agriculture Insurance Scheme. He mentioned that to focus specially on small and marginal farmers, the Government of India has made provision of Rs.25000 crore to the corpus of Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) setup in NABARD. In addition, to increase flow of agricultural credit an ambitious target of Rs.8.5 lakh crore has been proposed during 2015-16. He expressed hope that the deliberations in this two-day conference would bring out new ideas and help in evolving better strategies for overall development of Agriculture & allied sectors.
In his address, Shri M K Kundariya, Minister of State for Agriculture stated that in order to make agriculture more productive, sustainable, remunerative and climate resilient, Government of India has been taking various steps through National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). He stressed upon the need to increase productivity and reduce cost of production so that farming remains a remunerative profession. He expressed concern that the farmers face dual challenge of glut in the market in some pockets due to over production and lack of storage, cold chain and marketing facilities whereas in some other parts, production is adversely affected due to adverse climatic conditions. In order to promote agriculture, we need to maintain farmers’ income by protecting them against adverse weather & rainfall situations, natural calamities etc. Hence, we need to bring more and more farmers under the National Agricultural Income Insurance Scheme. He also emphasized upon the need for better coordination, convergence and synergy among the Government programmes/schemes for agriculture and allied activities. He added that for increasing the income of farmers, the Government has proposed to create a National Agriculture Market which would have the incidental benefit of moderating price rise. However, for successful implementation of the scheme, State Governments need to develop Agri-tech Infrastructure and e-Marketing facilities. He expressed hope that the deliberations would help in working out new strategies for holistic development of Agriculture and allied sector and to achieve the target of additional production of 25 million tonnes of foodgrains by the end of 12th Five Year Plan period.
In his remarks, Secretary (A&C) mentioned that during 2015-16, Central share of allocation under different sectors has been reduced considerably and, therefore, we would not be able to maintain the last year’s level of allocation under the agriculture sector schemes to different States. However, as per recommendations of 14th Finance Commission, funding to States has been increased manifold and, therefore, to maintain same or higher level of availability of funds for agricultural sector, the State Governments have to provide higher funding under different schemes. In this context, he advised Principal Secretaries/Secretaries of State Agriculture Departments to be more vigilant and effectively take up their case with State Finance Department to ensure appropriate allocation from States budget for agriculture sector. He suggested States to give proper attention for updation of RKVY portal. He also noted that while few States are using considerable share of RKVY allocation for NHM projects, use of funds by other States for such projects is negligible. He stressed that the farmers get better return from horticulture crops and these need to be promoted. He suggested States to ensure expeditious payment of compensation by Insurance Companies to farmers.
Agriculture Commissioner, DAC presented Rabi review and Kharif prospects in the country. He mentioned that due to delayed Monsoon, sowing of Kharif 2014 was delayed and, consequently, the Rabi sowing also got delayed. He mentioned that current Rabi crops have been adversely affected due to un-seasonal rains and hailstorm in many parts of the country. He emphasized upon the need to promote short duration varieties of summer moong and inter cropping to compensate the loss of production during Rabi season. He also cautioned States to be prepared in advance to meet different contingent situations arising out of delayed/deficient rainfall, prolonged spells of drought , excess rainfall etc. and to equip themselves with adequate quantity of seeds besides other inputs such as fertilizers, micro nutrients, pesticides etc. He informed that Contingency Plans for 580 districts in the country have already been prepared. He suggested State Governments to fully gear-up themselves for the ensuing Kharif season and procure in advance the seeds of short duration/ stressed tolerant varieties which would be required in case of delayed/deficient rainfall in the monsoon season. States have been advised to organize coordination meetings with other line Departments dealing with power, irrigation, credit etc., besides mobilizing extension staff and involving the SAUs/KVKs, etc. He illustrated crop-specific strategies for higher production of kharif rice, pulses, oilseeds etc. and suggested adoption of improved varieties, seed treatment, weed management, bio-control agents, balanced use of nutrients, etc. He also stressed upon the need to promote and popularize quality protein maize, pearl millets hybrid etc. He suggested States to be more realistic in their assessment of fertilizer requirement to enable proper planning for their import by D/o Fertilizer.
In his address, Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry Dairying & Fisheries highlighted the importance of livestock in alleviating poverty of rural people as well as its role in maintaining significant growth in Agriculture & allied sectors. He mentioned that the allied activities should also be promoted as agriculture is vitally dependent on these activities and provide livelihood to rural population, particularly, when crops fail. He emphasized that if we have to achieve 4% growth in Agri-GDP, the livestock sector has to grow by 6 to 8%. As such, there is an urgent need for huge investment in this sector. Against the requirement of Rs.25600 crore in the 12th Five Year Plan, the Department has been allocated of only Rs.13000 crore. To meet the shortfall, he urged State Governments to ensure adequate funding to this sector from State Budgets. He emphasized that about 1/3rd of Agri-GDP is contributed by livestock sector, but at present less than 15% of funds under RKVY are used for this sector. Hence, he requested States to give adequate attention to livestock sector and allocate at least 1/3rd of RKVY funds to this sector. He also suggested to promote extension services so that the benefit of technology reaches the people involved in livestock activities.
Secretary, Department of Agriculture Research & Education (DARE) also addressed participants. He emphasized upon the need for Soil Health Management through training, capacity building and demonstration for sustainable growth of agriculture sector. He mentioned that there is a need for convergence of efforts of different agencies and effective co-ordination between ICAR institutions, State Agriculture Universities and State Agriculture Departments is required. He mentioned that the ICAR has developed climate resilient, location-specific varieties of different crops and would also address the issue of hailstorm which is a new phenomenon. He offered the services of his Department in addressing the newly emerging problems in the agriculture sector. He called upon the States to come up with their specific requirements and assured that ICAR would be glad to join and contribute in whatever manner it can. He emphasized upon greater need for pest and disease surveillance, ICT based Pest Management and proper soil management etc. He also mentioned that North-Eastern States have high potential in the production of spices and these should be promoted in the NE region.
Joint Secretary (RKVY) made a presentation on Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY). He presented an overview of objectives of the umbrella scheme and important Sub-schemes being implemented under RKVY. He pointed out that during the last three years of 12th Five Year Plan, a number of States have not been able to get release of 2nd Installment of central allocation due to lack of matching share by the State. These States have lost considerable amount of funds that could have been utilized for development of agricultural infrastructure required for improvement of production and productivity of crops. Highlighting the issues and strategies under the Scheme, he recommended that RKVY funds should be utilized in promoting cultivation of high value crops, horticultural crops, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries, development of infrastructure for markets, processing and mechanization. He also presented success stories in various States achieved through utilization of RKVY funds. He emphasized that the States should get budget head created for States share and ensure provision of approximately 50% of release during 2014-15 so that central funding under RKVY can be fully utilized by them.
A small presentation on MRIDAPARIKSHAK, a MINI-LAB for soil testing developed by Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal was also made. It is an affordable, easily transportable equipment which can provide details of important soil parameters i.e. soil pH, electrical conductivity, organic carbon, available nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sulphur, micronutrients etc. and also gives recommendations for balanced fertilizer use.
National Centre for Integrated Pest Management (NCIPM) made a brief presentation on the LIGHT TRAP instrument developed by them. It is an economical, effective, eco-friendly way to control insects and pests. The sub-light source provided inside the protected chamber of light-trap attracts and traps insects which are graded in two different categories under the influence of the light source. This helps in separation of smaller insects, mostly beneficial ones (such as parasitoids) from the larger, harmful insects which can be removed out or killed in the chamber itself. The field tests of the product have shown encouraging results and its acceptance level is growing.
In the interactive session, Joint Secretary (Fertilizer) made a presentation on the assessment of fertilizers for Kharif, 2015. He mentioned that Department of Fertilizer has taken various steps to ensure sufficient availability of the fertilizers for ensuing Kharif season. He pointed out that in the last five years, consumption of urea has increased while consumption of other fertilizers has declined. He stated that to meet the requirement of fertilizers for Kharif season, manufacturing companies have already been asked to produce fertilizers with full capacity. He advised States to take necessary measures such as lifting of extra quantity of fertilizer during lean months, close coordination with suppliers, timely placement of indent with railways, faster release of fertilizer rakes, clearance of outstanding payment of fertilizer companies etc. to ensure proper supply of fertilizers in the next kharif season. He requested States to strengthen enforcement mechanism to prevent hoarding and black marketing of fertilizers. He also advised States to take necessary measures to ensure use of optimal doses of nutrients based on soil health status and promote use of Neem coated urea, micro-nutrients, organic fertilizers, water soluble fertilizers, etc.
To facilitate focused deliberations, the States were divided into five Groups on different topics namely; (i) Strategy to Issue Soil Health Cards in a Time Bound Manner, (ii) Promotion of Pulses through Inter-cropping in Kharif season, (iii) Use of ICT in Decision Support for enhancing Kharif Production, (iv) Strategy for Availability of Vegetables during Rainy Season, and (v) Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY). Main findings and recommendations of subject-specific groups were also discussed in the Conference.
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