There is scope for fresh hope for farmers in the Budget presented on Friday in the Assembly, in which Finance Minister K.M. Mani has outlined a fair mix of technology-oriented projects and welfare programmes in the outlay for the Agriculture sector.

Model hi-tech green villages in all districts, integrated agricultural garden scheme for small holders, technology centre for fruits, vegetables and flowers, Kerala brand for organic farming, production of Neera from coconut, integrated crop insurance, exemption for individual farmers from paying agricultural income tax — these are some of the major proposals for the sector. A hi-tech fodder unit and a genomic laboratory for early detection of good heifers have also been mooted in the allied sectors.

Mr. Mani has earmarked Rs.50 crore to write-off the interest burden on Nabard loans availed of by small farmers. The offer will be extended under a one-time settlement for farmers remitting the loan capital.

Small and marginal farmers, having land below one hectare, will be eligible for interest-free farm loan. A risk insurance scheme will be introduced for loan repayment under which the loan need not be repaid if the head of the family dies or meets with an accident.

Farm garden scheme

The integrated agricultural garden scheme for small holders envisages the creation of 10,000 viable economic units, bringing together hi-tech agriculture with chicken, duck, turkey, quail and rabbit farming, pisci culture, bee keeping, mushroom cultivation, or floriculture. The Budget has allocated Rs.70 crore for model hi-tech green villages in each district, adopting rainwater harvesting, waste processing at source, hi-tech agriculture, organic farming, water, energy, environmental, and food security.

A sum of Rs.21 crore has been set apart for paddy procurement and Rs.30 crore for farmers’ societies and farmers’ markets. Mr. Mani proposed a Rs.15-crore scheme to promote Kerala’s own brand of organic farming through a pilot project for production of organic manure, pesticides and high yielding seeds, tissue culture seedlings, and production units, in selected districts. An integrated crop insurance scheme, covering all major crops, has also been mooted.

The Minister also proposed a chain of fair price restaurants named Trupthi where food would be available for Rs.20.

The restaurants would be opened in all taluk headquarters. He said the Civil Supplies Department would be the nodal agency for the restaurant chain that could be operated by women’s units like Kudumbasree, Janasree and Grihasree.

The government, he explained, would provide grant upto Rs.500,000 per year to cover the rental, electricity, and water charge of each restaurant besides a managerial subsidy of Rs.50,000 and supply of grains, provisions, vegetables, and fish at fair price, and gas connection at concessional rate.

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