Agriculture sector received an all-time-high allocation of Rs. 5,189.15 crore in the State budget presented in the Assembly by Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam on Thursday. This is against Rs. 4, 829.93 crore provided in 2012-13. The Minister also announced a slew of measures aimed at enhancing productivity and farmers’ income.

To give a major thrust to water conservation and management through drip irrigation, the Minister removed the ceiling of one acre for small and marginal farmers for availing themselves of the benefits under micro irrigation schemes.

Vouchers would be provided to farmers and they would be free to choose quality suppliers. Subsidy would go to the farmer’s bank account and later released to the supplier only after satisfactory installation of drip irrigation equipment and third party inspection report.

Pointing out that lack of adequate storage facilities, market information and access to markets forced the farmers to resort to distress sale,

Mr. Panneerselvam announced that infrastructure would be upgraded in select agricultural markets, which would be functionally integrated at a cost of Rs. 15 crore with National Agriculture Development Programme funds.

The markets would also be integrated with commodity exchanges like Multi Commodity Exchange of India and National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange. He hoped that these initiatives would reduce wastage and improve sharing of market intelligence. Strengthening of post-harvest and processing facilities would also stabilise prices of agricultural commodities.

A sum of Rs. 20 crore was allocated for promoting agro processing units in the budget under the National Mission for Food Processing.

Special focus

It had been planned to bring additional five lakh acres of paddy cultivation under the System of Rice Intensification. Special focus would be given for increasing the area under vegetable cultivation to 8.2 lakh acres from 7.25 lakh acres during 2013-14.

A special project to integrate markets handling perishable commodities with village production clusters would be implemented, besides encouraging innovative technologies like precision farming and protected cultivation practices like shade net cultivation. A revolving fund of Rs. 150 crore would be provided to the Tamil Nadu Cooperative Marketing Federation to ensure timely availability of fertilizers. A sum of Rs. 50 crore would be allocated as revolving fund for ensuring availability of liquid fertilizers.

An annual seed plan had been prepared to popularise high-yielding varieties and improve seed replacement ratio. A provision of Rs 161.62 crore had been made for production and distribution of quality seeds for various crops. The crop loan target under the coop. sector would be stepped up to Rs. 4500 crore from Rs. 4000 crore in the ensuing financial year.

Mr. Panneerselvam said Chief Minister Jayalalithaa would soon announce a relief package for non-delta districts affected by drought. A drought memorandum was also being submitted to the Central government.

The government would initiate necessary action for early commencement of the third intra-State river linkage scheme – the Pennar-Palar link project – the Minister assured while announcing an allocation of Rs. 156.44 crore for the ongoing Thamirabarani-Karumeniar-Nambiar link and Cauvery-Gundar link schemes. Stating that a substantial allocation of Rs. 3,314.5 crore had been made for irrigation, Mr. Panneerselvam said an agreement for implementing the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project had already been signed with the World Bank and a provision of Rs. 390 crore, out of the total project cost of Rs 745.49 crore, had been made in the budget to take up dam rehabilitation work. Rehabilitation of traditional water bodies would be taken up at a cost of Rs. 50 crore. The government had submitted a Rs 1,560-crore proposal to the Asian Development Bank for the Cauvery Delta Area Improvement Scheme to mitigate the impact of climate change. The project included reconstruction of tail-end regulators and improvement of drainage channels in the delta region.

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