From 2000 to 2011, the State has registered a negative growth rate in agriculture sector. To ensure four per cent average growth in coming years, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) has called for redoubling the efforts in agriculture sector to augment farm productivity.

A State Focus Paper on Tamil Nadu prepared by Nabard states that there was increase in the size of fallow land from 7.59 lakh hectares in 2005-06 to 11.17 lakh hectares in 2009-10. In the last decade alone, population grew by 15 per cent, while net sown area reduced by 46,000 hectare and food production by three per cent. An investment of Rs.40,000 crore was anticipated towards development of agricultural infrastructure across the State.

While addressing a State-level credit seminar, Nabard Chief General Manager Lalitha Venkatesan said: “We have to redouble our efforts to achieve an average growth of four per cent. For this, several measures have to be initiated to address the productivity gap and knowledge gap, so as to enhance agricultural productivity and facilitate raise in farmers’ income. The core focus would be to create an economy with an accelerated growth that is sustainable as well as inclusive.” Pointing out that accelerated urbanisation, migration, unequal rains and labour shortage had taken their toll on cultivable area, she said the State could not afford to allow its fertile lands to become fallow. There was an urgent need to arrest saline intrusion into agricultural lands. Measures such as recharge shafts and salinity ingress prevention structures have to be undertaken on the lines of Gujarat.

While stating that indiscriminate use of inorganic fertiliser resulted in the soils becoming less productive, she asked the farmers to go in for application of green leaf manure and in situ ploughing of green manure to ensure better organic matter content in the soil that would lead to higher degrees of microbial activity and water retention.

The Focus Paper suggested creation of awareness among the farmers for undertaking land development activities, as investment in this sector could increase the production and productivity of crops; financing of farm ponds to be considered to facilitate water storage and recharge of ground water.

Reclamation measures and technical guidance for improvement of the soil should be extended on regular basis. Setting up of soil testing labs by private entrepreneurs should be encouraged with financial assistance from bank, the paper said.

Focus will be on an economy with an accelerated growth sustainable as well as inclusive