With 62% of the maize cultivation across Tamil Nadu under attack from the Fall Armyworm, an invasive pest, since last year, the State government on Thursday announced relief to the tune of ₹186.25 crore under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to benefit farmers.
Making a suo motu statement in the Assembly, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said that of the 3.55 lakh hectare in which maize was cultivated, about 2,20,986 hectare had been hit by the pest, despite all precautionary measures. The relief was to benefit farmers in 17 districts, he said.
While the relief to irrigated crops would be Rs.13,500 per hectare, it would be Rs. 7,410 per hectare for rain-fed crops, he said.
Over 80% of maize farmers are small farmers and the crop forms a significant portion of the State’s food production.
The crop is cultivated mainly in Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Salem, Namakkal, Tiruppur, Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Perambalur, Ariyalur, Tiruchi, Ramanathapuram, Madurai, Dindigul, Virudhunagar, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Theni districts.
Due to changing climatic conditions, the Fall Armyworm, which hit the Americas had spread to Africa in 2016, and was later reported in India in 2018.
“The pest has also hit neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and Cambodia,” he pointed out.
The pest started affecting maize cultivation in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and in Tamil Nadu since 2018 and has spread swiftly and resulted in major loss to farmers.
Though earlier guidelines did not provide for relief to maize farmers under the SDRF, Mr. Palaniswami said he ordered for revision in the guidelines to benefit the maize farmers.
He also called upon farmers to insure their crops to protect themselves financially against natural disasters.