Goa to promote mechanisation of farming

FEWER HANDS:Paddy transplantation is full swing in South Goa.  

The Goa government will take steps to promote mechanised farming in Goa.

In the tiny coastal State, agriculture is fast turning into an uneconomic proposition largely because of high level of fragmentation of landholdings leading to very high cost of labour which is scarce.

Much of Goa's agriculture now depends on labour coming from outside the State.

Minister for Agriculture Vishwajit Rane recently told presspersons that the his plans to promote mechanised farming would begin from Sattari taluk, his home constituency in north Goa, covering 2,500 farmers. After Sattari, the villages of Chodan, Siolim, and Guirim in north Goa will be covered.

The Minister is trying to expedite the State's decision-making level bureaucracy to allow the legal framework to be put into place to allow contract farming in the State.

In the coastal State, the area under agriculture had been stagnant for years if not shrinking, the Minister admitted recently. The cultivated area in Goa was 1.30 lakh hectares. An incentive of Rs. 25,000 would be

given to farmers to bring their fallow land under cultivation. This step would help bring more area under cultivation.

The State's total area was slightly less than 3,700 sq km. With the timely arrival of monsoons in the State, the Directorate of Agriculture has geared its machinery and has taken several steps, including mechanisation of agriculture.

A significant increase in State agriculture budget from Rs. 17 crore four years ago to Rs. 69crore this year would help bring more area under cultivation, besides offer incentives to farmers and encourage youth to take up farming.

Now, with the onset of rains, agriculture operations were in full swing in Goa. Farmers commenced ploughing the fields to begin kharif cultivation.

The monsoon had facilitated sowing of pulses, paddy, planting of coconut saplings, chillies, brinjals, and other variety of crops. Even as kharif crop covers all taluks, most of kharif crops were sown in Pernem, Sattari, Bicholim, and Bardez taluk of north and Quepem and Sanguem taluks of south Goa.

According to the Agriculture Department's statistics, a total of 30,632 hectares of land was brought under paddy cultivation last kharif season while the total production was 1,08,333 tonnes. Rice production was estimated at 72,221 tonnes. The area under pulses was 180 hectares of land with production at 146 tonnes per hectare and the average yield per kg was at 809 tonnes during the kharif season. Similarly, area covered under groundnut was 461 hectares with production put at 1,390 tonnes per hectare and average yield was 3,015 tonnes. Rice continued to be the main cereal crop which occupied about 29 per cent of the cropped area followed by cashew and coconut.

In a bid to promote mechanisation in agriculture, the State government has increased the subsidy to 70 per cent of the cost on modern implements and machines. Paddy transplanting machines and paddy combine used for harvesting had provided major relief to the paddy growing farmers in the State, thus reducing dependence on manual labour. Mechanised farming is expected to help farmers overcome the growing problem of high cost of labour.

An official of Agriculture Department said that several schemes had been launched by the government through Directorate of Agriculture to promote farming and attract youth towards this activity. With higher literacy and a very high rate of urbanisation, youth was continually weaning away from agriculture in the State. Farmers could avail the benefit of up to 90 per cent on solar power fencing scheme.

Speaker Pratapsingh Rane, father of Agriculture Minister, who happens to be a successful progressive farmer himself, told The Hindu recently that he had successfully used the technology on his pineapple farms at Sattari to protect the fruit from wild animals.

A subsidy of up to 90 per cent was provided for construction of polyhouses and green houses. Similar subsides were provided for drip irrigation and for construction of biogas plants.

The government had taken steps to recognise the contribution of progressive farmers to the State's economy by instituting three State-level awards of Rs. 2 lakh, Rs. 1 lakh, and Rs. 50,000 in the name of Krishi Ratna, Krishi Vibhushan, and Krishi Bhushan, respectively.

A support price scheme was being extended to agriculture produce such as coconut, cashew, areca and beans of local variety. This, along with introduction of systems of procurement of vegetables from farmers at a fixed price, was expected to reduce the continued dependence of the tourist State on vegetables from neighbouring States.

To create skilled manpower, the government plans to train youth this year so that they can operate various types of machineries. The trainees will also be trained in other agricultural operations, the Minister recently said.

The concept of farmers' club is being taken seriously for all these activities. A thrust is being laid on promoting community farming. The critics of the Minister do not believe that the State is really making a headway in agriculture. They describe the Goan agriculture as “Subsidy-Raj” as the State continued to be dependent for agricultural produce on other States. The government has spent Rs. 12.5 crore on extending subsidy to several farmers last year, officials said here.

Landowners depend on workers from outside the State

Contract farming may be introduced soon