Interest-free loan for Palakkad farmers

Staff Reporter

PALAKKAD: The District Cooperative Bank here has launched an interest-free loan scheme for paddy cultivators in the district, where 62 per cent of the grain produced in the State is grown.

Launching the scheme here on Tuesday, P.A. Ummer, president of the bank, said Rs.25 crore was earmarked for the scheme in the financial year 2007-08. More money would be allotted if required. A farmer could get a loan of Rs.50,000 for every growing season. It was now restricted to those who hold up to two hectares of fields. The demand to extend the scheme to all farmers would be considered.

Mr. Ummer said the bank would try to ensure a reasonable price for paddy. Paddico, a cooperative paddy procuring and processing unit, would buy the grain at the support price fixed by the State Government. He said the loan would be insured through the Agriculture Insurance Company of India. Thus, crop loss caused by natural calamity or other reasons would be compensated.

He said 75 per cent of the farmers here depended on paddy cultivation for survival. In the three paddy cultivating seasons, 1,05,031 hectares of fields were cultivated and the annual production was 1,89,443 tonnes.

But a large number of farmers had reclaimed their fields owing to losses. Many debt-ridden farmers had committed suicide. Use of fields for construction and cultivating cash crops had created major social and environmental problems. Thus, to save the farmers and paddy fields, such a loan scheme was launched for the first time in the country.

Mr. Ummer said the State Government had shown keen interest in the scheme, and Minister for Agriculture Mullakkara Ratnakaran had announced at a meeting of farmers in Thiruvanathapuram on Monday that it would be implemented in Thrissur and Alappuzha districts. He said a sum of Rs.46.15 crore received through the cooperative sector under the Vidharbha Model Agriculture Debt Relief Package was distributed to 86,484 farmers during the last financial year. The amount was distributed to the 106 service cooperative banks and five agriculture development banks. He said the bank had proposed to include paddy cultivation in the employment assurance scheme of the Centre implemented in the district.

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