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INTERVIEW

“We are planning to set up food processing industries in crop colonies”
Monday, 21 December, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Stressing that the Telangana state is embarking on innovative farming techniques to meet the growing food demands of the people, State Agriculture and Food Processing Minister Singireddy Niranjan Reddy, stated that the state government is working on bringing widespread changes in agriculture and food processing and marketing of food grains in the state.

During an interview with Amguth Raju, the Agriculture Minister delved on various initiatives taken up by the state government to improve the living standards of farmers and development of agriculture and food processing to the next highest level.

What changes have been brought up in the farming and agriculture sector since past six years of formation of new state of Telangana?
To be frank, the agriculture sector in Telangana was in complete doldrums during the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh before formation of new state of Telangana. Thousands of farmers were forced to sell off their lands and migrated to bigger cities in search of livelihood, because there were no irrigation facilities like reservoirs, canals and moreover the entire Telangana region was facing regular droughts. The successive governments then never cared for the farmers. There was no power, no irrigation facilities, and no incentives for the farmers; no minimum support price for their produce, there was complete unemployment both in agriculture sector in the rural areas. Because of this, the poor farmers were under heavy debts and to overcome this some farmers even resorted to committing suicide while some others sold their existing agriculture lands to pay off their debts. And in fact, the basis of Telangana agitation was on the demand of irrigation water, funds and employment for the youth of Telangana.

However, after formation of Telangana, we have studied the ground realities faced by the poor farmers in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh and accordingly we have prepared short-term and long-term plans to rejuvenate the agriculture and farming sector in the state. Our goal and aim is to see that Telangana becomes India’s grain bowl. For this to achieve, our government is trying that each and every acre in Telangana is provided irrigation water and develop the agriculture, so that each and every farmer becomes richer.

For this we have taken up construction of irrigation projects, rejuvenated ponds and canals under Mission Kakatiya programme and ensured the basic irrigation facilities are accessible for the farmers. Apart from this, we also ensured the river water from Krishna and Godavari, which passes through hundreds of kilometres across the state are brought into utilisation through these projects and today we could fill almost more than 40,000 lakes and ponds and made sure the farmers get irrigation water. During past six years, Telangana state has achieved remarkable development in agriculture sector and today our state is producing record paddy crop during the kharif season.

What incentives is your government giving for the farmers and what is the budget outlay for various schemes meant for the farmers in the state?
As I already said our government is giving highest priority for the agriculture and farming sector. For improving the livelihood of the farmers and to make sure the farmers do not become debt ridden and to ensure that the farmer’s families are protected in case if any untoward happens to the farmers, our government had brought unique and never before schemes like Rythu Bhandu, Rythu Bheema and even waived off the crop loans of farmers up to Rs 1 lakh in four instalments.

Every year the state government is spending Rs 60,000 crore alone for the agriculture sector in the state. For the year 2020-21, our government had allocated Rs 14,000 crore for Rythu Bhandu, input subsidy scheme for the farmers which is an increase of Rs 2,000 crore form the earlier year. For Rythu Bheema insurance scheme our government is paying premium on behalf of the farmers and this year we have spent Rs 1,300 crore. In addition to this, we are spending annually Rs 8000 crore for the crop loan waiver scheme for the farmers in the state.

Apart from providing direct financial benefits for the farmers we are also funding the construction of farmers related infrastructure facilities such as Agriculture Cooperative Society buildings and providing Rs 24 lakh for each building. In addition to this in each and every village Rythu Vedicas, platforms for farmers to process and dry their grains etc. are being constructed.

In all, over 51 lakh farmers in Telangana have been benefiting from Rythu Bhandu and Rythu Bheema schemes. This season alone we have deposited Rs 5,000 per acre input subsidy into the accounts of 43 lakh farmers during Kharif and very soon the remaining farmers will also get the benefits.

How much amount is being spent on the subsidies for seed distribution in the state and what about the fertiliser needs of the state?
For supplying quality seeds for the farmers, we are spending Rs 1,000 crore every year and the seed distribution is being done through Markfed.
In addition to this, we are providing free power to the farmers 24/7 and annually the government is spending Rs 5,000 crore towards the electricity bills.

How much land area has been brought under cultivation since past 6 years under the new irrigation projects constructed by the government?
In fact, our government had set a target of bringing more than one crore acre of land under all the irrigation projects in the state. Under Palamuru Ranga Reddy Lift Irrigation project, in just a period of 2 years of its commencement of works already 8 lakh acre have been covered as against a target of 12 lakh acre. Similarly under the Kaleshwaram irrigation project we have set a target of providing more than 30 lakh acre.
We are happy that this season with good rains we have already crossed our set target of 1.11 crore acre under irrigation and produced a record food grain in the state.

This year the demand for fertilisers has remarkably increased. This season we have supplied more than 9 lakh metric tonne of urea for the farmers.

Give us information on food processing industries and the marketing facilities for the farmers in the state?
Apart from improving the grain production in the state, our government is also equally giving importance for marketing and setting up of food processing industries. Unless and until we provide better marketing and add value to the farm products the farmers will not benefit. For this purpose, we have decided to set up food parks across the state. Already we have sanctioned 4 Mega Food Parks, which have already commenced operations. Apart from this we are also encouraging investors and entrepreneurs to set up their own food processing industries at mandal and district levels.

For making sure the farmers gain benefits from their farm produce, we have decided to introduce regulatory farming and have instructed the agriculture department authorities to provide awareness and encourage farmers to sow only those crops which are beneficial to them and which is suitable to their soils and climatic conditions. By doing so we are trying to make that the farmers do not lose due to natural calamities and climatic changes.

We are in the process of dividing the entire state into crop colonies. Based on the type of land, soil, climatic condition and availability of irrigation facilities the entire state is divided into crop colonies. Depending on this data, we are planning to set up food processing industries in those areas. For instance, the Wanaparthy district is more suitable for growing groundnut and every year the farmers are producing record groundnut. In this region we have decided to set up groundnut processing units, wherein these units can procure the groundnut from farmers and manufacture value-added products such as groundnut oil, peanut butter and other related products. In this way, we are providing better marketing facilities for the farmers for their agriculture produce.

How do you view the future of agriculture sector in Telangana, how far the farming sector has adopted technology and farm mechanisation in the state?
For farm mechanisation we are providing tractors to the farmers on subsidy through industries department. If we go by the United Nations report by 2030 each and every nation must upgrade their farming sector to meet the food needs of more than 7 billion people in the world. Of the 570 million small and medium scale farmers in the world. majority are still depending on old farming implements. Similarly in Telangana also majority farmers are still depending on old farming implements. To change this government is providing subsidies up to 50 per cent for the farmers and encouraging them to get advanced farming tools.

Apart from this, we are also trying to adopt the new advancement in the farming sector that is being taken up across the advanced countries. For instance we are trying to adopt mobile remote sensing and utilisation of computerised farming initiatives. Though these are still at the planning stage but with the extensive utilisation of mobile phone technology we are searching on more cost-effective methodologies to improve the crop harvest for the farmers.

In my opinion, we need to make sure that another agriculture revolution should be brought in the coming days where in the agriculture sector should incorporate the advanced technologies of the present day which would help utilise all the resources available, and completely change the rural economies of the farmers in the villages.
 
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