The government’s ambitious plan to issue soil health cards to the 14 crore farmers in the country in the next three years for improving agricultural productivity could be hit because of budgetary constraints.
Sources told FE that in the Union Budget (2016-17), the allocation to the agriculture ministry for implementing soil health card scheme could be R100 crore, the same as in the current fiscal. Till now, only about one crore social health cards have been issued.
Thus, the agriculture ministry’s target to provide soil health cards to all 14 crore farmers by end of 2017-18 looks unlikely to be met in the absence of adequate financial allocations.
The scheme to provide soil health cards, which was launched last year, focuses specially in the irrigated areas as due to extensive use of fertiliser and pesticides in these regions have led to deterioration in the soil health.
A soil health card carries details about the health of the soil, the diseases, if any, in it and the nutrient it needs. Availability of the information through such cards helps increase crop productivity as well as keep land in cultivation for long time.
The scheme is currently being implemented on 50:50 sharing basis with the states. The scheme launched in February last year envisaged that the soil samples from 47 lakh farmers will be collected over a period of three years and soil health card would be issued to farmers after testing of these samples.
The sources also said that around 2.53 crore samples will be collected and tested to generate 14 crore soil health cards to individual farmers during the next three years. The target for 2015-16 is 84 lakh of samples, against which only about 34 lakh samples have been collected so far.
While launching the soil health card initiative in Rajasthan last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for soil testing to be made a regular feature, so that a new class of entrepreneurs could set up soil testing labs even in small towns.
Meanwhile, the agriculture ministry has urged measures like a new scheme on animal health card, e-market platform for bovine germplasm and increase in allocation for Rashtriya Gokul Mission in Budget 2016.