In a bid to boost rabi crops sowing which has been hit by the demonetisation move, the government has sent officials to various states to assess ground situation.
According to Shobhana K Pattanayak, secretary, agriculture ministry, several officials have been sent to states to assess impact of cash crunch in the ground. “The move to allow farmers to purchase seeds with the demonetised old R500 bank notes from the state owned agencies like government owned seed corporations, agricultural universities etc would help boosting rabi crops prospects,” he told FE. However, he said that the government did not allow farmers to use old notes while purchasing seeds from private companies because of lack of authentication required in the purchase of seeds using old currency notes of R500.
According to official sources, private companies supply around 60% of seed requirement for wheat, a key rabi crop in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Besides, a Punjab government official said that usually farmers buy seeds in advance but in the case of fertiliser, farmers are facing problems because it can’t be stored for long. Earlier the Fertiliser Association of India has written to finance minister Arun Jaitley to allow farmers to use old R500 notes for purchase of soil nutrient.
Meanwhile, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh in a statement said “the decision to ban R500 and R1,000 notes is going to directly benefit farmers and poor people. This decision is being opposed saying it is affecting farmers and would impact rabi sowing. But the truth is the move is being opposed for personal interest,” Singh said.
However last week’s data on rabi crops sowing indicates that sowing of rabi crops — paddy, wheat, oilseeds, pulses and coarse grains — have been hit because of currency crunch. As per data released by the ministry of agriculture last week, the sowing of wheat, which was 38% higher than the year-ago period until November 11, has since lost momentum. About 24.1 million hectares (mh) were sown with various winter crops until Friday, down 1.65% against the year-ago period.
Agriculture experts said ideally wheat sowing would have to be completed by the end of November in Punjab, one of the biggest producer of the grain in the country. Uttar Pradesh has covered 1.5 mh so far while the biggest wheat producing state has set a target of 9.9 mh. Till last week, wheat has been sown in Punjab in 2.4 mh while the target for the season is 3.5 mh. In Haryana, the grain has been sown in only 850,000 hectares so far while the target for 2016-17 session is to cover 2.5 million hectares.
The agriculture ministry would release the latest rabi sowing data on Friday. “Till last week, sowing of rice was down by 2.3% while that of coarse cereals declined a sharp 11%. The area under pulses, of which a record output was predicted, grew just 4.6%, while oilseeds did comparatively better with an increase in area of 7.4%.
“Initially there were fears that farmers would lose crops & income from demonetisation move against black money but government allowed farmers to withdraw up to R25,000 per week against their crop loans to ensure sowing of winter crops is done properly. So with this move, situation of mustard crop sowing in under control and progressing well,” Umesh Verma, Spokesperson of P Mark mustard oil, a leading edible oil company said.