Andhra Pradesh: In search of relief

Written by Kavitha Venkatraman | BV Mahalakshmi | Updated: Aug 31 2009, 03:25am hrs
The drought-like situation that Andhra Pradesh faces has affected the overall sowing operations in the state. The state government has decided to follow a multi-pronged strategy to tackle the situation and is offering alternative seeds to farmers at 50% and 75% subsidy, employment generation and other relief measures.

The state agricultural department has prepared a contingency plan for supply of 3.71 lakh quintals of seeds of maize, jowar, castor, sunflower or redgram to cover over 10 lakh hectares. Of this, already 1.20 lakh quintals of seeds have been sent to different districts for distribution. The state is facing deficient rainfall of 55% despite some amount of rain in the last couple of days. As per the contingency plan, the government is giving seeds for15 crops to farmers at 50% subsidy and red gram is being offered at 75% subsidy. The estimated cost to the government is about Rs 92 crore. The government has released Rs 35 crore to the agriculture department for the purpose, says D Rushendranath, Additional Director of Agriculture, Andhra Pradesh.

Rushendranath also said that for the Kharif season, the normal cropped area in the state is about 79 lakh hectares but only about 49.56 lakh hectares have been sown,covering only 72% of the cropped area. Normally the cropped area for paddy is 17.3 lakh hectares but only 12.42 lakh hectares have been sown until now. Similarly, in the case of red gram, as against the normal cropped area of 4.52 lakh hectares, 2.92 lakh hectares have been covered. He pointed out that there is special emphasis on red gram. The chief minister plans to distribute13 lakh quintals of red gram to farmers in Guntur, Ongole and West Godavari.

The most affected crop because of deficient rainfall is groundnut. As against the normal cropped area of 14.65 lakh hectares, only 7.75 lakh hectares have been sown. There will be a 50% drop in yield this year. The average yield of groundnut in the state is between 800-1,000 kgs per hectare.

Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy has still not declared mandals as drought hit and wants to wait till the month end as farmers normally secure loans after sowing operations. However, during the recently held state level bankers committee meeting, he urged the banks to extend farm loans of Rs 7,000 crore by end of August. Though the state had set a target of Rs 14,100 crore to be disbursed during the Kharif season, banks have been able to disburse farm loans only of Rs 7,019 crore as on August 15. The CM has instructed the revenue officials to give necessary assistance to the banks by offering comprehensive details on land ownership to enable the banks identify the eligible farmers for loan disbursement. He also asked the banks to extend short and long-term credit to farmers to help the community.

To check on hoarding of essential commodities and their prices, the government has also decided to approach the Centre to fix the price or permit the state government to fix the price for superfine rice and pulses for seizure, de-hoarding and release of the essential commodities. He has also decided to reconstitute the food advisory committees at the district and mandal levels. The committees would also review the availability, price situation, report instances of hoarding, black marketing and profiteering, as per government sources.

To incentivise the informers of hoarding and other issues, Reddy also agreed to give a maximum incentive of 4% of the confiscated value to be equally divided among the informers and enforcement officers. A maximum ceiling of Rs 10 lakh incentive is fixed for the officials during their period of service. With this informer incentive scheme, there will be stepped up raids on the hoarders and black-marketeers throughout the state.