Over the last three years, the government has announced several new schemes related to crop insurance, irrigation and marketing support for agricultural produce. Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh tells FE’s Sandip Das about the key factors currently impacting the agriculture sector. Excerpts:
What are the key achievements of your ministry so far?
Around 22% of farmers (14 crore) in the country still fall in the economically poor category. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced doubling of real income of farmers by 2022. Largely, the agricultural policy so far has been focused on augmenting production for ensuring food security to our vast population. While largely this has been achieved, it has also resulted in various problems such as degradation of soil and depletion of water table in various parts. Many of the initiatives for augmenting farmers’ income were also carried out by our sister ministries such as water resources, rural development, etc. Our ministry’s push for providing soil health cards to 14 crore farmers once in two years would enable farmers to adopt the balanced use of fertilisers, thereby realising higher productivity through soil protection.
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Are you satisfied with the progress on the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)? There are several instances about farmers not getting timely payment of compensation, and the implementation has been uneven across states.
The success of any insurance scheme including that of crop insurance should be judged based on its performance over three-four years, when we get to see both good and bad monsoon. Under the PMFBY, farmers are paying only the nominal premium for comprehensive risk coverage. As 2016-17 was overall a normal monsoon year, claims reported are lesser compared to last year which had been a drought year. The central and state governments are regularly monitoring insurance companies to ensure maximum coverage to farmers and timely settlement of admissible claims. A national crop insurance portal has been set up to bring all stakeholders on one platform and once it is up an running, it will ensure prompt data flow and service delivery.
Newly-elected Uttar Pradesh government has announced a huge loan waiver for farmers. Other states have also done the same. Is the loan waiver a key step towards dealing with crisis in agriculture?
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath has said the state would find resources to fund this massive loan waiver. We have no such proposal at the national level. Our approach would be to make farm loans available at concessional rate of interest, so that farmers are able to use it in agriculture for improving productivity. We are not only increasing agricultural credit but also focusing on small and marginal farmers. We are also trying to expand the base of agricultural credit to those areas where banking services have not expanded widely. We are also providing post-production interest subvention of 2% per annum on negotiable warehouse receipts. This will prevent distress sale of produce.
How do you deal with rising incidents of farmer suicides, rising debt and low returns on agriculture?
We are committed to increasing incomes by adopting diversified and integrated farming, achieving higher yield, enabling remunerative returns on the produce and covering risk involved in the agricultural production system. We are focusing on providing farmers with efficient agricultural marketing system and storage facilities along with promotion of processing.