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- Goa agriculture ensures delivery from farm to fork with 7% contribution to State’s GDP
Goa agriculture ensures delivery from farm to fork with 7% contribution to State’s GDP
Goa Agriculture Department which is end-to-end online is ploughing hard to ensure that the Goan farmers’ income is hiked. VIKANT SAHAY takes a look at the agriculture sector in the State and realises that an understated department has ensured that agriculture contributes seven per cent to the State’s Gross Domestic Product.
Goa has normally been seen as a State which has potential in tourism or mining and very lately the buzz word for Information Technology has also started to sow in. However, it was surprising to note that agriculture in Goa contributes at least seven per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the State. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also promised farmers that by 2022 their income will be doubled.
In response to the call of the Prime Minister, a sensitization session was conducted by the Government of India where two senior functionaries from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) had come to Goa and had briefed officers and farmers about the seven point strategy for doubling the farmers’ income. In another meeting with ICAR, the line departments were also called at Old Goa and it was a brain storming session, based on which a certain recommendation, specifically for Goa, was finalised.
“We are effectively putting these recommendations in a sustained manner over a period of time. Basically the major part of the recommendation is on proper protection of the soil by judicious use of organic manure and fertilisers and cutting down on pesticides. This is being done on a regular basis based on periodic soil testing under 12 fixed parameters. We are in the process of reaching a target of giving away 35,000 soil health cards to the farmers in Goa. The Department of Agriculture has already distributed 34,843 Krishi Cards. We have in total of 65 schemes for the farmers,” Agriculture Director Nelson Figueiredo told Herald.
Agriculture Department is also promoting good quality seeds for which the State government has been granting 50 per cent subsidy for over a decade now. “The seed needs to be replaced periodically for better vigour. We have been spending abut Rs 70-75 lakh as subsidy on quality seeds for paddy, pulses and groundnut,” Figueiredo added.
The Department is also now focusing on micro irrigation so that yield can be increased. Several schemes have been launched for increasing infrastructure like digging of wells, installation of pump sets and water storage tanks for rain water harvesting etc. A subsidy of 90 per cent is also being provided to obtain pump sets up to certain specifications. It is helping Goa in extending the infrastructure of irrigation network and also efficient use of water is being made through micro irrigation systems.
“Over the period from 2010-11 to 2013-14 the Department of Agriculture had covered 444 farmers with 436 hectares of land and during the last four years the Department has covered 539 farmers with 522 hectares under micro irrigation systems. We are now targeting sugarcane, banana and other high used crops besides vegetables, which is our focus area,” added the Director of Agriculture.
Linking of farmers’ produce to market is also a key issue in which the Department is laying emphasis on even though marketing does not come under the purview of the Department as there is a State Agriculture Marketing Board which is also setting up an e-mandi (electronic wholesale spot).
“We have taken a pro-active step by trying to guide farmers about when and what to grow so that they can get maximum yield and return. People are taking up on growing vegetables too now. However, cold season vegetables like onion, potatoes, tomatoes do not grow very well in Goa and 90 per cent of these vegetables come from neigbouring States. We are targeting vegetables like ladyfinger, brinjal, green chillies etc in a big way as a replacement for so called ‘imported’ vegetables,” Figueiredo said. The Horticulture Department has established procurement centers in each taluka to help the farmers.
However, the major concern for Goa is that the paddy cultivation has been hit very badly, primarily due to a shortage of labour. “We are trying to arrest the decline of keeping paddy fields fallow. We are giving an assured price for paddy, cost of paddy cultivation has been reduced due to mechanisation and combined harvesting. These two things have arrested the decline in paddy cultivation. Also, our fencing scheme has helped the farmers to protect their produces from stray cattle,” the Director said.
Chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the Goa Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Miguel Braganza, explained to Herald that they have done a separate study which revealed that whenever there is an increase in yield, the demand remains static and the price collapses leading to distress sale. “Hence, two major things are required to increase the income of farmers. One is cold storage for farmers to store their produce safely and second that a processing unit can help them increase the shelf life of their produce. For example tomatoes can be turned into puree. So for us, for doubling the farmers income, is to establish processing units at the farm level. We are also going out and training them. In 2001 kokum used to sell at Rs 30 a kilogram, but now with processing units, kokum is selling at Rs 140-200 a kilogram. We are also doing the same for jackfruit and processing the fruit into pulp and chips,” said Braganza.
But it’s not always a rosy picture. A farmer from Divar island, Tomas Rodrigues said, “Divar island is full of mangroves and the water too is saline. There are man-made disasters too. As far as Divar is concerned, there is virtually nothing. Hardly five per cent of the island is used for cultivation.” However, a farmers club has started in Sao Mathias (Malar) village of the island, and that is giving farmers here a little hope.