Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, May 11:
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik today sought more Central assistance for development of agriculture sector in Odisha.
During a meeting with Union Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh in New Delhi, the chief minister expressed his concern at the declining share of Central assistance to Odisha under various vital schemes of agriculture since 2014-15.
He mentioned that changing the pattern of assistance under various Centrally funded schemes for agriculture sector to 50:50 Centre-State share and reducing the allocation under each scheme will severely impact the growth of agricultural sector in Odisha on which about 70% of population is dependent.
He underlined that the indicated allocation to Odisha during 2015-16 under ‘Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana’ (RKVY) works out to only about 38% of the 2013-14 level. Further, the indicated allocation under the scheme ‘Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India’ for 2015-16 is just about 46% of the 2013-14 level.
The chief minister said the sizeable cut in Central assistance is also evident in other crucial programmes for agriculture including National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and National Horticulture Mission (NHM).
He brought to the notice of the Union minister that the state suffers from a double whammy, first on account of reduced devolution of resources to the state announced by the 14th Finance Commission and second on account of changing pattern of Central assistance and reduced allocations under various schemes of agriculture.
He urged upon Union minister to restore the earlier pattern of Central assistance under vital schemes of agriculture and significantly enhance allocation to the state for agriculture sector in line with the increases effected from 2007-08 to 2013-14.
Patnaik informed that inadequate allocation of fertilizers to the state by the Centre is responsible for low average fertilizer consumption in Odisha at 57 kilograms per hectare which is significantly lower than the National average of 127 kilograms per hectare which has adversely affected agricultural productivity in the state.
He sought the intervention of the Union minister to increase allocation of fertilizers for the ensuing kharif season to 10.75 lakh MTs and for ensuring that the entire allocated quantity gets actually delivered to Odisha in time.
The chief minister highlighted that Odisha faces a huge challenge every year in the distribution of fertilizers to different districts on account of inadequate rake points in the state.
He urged upon the Union minister to prevail upon the Railway ministry to open new rake points at Bamur, Rengali, Dunguripalli and Narayanapur, and to convert five existing rake points into two point rakes including Kesinga and Khariar Road for servicing Kalahandi and Nuapada districts, Rayagada and Kesinga for servicing Rayagada and Kalahandi districts, Dhenkanal and Angul for servicing Dhenkanal and Angul districts, Kantabanjhi and Khariar Road for servicing Bolangir and Nuapada districts and Bolangir and Kantabanjhi to service Bolangir and Nuapada districts.
He also brought to the notice of the Union minister that Odisha has not been allocated any funds till date for sugarcane development under the NFSM (commercial crops) despite being identified by the Centre as one of the 12 states for sugarcane based cropping systems.
He said this is severely impacting the availability of sugarcane to meet the demand of six sugar mills in the state. He added that Odisha has a huge potential for growing sugarcane and the sugarcane plantations can be extended to cover over 2 lakh hectares and the productivity can be significantly enhanced to 100 MTs.
He urged upon the Union minister to provide adequate funds to Odisha for sugarcane development under the NFSM and include six left-out districts namely, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Bhadrak, Boudh and Jharsuguda under the NHM and enhance allocation for establishment of cold storages for addressing the problem of scarcity of potato and other vegetables faced during the off season.
He also sought additional financial assistance from directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Development to Odisha to cover at least 7000 hectares during 2015-16 since over half of the existing cashew plantations have become old and senile and need urgent replacement to maintain the levels of productivity.
He stated that Odisha occupies third place in the country both in terms of area and production of raw cashew nuts and impressed upon the Union minister to take up the matter with the Union Commerce ministry for setting up a branch office of Cashew Export Promotion Council of India at Bhubaneswar which would enable Odisha to export processed cashew kernels directly which, in the absence of any institutional arrangement, are presently being exported through the exporters of Kerala and Karnataka, causing substantial loss of export earnings to the state.
The chief minister drew the attention of the Union minister to the recent circular issued by NABARD dated on April 7 this year which has reduced the eligible limit of refinance from 55% to 45% of the grass root level credit for 2015-16, which, he said, would severely hamper the performance of the state cooperative banks in the state and the disbursement of farm credit in the state since over 70% of the total crop loans are being provided by the cooperative banks in the state.
In his reply, the Union minister appreciated the concerns of the chief minister and assured his complete support to Odisha.
He informed that the prime minister has already set up a committee under the chairmanship of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to look into the impact of the devolution of resources as declared by the 14th Finance Commission and the reduced Central allocation to the states under various programmes to address the problem.
He assured that the matter is under active consideration of the Union Finance ministry and that it will be ensured that the total allocation of resources to a State does not register any decline as compared to previous years.
He also assured that his ministry will take up the matter with the Railways and Fertilizers ministries for ensuring that 10.75 lakh MTs of fertilizers are provided to the state for the ensuing kharif season and for opening additional rake points and two-point rakes for smooth distribution of fertilizers throughout the state.
He assured the chief minister that that adequate funds will be allocated to Odisha for sugarcane development, establishment of cold storages and for increasing coverage of cashew plantations with financial assistance from the directorate of cashew and cocoa development.
He also agreed to take up with the Finance ministry for restoring the limit of refinance by NABARD to the earlier level of 55% for enabling the cooperative banks to disburse the required farm credit during 2015-16.