Buoyed by the expansion of irrigation coverage and a bumper paddy crop this season, the Telangana government has decided to go for a new agriculture policy under which farmers will have to grow whatever crops the state government decides.
With a record paddy cultivation this year in the otherwise gloomy scenario due to the outbreak of coronavirus and the resultant lockdown, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has intensified his efforts to consolidate the gains in the agriculture sector.
Claiming that regulatory agriculture cultivation is for the benefit of farmers, he wants them to cultivate crops as suggested by the government under the policy, which will be framed on the basis of research and the inputs by the agriculture experts.
The new cropping pattern to be decided by the government will come into effect from this monsoon season and is expected to bring a big transformation in the sector. KCR believes the new system will ensure that the farmers earn profits from their produce.
"The main reason why farmers are not getting competitive prices for their produce is because everyone is cultivating the same crops. I have been saying this for 20 years. The practice of everyone cultivating the same crops should go," said KCR after a meeting with ministers and top officials on Tuesday.
He wants farmers to cultivate crops which have a demand in the market. The government will pay Minimum Support Price (MSP) for only those crops cultivated on its suggestion and farmers not following its suggestion may even be denied the benefits of the 'Rythu Bandhu' scheme, under which farmers get investment support of Rs 5,000 per acre every year.
The state has 60-65 lakh farmers and about 90-95 percent of the state's population depend on agriculture and allied sectors for their livelihood.
The government said it would soon announce what crops should be cultivated in which areas and to what extent. The changes will come into effect with the monsoon season. As the paddy is likely to be cultivated in 50 lakh acres, it was decided to regulate paddy cultivation by covering both fine and coarse varieties.
It was also decided to grow vegetables in the farmlands closer to urban areas. The government will also suggest to farmers which vegetable variety should be grown in which area.
KCR discussed a comprehensive agriculture policy with agriculture experts, scientists and officials. A study was done on what crops should be cultivated in the state and what strategy should be followed to sell the produce.
The experts suggested that to make agriculture profitable, the farmers should cultivate crops based on the food habits of the people and those crops having high demand in the market.
KCR claims that his government is solving the problems of the agriculture sector one by one. Ensuring 24X7 free electricity to the sector and completion of major irrigation projects were among major achievements of his government during the last six years. He is confident that by the monsoon season next year, water will be available for irrigation in every part of the state.
Stating that Telangana is on its way to becoming the rice bowl of the country, KCR said in the days to come, paddy would be cultivated in 90 lakh acres every year. About 2.70 crore tonnes of paddy is expected to be grown.
Despite the financial crisis due to the lockdown, the government is spending Rs 25,000 crore to buy the paddy cultivated by the farmers on nearly 40 lakh acres during the ongoing Rabi season. The state expects a yield of more than one crore tonnes, the highest for the season since the creation of the state in 2014.
The government, however, made it clear that procurement of entire paddy this season is being done on humanitarian consideration.
"The government cannot do this every year. This is so because the government is not a business organisation. If the crop cultivated has demand in the market it will get a good price," he said.
Officials pointed out that paddy in the state can be cultivated in 80-90 lakh acres in two crops every year. Similarly, cotton can be grown in 50 lakh acres, tur dal in 10 lakh acres, corn in 7 lakh acres, various seeds in 7 lakh acres, vegetables in 3.5 lakh acres, groundnut in 2.5 lakh acres, turmeric in 1.25 lakh acres and other crops like millets, black gram, green gram, til, mustard in 2 lakh acres.