Farmers in rain deficit areas will get a 50 per cent subsidy on diesel to irrigate and save standing crops. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), which met to review the rain-deficit situation, decided to provide the diesel subsidy besides allowing duty- free imports of oilmeal to ensure feed availability to livestock.

The Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, who chaired the EGoM, said the Centre and States would share the diesel subsidy burden equally. However, he did not quantify the subsidy burden or comment on how many farmers would benefit from the move.

The subsidy scheme will be applicable in districts that had more than 50 per cent deficient rains as on July 15.

The withdrawal of customs duty on oilmeal imports would be applicable for de-oiled soyameal, sunflower, mustard and canola oilmeal. Currently, oilmeal imports attract a duty of 15 per cent. However, the EGoM did not decide on imposing curbs on exports of agri-commodities and ban on futures trade.

The South-West monsoon, which has been playing truant this year, has created a drought-like situation in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.

Mr Pawar estimated the rainfall deficit for the country as a whole at 20 per cent as on July 30. About 400 of the 630 districts have received scanty or deficient rains so far. “The situation this year is worse compared to 2009, but has been improving in the past few days,” he said.

North-West India has witnessed a deficit of 31 per cent, while Central India has seen 18 per cent shortfall in rains. South India has, so far, had a rain deficit of 52 per cent, while the shortfall is 10 per cent in East and North East India.

“Of the 36 metrological sub-divisions, 17 have received normal or excess rains, while the remaining 19 had scanty or deficit rainfall,” Mr Pawar said.

Kharif crops have been sown in a total of 668.24 lakh hectares (lh) this year against 724.17 lh in the corresponding last period. Crops such as rice, coarse cereals and pulses have witnessed a major decline in areas at 8.7 lh, 43.48 lh and 16.83 lh, respectively. However, soyabean has seen a rise of 16.9 lh, while sugarcane and cotton acreage has gone up by 5.89 lh and 3.2 lh this year.

Mr Pawar said a detailed contingency plan to take up sowing of alternative crops had been prepared for 320 districts and has been shared with respective State Governments.

The EGoM also decided to release interim assistance of Rs 38 crore for improving supply of drinking water in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Besides, another Rs 1,900 crore is being provided to these States under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme and Integrated Watershed Management Programme.

Seed subsidy to take up replanting and an assistance of Rs 50 crore to upscale production of fodder with a buyback arrangement was also approved, Mr Pawar said. The Agriculture Minister will tour the affected States over the next few days.

(This article was published on July 31, 2012)
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