Agriculture and Allied Sector has been identified as one of the most important key growth drivers under the National Economic Development Plan (NEDP). About 47.5 88 per cent of the population of the State are engaged in Agricultural and Allied activities (2013 Labour Bureau), whereas share of the sector to the State Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) is 32 per cent (2016-17).
Hence, the contention for focussed attention to specially selected crops and infrastructure requirements and other policy interventions of the sector is under NEDP. Marketing of agricultural and horticultural produce is an important area which has been identified for special attention under NEDP. Despite efforts of the State Government, there is yet a breakthrough in profitable marketing of produce. As of now, nearly 70 per cent of marketable surplus are disposed off through middlemen.
A system of ‘forward contract’ is the norm in some horticultural crops such as betel nut and oranges which puts the farmer in a disadvantageous position. Due to inadequate storage infrastructure, farmers are forced to sell off produce as soon as harvested thus implying that benefits of positive price movements are not reaped by the producers. Moreover, outputs are sold without any supply chain management thus depleting possible benefits from value addition. Hence the general scenario is that there is limited market access and lack of physical and institutional infrastructure.
The policy also aims at promoting transformation of subsistence agriculture to market oriented at the farm level, and for facilitation of market access and participation of small farmers in output markets.
Agriculture (Crop Husbandry): A total of Rs 240 lakh and Rs 300 lakh was allocated for selected interventions during 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively. Onion cultivation was taken up with an area expansion of approximately 250 acres with a provision of Rs 160 crore during the first year. The remaining fund from the years’ allocation was utilised for setting up of a rice mill. Issue of area connectivity being a concern in the sector was duly given priority. During 2016-17, Rs 2,600 lakh was allocated for construction and maintenance of agricultural link roads.
A total length of 416 km PAC road was freshly cut, 100 km of previously constructed PAC road was upgraded and maintained, and soling executed for 94 km of PAC road. During 2017- 18, with the allocation of Rs 3000 lakh, a total length of 402.5 km PAC road was freshly cut, 447 km of previously constructed PAC road maintained and soling executed for 40 km of PAC road. Moreover, with an allocation of Rs 4555 lakh in 2017-18, Agricultural Growth Centre is being set up at the State Capital which is designed to cater to all institutional and functional extension requirements for farmers.
In addition to these, during the last two years of implementation of NEDP, sum of Rs 1500 lakh and Rs 2000 lakh respectively were allocated for NEDPNLUP Convergence where farmers not covered under normal NLUP were assisted @ Rs 1 lakh per family.
Horticulture: Under Horticulture, there was an allocation of Rs 200 lakh & Rs 300 lakh for 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively. Major crops identified to be taken up under horticulture were cultivation of off-season cabbage and turmeric during 2016-17; and Rejuvenation of Senile Plantation and Canopy Management of Mandarin Orange and Productivity Enhancement of Chow Chow during 2017-18. The first ever initiative for cultivation of off-season cabbage was taken up at five districts of the State with total beneficiaries of 120 farmers @ 1 acre each, with an allocation of Rs 120 lakh during 2016-17. It was a successful experience in terms of ready market and increased income of the farmers.
During 2016-17, intensive cultivation of turmeric was taken up in convergence with the Mission Organic Value Chain Development (MOVCD) in three villages of Mamit District with a total allocation of Rs 80 lakh for 475 beneficiaries. The scheme covered an area of 237.5 hectares (ha). With the high success rate experienced by the State in cultivation of turmeric due to high suitability of the climate, market potentials and high economic returns, an area of 47 ha was again brought under turmeric cultivation with an allocation of Rs 50 lakh during 2017-18 at Siaha District to feed the turmeric processing unit already set up by the local SHGs. In 2017-18, the project for Rejuvenation of Senile Plantation and Canopy Management of Mandarin Orange was taken up for 356 families with a provision of Rs 150 lakh.
A total area of 595 ha of plantations was brought under its ambit in five districts of the State. The scheme for Productivity Enhancement of Chow Chow was also introduced with a provision of Rs 100 lakh for a targeted 237 of beneficiary families @ 1 ha each. Animal Husbandry and Veterinary During 2017-18, Rs 600 lakh was allocated to Animal Husbandary and Veterinarian Department for taking up activities related to animal husbandry products which had high and consistent demand in local market. Goat farming was introduced under NEDP due to the perceived favourable market conditions. The scheme for goat farming was introduced at Thenzawl Veterinary Farm with a provision of Rs 123 lakh. Realising the importance of maize in manufacturing of animal feed, Rs 147 lakh was allocated for maize farming. In addition, Rs 270 lakh was specially allocated for contract farming of maize for animal feed which aimed to cover 500 farmers across 25 villages under PPP mode with the farmers’ contribution up to 10 per cent only. This is expected to bring about a sizeable decrease in the production cost of animal feed. For better management of marketing of local pork produce, an initiative for ‘pork value chain was introduced with Rs 90 lakh allocated for the purpose.
Mithun farming for meat has been very successful in the State based on past experiences. To encourage and popularise the activity, Rs 382 lakh was allocated during 2017-18. The initiative aims to introduce modern commercial scale mithun farming on a pattern developed by ICAR-NRC. During the same year, an additional fund of Rs 330 lakh was provided for development of poultry entrepreneurship, provision of farmers’ revolving fund for purchase of maize for animal feed and for purchase of barbed wire.
(Views expressed in this article are of Chingthanmawii Guite, Senior Research Officer, Planning Department, Government of Mizoram)