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HindustanTimes Wed,30 Jul 2014

Badal unfolds blueprint for crop diversification

HT Correspondent  Chandigarh, April 21, 2013
First Published: 22:02 IST(21/4/2013) | Last Updated: 22:08 IST(21/4/2013)

At the end of a two-day discussion session with central officials and farmers, chief minister CM Parkash Singh Badal on Sunday said the SAD-BJP government would submit a crop diversification plan to the union government by April 30.

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Giving details, he said the Punjab government has chalked out a strategy to reduce the area under water-guzzling paddy and boost maize (5.5 lakh hectares), cotton (7 lakh), sugarcane (2.6 lakh), guar (30,000), fodder (5.5 lakh), arhar and moong pulses (60,000 hectares each), kinnow (80,000), guava and pear (20,000), agro forestry (3 lakh), groundnut (20,000) and vegetables (50,000 hectares).

"The state government is also contemplating to review the tax structure on marketing of alternate crops. Steps are also being taken to give incentive on cultivation of maize, cotton, sugarcane, fruits and vegetables through subsidised supply of hybrid seeds," said a spokesman, pointing out that the Punjab Agriculture Marketing Produce Act 1961 had been amended to provide direct marketing of crops.

The chief minister pleaded that the union ministry of agriculture must compensate the state government for abolition of 3% infrastructure cess on basmati by giving Rs. 100 crore annually.

"The exercise of crop diversification is futile if not supplemented by food processing industry," Badal added, emphasising the need to give minimum support price (MSP) on alternate crops, especially maize.

Also outlining significance of livestock sector, the CM said the state government is also making efforts for improving breeds of cows and buffaloes. Likewise, he said that research for developing high-yield fodder varieties was being carried out at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana.

Badal also impressed upon the central team to guide officers in the agriculture and animal husbandry departments of the state for seeking more funds under various centrally sponsored schemes besides the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna, National Horticulture Mission and from the National Animal Welfare Board.

Responding to issues relating to food processing, union joint secretary (food processing) Anuradha Prasad asked the state government to send a proposal for seeking a National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM). She also apprised the CM that the ministry had sufficient funds for establishment of integrated cold chain projects and food testing laboratories.

Commissioner, animal husbandry, union government, AS Nanda assured the chief minister that the ministry had already agreed to the majority of its proposals like extending the facility of insurance from two to five cattle per family.

In his address PAU vice-chancellor BS Dhillon said that despite huge grant by the state government, research work at the university was constrained because of large expenditure on salaries and pensions. He demanded more funds from the central government for research.

The central team comprised project director, directorate of maize research New Delhi, OP Yadav; project director, directorate of cattle, Meerut, A Sharma, besides animal husbandry commissioner AS Nanda and agriculture commissioner JS Sandhu.

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