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TN Agriculture Budget: Farmers Disappointed Despite Welcome Measures

Sugarcane and paddy farmers dissatisfied with DMK government for not increasing the procurement price to levels promised in election manifesto.
TN Agriculture Budget: Farmers disappointed despite welcome measures

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: The New Indian Express

Tamils Nadu’s first agriculture Budget, presented by agriculture and farmers welfare minister MRK Panneerselvam on Saturday, evoked mixed reactions from farmers, especially to the paddy and sugarcane procurement prices.

The Budget announced several measures, including subsidies for solar-powered pump sets, the creation of research facilities for rice varieties and an export zone for drumstick.

Farmers welcomed the initiatives to promote organic farming, improve palm production, increase the area of cultivation and set up more markets for farmers to sell their produce directly.

However, sugarcane farmers were disappointed with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government for not fulfilling its election manifesto promise of increasing the procurement price of sugarcane to Rs 4,000 per tonne. “The procurement price of Rs 2,900 per tonne is way below the DMK’s election promise and the demand of the farmers,” D Raveendran, national president of All India Sugarcane Farmers Federation, told Newsclick

Besides, a charter of demands submitted by the sugarcane farmers association to the state government has also failed to find a mention in the Budget. 

“The sugarcane production in the state has come down from 22.5 lakh tonnes in 2010-11 to 8 lakh tonnes this year primarily due to the non-payment of dues by private mills to the farmers. Twenty-four mills still owe around Rs 1,219 crore to the farmers, who are withdrawing from cultivation primarily due to the inordinate delay in receiving payments from the mills”, Raveendran added.

Nine of the private mills shut down without paying the dues to the farmers. The Budget has failed to address the dire situation at cooperative and public sector mills. “Four cooperative mills have been closed due to shortage of cane supply. The government has not announced any measures to save the ailing mills and the farmers,” Raveendran said. 

The All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) welcomed the Budget but was disappointed with the “insufficient” allocation of Rs 100 crore for the newly announced urban employment scheme. “The allocations for new schemes are insufficient,” A Lazar, state president of AIAWU, told Newsclick.

“There are 536 town panchayats and 110 municipalities, which are highly dependent on agriculture. More than 30 lakh people depend on agricultural work. The allocation of Rs 100 crore is far too less and should be increased to Rs 1,000 crore,” Lazar said. 

The AIAWU also demanded increasing the number of working days from 100 days to 200 days and a daily wage of Rs 600 under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee. “The scheme has been diluted with the use of machinery, lesser number of working days and mismanagement in the last 10 years. The new government must ensure that workers are provided more work and wages considering the increasing inflation. The state government must pass a resolution asking the Centre to expand the scheme,” Lazar said. 

The Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), welcomed the priority given to organic farming, palm development, employment generation for the youth in agriculture and increasing the cultivable land, but AIKS general secretary P Shanmugam said that “the lack of allocation to storage units for paddy and cold storages for vegetables and other farm produce is disappointing”.

AIKS said that the increase in the minimum support price for paddy was “paltry considering the increasing input costs”. The incentive for ordinary paddy was increased from Rs 50 to Rs 75 and thin paddy from 70 to 100 per quintal.

The allocation for constructing 8 lakh houses should be increased to Rs 5 lakh per house given the high cost of construction materials, the AIAWU demanded. 

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