GUWAHATI, Feb 1 – The State government has decided to promote double-cropping across the State, besides launching two new schemes for increasing productivity of potatoes and for increasing storage capacity of onions as an effort to boost the farm sector in Assam.Speaking to reporters here today, Minister for Agriculture, Horticulture & Food Processing Rakibul Hussain said that a survey has been carried out to find areas where only single-cropping is predominant and 200 such sites will be selected where the government will provide help like electric pumps and water to undertake double-cropping in 7.5-bigha land plots.
“Altogether 15,000 bighas of land will be selected for double-cropping with government assistance. The scheme will be started within 10-15 days by the Chief Minister,” he said. He said the aim is to ensure increase in production.
Assam’s output in paddy in 2014-15 crop year was 54.40 lakh MT, with a local requirement of 48.10 lakh MT. This resulted in a surplus of 6.30 lakh MT. “We want to further increase the surplus,” Hussain said. He added that a convergence between the Agriculture Department and Panchayat and Rural Development Department would be carried out to ensure that at each of the 219 BDO offices across Assam one room would be allotted to the Agriculture Department.
“This will ensure that Agriculture Development Officers and village level Extension Officers, who mostly lack space to function, are able to interact with stakeholders and deliver services,” said the Minister, who also holds charge of the Panchayat and Rural Development portfolio.
Hussain said the Special Potato Production Improvement Mission would be launched soon and as part of it the State government would sign MoUs with National Seed Funds.
“Besides, local firms will be blacklisted if they provide poor quality seeds to farmers,” Hussain said.
He added that while one lakh hectares of land are under potato farming now in Assam, the effort would be to increase it as the demand for potatoes is 29 lakh MT annually as against a local production of only 11.50 lakh MT.
Similarly, with regard to onions, the State government will launch a programme of building 440 low cost storage facilities, with Chief Miinster Tarun Gogoi expected to inaugurate the first such facility within the next 15-20 days.
Hussain said experts from the State were sent to Nashik in Maharashtra for training on ways to set up such facilities.
Assam’s annual production of onions is 0.85 lakh MT as against the demand for 4.50 lakh MT. Hussain added that a separate Directorate for Horticulture and Food Processing would also be set up soon.
He said that the government would step in to prevent any distress sale of paddy below the MSP and it would take steps to buy such grains.
Asked about allegations of corruption against Nilamoni Sen Deka, his predecessor in the Agriculture department, Hussain said, “I completely deny them,” adding a lot was achieved in the farm sector during Deka’s term.