Covid-19: Kerala to boost agriculture amid fears of prolonged impact


With the Covid-19 pandemic threatening the availability of agricultural supples in the long term, government is pushing for modern farming techniques and practices to maximise produce. “The state needs large scale interventions to increase the output of food grains, fruits and vegetables,” said Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

In a meeting, attended by representatives of various departments, on Wednesday it was decided that an action plan to maximise the produce would prepared in a week. The plan will cover various types of food production, including poultry, fish farming, milk production, among others.

The state needs to be self-sufficient in producing food grains and in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables so as to be prepared for any eventuality in the future. It is currently dependent on other states for its supply of food grains, fruits and vegetables and in view of the Covid-19 challenge, the state has to ensure supplies of food and vegetables for a longer term.

“We have enough food stocks available for now and we are in a comfortable situation. However, if the current circumstances due to the pandemic outbreak continue for long, we will need to start preparing for the future and would need big interventions in the agriculture sector,” Vijayan told reporters on Tuesday.

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The plan is to start farming on vacant land parcels available across the state. The state currently has 568,556 tonnes of rice, 136,631 tonnes of flour, 2,636 tonnes of onion, 3,071,000 litres of sunflower oil, 2,155,000 litres of coconut oil and 12,652 tonnes of sugar in stock. “The Local Self Government (LSG) can initiate farming on vacant land, if owners are not able to start farming on their own,” said Vijayan. “Farm mechanisation will be helpful and more youngsters should come out to take up farming,” he added.

The agriculture department, in association with LSG bodies, is planning big projects to improve the state’s self-reliance. All possible ways, including kitchen gardens, rooftop cultivation and community projects,are being explored by the state.

The state needs to adopt modern farming techniques and practices to have maximum produce from the minimum area. There is a need to increase the rice cultivation in the state to over 25,000 hectares in the next two years. More cereals, tuber crops, tapioca and plantain/banana should be produced by expanding cultivation to a larger area. The state need 20 lakh metric tonnes of vegetables every year and this year the production is 14.72 lakh MT.

According to the State Budget presented in February, the extent of land under paddy cultivation has been on the rise. The extent of this land, which had been declining steadily over the past few decades and was confined to 170,000 hectares in 2016-17, has risen to 203,000 hectares during the year 2018-19. Paddy production rose to 580,000 tonnes from 440,00 tonnes in the same period. “Paddy cultivation has a vital role to maintain the ecological balance of nature. Considering this importance Rs 40 crore has been earmarked as a beginning for providing royalty to the farmers,” said State Finance Minister T M Thomas Isaac in the Budget Speech.

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The State will set up a modern processing unit to convert milk to milk power. Existing dairy plants will be diversified for more value added products. The Central government will seek a comprehensive financial package for fish farming. Fisheries will be provided with support. Abandoned ponds will be used for fish farming. Sea fish farming will be explored. Shrimp farming will be promoted.

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