Govt to kick off Nutri-Farms in select dists to fight malnutrition


The Union Budget sought to consolidate the "remarkable progress" achieved in government's efforts to extend green revolution to eastern India by deciding to continue with the Rs 1,000-crore support. Finance Minister P Chidambaram made a fresh allocation of Rs 500 crore for crop diversification in Northwest India to offset the productivity loss due to paddy-wheat cultivation pattern and to arrest dip in groundwater levels.

To address the issue of increased fragmentation of farm land, the minister announced to assist the registered Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) with Rs 10 lakh matching equity grant with a total outlay of Rs 50 crore. "I urge state governments to support such FPOs through necessary amendments to the APMC Act and in other ways," Chidambaram said. The Budget also decided to set up a Credit Guarantee Fund with an corpus of Rs 100 crore.

In a new initiative to deepen the link between nutrition and cropping pattern, the minister announced Nutri-Farms scheme with Rs 200 crore funding for pilot projects in districts most affected by malnutrition. Nutri-Farms will cultivate new crop varieties rich in micro-nutrients such as iron-rich bajra, protein-rich maize and zinc-rich wheat.

"In all, it has been a good Budget from the agriculture point of view. It seeks to consolidate green revolution gains in northwest India and continue with efforts to extend in eastern India. The Nutri-Farms scheme will add nutritional dimensions to the farm sector," said agricultural scientist and former NAC member M S Swaminathan.

Sources in the agriculture ministry said they were pleasantly surprised by the 20 per cent jump in farm credit target for the next fiscal. As against Rs 5.75 lakh crore farm credit, which is expected to be exceeded, in current fiscal Chidambaram set a target of Rs 7 lakh crore of farm credit for next fiscal.

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