Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Pitter patter and plough

At the onset of monsoon, TG Life speaks to the department of Agriculture to understand the issues facing the Goan agricultural sector, and solutions being worked out for them

12th June 2019, 02:32 Hrs

JAY JOSHI


Monsoon has finally arrived in Goa. And while we think about little kids and paper boats when it comes to rains, another scene has been unfolding across rural Goa just like is has for decades every monsoon. Farmers across the state are gearing up for work, set to plough their fields. In many cases, the bullocks might have been replaced by tractors, but the association between the farmer and the rain has remained unchanged. 

At the onset of monsoon, TG Life spoke to the Department of Agriculture to understand the issues facing Goan agricultural sector, and solutions being worked out for them. 

Deputy chief minister Vijay Sardesai, who also holds the agriculture portfolio recently announced that the government will be coming up with a digital platform for farmers. The said platform is expected to bring better organisation and data management practices to agricultural sector, enabling Department of Agriculture to track subsidies and inputs given to farmers, and also help farmers make more informed decisions.

While speaking to TG Life on the issue, agriculture officer Santosh Gaonkar highlighted that  the platform could be an effective medium to solve some of the bigger problems that agriculture is facing in Goa. 

The app is expected to generate data pointers that could be used to effectively implement schemes. The department’s role is to collect data and provide help and training to farmers, and action on the part of farmers themselves is the key to effective implementation of any programme, the official said. 

Shortage of skilled labour and shortage of processing units for the produce are some of the biggest problems Goan farmers face today, Gaonkar informed. “Tasks such as harvesting coconuts require skilled labour, and it is difficult to find men for the job. Time is a very important factor in farming. For instance, fertilisers have to be given to plants at a particular time in August, and at that time, finding labour is a problem. Plus, the costs of labour are very high, so that puts a dent in the farmer’s income,” Gaonkar elaborated. 

Secondly, farm produce does not get the right price compared to the efforts that are put into it. Agricultural products are perishable, and have to be sold off as quickly as possible. This is a factor that prevents prices of farm products from rising, he informed, adding that government subsidies are not helping in the mace of mounting production costs. “A good solution to preserving the farm produce is to set up processing units that could help preserve products such as fruits for a longer time. But such processing units too will need continuous supply and good markets,” Gaonkar stated. 

Another important issue that faces Goan agriculture is related to land. Even as more and more land is converted to real estate for development purposes, agricultural production seems to be increasing. “Agricultural production increases as new varieties of seeds are introduced. That explains the increasing production,” explained Gaonkar. However, he underlined that the Department is aware of issues caused by genetically modified crops, and efforts are underway to bring about high production using local varieties. 

“The department is working to ensure higher yield with local varieties. We undertake visits to different plantations and ask farmers to identify the strongest and best plants in their plantation. The seeds of this plant are kept separately and planted, thus sprouting stronger trees. The cycle goes on until one day, entire production from an orchard is from local variety,” Gaonkar stated, highlighting that this complete local production point has been achieved in coconuts, areca nuts, and okra cultivation in many areas of Goa.

Similarly, efforts are also on to encourage organic farming. “Last year we introduced central government scheme ‘Paramparagat Krishi VIkas Yojna’ (PKVY) in Goa, and this year, we are undertaking its implementation in the field. As a part of this programme, we are going to tran farmers how to use locally available ingredients such as cow dung, vermicompost etc to improve soil fertility and increase agricultural production. The Department will be undertaking a two-year long campaign across Goa to create awareness and train farmers under this programme” the official stated.