Mumbai: The State Cabinet on Tuesday decided to make drip irrigation mandatory for sugarcane, in a bid to save water used for its cultivation. The government hopes to bring around 3.05 lakh hectare farmland under drip irrigation, for which the it has also announced a loan scheme.
Maharashtra has 9.42 lakh hectare farmland under sugarcane, of which only 2.25 lakh hectare has drip irrigation. The decision to make drip irrigation mandatory has been pending for long. According to government estimates, 60-70% of the water available in the State is used for irrigation, in which sugarcane has the highest share, of around 25,000 cubic metre water per hectare. Using drip irrigation is estimated to save 7,500 to 12,500 cubic metre water per hectare.
Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar said, “We will bring 1.50 lakh hectare farmland under drip the irrigation scheme in 2017-18, and 1.55 lakh hectare in 2018-19. A committee will decide the year-wise target. In the first phase, assistance will be extended to land irrigated by wells, rivers and nullahs.”
Farmers will get loans up to ₹85, 400 per hectare with 2% interest to implement the scheme. NABARD will extend the loan to the State Central Co-operative Bank (SCCB) at an interest of 5.5%, following which district banks will get the same loan from SCCB at 6%, and farmers at 7.25%. On timely repayment of loans, the State will pay 4% interest,1.25% will be paid by sugar mills, and 2% by the farmer.
Mr. Fundkar said drip irrigation would also increase sugarcane production.
Nod to group farming
The Cabinet also cleared the proposal to set up group farming in the State. The farmers’ groups will be registered under the Companies Act and the Co-operation Act. Each group will be eligible for a maximum grant of ₹1 crore in two years. Every year, 200 groups will be eligible for the assistance.