Pension scheme, crop insurance firm among key demands of TN farmers

The government should take steps to provide reasonable prices for agricultural products besides educating the farmers in doing value-addition for their products.
Farmers harvest brinjal in Madurai. (Photo | K K Sundar, EPS)
Farmers harvest brinjal in Madurai. (Photo | K K Sundar, EPS)

CHENNAI/THANJAVUR: Farmers and those working in allied sectors are eagerly awaiting the agriculture budget for 2023 from the Tamil Nadu government.

The expectations of farmers are wide-ranging, from a hike in procurement price for paddy and sugarcane as promised in the DMK election manifesto, to a pension scheme for farmers after 60 years of age, and the formation of an exclusive authority for producing and distributing fertilizers.

The state government has conducted meetings of all stakeholders in many places across the state and received hundreds of suggestions and demands to be included in the ensuing agriculture budget.
Apart from reiterating the demand for hiking the procurement price for paddy and sugarcane, this year, the demand for having an exclusive state government authority for producing and distributing fertilisers to farmers and for establishing a state government’s own crop insurance company has assumed importance.

V Jeevakumar, an agricultural activist from Bhoothalur in Thanjavur, said if the state government forms an exclusive authority for fertilisers the production and distribution of fertilisers could be taken care of by the government. “Since the demand for fertilisers is high and the price is also at its peak, the government shifting their responsibility to private companies is wrong,” he said.

Sand mining is going on mindlessly, potentially threatening agriculture. So, the government should form a board for protecting rivers, he said. Stoutly supporting the state government having its own crop insurance company, S. Vimalnathan, secretary of Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers Protection Association, said farmers have been demanding the scrapping of the Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme.

Giving reasons for the state government to have its own crop insurance company, KP Perumal, state secretary, of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, pointed out that the existing companies pay very meagre amounts as insurance claims for crop damage to farmers. For example, for the year 2021-22, the Tamil Nadu government paid Rs.1,338.89 crore as a premium on behalf of farmers to the insurance companies. But these companies paid only Rs.481 crore as insurance claims to farmers.

Touching on a related issue, Perumal suggested that the damages caused to crops by wild animals should be considered as damages caused by natural calamities and compensation should be given to farmers without any delay.

Referring to the gesture of the Chhattisgarh government in paying Rs. 2,660 per quintal of paddy and Rs. 4,440 per tonne of sugarcane, Vimalanathan wants the TN government to introduction of a farmers’ investment support scheme, similar to the one being implemented in Telangana, by giving Rs. 10,000 per acre per year to the farmers.

Yet another long-pending demand from the farmers is a government-sponsored pension scheme for farmers above the age of 60 years. KV Elankeeran, a farmer from  Kattumannarkoil said the government can begin with an honourable pension for farmers. The cultivation area for millets should be increased from the present 2% to 15%. The government should take steps to provide reasonable prices for agricultural products besides educating the farmers in doing value-addition for their products.

Steps needed to improve agriculture exports

Farmers and exporters from Madurai and Ramanathapuram stack up expectations including the establishment of a separate platform to improve chilli export from Ramanathapuram to establishing primary processing centres for millet in Madurai.

V Ramar, an organic farmer from Koraipallam in Ramanathapuram, said, “Among other crops, chilli crops from Ramanathapuram have major demand in domestic and international markets. Out of the 1,000-tonne chilli cultivation, more than 300-500 tonnes are being exported from the district. At present, the Samba variety chilli is largely being exported from the district. With the Ramanathapuram Mundu chilli being conferred the GI tag, importers from abroad started showing interest. As a first, I myself have received an order for 50 tonnes of mundu export to Germany.”

At present, Samba chilli is sold at 21k-22 k per quintal and Mundu chilli at 17k- 18k in the market. Proper promotion could increase its demand and prices in the domestic and international markets.
M S K Bakkianathan, president of Tamil Nadu Vaigai Irrigation Farmers Association, said that considering the post-harvest loss, like paddy and copra, the TN government should take action towards procuring the Mundu and Samba chilly from the farmers in Ramanathapuram.

Also, stated that the TN government should take action towards establishing processing and storage facilities with dying features across Ramanathapuram for promoting chilli export. He also added that the TN government should establish facilitation centres and export centres in all areas for aiding chilli farmers in primary processing and export works.

Ramanujam, a mundu chilli farmer from Mudukulathur block said despite cultivating the mundu chilli in about 8 acres and spending nearly Rs 40,000 per acre for the cultivation, he and his farmer companions do not get a profitable price for chilli. “We hardly get Rs 1,500 - Rs 1,800 per quintal in the open market. We hope the situation changes after the chilli gets the GI tag. We request the TN government to provide a platform to get better prices.”

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