The Uttarakhand government would shortly discuss plans to give boost to the agriculture sectors with a special focus on establishing food processing units, according to a highly placed government official.
Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna would shortly hold a meeting to discuss various plans and also take a review of the agricultural policy which was passed by the previous government ruled by the BJP. The proposed policy would promote Special Agriculture Zones (SAZs) with voluntary land consolidation being its key feature.
“Under the SAZ, we are planning to set up self-employment agriculture industry (SAI) units through integrated farming system approach,” said a government official. The government is also planning to promote food processing units where the central subsidy is very heavy.
Under the SAZs, the government proposes to have agro-based units like fisheries, tea gardens, dairy farming and various other agriculture and horticulture activities. The government is hopeful of generating new employment opportunities and checking the scourge of migration from the hills with the help of the new policy.
Besides the agriculture policy, the government would also take a review of the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act which seeks to promote private players in the sector and allow setting up of private mandis. After the passage of the APMC Act, not a single private mandi could be set up in the state.
For the SAZs, the government has also announced special incentives like special grants, availability of 24 hour power supply and free soil tests. Under the SAZ proposal, the government would set up special collection and processing centres for the benefit of farmers.
A large chunk of agriculture land had already fallen into the hands of builders and businessmen in recent years in the hill state. The government sources say that around 24,000 hectares (ha) of rural land had been taken away for both urbanisation and industrial programmes in the past decade.