Govt saw fodder crisis coming over two years ago, but plans remained on paper

AWARE OF the impending crisis, the Union government had evolved a blueprint at least two years ago for meeting fodder deficit that is adversely affecting agricultural households now. This involved setting up about 100 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) for fodder by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), but not a single such FPO has been registered yet.

The proposal to set up of 100 FPOs specifically for fodder, was drafted by the Union Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying (MoFAHD) in September 2020; as a part of the government’s ambitious plan of creating 10,000 FPOs announced in Budget 2019-20 soon after the BJP returned to power in May 2019. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had formally launched the scheme on February 29, 2020, in Chitrakoot.

But as per the details available with the Union Ministry of Agriculture, till August 16 this year, 8,416 FPOs have been allotted to 13 implementing agencies, of which 3,287 FPOs have been registered. Further, of the 26 FPOs allocated to the NDDB, only one has been registered till August 16, 2022. Sources in MoFAHD said even this FPO under the NDDB is for honey, not fodder.

The FPO scheme – Formation & Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) — has a total budget outlay of Rs 6,865 crore—Rs 4,496 crore for five years i.e., 2019-20 to 2023-24, and a committed liability of Rs 2,369 crore for four years beginning 2024-25.

Government sources said ‘FPOs in the dairy sector’ was one of the agenda items discussed in the fourth meeting of the Agriculture Secretary-chaired National Project Management Advisory and Fund Sanctioning Committee (N-PMAFSC) on September 28, 2020. With the FPO scheme entailing liberal financial support, it was decided that the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) will prepare and submit a proposal for 100 FPOs linked to dairy farmers.

The matter came up for discussion in the N-PMAFSC again on June 10, 2021. The Agriculture Secretary asked the DAHD to revise the proposal such that it centred around fodder. NDDB, the proposed implementing agency, was asked to submit the revised proposal through the DAHD immediately so that the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare could “notify NDDB as an implementing agency for the Fodder plus model at the earliest.”

Next day, the Union Agriculture Ministry did receive a revised proposal for formation of 100 Fodder Plus FPOs. The proposed Fodder Plus Model of FPOs covering fodder and dairy activities on commercial basis shall create a reference for other traditional FPOs to take up fodder development on a commercial basis, it said. The idea was to create a self-sustaining village level model for augmenting farmer income.

Under the government’s FPO scheme, financial support is provided to FPOs in three different ways: first, management cost of Rs 18 per FPO; a maximum Rs 15 lakh equity grant per FPO; and a credit guarantee cover per FPO for projects where the maximum loan does not exceed Rs 2 crore.

On August 19, 2021 — two months after the MoFAHD sent the revised proposal to the Agriculture Ministry — the ministry informed MoFAHD that the proposal was in an “advance stage”. Since then, several letters at different levels were written by the MoFAHD to the Agriculture Ministry with little progress, government sources said. The latest such letter was written to Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja by the then Animal Husbandry Secretary Atul Chaturvedi on July 13, 2022. An email seeking Ahuja’s response remained unanswered.

According to a report by the Union Agriculture Ministry, fodder crops accounted for just 3.3 per cent of the gross cropped area during 1950-51, which has increased marginally to 4.6 per cent in 2014-15. It has remained more or less stagnant since 1990-91, in which fodder crops accounted for 4.5 per cent of gross cropped area.
The fodder shortage has also been flagged by the Members of Parliament and the Parliamentary standing committees from time to time. In the Seventeenth Lok Sabha, several members have asked questions about fodder “shortage” or “scarcity” to the government at least on four occasions: July 26, 2022, November 30, 2021, March 3, 202 and February 2, 2020.

In a written reply to a question asked by Tholkappiyan Thirumavalavan of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) on November 30, 2021, Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Rupala acknowledged the shortage of fodder and said it may “affect the milk production”.

“The Thirty Fourth Report on Standing Committee on Agriculture has estimated that the country has 530 million tons, 880 million tons and 96 million tons requirement of dry fodder, green fodder and concentrate, in the year 2020 against the availability of 408 million tons, 596 million tons and 61 million tons having a deficit of 23 per cent dry fodder, 32 per cent green fodder and 36 per cent concentrate, on dry matter basis. By the year 2025, the deficit of dry fodder, green fodder and concentrate would be 23%, 40 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively,” it said.

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