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Maharashtra hikes subsidy for cashew processing units

Latha Venkatraman

MUMBAI, Nov. 22

IN a bid to increase cashew processing, the Maharashtra government has increased subsidy assistance to Rs 25,000 per unit during the 2001-2002 season from Rs 10,000 offered in the previous year.

During 2000-2001, the Government had provided assistance in the form of 50 per cent subsidy amounting to Rs 10,000 per unit to 45 units.

In a bid to improve value addition, we plan to provide assistance to 100 units this year, said an official of the State Agriculture Department.

Maharashtra continues to be the leading producer of cashew with its productivity being the highest in the country at 1.5 tonnes per hectare as compared to the national average of 0.8 tonnes.

Though leading in cashew production, processing of cashew fruit is considerably low at around 10-15 per cent. The state government has recognised the need for set up cashew processing units in the Konkan region where most of the cashew cultivation takes place, the official said.

Currently, 1.38 lakh hectares of land is under cashew crop as against 7.57 lakh hectares in the country.

Area under fruit production in the state has been on the rise primarily on account of the State Governments drive in bringing fallow land under cultivation.

During 2000-2001, the area under fruit production was 636.23 lakh hectares, higher by 46 per cent from 436.1 lakh hectares in the 1998-1999 season.

According to officials, the State Government has been setting up infrastructure for horticulture development for the past several years. These include a floriculture project at Agriculture College, Pune, with an investment of Rs 3 crore, a tissue culture laboratory at Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth, Parbhani at a cost of Rs 4 crore, pesticide residue testing laboroties, leaf and tissue analysis laboratories and analytical laboratories for medicinal and aromatic plants.

The State Government is in the process of setting up 12 plant health clinics for testing genetic purity of horticultural crops in the state agricultural universities. It is also in the process of setting up disease forecasting units in the universities t o monitor the occurrence of pest and disease incidence on important horticultural crops. As soil and climatic conditions in Maharashtra were conducive for fruit production, the Government introduced Employment Guarantee Scheme Linked Horticulture Develop ment Programme in 1990-1991. This lead to a substantial increase in fruit production as waste land was brought under fruit cultivation, the official said.

Among the various fruits, mango and grapes account for a substantial portion of fruit cultivation. Mango is one of the most important fruit crops in the state with 4.03 lakh hectares under cultivation. As for grapes, the state is the leading producer of this fruit with 29,756 hectares acreage and 7.8 lakh tonne production.

Maharashtra also leads in the acreage and production of pomegranate with 75,000 hectares under the crop, the official said.

With regard to vegetable production, the area under vegetable crop is about 3.19 lakh hectares. In the Tenth Five-Year Plan, the State Government has laid more emphasis on post harvest handling of vegetable crops.

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