The Empowered Group of Ministers on Drought, headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, on Wednesday approved an additional assistance of Rs 256 crore for rejuvenation of orchards in drought-hit Maharasthra.
"The proposal on providing additional assistance of Rs 256 crore to protect orchards in drought-hit districts of Maharashtra has been approved," Pawar said after the meeting.
However, the decision on extension of duty-free import of oilcakes to boost fodder supply was left to the Finance Ministry, which will take a call after assessing the demand and supply situation.
The additional funds will be over and above Rs 400 crore already released under the National Horticulture Mission through a special scheme launched last month for rejuvenation of orchards in the drought-affected regions of Maharashtra.
Under this scheme, the Centre will bear 50 per cent cost, while the rest will come from the farmer.
The EGoM meeting, attended by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Food Minister K V Thomas among others, reviewed the situation in drought-hit states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
It deliberated on availability and price situation of fodder in drought-hit areas and discussed the proposal on extending the duty-free import of oil cakes for six months more to improve fodder supply and curb price rise.
When asked about this proposal, Chidambaram said, "This has to be decided on file at Department level after assessing the domestic production and import level."
Extending the duty-waiver to other varieties of oil cakes like copra cake, palm kernel cake and rice bran extraction will also be decided on file and will be communicated to the EGoM Chair, he said.
The duty-free import of oil cakes lapsed on March 31, this year.
The EGoM was informed the price of fodder products like soya oil cakes have started rising after the lapse of duty-free import and there was need to continue duty-waiver to check price rise and enhance domestic supply.
The country has imported 53,090 tonnes worth Rs 84.52 crore oil cakes between September 2012 and January 2013, against 18,769 tonnes worth Rs 21.27 crore in the same period last year, as per the official data. (ANI)