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And irrigation schemes thwarted by GST

Indian chilli and mango farmers desperate for water

Mango and chilli growers in the Nagarjuna Sagar Project (NSP) Zone III are nervously waiting for water from the project. Their mangoes are now in the flowering stage, and yields of chilli will be drastically reduced if the crop does not get water at this critical stage.

The Farmers and Water Users’ Association (WUA) are not optimistic. Water Resources Apex Committee member Alla Gopalakrishnaiah told The Hindu that the officials told him that water could be released to Zone III only after shutting down water to the Zone II area.

Farmers would have used groundwater, but the water table was already low. And in some cases, the installation of alternative irrigation systems is beset with problems as well.

For instance, farmers in the drought-prone Prakasam district saw plans to install micro irrigation systems upset by the tax regime. The 18% GST on micro-irrigation systems has defeated the very purpose of the plan by which water use efficiency would be improved. This is according to farmers in Ulavapadu village as the drought -for the fourth consecutive year- crushed their hopes of getting decent returns at least this year.

After the introduction of the GST, the cost of the farmers’ share for installing micro irrigation systems, which came with 90% subsidy from the government, had almost doubled to ₹10,000 (125 euros) per acre.

Prakasam District Development Forum president Ch. Ranga Rao feels that the GST on farm implements has hampered farm mechanisation at a time when labour costs were pushed up. This adds to the woes of the farmers who are struggling to cope with the ever-increasing cost of cultivation on the one hand and un-remunerative prices for their produce on the other. The GST on farm implements should be brought down from 12% to at least 5%, he adds.

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