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Kerala government to launch crop-specific special agri zones

The state government's ambitious special agricultural zones (SAZ), with each one of them focusing on a specific crop, will be fully implemented in 2019. Along with them, the Ministry of Agriculture also plans to set up an agro-business company to help farmers find potential market for their crops. The zones will be designed for crops like rice, vegetables, banana, coconut and flowers based on the climatic conditions, soil specialities, volume of rain received in each area and topography.

“We currently focus on the primary areas to start the specialised zones. Along with that, the steps for the formation of the agro-business company to boost the sales and marketing of crops are also progressing. We're hopeful of launching the entire programme in 2019,” told Minister for Agriculture VS Sunil Kumar.The state's 14 districts are classified into 23 agro-ecological units. Seven units — Palakkad, Wayanad, Thrissur, Kuttanad and Onattukara in Alappuzha, Pokkali fields in Ernakulam and Kaippad in Kannur — will be the SAZs for rice production. Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode will focus on coconut while Thrissur will be the 'banana' zone. Kanjikkuzhy in Alappuzha and Devikulam in Idukki will be the 'vegetable' zones and Wayand the floriculture zone.

“The preliminary steps for the zones' formation include giving training to traditional farmers. Formation of agroparks is also part of the plan. The Agriculture Department will provide end-to-end support and promote the products,” said Agriculture Directorate's outgoing deputy director S Janardhanan. The government had earmarked `30 crore for the purpose in its budget. Janardhanan said the government has also mooted a plan to encourage the production of millets along with rice in nearly 1,500 hectares of land in the state. The list includes arrow root, black gram, green gram, toor dal and sesame.

"The superfood for the future is millets. Hence it needs to be promoted. Earlier, we used to cultivate crops like arrow root and other millets in our paddy fields in between harvests. However, with several fields disappearing from our landscape, we're depending mainly on other states for millets," added Janardhanan.

He said as per the government's instructions, in between the harvests, especially between December and March, farmers can cultivate millets in their paddy fields.