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Agriculture sector representatives submit Budget wish list to finance minister

The government must extend benefits of the PM Kisan scheme to landless farmers and farm workers, said Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman of the Bharat Krishak Samaj.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 12, 2019, 10.27 AM IST
The fertilizer industry representative from IFFCO said that there is a need to align fertiliser subsidy policy with the objective of balanced fertilization, both chemical and organic.
Promote agri- startups particularly in rural regions, expand micro-irrigation, treat solar energy as third crop to augment income of farmers and enact labour reforms to push creation of off-farm jobs, were few of the suggestion which representatives of the agricultural and rural development sectors submitted to the Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman to boost investment in agricultural sector and enhance market access to farmers.

Incentive and popularize usage of organic manure for improving carbon content in soil, promote aqua –culture, dairy development in eastern states, reduce the good and service tax (GST) on branded food produce, incentive agro processing units in the border districts and enhance investments in research and development in agriculture centre, were the other suggestions.

The government must extend benefits of the PM Kisan scheme to landless farmers and farm workers, said Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman of the Bharat Krishak Samaj, a farmers’ organization who was part of the pre-budget consultations.

“I suggested that we fill all 50% vacancies in sanctioned posts in agriculture research institutions and state agriculture extension system. Also the centre-state funding ratio for centrally sponsored schemes such as Agricultural Technology Management Agency and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana – Raftaar (Remunerative Approaches for the Agriculture and Allied Sector Development) should be 90:10. The investment for micro-irrigation and solar pumps should be tripled and GST on processed foods to be reduced to 5%. Also 6,000 smart census towns should be developed instead of smart cities,”he said.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) urged the government to enhance private investment in the food processing sector and rural start-ups. Chandrajit Banerjee, DG, CII suggested that a capital subsidy to farmers who install solar roof top through Direct Benefit Transfer would encourage adoption of solar as third crop. The energy can be used on their farms while the surplus can be sold back to the grid to earn additional money, he said.

Mr Banerjee also proposed a budgetary allocation of Rs 100 crore for 10 district level incubation centres on a pilot basis where district level incubation centres can be set to nurture rural start-ups promoted by rural youth especially rural women and using rural resources.

Additionally, to stimulate investments by venture capital and private equity firms in agri startup businesses, he proposed that this sector be treated as a special category to lower the tax rate on investments in order to compensate for longer business maturity time and risks associated.

On a similar note, while addressing government officials and the farmer representatives, the Finance Minister, Ms Sitharaman also stressed upon encouraging start-ups which can remove the segmentation in agriculture market and help in providing remunerative markets for agriculture products and supplying it to the final consumers at reasonable prices, said a government release.

The minister focussed on the measures to boost economic and social infrastructure of rural sector and ways to eradicate unemployment and poverty through development of agriculture and allied sectors as well as non-farm sector. She said that the concerns of agriculture sector are high on the priority of the present government . The Finance Minister said that the ministry will also hold broad based consultations with different stakeholders from fisheries sector to bring about blue revolution by optimally using our maritime resources.

Tushar Shah, senior fellow, International Water Management Institute suggested that the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) should prioritize 112 irrigation deprived districts where less than a quarter of farms have any source of irrigation. To do this, the government can emulate Chhattisgarh’s scheme of allocating solar pumps to irrigation-deprived farmers. Shah also suggested Gujarat’s Surya Shakti Kisan Yojana which has solarized over 70 agricultural feeders and over 1200 tubewells.

A.E. Joseph, president, United Planters Association of South India said that in this year budget they want under direct taxes ,the IT Rule 7B(1) to be amended to tax coffee only from the stage of roasting and powdering. “This would enable the grower to sell coffee after curing (a process akin to milling) directly and there by increase the share in the value chain,”he said. Further, he said that they proposed the government to levy safeguard duty on import of natural rubber to protect the livelihood of small producers and also to increase allocation of fund for the Commodity Boards.

The fertilizer industry representative from IFFCO said that there is a need to align fertiliser subsidy policy with the objective of balanced fertilization, both chemical and organic. Further, the official asked government to ease regulations of promoting aqua agriculture such as seaweed cultivation which has a huge employment potential. “Encourage cooperatives to play the role of linking food processors and agri startups to farmers,” he said according to people in the know how.

Other suggestions include , filling up of vacancies in agricultural universities, increasing investment in micro irrigation and solar pumps, financial incentives to the states for implementing agricultural market reforms, promotion of handlooms and handicrafts in the North Eastern states for employment generation and enhancing rural income, creating of aggregators for farm equipment and promotion of non-IT related rural start-ups.

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