Considering the farm distress, a larger focus on agricultural sector in the Budget was expected. The recent announcement earlier this month outlined creating a high-powered committee of Chief Ministers for transformation of Indian agriculture and we assume that this could be the reason why Agriculture was not focused in the Budget presentation. However, there were few announcements that are worthy of appreciation, such as:
The Finance Minister announced setting up of 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) over the next five years to ensure economies of scale for farmers. Focus on developing 10,000 FPOs is a welcome step. This will immensely help the farming community and give them a new hope. However, linkage of these FPOs with market will be critical for true success of these initiatives.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her budget speech, also talked about replication of zero budget farming. This is already being practiced in some of the states. In addition to raising farmer’s income by reducing input cost, this will also lead to integrated farming, promotion of good agronomic practices and improve soil productivity, which is a major concern these days.
Considering that fishing and fishermen are closely aligned with farming and are crucial to rural India, the scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana’ would address establishing a focused fisheries management framework. For doubling farmer’s income, such efforts that address supply chain issues and focus on developing end to end framework in sector like fisheries is a welcome step. Only integrated supply chain framework can bring desired results in the future.
Scheme of Fund for Upgradation and Regeneration of Traditional Industries (SFURTI) announced by the government aims to set up more Common Facility Centres (CFCs) for facilitating cluster-based development that can make the traditional industries such as honey, bamboo and khadi clusters more productive, profitable and capable for generating sustained employment opportunities. Promotion of cluster-based development is appreciated; however, such traditional clusters should be linked with the new emerging technologies to ensure as a potential tool for the development of these agriculture allied important sectors.
Budget also announced that Dairying through cooperatives will be encouraged by creation of infrastructure for cattle feed manufacturing, milk procurement, processing and marketing. Focus on cattle feed manufacturing is a positive step. In long run, quality feed as well as concentrated feed supply will be crucial to reduce cost of milk production.
Nevertheless, a concrete, well defined roadmap for Agriculture and allied sector is still the need of the hour. We are extremely hopeful that the high-powered committee will soon come up with a slew of measures to eradicate farmers’ distress and double their income in line with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. We are actually looking forward to having an Agricultural council in line with the GST council that can cut across various Central and State Government silos and deliver implementable and sustainable solutions.
(The author is Chairman, FICCI National Agriculture Committee and President & Chief Operating Officer, TAFE Ltd)