Farmers’ organisations, food and fertiliser companies and agriculture experts on Monday urged finance minister Arun Jaitely to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce and make sufficient Budget outlay to create irrigation facilities in the remaining rain-fed areas.
They also sought increase in the outlay for expanding the number of agriculture market yards and higher allocation for the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF).
In a pre-Budget meeting, the agriculture sector representatives demanded short-term interest-free loan to milk cooperatives so that they can buy surplus milk from the farmers to ensure remunerative price and build up reserves.
They also suggested stocking of crude edible oil and other commodities through imports by taking advantage of prevailing lower global prices.
“We have asked for higher allocation for Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojana for drought prone rain-fed area development and marketing development in irrigated areas,” Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj, told FE. The government has allocated only Rs 500 crore towards PSF in the current fiscal.
T Nanda Kumar, chairman, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) said that the budget should provide for soft loan to milk marketing cooperatives so that farmers realisation go up. “No big companies would enter the milk market as cooperatives have managed to keep their costs down. Cooperatives, however, need some hand-holding by the finance ministry,” Kumar said.
Among others, the pre-Budget meeting was attended by Baldev Singh Dhillon, vice-chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, KV Prabhu, Joint Director (research) Indian Council for Agricultural Research, Siraj Chaudhary, Chariman and Managing Director, Cargill India, Ramesh Chand, Member, Niti Aayog.
Farmer associations also sought better marketing facilities by bringing an ordinance to implement reforms in the Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC), Land Lease Act and subsidised compulsory insurance scheme for crops to achieve annual growth rate of 4% in agriculture.
Currently, the APMC Acts in many states permit the first sale of crops – after harvesting by farmers – to take place only in regulated market yards or mandis. The government should bring an ordinance to allow farmers and traders to sell their produce to buyers anywhere in the country, said Bojja Dasaratha Rami Reddy, secretary general of Consortium of Indian Farmers Association.
The Fertiliser Association of India sought introduction of direct benefit transfer for urea subsidy to farmers and higher budget allocation for next three years to clear arrears of Rs 50,000 crore.
Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian had told FE recently that Budget needs to focus on agriculture, both to raise productivity and to cushion people against any downside from farm-sector crises.
Helped by better performance in livestock products, forestry and fisheries, the gross value addition in the agriculture and allied sectors grew 2% in the first half of FY16. Rabi (winter) crop sowing was down by 4.6% until January 1.
Despite the adversity of two consecutive years of drought, with the exception of wheat and oil seeds, the sowing of Rabi crops like pulses and coarse cereals have surpassed last year’s figure. However, wheat production is likely to decline for the second year in a row.