Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday reiterated that the government will take all necessary steps to double the income of farmers by 2022. Addressing a conference here, he said as many as 99 irrigation schemes that had been stuck for two to three decades would be completed within a specified time frame (Rs 80,000 crore has been allocated for the same). Modi added that 22,000 rural markets would be upgraded so as to provide a market for farm produce within 5-15 km distance of production points. On the first day of the two-day conference, seven groups constituted under various topics such as trade policy and export promotion, agricultural policy to sustain farmers’ income, marketing, science and technology, capital investment and credit made presentations before the prime minister. The panel on trade, coordinated by IIM Ahmedabad’s Vasant Gandhi, suggested that since a small rise or fall in prices of agricultural produce makes a big difference in relation to exports and imports, there is a need to ensure Indian products are competitive globally by abolishing mandi taxes and other local levies. He also said like their US counterparts, Indian farmers also need to get price forecast of their produce.
Modi said he has been flagging the issue of barriers to India’s farm trade with other countries. A group on trade has suggested that all global import standards be mapped and made available in one portal in regional languages so that farmers can read that information. It also has recommended the consumer behaviour in each country to a specific produce be supplied to farmers so that they prepare their crops accordingly. In Budget 2018-19, ‘Operation Greens’ was announced to augment farm supply chain that will help cultivation of tomato, onion and potato, the prime minister said. The government, he said, is also encouraging farmer producer organisations.
Promoting the use of solar energy, converting agriculture waste into wealth and economical use of crop residue will also help in doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, he said. With this in mind, the government has also approved blending of up to 10% sugarcane-extracted ethanol in petrol, the prime minister added. Modi said as much as Rs 11,000 crore of claims have been settled under the crop insurance scheme, which is double of the past amount. A panel on improving the use of information, communication and technology (ICT) has asked the government to create a fund for the next five years so that at least Rs 10,000 crore per year is passed on to start-ups in the agricultural sector. It also said the budget allocation for agriculture and research should be raised to 1.8% of GDP against 0.4% now, which is also done in Brazil.
There have been also suggestions to bring agriculture marketing under the concurrent list as well as reduce the goods and services tax on products created out of agricultural waste. The group on dairy development said that the government should focus on promoting new cheese and ice cream plants in milk producing areas to increase the value addition to 50% from current 5%. It also suggested focus on buffalo on a mission mode as the entire policy has been now on cow-centric.
A group of experts in which farmers representatives were also members asked the government to bring out a law so that no agricultural produce is sold below its minimum support price (MSP). It also suggested the government create such a policy so that no commodity price in the market falls below its MSP.