Agriculture experts in their pre-budget consultation with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Tuesday demanded that the government take steps to boost investment in the farm sector and enhance market access to farmers.
Sitharaman, who will be presenting the 2019-20 Budget on July 5, assured them that farm sector issues, employment generation, and poverty alleviation are high on the agenda of the government.
This was her first pre-budget consultation in the run-up to 2019-20 Budget with representatives of agriculture and rural development sectors. She is also scheduled to meet bankers and economists later.
During the meeting, Sitharaman focussed on the measures to boost the economic and social infrastructure of the rural sector and ways to eradicate unemployment and poverty through the development of agriculture and allied sectors as well as non-farm sector.
“She said the concerns of the agriculture sector are high on the priority of the present government,” a finance ministry statement said.
Sitharaman also stressed upon encouraging startups which can help provide remunerative markets for agriculture products and supply it to the final consumers at reasonable prices.
The meeting discussed issues surrounding agriculture research and extension services, rural development, non-farm sector, horticulture, food processing, animal husbandry, fisheries and startups in agricultural sector among others, the ministry added.
During the meeting, representatives of the agricultural and rural development sectors suggested ways to boost investment and enhance market access to farmers and improve food processing sector and introduction of technology-intensive processes in the non-farm sector.
“It was also suggested that solar energy may be treated as the third crop to augment the income of farmers,” the statement said.
Other suggestions include incentivising organic manure for improving the carbon content in the soil, resolving GST issues related to farmers producers’ organisations, incentives for agro-processing units in the border districts and enhancing investments in R&D, it said.
The farm sector experts also suggested filling up of vacancies in agricultural universities, increasing investment in micro-irrigation and solar pumps, financial incentives to states for implementing agricultural market reforms, and promotion of handlooms and handicraft in northeastern states.
Suggestions for the dairy sector also came in relating to tax and duty structure and improving Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna.
Representatives of agriculture and rural development sectors included Bharat Krishak Samaj Chairman Ajay Vir Jakhar, Watershed Organisation Trust Managing Trustee Crispino Lobo, National Cooperative Union of India Chief Executive N Satya Narayan and NABARD Chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala.
During the consultation, Sitharaman stressed on the representation of different regions of the country so that their specific needs relating to these sectors could also be considered.
The finance minister said the ministry will also hold broad-based consultations with different stakeholders from the fisheries sector to bring about a blue revolution by optimally using maritime resources, the statement said.
The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur, Finance Secretary Subhash Garg, Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal, Rural Development Secretary Amarjeet Sinha and other senior government officials.