Amidst rising rural distress induced by two successive droughts, the Modi Government has stepped up its focus on the farm sector with higher allocation and announced its intent to re-orient its interventions with an aim to double the farmers income by 2022.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made an allocation of Rs. 35,984 crore for agriculture and farmers welfare, and raised the farm credit target to an all time high of Rs. 9 lakh crore for the financial year 2016-17. The farm sector focused announcements assume significance ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections in five states.
“We are grateful to our farmers for being the backbone of the country’s food security. We need to think beyond food security and give back to our farmers a sense of income security,” Jaitley said.
Other major allocations include - the Rs. 15,000 crore for interest subvention on agriculture credit, Rs.5,500 crore for implementing the new crop insurance scheme - Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and Rs.900 crore for creating a price stabilisation fund for pulses.
Jaitley said his government intends to address the issues of optimal utilisation of water resources, augment irrigation infrastructure and enhance the market access to the farmers.
FDI in marketing of food products
Besides announcing 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in the marketing of foods products manufactured in the country, the Finance Minister said the unified agriculture marketing scheme that envisages a common e-market platform will be launched on April 14, and soil health cards will be provided to all 14 crore farm holdings by March 31, 2017.
A dedicated long-term irrigation fund will be created in Nabard with an initial corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore to build irrigation facilities.
Stating that irrigation was critical in increasing agriculture productivity, Jaitley said the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojana has been strengthened and implemented in mission mode. About 28.5 lakh hectares will be brought under irrigation under this scheme.
Further, Jaitley also said that 89 irrigation projects, that have been languishing, will be fast tracked that will help irrigate 80.6 lakh hectares.
"These projects require Rs. 17,000 crore next year and `86,500 crore in the next five years. We will ensure that 23 of these projects are completed before 31st March, 2017," Jaitley said.
On foodgrain and pulses procurement, Jaitley announced three new initiatives, including the start of online procurement system by the Food Corporation of India.
"This will usher in transparency and convenience to the farmers through prior registration and monitoring of actual procurement," Jaitley said. States will be encouraged to take up decentralised procurement.
The budget also made a provision of Rs. 412 crore for promoting organic farming in the rain-fed areas, which account for nearly 55 per cent of the country's arable land. The ‘Parmparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana’ will bring 5 lakh acres under organic farming over a three-year period.
Also, a value chain based organic farming scheme called 'Organic Value Chain Development in North East Region' will focus on the value addition so that organic produce grown in these parts find domestic and export markets.