Prime Minister Narendra Modi hard sold pro-farmer initiatives announced in his government’s last full-year budget, saying more agriculture credit and easy access to markets will help boost farm income.
Addressing a conference on ‘doubling farm income by 2022′, on Tuesday, he said the government will seriously look into suggestions made for increasing farmers’ income and the Niti Aayog will chalk out an actionable plan.
Shifting of agri-marketing to concurrent list, digitalisation of land records, GST reduction on products made from agri-waste, setting up rural business hubs, improving export infrastructure, setting up of green logistics for perishables at airports/ports, real market information to farmers to plan sowing are some of the suggestions emanated from the two-day conference. The other recommendations were setting of ‘start up agri’, agri-tech parks, incubation centres, early adoption of model land leasing act, increasing limit of collateral free loan, state specific investments and promotion of allied sectors and food processing.
“Your recommendations will be analysed at every level in the government. Some may be implemented in a short term, while some will be implemented later. I desire to take these recommendations forward.” PM Modi said.
Modi also called for separate efforts to come out of traditional methods of farming and even suggested agri varsities to hold hackathons to evolve solutions to the problems facing the farm sector. Asserting that the government is changing the way agriculture sector operates, the Prime Minister said efforts are being made to build a new culture that will empower farmers. The focus is being laid on four key areas: reducing input costs, ensuring a fair price for the produce, reducing wastage, and creating alternate sources of income.
Highlighting steps taken to transform the entire agri ecosystem, Modi said 100 per cent neem coating of urea has led to an increased efficiency of the urea itself, while also increasing productivity. Also, soil health cards — providing detailed analysis of state of soil and the crops it can support best — have improved productivity, he said, adding that this has helped curb use of chemical fertiliser by 8 to 10 per cent and increase productivity by 5 to 6 per cent.
Modi said as many as 99 irrigation schemes that had been stuck for 2-3 decades will be completed within a specified time-frame and Rs 80,000 crore has been allocated for the same. Half of these schemes would be completed by this year end and remaining in the next year, he added.
In the budget 2018-19, ‘Operation Greens’ has been announced to augment farm supply chain that will help cultivation of tomato, onion and potato, he said. The Prime Minister said 22,000 rural markets would be upgraded so as to provide a market for farm produce within 5-15 km distance of production points.
The government, he said, is also encouraging Farmer Producer Organisation. Also, the provision for agri-credit has been raised to Rs 11 lakh crore from Rs 8 lakh crore. Promoting 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 per cent sugarcane-extracted ethanol in petrol, the prime minister added. Modi said as much as Rs 11,000-crore claims have been settled under the crop insurance scheme, which is double of the past amount.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Himachal Pradesh Governor were among those present at the event.
Nearly 300 select participants participated in the conference including farmers, farmers’ associations, scientists, economists, academics, industry experts, professional associations, NGOs and policy makers.
On Monday, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh inaugurated the conference and reiterated that the government is keen to make agriculture policies and programmes income centric.
“The government is working towards increasing farmers’ income and that’s the reason budget for agriculture has been increased from Rs 51,576 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 58,080 crore for the year 2018-19,” Singh said at the conference.
Radha Mohan Singh said that apart from keeping the food and agricultural products warehouses well-stocked, the government is keen to see farmers prosper and is working diligently to achieve the same. In this budget, he said, an announcement of Rs 2000 crore for Agri Market Development Fund has been made, which shows the importance of the retail market in agriculture marketing.
“These markets have been called as GRAM (Gramin Retail Agriculture Market). Through these markets infrastructure of 22,000 Rural Haats and 585 APMC markets will be developed,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Addressing the gathering, Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Dev Vrat- who is a passionate agriculturist stressed on zero budget farming using traditional methods saying due to excessive use of fertilisers, agricultural productivity, soil quality and the water level has gone down. However, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Dr Rajiv Kumar stressed on the modernisation of agriculture and said the business as usual in agriculture will not work and farmers have to think differently.
(With inputs from PTI)