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Editorial Articles


Issue no 47, 19-25 February 2022

Budget Sows Seeds Of Hi-Tech Organic Farming

Sandip Das

Union Budget (2022-23) presented in the Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has made a series of announcements including providing hi-tech support to farmers along with provision of specialized funds to boost processing, thrust on promotion of natural farming and specialized programme for oilseeds and millets.

The agriculture and allied sector play a critical role in providing rural livelihood, employment and food security. The sector provides the largest source of employment in the country. The proportion of the Indian population depending directly or indirectly on agriculture for employment opportunities is more than that of any other sector. It is estimated that around 55-60 percent of the country’s rural households depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood. According to the Agriculture Census (2015-16), there are 14.5 crore farmers families in the country; around 82 per cent of farmers belong to small and marginal categories, who own less than one acre of land each.

The Economic Survey (2021-22) recently tabled in the Parliament has stated that Indian economy is expected to witness real GDP growth of 9.2 per cent in 2021-22 after contracting in 2020-21. "This implies that overall economic activity has recovered past the pre-pandemic levels," the survey has stated. However, the Agriculture and allied sectors have been the least impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the sector is expected to grow by 3.9 per cent in 2021-22 after growing 3.6 per cent in the previous year.

According to the economic survey, the growth in agriculture and allied sector could be achieved due to good monsoon and various government measures to enhance credit availability, improve investments, create market facilities, promote infrastructure development in the agriculture sector and increase provision of quality inputs to the sector. "The timely intervention in the form of AatmaNirbhar Bharat (ANB) Abhiyan coupled with other growth promoting schemes (ANB and other schemes are discussed under respective sections) have further helped agriculture to achieve an improved growth of 3.9 per cent in 2021-22," the Survey stated.

As per Fourth Advance Estimates for 2020-21 by Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, total foodgrain production in the country is estimated at a record 308.65 million tonnes (MT) which is 11.15 MT higher than the output in 2019- 20. The production of rice, wheat and coarse cereals has increased at compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 2.7, 2.9 and 4.8 per cent respectively between 2015-16 to 2020-21. The CAGR for pulses, oilseeds and cotton has been 7.9, 6.1 and 2.8 per cent, respectively during the same period.

The Government's price policy for major agricultural commodities aims to ensure remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce for encouraging higher investment and production, while safeguarding the consumer interest. The Government fixes Minimum Support Price (MSP) of 22 mandated agricultural crops on the basis of the recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and after views of State Governments and the concerned Central Ministries or Departments are taken into consideration. The 22 mandated crops include 14 Kharif crops viz. paddy, jowar, bajra, maize, ragi, tur (arhar), moong, urad, groundnut, soybean, sunflower seed, sesamum, niger seed, cotton and six Rabi or winter crops such as wheat, barley, gram, masur (lentil), rapeseed & mustard and sunflower and 2 commercial crops - jute and copra. In addition to that, MSP for toria and de-husked coconut are also fixed on the basis of MSPs of rapeseed & mustard and copra respectively.

While presenting the Union Budget for 2022-23 in the Parliament on February 1, Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman announced a series of measures to give a boost to the agriculture and allied sector. On the procurement of foodgrains especially in rice and wheat, Sitharaman said "the procurement of wheat in Rabi 2021-22 and the estimated procurement of paddy in Kharif 2021-22 will cover 1208 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and paddy from 163 lakh farmers, and Rs 2.37 lakh crore direct payment of MSP value to their accounts.".

 In 2020-21 (crop year), Rs 2.44 lakh crore was transferred to farmers for procurement of more than 128 MT of paddy and rice under the MSP operations while in 2019-20 (crop year), Rs 2.04 lakh crores was provided to farmers for procurement of 111 MT of paddy and wheat by FCI and state government agencies.

Table 1: Key ministry-wise allocation for 2022-23 towards agriculture and associated sectors (Rs/ crore)

Agriculture and Farmers Welfare

1,32,513

Rural Development

1,35,944

Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution

2,17,683

Jal Shakti

86,189

 

Table 2: Key scheme-wise allocation for 2022-23 towards agriculture and associated sectors (Rs/ crore)

MGNREGS

73,000

PM Kisan

68,000

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana

15,500

Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana

10,952

 

FCI and state agencies procure paddy and wheat from the farmers mostly from Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh through MSP operations. The highly subsidized food grains procured from farmers are supplied under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to more than 80 crore beneficiaries as well as kept as buffer stocks for dealing with exigencies.

Finance Minister Sitharaman in her budget speech has stated about promotion of chemical-free natural farming across the country and currently the focus will be on farmers' lands in 5-km wide corridors along river Ganga, at the first stage. Finance Minister Sitharaman in her budget speech 2019-20 and 2020-21 referred to Zero Budget Natural Funding as 'innovative model for doubling farmers' income'.

The Union Budget (2022-23) states that the States will be encouraged to revise syllabi of agricultural universities to meet the needs of ZBNF and organic farming, modern-day agriculture, value addition and management.

 To reduce our dependence on import of oilseeds, a rationalised and comprehensive scheme to increase domestic production of oilseeds will be implemented, Sitharaman has noted in her budget speech. For reducing import dependence, the budget has also proposed formulation of a comprehensive scheme for boosting domestic production of oilseeds. In 2020-21, India imported 13.35 Million Tonnes (MT) of edible oil out of total domestic consumption of around 22 MT.

Sitharaman also announced "2023 has been declared as the International Year of Millets. Support will be provided for post-harvest value addition, enhancing domestic consumption, and for branding millet products nationally and internationally,".

The Budget has announced measures including special funds for agri start-ups, promotion of usage of 'Kisan Drones' and launch of a public private partnership (PPP) model involving public sector research and extension institutions along with private agri-tech players and other stakeholders of agrivalue chains which would delivery of digital and hi-tech services to farmers.

"The 'Kisan Drones' will be used for crop assessment, digitization of land records, spraying of insecticides and nutrients," Sitharaman said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare recently issued guidelines for providing grants upto 100 per cent of the cost of agriculture drone upto Rs 10 lakh to Research Institutes, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and State Agriculture Universities taking up demonstration at farmers' fields while Farmers Producers Organization (FPOs) are eligible to receive a grant up to 75% of cost of drones.

For financing start-ups for agriculture and rural enterprise relevant for farm produce value chain, according to the Finance Minister Sitharaman, the government will announce a fund with blended capital raised under the co-investment model through NABARD. The activities eligible for funds include those start-ups which support FPOs, provide machinery for farmers on rental basis at farm level, and technology including IT-based support.

The implementation of the Ken-Betwa river link project, with an estimated cost of Rs 44,605 crore will be initiated in the next financial year (2022-23). This is aimed at providing irrigation benefits to 9.08 lakh hectare of farmers' lands, drinking water supply for 62 lakh people, 103 MW of Hydro, and 27 MW of solar power generation. The Union Budget has made an allocation of Rs 4,300 crore in RE 2021-22 and Rs 1,400 crore in 2022-23 for the river linking project.

 The Finance Minister also announced that Draft Detailed Project Reports of five river links -- Damanganga-Pinjal, Par-Tapi- Narmada, Godavari-Krishna, Krishna-Pennar and Pennar-Cauvery have been finalized.

The Union Budget also talks about a comprehensive package to states for providing assistance to farmers to adopt suitable varieties of fruits and vegetables, and to use appropriate production and harvesting techniques. For achieving the mission of Har Ghar, Nal Se Jal programme, Finance Minister Sitharaman said, "Of this 5.5 crore households were provided tap water in last 2 years itself. Allocation of Rs 60,000 crore has been made with an aim to cover 3.8 crore households in 2022-23,".

Besides, the Union Budget has made a food subsidy allocation of Rs 2.06 lakh crore in 2022-23, while the provision of fertilizer subsidy is at Rs 1.05 lakh crore for next financial year.

Allocation of Rs 73,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGA) has been made for 2022-23 financial year. MGNREGA is aimed at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Welcoming the provisions of the Union Budget (2022-23), Union Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister, Shri Narendra Singh Tomar has termed it as the budget for the villages, poor people, farmers, women and youth. Under the leadership of Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, unprecedented provisions have been made in the budget for the overall development of the agriculture sector.

Tomar said that budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has been increased continuously, this time also it has been increased to Rs.1.32 lakh crore for 2022-23 from Rs.1.23 lakh crore in 2021-22. Tomar said that there is an emphasis on increasing agricultural production and productivity in the budget, as well as adequate provisions, have been made for oilseeds mission, linking agriculture with technology, farmers to get a fair price for their produce etc.

 (The author is a Delhi-based Senior Journalist. He can be reached at sandipdasfoodagri@gmail.com) Views expressed are personal