The budget

Wooing farmers with sops & promises

In a bid to raise 4 per cent growth in the agriculture sector in FY15 amidst the fear of El Nino triggering weak monsoon and resulting in decreased farm output, Arun Jaitley announced a slew of measures to boost farm output.

He announced a price stabilisation fund, steps to set up a national market for farm produce, irrigation sc­h­emes, new agricultural un­i­v­ersities and initiatives to increase warehousing and rural web connectivity, amo­ng other things. He said food price volatility was a big concern, and announced a Rs 500 crore fund for farm price stabilisation. The government allocated Rs 100 crore to set up agriculture infrastructure fund, Rs 200 crore to promote agriculture and horticulture universities in TN, Haryana, and AP.

Also, another Rs 100 crore was proposed to set up agro technology institute in Assam and Jharkhand. “With a focus to push the infrastructure sector in agriculture the government will allocate Rs 5,000 crore for warehouse infrastructure fund to hike warehousing capacity,” Jaitley said.

The government has set a target of Rs 800,000 crore for agriculture credit during 2014-15. It has decided to continue the interest subvention scheme and raise corpus of rural infrastructure development fund to Rs 25,000 crore. Among other decisions, he also said a Rs 100 crore dedicated Kisan TV for farmers will be operational by this year.

“The government initiatives are targeted to give a boost to production and marketing but we will have to wait and watch how they are implemented,” PK Joshi of International Food Policy Research Institute, told FC.

“All these measures will help in the medium to long term. But when the monsoons are not good, this will not make a material difference,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Care said. However, Gyanendra Shukla of Monsanto said focus on strengthening warehousing was critical and access to credit at low rates would ensure that farmers invest in best inputs.

Kapil Mehan, MD at Coromandel International, said the new pricing policy for urea will help in treating the imbalance in the use of fertilisers. The soil testing labs are essential for a balanced fertiliser use. The proposed single agriculture market will be beneficial.

Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (Asha), said the government has not come up with anything substantive to address crisis in farm livelihoods.

michaelgonsalves

@mydigitalfc.com

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