Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday presented the Interim Budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 in the Lok Sabha. Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the budget was expected to include major announcements for farmers and the agriculture sector.
Those big announcements have not been made in the interim budget. The amount of Rs 6,000 per annum under PM Kisan has not been increased. While emphasis has been placed on bringing self-sufficiency in oilseeds and assisting dairy farmers.
Sitharaman said the government will formulate a strategy to make India self-reliant in edible oils by boosting the domestic output of oilseeds and launching a comprehensive programme to support dairy farmers.
The Finance Minister said India imports a large quantity of edible oils to meet the domestic demand. During the 2022-23 marketing year (November-October), the country imported nearly 165 lakh tonnes of cooking oils, valuing a whopping Rs 1.38 lakh crore.
She said the government will further promote private and public investment in post-harvest activities to boost food processing levels and farmers' income. Application of nano-liquid DAP (di-ammonium phosphate), a key fertiliser, will be expanded to all agro-climatic zones.
Presenting a vote on account for 2024-25, also known as the interim Budget for the period till the new government comes into office after general elections, she said the government will step up efforts for value addition in the agricultural sector and boosting farmers' income.
"Farmers are our 'Annadata'. Every year, under the PM-KISAN SAMMAN Yojana, direct financial assistance is provided to 11.8 crore farmers, including marginal and small farmers. Crop insurance is given to 4 crore farmers under PM Fasal Bima Yojana. These, besides several other programmes, are assisting Annadata' in producing food for the country and the world," Sitharaman highlighted.
The agriculture sector is poised for inclusive, balanced, higher growth and productivity, she said, adding that these are facilitated by farmer-centric policies, income support, coverage of risks through price and insurance support and promotion of technologies and innovations through startups.
To reduce dependence on imports of edible oils to meet domestic demand, the interim Budget also proposes that a strategy will be made to make the country self-reliant by boosting domestic production of oilseeds.
"Building on the initiative announced in 2022, a strategy will be formulated to achieve 'atmanirbharta' for oilseeds, such as mustard, groundnut, sesame, soybean, and sunflower. This will cover research for high-yielding varieties, widespread adoption of modern farming techniques, market linkages, procurement, value addition, and crop insurance," Sitharaman said.
According to data compiled by the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA), the country's vegetable oils import rose 16 per cent to 167.1 lakh tonnes in the current oil year that ended in October 2023. It had imported 144.1 lakh tonnes of vegetable oils in the previous 2021-22 oil year (November-October).
In value terms, SEA said the country's edible oil imports were worth Rs 1.38 lakh crore in 2022-23, lower than Rs 1.57 lakh crore in 2021-22.
For dairy development, she said a comprehensive programme for supporting dairy farmers will be formulated. "Efforts are already on to control foot and mouth disease. India is the world's largest milk producer but with low productivity of milch animals. The programme will be built on the success of existing schemes, such as the Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Livestock Mission, and Infrastructure Development Funds for dairy processing and animal husbandry," the minister said.
To boost food processing, Sitharaman stressed that the efforts for value addition in the agricultural sector and boosting farmers' income will be stepped up.
She highlighted that the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana has benefitted 38 lakh farmers and generated 10 lakh employment.
Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Yojana has assisted 2.4 lakh SHGs and sixty thousand individuals with credit linkages. Other schemes are complementing the efforts for reducing post-harvest losses and improving productivity and incomes.
"For ensuring faster growth of the sector, our government will further promote private and public investment in post-harvest activities, including aggregation, modern storage, efficient supply chains, primary and secondary processing and marketing and branding," the finance minister said.
After the successful adoption of Nano Urea, she said the application of Nano DAP on various crops will be expanded in all agro-climatic zones.
In the fisheries sector, the finance minister said the government has set up a separate Department for Fisheries, realising the importance of assisting fishermen.
"This has resulted in a doubling of both inland and aquaculture production. Seafood export since 2013-14 has also doubled."
She announced that the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) will be stepped up to enhance aquaculture productivity from existing 3 to 5 tonnes per hectare, double exports to Rs 1 lakh crore and generate 55 lakh employment opportunities in the near future. Five integrated aquaparks will also be set up.
The budget speech also mentioned that the Electronic National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) has integrated 1,361 mandis, and is providing services to 1.8 crore farmers with a trading volume of Rs 3 lakh crore.
Sitharaman also highlighted that "the worries about food have been eliminated through free ration for 80 crore people. Minimum support prices for the produce of 'Annadata' are periodically increased appropriately. These and the provision of basic necessities have enhanced real income in rural areas. Their economic needs could be addressed, thus spurring growth and generating jobs".