Union Budget: Agri sector demands enhanced cash assistance, national mission on edible oils
Experts say that the government should in this year's Budget enhance cash assistance given to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme from the current Rs 6,000 per year for the purchase of crop inputs, provide tax incentives to agritech start-ups and cut import duties on agrochemicals. There is also a need to announce some incentives to farmers as well as agritech start-ups for faster adoption of technologies, like AI, precision farming and drones, in the Indian agriculture sector.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the Union Budget on February 1 — the last full budget before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Hence expectations are high, especially in the agriculture sector.
Ahead of the Union Budget, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of the Union Council of Ministers in New Delhi on Sunday to review threadbare the working of several ministries and policy initiatives taken by his government.
Modi asked Union ministers to reach out to the middle class with details of schemes that have benefited it. While government schemes have benefited the poor and the marginalized, several initiatives have also been taken for the middle class that have made their life easier, the PM said.
The PM wanted the Union ministers to carry facts while reaching out to the middle class with details of the initiatives which helped them in various ways. Hard copies of the presentations made during the meeting were given to the ministers to spread the message.
This was the first meeting of the Union Council of Ministers to be held in 2023 and the last before the Union Budget is presented on February 1.
Experts say that the government should in this year's Budget enhance cash assistance given to farmers under the PM-KISAN scheme from the current Rs 6,000 per year for the purchase of crop inputs, provide tax incentives to agritech start-ups and cut import duties on agrochemicals.
There is also a need to announce some incentives to farmers as well as agritech start-ups for faster adoption of technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), precision farming and drones, in the Indian agriculture sector.
Edible-oil industry body Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) has demanded that a national mission should be launched to increase oilseeds production and reduce imports of cooking oils.
"There is (an) urgent need to launch the 'National Mission on Edible Oils' with adequate financial support to boost the oilseeds production," SEA President Ajay Jhunjhunwala said. Currently, India is importing about 140 lakh tonnes of edible oils annually.
The mission needs to be implemented with an outlay of Rs 25,000 crore annually for the next five years to sizably reduce our dependence on imported edible oils to 30-40 per cent of consumption by 2026 from the current level of 65 per cent, he said.
Agrochemical firm Dhanuka Group Chairman RG Agarwal said farmers should be given more amount under the PM-KISAN programme so that they can buy an adequate quantity of crop inputs like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
Under the PM-KISAN, the Centre pays Rs 6,000 per year in three equal instalments. The scheme, launched in February 2019, was made applicable from December 2018.
Agarwal also demanded some incentives for promoting R&D activities and extension services in the farm sector.
KC Ravi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Syngenta India, said the input cost in the farm sector has risen. "An enhanced outlay for PM-KISAN will also ensure farmers get more liquidity to buy inputs," he said.
Deepak Bhardwaj, co-founder and director of agri-drone maker IoTechWorld Avigation, said the government should set aside some fund from the Rs 1-lakh-crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund for the purchase of drones.
Anoop Upadhyay, Co-Founder of IoTechWorld, suggested that farmers should be able to purchase the subsidized drone and the manufacturers should be reimbursed the subsidy amount.
Karthik Jayaraman, Co-Founder and MD of start-up WayCool Foods, said the central and state governments offer a range of schemes and subsidies but navigating to these subsidies is non-trivial for companies.
A single window portal that enables access to these will help companies take advantage of schemes better and achieve the objective of these schemes, he added.
Shekar Sivasubramanian, CEO, Wadhwani Institute for Artificial Intelligence, said that in the upcoming budget, a continued focus on building sustainable AI capacities to support large-scale deployment of AI solutions in the farm sector will go a long way.
Navneet Ravikar, Chairman & Managing Director (CMD), Leads Connect Services, said the grants and subsidies under various schemes for drones should be extended to agritech, agri-fintech, and private research organizations working in the field of agriculture.
"The government should grant 50 per cent subsidy for essaying, testing and certification on agricultural products, milk produce to certified food testing labs," he said.
Aneesh Jain, Founder, Gram Unnati, said, farmers need to adopt new crops and technologies which have the potential to drastically improve yields and returns.
"Some incentives or schemes for setting up demonstrations will go a great distance in promoting new crop and technology adoption by farmers. These demonstrations should, however, be conducted in concentrated clusters at a village or gram panchayat level to enable sufficient production at one place, otherwise market linkages might become a challenge," he said.
Maninder Singh, Founder and CEO, CEF Group, which is into the business of bio-fuel and organic fertilizers, said the government should consider subsidizing organic manures in order to promote it among the farmers.
Ankit Alok Bagaria, Co-Founder of biotechnology start-up Loopworm, expected Budget 2023 to make scale-up grants available as well, independent of whether any start-up has availed a smaller grant previously, for start-ups.
Furthermore, he said the Budget should promote precision agriculture and unconventional forms of agriculture such as algae farming and insect farming, with special allocations or incentives.