Ram Kaundinya


Agriculture urgently requires increased research investments to combat climate change, conserve natural resources through innovative seed and agronomic practices, boost yields of cotton and oilseed crops, and introduce nutrition-enhanced crop varieties. Supporting micro-irrigation and agricultural mechanisation is crucial for water conservation and enhancing farmers’ profitability. Investment is needed in strengthening farmgate infrastructure, establishing shorter supply chains, and connecting farmers to markets to improve overall income in the farming sector.

Against this background, the interim Budget has touched upon a couple of important points.

the Hits

It is heartening to see the emphasis on a strategic approach to oilseed crops such as mustard, soyabean, sunflower, sesame and groundnut. This covers developing high-yielding varieties and adoption of modern farming techniques, market linkages, procurement, value-addition and crop insurance. While the details need to be looked and the budget allocation is to be seen for this project, the seed industry working in oilseeds will be happy if their research investments are encouraged through this programme. Seed industry also believes that modern technology through GM and non-GM technologies should be deployed in mustard and soyabean without any hesitation in this high priority area. Time-bound regulatory process and political and administrative support for such deployment is critical.

The announcement that the Government will encourage private investment in post-harvest activities like aggregation, modern storage, supply chains, processing, marketing and branding is a very good news. This has to be implemented at ground level through States.

The misses

Certain points are missing in the Budget. Some positive incentives to promote sustainable agricultural practices like crop diversification, direct sown rice and minimum tillage would have helped in a big way. We should not hesitate to provide high level of incentives for such agronomic practices in view of the threat from climate change. Hopefully we will find this when the regular budget is presented. The Budget is silent on investment required in establishing infrastructure for green credits markets, very critical for promoting sustainable agriculture.

Cotton urgently requires support to aid farmers and revive productivity and production. We risk shifting from the largest exporter to an importer of cotton fibre.

Budget allocations towards promoting research, HDPS cultivation, mechanisation was expected.

Overall, the Budget announcements could have gone further in announcing some of the critical support measures required by agriculture. Actual money allocation for oilseeds and post harvest management would reveal what the expected impact of these announcements.

The writer is Director-General, Federation of Seed Industry of India