Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has cut to a meagre ₹1 lakh the allocation for Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) scheme for specified agriculture products in the Budget for 2023-24 table in Parliament on February 1. 

This reduction in allocation is from ₹545 crore in the 2022-34 revised Budget estimate (BE) and the actual expenditure of ₹250 crore in 2021-22. This negligible allocation has led to speculations being raised that “some new scheme is in the works”, say traders and experts.

The Budget also proposes a significant cut in the allocation for export promotion with the total outlay being pruned to ₹4,351.47 crore for 2023-24 against the revised BE of ₹5,608.1 crore and actual expenditure of ₹6,632.05 crore in 2021-22. 

Also, the allocation for the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and various commodity boards are almost unchanged. 

Allocations for commodity boards

For APEDA, the Finance Minister has allocated ₹80 crore, the same as the revised BE this fiscal and ₹85 crore spent in 2021-22. For Marine Products Export Development Authority, the allocation remains unchanged at ₹100 crore(₹126.05 in 2021-22). 

For the Tea Board, the allocation is ₹135 crore against the revised BE of ₹131.93 crore this fiscal (₹157.37), while Coffee Board has been allocated ₹226.20 crore against the revised BE of 228.20 crore this fiscal (₹164.57). The Rubber Board gets ₹268.76 crore, unchanged from the current fiscal (₹263.95). 

A section of the traders is of the view that the TMA scheme is being phased out since the Commerce Ministry feels it is not required any more. But there is another section which sees “something is in the works” to help agriculture exports.

New scheme likely

The TMA Scheme mainly catered to exports under the Krishi Udaan scheme. Air India, which was sold to the Tatas a few months ago, was utilised for this scheme and hence the Centre made the allocation.

“Now that Air India is not with the Centre anymore, it will likely try and negotiate with airlines for competitive rates. Once it gets competitive bids from the airlines, it might come up with a new scheme or even a revised one to Krishi Udaan,” said a trade analyst, who did not wish to identify. 

Once negotiations on the fares get over, the Centre can always revise the allocation in the Budget, he said.  

Traders say the Centre could come up with a clear outlook when it announces the new foreign trade policy on April 1. A revised trade policy is due since last year and it will likely be implemented from the next fiscal, officials have said.