The Budget seeks to sustain and strengthen the growth impulses. The Government enunciates its Budget as a blueprint for the Amrit kaal, hinged on futuristic and inclusive economic growth. Of the four priorities that shape this vision, ‘Inclusive Development’ is one.
The growth in agriculture sector has the highest positive impact on poverty reduction. Any Budget is best evaluated by examining the continuity in policies and programmes highlighted in the previous Budget(s), linkage(s) among related ministries and departments and the harmony with the overall needs of the society. The Budget apropos agriculture and farmers’ welfare can be said to pass the muster from this perspective.
India’s agriculture is needed to meet nutritional security, generate jobs, create wealth for the farmers and ensure ecological sustainability. Diversification of production, integration of farm gates with markets for monetisation and expansion of the sector into bioeconomy-centric secondary agriculture contain the kernel of solution. The Budget attempts to address these issues, when the statements and allocations of different ministries/departments related to the agriculture sector are evaluated, and not just of the Ministry of Agriculture.
There is emphasis on diversification towards high value agriculture, as also deficit agri-commodities. While livestock sector has been growing at a CAGR of 8.15 per cent during 2014-15 to 2019-20 (at constant prices), the fishery sector has been registering an impressive double-digit average annual growth of 10.87 per cent since 2014-15. Supporting this momentum, the budgetary allocation for the Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying is ₹3,198.84 crore (a 44.40 per cent rise compared to that of the previous year), and it goes up by more than 50 per cent to ₹2,118.47 crores vis-à-vis 2021-22, in the case of the Department of Fisheries. Simultaneously, the Department of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare continues with its upward trend (₹1,24,000 crore).
Deficit crop segments
Rightly is the attention paid to deficit crop segments — oil seeds and millets. India has been importing annually ₹70,000 crore worth edible oils. If domestic oilseeds and others sources like palm are encouraged, it is the Indian farmers who will gain. Millets are a rich source of the much-needed nutrients.
These two segments along with pulses are also climate-resilient, thus offering a win: win solution to India’s efforts in climate action. The millets will now be provided for post-harvest value addition, enhancing domestic consumption and branding their products for integration with supply chains. Promoting these deficit-crops is integral to the practice of smart agriculture.
Stepping of the Budget into smart agriculture is further galvanised by supplementing production technology with digital technology. The ensemble of digital technology including that of ‘Kisan Drones’ will take care of the plurality of issues all along the value chain. These encompass production planning, resource use efficiency and risks that arise from monsoons and markets, apart from the desired digitisation of land records and delivery of digital and high-tech services.
The increasing volumes of marketable surpluses will get better monetised with the continuing support to mobilisation of farmers and aggregation of farm-produce through FPOs. The budgetary allocation gets strengthened with blended capital to be raised under the co-investment model facilitated through NABARD. The spin-off effect of financing the agricultural and rural entrepreneurial start-ups linked to farm produce value chains will extend the footprints of agriculture into secondary agriculture.
This finds adequate support in the higher allocations for the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (a jump of more than 125 per cent); and various initiatives committed in favour of the MSME sector, including the Credit Guarantee Trust Fund for Micro & Small Enterprises (CGTMSE), that expands the credit size to ₹200,000 crore. The resulting growth of secondary agriculture and bioeconomy, will generate supplementary jobs and incomes besides stimulating an eco-friendlier developmental approach.
Making a strong bid for energy transition and climate action, specific references are made to solar power, circular economy, carbon neutral economy, and promotion of agro forestry and private forestry. If the targeted 5-7 per cent biomass pellets come to be co-fired in thermal power plants, along with savings of carbon di-oxide, there will be opportunities for extra income to the farmers and jobs for the locals.
The commitment to fund Ken-Betwa River linking project, besides five others, as and when a consensus is reached will benefit poorly endowed regions. This will add to the objective of harvesting utilisable water in the country under the ongoing AIBP programme of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
The government’s focus is on higher capital investment through convergence of budgetary and non-budgetary financial sources by way of sinking up the policies and programmes of various ministries. The Railways, for example, intends to develop infrastructure for small farmer produce. It is such cohesive inter-ministerial approach that will enhance capital use efficiency, which has a great bearing on agricultural growth rate. The vision of the government for transitioning agriculture as an employment creating, income generating and sustainable entrepreneurial system even as it meets the food and nutrition security is well borne out by the Budget.
The writer is CEO, National Rainfed Area Authority