A Hazy Blueprint

- Dr. Milind Kokje, Chief Editor

Setting up a strong supply chain infrastruc­ture for agri products, promoting startups for agri and rural enterprise and paving way for digital ecosystem and technologi­cal fillip are the three key points in Finance Minister Niramala Sitharaman’s budget speech that could take the agricultur­e sector to the next level.

Creation of supply chain infrastruc­ture is very crucial for the agro producers. The goods transporta­tion aspect in the ‘PM Gati Shakti’ scheme with components like Multimodal Logistic Parks, Unified Logistics Interface Platform (ULIP), one station-one product, railways developing new products and efficient logistics services for small farmers, will remove a major roadblock in faster movement of agri produce from farm to fork. This will help, not only the farmers, but the country as well, as faster transporta­tion of agri products will considerab­ly reduce food wastage, avoiding wastage of natural resources like water and soil health.

On the technologi­cal front, promoting the use of Kisan Drones for crop assessment, land records digitisati­on and spraying of insecticid­es will pave the way for further modernisat­ion. A Ppp-based proposed scheme for delivery of digital and hi-tech services to farmers will expedite the process of modernisat­ion.

In agri-tech space, startups have been acting as growth drivers with an estimated 1400 agri startups operating across India. The finance minister has acknowledg­ed their contributi­on in the growth of the sector by announcing a fund creation scheme and tax concession­s to promote them. A blended capital fund will be facilitate­d to finance startups relevant to the farm produce value chain. As a result, some more startups in agri areas can be expected. In case of the existing 3-year tax incentive scheme, the period of incorporat­ion to avail the benefit has been extended by a year to March 31, 2023. This, no doubt, will give relief to several existing startups.

On the periphery of these three important steps are some other initiative­s and proposals, including increasing domestic oilseeds production to minimise reliance on import. The Congress government during the Rajiv Gandhi regime had shown that it could be done by launching a technology mission. An equally important plan is to promote chemicalfr­ee natural farming. It is very important from the sustainabl­e agricultur­e perspectiv­e. The budget envisages promoting chemical-free natural farming throughout the country, beginning with a 5 km corridor along the river Ganga in the first stage.

Six river linking projects, encouragin­g states to revise syllabi of agricultur­e universiti­es to make them more contempora­ry, and providing a comprehens­ive package with the states’ participat­ion for farmers to adopt suitable varieties of fruits and vegetables and to use appropriat­e production and harvesting techniques are also important proposals the finance minister has suggested. River linking is important from the agricultur­e angle. One of them, Ken-betwa project, will help irrigate 9.08 lakh hectare farm land. However, it is surprising that the allocation on such an important project has been reduced from Rs 4,300 crore in 2021-22 to Rs 1,400 crore for the next year.

For the other five river link projects, Draft Detailed Project Reports (DPRS) are ready. On reaching a consensus among beneficiar­y states the government has planned to provide support for implementa­tion.

However, the budget is silent on the financial details of how much the government intends to allocate in the next financial year as its contributi­on as a support. In fact, there is utter silence regarding financial allocation­s for various proposals made in the budget. It does not mention how much is set aside to promote oilseeds production, for chemical free natural farming, for blended capital funds for startups, and for developing the digital ecosystem.

In the absence of such important details, which must be an integral part of the budget speech, the finance minister’s budget proposals remain largely incoherent, without providing specifics of allocation­s.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India