Finance Minister Nurtures Agri-Welfare In Interim Budget

By Outlook Planet Desk February 02, 2024

Budget 2024 & Sustainability: The Interim Union Budget provides an impetus to agriculture with a series of new initiatives and stepped-up support to ongoing programmes to boost farmer welfare and sustainable development

Finance Minister Nurtures Agri-Welfare In Interim Budget
The Finance Minister also introduced the Agriculture Accelerator Fund, a ground-breaking initiative to encourage agri-startups led by young entrepreneurs in rural areas. Shutterstock

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s final budget before the national elections aims to build on the success of ongoing programmes and drive a host of new initiatives to enhance agriculture and the welfare of farmers. The proposals include innovative digital initiatives, financial support for agri-startups, measures to enhance cotton crop productivity, and schemes for horticulture, millet promotion, and cooperative-based economic development.

One of the key highlights is the commitment to build a Digital Public Infrastructure for agriculture as an open source, open standard, and interoperable public good. This initiative aims to provide inclusive, farmer-centric solutions, including relevant information services for crop planning and health, improved access to farm inputs, credit, and insurance, as well as support for crop estimation, market intelligence, and the growth of the agri-tech industry.

The Finance Minister also introduced the Agriculture Accelerator Fund, a ground-breaking initiative to encourage agri-startups led by young entrepreneurs in rural areas. The fund aims to bring innovative and affordable solutions to address challenges faced by farmers and to modernise agricultural practices, thereby increasing productivity and profitability.

To boost the productivity of extra-long staple cotton, the government will adopt a cluster-based and value-chain approach through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). This collaborative effort between farmers, states, and the industry will cover input supplies, extension services, and market linkages.

Under the Atmanirbhar Horticulture Clean Plant Programme, an allocation of Rs 2,200 crore has been made to boost the availability of disease-free, quality planting material for high-value horticultural crops.

The Finance Minister emphasised the significance of millets, quoting the Prime Minister's statement that "India is at the forefront of popularising millets, whose consumption furthers nutrition, food security, and the welfare of farmers."

India being the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of 'Shree Anna' (various millets), the government plans to support the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad, as a Centre of Excellence for sharing best practices, research, and technologies internationally.

In the realm of finance, Sitharaman declared an increase in the agriculture credit target to Rs 20 lakh crore, focusing on animal husbandry, dairy, and fisheries. Additionally, a new sub-scheme of the PM Matsya Sampada Yojana, with a targeted investment of Rs 6,000 crore, will be launched to enable further activities of fishermen, fish vendors, and micro and small enterprises, aiming to improve value chain efficiencies and expand the market.

Promoting cooperative-based economic development, the government has formed a Ministry of Cooperation and initiated the computerisation of 63,000 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) with an investment of Rs 2,516 crore. Model bylaws for PACS have been formulated to enable them to become multipurpose PACS, and a national cooperative database is being prepared for the country-wide mapping of cooperative societies.

In a bid to address water scarcity in drought-prone regions, the Finance Minister announced central assistance of Rs 5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra Project in the central region of Karnataka, focusing on sustainable micro-irrigation and filling up surface tanks for drinking water.

Furthermore, the budget includes the establishment of Bhartiya Prakritik Kheti Bio-Input Resource Centres, aiming to facilitate one crore farmers to adopt natural farming over the next three years. This initiative involves setting up 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centres and creating a national-level distributed micro-fertilizer and pesticide manufacturing network.

As the nation prepares for elections, these initiatives signal a strong commitment to the welfare of farmers and the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector, addressing various facets from digital infrastructure to cooperative development and ecological farming practices.