Union Budget Review | Budget envisages integration of tech, green growth for agri transformation

New agricultural programmes are provided under the priority areas of inclusive development and green growth: Manorama Online

The last full budget of the second Narendra Modi government presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled plans for digital push in agriculture for enhancing productivity and promoting natural farming for green growth.

New agricultural programmes are provided under the priority areas of inclusive development and green growth. Digital infrastructure for agriculture will be built as an open source, open standard and inter operable public good.

There is lot that digital technologies including Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Machine Learning (ML) can do for enhancing agricultural productivity. This will enable inclusive farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning, plant protection, improved access to inputs, credit, insurance and market intervention.

Promotion of agritech will be a game changer in the agriculture sector.

There are at least 1,000 agri start ups functioning in the area of agritech in India as on March, 2022. For providing further fillip to digital push in agriculture, in September 2021 the government announced a digital agriculture mission to encourage and speed up projects based on cutting edge technologies including AI, block chain, remote sensing, robots and drones.

The announcement in the budget 2023-2024 will give a push for the programmes for the digital transformation of agriculture.

An Agricultural Accelerator Fund will be set up to encourage agri start ups in rural areas. This is for to bring innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices to enhance productivity.

Millets to boost food, agri sectors
Millets are the most climate reselient crops which require less water and grow in diverse agro-climatic conditions. The UN announced 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

India is the largest producer and second largest exporter of millets in the world. Millets are the answer to many of the problems confronting the food and agriculture sector in the country.

Besides promoting millet recipes and menus, the government must support small farmer oriented programmes for a millet revolution in the country.The FM announced that India will be transformed as a global hub for millets. The Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad, will be supported as the Centre of Excellence for sharing best practices, research and technologies at the international level.

Even though the horticulture crops occupy only 13 per cent of the cultivated area in the country, the sector contributes nearly 30 per cent of the agricultural GDP of the country.

Timely availability of high quality seeds and planting materials is vital for enhancing productivity of these crops and profitability of farmers.

The government will launch an Atmanirbhar Clean Plant programme to boost availability of disease free, quality planting material for high value horticulture crops at an outlay of Rs.2.200 crore.

For enhancing productivity of extra-long staple cotton, a cluster based and value chain approach through Public Private Partnership will be followed.

Budget 2023-24 reveals the union government’s plan for deep involvement in the coopertive sector. For small and marginal farmers, the union government will promote cooperative based economic development.

Streamlining processes
With the objective of streamlining the ease of doing business for the cooperatives, the government has already initiated computerisation of 63,000 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies(PACS) with an investment of Rs.2,516 crore. Model bye-laws were formulated for converting PACS to multi purpose PACS.

The government will implement a plan to set up massive decentralised storage capacity. This will help farmers to avoid wastage of farm produce and realise remunerative prices through sale at appropriate time. The union government will also facilitate setting up of large number of number of multipurpose cooperative societies, primary fishery societies and dairy cooperative societies in uncovered panchayaths and villages in next 5 years.

A new sub scheme under PM Matsya Sampada Yojana will be launched with targeted investment of Rs. 6,000 crore. This will further enable activities of fishermen, fish vendors and micro and small entrepreneurs to improve value chain efficiencies and expand the market.

The agricultural credit target for 2023-24 will be raised to Rs.20 lakh crore from Rs. 18 lakh crore for the current financial year. However, the fertilizer susidy for 2024-25 has bleen slashed to Rs.175148.48 crore from Rs. 225261.62 in the revised budget estimate for 2022-23.

The allocations for the flagship programs of PM Fasal Bima Yojana and PM Kisan also decreased. The allocation for PM Fasal Bima Yojana decreased from Rs.15,500 crore to Rs.13,625 in 2023-24 budget.

More than 11.3 crore farmers are covered under the PM Kisan Scheme which transfer Rs. 6,000 per year to each farmer. Over a span of three years the scheme provided assistance of more than Rs.2 lakh crore to the needy farmers.

The drags
The allocation for PM Kisan scheme has been reduced to Rs. 60,000 crore from the 2022-23 budget allocation of Rs. 68,000 crore.

In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to double the farmers income by 2022.But the budget is totally silent on the issue.Two market intervention schemes to ensure remunerative prices to farmers, the PSS-MIS(Price Support and Market Intervention) and PM ASHA are totally wiped out in 2023-24 budget. Even the share of agriculture in the overall budget has fallen sharply in the 2023-24 budget.

Public investment in agriculture is declining over the years with negative implications for research, extension and development activities in the government sector.

Climate change poses a serious threat to agricultural production, food and nutritional security of the country. Globally agriculure and related sectors contribute to nearly 25 per cent of anthropogenic

green house gas(GHG) emissions.

Incentivising states
At the COP 27 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, India placed a detailed plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2070.Sustainable agriculture can contribute significantly to achieve this target. The finance minister announced that over the next three years, the government will train one crore farmers to adopt natural farming practices. For this 10,000 Bio-input Resource Centres will be set up, creating a national level distributed micro fertilizer and pesticides manufacturing network.

Another programme, PM PRANAM, the PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth will be launched to incentivise States to promote alternate fertilisers and balanced use of chemical fertilisers.

Even though, the FM has announced two ambitious programmes for mitigating the impact of climate change in agriculture, no matching fund has been specifically earmarked in the budget.

In the last financial year, marine products recorded the highest export growth, benefitting farmers in the coastal states. For further enhancing the export competitiveness of this sector, duty has been reduced on key inputs for domestic manufacturing of shrimp feed.

The decision to increase basic customs duty on compounded rubber from 10 to 25 per cent or Rs.30 whichever is lower will benefit the crisis ridden rubber farmers.

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