Farm sector urges FM to boost private investment, market access
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who kicked off the customary pre-budgetconsultations on Tuesday, assured representatives of agriculture and rural sectors that farm sector issues, employment generation and poverty alleviation were high on the government’s agenda.
“Concerns of the agriculture sector are high on the priority of the present government,” a finance ministry statement quoted Sitharaman as saying. She also stressed on encouraging startups that can help provide remunerative markets for agriculture products and supply them to end-consumers at reasonable prices.
The meeting discussed issues surrounding agricultural research and extension services, rural development, non-farm sector, horticulture, food processing, animal husbandry, fisheries and startups, the ministry said.
Representatives from agriculture and rural development suggested ways to boost investment, enhance market access to farmers, improve food processing and introduce technology-intensive processes in non-farm sector. “It was also suggested that solar energy may be treated as third crop to augment income of farmers,” the statement said.
“Many participants emphasised on promoting food processing in the country. There has been some growth in food processing in the last two years only. Before that the growth rate was negative,” Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand told reporters after the meeting.
There was a lot of emphasis from many experts that agriculture cannot move to the next stage of development if the government does not promote food processing, he said, adding that promoting food processing will help create demand and fetch better prices for farmers.
“The basic thrust was on long-term investment in agriculture,” farmers’ body Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) chairman Ajay Vir Jakhar said. BKS has suggested that the fund share between the state and the Centre under centrally sponsored schemes should be made in the ratio of 90:10, instead of current 60:40, for the next five years.
“We have also suggested the government to reduce GST on milk products to 5%,” he said, adding that the finance minister was very receptive to the suggestions.