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Budget 2018
Last Updated : Jan 10, 2018 03:48 PM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

Budget 2018: Expect to get more budgetary outlays for agriculture, says Agri Secy

Budget 2018 is now only days away and it is largely expected that agriculture and rural initiatives will be a core focus of this government this time. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Shobhana Pattanayak, Agriculture Secretary shared his expectation and wish-list for the sector from the upcoming Budget.

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Budget 2018 is now only days away and it is largely expected that agriculture and rural initiatives will be a core focus of this government this time. In an interview with CNBC-TV18, Shobhana Pattanayak, Agriculture Secretary shared his expectation and wish-list for the sector from the upcoming Budget.

Hopeful that the government will continue to place emphasis for the growth of agriculture, to focus more on the market reforms and to ensure that the farmers get a better price for the produce, he said.

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We are continuing to get more budgetary outlays and we hope this year also we will continue to get. Everyone is speaking about agriculture in a very big way, we expect the allocation also to further rise, he added.

Below is the verbatim transcript of the interview.

Anuj: What would be the ministry recommending to the government?

A: I must say that we are also very hopeful that government, as it has been in the past, will continue to place emphasis for the growth of agriculture especially to focus more on the market reforms and to ensure that the farmers get a better price for the produce.

In other words, we will be mostly concentrating on post-harvest and value addition and in the days to come, more credit to flow to the sector. I am certain that this year, the agriculture sector is going to bounce just like what you have seen last year and we are expecting that the government will support us in our endeavour.

Latha: Reports are showing that allocations to agriculture from the previous Budget have not been fully disbursed, schemes have not been fully implemented, is it that there is more on paper and less on the ground?

A: In almost all the schemes of the government, the issue of post-harvest is always emphasized. To give you an example, the recently amended guidelines of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana clearly stipulates that 50 percent of the fund should be allocated for mostly creating infrastructure, which is dedicated for post-harvest and value addition and primary processing.

Similarly, we have also chased our guidelines in respect of the other schemes where we give a great deal of emphasis on this aspect of agriculture. Coupled with skilling of this sector, I am certainly in the days to come this will be our new thrust area and that will definitely ensure that whatever is produced fetches a better price and as I already pointed out, we are fully conscious of this fact and we are moving in this direction.

Even in the past, due to the emphasis given to this aspect, we could build up a lot of not only the cold storage as such but the storage where you can store apples and there are a lot of warehouses, all facilities were created out of the money allocated under the different schemes of agriculture.

So we are continuing to get more Budgetary outlays and we hope this year also we will continue to get. I am certain now that everyone is speaking about agriculture in a very big way, we expect the allocation also to further rise.

Sonia: What can we expect in terms of subsidies in the fertiliser sector because not much has changed in the last one year on this front particularly?

A: Much of the fertiliser subsidy is now under control mainly because we have quickly moved over to neem coated urea which has resulted in reduction of fertiliser usage, so far as urea is concerned. And because of the stepping up of production of organic inputs, there is a much better use, balanced use of fertiliser in terms of organic and inorganic.

This has resulted in the reduction of subsidy towards chemical fertiliser. At the same time, direct benefit transfer (DBT) has been introduced in fertiliser administration. Of course, the pilot project has produced excellent result, but it is soon getting rolled out and the entire country will be connected through the fertiliser management system. So that will result in substantial savings and these savings can be utilised in other sectors of the agricultural economy.

Anuj: What about food processing which has seen a lot of emphasis?

A: The food processing to a significant extent has got the right thrust because of the emphasis present by the government now through the Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and. Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA), but at the same time, this calls for new skills because ultimately the farmers produce for the industry and in that respect, it is the duty of the entrepreneurs who put in the food processing plant to also train, educate and build capacity of the set of people who supply the primary produce.

So far as the Agriculture Ministry is concerned, we are closely working with food processing ministry and we are developing clusters which specifically cater to the needs of these new set of entrepreneurs. And you would recall that in the month of November, when this global expo was held in Delhi, many entrepreneurs from different parts of the globe participated and they have committed for themselves investment in India.

And so, we are very hopeful that we will be able to organise the farmers to specifically grow for these new entrepreneurs because ultimately this will add value to their produce, this will add income to them and not only this industries which will be set up, these food processing units which will be set up, we will cater to the needs domestically, but also it can be a significant source of processed food for even the countries abroad.

Latha: You have spoken about a lot of sectors. Can you tell us what will be the priority? There is fertiliser, you spoke about irrigation, you spoke about cold storage and food processing, credit, what is the priority?

A: Credit is a very important aspect. You know that last year, the agricultural credit target was closer to Rs 10 lakh and if you analyse the various sub sectors of the economy, the agricultural sector credit offtake is much better than the other sub sectors. And every year, government through the Budgetary pronouncement is always announcing a higher agricultural credit target and we expect the same to continue.

The main thrust of declaring a higher credit target is to ensure more small and marginal farmers receive this and our aim is to ensure that at present, the present ratio of having reached only 50 percent of the small and marginal farmers, it should increase and I am certain this is going to take place in the future. Apart from that, you know that we are giving a lot of emphasis on horticulture because that is a high value area and more and more people are taking to horticulture in a big way.

This year, our production estimate is five million tonnes more than last year, is close to 305 million tonnes. We are certain that with the emphasis given on horticulture, this will also add income to farmers and horticulture will come up in a very big way. You are also aware about the dairy development fund which the government announced last year, which helps the cooperative to really rejuvenate the milk cooperatives. I am certain this emphasis on again dairy and the fishery sector will also further help augment the income and this will be our thrust area, that is animal husbandry because there has been better growth in these areas.

India Union Budget 2018: What does Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have up his sleeve? Click here for live Budget 2018 news, views and analyses.
First Published on Jan 9, 2018 12:03 pm
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