India’s beleaguered agriculture sector needs to raise productivity by leveraging technology, efficiently utilise water resources, and increase price benefits to the farmer by providing timely market information, the finance minister said.
Arun Jaitely told representatives of agriculture groups during a pre-budget meeting that these challenges can be addressed by revisiting the incentive structure of farming, reducing wastage and improving marketing of farm produce. There is a need for more investment in agriculture sector, he added.
The performance of the agriculture sector in three out of the last four years had been poor mainly due to inadequate monsoons, he said, adding that economic growth estimates for the second quarter (July-September) of 2015-16, showed that agriculture, forestry and fishing sector grew by 2.2 percent as compared to growth of 2.1 percent in the corresponding period of 2014-15.
Industry representatives suggested there was a need to give micro irrigation system infrastructure lending status, taxing food exports instead of banning them and using the funds collected to improve the country’s irrigation system.
It was also suggested that a National Institute for Agriculture Market Intelligence be set up and an agriculture index introduced and satellite surveys made available monthly. Data received through the survey should be shared with farmers so that they can take a decision about sowing of a particular crop as well as its marketing.
The representatives also asked for the fixing of maximum retail price for different types of fertilisers and discouraging import of urea from China.
According to a government statement other suggestions included development of village/farm ponds, provision of three-phase electricity and drip irrigation system, raising awareness among farmers about crop insurance and timely settlement of their claims, promoting investment for better quality seeds, higher investment in agriculture research and development, creation of market platform for agro products, expansion of price stabilisation fund, cheap credit for livestock, timely release of grants.
Industry representatives also sought exemption of oil seeds from GST, considering rubber as an agriculture commodity, creation of a buffer stock of pulses and edible oils as international commodities prices are at a historic low, the statement added.