In her Budget speech on Saturday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government was committed to doubling farmers’ income by 2022. She proposed to increase agricultural credit target to Rs 15 lakh crore, pointing out that farmers covered under the PM-KISAN scheme would benefit from it. The minister also announced a budget of Rs 2.83 lakh crore for agriculture and allied activities for the 2020-’21 financial year.
Sitharaman pitched for the liberalisation of farm markets to make farming competitive. The finance minister enumerated 16 action points to double farmers’ income and help revive the agriculture sector.
Sitharaman proposed to implement comprehensive measures for 100 water-stressed districts, but did not explain what these measures were.
The finance minister proposed to expand the PM-KUSUM scheme to help 20 lakh farmers set up standalone solar firms. “Further, we shall also help another 15 lakh farmers solarise their grid connected from sets,” she added. If farmers have fallow or barren lands, they will receive assistance to set up solar power generation units so that they can make a living from selling solar power to grids, she added.
The finance minister said the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, or NABARD, would map and geo-tag warehouses. “Our government will provide viability gap funding for setting up efficient warehouses in the block or taluka level,” Sitharaman added. The minister said the Food Corporation of India would build the warehouses on its land.
The Indian Railways will set up a Kisan Rail through Public Private Partnership, and equip it with cold-storage facilities so that perishable goods can be transported easily across India. The finance minister also announced a Kisan Udan scheme on both national and international routes. The Ministry of Civil Aviation will set it up.
The integrated farming system in rain-fed areas shall be expanded, Sitharaman added. Zero-budget natural farming will also be included in the plan, and online agricultural markets will be strengthened.
The minister said the government was trying to eliminate brucellosis in cattle; Peste des petits ruminants, or goat plague, in sheep and goat by 2025; and foot and mouth disease. “Coverage of artificial insemination shall be increased from the present 30% to 70%,” she added.
The finance minister said the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme would be dovetailed to develop fodder farms. She also proposed to increase the milk processing capacity from 53.5 million metric tonnes to 108 million metric tonnes by 2025.
Sitharaman said the government was planning to put in place a framework for the development, management and preservation of marine fisheries. She proposed to raise fish production to 200 lakh tonnes by 2022-’23, and said growing algae and seaweed would also be promoted. She added that fish farmer producer organisations, or FFPOs, would be established. “Youth and fishery extension work will be enabled by rural youth as Sagar Mitras, forming 500 fish farmer producing organisations,” Sitharaman said.