Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Union Budget 2023-24 made a slew of announcements for farmers and the agricultural sector, ranging from setting up an agri-tech start-up fund and hiking agricultural lending to promoting alternative fertilizers.
In her Budget Speech in Parliament on 1 February 2023, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned farmers at the very beginning.
She said in the Budget Speech’s opening paragraph, “This Budget hopes to build on the foundation laid in the previous Budget, and the blueprint drawn for India at 100. We envision a prosperous and inclusive India in which the fruits of development reach all regions and citizens, especially our youth, women, farmers, OBCs, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”
The complete allotment to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare in Budget 2023-24 stands at around Rs 1.15 lakh crore against the last year’s approximately Rs 1.10 lakh crore. This is a hike of around 4.6 per cent.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman also made clear the Union government’s push for the production and export of millets.
1. AGRICULTURE ACCELERATOR FUND
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the setting up of an Agriculture Accelerator Fund.
She said, “The Fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, increase productivity and profitability.”
2. COTTON CROP PRODUCTIVITY ENHANCEMENT
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the Union government will adopt a cluster-based approach to enhance the cotton crop.
She said, “To enhance the productivity of extra-long staple cotton, we will adopt a cluster-based and value chain approach through Public Private Partnerships (PPP). This will mean collaboration between farmers, state and industry for input supplies, extension services, and market linkages.”
3. CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR MILLETS
Highlighting the significance of millets and India’s place in world’s millet market, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad will be made into a Centre for Excellence.
Calling millets shree anna, she said, “We are the largest producer and second largest exporter of ‘Shree Anna’ in the world…21.These have a number of health benefits, and have been an integral part of our food for centuries. I acknowledge with pride the huge service done by small farmers in contributing to the health of fellow citizens by growing these ‘Shree Anna’.
“Now to make India a global hub for ‘Shree Anna’, 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.”
4. AGRICULTURE CREDIT TO BE INCREASED
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget 2023-24 speech announced that the agriculture credit target will be increased to Rs 20 lakh crore with focus on animal husbandry, dairy, and fisheries.
5. PROMOTION OF NATURAL FARMING
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also announced the setting up of 10,000 Bhartiya Prakritik Kheti Bio-Input Resource Centers over the next three years for natural farming.
She said, “Over the next three years, we will facilitate 1 crore farmers to adopt natural farming. For this, 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centers will be set-up, creating a national-level distributed micro-fertilizer and pesticide manufacturing network.”
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Budget 2023-24 also announced a new scheme to provide incentives for the adoption of alternative and natural fertilizers.
6. PROMOTION OF ALTERNATIVE FERTILIZERS
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also announced the setting up of 500 bio-gas plants across the country.
She said, “PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth will be launched to incentivise states and Union Territories to promote alternative fertilizers and balanced use of chemical fertilizers.”
Announcing the GOBARDHAN SCHEME, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “Five-hundred new ‘waste to wealth’ plants under GOBARDHAN (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme will be established for promoting circular economy. These will include 200 compressed biogas (CBG) plants, including 75 plants in urban areas, and 300 community or cluster-based plants at total investment of 10,000 crore…5 per cent CBG mandate will be introduced for all organizations marketing natural and bio gas. For collection of bio-mass and distribution of bio-manure, appropriate fiscal support will be provided.”