Union Budget 2023-24: Digital push, supply-side incentives for agriculture

Feb 01, 2023 04:47 PM IST

Budget 2023: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will set up agriculture accelerator fund to nurture start-ups in rural areas and build an open-source, digital public agriculture infrastructure

NEW DELHI Presenting the last full Union Budget (2023-24) of the Narendra Modi government ahead of the general elections in 2024, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday unveiled plans to expand digital technologies to boost the country’s agriculture sector, promote natural farming and fund rural start-ups.

Agriculture accounts for 15% of the country’s gross value added and is the largest source of employment (PTI File)
Agriculture accounts for 15% of the country’s gross value added and is the largest source of employment (PTI File)

The government will set up an agriculture accelerator fund to nurture start-ups in rural areas, Sitharaman said in her Budget speech. The government will also build an open-source, digital public agriculture infrastructure.

A digital agricultural stack, a data repository of the farm sector, is already being built and the new open-source initiative, which will be accessible to the private sector, is expected to be based on it.

“This will enable inclusive, farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning and health, improved access to farm inputs, credit, and insurance, help for crop estimation, market intelligence, and support for growth of agri-tech industry and start-ups,” Sitharaman said.

Agriculture accounts for 15% of the country’s gross value added (GVA) and is the largest source of employment. The finance minister announced raising the federal subsidised credit limit for FY24 for agricultural activities to 20 lakh crore.

The Budget’s estimates for 2023-24 for the agriculture ministry stood at 1.25 lakh crore. Food subsidy in the Budget estimates for 2023-24 has been pegged at 1.97 lakh crore, down 31.2% from the revised estimate of 2022-23, while the fertiliser subsidy has been estimated at 1.75 lakh crore, down 22.2% from the revised estimate of 2022-23.

“The Budget focuses a lot on the supply and input side of the agricultural value chain,” Anand Ramanathan, partner, Deloitte India, said in an email response.

The finance minister announced that the Indian Institute of Millet Research, Hyderabad, will be upgraded as a centre of excellence, terming millets as “Shree Anna”. The UN General Assembly has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets, following a proposal moved by India at the global body which was endorsed by 70 nations.

“We are the largest producer and second largest exporter of ‘Shree Anna’ in the world. We grow several types of ‘Shree Anna’ such as jowar, ragi, bajra, kuttu, ramdana, kangni, kutki, kodo, cheena, and sama.”

Incentives will be rolled out to bring 10 million farmers under the ambit of chemical-free natural farming, Sitharaman said.

Sitharaman said the government was promoting a cooperative-based economic development model for small and marginal farmers. The Union government has initiated computerisation of 63,000 primary agricultural societies, which are last-mile entities delivering credit to millions of farmers with an investment of 2,516 crore.

To enhance the productivity of extra-long staple cotton, Sitharaman announced the adoption of a cluster-based and value-chain approach through public-private partnerships. “This will include collaboration between farmers, the state, and the industry for input supplies, extension services, and market linkages,” she said.

Sitharaman announced the launch of an “Atmanirbhar Clean Plant” programme to boost the availability of disease-free quality planting material for high-value horticultural crops, with an outlay of 2,200 crore.

The Budget also unveiled a new sub-scheme under the PM Matsya Sampada Yojana with a targeted investment of 6,000 crore to boost the fishing value chain.

The government will implement a plan to set up a chain of decentralised storage facilities to help farmers store their produce and sell it at appropriate times for remunerative prices.

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    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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