Interim Budget Focuses on Animal Husbandry, Fisheries to Bolster Agriculture Amid Climate Challenges

The interim Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman focussed on animal husbandry and fishery to provide a boost to the agriculture sector. The thrust comes at a time when climate change has begun to impact production of crops and the Centre is looking at various ways to improve farmers’ income.

However, there was no hike in direct benefit transfer (DBT) of PM-Kisan benefit, negating speculations that it would be raised to ₹7,500-8,000/year from ₹6,000

Experts said as the allied sectors in the agri ecosystem are doing extremely well, the Finance Minister’s focus on animal husbandry, fishery in the Budget is timely and can not only offset, but also boost progress in the agriculture sector.

In her interim Budget speech, Sitharaman said a comprehensive programme for supporting dairy farmers will be formulated following the success of existing schemes such Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Livestock Mission, and Infrastructure Development Funds for dairy processing and animal husbandry.

She said the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY), which has benefited 38 lakh farmers, would be stepped up to enhance aquaculture productivity from 3 tonnes per hectare to 5 tonnes per hectare. Further, PMMSY funds will be utilised to help double aquaculture exports to ₹1 lakh crore and set up five integrated aquaparks.

According to Saroj Mahapatra, executive director at NGO PRADAN, the government should explore public-private partnerships to boost farmers’ incomes.

In the fertiliser sector, she said application of Nano DAP on various crops will be expanded in all agro-climatic zones, similar to nano-Urea. This announcement has been seen by CRISIL as a measure to bring down the fertiliser subsidy bill. “A bottle of nano DAP costs 50-55 per cent lower than an equivalent 50 kg bag of conventional DAP,” it said, adding subsidy on ‘phosphatic’ fertilisers, on average, accounts for 18-20 per cent of the fertiliser subsidy bill.

Self-sufficiency in oilseeds

A strategy will be formulated to achieve ‘atmanirbharta’ for mustard, groundnut, sesame, soybean and sunflower oilseeds.

“Building on the initiative announced in 2022, a strategy will be formulated to achieve ‘atmanirbharta’ for oilseeds such as mustard, groundnut, sesame, soybean, and sunflower. This will cover research for high-yielding varieties, widespread adoption of modern farming techniques, market linkages, procurement, value addition, and crop insurance,” Sitharaman said recently.

In the 2022-23 Budget speech, the Finance Minister announced: “To reduce our dependence on import of oilseeds, a rationalised and comprehensive scheme to increase domestic production of oilseeds will be implemented.”

In 2023-24 Budget speech, it was mentioned that after taking some steps (mostly routine in nature like release of newer varieties), the Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare said that the promise of a comprehensive scheme got “Substantially implemented under National Food Security Mission (Oilseeds) and National Mission of Edible Oil (Oil palm).”

“It will be interesting to see how this fresh promise of atmanirbharata will be implemented. In effect, the Ministry had earlier negated the need for a separate comprehensive scheme, even though it was announced in the Budget,” said a former agriculture secretary. He also said that the planned scheme already announced by cooperation minister Amit Shah while launching the scheme on maize rolled out by cooperative body Nafed, could be the one for oilseeds.

The agriculture growth was an average 3.7 per cent from FY15 to FY23, as against 3.4 per cent between FY05 and FY14. The farm sector grew at 4.0 per cent during FY23 from the previous year. But in FY24 it is estimated that the farm sector growth may be 1.8 per cent.

According to former CACP Chairman Ashok Gulati, a little downward pressure on crops can be compensated by reasonably a good output from livestock and fisheries. He had said that the biggest contributor to farm growth is from milk sector and livestock is doing pretty fine due to its lower base earlier.

Source: The Business Line