Indian farmers top budget priorities

The government announced that it would allocate 55 billion rupees (Dh3 billion) in the next financial year, which begins next month, to its new crop insurance scheme.

This aims to protect farmers if they suffer losses because of natural disasters, for example.

India will provide incentives to boost the production of pulses, including lentils.

These are a staple of the Indian diet, and finance minister Arun Jaitley announced that 5bn rupees under the national food security mission was being assigned to pulses. Implementation of 89 irrigation projects will be fast-tracked and a long term irrigation fund is to be created.

“Irrigation is a critical input for increasing agriculture production and productivity,” said Mr Jaitley.

“Out of 141 million hectares of net cultivated area in the country, only 46 per cent is covered with irrigation.”

India is implementing what it calls a “unified agriculture marketing scheme” which is an e-market platform that will be deployed in 585 regulated wholesale markets across the country, in an effort to boost farmers’ sales.

Organic faming will also get a boost.

“To increase crop yields in rain-fed areas, which account for nearly 55 per cent of the country’s arable land, organic farming is being promoted,” Mr Jaitley said, adding that the government was launching two schemes to boost organic farming in India and help produce find domestic and export markets.

The government allocated 4bn rupees to these schemes.

Plans were revealed to implement the soil health card scheme “with greater vigour”.

“Through this, farmers get information about nutrient level of the soil and can make judicious use of fertilisers,” Mr Jaitley said. “The target is to cover all 14 crore (140 million) farm holdings by March 2017.”

The government revealed an agricultural credit target in 2016 to 2017 at an all-time high of 9 trillion rupees.

It said it was also making provisions to reduce the burden of loan repayment on farmers.

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