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Focus on agri-tech, start-ups and natural farming: Union Budget
Tuesday, 01 February, 2022, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
Focussing on an integrated approach towards the seamless infrastructural requirement of the country, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced big public investment for modern infrastructure push while presenting the Union Budget in Parliament.

Called PM GatiShakti National Master Plan, it will encompass the seven aspects for economic transformation including roads, railways, airports, ports, mass transport, waterways, and logistics infrastructure for seamless multimodal connectivity and logistics efficiency.

“The touchstone of the Master Plan will be world-class modern infrastructure and logistics synergy among different modes of movement – both of people and goods – and location of projects. This will help raise productivity, and accelerate economic growth and development,” said Sithraman.

On the agri front, a scheme in PPP mode will be launched for delivery of digital and hi-tech services to farmers with involvement of public sector research and extension institutions along with private agri-tech players and stakeholders of agri-value chain.

Further, “A fund with blended capital, raised under the co-investment model, will be facilitated through NABARD. This is to finance startups for agriculture & rural enterprise, relevant for farm produce value chain. The activities for these startups will include, inter alia, support for FPOs, machinery for farmers on rental basis at farm level, and technology including IT-based support,” she proposed in her Budget speech.

She announced that the government will provide a comprehensive package with participation of state governments for farmers to adopt suitable varieties of fruits and vegetables, and to use appropriate production and harvesting techniques.

Focusing on the organic farming, Chemical-free Natural Farming will be promoted throughout the country, with a focus on farmers’ lands in 5-km wide corridors along river Ganga, at the first stage and support will be provided for post-harvest value addition, enhancing domestic consumption, and for branding millet products nationally and internationally.

Also, to reduce our dependence on import of oilseeds, a rationalised and comprehensive scheme to increase domestic production of oilseeds will be implemented, the minister said.

The minister announced that the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) will be extended up to March 2023 and its guarantee cover will be expanded by Rs 50,000 crore to total cover of Rs 5 lakh crore, with the additional amount being earmarked exclusively for the hospitality and related enterprises.

And Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme will be revamped with required infusion of funds. This will facilitate additional credit of Rs 2 lakh crore for Micro and Small Enterprises and expand employment opportunities.

Reactions –

Arpita Mukherjee, prof, ICRIER  said that India is among the leading producers and has export potential in a number of agriculture products, but products are facing issues in export markets and are not able to meet the MRL standards. In this regard, promotion of chemical- free natural farming will help. However, there is no major relief announcement for food processing. The imported capital equipment may become costly. And while India wants to negotiate trade agreements, the budget is proposing exemptions to be phased out for select agriculture produce.

Ajay Kakra, Leader – Food and Agriculture, PwC India, said “The focus on start-ups and AgriTech in the budget will be helpful for the development of a digital ecosystem and technology inclusion in the agri sector. However, most industry aspirations remain unmet."

Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts, said, "Extension of ECLGS scheme with additional allocation for the hospitality sector is a welcome move. As we all are aware the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit sectors because of COVID. This will help the small and mid sized hotels  overcome liquidity issues and to return to growth. The big focus on infrastructure development will also help the tourism and hospitality sector. We also welcome the announcement of the National Ropeways Development Programme."
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