Farmers, MSMEs urge finance minister for higher allocations for flagship schemes

  • Stakeholders urged the government to strengthen agri trade and exports, develop districts as export hubs, establish private sector commodities boards, and fund global market-access programmes

Rhik Kundu, Puja Das, Manas Pimpalkhare
First Published21 Jun 2024, 09:42 PM IST
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. (PTI)

New Delhi: Farmers associations and agricultural economists have urged the government to reduce taxes on farm equipment and increase allocations for agricultural research and development and a flagship programme meant to support farmers.

In a meeting with Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday as part of consultations ahead of the annual budget for 2024-25, they also urged higher allocations to strengthen the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), a government export trade promotion body.

The upcoming full-year budget is expected to be presented in July.

India’s agriculture sector grew at a mere 1.4% in financial year 2023-24, much below its pre-pandemic decadal average of 4.4%, due to erratic monsoons. The sector is expected to improve in the current fiscal year because of anticipated normal monsoons and a favourable base effect.

Agricultural stakeholders at the meeting on Friday also urged the government to strengthen trade and exports post-harvest management, develop districts as export hubs, establish boards for each agri-commodity under the private sector, and fund global market access programmes.

“We have suggested an acceleration of agriculture growth rate through a substantial increase in agricultural R&D up to 20,000 crore from 9,500 crore,” said M.J. Khan, chairman of the Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture,  “because current challenges and future challenges will have to be met by technological solutions, good agriculture practices, adoption of digital agriculture technologies at a massive scale to enhance the efficiency of agriculture operations and post-production.” 

Agricultural stakeholders also urged that the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan) scheme, an initiative announced in the 2019 budget to give farmers up to 6,000 per year as minimum income support, be increased to 9,000, said one of the industry representatives who meet Sitharaman on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

“As most farmers are not getting the benefit of this program due to lands not being in their names, the government should consider adaptation of the model China follows,” the person added.

In the interim budget for 2024-25, the Union government’s total allocation for the PM-Kisan scheme stood at 60,000 crore, equal to the budgetary allocation and revised estimates for the previous year.

“One of the major suggestions to the finance ministry was to deregulate the sugar sector. Molasses plants should be licensed. As we always say, instead of putting up multiple plants, only one plant must be set up, covering a certain distance,” said another representative of the agricultural sector who was at the Friday meeting.

MSME’s demand list

Representatives of the micro, small and medium enterprises sector urged that the productivity-linked incentive, or PLI, scheme be extended beyond the current domains to sectors beneficial for MSMEs.

"We have asked the finance minister to consider issues of bank lending rate (BLR), where credit rating agencies assign BBB- rating to MSMEs because we cannot provide information like market share. As a result, we face higher interest rates on bank loans,” said Sandeep K. Jain, president of the Federation of Indian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, or FISME.

“We have data in the public domain indicating that countries to India’s east will contribute to 60% of the global GDP by 2030. But we have not acted on this,” he said.

“The minister was positive about whatever we proposed,” said Murli Krishna Vasireddy, president of Federation of Andhra Pradesh Small and Medium Industries Associations, or FAPSIA. 

“We asked the government to reduce the fee to file an appeal in the National Company Law Tribunal from 1 crore to 10 lakh,” Vasireddy said. “We also requested the finance minister to give rankings to MSMEs based on the Delayed Payments Act for ease of doing business.”

Representatives of the All India Association of Industries (AIAI), All India Dal Mills Association (AIDMA), All India Glass Manufacturers’ Federation, the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Consumers Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association, also met Sitharaman on Friday.

Wider budget consultations

In February, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman delivered a crisp interim budget for FY25 that reiterated the government’s commitment to fiscal consolidation and infrastructure-led growth. There were only a few announcements and no changes to taxes.

In her shortest budget speech yet, while Sitharaman conveyed the government’s focus on four key priority sectors—women, farmers, youth, and the poor—she steered clear of populism. The allocation to welfare schemes (central sector and centrally sponsored schemes combined) for FY25 was increased by just 4.7% over the revised estimates for FY24.

The finance minister will meet top representatives from trade unions, trade, services and skilling industries early next week as a part of the consultation process for the full-year budget. 

Friday’s stakeholder consultation meeting included finance secretary T.V. Somanathan, the government’s chief economic adviser V. Anantha Nageswaran, and Union minister of state for finance Pankaj Chaudhary.

Among prominent representatives of the agricultural sector and economists present at the Friday meeting were Ajay Vir Jakar, chairman of Bharat Krishak Samaj; C. Shreedharan, president of United Planters’ Association of Southen India; Badri Narayan Jat, all-India president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh; economist Ashok Gulati; M.J. Khan, chairman of the Indian Chamber of Food and Agriculture; Crispino Lobo, managing trustee and co-founder of WOTR; and Pratap Singh Bisthal, director at ICAR-National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research.

(Manas Pimpalkhare contributed to the report)

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First Published:21 Jun 2024, 09:42 PM IST
HomeBudgetBudget ExpectationsFarmers, MSMEs urge finance minister for higher allocations for flagship schemes

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