Agri experts pitch for income security for farmers in Budget
NEW DELHI: Agriculture experts today made a case for providing income security to farmers at pre-Budget consultations with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Agriculture provides employment to 48.9 per cent of the total work force in India although their contribution to the GDP is less than 20 per cent.
According to Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) Secretary General B Dasaratha Rami Reddy, there is a need for Income Security Act for farmers, tenant farmers and farm labourers.
"The median income of farmers in 2012 was about Rs 1,600 per month, which is meagre to sustain... Hence, the farming community of India demands Income Security Act for farmers as well as tenant and farm labours," he said after the meeting.
This was the first pre-Budget meeting with stakeholders and more such discussions will take place in the coming days with other sectors and stakeholders.
The Union Budget 2018-19 is likely to be presented in Parliament on February 1.
The government should think of providing social security like pension to farmers, said Y Sivaji, an agriculture expert and a former member of parliament.
Experts also demanded removal of Essential Commodities Act and bringing all agriculture inputs and equipment under zero per cent under Goods and Services Tax (GST).
CIFA also raised the issue of cigarettes being smuggled into the country and hampering the interest of tobacco farmers.
"Due to high excise duty on domestic cigarettes there is large scale smuggling of cigarettes. This is leading to subdued demand for tobacco. As a result the income of these farmers are hugely impacted. We seek that the government control smuggling, and through other measures, so that producers get good price," he said.
Ashok Gulati, an agricultural economist, also present at the meeting, said that buffer stocking of those commodities needs to be done whose prices are trading below their minimum support price so as to control food inflation.
"In the last three years agricultural growth has fallen below 3 per cent. Some commodity prices have gone below minimum selling price. We have discussed addressing the issue of commodity price volatility. We also discussed how to dovetail the tariff policy and minimum selling price," he said.
Gulati also said that farm loan waiver for farmers is not the solution to the present problems and structural reforms in agriculture is important rather than farm loans waiver.
There were demands for increasing credit growth for the farm sector and effective implementation of crop insurance and irrigation projects.
Besides Jaitley, the meeting was also attended by top finance ministry officials including Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, Expenditure Secretary A N Jha and Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar.