Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has her task cut-out for the upcoming Budget 2019. The economic indicators are not in good shape. It is not just the GDP rate or employment that has gone down, the sentiment in the farm sector is also damp. Agriculture is severely hurt by consecutive droughts between 2014 to 2016 and since then it is under immense distress. All fields of the farm sector including agriculture, forestry and fisheries grew just 2.9 per cent, almost half from 5 per cent the previous year. The average agriculture growth rate of just 2.7 per cent in the NDA year from 2014 to 2019 is way lower from the UPA years. Rural wages growth was also low at 3.8 per cent year-on-year in Dec 2018. Rural distress is aggravated by low farm produce prices and adding to the problem are job losses and farmer suicides.
FM Sitharaman has to deliver a budget that addresses all these issues. Usually, Budget’s process takes three to five months. Talking about how the govt can handle farmers’ problems in the upcoming Union Budget 2019, FICCI president Sandip Somany said, “The real solution to the rural distress and farmers’ problems lies in the creation of a strong infrastructure to support agriculture, including irrigation and warehousing facilities.”
“Besides, the reforms associated with agricultural marketing also need to be pushed so that farmers’ cost of production and selling is reduced. These reforms, though depend on the coordination with the states and the success of GST can be replicated here. Value added products have to be produced in agriculture. Exports of agri products should be encouraged,” Somany said.
The FICCI president also supported PM’s direct income support saying that the scheme introduced by the government is a step in the right direction and it needs to be further strengthened.