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Agri-tech startup fund, increased credit in Budget to boost agriculture sector

New Delhi, Feb 1 (IANS) From setting up an Agri-tech startup fund to hiking agricultural credit, Union Budget 2023 brought multiple announcements for welfare of the farm sector.

The Union Budget has allocated Rs 1,15,531.79 crore to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare for all Centrally sponsored schemes as against Rs 1,10,254 crore in the previous budget.

The budget this year talked about setting up an Agriculture Accelerator Fund that will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by farmers. “It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, increase productivity and profitability,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Wednesday.

The minister in her budget speech announced that the agriculture credit target will be increased to Rs 20 lakh crore with focus on animal husbandry, dairy, and fisheries.

The budget proposed setting up of 10,000 ‘Bhartiya Prakritik Kheti Bio-Input Resource Centres’ over the next three years for natural farming. “Over the next three years, we will facilitate 1 crore farmers to adopt natural farming. For this, 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centres will be set-up, creating a national-level distributed micro-fertiliser and pesticide manufacturing network,” Sitharam said in her speech.

The budget also proposed a new scheme to provide incentives for the adoption of alternative and natural fertilisers, and setting up of 500 bio-gas plants across the country.

Anil Kumar SG, Founder & CEO, Samunnati said, “Agri credit target of Rs 20 lakhs crore, Agriculture Accelerator Fund to agri-startups and entrepreneurs to bring the much needed support to the start-up ecosystem, and creating decentralised storage infrastructure are significant steps that will certainly have multiplier effect on the agri sector.”

However, many farmer leaders suggested that the budget has been a bit disappointing for farmers. AIKS National Joint Secretary Ajit Navale said that contrary to the promises of the government to double farmer incomes by 2022, there has been a steady decline in the peasants’ earning.

Lok Sangharsh Morcha (LSM) President Pratibha Shinde said that after destroying the country’s economy and handing it over to the big industrialists, the BJP government is now targetting the agriculture sector by compelling the distressed farmers to hand it over to the huge companies entering this sector.

Reacting to the budget, Agriculture economist Devinder Sharma tweeted, “A lot of people were expecting the focus of the Budget 2023 to be on agriculture. But they must be disappointed.”