Farmers seek more Budgetary support to agriculture

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New Delhi, Jan 8 (UNI) Farmer's leaders have submitted a pre-Budget memorandum to him Finance Minister P Chidambaram seeking more allocation for agriculture with enhanced public investment in irrigation network, waiving of farm loans and extention of credit to the farmers at four per cent interest without collateral security.

The leaders belonging to Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA) also demanded implementation of the recommendation of National Commission on Farmers (NCF) with regard to reframing the mechanism for evolving the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for 30 crops and also by adding to it the cost of farmers' family members and due incentives as suggested by NCF chief Dr M S Swaminathan.

However, Mr Chidambaram did not agree to a proposal of the CIFA leaders, who met him last evening under the leadership of its Secretary General P. Chengal Reddy, that payment of fertilizers subsidy be made directly to the farmers instead of three-decade-old system of routing it through the fertilizer industry.

The Finance Minister informed the kisan leaders that he himself wanted to give fertilizer subsidy directly to farmers but 'political consensus' could not arrive in favour of that, Mr Reddy said while briefing the mediapersons here today.

The fertilizer subsidy bill expected to touch Rs 40,000 crore next year and it could be good help to the farming community if such huge amount of subsidy distributed among the farmer households, Mr Reddy added.

The CIFA leaders said the farm sector's income had come down to one-third from 55 per cent of GDP in 1950 to 18 per cent now but the country's population directly dependent on agriculture had only marginally declined at 60 per cent now.

The memorandum pointed out that there had been persistent decline in public investment in agriculture which presently stood at only 1.3 per cent of GDP which should be reversed in the coming Budget for 2008-09.

''Share of agriculture in total outlay is mere 3.6 per cent in the present Five-Year Plan. The Union Government spent Rs 63 per hectares of net sown area in Fifth Plan which was reduced to just Rs 18 in Seventh Plan and further to Rs 10 per hectare in 1990s. This is the basic reason for misery and suicide among the farmers,'' Mr Reddy said.

The CIFA memorandum sought the allocation of Rs 11,500 crore for watershed development and restoration of water bodies, Rs 240 crore for soil health rectification under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) programme, Rs 10,000 crore for seed replacement mechanism and Rs 5,000 crore for organic fertilizers and micro nutrients development.

It also demanded strengthening of the agricultural extention through PPP, encouraging of the self-help groups and farm clubs through subsidy support and creation of local grain storage facilities by panchayats.

The memorandum sought waiving of all the taxes on agricultural inputs, machinery and equipments, evolving a long-term export policy for farm commodities encouraging the food processing industry and providing of the old age pension to farmers crossing 60 years of age.

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