Budget may lower farm loan interest to 4 pc; push agri-infra

New Delhi, Feb 27 (PTI) With high inflation, especiallyfood prices much beyond comfortable levels, the Budget islikely to provide sops to the farm sector including reductionin interest rate to 4 per cent for timely re-payments andboosting investments in agri-infrastructure.

At present, farmers get credit at a rate of 7 per cent.

However, those who clear dues on time get an incentive of twoper cent -- paying back at the rate of 5 per cent.

However, PM''s Working Group on Agriculture, headed byHaryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, has proposedthat all farm loans should be given at 4 per cent.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Ministry in its Budget wish-listhas recommended farm loans at 4 per cent for prompt payers. Ithas also sought more funds for creating agri-infrastructureand enhancing output of millets, vegetables and palmcultivation.

Noted farm scientist M S Swaminathan expects the Budgetto announce various steps to boost investments in the farmsector to ensure food security.

"To keep farmers on farm, I hope there would besubstantial step up in investment in agriculture through farmloan disbursement at four per cent," Swaminathan told PTI.

High investments in agriculture are crucial, consideringgrowing global food crisis and uncertain climatic conditions,he said, adding that there should be incentives to grow cropslike maize, millets and sorghum.

Swaminathan, known as the father of the Green Revolutionin India, also expects the Budget to take steps to encourageinvestments in infrastructure - especially post-harvest andmarketing facilities through public and private partnership.

He also hoped that the government would take initiativesto "attract and retain youth in farming" by restructuring theexisting schemes like agri-clinics.

Swaminathan said, "Ours is a country of young people and70 per cent of population live in rural areas. All agri-graduates are not going to agriculture today. The schemesshould be restructured to attract and retain youth infarming." PTI LUX MJH SKB SA

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