The Budget 2019 is likely to see the government focus on agri and rural initiatives. It is the current government's last Budget before general elections, and though the budget will be an interim one, we expect the government to outline solutions to address growing farm distress.
2018 was a year of reforms in the agriculture sector, with the government announcing several historic policy decisions. We welcomed the government's decisions on minimum support price (MSP), crop procurement export policy. We are looking forward to their implementation. One of the chief reasons for the farmers' stir last year was that the benefits announced by the government did not reach them on time, leaving them at the mercy of private/local mandis. Moreover, the input cost equally hurt them, because of which they are not able to use quality products to enhance production. We would like to see the government reduce GST on pesticides from 18 per cent to 5 per cent, in line with fertilizers and other agri-products so that farmers get quality pesticides at reasonable price to protect their crops from pests and diseases.
Access to well-developed markets is still a question mark. We would suggest that the government come up with certain mechanisms where a group of farmers can be provided a vehicle to transport the produce to cities and sell directly to the consumers. This would eliminate the middlemen and ensure farmers get a price benefit.
The use of technology in agricultural processes cannot be emphasised enough. The government should help farmers access modern techniques even in remotest areas. Developing infrastructure for agriculture such as irrigation, storage facilities, connecting farmers with digital markets etc at village level is also essential and we expect the government to focus on this on priority basis. This will contribute significantly to bringing inclusive development at the village level.
On the industry front, apart from reduction in GST, we look forward to the introduction of the new Pesticide Management Bill, which was due last year. We hope it will strictly enforce regulations for manufacturing, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticides. It must establish a system of licensing and formulate an anti-counterfeiting committee to arrest the spread of non-genuine pesticides. Spurious pesticides have become a challenge for the agriculture scientists as well as for the authentic manufacturers and so needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. Apart from this, there is also some need for revival of the agriculture extension programme with concerned efforts on training of dealers by agricultural universities. The dealers can guide farmers about the correct use of input products to increase farm productivity.
(The writer is MD at Dhanuka Agritech)