Union Budget 2023: In the last full budget ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the agricultural credit target will be increased to Rs 20 lakh crore with a focus on animal husbandry, dairy, and fisheries.
Sitharaman said that digital public infrastructure will be set up as an "open-source, open-standard, and an interoperable public good."
"This will include inclusive farmer-centric solutions through relevant information services for crop planning and help improved access to farm inputs, credit, and insurance, help for crop estimation, market intelligence, and support for growth of agri-tech industry and startups."
An agriculture accelerator fund will also be set up to encourage agri-startups by young entrepreneurs in rural areas.
"The fund will aim at bringing innovative and affordable solutions for challenges faced by the farmers. It will also bring in modern technologies to transform agricultural practices, increase productivity, and profitability."
To enhance the productivity of extra-long staple cotton, Sitharaman announced the adoption of a cluster-based and value chain approach through public-private partnerships. This will include collaboration between farmers, the state, and the industry for input supplies, extension services, and market linkages.
She further announced the launch of an 'Atmanirbhar Clean Plant' programme to boost the availability of disease-free quality planting material for "high value horticultural crops" at an outlay of Rs 2,200 crore.
Apart from this, a global hub for millets was also announced.
"India is at the forefront of popularising millets, whose consumption furthers nutrition food security and welfare of farmers," the finance minister said.
The PM-PRANAM scheme will also be launched to incentivise states and union territories to use alternative fertilisers, in a boost to "green farming."
The Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Millets Research will be supported as a centre of excellence for promoting best practices, research and technologies at the global level.
MNREGA Allocation Lowest in 4 Years
The allocation for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) has reduced drastically in the 2023 Budget – to Rs 60,000 crore.
The slab has been slashed 32 percent from the revised estimate for 2022-2023 of Rs 89,400 crore.
This allocation is the lowest in the past four years since the 2020-2021 budget when the allocation was at Rs 61,500 crore.
The MNREGA program provides guaranteed 100 days of wage employment to each rural household where an adult member engages in manual labour. The scheme was introduced in 2005 through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Comparison with Last Year's Budget
The total allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare in the 2022-23 Budget was Rs 1.32 lakh crore, which was 4.3 percent higher than the revised estimates of the 2021-22 Budget.
The key highlights of the 2022 Budget for agriculture included:
A direct payment of Rs 2.37 lakh crore to 1.63 crore farmers for procurement of wheat and paddy.
Promotion of chemical-free natural farming throughout the country, with an initial focus on farmers' lands in 5 km wide corridors along the Ganga river.
Facilitation of funds with blended capital to finance startups for agriculture & rural enterprise by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
'Kisan Drones' for crop assessment, digitisation of land records, and spraying of insecticides and nutrients.