The Tamil Nadu government’s first agriculture budget has been lauded by farming experts, who believe it should be replicated in other states to ensure better use of funds and marketing plans, as well as to offset uncertainties in agricultural productivity through effective strategies.
Despite a steadily declining share of GDP, agriculture remains the primary source of income for the majority of the population, employing more than 60% of the workforce. P Indira Devi, the Director of Kerala Farmers Welfare Board, said that ‘a separate budget for farming could help promote the growth rate of the Indian agriculture sector through targeted programmes.’
Unlike players in the industrial and service sectors, Indian farmers are generally dispersed, illiterate, and frequently lack a forum to raise their voices. A separate budget may provide an opportunity, particularly for small and marginal farmers, to design programmes to meet their specific needs.
According to the Situation Assessment Survey, nearly 40% of practising farmers in India want to quit farming. ‘Unless this issue is addressed properly, the future of Indian agriculture could be bleak,’ she warned.
Boost for allied industries
Indira Devi, a former Director of Research at Kerala Agricultural University, stated that major reforms in agricultural research and extension systems could be included in a separate budget to spur growth in the farming sector.
PC Cyriac, president of the Indian Farmers Movement (Infam), stated that the Tamil Nadu government’s high priority for agriculture would facilitate the implementation of various schemes in farming and allied sectors such as dairying, poultry, fisheries, and agro industry.
‘A state like Kerala, which is always late in implementing schemes, would do well to follow the Tamil Nadu pattern at the very least to ensure their timely completion,’ he said.
Sivadas Menon, teh chairman of Sterling Group of Companies, expressed that the Tamil Nadu’s allocation of more than 34,000 crore for agriculture, as well as efforts made by the other two southern states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, will help meet the country’s growing demand for quality food and reduce reliance on imports.
Kerala, which has less than 10% of its budget allocated to agriculture, should follow in the footsteps of its neighbours by putting more emphasis on the sector, he said.