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A road map for farm growth: M.S. Swaminathan

Saturday 10 July 2004

NEW DELHI, JULY 9. The Chairman of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), M.S. Swaminathan, today gave the thumbs-up to the Union Budget saying it addressed all the key concerns of the farm sector and sought to prepare a road map for its development.

"All the six major concerns of the agri-sector have been taken up in the Budget, including credit, water, technology, value addition and processing, agri-business, correcting regional imbalances and improving marketing infrastructure," Dr. Swaminathan told PTI in an interview.

He said nearly 80 per cent of the farmers were in the `small’ category with less than even two hectares of land and were in urgent need of credit. Many broad contours had been drawn in the budget with reference to quality and quantity of credit, including proposed restructuring of regional rural banks.

Every drop of water had to be optimally utilised and water harvesting always paid off, he said, commending allocation for this in the budget.

Another critical area was technology including dryland farming and biotech. Stepping up allocations for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research was a welcome move since the country could not depend solely on private companies, which had a commercial outlook.

Dr. Swaminathan said the budget also promised initiatives for the agri-business sector seeking to double horticulture production to 300 million tonnes by 2011-12 and to set up a horticulture mission. To make a banker head the Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) was also a positive move.

Dr. Swaminathan said food parks that did not fare well should learn lessons from the success stories of the rest. Value addition in the food sector was essential for income and employment orientation. There was scope for a lot of downstream employment in the perishables sector.

Another critical area that found mention in the budget was improvement of marketing and marketing infrastructure. "Smaller the farm, greater the need for cash income, hence there is greater need for cash income and producer oriented marketing," he said.

A problem being faced by the farmers was repayment of debt and it had become all the more acute with drought and failure of crops. The cash flow to farmers was expected to increase with reorientation of the rural credit system, he said.

"There is no reason to be pessimistic, at times one should look at what is half full rather than half empty."

The budget laid the road map or the broad contours for agriculture-oriented growth, he added.

See online : The Hindu

P.S.

in The Hindu, Saturday, July 10, 2004.

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