New Delhi: Farmer groups and agriculture experts today asked the government to provide loans of up to Rs 5 lakh to all farmers at 4 per cent interest and sought higher support price, increased coverage of crop insurance and consistent export policy.
During pre-Budget consultations, fertiliser industry body FAI sought introduction of direct transfer of urea subsidy to farmers and higher budget allocation for next three years to clear arrears of Rs 50,000 crore.
At the meeting held here with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, experts recommended exemption of income tax on profit made by farmer producers organisations and agri-cooperatives, creation of buffer stock of milk powder and outright ban or increase in import duty of butter oil and imposition of safeguard duty on import of rubber.
According to the participants, the Finance Minister said the government attaches highest importance to the farm sector which is facing troubles.
Briefing the media after 2-hour long meeting, Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) Secretary General B D Rami Reddy said: "At present, farmers' situation is very bad. Government is only talking but not taking adequate action."
CIFA has demanded that all farmers and tenant farmers should be provided crop loan at 4 per cent interest rate up to Rs 5 lakh.
According to farmer body Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) Chairman Ajay Vir Jakhar the government should "double the number of farmers receiving loans up to Rs 2 lakh and for that charge only 1 per cent interest. Link Aadhar to such loan accounts to avoid duplication."
He suggested the government should do away with interest subvention scheme on crop loan and take corrective measures to provide institutional credit to small farmers.
Jakhar said CAG audit should be conducted for agriculture credit lending portfolio of public sector banks.
Currently, farmers can avail of loans up to Rs 3 lakh at 7 per cent interest rate. The government provides interest subvention of 3 per cent on timely repayment of loan.
Stating that MGNREGA has led to rise in cost of cultivation, CIFA's Reddy said: "Therefore, we recommended the government to integrate this scheme with the agriculture sector to achieve food security."
CIFA has demanded that the government fix minimum support price, covering the cost of production plus 50 per cent profit, as promised in the BJP election manifesto. It also sought crop insurance to all farmers at a subsidised premium.
Besides CIFA and BKS, representatives of National Dairy Development Board, fertiliser cooperative IFFCO, Fertiliser Association of India, United Planters' Association of Southern India, Raju Shetty from Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and two scientists were among those present at the meeting.
"A bad monsoon and low international commodity prices have aggravated the misery of farmers. Lots of measures are required to revive the rural economy," said Jhakar.
He suggested higher budget allocation for the sector, spending 2 per cent of the expenditure on farm research, reviving agri-extension, higher funding for irrigation facilities, incentivising balanced use of fertilisers, decanalising fertiliser imports and setting up a sugaracane development board.
Jakhar also sought increase in budget allocation for market intervention schemes and price stabilisation fund.
NDDB sought that the government should create buffer stock of milk powder in view of surplus milk production in the country.
Expressing concern over arrears, Fertiliser Association of India Director General Satish Chander said: "The subsidy arrears would touch about Rs 50,000 crore by March this year. We have recommended the government to increase the budget allocation by Rs 15,000 crore for next three years to clear this arrear."
FAI and cooperative major IFFCO recommended that the government adopt direct transfer of urea subsidy to farmers.
IFFCO Managing Director U S Awasti said: "We suggested that the industry will upload the data of actual user of fertiliser on the fertiliser monitoring system platform for the next one year. We will also make available Jan Dhan and Aadhar account number."
This data can be used for transfer of fertiliser subsidy to farmers, he added.
For 2015-16 fiscal, the government has provided about Rs 71,000 crore as fertiliser subsidy.