My colleagues in the cabinet, representatives of state governments, all colleagues from industry and academia, all our farmer brothers and sisters associated with Krishi Vigyan Kendras, ladies and gentlemen!
It is a pleasant coincidence that the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi was launched on this day three years ago. Today this scheme has emerged as a big support for the small farmers of the country. Under this scheme, about 1.45 lakh crore rupees has been given to 11 crore farmers of the country. We can experience smartness in this scheme also. Direct money transfer in the bank accounts of 10-12 crore farmers with just one click in itself is a matter of pride for any Indian.
In the last seven years, we have developed many new systems related to providing seeds and ensuring markets and have improved the old systems. The agricultural budget has increased manifold in six years. Agricultural loans for farmers have also been increased by 2.5 times in the last seven years. We have connected three crore small farmers with the facility of KCC by running a special drive even during the difficult times of Corona. This facility has also been extended to farmers associated with animal husbandry and fisheries. Small farmers are also benefiting from the growing network of micro-irrigation.
As a result of these efforts, farmers are creating record production every year and new records of procurement at MSP are being made. Due to the promotion of organic farming, the market for organic products is now worth 11,000 crore rupees. Its exports have also grown from 2,000 crore rupees to more than 7,000 crore rupees in six years.
This year's Agriculture Budget continues the efforts of the previous years and also amplifies them. Seven main ways have been suggested in this year’s budget to make agriculture modern and smart.
First- The target is to promote natural farming on mission mode within a radius of 5 km on both the banks of the Ganges. Emphasis is being laid on herbal medicine and fruits and flowers.
Second- Farmers will be provided with modern technology in agriculture and horticulture.
Third - In order to reduce the import of edible oil, this year’s budget lays special emphasis on strengthening the Mission Oil Palm as well as oilseeds.
The fourth goal is to provide new logistics arrangements for the transportation of agricultural products under the PM GatiShakti plan.
The fifth solution that has been offered in the budget is that agri-waste management will be organized further and the income of farmers will be increased through measures like waste to energy.
The sixth solution is that more than 1.5 lakh post offices of the country will get facilities of regular banks, so that farmers do not face any problem.
And seventh is that skill development and human resource development in the syllabus related to agri research and education will be changed according to today's modern times.
Health awareness is increasing in the world today. Awareness about an environment-friendly lifestyle is increasing. More and more people are getting attracted to it. This means that its market is also growing. We can try to capture the market with the help of natural farming and organic farming. Our Krishi Vigyan Kendras and agriculture universities will have to mobilize with full force to take the benefits of natural farming to the masses. Each of our KVKs can adopt a village. Each of our agriculture universities can target to introduce 100 or 500 farmers towards natural farming within the next year.
Nowadays, another trend is visible in our middle and upper-middle-class families. It is often seen that many new things have reached their dining table. Many protein and calcium products are now on their dining table. Many such products are from abroad and they are not even according to Indian taste. All these products are available here that our farmers produce, but we are not able to present in the right way and market them. Therefore, we should attempt to prioritize ‘Vocal for Local’ in it also.
Such products are found in abundance in Indian food and crops and it is also according to our taste. The problem is that we do not have that much awareness here, many people do not even know about it. We also have to pay attention to promoting and propagating Indian food.
We have seen that the attraction towards spices and turmeric has grown a lot during the Corona period. The year 2023 is the International Year of Millets. Our corporate world should come forward in branding and promoting India's millets. Our missions abroad should organize seminars in respective countries and explain to the people there and importers regarding the importance of our millets and coarse grains and how tasty these are. We can use our missions and organize seminars and webinars with importers and exporters regarding millets. We can stress the high nutritional value of millets in India.
You must have noticed our government has laid greater emphasis on Soil Health Cards. The government has provided soil health cards to crores of farmers of the country. Just as there was a time when there was no pathology lab and hence nobody used to get pathology tests done, but now if there is any disease, pathology tests are done first and one has to go to a pathology lab. Can our start-ups and private investors guide our farmers in testing soil samples like it is done in private pathology labs? There should be continuous testing of soil health. And if we develop this habit among our farmers then even small farmers will definitely get soil tests done once every year. An entire network of such soil testing labs can be created. New equipment can be developed. I think there is a huge scope in this sphere and start-ups should come forward.
We also need to increase this awareness among the farmers so that they should get the soil of their fields tested every one or two years. They will get scientific knowledge regarding the use of pesticides and fertilizers for different crops. You must be aware that our young scientists have developed nano fertilizer. This is going to be a game-changer. Our corporate world has a lot of potential in this field too.
Micro-irrigation is also a great means of reducing input costs and producing more yields and is also a service to the environment. Saving water is also an important responsibility for mankind today. The government has put a lot of emphasis on ‘Per Drop More Crop’ and this is also the need of the hour. There is also a lot of potential for the business world in this field. Now you all know very well the changes that will come in Bundelkhand as a result of the Ken-Betwa link project. The agricultural irrigation schemes which have been stuck in the country for decades should also be completed expeditiously.
We have to achieve the target of increasing edible oil production to about 50 percent more in the next 3-4 years. There is a lot of potential in expanding the cultivation of oil palm under the National Mission on Edible Oil and we need to move forward in a big way in the sphere of oilseeds also.
Our agri-investors should also come forward to promote crop diversification for crop patterns. Importers know the kind of machines needed in India. They know what all things will be useful here. In the same way, we should have information about crops here. Take the example of oilseeds and pulses which have high demand in the country. Our corporate world should come forward in this regard. This is like an assured market for you. What is the need for its imports? You can tell the farmers in advance about your purchase requirements. Now that the system of insurance is in place, you are getting security due to insurance as well. There should be a study of the food requirements of India, and we should all work together to produce those things which are required in India.
Artificial Intelligence is going to completely change the trade related to agriculture and farming in the 21st century. The greater use of Kisan Drones in the country's agriculture is part of this change. Drone technology will be available on a scale only when we promote agri start-ups. More than 700 Agri Start-ups have been created in the country in the last three-four years.
A lot of work has been done on Post-Harvest Management in the last seven years. It has been a constant effort of the Central Government to expand the scope of processed food and our quality should be of international standard. Along with the Kisan Sampada Yojana, the PLI scheme is also important in this regard. The value chain also has a big role in it. Therefore, a special Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs one lakh crore has been created. Just a few days back, India has signed many important agreements with the UAE, Gulf countries and Abu Dhabi. Many important decisions have also been made in these agreements to increase cooperation in food processing.
The management of ‘Parali’ or agri-residue is equally important. In this regard, new measures have been taken in this year’s budget, which will also help in the reduction of carbon emission and farmers will also make income. The scientists and people with technology bent should ensure that no waste of the agricultural world should be frittered away and every waste should be converted into the best. We should think carefully and introduce new things.
It would be easier for the farmers to accept the solutions we are proposing regarding the management of stubble. It should be discussed. Post-Harvesting Waste is a big challenge for our farmers. The farmers will also become our active partners once we convert the waste into the best. Therefore, it is very important to keep expanding and promoting the systems of logistics and storage.
The government is doing a lot in this regard, but our private sector should also step up its contribution in this sector. And I would also request the banking sector to come forward regarding priority lending, setting targets and their monitoring. If banks provide funds, then small-scale private businessmen will also come into this sector in a large number. I would ask the private players involved in the agriculture sector to prioritize it.
Innovation and packaging in agriculture are two areas that need more attention. Consumerism is on the rise in the world today, so packaging and branding are of great importance. Our corporate houses and agri start-ups should come forward in large numbers in fruit packaging. They should also pay attention to how best packaging can be done with the agri-waste. They should help the farmers in this regard and plan accordingly.
India has huge potential for investment in food processing and ethanol. The government is aiming for a 20% blending of ethanol and there is an assured market for it. Before 2014, when 1-2 percent ethanol blending was done, now it has reached around 8 percent. The government is giving a lot of incentives to increase ethanol blending. Our business houses should come forward in this field.
Natural juices are another issue and their packaging is of great importance. There is a need to work on packaging so that the product has a long shelf life, because we have a variety of fruits and natural juices. Instead of copying other countries, we should promote and popularize local natural juices.
The cooperative sector is another issue. India's cooperative sector is very old and vibrant. The participation of the cooperative sector is huge, be it in sugar mills, fertilizer factories, dairies, loan arrangements and purchase of food grains. Our government has also created a new ministry in this regard and the main reason behind this is to help the farmers as much as possible. Our cooperative sector has a lot of scope to create a vibrant business entity. You should aim to turn cooperatives into successful business enterprises.
I would also request our micro-financing institutions to come forward and provide maximum financial support to agri start-ups and Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs). You can play a big role in reducing the expenditure on farming of small farmers in our country. For example, our small farmers cannot buy modern equipment used in farming. From where will the small farmers buy such equipment? They are also not getting farm labourers. Can we think of a new way of pooling in this regard?
Our corporate world should come forward and develop such systems, which facilitate the rental of farm equipment. Our government is running a big campaign to make farmers energy donors as well as food donors. Solar pumps are being distributed to farmers across the country. We will have to step up efforts so that our farmers can generate maximum solar power from their fields.
Similarly, it is regarding the ‘Medh par Pedh’, trees on the boundary of the field. Today we import timber. If we encourage our farmers to grow timber in a scientific way, it can become a new source of income for them after 10-20 years. The government will also make necessary legal changes to it.
Increasing the income of the farmers, reducing the cost of farming, providing modern facilities to the farmers from seed to market is the priority of our government. I am sure your suggestions will give strength to the efforts of the government in realizing the dreams of our farmers. Today we want to debate the next generation of agriculture and want to come out of the traditional methods. The seminar should deliberate how best we can do in the light of the provisions made in the budget.
We should start working from April 1 when the new budget will be implemented. We have the entire month of March. The budget has already been placed before Parliament. Without wasting any time, we should make all the preparations in March so that the farmers can start the new year of farming in June-July. Our corporate and financial worlds, the start-ups and those from the technology world should come forward. India is an agricultural country, and therefore, we should not import anything and develop everything according to the needs of the country.
I believe that if we can bring our farmers, agricultural universities and our agriculture students on one platform, then the budget can become a great instrument of change in agriculture and village life in a real sense and will not be just a game of numbers. Therefore, I urge you to make this seminar, webinar very productive along with actionable points. Only then will we be able to bring results. I am sure you will be able to provide guidance to all the departments and a way will be found to implement things seamlessly and we will move forward together quickly.
I once again thank you all very much and wish you all the best.