Arun Jaitley with representatives of the farm sector in New Delhi on Thursday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, June 5: Farm experts today asked finance minister Arun Jaitley to step up investment in rural infrastructure, upgrade farm technology and issue bonds to pay for large irrigation projects, including the linking of rivers.
In a pre-budget meeting with Jaitley, the experts also asked him to implement the promise made in BJP’s election manifesto to fix higher support prices.
Agro-scientist M. S. Swaminathan and farm activist Chengal Reddy were among the experts who attended the two-hour meeting.
Jaitley said “the concerns of the agriculture sector are high on the priority of the government”.
Despite the constraints on the economy, the government will try its best to boost the sector, an official statement said.
Minister of state for commerce Nirmala Sitharaman and senior officials of the finance and the agriculture ministries were present at the meeting.
“The BJP manifesto on agriculture is very comprehensive and calls for greater investment,” said Swaminathan.
Swaminathan also recommended mandatory harvesting of rainwater with the support of labour employed under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as well as setting up soil monitoring centres and conserving indigenous animal breeds such as the buffalo.
Ramesh Chand, director of the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, said the government should promote the formation of producers’ companies, reform the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act and improve the value chain.
Other suggestions included a national policy on co-operatives to make them more relevant and strengthening the education and training of co-operatives. Timely completion of irrigation projects and setting up of a national water authority were also part of the suggestions.