Stakeholders seek direct benefit transfer of fertiliser subsidy

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New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) The agriculture sector on Monday sought extension of the government’s Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme for paying out fertiliser subsidies, in line with that in cooking gas and the decision last month to start the scheme for kerosene.

“We are ready for direct benefit transfer of subsidy to farmers and are prepared to work with the government on this. We will capture the last mile data on customers and farmers and hope that next year onwards direct transfers can start,” Fertiliser Association of India director general Satish Chander told reporters here after a pre-Budget meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Agriculturists have sought a higher budget outlay for the farm sector, implementing of the market reforms in states suggested by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and higher minimum support price.

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“There should be a target of spending two percent of the farm sector GDP on research and development in agriculture over the next two years,” said Bharat Krishak Samaj chairman Ajay Vir Jakhar.

Jaitley said that the key challenges faced by Indian agriculture are the “need to increase productivity by leveraging technology, adapt latest IT to increase resilience to nature by phasing sowing, watering and harvesting and to increase the price benefits to the farmer by providing timely market information”, said a finance ministry release.

The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, senior government officials, as well as representatives from farmers’ groups including the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association and IFFCO.

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The government’s mid-year review released last month sharply lowered the economic growth forecast for the current fiscal to the 7-7.5 percent range, from the previously projected 8.1-8.5 percent, mainly because of lower agricultural output due to deficit rainfall.

This meeting was a part in Jaitley’s pre-Budget 2016-17 programme of discussions with different stakeholders, including industry and economists that will continue during this week.

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