In the Union Budget 2017-18, our honorable Finance Minister has laid a proper roadmap for new-age farming, a digital farming. While at the core of digital farming is not only the objective of doubling farmer’s income by 2022, but at the same time how technology will be a key enabler in achieving the same by improving their efficiency.
Taking another milestone step in government’s Digital India mission, the finance minister has laid a foundation stone of another revolution, after green revolution, which we call “AgriTech” revolution by allocating of Rs 10,000 crore under the BharatNet Project.
With a target of reaching more than 1.5 lacs gram panchayats, BharatNet project will provide better availability of data and improve network connectivity which will ensure more ground level and better quality geospatial data reach the farmers across the hinterland. The farmers will be encouraged to use innovative agriculture services, which in turn will improve farm productivity and income. Access to the internet will allow the farmers learn about the latest technologies available in the field of agriculture.
Besides improving the productivity, the digital revolution would also provide farmers an opportunity to access new means of finance which could be small finance banks, payment banks. There is also a possibility of needs based financing which could be pre-sowing to post harvest, something on the lines of personal loans, education loans etc. The investment of Rs 1,900 crore over three years for computerization and integration of all 63,000 functional Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) will ensure seamless flow of credit to small and marginal farmers.
The government’s continued focus on improving farmers productivity will also encourage corporate houses and start-ups to bring innovative ideas and solutions to the rural India addressing a spectrum of challenges that they currently face from soil testing, irrigation to selling their products to the world outside. To add to it, the revised income tax exemption should further motivate AgriTech start-ups to participate in this AgriTech revolution.
By setting up mini labs in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), farmers can avail the benefits of testing the soil samples quickly that too at its nutrient level. The budget proposal to provide credit linked subsidy to local entrepreneurs for setting up the labs clearly indicates the government intention of educating farmers on the soil conditions.
The expansion of National Agri Markets (e-Nam) from 250 to 585 APMCs is yet another welcome step. This will certainly give more options to the farmers to sell their produce. Also, keeping in mind the hardships that farmers may face during natural calamities, increasing the insurance cover by 40% during 2017-18 is very good move. Increasing the target for agricultural credit by Rupees One Lakh Crore, highest in past two years, to Rs 10 lakh crore along with 60 days interest waiver further shows the commitment of government in extending its full support to farmers and also trying its best to double their income in five years.
Overall, with an emphasis on all critical areas, the Union Budget 2017-18 has set the ball rolling for a new revolution in Indian Agriculture, AgriTech revolution.