The Central Government’s thrust to improve agriculture infrastructure will lead to higher growth and more exports, Chairman of National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) G.R. Chintala told journalists after delivering the inaugural address at the 80th Annual Conference of Indian Society of Agricultural Economics at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University here on Wednesday.
The Government, in its 2021-22 Budget, had enhanced capital expenditure by 34.5% to ₹5.54 lakh crore, given thrust to monetise assets to achieve the National Infrastructure Pipeline goals and provisioned ₹20,000 crore for the Development Financial Institution.
In the run-up to the Budget, NABARD had sought an increase in the allocation to the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund and the Government raised it from ₹30,000 crore to ₹40,000 crore.
As for agriculture credit, the Government had fixed disbursement of ₹13.50 lakh crore as the target for 2019-20 and the achievement was ₹13.92 lakh crore. For the current financial year, the Government had fixed a target of ₹15 lakh crore and the disbursement to date was ₹11.5 lakh crore.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, a resilient agriculture sector grew while the economy contracted. During 2020-21, while the GVA (gross value added) for the entire economy was expected to contract by 7.2%, the growth in GVA for agriculture was expected to continue at 3.4%. This growth of the agriculture sector, Mr. Chintala pointed out, continued to be promising and cushioning the economy as the area sown under all major kharif and rabi crops was encouraging and the total food grain production in 2020-21 was expected to surpass the previous year’s 296.65 MT.
Since the agriculture sector continued to be one of the bright spots amid the pandemic, he believed that prioritising the sector at this time was essential to ensure speedy economic recovery, and the Government’s Budgetary announcement was in the right direction.
Mr. Chintala also spoke about the need for converting primary agriculture cooperative societies into multi-service cooperative societies.
As a first step, his organisation had chosen 35,000 such societies across the country.
Computerisation of the societies was another step towards improving their performance as thus far the digitisation efforts had reached only the district central cooperative banks. In this regard, NABARD would provide ₹5 crore to each State under the Cooperative Development Fund. The State governments would take up the work by allocating a matching fund.
Another area the country should focus on to improve agriculture growth was farmers’ producer organisation (FPO). In this regard, the Government had done well to set a target for the creation of 10,000 FPOs by 2024. But this was not enough as at least one lakh FPOs were required.