India needs to increase budgetary allocations for irrigation projects and offer higher procurement prices for crops to support farmers hit by two years of drought, farmer associations said.
Drought in many parts of the country has hit production of rice, cotton and other crops, hurting the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose party recently lost village council elections in Gujarat, a state he ran for over a decade.
In a pre-budget meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, farm leaders urged him to implement Modi’s promise of ensuring higher income for farmers.
Jaitley indicated an increase in allocations in the budget, and said India faced a challenge of raising farm productivity through high yielding seeds and efficient water utilization.
“There is a need for more investment in agriculture sector,” a finance ministry statement said, quoting Jaitley.
During his victorious 2014 election campaign, Modi promised to raise public investment in the farm sector to ensure a minimum profit margin of 50 percent over the cost of production.
Jaitley, who will present his 2016/17 budget at the end of February, has promised to spend nearly 500 billion rupees ($7.5 billion) on irrigation projects over a period of five years.
“A bad monsoon and low international commodity prices have aggravated the misery of farmers,” Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman of the Farmers’ Forum India, told reporters after the meeting.
Growth in farm output, which contributes nearly 13 percent to India’s $2 trillion economy, fell to 2 percent in the first half of the current fiscal year from 2.4 percent a year ago.
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