Budget wish list: farm group wants grain handling decentralised

Representatives of the agriculture group, which called on finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for pre-Budget consultations, have suggested decentralisation of handling of foodgrains to ensure food security in the country.

They suggested rationalisation of the different subsidies, increasing the area under edible oils and oilseeds and allocation of higher resources for agriculture, among others, to enhance agriculture productivity and the share of agriculture in GDP.

Besides, it suggested giving tax exemptions to cooperative societies, especially labour and housing cooperatives, defining cooperative banks as scheduled and non-scheduled banks and removal of mandi tax and purchase tax on dairy cooperatives and exemption of taxes for fishery cooperatives at par with agricultural cooperatives.

Besides, some members suggested increased focus on agro-processing, agro-meteorology, agro fino-technology, farm mechanisation and skill development among others to meet the future challenges in this sector.

Some members also supported FDI in multi brand retail for better price realization by farmers, increased focus on development of agriculture infrastructure, encouraging private sector investment in agriculture sector, use of genetically modified seeds and concessions to agro-based sectors among others.

The meeting was called to hear views and suggestions of the agricultural group in order to enhance agriculture productivity, bring in reforms in agriculture pricing, assessing measures required to meet food security needs and dealing with malnutrition as also issues relating to procurement, marketing, cold chains and maintenance of buffer stocks etc.

The finance minister said the current year was a challenging one as far as the domestic and global economy was concerned. Inflation, especially food inflation, remained very high during the major part of the year. However, this has been brought down to zero level by the end of December 2011, he pointed out.

The one serious challenge facing the economy, he said, is raising fiscal deficit and foreign exchange outflows and the falling value of the rupee that has started affecting corporate profitability as well.