Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee started his pre-Budget consultations for the preparation of Union Budget 2011-12 from today.  He held his first pre-Budget meeting this year with the stakeholders from the agricultural sector.

Addressing the representatives of different Associations/Groups of stakeholders from agriculture sector, Union Finance Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee said that Indian agriculture though still largely rain fed showed remarkable resilience in the face of the failure of South West monsoon in the last agricultural year. He said that the GDP growth in agriculture sector was negligible but positive unlike in the past. The Minister expressed hope that in the current year with normal monsoons, we are looking at a significant rebound in agriculture and allied sector growth at about 6 per cent.  He said that the first half estimates for 2010-11 indicate agricultural growth at 3.8 per cent as compared to 1 per cent during the same period last year.

Highlighting the positive developments in the agricultural sector in the past few years, Shri Mukherjee said that there has been a conscious effort to improve investment in agriculture. He said that the gross capital formation in agriculture and allied sector as a proportion to the total GDP has improved from 2.6 per cent in 2004-05 to 3.4 per cent in 2008-09. There has been a rapid growth in agriculture credit which has helped investments in the sector, he said.  Shri Pranab Mukherjee further informed the Members that Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) have been regularly revised to ensure remunerative prices to the farmers thereby enhancing their returns as well as the capacity to invest for improved productivity.

The Finance Minister further said that several public programmes have been revamped to address the productivity issue in the agricultural sector. Recalling his budget speech last year, the Minister said that the Government outlined a four-pronged strategy covering (a) agricultural production; (b) reduction in wastage of produce; (c) credit support to farmers; and (d) a thrust to the food processing sector. The basic intention was to consolidate on gains already made in green revolution area while directing resources to other areas namely the Eastern region and specific crops like pulses.  He said that already some good results have been observed in respect of production of pulses in the current agricultural year.

The Finance Minister Shri Mukherjee said that there is much that needs to be done to accelerate the pace of growth in agricultural sector. He said that for attaining double digit growth and sustaining it over extended period of time, it is vital that agriculture and allied sector grows at over 4 per cent per annum.

Thereafter, the representatives of different Associations of stakeholders relating to agriculture sector put forward their suggestions for consideration.  About 15 representatives of different Associations/Forums of the stakeholders relating to agriculture sector attended the aforesaid meeting.

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