INDIA – To ensure better returns to farmers, the government today doubled budget allocation to the food processing ministry to Rs 1,400 crore (US$218.4 million) for 2018-19 fiscal and set up institutions to finance agro-processing projects.

To encourage each district to focus on cultivation of specific crops, the government will re-orient current schemes and promote cluster-based development of agri-commodities.

To protect the domestic industry, the government has proposed to hike customs duty on orange fruit juices from 30 per cent to 35 per cent, on other fruit juices and vegetable juices from 30 per cent to 50 per cent, on cranberry juice from 10 per cent to 50 per cent and on miscellaneous food preparations (other than soya protein) from 30 per cent to 50 per cent.

To help the cashew processing industry, it has proposed to cut customs duty on raw cashew from 5 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

Presenting a pro-farmer budget for 2018-19 fiscal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the food processing sector is growing at an average rate of 8 per cent per annum.

“The allocation of the ministry of food processing is being doubled from Rs 715 crore for the 2017-18 to Rs 1,400 crore in 2018-19.”

Welcoming the announcement, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal tweeted: “Thank you, @arunjaitley Ji, for Doubling the Budget Allocation for Ministry Of Food Processing.

This will immensely benefit farmers in availing various food processing related schemes and increasing their income. Will also generate millions of new jobs.”

Out of the total funds allocated for the ministry for the next fiscal, Rs 1,313.08 crore will be for implementing the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY), which is higher than Rs 633.84 allocated for the current financial year.

Under the scheme, the funds are given as grant-in-aid for setting up of mega food parks, development of infrastructure for agro-processing clusters, integrated cold chain and value addition infrastructure, creation of backward and forward linkages among others.

About Rs 61.20 crore has been earmarked for Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) and National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) for the next fiscal.

To facilitate financing for specialised agro-processing projects, Jaitley announced setting up of ‘specialised agro-processing financial institutions’ in this sector.

To check volatility in prices of basic veggies like onion and tomato, the minister proposed the launch of ‘Operation Greens’ on the lines of ‘Operation Flood’ that helped increase milk output in the country.

He said Rs 500 crore has been allocated for the ‘Operation Greens’ to promote Farmers Producers Organisation (FPOs), agri-logistics, processing facilities and professional management.

To encourage FPOs in post-harvest activities of agriculture, Jaitley said the government will allow 100 per cent tax deduction to FPOs having annual turnover of Rs 100 crore in respect of their profit derived from such activities for a period of five years from 2018-19 fiscal.

“This measure will encourage ‘Operation Greens’ mission and it will give a boost to Sampada Yojana,” he added.

ET Retail