Various initiatives, launched over the past two years, with the goal of supporting the agriculture, nutrition, and food security sectors are being implemented in India, which have also been covered previously on the India Food Security Portal including: the e-National Agricultural Market, the Soil Health Card Scheme, various Crop Insurance schemes and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The e-National Agricultural Market is an India-wide electronic trading portal to facilitate farmers, traders, buyers, exporters and processors with a common platform for trading agricultural commodities and was established in April 2016 by the Indian Ministry of Agriculture. As of October 2016, 250 mandis/markets across 10 States were integrated and in April 2017, the Agricultural minister stated that 417 markets across 13 states had been integrated in the platform, ahead of a Government target of integrating 400 mandis/markets by April 2017 and in line with its target of integrating 585 mandis/markets across India by 2018. Due to its recent implementation, there is no extensive data available yet on the impact the portal is having on its users, while officially, significant amounts of agricultural products are currently being traded on the platform.
The Soil Health Card scheme is an initiative launched by the Government of India in February 2015 with the aim of providing each farmer with information regarding the status of his/her soil as well as providing advice on fertilizer usage and other nutrient recommendations that maintain soil health in the long run and thereby supporting long-term improvements in agricultural productivity. The goal of the scheme is to provide 140 million soil health cards across India by February 2018. The agricultural minister recently stated that 58 million soil health cards have been distributed so far but that it is unlikely that India will reach its target of distributing 140 million cards by 2018. This is because there are wide variations among states, with a few states achieving very high distribution rates, for instance in Chhattisgarh, 94 percent of farmers have received soil health cards while most states have low distribution rates. Similarly there are a number of concerns over implementation and the accuracy of soil testing methods.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was legislated on 8 August and is heralded as the biggest tax reform since independence, reforming the Indian taxation system, implementing a single tax on the supply of goods and services, replacing all the direct and indirect taxes currently implemented by the central Government and States. Original plans suggested that the GST would be implemented on 1 April, however, it is now expected to be implemented on 1 July. However, there are still a number of major uncertainties regarding taxation rates and which goods will be taxed as well as calls for delays in the implementation of the tax. In addition, the revenue secretary recently commented that many agricultural products and small agricultural producers will be exempt from the tax; more clarity on tax rates and exemptions are expected over the coming months.
There are various agricultural insurance schemes in operation in India operated both by the private and public sectors. Notably, the Pradhan Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) scheme which, was launched in January 2016 with the aim of providing low cost (2 percent premium for Kharif and a 1.5 percent premium for Rabi crops) crop insurance to over 50 percent of farmers by 2018/2019. In his presentation of the 2017 budget India’s Finance Minister highlighted that coverage will continue to increase from 30 percent of India’s cropped area in 2016- 2017 to 40 percent in 2017-2018 to 50 percent in 2018-2019. Similarly, increased funds have been allocated for the insurance scheme, totalling $2 billion for 2017.
By: Bas Paris