While announcing the Union Budget on Monday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an Agricultural Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC) to conserve agricultural output and improve infrastructure. “There is an immediate need to improve agricultural infrastructure so that we produce more, while also conserving and processing agricultural output efficiently. This will ensure enhanced remuneration for our farmers. To earmark resources for this purpose, I propose an Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC) on a small number of items. However, while applying this cess, we have taken care not to put additional burden on consumers on most items,” Sitharaman said during her third budget speech.
The Finance Minister also announced an enhanced allocation to the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore. She further proposed to double Micro Irrigation Fund, started with a corpus of Rs 5,000 crore under (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) NABARD, by augmenting it by another Rs 5,000 crore. In order to boost value addition in agriculture and allied products and their exports, Sitharaman also proposed to increase the scope of the ”Operation Green Scheme” which is presently applicable to tomatoes, onions, and potatoes (TOPS), to be enlarged to include 22 perishable products.
On seaweed farming, she said: “Seaweed farming is an emerging sector with the potential to transform the lives of coastal communities. It will provide large-scale employment and additional incomes. To promote seaweed cultivation, I propose a Multipurpose Seaweed Park to be established in Tamil Nadu.” She also said that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime has undergone a change to assure price to farmers that is at least 1.5 times the cost of production across all commodities.