Minister doubts success of PM Agricultural Modernisation Project

Kathmandu, June 16

Minister for Agricultural Development Haribol Prasad Gajurel has expressed doubt about smooth implementation of ‘Prime Minister Agricultural Modernisation Project’ announced through fiscal budget 2016-17 as the budget has failed to encourage farmers.

The budget has excluded the ‘Pension for Farmers Programme’ that had been proposed by the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MoAD) to attract more youths in agricultural production, as per the minister. “Pension for farmers and productivity enhancement programme are integral to each other — and one cannot work well while the other is lacking.”

The MoAD is the implementing body for the ‘Prime Minister Agricultural Modernisation Project’, which has envisioned addressing the supply-side constraints and taming inflation caused by spike in food prices. The fiscal budget has allocated Rs 5.78 billion for the project. The project has been designed for next 10 years to make the country self-reliant on agricultural products.

The government, through the implementation of the aforementioned project, expects to generate output worth Rs 30 billion in the gross domestic product in the next fiscal, 2016-17. The government has announced 85 per cent cash grant to purchase agriculture inputs for farms located in special pocket areas, blocks, zones and super zones that run specialised programmes and similar amount for collection centres of agriculture products, community seed banks, post-harvest centres and training centres.

Similarly, the budget has announced 50 per cent cash grant for establishment of processing centres, warehouses, agriculture marts and cold storage facilities.

The government has come up with certain interventions in agriculture sector, as the import of agriculture products started to rise consistently despite the country’s tremendous potential in agriculture sector.

However, the MoAD leadership has raised doubts about feasibility of the project, claiming during a programme organised by the MoAD here today that the pension scheme was ‘intentionally excluded by the National Planning Commission and finance ministry during budget formulation’ and further termed the programme ‘handicapped by birth’.

Govinda Nepal, senior economic adviser to the Ministry of Finance (MoF), on the other hand explained the logic of excluding the pension scheme. “As two-third of the country’s workforce has been engaged in agriculture sector, the pension scheme would have created long-term liability for the state.”

According to MoF, the fiscal budget 2016-17 has allocated Rs 50 million to study and analyse the impact of pension for farmers and also for framing the guideline and forming mechanism if the proposed matter is found to be feasible to implement.

The MoAD had asked for Rs one billion to start the pension programme for farmers. “We have proposed Rs one billion to kickstart the pension programme from certain districts,” said Minister Gajurel, adding, “We are committed to implement this scheme and I have been talking to finance minister to commence the programme from next fiscal. If it’s not possible in the next fiscal, the MoAD will implement it from fiscal 2017-18.”