As the buzz around Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Interim Budget intensifies, key figures in the agriculture and tech sectors share their expectations, highlighting the crucial need for transformative measures to address persisting challenges and ensure sustainable growth.
Here’s a breakdown of their perspectives:
Karthik Jayaraman, Managing Director, WayCool Foods
In anticipation of the Interim Budget for FY’24, the focus lies on sustaining the positive momentum in agriculture and nurturing startup growth. While 2023 laid a promising foundation, some challenges persist, demanding nuanced solutions for sustainable growth.
Specifically, there is a need to incentivize investments into the sector, to create durable, large-scale organizations in the food and agri space. The incentivization can, for example, be in the form of exempting long-term capital gains on private equity investments in the food and agriculture sector, fostering innovation, or supporting agriculture-related activities.
Separately, India has made great strides in the creation of digital public infrastructure in various fields. The rapid climate changes have necessitated the creation of similar DPI for agriculture. A national grid of sensors that can track atmospheric and soil conditions, and capture precise data on the same, will be an asset that can be leveraged by multiple stakeholders for yield prediction, disease onset prediction, AI-based irrigation management, and several such applications.
Anuj Kumbhat, Co-Founder & CEO, WRMS
Investing in the future of Indian agriculture is paramount for sustainable economic growth. The agritech sector, being the beacon of innovation, has witnessed significant strides in 2023. To propel this momentum, we urge the government to allocate substantial funds in the upcoming budget, focusing on the comprehensive development of the agritech ecosystem.
By prioritizing technological advancements and enhancing agriculture infrastructure, we can unlock the full potential of our second-largest contributor to the economy. Schemes promoting technology adoption, resource efficiency, reduced input costs, increased agricultural yields, and better forward-backward linkages are imperative.
Additionally, subsidizing crop insurance, offering financial support for the acquisition of drones and accessories, and providing a conducive environment for startups through R&D, tax benefits, and automation incentives will make agriculture a resilient, tech-led powerhouse. Let this budget be a testament to our commitment to transform the agricultural landscape, ensuring prosperity for farmers and sustainable economic growth for the nation.
Amit Sinha, Co-Founder, Unnati
As we anticipate the upcoming budget, we express our optimism for a holistic approach that sincerely addresses crucial agricultural concerns. Recognizing the significant strides taken in the last budget, our hope lies in a budget that prioritizes key aspects such as setting competitive MSPs for specific crops and promoting self-reliance in domestically manufactured fertilizers.
We look forward to the government’s strategic emphasis on promoting climate-friendly products, aligning with sustainability goals. Furthermore, a thoughtful subsidy structure for fertilizers can incentivize farmers towards economically and environmentally responsible practices.
We anticipate a budget emphasizing processing unit development, awareness creation, robust market linkages, and policies supporting technology and infrastructure. This approach aims to foster a favorable business environment and drive sustainable growth in the agricultural sector.
Abhilash Sethi, Investment Director, Omnivore
To accelerate climate-proofing Indian agriculture, redirecting a share of agriculture subsidies to support emerging deep technologies such as farm sensors, agrifood life sciences, and robotics could bridge the gap many startups face between early funding and growth capital. Establishing a dedicated tech innovation fund to invest in startups developing frontier solutions tailored for Indian smallholder contexts could catalyze the development of sustainable farms resilient to climate shifts.
For IP-led biotechnology and alternate materials startups, the government should act as the first buyer to provide the necessary credibility required for these startups in global markets.
Apart from credit push, the government should also focus on providing large-format credit guarantee schemes. This is particularly necessary for companies involved in B2B agri trading. Furthermore, policies to limit buyer credit period to a maximum of 45-60 days need to be strictly institutionalized.
Kartheeswaran, Co-founder and CEO, Ninjacart
In the interim Budget, Ninjacart hopes for policies that will promote innovation, improve infrastructure, and support sustainable agriculture. In empowering farmers, the proposed increase in the agricultural credit target to Rs 22-25 lakh crore aligns perfectly with Ninjacart’s mission of Better Lives for every Agri Citizen.
We are optimistic about the commendable inclusion of a two percent interest subvention on short-term agri-loans in the budget, as it promotes financial inclusion. We are confident that this provision will drive sustainable growth and innovation in the field of agri-tech. Providing formal credit access to all players in the agricultural value chain into this initiative would be a commendable move. This will not only empower farmers but will also be a noteworthy step in expanding India’s agriculture trade as a whole.
We look forward to initiatives that encourage the adoption of technology, promote fair pricing mechanisms, and prioritize the well-being of the entire agri community. As a pioneering force in agri-tech, Ninjacart envisions a budget that upholds our mission to transform the food supply chain, promoting efficiency, inclusivity, and sustainability for a resilient agricultural sector in the future.
Sneha Singh, Acting Managing Director, The Good Food Institute India
As the Indian Government prepares to announce the Interim budget, we look forward to seeing initiatives that bolster India’s sustainable development with an increased focus on food security and decarbonization.
The National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) and other government initiatives such as PMFBY and PM-KISAN have helped farmers increase their efficiency, productivity, and profits with a focus on natural resource management. However, to take the agricultural economy from being subsidy-driven to investment-driven, the budget for agricultural R&D needs to be increased. Additionally, creating tax breaks and grants for companies investing in agricultural tech and novel technologies like alternative protein will incentivize the private sector to enter this ecosystem. This, in turn, will build innovative and efficient value chains for indigenous and climate-resilient crops such as millets, pulses, legumes, etc.
The Skill India Mission launched in 2015 has made immense strides in skilling the youth of the country. The PMKYV 4.0 announced in 2023 to enable demand-based formal skilling, linking with employers, and facilitating access to entrepreneurial schemes could further benefit the upcoming skilled workforce by diversifying the Sector Skill Councils to include future food technologies, including alternative proteins.
Last year, the Ministry of Science and Technology announced six priorities (Bio-based chemicals and enzymes, functional foods and smart protein, precision biotherapeutics, climate change resilient agriculture, carbon capture and utilization, and futuristic marine and space research) for the National Biomanufacturing Policy. With sectorial committees and specialized working groups working under each policy focus area, we look forward to an Interim budget that also prioritizes scientific progress and propels India’s economy.