Agriculture top priority, GDP gains must reach farmers: Jaitley

With estimates indicating a fall in growth in the current fiscal for the stressed sector, Jaitley's remarks are being seen as significant coming ahead of the Union Budget presentation on February 1. Market analysts also point to polls coming up in major states this year and the general elections due in 2019, as factors that would weigh on the forthcoming budget in allocations for the farm sector. "India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the growth is benefiting people in different sectors," Jaitley said here launching India's first agri-commodity options in guar seed. "But maximum population is dependent on agri-sector and unless the gains are clear and evident, the growth is not justifiable and equitable. Ensuring the benefits reach the agri-sector and growth is visible -- this is among the priority areas for us," he said. "We see in some places the problem of falling prices because of higher production. Farmers are not getting the price for their produce," he added. As per Central Statistics Office data earlier this month, the Gross Value Added (GVA) in agriculture, forestry and fishing for 2017-18 has been estimated at 2.1 per cent, compared to 4.9 per cent in the preceding year. The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement here that it has held a quick deliberation on the growth rate for the sector to strategize on ensuring that 2017-18 sees a much higher growth rate. On Sunday, Jaitley sounded the opening gong for India's first agri-commodity options in guar seed, launched by the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) and designed as a hedge for farmers to safeguard against price risks. Lauding farmers for taking the country out from a situation of shortages in the past, the Finance Minister said the NCDEX initiative will help farmers get more income from produce. "This is one of the biggest developments for our agriculture market... Farmers will have the option to trade with this financial instrument," he said.
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