Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday called for higher investment in rural infrastructure and agriculture, saying the sector was plagued by a series of handicaps like inadequate irrigation, high indebtedness and climate change impact.
"With productivity levels reasonably low and 85 percent farmers being small and marginal, the agriculture sector is afflicted by higher input costs, low level of irrigation, high indebtedness, absence of an effective insurance mechanism and adverse impacts of climate change," Jaitley said at a Nabard symposium on "Mitigating Agrarian Distress and Enhancing Farm Income".
Observing that India has been unable to ensure even a consistent four percent growth in agriculture, the finance minister said that despite the challenges, Indian farmers have been able to attain self-sufficiency in foodgrains.
Jaitley said a large chunk of investment needs to be channelised into rural infrastructure development, with special emphasis on irrigation.
"States like Madhya Pradesh which have invested in irrigation have seen almost immediate results. It is this example we need to emulate," he said.
The government has launched the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, entailing an investment of Rs 50,000 crore over a period of five years, he added.
Expressing hope that the monsoon would be as good as it was last month, Jaitley said the department of agriculture expects better rainfall in most parts of India for higher yields of oilseeds and pulses, whose prices are currently a concern in terms of inflation.
"I hope their estimates turn out to be true," he said.