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Allocation for agriculture up 18 percent

New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) According priority to agriculture, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Friday proposed an 18 percent increase in the total plan outlay of the department to Rs.20,208 crore in Budget 2012-13.

"Agriculture will continue to be a priority for the government," said Mukherjee, adding the outlay for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) will be Rs.9,217 crore from Rs.7,860 crore last year.

Stating the initiative of Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) has resulted in a significant increase in production and productivity of paddy, the finance minister increased allocation for the scheme from Rs.400 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.1,000 crore in 2012-13.

He said the National Food Security Bill 2011 is before a Parliamentary Standing Committee, and added that a multi-sectoral programme to address maternal and child malnutrition in selected 200 high burdened districts will be rolled out during 2012-13.

To improve productivity in the dairy sector, a Rs.2,242 crore project is being launched with World Bank assistance, while Rs.500 crore will be spent to broaden the scope of production of fish to coastal aquaculture, from fresh water aquaculture, he said.

He increased allocation for the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) by 13 percent to Rs.14,242 crore and proposed Rs.200 crore for incentivising agriculture research.

Underlining the importance of timely access to affordable credit for farmers, the finance minister proposed to raise agricultural credit target to Rs.5,75,000 crore, an increase of Rs.1,00,000 crore over 2011-12.

He said a short term Regional Rural Bank (RRB) Credit Refinance Fund is being set up to enhance the capacity of RRBs to disburse short term crop loans to the small and marginal farmers.

Mukerjee said the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) will now be transformed into a smart card which could be used at ATMs.

He said the interest subvention scheme for providing short term crop loans to farmers at 7 percent interest per annum will be continued in 2012-13.

Besides, an additional subvention of 3 percent will be available to prompt paying farmers, he said.

In addition, the same interest subvention on post harvest loans up to six months against negotiable warehouse receipt will also be available, said the Budget.

"This will encourage the farmers to keep their produce in warehouses," said Mukherjee.

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