Budget could have paid more attention to feed

The 2023-24 budget has given a boost to the livestock sector. The total budget for animal husbandry has been increased by around 40 percent (from the 2022-23 budget estimate) because of its outstanding contribution to the country’s socio-economic development, especially during the recent pandemic shock. A significant portion of the total allocation went to the Animal Health and Disease Control Program – ₹2,349.71 crore.

Allocation under the program saw a 69 percent increase as the country has suffered the effects of two deadly livestock diseases – lumpy skin disease and African swine fever – over the past three years. Also, the budget has taken good care of the livestock sector by allocating funds to various programs and missions such as Dairy Products Development (326.93 crore), Rashtriya Gokul Mission (600 crore), National Livestock Mission (410 crore), etc. has provided.

However, the feed and feed sector, which plays a prominent role in increasing animal productivity, was completely left out of the budget talks. Feed and forage supply has always lagged behind aggregate demand and this gap is expected to widen in the near future. Feed and feed development stakeholders expected a significant amount from this year’s Department of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairy allocations to be dedicated to this segment.

Research studies indicate that ensuring quality and sufficient quantity of feed has a greater impact on increasing livestock productivity than improving the breed.

In India, the average milk and meat yield is 20 to 60 percent below the world average. The untimely availability of nutrient-rich forage and forage is a major problem affecting the productivity of farm animals in the country. In addition, feed accounts for around 60 to 70 percent of the costs of milk production. Therefore, the sector deserves special attention in the budget allocation.

Keep it up

The government can support the feed sector through multifaceted strategies, from production to marketing. To begin with, all states must be instructed to provide sufficient amounts for the development of forage resources. Technical guidance can be obtained from ICAR-IGFRI – a leading institute based in Jhansi – as it has developed feed schedules for different states and agroclimatic regions.

Investments are also needed to ensure the parallel development of a supportive market environment for surplus feed that includes both reverse and forward market links. Providing a dedicated market space with legal recognition will facilitate transparency and lucrative prices for feed traders. As there are regional and seasonal variations in forage production, channeling funds to establish a community feed bank where excess forage can be stored as hay/silage/fodder blocks for use in the event of a shortage would be crucial to serve the interests of small dairy farmers true.

Since the government wants to support start-ups and rural companies through the Agriculture Accelerator Fund, NABARD must be instructed to support rural companies that are active in the animal feed sector. Feed-based research organizations need support to start feed-based entrepreneurs.

More importantly, making India a global hub for Shree Anna (Millets) was a major push in the budget. Against this background, research and promotion of dual-purpose millet varieties will help improve food security and farmer welfare, while largely bridging the forage deficit. Supporting start-ups with technical backstopping for the production of millet-based cattle feed will also accentuate the production of these supercultures in the long term.

Choudhary and Sharma are scientists at ICAR-IGFRI, Jhansi. Views are personal

https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/budget-could-have-paid-more-attention-to-fodder/article66569067.ece Budget could have paid more attention to feed

Russell Falcon

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