Staff Reporter

`Emphasis on agriculture will benefit agro-based industries'

KOCHI: The Union Budget, presented in Parliament on Tuesday, has been welcomed by the industry in general. Representatives of trade and industry, who met at a live budget viewing session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, Kerala, here exuded a positive sentiment, notwithstanding the criticism expressed on certain grounds.

Chairman of CII State council M.K. Koshy felt that the investment boom would continue, thanks to growth-oriented measures announced in the budget. The special tea fund will be of particular significance to Kerala, as tea is an important cash crop in the State.

The emphasis laid on agriculture would benefit agro-based industries, generating employment. The proposed cut in farm credit rate to 7 per cent was encouraging, he noted.

The credit guarantee fund for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) would be helpful to their sector. He lauded the plan for development of industrial townships and the thrust given to food processing and information technology sectors. He also lauded the initiative in the gem and jewellery segment.

Navas M. Meeran, managing director of Eastern Treads Ltd., hailed the priority treatment meted out to food processing sector. The industry would benefit from the proposed tax exemption.

The support measures would be helpful in reducing wastage of perishable goods. The allocation of funds to NABARD for funding food-processing projects was also a welcome step.

The budget has shifted focus from the urban to the rural sector, said K.K.M. Kutty, past chairman of CII southern region. The Government wants to uplift the SME sector and is not keen on retaining it in the same fashion, he noted.

Umang Patodia, managing director of Patspin India Ltd., welcomed the increase in outlay for textile upgrade. He also hailed the concessions to be extended to manmade fibre, as it would sustain employment in the handloom sector. However, he observed that the budget did not have a mention about mechanisation, an essential component of modernisation.

Shivdas B. Menon, managing director, Sterling Farm Research and Services Private Ltd., said the fund for replanting in tea plantations would be beneficial to Kerala.

It was for the first time that the Finance Minister has taken the agriculture sector as a growth sector, he said.

Expressing unhappiness at the proposals, N. Radhakrishnan, managing director of N. Radhakrishnan & Company, said subsidy should have been extended for replanting rubber. Cardamom and pepper growers had sought concessions, but nothing had been done.

Renji Abraham, branch manager of Steel Authority of India Ltd., felt that the Kochi Metro rail project could have been included in the budget proposals had the details been worked out in advance.

Small businessmen would be affected by the increase in service tax, said Xavier Thomas Kondody, president of Kerala State Small Industries Association.