To ensure ‘Atma Nirbhartha’ (self-reliance) at the grass-root level, the Government on Friday came out with a comprehensive package for agriculture sector including barrier-free inter trade of agriculture produce and taking out six ley agriculture produce from the ambit of Essential Commodities Act.

In the third tranche of measures for revival of the economy affected severely due to Covid-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented 11 measures for agriculture and allied activities. This includes eight liquidity measures totalling Rs 1.50 lakh crore for various activities, including infrastructure development, and the remaining three are related to governance reforms. With these, a total of 36 measures with fiscal and liquidity support of Rs 9.90 lakh crore under ‘Atamnirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self Reliant Campaign)’, mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 12, haven been announced. Now, two more rounds of announcements expected on Saturday and Sunday.

Governance Reforms

Sitharaman said that a central law has been proposed to facilitate adequate choices to the farmer to sell produce at an attractive price, barrier-free Inter-State Trade and framework for e-trading of agriculture produce. As on date restriction on farmers to sell their produce in local Agriculture Produce Market Committee authorised mandi makes it challenging to get a better price which proposed law intends to remove.

When asked about the possibility of central law for the marketing of agriculture produce as State’s subject, the Minister informed that interstate trade falls in Central list so that legislation can be made. Supplementing this, Economic Affairs Secretary Tarun Bajaj said for any subject in the concurrent list, central law will prevail over state law, and here some issues are in the concurrent list so that Centre can make a law.

Another major reform is related to an amendment in the Essential Commodities Act 1955 to take out Agriculture foodstuffs including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato from its ambit. It means no requirement of stock limit in normal circumstances. However, Sitharaman said that it could be imposed under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with the surge in prices. However, it will not apply to processors or value chain participant, subject to their installed capacity or any exporter subject to the export demand.

The third reform is related to preparing a legal framework to enable farmers for engaging with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters etc. fairly and transparently for better price realisation. Such a structure will also help in risk mitigation for farmers, assured returns and quality standardisation.

Support for Agri and allied activities Infrastructure

NABARD will facilitate Rs 1 lakh crore finance for funding Agriculture Infrastructure Projects at farm-gate & aggregation points (Primary Agricultural Cooperative Societies, Farmers Producer Organisations, Agriculture entrepreneurs, Startups, etc.). Another measure talks about Rs 10,000 crore scheme for the formalisation of Micro Food Enterprises (MFE). This will help nearly 2 lakh MFEs to achieve technical up-gradation to attain FSSAI food standards, build brands and marketing.

Sitharaman informed that such units would promote vocal for local with global outreach with a cluster-based approach. Produce such as Makhana in Bihar, Mango in UP, Kesar in J&K, Bamboo shoots in North-East, Chilli in Andhra Pradesh, Tapioca in Tamil Nadu etc. will get support for the domestic and global market.

For the fishing industry

Finance Minister informed allocation of Rs 20,000 crore for fishermen through Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY). This will include Rs 11,000 r for activities in marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture while Rs. 9000 crore to be spent on developing fishing Harbours, cold chain, markets etc. She said that the new scheme is estimated to have additional fish production of 70 lakh tonnes over five years, generate employment to over 55 lakh persons and help in doubling exports to Rs 1 lakh crore.