Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on 15 May 2020 promulgated the third tranche of measures to strengthen Infrastructure, Logistics, Capacity Building, Governance and Administrative Reforms for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Processing sectors.
Out of these 11 measures, eight measures are for improving agricultural infrastructure and three measures are for administrative and governance reforms, including removing restrictions on sale and stock limits of farm produce.
Previously the Union Finance Minister announced two significant agriculture-related measures to support farmers which envisaged Rs 30,000 crore as additional emergency working capital facility through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to enable RRBs and cooperative banks extending farm loans for Rabi post-harvest and Kharif expenses. The second measure was a mission-mode drive to enable Rs two lakh crore credit boost to the farm sector by covering 2.5 crore PM-KISAN beneficiaries under Kisan Credit Card Scheme by December 2020.
During the lockdown period the Minimum Support Price (MSP) purchases amounting more than Rs 74,300 crore, PM KISAN fund transfer of Rs 18,700 crore and PM Fasal Bima Yojana claim payment of Rs 6,400 crore have been made.
Further, during the lockdown, demand of milk reduced by 20-25 percent. Accordingly, 560 lakh ltr per day were procured by co-operatives against daily sale of 360 lakh ltr per day. Total 111 crore ltr extra milk procured ensuring payment of Rs 4,100 crore.
Further, a new scheme to provide interest subvention at two percent per annum to dairy cooperatives for 2020-21 has been launched, also providing additional two percent interest subvention on prompt payment/interest servicing. This scheme will unlock Rs 5,000 crore additional liquidity, benefitting two crore farmers.
For the fisheries sector, all four COVID-related announcements made on 24 March 2020 for fisheries have been implemented. The announcements included validity of sanitary import permits (sips) for import of shrimp brood stock has been extended by three months, condoned delay up to one month in arrival of brood stock consignments, allowed rebooking of quarantine cubicles for cancelled consignments with no additional charges and verification of documents and grant of NOC for quarantine relaxed from seven days to three days.
Further, registration of 242 registered shrimp hatcheries and Nauplii rearing hatcheries expiring on 31 March 2020 extended for three months and operations of marine capture fisheries and aquaculture relaxed to cover inland fisheries.
In order to strengthen infrastructure logistics and capacity building for agriculture, fisheries and food processing sectors the following measures have been laid out:
The Centre will create Rs one lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund for farm-gate infrastructure for farmers. Financing facility of Rs 1,00,000 crore will be provided for funding agriculture infrastructure projects at farm-gate and aggregation points (primary agricultural cooperative societies, farmers producer organisations, agriculture entrepreneurs, start-ups and so on). Impetus for development of farm-gate and aggregation point, affordable and financially viable post-harvest management infrastructure will be created.
A Formalisation of Micro Food Enterprises (MFE) Scheme worth Rs 10,000 crore was also announced which promotes vision of Prime Minister ‘Vocal for Local with Global Outreach’. The scheme will be launched to help two lakh MFEs that need technical upgradation to attain FSSAI food standards, build brands and marketing. The existing micro food enterprises, farmer producer organisations, self-help groups and cooperatives will be supported. The focus will be on women and SC/ST-owned units and those in ‘aspirational’ districts and a cluster-based approach (eg mango in Uttar Pradesh, tomato in Karnataka, chilli in Andhra Pradesh, orange in Maharashtra, etc.) will be followed.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) to be launched by the Centre, Rs 20,000 crore has been allocated. The PMMSY will focus on integrated, sustainable, inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries. Of this, Rs 11,000 crore has been allocated for activities in marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture and Rs 9,000 crore for infrastructure — fishing harbours, cold chain, markets, etc – will be provided. Cage culture, seaweed farming, ornamental fisheries as well as new fishing vessels, traceability, laboratory network, etc will be key activities. There will be provisions of ban period support to fishermen (during the period fishing is not permitted), personal and boat insurance. This will lead to additional fish production of 70 lakh tonne over five years, employment to over 55 lakh persons and double the exports to Rs 1,00,000 crore. The focus will be on Islands, Himalayan states, North-East and aspirational districts.
A National Animal Disease Control Programme for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Brucellosis has been launched with a total outlay of Rs 13,343 crore to ensure 100 percent vaccination of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pig population (total 53 crore animals) for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and for Brucellosis. Till date, 1.5 crore cows and buffaloes have been tagged and vaccinated.
An Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund of Rs 15,000 crore will be set up, with an aim to support private investment in dairy processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure. Incentives will be given for establishing plants for export of niche products.
The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) has supported 2.25 lakh ha area under cultivation of medicinal plants. A total of 10,00,000 ha will be covered under herbal cultivation in the next two years with an outlay of Rs 4,000 crore. This will lead to Rs 5,000 crore income generation for farmers. There will be a network of regional mandis for medicinal plants. NMPB will bring 800 ha area by developing a corridor of medicinal plants along the banks of Ganga.
The Central government will implement a scheme for infrastructure development related to Integrated beekeeping development centres, collection, marketing and storage centres, post-harvest and value addition facilities, etc; implementation of standards and developing traceability system, capacity building with thrust on women; development of quality nucleus stock and bee breeders. The government has allocated Rs 500 crore for beekeeping initiatives. This will lead to an increase in income for two lakh beekeepers and quality honey to consumers.
‘Operation Green’ run by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) will be extended from tomatoes, onion and potatoes (TOP) to all fruit and vegetables (TOTAL). An allocation of Rs 500 crore has been made for this. The scheme will provide 50 percent subsidy on transportation from surplus to deficient markets; 50 percent subsidy on storage, including cold storages will be launched as a pilot project for the next six months and will be extended and expanded. This will lead to better price realisation to farmers, reduced wastages, and affordability of products for consumers.
Some additional measures were also announced for Governance and Administrative Reforms for the agriculture sector– amendments to Essential Commodities Act to enable better price realisation for farmers.
The government will amend the Essential Commodities Act. Agriculture food stuffs including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes will be deregulated. Stock limit will be imposed under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with surge in prices. Further, no such stock limit will apply to processors or value chain participants, subject to their installed capacity or to any exporter subject to the export demand.
A Central law will be formulated to provide adequate choices to farmers to sell their produce at remunerative price; barrier-free interstate trade; a framework for e-trading of agriculture produce.
The government will also finalise a facilitative legal framework to enable farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters, etc in a fair and transparent manner. Risk mitigation for farmers, assured returns and quality standardisation will form an integral part of the framework.