In the third tranche of the COVID-19 economic package, the government announced a slew of measures for agriculture sector, including a Rs.1.63 lakh crore outlay, and amending the stringent Essential Commodities Act to remove cereals, edible oil, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato from its purview.
Also, a new law will be framed to give farmers the option to choose the market where they want to sell their produce by removing inter-state trade barriers and providing e-trading of agriculture produce.
Announcing the third tranche of an overall package of Rs 20 lakh crore to deal with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said foodstuffs, including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onion, and potato, will be deregulated after the amendment to the six-and-half-decade old Essential Commodities Act.
The Act empowers the government to regulate price as well as stocks of commodities.
The minister said after the amendment, stock limit will be imposed only under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities and famine when there is a surge in prices.
Further, no such stock limit shall apply to processors or value chain participants, subject to their installed capacity, or to any exporter, depending on the export demand.
Sitharaman said farmers currently are bound to sell agriculture produce only to licensees in APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committees) while no such restriction of sale applies for any industrial produce. These restrictions hinder the free flow of agriculture produce and lead to lower price realisation for farmers.
To deal with the situation, a central law will be formulated to provide "adequate choices to farmer to sell produce at an attractive price, barrier free inter-state trade and framework for e-trading of agriculture produce," she said.
Sitharaman also announced a Rs.1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund that will finance projects at farm-gate and aggregation point for efficient postharvest management of crops. The Rs.1.63 lakh crore agriculture package, aimed at strengthening infrastructure, logistics and capacity building, also has schemes for micro food enterprises, cattle vaccination, dairy sector, herbal plantation, beekeeping and fruits and vegetables. A Rs.10,000 crore fund will also support two lakh Micro Food Enterprises for promoting health and wellness, herbal, organic and nutritional products.
The government will also launch a Rs.20,000 crore Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana for development of marine and inland fisheries to employ over 55 lakh persons and double exports to Rs.1 lakh crore.
Besides, the ongoing National Animal Disease Control Programme for Foot and Mouth Disease and Brucellosis will look at 100 per cent vaccination of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pigs against FMD at an outlay of Rs.13,343 crore.
Further, a Rs.15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund has been announced to support private investment in dairy processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure.
The government has launched a Rs.4,000 crore fund to promote herbal cultivation in about 10 lakh hectares , and another Rs.500 crore is earmarked for beekeeping initiatives that will help two lakh beekeepers.
Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund to finance projects
Rs 10,000 crore to fund small firms manufacturing health and wellness, herbal, organic and nutritional products
Rs 20,000 crore for fisheries sector
Rs 13,343 crore for vaccination of cattle
Rs 15,000 crore earmarked for Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development
Rs 4,000 crore to promote herbal cultivation in an area of about 10 lakh hectares
Rs 500 crore to expand Operation Greens from tomatoes, onion and potatoes to all fruits and vegetables