Nirmala Sitharaman Unveils Third Tranche Of Covid-19 Relief Package Focused On Agriculture
India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman gestures as she speaks during a news conference, in New Delhi India (Photographer. T. Narayan/Bloomberg)

Nirmala Sitharaman Unveils Third Tranche Of Covid-19 Relief Package Focused On Agriculture

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today announced the third tranche of measures under India’s Covid-19 relief package—a Rs 20-lakh-crore plan aimed at bringing the economy back to its feet after the lockdown.

Eleven measures were announced today for agriculture and allied sectors. On Wednesday, in the first tranche of the economic package, the finance minister announced measures for small businesses, non-banking financial firms and power distribution companies. On Thursday, the finance minister’s focus was on migrant workers, farmers and the urban poor.

Here are key highlights from today’s announcements:

  • New Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund to be established.
  • A new scheme worth Rs 10,000 crore aimed at formalisation of micro food enterprises.
  • Allocated Rs 20,000 crore for fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana which was announced in the Union Budget 2020.
  • Another fund of Rs 15,000 crore for developing animal husbandry infrastructure has will be set up.
  • Government will allocate Rs 4,000 crore for herbal cultivation.
  • For beekeeping initiatives, Rs 500 crore has been set aside.
  • Operation Greens will be expanded to cover all fruits and vegetables for Rs 500 crore.
  • Amendments will be brought to the Essential Commodities Act to deregulate foods like cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes.
  • Agriculture marketing reforms will be implemented through a new law that will remove barriers to inter-state trade.
  • Farmers will be given price and quality assurance through facilitative agriculture produce.

Read on for more details on each announcement.

It's Not Adequate, Says Finance Minister On Economic Measures

“We’ve been taking inputs and based on that we’ve been working. PM Garib Kalyan was a package announced hours after the lockdown. It had monies going. Rs 500 for women with Jan Dhan accounts for three months. There was money given. It may not be adequate. I grant that. Nothing can be adequate at this time when people are cutoff, when people are staying put in their house, when people don’t have the money they earned given to them, their salaries are not coming. Nothing can be adequate. But the first thing we announced was give money to people. Give gas to them to cook in their houses so that they don’t go running for fuel to cook food. Give them free grains. We did do that.”

—Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Price And Quality Assurance For Agriculture Produce

The government will bring in a facilitative legal framework to ensure that farmers get a predictable price and predictable sales of their produce.

Farmers will be able to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers and exports so that they can fix their fair price, be sure that they can export and in the process benefit from better technical assistance.

Agriculture Marketing Reforms For Farmers

The government has announced that a new law will be formulated to provide adequate choices to farmers to sell their produce at attractive prices, the finance minister said.

The law will remove barriers on inter-state trade and establish a framework for e-trading of agriculture produce.

Earlier, Sitharman said, that farmers were bound to sell produce only to licensees in APMCs. Such restriction results in hindrannce in free flow of the agriculture supply chain.

The new central law will remove all these hindrances, she said.

Amendments To Essential Commodities Act

The government will make changes to the Essential Commodities Act to enable better price realisation for farmers, the finance minister said.

Agriculture foods like cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes will now be deregulated.

There will be stock limit imposed under very exceptional circumstances like a famine with surge in prices.

Stock limits won't apply to processors or value chain participants.

Operation Greens Expanded For Rs 500 Crore

The government will extend Operation Greens—which covers tomatoes, onions and potatoes—to all fruits and vegetables.

The scheme includes 50 percent subsidy on transportation from surplus to deficient markets. It also has a 50 percent subsidy on storage, including cold storages.

The pilot was done for 6 months and will now be expanded and extended. The plan is expected to deliver better prices, reduced wastages and affordable produce.

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