FM announces Essential Commodities Act amendment, Rs 1 lakh cr agri infra fund

Sitharaman announces key agri pricing reforms in third set of stimulus annoucements

PTI12_13_2019_000251A Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman

Announcing the third set of stimulus announcements on Friday as part of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that the Centre will be amending the Essential Commodities Act to deregulate the prices of potatoes, onions, cereals and pulses. This, she said, will ensure that stock limits on imports be imposed only in case of calamities. Also, there will not be any stock limits on food processors. 

In the second significant administrative announcement, a central law has been proposed by the Centre to allow farmers to set a price for his produce. This will allow farmers to sell produce to anyone and allow him the choice of marketing. Further, a legal framework to help farmers engage in better price management will be developed. The law will provide adequate choices to farmers to sell produce at attractive prices.

In another agricultural reformative measure, the Centre is also mulling a framework to provide assurance to farmers on agriculture produce price and quality and facilitative legal framework will be created to enable farmers for engaging with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters etc. in fair and transparent manner 

The FM's third tranche of stimulus announcements focused on agriculture, fisheries, dairy and allied activities. Among the 11 measures announced on Friday, eight were aimed at strengthening the infrastructure and storage capacity, while three were pertaining to governance and administrative reforms. 

Among the measures to strengthen the infrastructure, the Centre has announced Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infra fund for aggregators, FPOs, primary agriculture cooperative societies for strengthening farm-gate infra, including cold chains, and aggregation points. Another Rs 10,000 crore worth fund for food enterprises. Cluster approach to boost micro food enterprises. Further, "aiming to implement PM's vision of ‘vocal for local with global outreach’, a scheme will be launched to help two lakh Micro Food Enterprises; improved health and safety standards, integration with retail markets and improved incomes to be key focus areas," FM said.

The government has decided to launch a Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana for integrated, sustainable, inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries to plug critical gaps in the fisheries value chain. The move aims to provide employment to over 55 lakh persons and double exports to Rs 1 lakh crore. Of this Rs 11,000 crore will be set aside for activities in marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture, while Rs 9,000 crore will be alloted for fishing harbours, cold chain, markets, etc. The move aims to add another 70 lakh tonnes over the next five years. 

The Centre has decided to launch a National Animal Disease Control Programme with a total outlay of Rs 13,343 crore for 100 per cent vaccination of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pig population in the country.

Apart from these, a Rs 15,000-crore worth Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund has been launched to support private investment in dairy Processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure. There will be incentives for establishing plants for export of niche products. 

Other measures include Rs 500 crore for beekeeping initiative, Rs 4,000 crore for herbal cultivation. The Centre also aims to cover 10 lakh hectare under herbal cultivation in 2 years and set up a corridor of medicinal plants to come up across banks of Ganga. The minister also revealed that Rs 500 crore will be set aside for 'top to total' initiative to boost supply chain in the agriculture sector. 

The government on Thursday unveiled special measures amounting to over Rs 3 lakh crore for migrant workers, farmers and other segments of the economy to help them tide over the COVID-19 pandemic. A day before, the finance minister announced Rs 6 lakh crore worth first tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus package. The first set of announcements had targeted the MSMEs, financial institutions and real estate.