Addressing her third press conference in as many days, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced the third tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package under the “Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant)” campaign announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a bid to help the ailing agricultural economy which has been significantly affected due to the nationwide lockdown for containing the spread of the conoravirus (COVID-19), Sitharaman announced further steps to ease the agriculture and allied sectors such as fisheries, dairy and animal husbandry.
The minsiter said will announce a total of 11 measures out of which eight will be aimed towards building better capacities and allocation for ramping up storage and logistics. The remaining three are going to be governance and administrative related reforms.
Sitharaman on agriculture and allied-sector
— The finance minister allocated Rs 1 lakh crore towards the aggregators, FPOs, agricultural startups for strengthening farm gate infrastructure.
— Sitharaman also announced a Rs 10,000 crore fund for the micro food enterprises (MFE) through a cluster-based approach. She said that vocal for local can build brands and hence marketing them in the global markets will be included in this package. The branding, modernising and ramping up of the capacity will be a part of this scheme. She said that this will benefit around two lakh MFEs.
— The finance minister also announced a National Animal Disease Programme with a total outlay of Rs 13,343 crore. This, she said, will ensure 100 per cent vaccination for cattles – buffalo, sheep and pigs against foot and mouth disease.
— Nirmala Sitharaman said that the government will be launching Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) for marine and inland fisheries. She said Rs 11,000 crore will be allocated for marine and inland fisheries and Rs 9,000 crore for the infrastructure activities. The minister said that this will provide employment to 55 lakh in the sector and is expected to contribute Rs 1 lakh crore to India’s exports.
–The minister announced an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund of Rs 15,000 crore. She added that it will give incentives for establishing plants for the export of niche products.
–Sitharaman allocated Rs 4,000 crore for promotion of herbal cultivation. This she said will generate income of Rs 5,000 crore for local farmers engaged in this cultivation. She added that National Medicinal Plant Board will be undertaking 800 hectares of areas in the corridors of river Ganga for the growing of herbal and medical plants.
–The finance minister allocated Rs 500 crore for beekeeping initiatives in the country. This will increase income for around two lakh beekeepers, the scheme will include infrastructure, capacity building, marketing and export support.
–Sitharaman said that Rs 500 crore is in existing scheme of ‘TOP’. The scheme has extended for next six months and it will be expanded further. TOP stands for tomato, onion and potatoes. The minister said that it will now get extended to other vegetables also so as to tackle the supply chain problems, particularly perishable fruits and vegetables. This particular scheme is going to provide a 50 per cent subsidy for transportation and 50 per cent subsidy for the storage.
Sitharaman on governance and administrative related reforms
–The finance minister said that the government will amend the Essential Commodities Act for better price realisation for farmers. She said that the country needs to enable a better price realisation mechanism for the farmers by getting investments and making agriculture sector more competitive. The agriculture food products including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato are going to be deregulated.
The stock limits will be imposed only under very exceptional circumstances such as national calamities, famine with surge in prices. The minister said that no stock limit shall apply to processors or value chain participants (subjected to their installed capacity) or to any exporter subjected to the export demand available).
The minister’s announcements on Wednesday (day 1) included six measures for the MSME ssector, two for EPF, two for NBFC and MFI sector, one for discoms, one for contractors, one for real estate sector, and three tax measures. On Thursday, Sitharaman said that migrant workers who do not have either central or state PDS cards would be given free food grain supply for next two months among others.
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