Calling for greater private sector investment in agriculture to boost farmer incomes and employment opportunities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Saturday that his government is “fully committed to the welfare of farmers, with its policies and intent”.
Addressing industry captains at FICCI’s 93rd Annual General Meeting — amid government efforts to resolve grievances of farmers who have been protesting at the gates of Delhi against newly enacted farm laws — the Prime Minister said: “Today when I am amidst industry leaders, I want to say this openly, that the kind of investment that should have been done by our private sector in the agriculture sector, was unfortunately not done. This sector was never really explored much by the private sector.”
“We have had cold storage problems… without private sector support, the supply chain could operate only till a limited point. Shortage of fertilisers, you have also seen. You also know how much fertiliser India has to import. The Central government has been working regularly (to resolve) many such problems in the agriculture sector. But this requires both your interest and investment. I believe that many agro-based companies are doing good work, but that is not enough.”
He said higher investments done to support farmers growing crops, fruits and vegetables would help increase their incomes and provide new job opportunities. There is a lot of potential for agro-based industries in rural areas, and current government policies, he said, are conducive for developing a rural agro-based economy. “Niti se, aur niyat se, sarkar poori tarah, kisano ka hit karne ke liye pratibadh hai (The government is fully committed to the welfare of farmers with its policies and intent),” he said.
The recent agriculture reforms, Modi said, have tried to remove obstacles in the way of new markets, fresh opportunities and modern technology for farmers.
“We have seen walls between the agriculture sector and other areas associated with it — be it agriculture infrastructure, food processing, storage or cold chain… Now all these walls are being removed, all obstacles are being removed. After these walls are removed, after these reforms, farmers will get new markets, they will get new options and benefit more from technology.”
“The country’s cold storage infrastructure will be modernised. With all these, there will be a lot more investment in the agriculture sector. And this will result in maximum benefits for my country’s farmers, it will benefit those farmers who depend on marginal landholdings for their livelihood,” he said.
In the last few years, he said, work has been done speedily to strengthen the agriculture sector. He cited the government’s policy on ethanol blending as one example that helped increase incomes of cane farmers, opened new job opportunities.
“Today, India’s agriculture sector is far more vibrant than before. Today, India’s farmers can sell their crop in mandis as well as outside. Today, in India, even as mandis are being modernised, farmers have also been given the option to buy/sell their crop on digital platforms. All these efforts are aimed at increasing incomes of farmers. The country’s farmer should be prosperous. When the country’s farmer is prosperous, only then will the country be prosperous,” he said.