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Nirmala Sitharaman says Centre to form about 10,000 farmer produce organisations; urges state govts to push for eNAM, dismantle APMCs

FP Staff

The government is aiming at forming about 10,000 farmer produce organisations (FPOs), said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday. Revealing this while addressing the 6th World Congress on Rural and Agri Finance, Sitharaman said the government has put rural and farmer development on a larger map.

Sitharaman mentioned of a slew of measures to help farmers, agriculture and also fisheries sector.

The direct benefit transfer usage of Aadhaar will help avoid pilferage of financial help being given to the farming community, the finance minister pointed out. The government has thus been able to save money that would have otherwise gone to unknown people, Sitharaman pointed out.

The government offers Rs 6,000 to each farmer and the state governments provide some funds. For instance, in Andhra Pradesh, besides the Rs 6,000 from centre and additional funding from the state, each farmer gets Rs 13,000, she said.

On 24 February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ambitious Rs 75,000 crore PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh by digitally transferring the first installment of Rs 2,000 to the accounts of over 1 crore small and marginal farmers, according to a PTI report. In the interim Budget 2019-20, the central government had announced the PM-KISAN scheme under which Rs 6,000 per year will be given in three installments to 12 crore small and marginal farmers holding cultivable land up to two hectares.

The Centre is pushing for eNAM or National Agriculture Market and the state governments are being cajoled into rejecting non banking finance companies (NBFCs), Sitharaman said.  eNAM is an online trading platform for agricultural commodities in India. The market facilitates farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in commodities.

"I wish states would dismantle the APMCs and move towards eNAM," Sitharaman said. The Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) is a marketing board established by state governments to ensure farmers are safeguarded from exploitation by large retailers, as well as ensuring the farm to retail price spread does not reach excessively high.

In a bid to relieve water stress, Sitharaman emphasised the need to take up water management quickly.

With regard to self-help groups (SHGs), the Finance Minister pointed out to the 2019 Budget announcement to provide Rs 1 lakh to each of these SHGs to catalyse growth in rural areas. In the 2019 Budget, Sitharaman announced that one woman in every SHG will be able to avail of a loan up to Rs 1 lakh under the MUDRA Scheme. The approach to farmers, farming community-related to women, agriculture and agri-related matters would have a synergy and have a dynamic effect to rural economy, she said.

There is soil fatigue in India, said Sitharaman due to excessive use of fertilisers. In an attempt to increase the nutrition levels in the soil, the government is coming out with a soil health card in addition to the PM-KISAN card, Sitharaman said. This will help the farmer to identify each plot of his/her holding and its soil nutrition and moisture levels. Equipped with this knowledge, the farmer will be able to accordingly choose to spend on nutrients.

While presenting the Budget, Sitharaman had urged farmers to make India self-sufficient in edible oil production. India spends over Rs 70,000 crore to import about 15 MT edible oil to meet its annual requirement of 25 MT, making it one of the biggest buyers of the cooking medium. "The government has already constituted a Group of Secretaries (GoS) for launching a nationwide oil seed mission to minimise oil imports. It will be rolled out soon," an official was cited as saying in a report in The Economic Times. The government may levy a 2-10 percent cess on import of crude and refined edible oil to fund the mission, the report said. At the World Congress on Rural & Agricultural Finance today, Sitharaman asked farmers to produce oilseeds to generate enough edible oil in India.

Besides farming, the government wants to promote fisheries in inland and coastal areas, Sitharaman said. Towards this, the government is planning to set up fish processing centres, she said. This was being done from the point of view of enriching local nutrients and also to sell produce -- seaweed, spirulina, algae, with the help of SHGs and farmer organisation.

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