Some experts claimed that these steps would not bring immediate respite for farmers. Further, no measures were listed for small and landless farmers who have suffered a lot during two months of nationwide lockdown during which they could not sell their produce, thus their money remains locked.
"The three key measures (change in legal framework) announced in the last are more important than the first eight points. The proposed change in legal framework through Essential Commodities Act, APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) and Contract Farming are big and bold steps. If they are implemented in the spirit she (Finance Minister) has spoken, it will benefit farmers and consumers. The whole value chain would become much more efficient. It will eliminate commission agent," said Ashok Gulati, Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture at ICRIER.
Agriculture policy expert Vijay Sardana termed the proposed legislative changes as a progressive step. "But government should have announced steps for small and landless farmers also who paid for the input but could not sell their produce due to lockdown. They are suffering but there was no word for them," he said.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sithraman on Friday announced 11 key measures, a combination of schemes and change in legal framework, to boost country's farm sector. Apart from earmarking funds for various schemes, she proposed to change Essential Commodities Act to enable better price realisation for farmers.
The proposed amendment would deregulate agricultural food items including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato. Stock limit would be imposed under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities and famine with surge in prices.
"The decision to amend the Essential Commodities Act was long overdue. It's a correct measure to ensure supply chain continuity and trade flows in the event of short supplies/ exceptional circumstances. In an event like COVID-19 this will be helpful to control supply chain disruptions," said Ajay Kakra, Leader - food and agriculture, PwC India.
Sitharaman said that a Central law will be formulated to provide adequate choices to farmer to sell produce at attractive price. This will also provide barrier free inter-state movement and e-trading of agricultural produce.
"Facilitative legal framework will be created to enable farmers for engaging with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters, etc in a fair and transparent manner," the Finance Minister said.
Among the key schemes that would be rolled out are Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund, a Rs 10,000 crore scheme for Formalisation of Micro Food Enterprises (MFE) and Fishermen through Pradhan Mantri Sampada Yojna (PMMSY) with Rs 20,000 crore corpus.
"Financing facility of Rs 1 lakh crore will be provided for funding Agriculture Infrastructure Projects at farm-gate and aggregation points (primary agricultural cooperative societies, farmers producer organisations, agriculture entrepreneurs, start-ups, etc)," Sitharaman said.
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