The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar has said the Government has accorded highest priority to the farming and agriculture sector even during the lockdown period. As a result, he said, there has been no shortage of food grains and pulses across the country while the Government has also ensured availability of vegetables and milk supplies. Addressing a press conference here today, Shri Tomar said the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given primacy to the progress of ‘Gaon, Garib, Kisan’ (Villages, Poor and Farmers). Shri Tomar said no previous Government has paid as much attention to Agriculture & Farmers Welfare as this Government. The pathbreaking schemes launched by Shri Modi include the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) saturation drive recently undertaken.Shri Tomar said the Government has laid priority on uninterrupted continuity of agriculture activities even during the lockdown. Specific Exemptions made for Farming during Lockdown are as follows:
Farming operations by farmers and farm workers in the field;
Agencies engaged in procurement of agriculture products, including MSP operations;
‘Mandis’ operated by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee or as notified by the State Government;
Shops and manufacturing/packaging units for Seeds, Fertilizers and Pesticides;
Intra and inter-state movement of harvesting and sowing related machines like combined harvester and other agriculture/ horticulture implements;
Cold storage and warehousing services;
Transportation for essential goods;
Shops of agriculture machinery, its spare parts (including its supply chain) and repairs;
Custom Hiring Centres (CHC) related to farm machinery.
With a view to sustain and promote agricultural activities, Shri Tomar said, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of Kharif and Rabi crops, including Paddy, wheat, pulses and oilseeds, is raised every season ensuring a level of 1.5 times of the cost of production. He said the hike in MSP for Rabi crops assured a return of 50% to 109% over cost of production of various crops. The centres for Rabi pulses and oilseeds have almost doubled from 1485 last year to 2790 this year. As the procurement picks up, more centers will be opened as per the requirement, he added.The Agriculture Minister said all these efforts have resulted in record foodgrain production. From 285.20 million tonnes in 2018-19, this FY the estimated foodgrain production is set to reach 291.95 million tonnes and for the next fiscal a target of 298.3 million tonnes is fixed. He said protein revolution was achieved through increase in production of pulses of 28.3%, which witnessed a growth from 17.20 MTs in 2014-15 to 23.02 MTs in 2019-20. Focus on summer crops resulted in area sown of 57.07 lakh hectares this year against 41.31 lakh hectares last year. Similarly, the horticulture crops is also headed for an estimated record production of 313.35 million MT this FY as against 310.74 million MT in 2018-19. Shri Tomar said the Government is encouraging technology driven solutions to minimize human interface in the farming sector especially in view of social distancing norms to fight the COVID19 pandemic. The technology initiatives of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare include:
e-NAM came to the aid of farmers with a new technological twist.
New modules in e-NAM were launched in April 2020.
Warehouse Based Trading module: eNAM integrated with e-NWR.
FPO module which enables uploading of produce, bidding and payment from their Collection Centers directly.
FPOs are also supplying vegetables in nearby cities and towns. All problems arising out of movement of goods and its trading are resolved on real time basis. States have already taken decision to issue passes/e-passes to FPOs.
“Kisan Rath” App launched on 17.04.2020 to facilitate Farmers and Traders in identifying right mode of transportation for movement of farm produce. As a module of uberization of logistic aggregator more than 11.37 lakh trucks and 2.3 lakh transporters.
All India Agri Transport Call Centre was launched in April, 2020. This Call Centre has been set up for coordination between States for inter-state movement of perishables like vegetables & fruits, agriculture inputs. The Call Centre numbers are 18001804200 and 14488.
As follow up Budget announcement of KISAN Rail. During the lockdown period, Railways introduced 67 routes for running 567 Parcel Specials (out of which 503 are time table parcel trains) to supply essential commodities at fast speed. These trains have transported 20,653 tonnes of consignments across the country. Shri Tomar said the PM-KISAN scheme has benefited farmers immensely even during this COVID season as the Government has transferred Rs. 17986 crore to farmer since 24th March, 2020. Till date 9.39 crore farmer families have been benefitted and a sum of Rs 71000 crores has been transferred. Installment due for the period of 1st April to 31st July, 2020 has been paid to 8.13 crores beneficiaries within the first fortnight of April itself. In view of the success of the scheme, the Prime Minister approved extension of the year-old-scheme to all farming families, since the original scheme covered only small and marginal farmers. Shri Tomar said the Government also launched the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Saturation Drive in February 2020 for ensuring benefits of KCC to PM- KISAN beneficiaries. More than 75 lakh applications from PM-KISAN beneficiaries have been received by banks since then while nearly 20 lakh applications have been sanctioned with a total sanction amount of nearly Rs 18,000 crores.Shri Tomar said the PM Fasal Bima Yojana has been made voluntary for all farmers considering the demand of farmers while there is no change in farmers’ share of premium. Government of India will now bear 90% of premium subsidy liability for North Eastern States instead of 50% earlier.
Flexibility has been given to States to choose the risk covers and sum insured for benefit of farmers. Shri Tomar said during 2017-19 while farmers’ contribution has been over Rs.9,000 crores, the crop insurance claims worth over Rs.50,000 crore has been dispensed to affected farmers. Total claims paid during the lockdown period stand at Rs 5,326.7 crores, he said. Shri Tomar said this year’s budget also underlined Government’s thrust towards doubling farmers income by 2022. Rs 2.83 lakh crores has been allocated in the budget for 2020-21 for all agriculture related activities and 1.6 lakh crore for just agriculture, allied and irrigation. This is more than 5 years agri budget of UPA between 2009 -14 which was Rs 1.1 lakh crore, he said. The Government has also launched a scheme to set up 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) by 2024-25 with a provision of Rs 6866 crore. This will help in collective procurement of inputs and technology and market the produce better, he said.Speaking on the occasion, Shri Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog said the Agriculture sector will be the mainstay of India’s economy and the Government aims to keep the GDP growth buoyant during the current fiscal despite the lockdown bringing almost 60% industrial activity to a standstill. A normal monsoon prediction and with 50-60% water available in reservoirs, Agriculture sector is expected to do exceedingly well, he said. Fertilizer offtake of 13.5 lakh metric tonnes this month upto April 28th is 5% more than 12.86 lakh tons in April last year while Krishi Vigyan Kendras have sold 20% more seeds in the four months this year as compared to the same period last year, he said. With higher prices of crops assured, this will encourage farmers and contribute to Agriculture growth estimated at 3% of long term average, he said.