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Farm trade unshackled

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s last full budget before the next general elections placed premium in liberalising agricultural exports and in bringing in more digitisation in commodity markets.

While tabling his fourth Budget in Parliament on Thursday Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said India, which currently exports agricultural produce worth $30 billion, has the potential to treble the exports and to realise this, there is a need to liberalise the exports of agri-commodities from the country. However, the minister did not spell out the time frame in mind for enhancing the exports.

Quality norms

However, Jaitley proposed setting up of modern testing facilities at 42 mega food parks located across the country to ensure Indian consignments are not rejected by importing countries.

To further deepen NDA regime’s one-nation-one-market motto, the FM said more agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) would be integrated with e-NAM. Currently, 470 APMCs are linked to e-NAM and this number would go up to 585 by March this year, Jaitley said.

To smoothen the digitisation of the agri-commodity markets, the minister announced a ₹2,000-crore Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund. The corpus would also be used to upgrade 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) that will electronically be linked to e-NAM and exempted from regulations of APMCs.

“The move to develop existing 22,000 rural haats into GrAMS for helping farmers for direct sales is a welcome move,” said RG Agarwal of Dhanuka Agritech Limited.

Jaitley also proposed an institutional mechanism to develop appropriate measures for price and demand forecasts, use of futures and options market and expanding warehouse depository system.

He also stressed on the need for taking timely decisions on export and import of agricultural commodities. The government in the past attracted a lot of criticism from both farmers and experts alike for its dilly-dallying on exim policy front.

Fillip to horti crops

To promote horticulture crops, which have huge export potential, the Budget proposed a cluster-based approach where different clusters would be developed for specific crops in districts known for them.

“Cultivation of horticultural crops in clusters can bring advantages of scales of operations and can spur establishment of entire chain from production to marketing,” Jaitley said in his budget speech.

“The cluster approach for horticulture crops would help in linking production to markets and ensuring farmer’s profitability,” said KC Ravi, Vice-President at Syngenta South Asia.

Supporting FPOs

The Finance Minister said the government would also encourage organic farming by FPOs as well as village producer organisations.

Similar support would be extended to women self-help groups to take up organic farming under the National Rural Livelihood Programme.

The minister also proposed a fund of ₹200 crore for cultivation of medicinal and aromatic plants and associated industry as a large number of small and cottage industries are involved in the manufacture of perfumes, essential oils and similar products.

Jaitley said the NDA government considers agriculture as an enterprise and wants to help farmers produce more from the same land parcel at lesser cost and realise higher prices for their produce.

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