PM Modi tells ministries: Ensure farm credit is easy, review Essential Commodities Act

Concessional credit flow to strengthen infrastructure, special Kisan Credit Card drive for PM-Kisan beneficiaries and other issues were also discussed

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday asked the ministries of finance and agriculture and other stakeholders to ensure that farmers indeed have easy access to institutional credit at this juncture and other forms of governmental support, including marketing assistance.

After a review meeting on agriculture held by Modi with the relevant ministries, the government said in a statement: “The focus was on making strategic interventions in the existing marketing eco-system and bringing appropriate reforms in the context of rapid agricultural development. Concessional credit flow to strengthen agriculture infrastructure, special Kisan Credit Card (KCC) drive for PM-Kisan beneficiaries and facilitating inter and intra-state trade of agriculture produce to ensure fairest return to farmer were some of the important areas covered”.

The KCC give a farmer access to short-term agricultural credit up to Rs 3 lakh without collateral at subsidised interest.

There was also deliberations on developing the electronic national agriculture market (e-NAM) into a ‘platform of platforms’ so that e-commerce portals are connected. Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Friday announced enrollment of 200 additional mandis of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka under the e-NAM platform taking the total mandis under the portal to 785 while the target is to cross 1000 by this month end.

The agriculture ministry is deliberating on uniform tax on agri produce across all the states (currently states levy mandi fees and other cesses). The idea is to identify possibilities of uniform statutory framework in the country to facilitate new ways for farming that will help the sector attract capital and technology.

The pros and cons of bio-technological developments in crops, reduction in input costs and productivity enhancement were also deliberated during the meeting.

“It was also deliberated how it is pertinent to make Essential Commodities Act compatible with present times so that large scale private investment in post-production agriculture infrastructure is incentivized and also has a positive effect on commodity derivative markets,” the statement said. The EC Act is considered a major impediment in the growth of agriculture sector as traders are scared to buy more on the fear of imposition of stock holding limits anytime.

The prime minister is said to have suggested exploring possibility of creating commodity specific Board or Council so that cluster/contract farming takes place as that will help increase agricultural exports from the country. He emphasised on the dissemination of technology till the last mile to make farmers more competitive in the global value chain.

Modi had reviewed the impact of the pandemic on the power, aviation and education sectors on Friday and coal, mining, defence and aero space on Thursday. The Centre has extended the nationwide lockdown until May 17 with some more relaxations.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh government has issued an ordinance amending the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act after which anyone (food processors, exporters, wholesalers and others) having a unified trading license will be allowed to buy directly from farmers without going to mandis. Other provisions incorporated the APC Act include — establishment of mandis in private sector without intereference from existing market yards and warehouses as deemed mandis.

After Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh is the third state to implement the Centre’s suggestion sent on April 4 to declare warehouses/cold storage units as deemed mandis. Before the Centre’s directive, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana had last year allowed some of the government-accredited warehouses to offer farmers sell their crops through e-NAM platform.

Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have exempted cooperatives and FPOs to trade agricultural produce outside the mandis. Tamil Nadu exempted market fee on all notified agricultural produce. Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Gujarat have also allowed direct marketing without any licence.

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