COVID-19 Stimulus: Centre Announces Rs 1.63 Lakh-Crore Package for Agriculture and Allied Sectors

Mostly consisting of steps that will be completed over a longer horizon, Budget-like schemes for micro food enterprises, cattle vaccination, dairy sector, herbal plantation, beekeeping, and fruits and vegetables were also announced.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government on Friday unveiled the third tranche of its COVID-19 economic package, with announcements worth Rs 1.63 lakh crore for agriculture and allied sectors aimed at strengthening infrastructure, logistics and capacity building.

Like the last two installments, most of the proposals presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today were long-term measures that are unlikely to provide immediate relief caused by the national lockdown.

At a press conference, Sitharaman rolled out a Rs 1 lakh crore ‘Agri Infrastructure Fund’ that will finance projects at the farm-gate and aggregation point for efficient post-harvest management of crops.

She said the government will provide Rs 1 lakh crore for aggregators, farmers producers organisations (FPOs), primary agri cooperative societies, agri entrepreneurs and startups under this fund.

The fund will be created at the earliest, she said.

Besides this, schemes for micro food enterprises, cattle vaccination, dairy sector, herbal plantation, beekeeping, and fruits and vegetables were also announced.

Lack of adequate cold chain facilities and post-harvest management infrastructure in the vicinity of farm gates is causing gaps in the value chain, she said.

Also read: How Much Will Sitharaman’s Plan for Migrant Workers and Farmers Really Help?

Sitharaman also announced Rs 10,000 crore fund to support 2 lakh micro food enterprises (MFEs) for promoting health and wellness, herbal, organic and nutritional products.

The government will also launch a Rs 20,000 crore for fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana for the development of marine and inland fisheries.

Of this, Rs 11,000 crore will be earmarked for activities in marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture while Rs 9,000 crore for infrastructure creation such as fishing harbours, cold chain and markets.

This, she said, will provide employment to over 55 lakh persons and double exports to Rs 1 lakh crore.

Sitharaman also noted that the ongoing National Animal Disease Control Programme for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Brucellosis will look at 100 per cent vaccination of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, and pigs against FMD at an outlay of Rs 13,343 crore.

Also, a Rs 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund was announced to support private investment in dairy processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure.

The government has launched a Rs 4,000 crore fund to promote herbal cultivation in about 10 lakh hectares of area, she said, adding that the scheme will help generate Rs 5,000 crore income for farmers. Along the bank of Ganga, a corridor of medicinal plants will be developed over 800 hectares area.

Another Rs 500 crore has been earmarked for beekeeping initiatives, helping 2 lakh beekeepers.

The government extended the ‘Operation Greens’ from tomato, onion and potato to all fruits and vegetables by providing an additional fund of Rs 500 crore. This money would go into providing subsidy on transportation from surplus to deficient markets as well as on storages including cold storages.

The scheme prevents any distress sale by farmers, she said.

New budget?

Political analyst Yogendra Yadav and other agriculture experts however said that Sitharaman’s press conference amounted to a new agricultural budget by the Centre and argued that it did too little to alleviate the suffering of small farmers right now.

(With inputs from PTI)