Farm sector makeover on the cards, says PM Narendra Modi

New Delhi: The government is working to overhaul the farm sector ecosystem and ensure income security for farmers by taking steps to reduce the cost of cultivation, ensure fair price, reduce wastage and create additional sources of income for growers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a national conference on doubling farm incomes on Tuesday.

Following two days of deliberations, the national conference placed several recommendations before the prime minister—such as bringing agriculture marketing into the concurrent list, making purchases below minimum support prices (MSPs) illegal, and a farm-centric trade policy. Modi said the proposals will be considered seriously by the government.

“We have already announced steps like fixing MSPs at 50% over costs of cultivation and are working with state governments to ensure that higher MSPs benefit farmers,” Modi said.

The PM listed several initiatives taken by the government in the past four years, including neem coating of urea, issuing soil health card to farmers, completing pending irrigation projects and launching a new crop insurance scheme for farmers.

“Using soil health cards has reduced fertilizer costs by 8-10% and increased crop productivity by 5-6%,” Modi said, adding, “settlement of crop insurance claims has doubled over the past year and the scheme is saving many farmers’ lives.”

Modi further said that in a move to create a market architecture the government has proposed a model law on agriculture marketing to states and that for raising farm incomes the centre and state governments need to work together.

The Prime Minister’s speech comes in the backdrop of the government’s stated goal to double real farm incomes between 2015-16 and 2022-23, amid stagnant revenues due to a collapse in crop prices.

On the recommendations from the focused groups of academicians, farmers, officials and state government representatives, Modi said that his government will take them forward. “NITI Aayog will collate all the recommendations and coordinate between ministries and decide on priorities,” Modi said, adding, “some recommendations may take time to implement but we will do it.”

Among the crucial recommendations made by the conference was one to bring agriculture marketing into the concurrent list, which will allow the centre to frame laws and create a common national market for free movement of farm produce. The conference also advised the government to frame a law which will not allow any sale of crops by farmers below support prices, and setting up of state-level agriculture price policy committees.

“All the steps that the prime minister enumerated in his speech to double farmers’ income are steps in the right direction, and they will surely help farmers. But whether these steps can double farmers’ real incomes by 2022 is highly doubtful. This requires a growth of almost 14% per annum, which cannot be achieved even for the whole economy, what to talk of farmers. This is nothing short of day-dreaming,” said Ashok Gulati, agriculture chair professor at Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.livemint

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