The Cabinet today approved a historic amendment to the Essential Commodities Act. This is a visionary step towards transformation of agriculture and raising farmers’ income. While India has become surplus in most agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, processing and export as the entrepreneurial spirit get dampened due to hanging sword of Essential Commodities Act. Farmers suffer huge losses when there are bumper harvests of perishable commodities. With adequate processing facilities, much of this wastage can be reduced.

With the amendment to Essential Commodities Act, commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion, and potatoes will be removed from list of essential commodities. This will remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference.

The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute, and supply will lead to harnessing economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into the agriculture sector. It will help drive up investment in cold storages and modernization of food supply chain.

Safeguarding interest of consumers

The Government, while liberalizing the regulatory environment, has also ensured that the interests of consumers are safeguarded. It has been provided in the Amendment, that in situations such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity, such agricultural foodstuff can be regulated. However, the installed capacity of a value chain participant and the export demand of an exporter will remain exempted from such stock limit imposition so as to ensure that investments in agriculture are not discouraged.

The amendment announced will help both farmers and consumers while bringing in price stability. It will also prevent the wastage of agri-produce that happens due to a lack of storage facilities.

Barrier-free trade in agriculture produce

Cabinet approved ‘The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020’. Farmers in India today suffer from various restrictions in marketing their produce. There are restrictions for farmers in selling agri-produce outside the notified APMC market yards. The farmers are also restricted to sell the produce only to registered licensees of the State Governments. Further, Barriers exist in free flow of agriculture produce between various States owing to the prevalence of various APMC legislations enacted by the State Governments.

The Ordinance will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy the freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce. It will also promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations. This is a historic-step in unlocking the vastly regulated agriculture markets in the country.

It will open more choices for the farmer, reduce marketing costs for the farmers and help them in getting better prices. It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices. The ordinance also proposes electronic trading in transaction platform for ensuring a seamless trade electronically.

The ordinance basically aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition. It will certainly pave the way for creating One India, One Agriculture Market, and will lay the foundation for ensuring golden harvests for our hard-working farmers. Farmers empowered to engage with processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters.

Cabinet approved ‘The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020’. Indian Agriculture is characterized by fragmentation due to smallholding sizes and has certain weaknesses such as weather dependence, production uncertainties, and market unpredictability. This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input & output management.

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The ordinance will empower farmers for engaging with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters etc., on a level playing field without any fear of exploitation. It will transfer the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the sponsor and also enable the farmer to access modern technology and better inputs. It will reduce the cost of marketing and improve the income of farmers.

This Ordinance will act as a catalyst to attract private sector investment for building supply chains for the supply of Indian farm produce to global markets. Farmers will get access to technology and advice for high-value agriculture and get a ready market for such products. Farmers will engage in direct marketing thereby eliminating intermediaries resulting in full realization of price. Farmers have been provided adequate protection and effective dispute resolution mechanism has been provided for with clear timelines for redressal.

A series of steps were announced as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan to provide a boost to those engaged in agriculture and allied activities. These include the provision of concessional credit through Kisan Credit Cards, financing facility for agri-infra projects, Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana, and other measures to strengthen fisheries, vaccination against Foot & Mouth Disease and Brucellosis, Herbal Cultivation promotion, boost to beekeeping, Operation Green etc.

PM KISAN, over 9.25 crore farmer families have benefited and an amount of Rs. 18,517 crore has been disbursed so far during the lockdown period. Under PM Fasal Bima Yojana, total claims amounting to Rs 6003.6 crore have been paid during the lockdown period. These steps are only the latest in a series of measures taken by the government, which shows its continuous commitment to championing the cause of the welfare of the hardworking farmers of India.