Agri policy needs to focus on small & marginal farmers: President

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New Delhi, Jan 29 (PTI) President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday said the need of the hour in Indian agriculture sector is to focus on 10 crore small and marginal farmers who comprise more than 80 per cent of the total peasants in the country. Addressing a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, the President said the government accords priority to these small and marginal farmers too while highlighting measures taken to support these farmers. Stating that the goal of self-reliant India will be further strengthened by self-reliance in agriculture, Kovind said: 'With this idea, the government has, over the last six years, attempted to bring positive transformation in the 'Seed to Market' system so that Indian agriculture is modernised and also sees growth.' He said widespread improvements are being brought in various sources of irrigation. Following the mantra of 'Per Drop More Crop', the government is not only completing the pending irrigation projects, but is also delivering modern irrigation techniques to farmers.

In 2013-14, only 42 lakh hectares of land was under micro-irrigation whereas today, more than 56 lakh hectares of land has been brought under micro-irrigation, he added. To provide expenditure support to small and marginal farmers, the President said almost Rs 1,13,000 crore have been directly transferred to their bank accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana has also benefited small farmers of this country. Under this scheme in the last five years, about Rs 90,000 crore has been paid as compensation to farmers against a premium of Rs 17,000 crore, he said. Further, the President said the mission for setting up 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) by bringing together small farmers of the country is also an impactful step. This has ensured access to better technology, additional credit, post-harvesting processing and marketing facilities and insurance coverage during natural calamities to farmers, on the same footing as rich farmers, he said, and added this has also provided an alternative to farmers for securing remunerative prices for their produce and generating greater savings. In order to enhance the profitability of agriculture, the President said the government is also placing emphasis on creating modern agricultural infrastructure. The Agriculture Infrastructure Fund for Rs 1,00,000 crore has also been started for this purpose. The Kisan Rail, started throughout the country, is helping chart a new course by increasing the access of Indian farmers to new markets. This rail is like a mobile cold storage. So far, over 100 Kisan Rails have been started which have enabled the farmers to transport over 38,000 tonnes of food grains and fruits and vegetables from one region to the other, he said. To increase the income of farmers, the President said the government has also focused on development of livestock as a source of income. As a result, the livestock of the country has been increasing at an annual rate of 8.2 per cent over the last five years. The government has also set up the Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund for Rs 15,000 crore for creating basic infrastructure and encouraging investment in the dairy sector. The government has also extended the facility of Kisan Credit Cards to animal husbandry and fishery sectors. That apart, efforts have been undertaken to increase the income of fishermen through the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana. In this sector, an investment of about Rs 20,000 crore has been planned over the next five years, he said. In order to increase the income of the farmers, the President said the government has also launched a campaign to turn the ‘Annadata’ into ‘Urjadata’. About 20 lakh solar pumps are being provided to farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kusum Yojana. The government is also encouraging production of ethanol from sugarcane, maize and paddy.

Due to the affirmative policies of the government, over the past six years, the annual ethanol production has increased from 38 crore litres to 190 crore litres. The production is expected to reach 320 crore litres this year. Ethanol is emerging as a major source for augmenting the income of farmers, he observed. The President also mentioned that the government decided to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Committee report and increased the minimum support price to at least 1.5 times the cost of production. Today the government is not only purchasing record quantities at the MSP, but is also increasing the number of procurement centres, he added. On foodgrain production, the President said foodgrain availability in the country is at a record high of 296 million tonne in 2019-20 as against 234 million tonnes in 2008-09. During the same period, the production of fruits and vegetables has also increased from 215 million tonnes to 320 million tonnes, he added. PTI LUX MR