New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said the government is committed to procure agri crops at Minimum Support Price (MSP) as it is an important part of the country's food security.
Efforts are being made to improve mandi infrastructure so that MSP buying continues in a scientific way, he said, adding that recent agri reforms reflect India's commitment to global food security.
'MSP and government procurement are an important part of the country's food security. It is important that it continues to function with better facilities and in a scientific way. We are committed towards this,' Modi said after releasing a commemorative coin of Rs 75 denomination on the 75th anniversary of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Noting that wholesale mandis or Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) have their own identity and strength, Modi said these mandis were in place for years in the country and their infrastructure is being improved.
He said about Rs 2,500 crore investment was made in the last six years to boost mandi infrastructure. Even IT infrastructure is being built to connect mandis with electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM).
'The recent three big agri reforms are major steps towards expanding agriculture and increasing farmers' income,' he said, adding that the reforms in the Essential Commodities (EC) Act will make mandis more competitive, enhance farmers' income and address the problem of food wastage.
Further, Modi said that earlier farmers did not have access to mandis and were forced to sell their produce to middlemen.
'Now, the market will reach the doors of small farmers and ensure higher prices. They (farmers) will be free from middlemen and consumers will also benefit,' he said.
The recent law on contract farming will also benefit farmers by protecting them from price volatility as they can enter into a contract to sell their produce at a pre-determined price with private entities prior to sowing. Farmers' interests are protected if there is any breach of contract, he added.
Lauding farmers' initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic that has helped the country fight malnutrition, Modi said farmers have broken the previous record in foodgrains production this time. Similarly, the government has broken past records in procurement of wheat, rice and pulses.
'Farmers, agri scientists, anganwadis' asha workers have played an important role in our efforts to address malnutrition. Even during the corona crisis, we are fighting malnutrition due to their efforts,' he said.
In the last seven to eight months, the government distributed free ration worth Rs 1.5 lakh crore to 80 crore people although there is less discussion about it at the global level.
'Free ration given in India is higher than the population of Europe and the US,' Modi said.
He also mentioned that the government has implemented ration card portability scheme 'One Nation, One Ration Card' in 28 states and union territories. Prior to 2014, the food law was rolled out in only 11 states.
To address malnutrition, the government is promoting crops with high nutrition. Millets like ragi, jowar, bajra are being promoted.
Modi, who released 17 new bio-fortified varieties of eight crops on the occasion of World Food day on Friday, said these varieties are being made available to farmers across the country and will help boost production of high-nutrition crops.
Prior to 2014, only one variety used to reach farmers but now 70 varieties are reaching farmers, he said.
According to him the acceptance of India's proposal by FAO to declare 2023 as International Year of Millets will not only promote high-nutrition food and its availability but also benefit rain-fed small farmers in the country.
The UN agency FAO has seen India's fight against malnutrition closely. Earlier, efforts were made in silos but now multidimensional approach is being adopted to address malnutrition issue in India, he added.
Modi also recalled the contribution of Indian civil service officer Binay Ranjan Sen who started the World Food Programme when he was Director General of FAO during 1956-1967 and that programme has won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Women and Child Development Smriti Irani, Ministers of State for Agriculture and senior FAO officials were present in the virtual event. PTI LUX MJH RAM DRR DRR DRR