Sitharaman announces Rs 1 lakh crore fund to develop agri infrastructure

New Delhi [India], May 15 (ANI): Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced Rs one lakh crore financial assistance to fund agriculture infrastructure projects at farm-gate and aggregation points.

The agri-infrastructure fund will be used for setting up cold-chain and post-harvest management infrastructure, she said.

"The facility will also assist primary agriculture cooperative societies, farmers producer organisations, agriculture entrepreneurs and start-ups among other agri-focused institutions. It will improve storage capacities, increase farmers' income and boost exports out of India."

Sitharaman made the announcement at a press conference here as part of the third tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic stimulus package announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his May 12 address to help India become self-reliant in the wake of novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Finance Minister also announced a Rs 10,000 crore scheme for the formalisation of micro-food enterprises (MFEs). A cluster-based approach will be taken for unorganised MEFs to get technical upgradation to attain FSSAI food standards.

All schemes will be launched to help two lakh MFEs attain their goals. The existing MFEs, farmer producer organisations, self-help groups and cooperatives will stand to benefit and reach untapped export markets.

Sitharaman said that critical gaps in the existing fisheries value chain need to be filled. The government will launch Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana for integrated, sustainable, inclusive development of marine fisheries.

A sum of Rs 11,000 crore will be allocated for activities in marine, inland fisheries and aquaculture besides Rs 9,000 crore for infrastructure development. "This will lead to additional fish production of 70 lakh tonnes over the next five years."

For 100 per cent vaccination of all animals across the country, a national animal disease control programme for the foot-and-mouth disease will be launched with an outlay of Rs 13,343 crore for estimated 53 crore cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pig population.

Since January this year, a total of 1.5 crore cows and buffalos have been tagged and vaccinated to establish their traceability.

Sitharaman said that an animal husbandry development fund worth Rs 15,000 crore will be set up to support private investment in dairy processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure. Incentives to be given to private sector players for establishing plants for the export of niche products.

The National Medicinal Plant Board has supported 2.25 lakh hectare area under cultivation of medicinal plants. Nearly one lakh hectares will be covered under herbal cultivation in the next two years with an outlay of Rs 4,000 crore. This will generate Rs 5,000 crore of income for farmers

The Finance Minister also announced a Rs 500 crore bee-keeping initiative to increase yield and quality of crops through pollination. This will increase the income of nearly two lakh bee-keepers. (ANI)