Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MCCI) organized a Zoom Webinar with Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of India on ‘Prospects & Challenges for Agriculture in a COVID Environment’ today

Debasish Chattopadhyay ; Kolkata:
Vivek Gupta, President, MCCI in his welcome address said that India is a global agricultural powerhouse. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses, and spices and it has the largest area under wheat, rice and cotton. The Prime Minister (PM) has said that farm income will be doubled by 2022. Due to various government programmes, there is less recession in rural areas as compared to urban areas.

Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. 54.6% of the total workforce is engaged in agricultural and allied sector activites and accounts for 17.1% of the country’s Gross Value Added (GVA) for the year 2017-18 (at current prices). The share of GVA for agriculture sector has been on a falling trend.

Nearly three-quarters of India’s families depend on rural incomes. Second, the majority of India’s poor are found in rural areas. And third, India’s food security depends on producing cereal crops, as well as increasing its production of fruits, vegetables and milk to meet the demands of a growing population with rising incomes.

How can India become an exporter of agricultural products? Can we have a subsidy, which will encourage manufacture of tools and implements in India?
Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of India said that PM will announce disbursement of Rs. 17,000 crores to 8.5 crore farmers tomorrow directly to the bank accounts of farmers.

The PM has stressed that village, farmer and the poor need to be addressed. When the nation experienced a lockdown due to COVID, the condition of farmers remained stable and they were less affected. After the lockdown, there were fears that harvesting would not take place. However, harvesting produced a bumper crop this year. The lockdown took place in both city and villages, but unlike cities, work continued in villages. The village system is so strong that it was less affected by Mughal rule and British rule.

The village population was not benefiting from Government programmes for agriculture. So, the PM closed the leakages and opened Jan Dhan bank accounts. Subsequently, the Government transferred a large amount as deposits to these accounts. The cash transfers to farmers have increased their purchasing power. Farmers are both producers and consumers and their purchasing power should be doubled by 2022.

The GoI is stressing Soil Health Cards for farmers. The PM Kisan Yojana and PM Fasal Bima Yojana are important programmes. For PM Fasal Bima Yojana, Rs. 13,000 crore premium was given by Government in last 3 years. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana seeks to encourage organic farming and shift farmers from using chemical fertilizer to using organic fertilizer. Farmers need to grow organic crops for which they will get a better price. The GoI is creating a network where implements / machines can be obtained by farmers. Custom Hiring Centres (CHC) have been created for farmers to hire farm equipment at lower price. India has many cold storages but potato is still rotting as the cold storages are not located where they are needed. Farmers no longer need to go to mandis. Instead, they can trade from anywhere. Buyers are required to show their PAN cards.
Contract farming will benefit farmers as they will get a guaranteed minimum price. GoI has announced a programme to set up 10,000 more FPOs. 300 farmers can get.

together and form a FPO which will enable them to gain from higher volumes.
The Nation will benefit if the income of farmers rises. How can the required infrastructure for farmers be created and Chambers of Commerce can have a role in this?
With regard to Rural Development and Panchayats, the villages of India will move forward with 2.5 lakh Panchayats. A notable womens’ organization has low NPA of less than 2%. Self Help Groups are coming up and they have produced sanitisers and masks during the pandemic.
In response to a query, the Hon’ble Minister said that he would discuss if a MSME wants to work with farmers to make small machinery for small farmers. In this regard, it was noted that Chinese equipment is of poor quality.
Aakash Shah, Senior Vice President, MCCI offered a hearty Vote of Thanks.