Coronavirus lockdown | Third tranche of economic package to focus on agriculture sector, says Sitharaman

The amendment, besides deregulating production and sale of food products, will provide for no stock limit to be imposed on any produce.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said the third tranche of economic package will deal with giving relief to agriculture and allied industries.

Also read: Coronavirus | Nirmala Sitharaman announces major stimulus package for MSMEs

Speaking to media, she said the package would focus on infrastructure and building capacities in the agriculture and allied activities.

She said in the last two months several measures have been taken to support farmers, including minimum support price (MSP) purchases of ₹73,300 crore during the two months of lockdown.

Also, ₹18,700 crore in cash dole out under the PM Kisan Fund transfers have been done and ₹ 6,400 crore of payment in crop insurance have been made.

Ms. Sitharaman said during the lockdown period, 560 lakh litre per day of milk was procured by cooperatives against daily sale of 360 lakh litres per day.

Total 111 crore litres extra procured ensuring payment of ₹4,100 crore, she said adding a new scheme to provide interest subvention of 2 per cent per annum to dairy cooperative has been implemented.

Also read: Coronavirus package | Migrant workers to get free foodgrains

The interest subvention will unlock ₹5,000 crore additional liquidity, benefitting 2 crore farmers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week announced a cumulative package of ₹20 lakh crore (nearly 10 per cent of GDP) to provide relief to various segments of the economy battered by coronavirus lockdown.

This included ₹1.7 lakh crore package comprising free foodgrain and cash to poor for three months announced in March, and ₹5.6 lakh crore stimulus provided through various monetary policy measures by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

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Of the remaining, the government has made two tranches of announcements with a cumulative package of ₹9.1 lakh crore, comprising largely of credit lines to smaller firms, concessional credit to farmers and support to shadow banking and electricity distributors.

Most of the first two tranches of the package are off-budget and the government cash outgo is limited to just Rs 16,500 crore on free foodgrain and affordable housing to migrant workers as well as limited tax relief and marginal dole to some companies on employee retrial benefits.

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India had — beginning March 25 — imposed a three-week-long nationwide lockdown, the most far-reaching measure undertaken by any government to curb the spread of the pandemic.

The lockdown, which brought most of the economic activity to a standstill as factories and businesses shut while rendering thousands temporarily unemployed, has since been extended twice through May 17, with some relaxations to allow the resumption of economic activity.

According to estimates, the lockdown may have led to 12.2 crore people losing jobs in April and consumer demand evaporating

FM announces setting up of ₹1 lakh cr agri infra fund

Ms. Sitharaman announced setting up of a ₹1 lakh crore agri infrastructure fund for farm-gate infrastructure.

This fund will be used for setting up cold chains and post-harvest management infrastructure, she said while announcing the third tranche of COVID-19 relief package.

She also announced a ₹10,000 crore scheme for formalisation of micro food enterprises (MFE).

The scheme will be launched to help 2 lakh MFEs by adopting cluster-based approach such as mango in Uttar Pradesh, kesar in Jammu & Kashmir, bamboo shoots in North-East, chilli in Andhra Pradesh, tapioca in Tamil Nadu.

This fund would help in reaching untapped export markets in view of improved health consciousness.

Govt to amend Essential Commodities Act to deregulate cereals, edible oil, pulses

The government will amend the six-and-a-half-decade old Essential Commodities Act to deregulate food items, including cereals, edible oil, oilseeds, pulses, onion and potato, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Friday.

The amendment, besides deregulating production and sale of food products, will provide for no stock limit to be imposed on any produce.

A stock limit will be imposed only under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with a surge in prices.

Also, no stock limit shall apply to processors or value chain participants, she said announcing the third tranche of economic relief package to deal with COVID-19 disruptions.

Also, agriculture marketing reforms will be done to provide marketing choices to farmers.

She also announced new funds for fisheries, dairy development, herbal plantation and livestock vaccination.

She said ₹15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund will be set up to support investment in dairy processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure.

To ensure 100 per cent vaccination of all livestock against foot and mouth disease (FMD) ₹13,343 crore will be provided, she said.

As much as ₹10,000 crore will be provided for fishermen through Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).

For promoting herbal cultivation, ₹4,000 crore National Medicinal Plants Fund will be started to help 10 lakh hectares to be covered under herbal cultivation.

Also, Operation Greens will be extended from tomato, onion and potato to all fruit and vegetables by providing 50 per cent subsidy on transportation and storage of these commodities, she said.

For beekeepers, a ₹500-crore scheme was announced for infrastructure development and post-harvest facilities.

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