Farm gate in focus-THE HINDU-18-05-2020
The Centre’s objective of using the COVID-19 crisis to usher in an Atmanirbhar Bharat saw Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman focus Friday’s tranche of announcements on farm sector reforms. Given that the lack of adequate cold-storage facilities continues to extract a high price on farmers and the agrarian economy by way of post-harvest losses, especially in perishables, the targeted outlay is a welcome step.
The decision to channel the funds to agricultural cooperatives, farmer producer organisations, rural entrepreneurs and start-ups is also encouraging as it lays the onus of creating the appropriate infrastructure or logistics solution largely on the principal beneficiaries, the farmers themselves. The package, though, may be more beneficial in the longer term than providing any immediate relief from the lockdown-exacerbated distress in the rural hinterland.
Crucially, the Minister also announced three reform proposals that are ostensibly aimed at enabling better price realisation for farmers by removing restrictions and facilitating enhanced marketing freedom. While one seeks to bypass the APMC regime through a central law that would allow farmers the freedom to sell across State borders, the other proposes a framework for farmers to enter into pre-sowing contracts that would purportedly help assure them of offtake volumes and prices.