Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday stressed the need for a post-harvest revolution in agriculture, and credited farmers for ensuring record crop production despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With the ever-increasing agricultural production, there is a need of post-harvest revolution and value addition,” Modi said in a message read out at the foundation day of Nabard.
“We are striving relentlessly to intensify our speed and scale to achieve this. We have been taking comprehensive steps to get a complete solution, from irrigation to sowing, harvesting and earnings that are technology enabled,” he said.
Speaking at the same function, chief economic advisor Krishnamurthy V Subramanian said in view of the surplus production, the government has already amended the Essential Commodities Act so that there is no harassment of those who store agriculture commodities. The EC Act was one of the three contentious farm laws enacted by the Centre last year, but the Supreme Court has suspended implementation of these legislations since January amid farmers’ protest.
“There is a big difference between storage and hoarding, while the EC Act equated both as one and the same. The relevance of such a law is quite low when the country has a surplus,” Subramanian said.
Citing the Economic Survey presented last year, he also said the EC Act has not had much effect on controlling prices. Storage is an important aspect to ensure stability in prices all through the year when harvests of many of the crops come as per seasonality, but demand is round-the-year, he said.
It is pertinent to mention that the Centre recently put stockholding limits on traders, retailers, importers and millers of pulses using the EC Act. Experts said the stock holding limit could not have been imposed as the prices did not rise 50%, a pre-condition in the amended EC Act stayed by the apex court.
Subramanian also said Indian agriculture is poised for significant growth following the reforms carried out during the past year, particularly the three farm laws, which will help bring investment and boost growth.
As per official data, the Indian economy contracted by 7.3%, the sharpest in record history, in FY21. But the agriculture and allied sector remained one of the brightest spots, with 3.6% growth in gross value added (GVA) in real terms even on a relatively unfavourable base (the farm sector GVA grew 4.3% in FY20).
Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand in May had said that higher agriculture commodities prices and an expected normal monsoon would have a strong positive effect on agriculture growth, better than FY21.
Meanwhile, Modi said the government’s focus is to encourage youth and promote start-ups associated with agriculture sector. “We are giving the impetus to create a scientific ecosystem, speed up development according to the wishes and expectations of the villages and transform the agricultural sector of the economy through holistic approach,” he said.
Nabard chairman GR Chintala said the development financial institution has come a long way in the last four decades as its balance sheet size has grown from Rs 4,500 crore in the first year to Rs 6.57 lakh crore in FY21.
Outlining the challenges for the next decade, Chintala said more than 12 crore small and marginal farmers will be at the core of all interventions by Nabard as it is time to provide income security to these growers.
Other areas where Nabard will focus include creating green banking products that encourage adoption of climate smart agriculture by farmers, promotion of integrated farming to ensure farmers get regular income all through the year and on water use efficiency.