Govt envisions 'Atmanirbhar Agriculture' through investments, ecosystem upgrade

07:27 PM Jun 27, 2020 | PTI |
New Delhi: Projecting a vision of 'Atmanirbhar Agriculture,' the government on Saturday said it can be achieved by transforming farmers into entrepreneurs, providing investment opportunities and making India the food basket for the world. India has a strong advantage in the agriculture sector and the government recently announced three new ordinances for developing a strong agri ecosystem, it said. The competence of Indian farmers and efforts of the industry in the COVID-19 crisis situation is evident by the fact that the area covered by Kharif sowing this year has reached 316 lakh hectares so far, as compared to 154 lakh hectares in the year-ago period, it added. "Developing a strong agri ecosystem by providing access to better marketing avenues for farmers' produce and freeing up the sector from restrictive laws is a key focus area for the government," an official statement quoted Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal as saying. The Agri ecosystem is also being strengthened by several enabling schemes. These include the Agri Infra Fund of Rs 1 lakh crore for post-harvest infrastructure, a scheme for 10,000 farmer producer organisations (FPOs), special drive to include 25 million farmers who still do not have the Kisan Credit Cards (KCC), and developing a digital agri-stack which will be a key enabler for online marketplaces and smart agriculture, he said at a two-day webinar that concluded on June 26. Agarwal projected an aspirational vision for 'Atmanirbhar (self-reliant) Agriculture' by transforming farmers into entrepreneurs with higher incomes and better quality of life, making agriculture the "go to" investment opportunity, and making India the food basket for the world. He said the agriculture sector accounts for about 15 per cent of the GDP and provides a livelihood for more than 50 per cent of the population. The country is the fourth-largest producer of agrochemicals, has the largest livestock population of around 31 per cent of the world's livestock and has the largest land area under irrigation. However, food processing in India is less than 10 per cent and the target is to increase it to 25 per cent. There is an increasing demand for value-added health-fortified and processed food. The global organic market is growing at 12 per cent per annum, he added. Comparing livestock rearing to an ATM for farmers, Animal Husbandry Secretary Atul Chaturvedi said no product is as fast-moving as milk for a retailer. However, the per capita consumption of milk in India is still only 394 gms per day as compared to 500-700 gms per day in the US and Europe, he said. The aim is to raise market demand in the dairy sector to 290 million tonnes, from 158 million tonnes presently, over the next five years. The share of the organised sector in milk processing is targeted to be raised to 50 per cent from present 30-35 per cent, he added. Highlighting measures taken to boost the animal husbandry sector, Chaturvedi said the government is giving one billion doses of vaccine in a year for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) which is a bigger drive than in any other country to ensure that cattle are disease-free. Besides, the government has undertaken animal tagging of five species through Pashu-Aadhar. About 57 crore animals will have unique IDs over the next 1.5 years on digital platforms for mapping their parentage, breed and productivity. Other measures include improving cattle breeds through artificial insemination, IVF and surrogacy; and aiming to unleash rural entrepreneurs by growing better feed and fodder for animals. Several incentives have been announced like Dairy Infra Development Fund in 2018 and Animal Husbandry Infra Development Fund this month, he added. Describing fisheries as a sunrise sector, Fisheries Secretary Rajeev Ranjan said, "The USPs of the fisheries sector are its high growth rate, vast and diverse resources, low investment with high returns, low gestation period, strong technical backup, huge consumer base and export opportunities." The government's key targets in this sector in the next five years are to increase fish production from 137.58 lakh tonnes in 2018-19 to 220 lakh tonnes in 2024-25, average aquaculture productivity to be raised from 3.3 tonnes per hectare to 5 tonnes per hectare in 2024-25, fisheries exports to Rs 1 lakh crore by 2024-25 and Rs 2 lakh crore by 2028, and employment generation from about 15 lakhs in 2018-19 to about 55 lakhs in 2024-25. He also elaborated on the recent policy reforms and government initiatives in the fisheries sector like Fisheries Infrastructure Development Fund and KCC facility to fishermen.

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