Relief for farm entrepreneurs as fund set up to market produce

Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced a 1 trillion fund for entrepreneurs to set up facilities to procure, store and market agriculture produce, a move aimed at improving the value realized by farmers. The creation of the fund is one of the 11 measures Sitharaman announced to support and reform the farm sector.

The 1 trillion fund is meant for aggregators, cooperative societies and farm entrepreneurs for strengthening farm gate infrastructure, Sitharaman said while announcing the third tranche of the 20 trillion stimulus package to revive India’s economy.

The money is meant to finance the setting up of cold chains and storage infrastructure and establishing post-harvest management infrastructure, the minister said.

The minister also said it will benefit private agriculture entrepreneurs and startups that aim to procure from farmers and reach global markets but do not have the infrastructure. “This fund will immediately address the issue. It will be created at the earliest,” she said.

The government has purchased farm produce of 74,300 crore at minimum support prices and has transferred 18,700 crore as income support to farmers during the lockdown, the minister said.

“The underlying principle is to empower the people, give them resources so that they can produce for themselves and have livelihoods for themselves rather than going for entitlements. Wherever entitlements are due, yes, they will be given. But largely our focus is to make sure India stands up on its own, generates its own jobs. You will see a lot more of empowering people through creating skills and logistics,” Sitharaman said.

Analysts broadly welcomed the development.

“Having a separate fund of 1 trillion for creating farm gate infrastructure is indeed welcome as it is likely to reduce wastage levels and also generate rural employment,” said Arindam Guha, partner, leader, government and public sector, Deloitte India.

“Analysis of past Annual Survey of Industries data suggests that every 1 crore of investment in plant and machinery in unorganized sector agri-enterprises supports an employment of around 100-150 people,” Guha said.

Elizabeth Roche contributed to this story.

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