How will the government initiatives help farmers?
These reforms and the stimulus package have been long awaited. The Rs 1 lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund will help in developing robust marketing infrastructure, which will take care of post-harvest management and aid farmers in better price realisation through Farmer Producers’ Organisations, private sector participation and cooperatives. Similarly, financial packages for micro food enterprises, bee-keeping and herbal cultivation will shore up farmers’ income and agricultural exports.
What is the agricultural growth rate you are estimating post-reforms?
Last year, the sector grew at 3.7% and this year, despite adverse circumstances, it will grow at around 3%. These initiatives will give a major fillip to the sector and I expect it to clock a growth rate of 4.5% over the next three years. Agriculture will be a major contributor to the GDP growth rate this year too.
How long will it take to implement these steps?
We are well prepared. We will implement these initiatives immediately.
There is rural distress and lack of funds in the rural economy. Will it affect the kharif season?
We have infused over ₹1 lakh crore into the rural economy. Farmers have got money directly in their pockets. They are ready for yet another record food production this year. Monsoon is also likely to be normal. So, I don’t see any farm distress. We have provided over ₹75,000 crore through procurement, ₹19,000 crore through PM Kisan scheme and ₹6,600 crore as claim settlement through Fasal Bima Yojana. Only horticulture farmers are facing distress and for that we have launched the market intervention scheme (MIS) to buy their produce.
Migrant labourers have moved back to their villages. How will you help them to find jobs?
Since most migrant labourers are back, the issue of shortage of farm labour will be resolved. We have asked Punjab and Haryana to promote mechanised farming, which requires less manual labour. For states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand, where more labourers will be available, we have asked them to register them for the rural job guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) so that they get jobs there. We have seen a surge of 40-50% in man-days under this scheme.