Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday announced a slew of incentives for the agriculture sector and allied activities. She said that the Centre will set up a Rs 1 lakh crore agri infrastructure fund to strengthen the farm-gate infrastructure for farmers,  in the third tranche of Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus package to fight the Coronavirus crisis.

Beginning her address, Sitharaman said that today’s announcements will focus on agriculture and allied activities, including fisheries and food processing and an 11-point plan for farmers’ welfare.

The government announced Rs 1 lakh crore for aggregators and startups in agriculture sector, including warehouse and cold chains. The benefit will also go to farmers’ cooperatives.

Sitharaman also announced Rs 10,000 crore for cluster-based manufacturing for nutritional products in which 2 lakh Micro finance Institutions,(MFIs) will benefit . Through this the state’s unique products can be promoted like Kashmir can have ‘Kesar’ and Bihar can have ‘Makhana’ clusters, mango in Uttar Pradesh, bamboo shoots in the North-East. Under the scheme, cluster-based approach would be taken up for products.

The scheme will help 2 lakh MFEs attain FSSAI gold standards, build brands and boost marketing.

Sitharaman said that the scheme is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call of ‘Vocal for Local’ with global outreach.

“India is the largest milk producer, largest jute and pulses producer, second largest in sugarcane, cotton, groundnut, fruits, vegetables and fisheries and third in cereals. Indian farmer has really endured and made sure that he would give us the highest yield,” said Sitharaman.

The Finance Minister said it goes to the credit of the Indian farmer who has always stood up to various challenges and has made India reach certain global benchmarks.

Sitharaman said that the fund will be created immediately as there is lack of adequate cold chain and post harvest management infrastructure in the vicinity of farm gate causes gaps in value chains, Sitharaman said that the fund will be created immediately.

As per the Centre, the decision will lead to improved health and safety standards, integration with retail markets, and improved incomes.

It is also likely to help in reaching untapped export markets in view of the improved health consciousness.

Centre  will also launch the Rs 20,000 crore Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana for development of marine and inland fisheries with a  likely target to employ 55 lakh people through this programme.

FM also said that the National Animal Disease Control Programme for Foot and Mouth Disease and Brucellosis launched with a total outlay of Rs 13,343 crore.

In her briefing Sitharaman said that Rs 4000 crore have been  allocated for promotion of herbal cultivation and 10,00,000 hectare will be covered in the next 2 years. She also said that the National Medicinal Plants Board will bring 800-hectare area by developing a corridor of medicinal plants along the banks of river Ganga.

Government will also  amend the Essential Commodities Act to enable better price realisation for farmers. Agriculture products including cereals, edible oils, oil seeds, pulses, onions, and potatoes are going to be de-regulated.

A facilitative legal framework will be created to enable farmers for engaging with processors, aggregators, large retailers,exporters in a fair and transparent manner

A central law will be formulated to provide adequate choices to the farmers to sell produce at an attractive price, barrier-free interstate trade and framework for e-trading of agricultural produce, she added.

“In today’s situation, if a challenge can be treated as an opportunity to improve the system and bring new technology for the benefit of farmers and people then why not to do it,”  said the Finance Minister.

On Wednesday, Sitharaman came out with 15 new and some enhanced measures to revive businesses, and support workers via fiscal incentives and regulatory easing under the mega stimulus package also known as the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ package.

Accordingly, the minister announced a slew of fiscal and regulatory measures for MSMEs, real estate, NBFCs, power distribution and general businesses and workers.

The Rs 20 Lakh Crore economic package comes as India is set to go under lockdown 4.0 after May 17. However, according to the Prime Minister, this shutdown will be “very different” from the previous ones.

While on  Thursday Sitharaman announced a slew of incentives for migrant workers, farmers, street vendors and small traders among others in the second tranche of Centre’s Rs 20 lakh crore fiscal stimulus package to fight the Coronavirus crisis.