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Nirmala Sitharaman (PTI)
Nirmala Sitharaman (PTI)

FM Nirmala Sitharaman signals further support to farm sector

'When PM repeats that he wants to double the income of people engaged in these activities, it has a very strong case. We owe it to them to improve their lives and income. In the post pandemic era, agriculture has to be seen as our strength which we have to absolutely give support to,' Sitharaman said

As the government is contemplating a second dose of fiscal stimulus to the ailing economy, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday said the farm sector has proved to be a strength of the Indian economy during the pandemic and needs to be further supported in the post-pandemic era.

“When PM repeats that he wants to double the income of the people engaged in these activities, it has a very strong case. We owe it to them to improve their lives and income. In the post pandemic era, agriculture has to be seen as our strength which we have to absolutely give support to," Sitharaman said while virtually addressing an event organized by a Bangalore based non-government organization Disha Bharat.

While manufacturing and services activities dipped significantly during the coronavirus induced pandemic, agriculture activities have remained more or less unaffected, with the government eyeing record food grain production this year. Last month, Sitharaman had said agriculture sector is driving the revival of Indian economy. “Now the estimate for kharif crop has also come. We can clearly see agriculture sector is driving the revival. Activities related to rural economy—whether it is tractor sales, agriculture tools, logistics dealing with food sector, all are up and above," she said addressing an USIBC event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday launched a 1 trillion agriculture infrastructure fund to give a leg up to post-harvest management and marketing of agricultural produce, in turn helping improve farm-gate prices. The scheme is expected to provide better warehousing and cold storage facilities for farmers apart from creating new jobs as food processing and post-harvest facilities are set up in rural areas. The scheme will enable startups to scale up their operations and India to build a global presence in organic and fortified food, Modi said.

Finance minister said India is the top producer of milk, pulses, jute and second largest in producing rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables, fruits and cotton. “We are also in high league in producing livestock, poultry, fisheries and plantation based crops," she added.

While nearly 50% of India’s workforce is directly engaged in agriculture and related activities, it contributes only 17.5% to the country’s GDP.

Sitharaman said if India is to be the food basket of the world, it cannot ignore the wellbeing and livelihood of its farmers. “Our farmers have worked against all odds and kept India in the highest league. So India’s future we have to understand cannot ignore the well being of people engaged in these activities," she added.

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