NEW DELHI :
The Centre guarantees fair value for premium crops, such as apples, saffron, peaches and walnuts, grown in Jammu and Kashmir, besides ensuring that the produce reaches all parts of the country, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Tuesday.
“I have requested Nabard (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) chairman (Harsh Kumar Bhanwala) to visit Jammu and Kashmir with me before the crop season starts. We are also looking at Ladakh as a huge source of solar energy," the minister said at the 6th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance.
The government’s efforts to woo the people of the youngest Union territories of J&K and Ladakh is part of its plans to integrate the region more closely with the rest of India. On 5 August, President Ram Nath Kovind had abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to J&K, segregating the region into two Union territories, one with a legislature, and the other without.
Sitharaman said the Centre was in talks with states to reject the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and, instead, switch to the National Agriculture Market, or e-NAM, model to enable farmers sell their produce across the country, and get fair and equal value. e-NAM is an electronically operated trading platform.
“It (APMCs) served its purpose at one point in time. There’s no doubt. But today, there are very many difficulties associated with the APMC, which at the state level, has not been efficient in helping farmers find better price points for their produce."
“The government is, therefore, pushing the adoption of e-NAM in a big way and several states have agreed to take it up at their levels…Many problems associated with farmers are because of them not getting fair value for what they grow," she added.
e-NAM was launched three years ago to integrate APMCs across India on a common online platform, so that trading in agricultural commodities can be done through auction, based on the quality of the produce.
Echoing the minister’s view, Nabard chairman Harsh Bhanwala said e-Nam is being driven by the Centre, and now states need to join in to make it a success. Bhanwala said there was a need to make the functioning of APMCs more transparent. “Effective collateral management, warehousing capacities is absent in many APMCs. One of the weakest points in APMCs is the product’s quality assessment," Bhanwala told Mint.
The minister said the Centre plans to set up 10,000 farmer organizations over the next five years to help small and marginal farmers sell their produce at better prices and buy inputs at lower rates.
“We are looking at an India, which acknowledges more-than-proportionate dependence on rural life. We are not looking at farmers just as ‘annadata’ (food provider) but as ‘urjadata’ (energy provider). We want farmers to contribute in generating solar power and renewable energy as well," she added.
Sitharaman also addressed farmers’ issues, such as water shortage to cultivate crops, and advised them to grow oilseeds that attract huge demand. “There is a diversion to encourage production of oilseeds rather than producing other crops because there is a temptation to depend on crops that get support price."