Coronavirus pandemic has lot of dark sides and mankind may have many more challenges in the days to come. Nevertheless, this also presents a great opportunity for us to rethink and start looking for the hidden potential by evaluating different dimensions of the respective sectors. The coronavirus pandemic has affected businesses with varying degree of intensity across different geographies, commodities, and stages of the value chain. Industry is now reworking their current models to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will certainly require serious efforts on lines of innovation and technology upgradation.
In India, the contribution of the agriculture sector is vital for the economy. Farm sector in India employs about 800 million people directly and indirectly. To address the COVID-19 impact on agriculture, Government of India has taken number of proactive measures to safeguard the interest of the stakeholders particularly the farming community. The announcements made by Finance Minister in third tranche of economic package and subsequent Cabinet approval, will have significant impact on agriculture economy. Amending the Essential Commodity Act, allowing farmers to sell their produce outside the APMC mandi yard, and having barrier free inter-state trade will be big game changing reforms in days to come. Provision of financing facility of INR one lakh crore for building farm gate infrastructure is a welcome move.
It is suggested that this fund should be pursued in PPP mode so that maximum stakeholders can leverage the opportunity. I am glad that majority of the recommendations which have been part of FICCI’s comprehensive suggestions on agriculture have been accepted by the government.
Announcements by the government for agriculture and allied sectors in wake of COVID-19 calamity are significant and will have multiplier effect on agriculture economy in days to come. However, some of the areas that still need to be reviewed include – adoption of technology at various levels of the agriculture value chain and creation of Agri Council in line with GST council for an integrated approach between centre, state and all concerned ministries. Also, it’s time to rethink the expenditure in the form of subsidies and allocate them as enabler for use (rather than subsidy for capex) and transmit as direct benefit transfer to farmers.
The author is Chairman, FICCI National Agriculture Committee & Group President, TAFE Ltd.