New Delhi: Union Minister for Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Narendra Singh Tomar held a video conference here today with senior officers to review steps for facilitating farming activities during lockdown.
He said the Government, following directions of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has taken several initiatives to ensure that farmers and workers engaged in Agriculture and allied sectors can continue to operate without difficulty. Tomar called for strict compliance of the exemptions granted to Agriculture and allied sectors and directed setting up of control rooms for regular monitoring of the various exemptions and relaxations.
Following the 21-day lockdown to check the spread of COVID-19, the farmers faced difficulties initially. Tomar, under the guidance of the Prime Minister, held consultations with senior officers of the Union Home and Finance Ministries and a slew of relief measures for farmers were immediately implemented. Accompanied by the Ministers of State for Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Shri Parshottam Rupala and Shri Kailash Choudhary, Shri Tomar chaired a video conference today with senior officers to review the implementation of the Central Government’s concerned guidelines and directions.
Tomar underlined that while implementing the exemptions and relaxations granted to the Agriculture and allied sectors, officials must ensure that norms related to social distancing are strictly followed. The Minister said farmers should not face difficulty in harvesting crops. He stressed that all efforts should be made that farmers can sell their produce near their farmlands, besides ensuring that the farm produce is transported without hindrance within the state and inter-state. In this regard, the exemption has been granted to the movement of trucks carrying farm produce. The Minister said the sowing of crops will begin soon and there should be no shortage of seeds and fertilizers. Exports of foodgrains and Agricultural products should also not be affected, he added.
Government has exempted from the lockdown the operations of agencies engaged in procurement of agriculture products, including MSP operations; ‘Mandis’ operated by the Agriculture Produce Market Committee or as notified by the State Government; Farming operations by farmers and farmworkers in the field; ‘Custom Hiring Centres (CHC)’ related to farm machinery; Manufacturing and packaging units of fertilisers, pesticides and seed; & Intra and Inter-State movement of harvesting and sowing related machines like combined harvester and other agriculture/horticulture implements. Agriculture and horticulture-related suppliers have also been included in the exempt categories list. Besides, shops of Agricultural machinery, its spare parts (including its supply chain) & repairs and shops for truck repairs on highways, preferably at fuel pumps, can remain open in order to facilitate the transportation of farm produce. Similarly, tea industry, including plantations can function with a maximum of 50% workers.
New features have been added to the National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) Platform to strengthen agriculture marketing by farmers which will reduce their need to physically come to wholesale mandis for selling their harvested produce, at a time when there is critical need to decongest mandis to effectively fight against COVID-19. The Government has also extended instalment repayments to 31st May, 2020 on short term crop loans upto Rs.3 lakh, that were/are due between 1st March, 2020 and 31st May, 2020. Farmers can repay such loans upto the extended period at 4% p.a. interest without attracting any penalty.