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Nirmala Sitharaman Announces Reforms To Help Farmers Earn Better Prices

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The government will amend Essential Commodities Act to enable better price for farmers, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today, in her third set of announcements on the mega economic stimulus to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Agriculture food stuff including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato will be deregulated, Ms Sitharaman said.

The government will also bring in law to implement agriculture marketing reforms to provide marketing choices to farmers. The law will provide adequate choices to farmers to sell produce at an attractive price, said the Finance Minister.

Farmers are currently bound to sell their produce only to licensees in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), said the minister, a restriction that did not exist for any other industrial produce.

This, she said, resulted in stalling the free flow of agricultural produce and fragmentation of markets and supply chain. Also, less price for the farmers.

A central law will help farmers by giving them adequate choice to sell their produce at an attractive price, conduct "barrier-free interstate trade" and use e-trading of farm produce, the minister said.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a cumulative package of Rs 20 lakh crore, nearly 10 per cent of India's GDP, to help various sections of the economy battered by coronavirus lockdown.

This included a Rs 1.7 lakh crore package comprising free foodgrain and cash to poor for three months announced in March, and Rs 5.6 lakh crore stimulus provided through various monetary policy measures by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The government has so far made two tranches of announcements with a cumulative package of Rs 9.1 lakh crore, comprising largely of credit lines to smaller firms, concessional credit to farmers and support to shadow banking and electricity distributors.

The measures are meant to shore up an economy that has taken a severe hit after the country went into complete lockdown on March 24 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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