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Finance Minister floats special fund for agricultural infrastructure

Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech on Monday announced the setting up of a special agricultural infrastructure fund to be made available for agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) for augmenting their infrastructure.

The Central Government would raise additional funds developing agriculture infrastructure by imposing a cess on petrol and diesel. However, Sitharaman clarified that this would not result in any increase in the prices for consumers as the government had reduced other duties on these fuels.

"Consequent to imposition of Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess on petrol and diesel, basic excise duty and Special Additional Excise Duty rates have been reduced on them so that overall consumer does not bear any additional burden," Sitharaman said while presenting the Union Budget 2021.

She also said that another 1,000 mandis will be integrated into the E-NAM or electronic market place so that farmers can get a better price for the their produce.

 Sitharaman said that Rs 75,100 crore has been allocated in the budget for the farmers of the country. The finance minister also announced an increase in agriculture credit target to Rs 16.5 lakh crore in financial year 2021-22.

She also said that procurement of produce by the government under the Minimum Support Price (MSP) will continue at a steady pace. Under this, 43.36 lakh wheat-growing farmers will be benefited from government procurement under the MSP as against 35.57 lakh previously.

The total amount paid to paddy farmers has also been increased to Rs 1.72 lakh crore in 2020-21. "Our government is committed to the welfare of farmers. The MSP (minimum support price) regime has undergone a sea change to assure price that is at least 1.5 times the cost of production across all commodities," Sitharaman said, adding that "the procurement has also continued to increase at a steady pace. This has resulted in an increase in payment to farmers substantially".

Besides five major fishing hubs would be developed in in Chennai, Kochi and Paradip to benefit fishermen in these coastal regions. A multipurpose seaweed park will also be established in Tamil Nadu, she added.