New Delhi, Nov 12 (IANS) Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday asked the farmers to produce more oilseeds to reduce their imports and urged agricultural refinance agency NABARD to ensure fair price for Jammu & Kashmir farmers on their apples, walnuts, saffron and peaches as well as their availability across the country.
Oilseeds are the weakest link in the country’s food production system as India imports most of its edible oils from Indonesia and Malaysia.
The import of palm oil has significantly jumped in recent months. “We are telling farmers which crops will give them a better price in areas. Please produce oilseeds because they have a great demand in India and edible oil consumption is also a matter of concern as we still import a lot of palm oil,” she said at the Sixth World Congress on Rural and Agriculture Finance.
Sitharaman asked NABARD chairman H S Bhanwala to visit Jammu & Kashmir and ensure that farmers there get fair value for premium crops such as apples, saffron, peaches and walnuts grown in the Valley and that the farm produce from the region reaches all parts of the country.
“I have requested NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) chairman (Harsh Kumar Bhanwala) to visit Jammu & 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 Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance.
Farm produce from the union territory of J&K reaching different parts of India is in line with the government’s policy to integrate the region with the rest of the country.
She said the government recently used NAFED to procure apples from J&K so that there is no single farmer left with his unsold apples.
The minister reiterated the Centre’s plan to set up 10,000 farmer producer organisations over the next five years to help small and marginal farmers sell produce at better prices and get lower rates for inputs.
“We are looking at India that acknowledges more-than-proportionate dependence on rural life. We are not looking at farmers just as ‘annadata’ (food provider) but as ‘urjadata’ (energy provider).
Sitharaman also addressed farmers’ issues such as water stress to cultivate crops and said the country needs to take up water management to quickly resolve the problem of water shortage.
She urged the authorities to dismantle agricultural produce marketing committee (APMC) systems and switch to National Agriculture Market, or e-NAM, an electronically operated trading platform, to enable farmers to sell their produce across the country and get fair value.