New Delhi/Mumbai: A review of the Essential Commodities Act, and putting a system in place to forecast prices, and production, of key crops to help farmers take informed decisions were among the key issues discussed by the high-powered committee on structural reforms in farming.
The committee met for the first time on Thursday. “There is a need to review the necessity of the Essential Commodities Act for food products,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is chairing the committee, told reporters after the meeting.
The committee will also look at ways to relax the act only for emergency situations in the food sector, he added.
Under the Act, the government exercises greater control on commodities. Typically, the Centre takes action to regulate prices of essential commodities to protect consumers, as a result of which interests of farmers tend to get neglected.
The committee also decided to look at ways to increase investment and institutional credit in the farm sector. “To reform the agricultural sector, there is a need to give farmers better access to markets and capital,” Fadnavis said.
The committee will also look at enhancing the e-National Agricultural Market with an aim of getting more states on the electronic marketing platform. The project, launched in 2016, aims to integrate farm markets across the country through an electronic platform.
“The scheme (e-NAM) was initiated by the Centre to ensure better access to farmers. But many states are unable to use that platform properly. We need to address the issues faced by these states and develop a more dynamic system to implement the scheme,” Fadnavis said.
The committee will look at ways to boost agricultural growth. “Since 1991, the growth in the non-farm sector improved but in the agricultural sector it has been gradually declining,” Fadnavis said.
The panel will also look at ways for better use of technology in agriculture to help growth in the sector, he said, adding a new mechanism should be put in place to forecast prices, production and export prospects of key crops such as sugarcane.
The committee will also look at ways to develop a new mechanism to integrate the domestic market with the global market, he said.
Fadnavis also said the deficit in monsoon so far this year is a matter of concern for food production. During Jun 1-Jul 17, India recorded 268.8 mm rainfall, against the normal weighted average of 318.4 mm.
"It is a matter of concern, but we hope that it will improve. The IMD (India Meteorological Department) has forecast a normal monsoon this year," he said.
Apart from Fadnavis, the meeting was attended by the chief ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh and the Union Agriculture and Farmers; Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.The committee is likely to meet again on Aug 16 in Mumbai.