Will ensure J&K farmers get fair price for apples, saffron: Nirmala Sitharaman

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the government will ensure that farmers in Jammu and Kashmir 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 6th World Congress on Rural and Agricultural Finance.

Farm produce from the union territory of J&K reaching different parts of India echoes the government’s intention to integrate the region with the rest of the country after it scrapped Article 370, which gave special status to the Valley, in August 2019, turning J&K into a union territory with a legislature.

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 and.

“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). We want farmers to contribute to generating solar power as well,” the minister said.

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 and equal value.

“The government is pushing the adoption of e-NAMs in a big way… Many problems associated with farmers are because of them not getting fair value for what they grow,” the minister said.

The minister also advised farmers to grow oilseeds that attract huge demand.