Agriculture & Rural Development Is Our Top Priority: Nirmala Sitharaman

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India’s top priority is to put the farmers’ concerns and rural development on a larger landscape, said Union Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman.

Speaking at the inauguration of the 6th World Congress on Rural and Agriculture Finance jointly organised by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Asia – Pacific Rural Agricultural and Credit Association (APRACA), the Finance Minister said that the Government is looking at acknowledging huge dependence on rural life and agriculture and further emphasised on the immediate need for taking up water management and water-related stress points.

She also enumerated benefits of soil health cards provided to farmers. While talking about energy security, the Finance Minister said that there is a need for the farmers contributing in solar energy generation, participation in wind energy, installing solar panels in his farms, etc. and also to become an Urjadaata from Annadata.

The Finance Minister also directed NABARD to take up immediate and necessary steps to extend support to the farmers in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh; so that the next crop of saffron, peaches, walnuts and other agriculture produce in the state is procured at the right time.

“I have requested Chairman of NABARD to visit J&K, so that NABARD can support the farmers there,” Smt. Sitharaman said. She also stressed the need to promote solar energy in the Ladakh region.

The Finance Minister said that the Government was focusing on the priorities of fishermen in the coastal and inland water areas.

She encouraged NABARD to focus on marketing of nutrients in the coastal areas. She said NABARD can work with the FPOs and SHGs in these areas to help increase nutritional input of the area, which could be well-received in the wellness industry.

Debasish Panda, Additional Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer Welfare emphasised on the need for financial inclusion for inclusive and sustainable development.

He maintained that JAM Trinity will be further leveraged to drive financial inclusion. Digtial on-boarding opportunities such as analytics, artificial Intelligence, mobility and overall Fin-tech solutions will have a huge impact in the area of financial inclusion.

In his welcome address, Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD said, “India provides $200 billion agriculture credit every year to small and marginal farmers. This will be enhanced once the formation 10,000 FPOs, as announced in this year’s Budget, will be functional.

There will be a huge traction when the farmers will anchor the value chain, which in turn, will augment the value chain funding. These inclusive measures aided by technology interventions would bolster financial inclusion and rural financing efforts.

Bhanwala also announced that NABARD’s largest SHG-Bank Linkage Programme benefiting millions of rural women will soon move to a digital platform. This will revolutionise the lending to women SHGs, he added.

The representatives of banks and financial institutions from over 40 countries such as China, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. have gathered in New Delhi to deliberate on the subject of Rural and Agriculture Finance: Critical Input to Achieve Inclusive and Sustainable Development.

APRACA, representing 81 member institutions from 21 countries, is a regional association that promotes cooperation and facilitates mutual exchange of information and expertise in the field of rural finance.

Over the years it has developed a repository of knowledge in managing and serving rural financial institutions, financial inclusion and to help avert financial risks and improve efficiency.

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