Prime Minister Narendra Modi today pointed to the "untapped potential" of the farm sector, while marking out the areas for improvement to push the country out of the post-Covid economic slump. He advised extending help to the private sector and increasing the Ease of Business in India as a key move to seek foreign investment.
"Even during COVID, India saw a rise in exports in the agriculture sector. We have a lot of untapped potential in this sector. Wastage of our products should be as less as possible and we must thus concentrate on storage and processing," he said while speaking at the sixth meeting of the government's think tank, Niti Aayog.
"Even today, despite being called an agricultural country, we bring 65,000-70,000 crores of edible oil from outside," the Prime Minister said. The country, he added, should stop this. "The money can go to our farmers' accounts. Our farmers are entitled to this money, but for this we have to make our plans that way," the Prime Minister added.
His comments came amid the huge ongoing protest against the Centre's new farm laws by farmers at the borders of Delhi. Earlier this week, the farmers -- who are now taking their protest across the country -- held a four-hour "rail roko" to drive their message.
While the government had called the laws major reforms in the sector that would increase the farmers' income by removing middlemen and allowing them to sell their produce directly to traders, the farmers said the laws would end in phasing out the support process guaranteed by the government and leave them at the mercy of big corporates. They have also accused the government of framing the laws to aid the private sector.
Underscoring the need to increase Centre-state cooperation, PM Modi today said said: "Policy framework and cooperation between Centre and state is also very important. Coastal states are a fine example. Exports from blue economy have unlimited opportunities. Why shouldn't our coastal states take extra initiatives for the same?"
Pointing out that India is a raw fish exporter in southeast Asia, he said, "Can we not export processed fish products at a large scale? The country, he said, "must connect all sources of investment to this sector".