India Inc on Friday said the "big ticket" reforms unveiled by the Centre as part of the third tranche of the economic package promise to unshackle the Indian agriculture sector and address rural stress.
In the third tranche of the COVID-19 economic package, the government on Friday announced a slew of measures for agriculture sector, including a Rs 1.63 lakh crore outlay, and amending the stringent Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to remove cereals, edible oil, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato from its purview.
Also, a new law will be framed to give farmers the option to choose the market where they want to sell their produce by removing inter-state trade barriers and providing e-trading of agriculture produce.
The ECA empowers the government to regulate price as well as stocks of commodities.
Union Finance Minister Sitharaman also announced a Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund that will finance projects at farm-gate and aggregation point for efficient post-harvest management of crops.
"The spate of governance reforms announced by the government will finally unshackle Indian agriculture and liberate the Indian farmer who until now was largely tied to a few buyers in terms of selling the produce," Ficci President Sangita Reddy said.
She observed that the ECA had outlived its utility and by bringing a change in this the government has ensured that investments in the agri-value chain will get a boost.
"A combination of big-ticket reforms together with allocation of money for agricultural infrastructure and logistics is a welcome move to strengthen the sector that provides the highest share of employment in our country," CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee said.
He said the agricultural sector has been subjected to a host of restrictions which are no longer relevant. This has hindered the marketing and price realisation of agricultural products.
"In this context, the amendment of the ECA and the agricultural marketing reforms are indeed heartening. We hope that the states fall in line with these changes. What is also critical is that these changes are being supported by substantial allocation of funds including Rs 1 lakh crore for the development of agricultural and food processing infrastructure," Banerjee said.
Deregulation of essential farm produce like cereals and oilseeds from the ambit of the ECA, plan for central law to enable farmers to sell their produce in the most remunerative manner and a legal framework for assured price to the agri producers are path-breaking reforms, Assocham Secretary General Deepak Sood said.
PHD Chamber President D K Aggarwal said the focus on agriculture and allied activities will help in addressing rural stress, ensure food security, support demand and growth in manufacturing sector, create employment and attain socio-economic development of the country.
"The agriculture sector is the low-hanging fruit at this juncture as we have opportunity to boost more and more growth in agriculture with lot of efforts and technology supported by the relief measures announced by the FM to provide much needed push to farm sector..., said Aggarwal.