To give a boost to the agriculture sector, the high powered committee of chief ministers on the transformation of Indian agriculture has recommended that export development body APEDA should be made the nodal agency for all agri-related export promotions. The committee which conducted its second meeting on Friday at state guesthouse Sahyadri here discussed a wide range of issues including production, marketing, exports, and also suggested amendments to the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) saying the regulation will be enforced only in “extreme” cases.
The Chief Ministers of Karnataka, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are members of the committee for agriculture reforms. “We are exporting our agri-products but its is still very little. On the other hand, various countries, who have their embassies (consulates) here in Mumbai, have appointed agri-experts to gather market intelligence. We also need to create such a dynamic system for gathering market intelligence and get the right prices for exports,” Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said during a media briefing.
Currently, all policy decisions related to export-imports are taken by the ministry of commerce, while those related to agriculture are taken by the agriculture ministry. “As far as agriculture is concerned, if both the ministries come together then corrective measures can be taken. We felt APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority), an autonomous body under the commerce department, should be appointed as a nodal agency to better integrate between the two ministries, which will gather market intelligence and enable export facilitation,” he said.
Talking about the amendments suggested in the ECA, Fadnavis said that the committee has made some recommendations which basically would ensure that the Act is not invoked at the “will”. ECA was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which, if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing, would affect the normal life of people. This includes foodstuffs, drugs, fuels (petroleum products).
“We discussed the ECA and we came to a consensus that the Act cannot be repealed completely. Instead, amendments have been suggested that will ensure the invocation of ECA in case of “emergency” or “extreme conditions” only,” he said.
Fadnavis further said the NITI Aayog has suggested invocation of ECA only when the prices of agri-products increase by more than 50 per cent. The committee also discussed certification for “organic” products as well as genetically modified (GM) foods. “We also want to reduce dependence on imports of edible oil as well as fuel. So we discussed how we can integrate technology in agriculture,” Fadnavis said, adding that the committee will also discuss GM products.
He further said that in the next 15 days, all the Principal Secretaries of states’ agriculture departments along with NITI Aayog officials will meet to prepare a draft report on the same. The draft will then come to the committee and after incorporating the suggestions, the final report will be prepared in one-and-half months. It will be then submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Fadnavis added.