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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the concerns of the agriculture sector are high among the priorities of the present government as she focused at a pre-budget meeting here on measures to boost rural economic and social infrastructure and ways to eradicate unemployment and poverty, an official said.
A Finance Ministry statement said that at the Minister's first pre-Budget consultations with stakeholders in agriculture and rural development, Sitharaman said the ministry will also hold broadbased consultations with stakeholders from the fisheries sector to bring about a "blue revolution" by optimally using the country's maritime resources.
She stressed on proper representation of different regions of the country so that their specific needs relating to these sectors can also be considered, the statement said.
She stressed on the need to encourage start-ups which can remove the segmentation in the agriculture market and help in providing remunerative markets for agriculture products for supplying to the final consumers at reasonable prices.
The main areas of discussion during the meeting included agriculture research and extension services, rural development, non-farm sector, horticulture, food processing, animal husbandry, fisheries and start-ups in sector, among others.
During the meeting, representatives of the agriculture and rural development sectors submitted various suggestions to boost investment in agricultural sector and enhance market access to farmers, the nstatement said.
Suggestions were given to improve food processing and introduction of technology-intensive processes in the non-farm sector. It was also suggested that solar energy may be treated as a third crop to augment income of farmers, it added.
According to the statement, other suggestions included filling up of vacancies in agricultural universities, increasing investment in micro irrigation and solar pumps, financial incentives to the states for implementing agricultural market reforms, promotion of handlooms and handicrafts in the Northeastern states for employment generation and enhancing rural income and promotion of non-IT related rural start-ups.
Along with the Finance Minister, the meeting was also attended by, among others, Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur, NITI Aayog Member Ramesh Chandra, Chief Economic Advisor K.V. Subramanian and senior officials of the Ministries of Finance, Agriculture and Rural Development, besides representatives of the agriculture, rural development and industry sectors, the statement added.