India

PM points to the challenge of higher import bills on edible oils and fertilizers

Underlining the challenges posed by Russia’s war on Covid-19 and Ukraine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged people to “resolve” and reduce spending on imports and make the country self-reliant.

Addressing the ‘PM Kisan Samman Sammelan-2022’ held in the national capital, Modi released the 12th instalment of the cash assistance launched by the government ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He also found a scheme to brand all subsidized fertilizers under one brand – ‘Bharat’ – to eliminate product discrimination and confusion caused by multiple brands to farmers.

After inaugurating the program, Modi said, “Today there is another big challenge… We all need to work in mission mode by understanding why I am giving so much emphasis on self-reliance and the role of agriculture and farmers in this. The things we spend the most on imports Today are edible oil, fertilizers (and) crude oil. Every year we spend lakhs of crores of rupees on imports of these items.”

Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, MoS (Agriculture) Shobha Karandlaje, MoS (Farmers Welfare) Kailash Choudhary and MoS (Chemical and Fertilizers) Bhagwant Khuba were present at the event.

Much work is being done on biofuels and ethanol to reduce foreign dependence on crude oil and gas. The Prime Minister believes that cars should run on ethanol produced from agricultural products; Bio-CNG should be made from waste, and biogas should be made from cow dung – the work is going on in the country. The government has started ‘Mission Oil Palm’ for self-reliance on the edible oil front.

And if there is a problem abroad, “it has a full impact on us too”, he said.

Modi said: “Earlier, we had coronavirus, and we had to deal with the situation after facing difficulties and finding ways. Even before COVID-19 was er, we had another problem with the [Russia-Ukraine] war. And this is an area from where we used to import a lot of itemsโ€ฆ. The impact of war has been even more significant in such countries.

Concerning rising fertilizer prices, Modi said, “be it urea, DAP or other fertilizers, they are becoming costlier day by day in the world market.” He said that the country is facing an economic burden due to this.

Concerning the rising subsidy bill, Modi said, “Today we buy urea from abroad at Rs 75-80 per kg. But farmers of our country should not be burdened…we deliver [urea] to farmers at Rs 5 or 6 [per kg].”

He said the government would spend Rs 2.5 lakh crore on fertilizer subsidy bills for the farmers to get cheap fertilizer.

Modi said, “To reduce the expenditure on imports and make the country self-reliant, we all have to pledge to be free from import of food items.”

The prime minister said he had made a similar appeal in 2015 to increase the production of pulses, and farmers responded by increasing production by 70 per cent.

Earlier, Modi released the 12th instalment of the PM-Kisan scheme. According to a government statement, Rs 16,000 crore was transferred to the beneficiaries bank accounts. Under PM-Kisan, Rs 6,000 is provided annually in three instalments of Rs 2,000 for each eligible family of farmers. The statement said that so far, eligible farmer families have received more than Rs 2 lakh crore in benefits under PM-KISAN.

Modi also launched the ‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Fertilizer Project – One Nation, One Fertilizer’, which aims to market fertilizers in the country under the brand name ‘Bharat’.

He inaugurated 600 Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samridhi Kendras (PMKSKs) under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. Under this, the Center plans to develop over 3.25 lakh fertilizer shops across the country as PMKSKs, where farmers can buy fertilizers and seeds, apply soil tests, and learn helpful information on agricultural techniques. Data can be obtained, the government said.

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