Cabinet approves 6,000-cr mega agro-processing scheme

Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal
The Cabinet on Wednesday approved a Rs 6,000 crore mega agro-processing scheme to streamline the ongoing initiatives by the government in the food processing sector.

It also decided to restore the subsidy for states to ensure sale of 1 kg of sugar at a cheaper rate to the poorest of the poor, under the public distribution system (PDS).

Targeted at being completed by 2019-20, t he SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters), to be administered by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries will subsume a host of other schemes under the ministry.

These include the Mega Food Parks and Integrated Cold Chain schemes along with the those dealing with Value Addition, Infrastructure building, Food Safety and Quality Assurance, among others.

It is expected to leverage investment of Rs 31,400 crore and ensure the handling of 334 lakh million tonnes agro-produce valuing Rs 1,04,125 crore, a press release said.

It is also expected to benefit 20 lakh farmers and generate 5,30,500 direct and indirect employment in the country by the year 2019-20.

Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has said earlier that lack of cold chain infrastructure led to estimated post-harvest losses of Rs. 92,000 crore annually.

The government has so far sanctioned 42 mega food parks and 234 cold chain projects with 139 lakh tonnes of preserving and processing capacity of agro-produce worth Rs 35,000 crore.

It has also set up a Special Fund of Rs. 2000 crore under NABARD to make available affordable credit at concessional rate of interest to designated food parks and agro processing units in the designated food parks.

During 2015-16, the food processing sector constituted as much as 9.1 per cent of national GVA in manufacturing and 8.6 per cent agriculture sectors respectively.

On the other hand, while the government had discontinued the sugar subsidy from March 2017, the cabinet approved a proposal to bring back the subsidy of Rs 18.50 per kg to state governments for selling 1 kg of sugar to the poorest families via ration shops.

The food ministry as well as some states had been keen on its continuance for at least families covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).

The subsidy burden on the Centre will be around Rs 550 crore for supplying about 3 lakh tonnes of the sweetener.

In the 2017 Budget, the government withdrew the sugar subsidy and earmarked only Rs 200 crore to clear past claims. For the last fiscal year, Rs 4,500 crore was allocated for the scheme that covered Below Poverty Line families too.

Under the scheme, states were buying sugar from the open market at wholesale rates and selling at a subsidised rate of Rs 13.50 per kg through the PDS.

Other Cabinet decisions:

* MoU with Bangladesh on third line of credit worth $ $ 4.5 billion for implementation of developmental projects

* Approval of Vijayawada Airport as International Airport

* Approval of Foreign Investment proposal by Mauritus based Twin Star Technologies for downstream investments in Indian companies

* MoU with Malaysia on setting up of urea manufacturing plant

* MoU with Japan on Railway Safety

* MoU with Spain on cooperation in the sphere of Civil Aviation

* MoU between Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and Defence Services Command and Staff College, Mirpur, Dhaka for Cooperation in Military Education

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