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Farmers’ concerns and rural development is a top priority: Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister
New Delhi | November 2019
FM asks NABARD to focus on J&K and Ladakh for optimum farm produce and solar energy utilisation
New Delhi, November 12, 2019: Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Finance Minister reiterated the Government’s resolve to put the farmers’ concerns and rural development on a larger landscape while speaking at the inauguration of the 6th World Congress on Rural and Agriculture Finance jointly organised by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Asia - Pacific Rural Agricultural and Credit Association (APRACA) in New Delhi today. 
 
Smt Sitharaman maintained that the Government is looking at acknowledging a more than proportionate dependence on rural life and agriculture and further emphasized on the immediate need for taking up water management and water-related stress points. She also emphasized on the issue of soil health cards to farmers. She appealed that there is a need for the farmers contributing in solar energy generation, participation in wind energy, installing solar panels in his farms, etc. and also to become an Urjadaata from Annadata.
 
The Finance Minister also directed NABARD to take up immediate and necessary steps to extend support to the farmers in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh; so that the next crop of saffron, peaches, walnuts and other agriculture produce in the state is procured at the right time. “I have requested Chairman of NABARD to visit J&K, so that NABARD can support the farmers there,” said Smt Sitharaman. She also stressed the need to promote solar energy in the Ladakh region.  
 
The Finance Minister also maintained that the Governemnt was focusing on the priorities of fishermen in the coastal and inland water areas. She said, “NABARD can focus on marketing of nutrients in the coastal areas. It can work with the FPOs and SHGs in these areas to help increase nutritional input of the area, which could be well-received in the wellness industry.  
 
Mr Debasish Panda, IAS, Additional Secetary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer Welfare emphasized on the need for financial inclusion for inclusive and sustainable development. He maintained that JAM Trinity will be further leveraged to drive financial inclusion. Digtial on-boarding opportunities such as analytics, artifical Intelligence, mobility and overall fintech solutions will have a huge impact in the area of financial inclusion.
 
In his welcome address, Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD said, “India provides USD 200 billion agriculture credit every year to small and marginal farmers. This will be enhanced once the formation 10,000 FPOs, as announced in this year’s Budget, will be functional. There will be a huge traction when the farmers will anchor the value chain, which in turn, will augment the value chain funding. These inclusive measures aided by technology interventions would bolster financial inclusion and rural financing efforts.” 
 
Dr Bhanwala also announced that NABARD’s largest SHG-Bank Linkage Programme benefiting millions of rural women will soon move to a digital platform. “This will revolutionise the lending to women SHGs,” he added. 
The representatives of banks and financial institutions from over 40 countries such as China, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, etc. have gathered in New Delhi to deliberate on the subject of Rural and Agriculture Finance: Critical Input to Achieve Inclusive and Sustainable Development.   and Educational and Research institutions from across Asia-Pacific.
 
APRACA, representing 81 member institutions from 21 countries, is a regional association that promotes cooperation and facilitates mutual exchange of information and expertise in the field of rural finance. Over the years it has developed a repository of knowledge in managing and serving rural financial institutions, financial inclusion and to help avert financial risks and improve efficiency.
 
Mr Senarath Bandara, Chief Executive Officer, Bank of Ceylon and Chairman of APRACA offered opening remarks. Shri. Prasun Kumar Das, Secretary General, APRACA offered a vote of thanks.