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Finance Minister holds pre-budget session with J&K industry group. Key agri sector issues raised.

Ziraat Times Team Report

New Delhi, June 21 — As part of the ongoing Pre-Budget consultations, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met with representatives from the J&K Cold Storages Association (JKPICCA) to gather industry suggestions for the Union Budget of 2024-25. This meeting is a segment of the broader engagement with Farmer Associations and Agriculture Economists across the country.

The session aimed to provide a platform for stakeholders to present their observations and policy suggestions, ensuring the upcoming budget reflects the needs and insights of those directly involved in the agriculture sector, sources told Ziraat Times.

Industrialist Maajid Wafai, representing JKPICCA, raised several key issues at the meeting, including:

1. Stopping Malpractice of Trade: Addressing illegal imports of apples through Wagah and Nepal borders under the guise of Afghan apples. He highlighted the issue of under-invoicing and the selling of imported apples in markets meant exclusively for Indian farmers’ produce.

2. Enhancing Assessing Value: Proposing an increase in the assessing value of apples from ₹50 to ₹100 per kilogram.

3. Proper Testing of Iranian Apples: Emphasizing the biosecurity threat posed by quarantine pests found in Iranian apples, referencing a report from SKAUST Kashmir that supports the concern. He cited a previous ban on Kiwi imports due to similar pest issues.

4. Inclusion in Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF): Advocating for the inclusion of high-density apple plantations in the Agri Infrastructure Fund.

5. Exemption in Import Duty: Requesting an exemption in import duty for the latest farm machinery.

6. Subsidy for Solar Power Generation: Proposing a 50% subsidy for solar power generation, which could add 50 MW to J&K’s deficient power circuit.

7. Reevaluation of the TOP to TOTAL Scheme: Criticizing the TOP to TOTAL scheme as ineffective, with no farmers benefiting from it. The scheme was intended to support farmers storing fruits and vegetables to prevent post-production loss and reduce post-harvest losses.

8. Proper Logistics Policy: Calling for a robust logistics policy to make apples produced in J&K, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand viable for South Indian markets.

This initiative is part of the government’s efforts to incorporate diverse perspectives in the budgeting process, particularly from sectors critical to the country’s economy and food security.


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