Your suggestions have played a very important role in this year's budget. And you must have also noticed that we have tried our best to incorporate your suggestions and views. The aim of today’s dialogue is how to carry forward agricultural reforms and budget provisions rapidly, to ensure its efficient last mile delivery within a definite time frame and with the inclusion of everybody. The crux of today’s discussion should be that there should be an example of perfect public-private partnership and centre-state coordination.
There are experts from sectors like agriculture, dairy, fisheries in this webinar and also colleagues from public, private and cooperative sectors. Your views are going to benefit us today. The webinar also has representatives of banks that fund the country's rural economy.
All of you are important stake-holders of the self-reliant rural economy necessary for Atmanirbhar Bharat. I had elaborated in Parliament some time back as to how the government has taken several important decisions over the years, keeping in view the small farmers of the country. The number of these small farmers is close to 12 crore and their empowerment will help in relieving the Indian agriculture from many difficulties. Not only that, the small farmers will become the driving force of the rural economy.
Before I elaborate, I want to reiterate some of the budget highlights regarding agriculture. I know you all are familiar with these. The government has increased the agriculture credit target to 16.50 lakh crore rupees this time. Priority has been given to animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries sector. The Rural Infrastructure Fund has also been increased to Rs. 40,000 crore. The amount of Micro Irrigation Fund has also been doubled. The Operation Green scheme has now been widened to 22 perishable products. It has been decided to link 1,000 more Mandis of the country with e-NAM. All these decisions reflect the thinking, intention and the vision of the government. And all these decisions have emerged from the earlier discussions with all of you which we have pursued further. Amidst the ever-increasing agricultural production, India needs the post harvest revolution or the food processing revolution and value addition in the 21st century. It would have been very good for the country had it been done two-three decades ago. Now, we have to compensate for the time that has been lost and therefore we have to intensify our preparedness and speed in the days to come.
If we look at our dairy sector, it is strong today because it has expanded processing a lot in so many decades. Today, we have to focus the most on processing in every sector of agriculture, in every food grain, vegetables, fruit, fisheries, etc. In order to improve processing, the farmers need to get modern storage facilities near their villages. We need to improve the system of accessing the processing unit from the farm. The Farmer Producer Organisations should handhold the processing units. And we all know that the farmers of the country as well as the public-private-cooperative sector of the country will have to come forward in the right direction and with full strength for the food processing revolution.
Time demands that the farmers of the country get more and more options in the market for their produce. The country is witnessing the damages done due to limiting the farmers to just raw products, or just the produce. We have to expand the country's agriculture and processed food sector into the global market. We need to increase the number of agro-industries clusters near the villages so that the villagers can get farming related employment in the village itself. Organic and export clusters will also have a big role to play. We need to move in the direction so that the agro-based products of villages move to cities and other industrial products of cities reach villages. Lakhs of micro food processing units are still functioning in the country. It is very important and time also demands that they are expanded and strengthened. We need to tackle how the One District, One Product scheme can enable our products in the world market.
Not just farming, we have a huge scope of processing even in the fisheries sector. Although we are one of the world's largest fish producers and exporters, our presence in the processed fish in the international market is very limited. India's fish reaches the foreign market in processed form via East Asia. We have to change this situation.
Friends, along with the necessary reforms, the government has also planned a production linked incentive of about Rs. 11,000 crore, which the industry can avail. Ready to eat, ready to cook vegetables, sea food, mozzarella cheese, many such products are being encouraged. You know better than me how much the demand for such products has increased in the country and abroad after the COVID.
Under the Operation Greens scheme, 50% subsidy is being provided on transportation of all fruits and vegetables through Kisan Rail. Kisan Rail has also become a powerful medium of cold storage network in the country today. The Kisan Rail is succeeding in connecting small farmers and fishermen with large markets and high demand markets. In the last six months, about 275 Kisan Rails have been run and about one lakh metric tonnes of fruits and vegetables have been transported. Not only it is a very big medium for the small farmers, the consumers and the industry are also benefiting.
Friends, emphasis is being given to build clusters for processing of fruits and vegetables produced in the districts across the country. Similarly, under the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign, millions of small food and processing units are being supported under the Pradhan Mantri Micro Food Processing Enterprise Upgradation Scheme. Your participation is very important from the infrastructure required to the installation of units.
Along with food processing, we also have to focus on how the small farmers could get the benefit of modern technology. Small farmers cannot afford tractors, straw machines or other machines. Can an institutional, cheaper and effective alternative be provided to the farmers so that they can share tractors and other machines? When airlines can hire aircraft on an hourly basis, such arrangements can also be extended to the farmers in the country.
Truck aggregators were also used to some extent during the Corona period to transport the farmers’ produce to markets. And people liked it. We have to work on how it can be extended from farms to mandis or factories or to Kisan Rail. Another important aspect of farming is soil testing. In the past few years, crores of farmers have been given soil health cards by the central government. Now, we have to extend the facility of soil health cards to villages of the country. We have to develop a network of soil testing on the lines of blood testing labs. Private companies can participate in a large way. And once the soil testing network is developed and farmers get used to it, there will be greater awareness among the farmers regarding the health of their fields and there will be a drastic change in their decisions. The more the farmer of the country is aware of the health of the soil the better will be the production of his crop.
The public sector is mostly contributing to R&D in the agriculture sector. The time has come for the private sector to increase its participation. When it comes to R&D, I am talking about the entire scientific ecosystem associated with a crop, and not just to the seed. There should be a holistic approach, a complete cycle. We now have to give the farmers options in which they are not confined to growing only wheat and rice. There are many crops that we can try from organic food to salad-related vegetables. Similarly, I would suggest you tap the new market for millets as well. Land in India is very useful for coarse cereals. It consumes minimum water and gives better yield. The demand for millets was already very high in the world, and now after the corona, it has become very popular as an immunisation booster. It is also a great responsibility of the food industry colleagues to encourage farmers on this count.
Seaweed and bee wax is becoming popular in our country. And the farmers are also working towards the honey bee. It is also the need of the hour to tap the market of seaweed, honey bee and bee wax. There is a lot of potential in the country for seaweed farming, because we have a very large coastline. Seaweed will give a considerable means of income to our fishermen. While we are doing better in the honey trade, we also have to increase our participation in bee wax. The discussions today can help you see how you can have maximum contribution in this sphere.
With the increase in private sector participation, the farmer's confidence will also increase. Contract farming has been there in some form or the other for a long time in our country. Our effort should be to make contract farming not just a business, but also discharge our responsibility towards that land. We have to provide farmers with technology and seeds that are healthy for the farm and also have a higher amount of nutrition.
We have to make concerted efforts to get a complete solution from irrigation to sowing, harvesting, earnings and technology in the cultivation of the country. We have to encourage the youth and promote start-ups associated with the agriculture sector. We've seen how several start-ups transported fruits and vegetables to people's homes during Corona. And it is heartening that most of the start-ups have been started by the youth of the country. We have to encourage them. This is not possible without your active participation. Loans, seeds, manure and markets to the farmers are the primary needs of the farmer, which he needs in time.
Over the years, we have expanded the scope of Kisan credit cards to the small farmers, to the herders and the fishermen. We have given Kisan credit cards to more than 1.80 crore farmers in the last one year. The provision of credit has also been more than doubled as compared to 6-7 years ago. It is very important that this credit is available to farmers in time. Similarly, your role in funding rural infrastructure is also important. The implementation of Infra Fund worth Rs. 1 lakh crore is also encouraging. The move will encourage modernisation of the entire chain from purchase to storage. In this budget, it has also been decided to give the benefit of this fund to APMCs across the country. The 10,000 FPOs that are being formed in the country will help in developing a strong cooperative system.
Your suggestions are very important on how we can pursue these concerted efforts. You have experience and vision in this field. We have to bring about a change in the agriculture sector of the country through the approach, vision and administration of the government and your strength. Your suggestions and ideas for India's agriculture and rural economy during this dialogue will help the government a lot.
Discuss it with an open mind about your plans, how you and the government will work together and give your suggestions. Yes... you may have some apprehensions about the budget, but this is not the last budget. There will be many more budgets to come. You have given us the opportunity to serve and we will continue to do it. Today’s dialogue will focus on how to implement this budget quickly so as to benefit more and more people. Your open-minded discussion will provide a great strength to our farmers, agriculture sector, blue economy and the white revolution. Once again, I express my gratitude to you very much.