Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Tuesday assured the Centre that with improved connectivity, the state government will leave no stone unturned to achieve ‘atmanirbharta’ in the agriculture sector.

Attending a virtual conference of the Union Agriculture ministry chaired by Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, the CM said the Centre’s Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) will be “a game-changer for the agriculture sector” in the country. He assured the state will immensely benefit from the flagship programme.

“Agriculture as a viable sector is still in a nascent stage in the state mostly due to geographical factors. However, in recent years, connectivity has opened up scopes for farmers and is turning agriculture into a viable economic activity,” Khandu added.

The CM has requested the ministry to handhold the state in establishing cold-chain facilities across Arunachal Pradesh under the AIF. He said due to the state’s vast geographical area, cultivable pockets are far and wide and that calls for a robust cold-chain network to transport and preserve agriculture, as well as horticulture, produces.

Welcoming the Centre’s push for oil palm cultivation in a mission mode, the Chief Minister informed that as per a survey conducted by a central team in 2019, Arunachal Pradesh possesses at least 1.33 lakh hectares of land feasible for commercial cultivation of oil palm.

“We assure everybody that this surveyed land does not fall under forest land category but is basically unused wasteland,” he said.

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Khandu further said that as per records, only about 5,000 hectares has been used for oil palm cultivation, most of which are abandoned at the moment. He said with the renewed intention and planning of the central government this can be revived for doubling the income of farmers by ensuring an assured market.

“We are in touch with some of the erstwhile contractors (investors) to establish their oil palm factories. We are hopeful that with the incentives being provided now by the government, they will agree to do so,” he observed.

The CM said directives have already been issued to the department concerned to work in this regard.

Chairing the conference, Union minister Tomar said the government is focusing on five key areas to bring transformative change in the sector under the AIF.

The key areas are – Infrastructure and Logistics that has a facility of Rs 1 lakh crore set up to support farmers, FPOs, start-ups, state agencies, APMCs, etc; Agriculture Produce Export that includes identification of export clusters, certification, and primary processing for export quality produce and cooperation between central and state agencies; Self-sufficiency Pulses and Edible Oil that includes mission mode approach for increasing production and productivity of pulses and oilseeds and Oil Palm Mission; Digital Access that targets linking of farmers database to state land record system, accurate and digital recording of crops and agristack for smart and precision agriculture; and Direct Income Support and Credit Availability for direct cash benefit under PM-KISAN and saturation drive for Kisan Credit Cards.

Also present at the conference were state Agriculture Minister Tage Taki and his Advisor Gabriel D Wangsu. The conference was also addressed by the Union Minister of Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal and chief ministers of 11 states.

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