Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that the time had come for the private sector to increase its participation in agriculture. He added that there was a need to bring about a food-processing revolution in the country.

Modi made the remark while addressing a webinar on the implementation of Budget provisions for the agricultural sector. “Mostly, the public sector has contributed to research and development in agriculture,” he said. “Now it is time to increase the participation of the private sector. We now have to provide options to farmers so that they don’t limit themselves to growing wheat and rice.”

The prime minister said India needed a post-harvest and food processing revolution, along with value addition. He added that it would have been better if this was done decades ago. Modi said that the focus must be on helping the smallest farmers get access to affordable modern technology.

The prime minister added that special attention must be given to the processing of food grains, fruits and vegetables. “For this, it is necessary that farmers get modern storage facilities near their villages,” he added. “Access to the processing unit from the farm will have to be improved.”

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Modi also spoke about the Budget provisions for agriculture. “The government increased agriculture credit target to Rs 16.5 lakh crore,” he was quoted as saying by ANI. “Animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries sectors have been given priority. Rural infrastructure fund has been raised to Rs 40,000 crore. The micro-irrigation fund has been doubled.”

The prime minister added that contract farming was done earlier too, in one form or the other. “Our effort should be that contract farming should not just become a business,” he said. “Rather, we should also fulfill our responsibility towards that land.”

Modi’s remarks came amid farmers’ protest against the agricultural laws. Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at Delhi’s border points for over three months now, seeking the withdrawal of the laws passed.

The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate the agricultural sector. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies. The laws are meant to overhaul antiquated procurement procedures and open up the market, the government has claimed.