Policy

Pawar rules out setting up vegetable cooperatives

| | Updated on: Feb 22, 2011
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The Government today ruled out establishing vegetable cooperatives, on the lines of milk cooperatives, for perishable items like vegetables and fruits with the added difficulty of managing such operations to help shore up the prices in the retail markets.

Responding to a flurry of supplementaries on the main question raised by RJD member Dr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and BJP member Mr Kachhaida Naranbhai during the question hour in the Lok Sabha, the Union Minister of Agriculture, Mr Sharad Pawar, said the government has a procurement policy for wheat, rice and some coarse cereals only to insulate the farmers from fluctuations in farm produce price through minimum support price and make available grains to the poor through the public distribution system (PDS). But this cannot be extended to vegetables and fruits as the government cannot buy and manage perishable produce like vegetables.

Productivity boost

However, Mr Pawar hastened to add that being a ministry for production, the government has been implementing two missions — Horticulture Mission for North East and Himalayan States and the National Horticulture Mission — to augment the production and productivity of fruits and vegetables.

He said the government had spent Rs 2,000 crore on the creation of infrastructure facilities such as nurseries, tissue culture units, disease forecast units, plant health clinic, water tanks, tube wells, greenhouses and shade nets, and mechanisation. These steps, he said, helped in production and supply of quality planting material and also in improving the production and productivity of horticulture crops.

Mr Pawar said the implementation of the mission has helped in bringing in an additional area of 21.75 lakh ha of identified horticulture crops, while 3.4 lakh ha of senile and unproductive orchards had been rejuvenated to raise productivity. As a result, he added, the production of horticulture crops has increased from 170.8 million tonnes (mmt) in 2004-05 to 223 mmt in 2009-10

When Dr Prasad said that due to the recent high prices of vegetables and fruits the common man was being looted and the producers did not get the remunerative returns, Mr Pawar said that the government did its best to bring down the prices of onion. He said the wholesale prices of fruits and vegetables — which include onion, tomato, apple and garlic — have come down from the level of 205.8 on January 8 to the level of 173.3 on February 5, registering a decline of 15.8 per cent.

‘Limitations'

But Dr Prasad said that onion prices were today ruling at Rs 2 a kg in rural areas, Rs 10 in small cities and Rs 40 in metro areas, which also hit the growers as they could not realise the right price for their produces. He said the fall of onion price from a level of Rs 3,800 a quintal in the third week of December to as low as Rs 200 a quintal in February — in just 45 days — was also harmful to the growers' interests as the beneficiaries were not the farmers.

A Congress member, Mr Samba Siva Rao, suggested a sort of price stabilisation mechanism to insulate the growers from the wild swings in produce prices. But Mr Pawar said this is not feasible because of “certain limitations” on the government to purchase and manage perishable items on a large scale.

When a Trinamool Congress MP, Dr Kakoli Gosh Dastidar, sought to know what de-hoarding operations the Government and the States were doing to bring down prices of vegetables from skyrocketing, Mr Pawar said recently the Prime Minister convened a meeting of Chief Ministers to impress upon them de-hoarding drives and the powers vested with the States to proceed on this.

> geeyes@thehindu.co.in

Published on November 10, 2017

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