Thursday, April 19, 2012


If all the good things spoken by the Agriculture Minister Sharad Power are true India is the most efficient producer of horticultural products though it is true that, in terms of volume of production the country has a global standing. If all the statistics and proclamations coming out of the government quarters are true India will become the top producer soon outpacing every other country in the world. The glitch is in the reliability of the government figures which are often not verifiable. If India is producing as much fruits and vegetables as being claimed why should there be all round price escalation seen in almost all types of this category of protective foods being experienced by the common man? Who can afford to pay a princely price of Rs 150 per kg for Apple or Rs 70 per kg of Orange or Rs 60 per kg of grapes or Rs 40 per kg of Banana (so called poor man's fruit)? The variation in price of vegetables is so wide that Tomatoes can command a price of Rs 40 per kg one day and then crash to Rs 10 per kg within a few days! The Minister seems to be living in a make believe world assuring himself that there in nothing wrong with the horticultural industry in the country! Listen to his grand standing on this front in a recent meeting which as usual patted the efforts of the government without bothering to understand the difficulties of people in getting access to cheaper fruits and vegetables any where in the country.

Shri Sharad Pawar, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Processing Industries today complimented farmers and all those associated with the development of horticulture in the country for achieving an all time record production of over 240 million tonne of horticulture produce. Addressing the National Conference on Horticulture Production and Productivity here today Shri Pawar said that increase in production has resulted in higher per capita availability of fruits and vegetables, besides substantial increase in its exports, which has helped the country to earn foreign exchange to the tune of Rs. 14,000 crore. Shri Pawar announced the formal launch of 2012 as the "Year of Horticulture" to bring horticulture development in the country to centre stage. The Minister said, " While we have achieved considerable success on the production front, the supply chain issues still need to be addressed. The Vegetable Initiative for Urban Clusters is an important step in this direction. This was launched during the current year with an outlay of Rs. 300 crore under the aegis of RKVY. To start with, the Scheme is being implemented with focus on sustained supply of good quality vegetables to urban centres having a population of one million and above. The scheme lays special emphasis on promoting protected cultivation of vegetables in green houses and shade-net houses for enhancing its productivity. Besides, formation of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO) and linkage with financial institutions through Aggregators is an innovative feature of the Scheme, Over 62,000 farmers have already been mobilized into over 3000 Farmer Interest Groups (FIG) and 50 Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs) under this scheme." 

While announcing a series of nice sounding "Schemes" with attractive acronyms the Minister seems to have forgotten about the previous "avatars" of such "novel" programs which did not make any impact at all in easing the availability problem a wee bit. No one knows what the much heralded National Horticulture Board (NHB) is doing or for that matter the fate of the "Horticulture Mission", announced by the same Minister some time back. Does this not amount to pulling the wool over the eyes of the citizens? National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) which was asked to do an "Amul" on fruits and vegetables in nineteen eighties has not been given a free hand and its "cooperatization" strategy for production and marketing seems to be withering away with no dramatic or visible impact in any states in the country. Is it not laughable when one hears about the philosophy of the government when the now abandoned FDI policy in retail sector was touted as a savior for the Indian farmers! Claiming that India was able to achieve an export of Rs 14000 crore is no credit for any one considering the difficulties faced by the citizens in accessing fruits and vegetables at affordable cost. Government must seriously consider measures to increase productivity and creation of a stable distribution and marketing system to ensure uniform prices through out the year whether in cooperation with private players or through organizations like NDDB with proven track record.   


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