Start 'Operation Veggie' to ensure stability in prices: Agri experts to FM

Published On: 06, Dec 2017 | Source:

The government needs to start 'Operation Veggie' with focus on TOP -- tomato, onion and potato -- to ensure stability in prices of these essential kitchen items, say experts.

The proposal was mooted by agriculture experts during their pre-Budget interaction with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

The suggestion comes against the backdrop of surging and onion blowing a hole in the pocket of the common man.

In his opening remarks, Jaitley said there is a need to conserve water, incentivise and promote balanced use of to ensure higher agriculture productivity.

In order to achieve the goal of doubling farmers' income by 2022, there is a need for better storage and marketing facilities for the produce so that they get higher prices, he said in his first pre-Budget consultative committee meeting with the representatives of different agriculture groups here today.

It was also suggested to set up the 'Agricultural Inputs Regulatory Authority of India' in order to regulate quality standards and pricing of agricultural inputs like seeds, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, bio-fertilisers, bio-chemicals and the like to save farmers from financial exploitation and sub-standard inputs.

"Infrastructure development and cold storage chain facilities are especially needed for horticulture crops to save them from rotting and decaying and consequently preventing their price rise," a finance ministry statement said after the meeting.

During the meeting, many suggestions, including the need to reduce pressure on the land by creating off-farm jobs, were received.

To help deliver remunerative prices for the farmers, the 'Price Deficiency Payment Mechanism' must be implemented immediately for those crops where procurement cannot be ensured, the groups stated.

One of the suggestions was that the Centre should come out with an 'Agriculture Debt Relief Package' for the entire country that can be used with matching contributions from states.

The groups also pitched for doubling the number of farmers receiving loans of up to Rs 2 lakh at the interest rate of 1 per cent only, linking Aadhaar to such loan accounts to avoid duplication and laying greater emphasis on agro forestry for income generation.

To avoid pilferage, it was suggested that subsidies of food and should be offered through the DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) mechanism as is done for others.

Another suggestion was for more thrust on warehouses, cold storages at the local level and giving boost to facilities in order to optimally manage increased production of agriculture produce, especially perishable items, the statement said.

It was also suggested to have an Integrated Transport System so that farmers can send or take their produce to far- off market places where they can secure better prices of their produce, in turn helping contain price rise.

The stakeholders also batted for more flexibility in farmer-related policies such as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, electronic trading facilities and allowing states to have their own policies as one uniform policy cannot work in all the states.

The meeting was attended by top finance ministry officials, including Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, Expenditure Secretary A N Jha and Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar.