India needs ‘Operation Veggies’ to make farming profitable, curb food inflation
New Delhi, December 20, 2017: India needs to adopt a “revolutionary approach” to ramp up production of vegetables, in line with ‘operation flood’ that made the country a global leader in milk production, Dr. Ashok Gulati, Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture, ICRIER, said at the 50th SKOCH Summit here on Wednesday.
Addressinginaugural session on the first-day of the two-day SKOCH Summit here, Dr. Gulatiemphasised on the need for starting “Operation Veggies” for pushing forward theproduction of at least tomato, onion and potato, which are most widely usedvegetables by the common people in the country.
The 50th editionof the SKOCH Summit is held in the national capital on 20th-21st December2017. It is “India’s Largest Citizenship Summit.” The Summit titled “Jai Hind”is focused on India’s journey to 2030.
He coinedthe acronym TOP, where T stands for Tomato, O for Onion and P for Potato. “Iwould suggest Operation Veggies TOP. We should focus at least on tomato, onionand vegetables,” he said.
Started in1970, Operation Flood made India the leading producer of milk. When ‘OperationFlood’ was started in 1970, India’s total milk production stood at 20.74million tonnes. People were forced to stand in long queues to get milk. TodayIndia has the surplus production of milk.
Dr. Gulatisaid Operation Veggies should not be just about increasing production, but thefocus should also be on creation of storage facilities and ensuring last-milelinkages so that farmers get proper price for their produce.
He gavean example of Amul where milk producer get 75-80 per cent of the price paid bythe consumer. Compare this with the vegetables like tomato and onion. Farmersget hardly 20-30 per cent of the price paid by the end users.
In June-Julythis year, there was bumper crop of onion in Madhya Pradesh. But the pricescrashed and the farmers were forced to sell their produce at Rs.2-3 per kg.Today, onion is old at Rs.50-60 per kg. Where does this huge margin go?Obviously, pocketed by the middlemen!
Dr. Gulatisaid a proper incentive structure should be devised to make farming profitable.“The Government must ensure that there is profit in farming,” he said.
PrimeMinister Shri Narendra Modi government has set a target to double farmerincomes by 2022. The target is to raise average annual income of agriculturalhouseholds from Rs.96,703 in the financial year 2015-16 to Rs.193,406 by thefinancial year 2022-23 measured at 2015-16 prices. The government has outlinedseven-point strategy to double farmer incomes in the coming seven years.
However, Dr.Gulati said farmers’ condition in the country is very tough and the governmentmust act fast to raise farmers’ income by making agriculture profitable andsustainable.
Mr. SameerKochhar, Chairman, SKOCH Group & Secretary General, CAII, said focus onagriculture sector was essential to ensure inclusive growth and development.
Mr. Kochharpointed out that one per cent growth in agriculture, can bring down poverty bytwo per cent. “Growth is important, but the growth has to be inclusive.Majority of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood. If wepush forward the growth of agriculture, it will benefit the maximum number ofpeople,” said Mr. Kochhar.
Mr. Kochharsaid SKOCH has been pushing forward for the implementation of farmer welfareschemes for the past 15 years.
SKOCHrecommendations have shaped the policies like Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana;Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana; Cloud, Aaadhaar and Mobile; Revival of Rural Roadsscheme, take-out financing and long-term lending for infrastructure developmentand Municipal bonds. SKOCH has made indelible impact on the policies related tocrop insurance, dematerialisation of insurance policies, group micro-insurance,universal insurance scheme, intent on policy portability and organic farming.
Severalof these schemes are critical for the growth of farming sector.