The financing facility of Rs 1 lakh crore under the Agri Infra Fund (AIF) has raised hopes among farmers and the scientific community that the much-neglected issue of post-harvest losses would be addressed.
Hailing the step, farmers and scientists say it will help in improving post-harvest infrastructure and boosting farmers’ income. However, they stress on enhancing the MSP of the crops as the input cost is increasing day by day. Farmers say low prices and high input cost force them to dump their produce on the road.
“It is a much-needed initiative for the betterment of the small and marginal farmers whose considerable yield gets spoiled due to lack of storage facility. This fund will help in creating better storage facilities and modern cold storage in villages. Many employment opportunities will be created in villages with the construction of warehouses, cold stores and food processing units,” says Dr Gyan Prakash Bhargava, retired joint director and principal scientist of Central Soil Salinity Research Institute (CSSRI), Karnal.
He believes farmers would get good prices for their yield in the off-season also with the establishment of food processing units. “If a group of farmers sets up food processing units, the farmers do not have to sell their produce at throwaway prices. Exploitation by commission agents would also be curbed to a great extent,” he adds.
Dr. Bhargava says the shelf life of perishable products would be increased and the losses of small and marginal farmers will drop. Also, it will contribute to doubling the income of farmers.
Vijay Kapoor, general secretary, Haryana Kisan Welfare Club, and a progressive farmer from Pabana Hassanpur, is hopeful that the fund will help farmers minimise post-harvest losses. “Setting up of cold stores, ripening chambers and packaging units will help vegetable and fruit growers. It will create employment as the scheme will be implemented through agri-entrepreneurs, startups and FPOs,” he adds.
Dharambir Satija, a farmer from Karnal’s Chundipur village, says poor storage leads to the spoilage of a huge quantity of farm produce across the country. To recover a portion of the losses, farmers sell their produce at throwaway prices. “The step initiated by the Union government may act as a life-saver for marginal farmers, who have less than five acres and grow perishable products,” he observes.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni says it was a long-awaited demand of the farmers to address the post-harvest losses, but he opines that the amount to be given to farmers is meagre. “The Centre has made a provision to give Rs 10,000 crore per year to the country’s farmers. Only the big FPOs or farmers’ groups will get benefit, while the small and marginal ones will be neglected. The government should draw a plan to reach out to needy farmers,” he adds. Chaduni says the fund will provide the farmers with much-needed storage facility.
On the other hand, Dr Virender Singh Lather, former principal scientist of Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Regional Station, Karnal, says this step is not farmer-friendly. According to him, it will favour businessmen and middlemen instead of creating any significant employment in the rural sector. “Perishable farm yield is mainly produced by about 80 per cent of 14.5 crore small and marginal farmers who are dependent on local markets for the sale of their produce. These farmers do not have logistic and financial capacity to benefit from the government’s ‘one nation, one market’ scheme or withhold their perishable produce amid a price crash which is generally orchestrated by middlemen or traders,” he adds.
He says the government should promote processing units in every district for post-harvest utilisation of bulk perishable produce by making the ‘right to sell at MSP’ a statutory Act as proposed by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in its Kharif report-2018.
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