Moving to address farm distress, the Haryana government is set to announce Saturday the Bhavantar Bharpai scheme which, on the lines of minimum support price (MSP), will offer “input cost” for four crops — potato, onion, cabbage and tomato — January onward. State Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Om Prakash Dhankar said: “Haryana is the first state to introduce such a concept.”
In June this year, The Indian Express had highlighted how farmers were selling potatoes for 20 paise a kilo at the Pipli grain market in Kurukshetra district. A bumper potato crop and the absence of a support mechanism had led to a crisis among vegetable growers in several parts of the state.
With the Bhavantar Bharpai scheme, the government wants to address seasonal fluctuations in prices of key vegetables. According to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, “perishable vegetables like potato and tomato cannot be stored for long and farmers have no solution to this problem”. Welcoming the state initiative, Bhartiya Kisan Union’s Haryana president Gurnam Singh Chaduni pointed out that “eleven farmers who had stored potatoes were forced to throw them out in the open in the absence of any buyers”.
But the state is treading carefully. “If we call it (scheme) MSP for vegetables, there will be a sharp increase in production. A large number of farmers will be running after potatoes or similar vegetables. And we won’t be able to handle the situation in the absence of an adequate infrastructure. We face a similar situation in sugarcane too. We have increased income of sugarcane growers by Rs 6,600 per acre. It has led to increase of its area to two lakh hectare this year from 90,000 hectare in 2014,” a senior government officer said.
“\We are concerned because we have seen the experience of vegetable growers of Nashik (Maharashtra). They are forced to throw away potatoes after every two-three years because of the dip in prices. So, we will launch this scheme carefully without making any big announcement since such things affect crop management and market management. We are not in a position to change the entire crop pattern in one go,” the officer said.
Minister Dhankar, who was earlier national president of the BJP Kisan Morcha, said the idea of providing support to vegetable growers is part of a plan to develop an area of vegetables and fruits in the National Capital Region to supply such products to the Capital — it is on the Chinese pattern of developing a peri-urban agriculture zone around Beijing to meet its needs. “It will happen only when the government ensures structural changes to bring farmers out of the wheat-paddy circle. Farmers won’t move from this circle easily because wheat-paddy crops have organised markets and there is increase in their prices every year,” Dhankar said.