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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Total scheme under ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’: Central fruit-veggie scheme amid Covid won’t help Punjab as it ends before harvesting season

Punjab, the only grower of potato seed and kinnow fruit in the country, was not included under TOP scheme earlier

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
Updated: November 15, 2020 10:00:00 pm
msp, wheat msp, farm bills, agriculture bills, wheat crop msp, parliament, Narendra Singh Tomar, Lok Sabha msp announcement, indian expressWheat and bajra crop, especially, have sustained extensive damage. (Express File/Representational)

DESPITE BEING included in ‘Operation Greens’ as part of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ — extended by the Centre to include not just TOP (Tomato, Onion and Potato) but all fruits and vegetables (TOTAL) amid the pandemic — Punjab may not benefit as the scheme will end before harvesting begins for the main crops.

The purpose of the scheme was to help farmers affected by Covid restrictions. The supply chain was disrupted and farmers were not able to sell their produce in the market. To the economy as part of ‘Atamnirbhar Bharat’, this scheme was extended for six months, ending in November.

The scheme offers 50 per cent subsidy on transportation from surplus production to deficient markets and 50 per cent subsidy on storage, including cold storage.

The scheme was implemented on June 10 this year.

Earlier, Punjab was kept out of the list of states to benfit under TOP, which was a Rs 500 crore scheme announced in 2018 by then finance minister Arun Jaitley. During the Covid period, current Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a central sector scheme — ‘Operation Greens’ — for integrated development of TOP and extended to all fruits and vegetables (TOTAL).

In Punjab, potato, kinnow and vegetables come under the TOTAL scheme, but even though the scheme was extended by six months, the state will not benefit as all these are winter crops to be harvested in December.

Potato sowing just got over in Punjab.

“We have written to the Centre to extend this scheme,” said Ranbir Singh, general manager, Punjab Agro, adding that considering Punjab is the major potato seed-growing state and only grower of kinnow fruit, it is important to extend the scheme till the end of season for both crops.

In Punjab, harvesting of table potatoes starts in December and the main crop comes in February and March, while kinnow arrival also starts early December and continues till March.

There are times when farmers have been selling both crops at rates much below even their input cost.

“Punjab may not be producing much table potato compared to other states but it is a main seed producer of the country. It could not be excluded from the TOP scheme and now TOTAL must be extended,” said Managing Director, Punjab Agro, Manjit Singh Brar, adding that Punjab farmers had faced major losses in 2018 and 2019 due to non-inclusion in the TOP scheme.

Punjab is a major supplier of seed potatoes to farmers in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and other potato producing states. It meets nearly two-third of the country’s seed requirement.

Out of its total 2.7 million tonnes (MT) production, 1.6 MT comprises seed potatoes, which are grown on over one lakh hectares across the Doaba region, which includes Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Hoshiarpur and Nawanshahr. Kinnow is also grown only in Punjab in over 50,000 hectares area. Nearly 10-lakh tonnes of the fruit is grown in the state every year.

“If the government supports us under TOTAL, Punjab’s farmers will diversify more areas under fruits and vegetables,” said a farmer.


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