India needs Operation Veggies to make farming profitable, curb food inflation

India needs to adopt a “revolutionary approach” to ramp up production of vegetables Operation Veggies, 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.

Addressing inaugural session on the first-day of the two-day SKOCH Summit here, Dr. Gulati emphasised on the need for starting Operation Veggies for pushing forward the production of at least tomato, onion and potato, which are most widely used vegetables by the common people in the country.

The 50th edition of the SKOCH Summit is held in the national capital on 20th-21st December 2017. It is “India’s Largest Citizenship Summit.” The Summit titled “Jai Hind” is focused on India’s journey to 2030.

He coined the acronym TOP, where T stands for Tomato, O for Onion and P for Potato. “I would suggest Operation Veggies TOP. We should focus at least on tomato, onion and vegetables,” he said.

Started in 1970, Operation Flood made India the leading producer of milk. When ‘Operation Flood’ was started in 1970, India’s total milk production stood at 20.74 million tonnes. People were forced to stand in long queues to get milk. Today India has the surplus production of milk.

Dr. Gulati said Operation Veggies should not be just about increasing production, but the focus should also be on creation of storage facilities and ensuring last-mile linkages so that farmers get proper price for their produce.

He gave an example of Amul where milk producer get 75-80 per cent of the price paid by the consumer. Compare this with the vegetables like tomato and onion. Farmers get hardly 20-30 per cent of the price paid by the end users.

In June-July this year, there was bumper crop of onion in Madhya Pradesh. But the prices crashed 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!

India needs Operation Veggies to make farming profitable - curb food inflationDr. Gulati said a proper incentive structure should be devised to make farming profitable. “The Government must ensure that there is profit in farming,” he said.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi government has set a target to double farmer incomes by 2022. The target is to raise average annual income of agricultural households from Rs.96,703 in the financial year 2015-16 to Rs.193,406 by the financial year 2022-23 measured at 2015-16 prices. The government has outlined seven-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 government must act fast to raise farmers’ income by making agriculture profitable and sustainable.

Mr. Sameer Kochhar, Chairman, SKOCH Group & Secretary General, CAII, said focus on agriculture sector was essential to ensure inclusive growth and development.

Mr. Kochhar pointed out that one per cent growth in agriculture, can bring down poverty by two per cent. “Growth is important, but the growth has to be inclusive. Majority of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood. If we push forward the growth of agriculture, it will benefit the maximum number of people,” said Mr. Kochhar.

Mr. Kochhar said SKOCH has been pushing forward for the implementation of farmer welfare schemes for the past 15 years.

SKOCH recommendations have shaped the policies like Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana; Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana; Cloud, Aaadhaar and Mobile; Revival of Rural Roads scheme, take-out financing and long-term lending for infrastructure development and Municipal bonds. SKOCH has made indelible impact on the policies related to crop insurance, dematerialisation of insurance policies, group micro-insurance, universal insurance scheme, intent on policy portability and organic farming.

Several of these schemes are critical for the growth of farming sector.

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