To combat soaring vegetable prices in the Capital and break the “cartelisation among the present set of intermediaries,” the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) has suggested that the government float tenders for transportation of vegetables from farms to consumer centres while setting a benchmark to ensure that these are supplied quickly and at the lowest price.

The ASSOCHAM noted that while Delhi's population had increased from 85 lakh to 1.85 crore, a 120 per cent rise, the vegetable supply had increased only by 100 per cent and the prices by 300 per cent.

The ASSOCHAM's prescriptions to control price rise include setting up a market intelligence service that farmers can access easily and mobilising farmers to collectively sell their produce directly to the National Capital Region (NCR) mandis, which, the ASSOCHAM said, would be a more competitive channel than the “existing chaotic” supply chain.

ASSOCHAM secretary general D.S. Rawat said agricultural departments should prioritise setting up of extension services to vegetable farmers. The chamber also noted with concern that urbanisation had wiped out agricultural land in the NCR.

“There are too many intermediaries between the farmer and the consumer who ruin the process. Also, fruits and vegetables are perishable and require intelligent supply chains with a sizeable investment in cold chains, transportation and 24x7 market intelligence,” Mr. Rawat said.

The ASSOCHAM said the existing system of middlemen have limited interaction with farmers, taking no responsibility in increasing production and reducing farm-level costs or improve quality. Demanding scientific and technological intervention in vegetable farming to improve yields, it said: “Mere raids at mandis will not solve the problem of rising prices.”

The chamber also pointed out transportation as another bottleneck with transporters, commission agents, wholesalers and retailers all acting independently and each interested only in maximising gains. The mandi system of auction is anti-farmer as beneficiaries are mostly the intermediaries, the ASSOCHAM said.

Mr. Rawat further said the government must promote heavy investment in the building and operation of multiple, competing and intelligent supply chains over which market information must flow regularly to farmers. “This will enable vegetable farming to move from being a subsidiary activity to a mainstream activity in the agricultural lands around 100 km to 200 km radius of the NCR.”

More In: Delhi