The Government is gearing up to enhance vegetable procurement from farmers within Kerala, to tide over a possible decline in imports from Tamil Nadu following tension in the border districts.

Minister for Agriculture and Animal Husbandry K.P.Mohanan told reporters here on Wednesday that efforts were on to equip the Kerala State Horticultural Products Development Corporation (Horticorp) and the Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council, Kerala (VFPCK) for additional procurement.

Wholesale vegetable markets like the one at Anayara in Thiruvananthapuram would be utilised for the purpose, he said. The reported shortage of vegetables at Sabarimala during the pilgrim season was another reason to step up procurement, he said.

“The emphasis would be on procuring as much vegetables as possible from farmers in the state at the prevailing market rate. The remaining demand- supply gap would be plugged with imports from other sources like Karnataka”.

Mr.Mohanan said the new procurement model would eschew the conventional method of purchasing from domestic farmers at low rates and then auctioning the produce. “Farmers would be encouraged to sell the vegetables at market rate directly to Horticorp and VFPCK without the involvement of middlemen. The government will foot the additional procurement cost. Wholesale markets are being activated for the additional procurement”.

Asked whether the situation warranted more imports, the Minister said there would be no crisis for a month. “The department however is gearing up to ensure adequate supplies in the event of a drop in the import of vegetables from Tamil Nadu”, he said.

Mr.Mohanan later inaugurated a mobile fruit and vegetable stall pressed into service by Horticorp.

Earlier, the Minister announced the first state awards for officials in the Department of Animal Husbandry. The award for the best veterinary surgeon has gone to Dr.G.Sharmila, veterinary dispensary, Akathethara, Palakkad. The award comprises a cash prize of Rs.10,000, a citation and plaque.

Dr.T.Prakash, Assistant Director, Regional poultry farm, Malampuzha, Palakkad won the award for the best farm officer comprising a cash prize of Rs.10,000, a citation and plaque. Azeez P.Hamid, veterinary polytechnic, Munnar, Idukki was adjudged the best livestock inspector. The award carries a purse of Rs.5,000, a citation and plaque.

The minister said the awards would be given away in January.