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Cabinet nod for NAFED to procure 12 lakh tonnes of J&K apples

The Union Cabinet has given its nod for a Central procurement agency to buy 12 lakh tonnes of apples in Jammu and Kashmir this year, even though the same scheme flopped when it was introduced last year, managing to procure only about 1% of its target.

Apple procurement in the Union Territory will be done by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) through designated State agencies, under a Market Intervention Scheme of the Agriculture Ministry, according to an official statement. On Wednesday, the Cabinet approved the extension of the scheme to the current 2020-21 season on the same terms and conditions as the last season.

Last year, apple procurement was announced in September, in the wake of a lockdown of the Valley after Article 370 was abrogated and the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir dissolved into two Union Territories. Political turmoil, frequent curfews and transport blockades, and unseasonal snowfall, had exacerbated the plight of apple farmers, a key backbone of the local economy, and it was in that context that the Centre had offered to procure 13 lakh tonnes of apples via NAFED.

However, only 15,770 tonnes of fruit valued at ₹70 crore were bought by NAFED last year, against a target of 13 lakh tonnes, according to the Home Ministry’s reply to a question in the Lok Sabha in February 2020. Earlier, in November, with the season almost over, the Agriculture Ministry had told the House that less than 8,000 tonnes had been procured. Whichever figure is accurate, less than 1% of the total harvest of approximately 20 lakh tonnes were procured, leaving farmers bereft.

In fact, some farmers groups had then said that by selling the procured fruits at a loss in Punjab markets, NAFED had effectively driven down prices and caused further losses.

This year, the procurement process will be monitored by panels headed by the Cabinet Secretary at the Centre and the Chief Secretary at the UT level, according to the official statement. Designated Price Committees set up last season will continue to set prices for the various varieties and grades of apples, while the J&K administration will provide facilities in the designated procurement mandis. Last year, most mandis were shut, farmers groups had said.

The Centre has allowed NAFED to use a government guarantee of ₹2,500 crore for this operation, the statement said. Losses incurred, if any, will be shared by the Centre and the Union Territory’s administration on a 50:50 basis. Procurement will be done directly from apple growers and payment will be done into their bank accounts via direct benefit transfers.

“This announcement of the Government of India will provide an effective marketing platform to apple growers and will facilitate employment generation for the local people. It will ensure remunerative prices for apples resulting in overall income enhancement of farmers in J&K,” said the statement.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2020 2:51:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/cabinet-nod-for-nafed-to-procure-12-lakh-tonnes-of-jk-apples/article32913345.ece

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