The government expects to produce an additional one lakh tonnes of vegetables and tubers alike in a year, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Tuesday. A project would be prepared to ensure the best market for the produce.
Mr. Vijayan was speaking after announcing the base price for 16 agricultural items, including vegetables, fruits, and tubers, in what the government termed a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country, here. The scheme, designed to protect farmers from adverse price fluctuations, would come into effect from November 1.
Mr. Vijayan said the base price would provide relief and support to both traditional farmers and those newly farming the land. While farmers around the country were discontent and had taken up protests, the Kerala government supported them and rolled out several initiatives aimed at development of agriculture in the past four-and-a-half years. The base price was one such measure.
Sixteen agricultural produce would be covered in the first phase. Crops such as tapioca, ‘nendran’ plantain, pineapple, bitter gourd, cucumber, snake gourd, tomato, cabbage, and beans that were produced in the State had been included in the base price, which would be 20% above the production cost of the vegetable.
If the market price dipped below the base price of a vegetable, the produce would be procured at the base price and the money transferred to farmers’ accounts. The produce would be graded on quality, and the base price fixed on that basis. There was also a provision to revise the base price regularly, the Chief Minister said.
Local self-government institutions would have an important role to play in the scheme as they would coordinate the procurement and distribution of vegetables, he said.
The scheme would benefit a farmer with cultivation on a maximum of 15 acres in a season. They would have to register on the Agriculture Department’s registration portal after insuring the crop to get the benefit of the base price. The registration would begin on November 1.
Initially though, the registration would not be mandatory for farmers intending the procurement to happen through primary agricultural credit cooperative societies. The procured produce would be sold through the department’s markets or the societies’ marketing network. Any excess produce would be converted into value-added products. The scheme also envisaged setting up of supply chain process such as cold-storage facilities and refrigerated vehicles.
He pointed out that vegetable production in the State had more than doubled from 7 lakh tonnes to 14.72 lakh tonnes in the past four-and-a-half years. Area under paddy cultivation had increased from 1.96 lakh hectares to 2.15 lakh hectares. This was the result of schemes such as Subhiksha Keralam and Jeevani that had attracted non-residents Keralites who had returned home, women, and the youth.