Thousands of small and marginal farmers here who are selling milk, fruits and vegetables, door to door everyday in the towns from their nearby fields in villages will now have to procure a “food licence” from the authorities in Himachal. A big section of farmers in the villages encircling the urban towns in Himachal are not growing the staple rabi and kharif crops because of small land holdings and have shifted to growing off-season vegetables for the domestic markets and their own use. They are also having a few milch cattle reared for milk and cow dung and majority of them are selling the spare milk and other dairy products in the nearby municipal localities.
The government has fixed August 4 as the last date for farmers to acquire this food licence. If any farmer is found selling his products without the licence he could be jailed for six months and fined Rs 5 lakh. The registration has been made mandatory for all farmers under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. The farmers will have to submit their yearly return record, medical certificate and their photographs with the authorities. The required formalities and repeated announcements by the local authorities have created a panic among the small farmers and their families here. A delegation of villagers on Saturday from the surrounding villages of the capital town met the Municipal Commissioner and Medical Officers under the leadership of Himachal Kisan Sabha regarding the problems faced by the small and marginal farmers and also apprised them of its fright on the food licence.
The Kisan Sabha has requested the authorities to make a joint registration of a family selling milk or vegetables instead of individual members. “I send my children and my wife to deliver the milk to three nearby houses in the town when I am working in the fields”, said Baburam, a confused farmer who is now worried about the implementation of this act after August 4.
All farmers, big or small will now have to pay the same registration fees for selling any of their products. To maintain the same quality and quantity of fat in the milk throughout the year is also not possible, said the majority farmers. The different types of animals and different types of feed would change the quantity of fat in the milk, they complained. The creation of branding and packaging of all products for the small and marginal farmers is not realistic, said the farmers who are selling just a few kilos of milk and vegetables every day.
The Kisan Sabha on this issue is organising the small farmers who are having a subsistence agro economy in the hill State and are not well off as the cash-crop farmers.