TOP Farmers Protests And A Way Forward Under Operation Greens Scheme

The Operation Greens scheme aimed to create a value chain that would reduce extreme price fluctuations in the three basic vegetables (tomatoes, onions, and potatoes), increase farmers’ earnings, and increase their share of the consumer rupee. However, the scheme has not been successful in meeting its objectives, as evidenced by recent protests by onion and potato farmers against low prices.

What exactly is the Operation Greens scheme?

  • The Operation Greens scheme is a government initiative launched by the current government in the 2018-19 Union budget.
  • It intends to create a value chain to reduce extreme price fluctuations in three basic vegetables: tomatoes, onions, and potatoes (TOP).
  • In the budget for 2021-22, the scheme was later expanded to include 22 perishable crops.
  • The government hopes that by creating a sustainable value chain for these perishable commodities, farmers will benefit from higher price realisation and consumers will have access to high-quality products at reasonable prices.

The Operation Greens Scheme’s Limited Success

  • Retail tomato prices: While wholesale tomato prices have dropped significantly, retail tomato prices have not dropped significantly, indicating limited success.
  • Low onion prices: Onion and potato farmers are protesting low prices, highlighting the ineffectiveness of the scheme.
  • For example, Maharashtra’s onion growers are protesting low prices with relay hunger fasts, halting auctions at major mandis, and a 200-kilometer march to Mumbai.
  • Similarly, potato farmers in Uttar Pradesh have demanded that the government purchase their tubers at Rs 10 per kg, as opposed to the current market price of Rs 6-6.5/kg in Agra.

The reasons for its limited success

  • The issue is not one of insufficient storage or processing power: UP alone has a plethora of cold storage facilities with ample capacity to store perishable goods such as potatoes. Growers in Maharashtra have constructed enough kandha chawls to store onions for 4-6 months. Despite the creation of storage capacity, milk and cane payment arrears to farmers remain volatile.
  • Price Volatility: TOP crop prices have been volatile, which has harmed both farmers and consumers. Prices for these commodities tend to fluctuate dramatically due to seasonality, weather conditions, and other factors, resulting in market uncertainty and instability.
  • Issues with Implementation: The scheme’s implementation has been marred by delays, bureaucratic stumbling blocks, and a lack of coordination among various stakeholders, resulting in low participation and limited success.
  • Lack of Market Linkages: A lack of market linkages between producers and consumers is another reason for limited success. Farmers are unable to directly access markets, which forces them to rely on intermediaries who manipulate prices, resulting in price volatility.

Price or income assurance is required for farmers

  • Investment in farm-gate, agri-logistics, and storage-cum-processing infrastructure needs to be encouraged.
  • Assurance: Farmers need price or income assurance, especially horticulture, dairy, and poultry producers who do not receive minimum support price benefits.
  • Diversification: Crop diversification is the future of Indian agriculture, as it will increase consumption of foods containing proteins (pulses, milk, eggs, and meat) and micronutrients (fruits and vegetables) rather than just calories and carbohydrates.
  • Deficiency price payments or per-hectare direct income transfers: Deficiency price payments or per-hectare direct income transfers could be the way forward.

@the end

The limited success of the Operation Greens scheme clearly highlights the urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges faced by TOP farmers. A more comprehensive approach is required, one that prioritises farmer empowerment, infrastructure investment, and crop diversification promotion. By taking this approach, the government can not only reduce the impact of price volatility on farmers, but also achieve its overarching goal of creating a sustainable and resilient agricultural sector that benefits both producers and consumers.

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