An initiative aimed to ensure faster transportation of farm produce, Union Minister of Food Processing Industries extended period of Operations Greens scheme, till March 31, 2021. The salient feature of policy is that a 50 per cent subsidy in freight is provided for transportation and cold as well as ordinary storage of perishable farm goods. One major change in policy is that earlier in vegetables only tomato, onions and potato (TOP) were covered and now a new notification issued on December 22, 2020, said that all vegetables are eligible for freight subsidy. Apart from farmers and traders engaged in processing and transportation of vegetable and fruits, the main beneficiary is going to be Indian Railways that has entered the segment through launch of Kisan Rail.
Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries had made budgetary allocation of Rs. 500 crores with an aim to ensuring faster lifting of vegetables and fruits from surplus to deficient markets. Further Government wants to have in place a well-developed value chain that would ensure that maximum produce reach market. Due to lack of organised market chain, much of the vegetable and fruits have very short shelf life. However with Railways entering in transportation of farm produce in big way the travel time for reaching markets has reduced drastically benefiting the farmers and more than those traders in a big way. The notification stated that they want to ensure farmers do not engage in distress sale of their produce and the freight subsidy is also helping in stabilsing prices of fruits and vegetables by faster transport. The example of Central Railway’s Nagpur Division would suffice as within one and half month post start of plucking of oranges they have earned Rs. two crores from single commodity. Since initially the validity of Operation Greens was for a period of six months, confusion reigned supreme among some Railway Zones about its status. Sometimes back South East Central Railway (SECR) Zone had sought clarification from Railway Board about continuity of the scheme citing increased demand from farmers and orchards owners about availability of Kisan Rail.
The Union Ministry also said they are ready to extend subsidy for transport and storage up to 75 per cent if State level agencies like State Marketing/Cooperative Federation are into procurement and transportation/storage of notified crops. To avail subsidy the Ministry has listed some criteria like fall in prices below average market price of last three years at time of harvest; price variation of more than 15 per cent as compared to market price of preceding year at time of harvest; prices dip below the benchmark prices for procurement fixed by State or Central Government. Further notification states that subsidy for transport and storage would be applicable with minimum quantity of 50 metric tonnes for individual farmers, 100 MT for FPO/FPC, Co-oper for Food Processor/Exporter, Licensed Commission Agent, and 1000 MT for Retailers/State Marketing/Cooperative Federation. Besides that the distance to be covered should be 100 km for food processor/FPC, Co-op, Individual farmer, Group of Farmers, Licensed Commission Agent and 250 km for others. Officials of either Nagpur Division of Central or South East Central Railway are enthused with extension of freight and storage subsidy as they are finalising plans for further increasing the loading from market centres in their areas. While Central’s jurisdiction is still banking of oranges as this year the crop is bumper and prices in local market is below average and hence more farmers are now forthcoming to transport them to far off markets.