By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Modi’s doubling farmers income by 2022 has miserably failed. There were many hurdles in the way, and chief among them was the faulty and unreasonable policies of the Centre itself. It resulted into a situation in which tomatoes were being sold at Rs 3 per kg and ginger at Rs 5 per kg, even leads the farmers not to pluck their produce as the plucking cost will be much more than the selling price.
This sad observation have been made by the Department related Parliamentary standing committee or Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Food Processing in its recent report submitted in the Lok Sabha after discussion on the Demand for Grants. The Committee said that the same case happens with onion also. As these foods are the daily requirement of the citizens of the country, the committee felt that the Ministry should immediately establish cold chain by identifying the villages where there was a large production but the benefit of income does not reach the farmers as they are forced to sell at a cost which is very pathetic.
The committee observed that despite the production of large scale agriculture produce in India, Food Inflation and Food Security issue were major concerns since they affect the basic need for the citizen to have sufficient healthy and affordable food. It was pointed out in the report that the Harvest and Post-Harvest losses of major agricultural produce was estimated to be Rs 92,651 crore at national level as per the study conducted by CIPHET, Ludhiana while most of the population in the country are under-nourished leading to several health issues as they are not able to get the food at affordable prices and this reveals loopholes in Post Production Process and Cold Chain Management.
Though the Food Processing Industry Sector has reportedly been growing at an average Annual Growth Rate of 11.18 per cent and provides 12.38 per cent employment of all the registered factories in the country, the Ministry of Food Processing Industry did not spent the amount it was allocated in the last three years since 2019-20.
The Ministry had proposed an amount Rs. 2,200 crore (against the spending of Rs. 845.54 crore), Rs. 1,232.94 crore (against the spending of Rs. 1,152.68 crore) and Rs. 3,490.07 crore (against the spending of Rs. 862.60 crore), respectively but only an amount of Rs. 1,042.79 crore, Rs. 1,247.42 crore and Rs. 1,304.12 crore were allocated for the years 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22, respectively. The Committee also noted that for the year 2022-23 Rs. 3,564.92 crore has been proposed whereas only Rs. 2,941.99 crore had been allocated. The committee therefore recommended that the Ministry should chalk out its Plan of Action in advance for cent percent utilization of scarce resources allocated and look into the issues/challenges.
With regard to all the plan Schemes, especially the Food storage and Warehousing and North-Eastern Areas, there has been consistently negative variation for the years 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22, respectively, as compared to the previous years. The reason was, as per the reply of the Ministry, receipt of inadequate proposals under mandatory allocations like North-Eastern Region (NER), Schedule Cast Sub Plan (SCSP) and Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), however the Committee found the reply unacceptable. The receipt of inadequate proposals is a recurring problem appearing year after year and the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is remaining only as a mute spectator, the Committee observed.
Though the Ministry of Food Processing Industries runs several schemes, all States and Union Territories are not covered. It is due to the fact that the schemes of the Ministry are Demand Driven and they are implemented from wherever demand is received. The committee has asked the government to chalk out the Plan of Action and be ever ready to implement its schemes in all States and Union Territories. The committee felt that if all the regions were developed, it would ultimately lead doubling of the farmer’s income.
Mega Food Park is one of the flagship programmes of the Centre which is being run since 2008. The committee was totally dissatisfied to find that only 41 Mega Food Parks had been sanctioned since its launch, and only 22 of them had become operational. This shows that the response for this scheme is not very much forthcoming in spite of 14 years of its launching and the decision of the Centre to supplant the scheme with Agro Processing Clusters. The Committee observed that the Project has become a white elephant for the Government.
Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure scheme was also launched in 2008. In 2012, Dr Saumitra Chaudhary Committee had estimated that the country required Cold Storage for 61 million tonnes, while the gap was estimated to be 29 million tonnes. Further as per the Study carried out by National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCD) in August, 2015 the requirement of Cold Chain for Integrated Pack Houses was 70,000, Refer Trucks 62,000, Cold Store (Bulk & Distribution hub) 35 million tonnes and Ripening Chambers 9,000. The committee noted that the funds allocated for the purpose are underutilized.
The committee also noted underutilization in several other schemes, and many of them are suffering from sluggish implementation. The Ministry should stick to the time schedule and full utilization of funds allocated, the Committee observed. Infrastructure development for Agro Processing Clusters scheme was specifically mentioned in this regard which was launched in 2017. The Centre approved 68 projects but only 12 have been completed since inception of the scheme. This shows non-satisfactory planning by the Ministry as also the non-satisfactory implementation, it was observed. (IPA Service)