Provide Remunerative Price to Apple Farmers
A DELEGATION of the Apple Farmers Federation of India(AFFI) affiliated with the AIKS met the union agriculture minister on July 26 and apprised him of the problems being faced by the apple farmers in the country.
The AFFI also submitted a memorandum to the minister. The contents of the memorandum include:
Ensure legally guaranteed procurement and minimum support price (MSP) @C2+50 per cent for apple and entrust a commission or authority to calculate MSP in a timely manner and declare the price every season. Provide grant and loan assistance to apple farmers’ producer cooperatives for undertaking procurement at MSP. Ensure market intervention scheme to support farmers, especially during crop damages caused by diseases and natural calamities.
Add a clause in the APMC Acts to ensure that private buyers including corporate buyers must pay price for apple at a minimum @C2+50 per cent.
Government agencies such as HPMC and HIMFED must immediately clear arrears to Apple growers and pay farmers during the delivery of produce. Government should also ensure that commission agents and private traders should clear the arrears to be paid to apple growers.
DISCRIMINATION USING QUALITY CONTROL
Corporate buyers have been using frivolous criteria to determine the quality of apples. Perfectly healthy and good quality fruit is classified as low grade merely because of appearance. This also promotes unhealthy practices of improving appearances through the use of chemicals. Only criteria related to freshness (firmness) and nutritional content of produce should be allowed to be used for quality control by buyers. These criteria should be fixed by the government and companies must be required to use the same criteria, and not allowed to manipulate prices through quality control.
FREEDOM FROM INDEBTEDNESS
The union government should declare a comprehensive loan waiver package and waive loans pending against all the small and middle farmers below 10-hectare land and agricultural workers and farm workers. Provide loans at 4% interest to farmer and farm worker households under KCC.
ATTAIN GLOBAL PRODUCTIVITY STANDARDS
Declare Rs 2500 crore special financial packages to enhance productivity to 40 tonnes per hectare as achieved in some of the developed countries, and extend subsidy and interest-free loan assistance to farm households to transform to high productivity farms while protecting and improving the traditional orchards. Subsidy for a shift to high-density apple plantations should be provided directly to farmers and not through contractors.
o The subsidy being given on fertilizers, planting material, insecticides, fungicides, machinery and other cost items should be restored and the government should provide appropriate quality items to the farmers at affordable rates through the department of horticulture.
o MRP for pesticides, fungicides and other plant protection chemicals should be regulated.
CREATION AND SUPPORT TO PRODUCER COOPERATIVES
Provide grant and loan assistance and support for the creation of a network of producer cooperatives along the lines of dairy cooperatives.
Extend special financial assistance to producer cooperatives to create storage infrastructure including Controlled Atmosphere Storages - CAS and cold chain vehicles, and processing and marketing facilities.
Stop leasing out CAS in the public sector to corporate companies and entrust them to producer cooperatives of farmers.
EFFICIENT EXTENSION SYSTEM
Strengthen extension system in apple-producing states to provide technical support to farmers for disease management and productivity enhancement. Vacant positions in extension departments should be filled immediately. District-level task forces of scientists and officers should be created to provide guidance to Apple growers. Laboratories should be created at the block level.
Provide annual estimates of the cost of cultivation for apple and other horticultural crops just as this is done for other crops.
Horticultural Census should be done every five years.
Ensure free movement of trucks during the harvesting season in Kashmir valley considering the perishable nature of the fruits and ensure 100 per cent compensation for the losses due to road closure.
P Krishnaprasad, Sohan Thakur(Coordinators, organising committee, AFFI) Puran Thakur, and Vineet Verma met the minister along with CPI(M) MPs, V Sivadasan and John Brittas.