With supply chains disrupted in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers are not being able to sell their produce in the markets. This is leading to distress sale and reduction in prices of perishable fruits and vegetables at the farmer level.

Nirmala Sitharaman
FM Sitharaman provided details of the government's Rs 20 lakh crore economic relief package.Twitter

To prevent this, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced an extension on the Operation Greens scheme covering 'TOP' (Tomatoes, Onions and Potatoes) to now 'TOTAL' (covering all fruits and vegetables in totality).

What is Operation Greens scheme?

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) had formulated an Operation Green scheme in the Union Budget of 2018-19 with an outlay of Rs 500 crore for integrated growth and development of Tomatoes, Onions and Potatoes (TOP) value chain.

The objective of this scheme was to stabilise prices for producers and end-consumers through proper production planning in the TOP clusters, support increase in capacities by the introduction of dual-use varieties.

The Operations Green scheme was introduced to help reduce post-harvest losses for farmers by creating farm gate infrastructure, support development of suitable agro-logistics and help in the creation of storage capacity linking consumption centres.

An Indian farmer packs onions for sale in market in a field
An Indian farmer packs onions for sale in the market in a field some 30kms north of ChandigarhPRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images

How will TOTAL extension help farmers, vendors and end-consumers?

The Rs 500 crore allocation towards Operations Green scheme has now been extended to include all fruits and vegetables. This new extension will help better price realisation for farmers, prevent post-harvest losses, reduce wastages and increase the affordability of products for end-consumers.

As a part of the scheme, 50% subsidy will be given on transportation from surplus to deficient markets, and similarly, 50% subsidy will be extended towards storage including cold storages. Currently, the scheme will run on a pilot basis for six months. It could be expanded and extended further in the near future.

The extension of this scheme will help implement a standard mechanism in place for predictive pricing, create a legal framework to help farmers to fix their own price, provide a fair price for farmers and assure price return quantity prior to sowing.

Vegetable market.IANS

It will further increase the availability of farming technology and selling opportunities for farmers to be able to sell fresh produce at attractive prices. Also, inter-state trade will be made barrier-free and e-trade of farm produce will be facilitated by the government as per the scheme.

The Finance Minister has announced a slew of other relief measures to include a new financing facility of Rs 1 lakh crore to boost cold chain and post-harvest management infrastructure at the farm gate and aggregation.

Also, Rs 10,000 crore stimulus scheme is introduced for the formalisation of micro food enterprises (MFE). This will help 2 lakh MFEs by adopting cluster-based approaches such as bamboo shoots in North-East, mango in Uttar Pradesh, chilli in Andhra Pradesh, Kesar in Jammu & Kashmir, and tapioca in Tamil Nadu. The fund will help farmers to reach untapped export markets in view of improved health consciousness, following the Covid-19 threat.

Amendment of the Essential Commodities Act (1955) will help tackle the abundance of crops by deregulating oil seeds, potato, cereals, edible oils, and onion, with no stock limit applied on storage of the produce.