At a time when there are fears that the two Farm Bills passed by the Centre could eventually do away with the Minimum Support Price (MSP), Kerala government on Wednesday announced 'base prices' for 16 varieties of vegetables and fruits. The base price mechanism will come into force from November 1.
Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar said that it was the first time that base prices have been fixed for vegetables and fruits in the country. The base price will be the production cost of a vegetable or fruit variety plus 20 percent of the production cost, which means a farmer is assured of a 20 percent margin.
The 16 varieties for which base prices (per kg) have been announced in the first phase are: tapioca (Rs 12), banana (Rs 30), Wayanadan banana (Rs 24), pineapple (Rs 15), ashgourd (Rs 9), cucumber (Rs 8), bitter gourd (Rs 30), snake gourd (Rs 16), tomato (Rs 8), beans nadan (vallipayar) (Rs 34), lady's finger (Rs 20), cabbage (Rs 11), carrot (Rs 21), potato (Rs 20), beans (Rs 28), beetroot (Rs 21), and garlic (Rs 139).
The base price mechanism will function just like the MSP system. "Under the new mechanism, the government will procure the commodity from the farmer at the base price if the market price of a particular fruit or vegetable falls below the stipulated base price, and the amount will be credited to the farmer's account," the agriculture minister said on Wednesday.
Nationally, the Agricultural Prices Commission has been fixing MSPs for 22 varieties at the beginning of the season; mostly for grains, pulses and oilseeds. Only two commodities among them, copra and paddy, are relevant to Kerala.
A farmer will be eligible for base price only for vegetables and fruits grown within a maximum of 15 acres.
The base price will first have to be officially declared for the mechanism to become operational. This will be done district-wise. A district-level price committee will constantly compare local market prices with that of reference nodal markets and when the committee is convinced that the price of a commodity in the district has fallen below its base price, the declaration will be made.
Once the declaration is made, the farmer will have to take his produce to the procurement centres of Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) and Horticorp or, if members of primary agricultural credit cooperative societies, to agriculture societies notified by the Agriculture Department. But for this, the farmer has to first register himself with the agriculture department's Information Management System (AIMS), by logging into www.aims.kerala.gov.in.
The produce should adhere to certain quality standards for it to command the base price. The commodities would be graded at he procurement stage and low-quality stuff will be rejected.
Apart from this, each vegetable or fruit variety is assigned specific productivity levels. For instance, the productivity assigned for tapioca is 15 tonnes per hectare, for carrot also it is 15 tonnes, for cabbage it is 20 tonnes, and for pineapple it is 14 tonnes. The base price will be offered only to that quantity that squares with the assigned productivity value.
The mechanism will be coordinated by the agriculture department with the help of local bodies and primary agricultural credit cooperative societies (PACS). The department has 1850 procurement agencies across Kerala, including Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam (VFPCK) and Horticorp.