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Agri Ministry Planning to Take Over Control of Tomato, Onion, and Potato Scheme

The potential transfer of the TOP scheme to the agriculture ministry could prove beneficial for horticulture growers, providing them with the necessary support during price fluctuations and ensuring stability in the market.

Shivam Dwivedi
Agri Ministry Planning to Take Over Control of Tomato, Onion, and Potato Scheme (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Agri Ministry Planning to Take Over Control of Tomato, Onion, and Potato Scheme (Photo Source: Pixabay)

The Union agriculture ministry is currently engaged in discussions with the food processing industries ministry to assume control of the Tomato, Onion, and Potato (TOP) scheme, according to a government official with knowledge of the matter.

The TOP scheme was introduced as part of Operation Greens, which was announced in the FY19 Union Budget to benefit 22 crops. The primary objective of the scheme is to support horticulture growers by purchasing their produce of tomatoes, onions, and potatoes when market prices plummet.

However, the government official noted that Operation Greens has not yielded the expected results, particularly concerning the TOP crops. The food processing industries ministry, responsible for implementing the scheme, has faced challenges in its execution. As a result, discussions are underway to transfer the TOP scheme to the agriculture ministry to enhance its effectiveness.

The agriculture ministry, despite initial hesitance, has not rejected the proposal and is currently evaluating the possibility of taking over the TOP scheme to ensure better implementation. However, it's important to highlight that these discussions are still in their early stages and involve officials from both ministries.

Currently, the agriculture ministry operates the Market Intervention Scheme (MIS), which intervenes in the market when prices of non-Minimum Support Price (MSP) commodities crash. The MIS focuses on procuring cereals, pulses, and oilseeds at MSP, but there is no provision for government procurement at MSP for vegetables. Under the proposed scheme, if finalized, the state government will establish a procurement price at which they will purchase tomatoes, onions, and potatoes from farmers to mitigate losses caused by perishable nature.

The consumer affairs ministry also has a price stabilisation fund (PSF) scheme, which intervenes in the markets of pulses and vegetables, including tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, to regulate market prices during upward trends. In recent times, horticulture growers have faced significant challenges due to fluctuating market prices, leading to the wastage of produce. With the potential takeover of the TOP scheme by the agriculture ministry, similar to how it procures other crops to support farmers, growers may find relief from these issues.

Instances of farmers in Punjab discarding capsicum due to low market prices and tomato and onion growers in Maharashtra switching to other crops due to inadequate prices have highlighted the urgent need for effective support mechanisms. Furthermore, supply disruptions from Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka have caused tomato prices to soar in northern states. As of now, queries sent to the ministries of food processing, agriculture, and consumer affairs have not been answered, and the situation is still unfolding.

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