Andhra loses due to turf wars in horticulture

Hyderabad | Updated: Nov 21 2005, 06:31am hrs
Andhra Pradesh is bullish over an estimated 150 lakh tonne foodgrain crop and a good horticulture crop in 2005-06. But is that good news for all Small and medium farmers still face storage inadequacy and poor market linkages. A bumper crop for them could well mean distress sales or dumping of their produce.

Though the farmer-friendly Reddy government has worked hard on pre-harvest promotion by initiating a novel lab to land concept, it lags behind in market linkages.

Even when there are government schemes, farmers are either unaware of their existence or are unable to benefit, due to their loan payment schedules. In some districts, moneylending groups have already begun working their way. Most farmers are unable to use the Rytu Bhandu loan scheme of Rs 75,000 without interest for six months, a big chilli trader from Guntur told FE. The scheme is good but farmers are unable to get way from moneylenders' clutches, he said.

About 300 market committees and 875 notified markets function in the state, under the AP Markets Act 1966. Officials say that market yards have been equipped with an officer for exclusive market support to farmers. However, farmers complain the officers are mostly seen as market fee collectors.

For farm-to-market linkages, the state has budgeted about Rs 13 crore as subsidy for establishing cold storage facilities. The private sector has tapped this, and established about 40 cold storage units with an aggregate capacity of 1.79 lakh tonne.

But while cold storage facilities in the state cater to commercial crops like chillies, for general farm produce, there is no support. It is not cost-effective for the small farmer to avail the cold storage facility, says a farmers representative from Warangal. It would be ideal if the government could offer concessional rates.

There is also a need for increasing the number of cold storage facilities, even for vegetables sold in the domestic market. It is a sad annual feature that tomato and lime growers from Chittoor, Anantapur and Kurnool throw away their produce on the highways, as there are no takers at the market yards due to bumper yields. Though the government is aware, it is unable to offer proper cover to these farmers by promoting processing units nearby. The biggest bottleneck in expanding the food processing sector is inadequate infrastructure.

AP has been allotted Rs 85 crore out of the Rs 10,000-crore National Horticultural Mission for improving infrastructure and field to market supply chains. Sadly, however, turf wars and lack of coordination between the central agency and the state department are affecting timely implementation. A Rs 4-crore cold storage for chillies in Guntur has been cleared with Apeda having released its share of Rs 1 crore, but the state is yet to release the rest.