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Taking serious note of the dwindling income from farm products in Punjab, policy makers here are planning to adopt a two-pronged strategy, wherein they want to divert area under wheat and paddy to cultivation of fruit and vegetable.
In his inaugural address at the first ever international conference on “Wholesale Markets: Global Opportunities and Innovations” organised by the Punjab State Agricultural Marketing Board in Chandigarh on Tuesday, Prakash Singh Badal, the Punjab chief minister, indicated the state was contemplating the adoption of the cooperative model to facilitate the inter-state marketing of fruit and vegetable from Punjab to about 50 major cities across the country with each having a million or more population.
He said efforts were afoot to implement this model in urban areas of the state, like Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Patiala, Bathinda. He suggested to formulate a common consensus group of wholesale market investors, developers, managers, operators and administrators to extend mutual cooperation besides developing marketing strategies to ensure maximum profitability of the fruit and vegetable growers through a well-knit wholesale marketing network.
Divulging farm diversification plans in the state, Badal said the contribution of agriculture in the state’s income was gradually declining as farmers were caught in the wheat-paddy rotation trap.
The only way out was through diversification and improved marketing. He said that the state government had recently submitted a diversification plan to the Centre to shift 1.2 million hectares of area under rice cultivation to other crops like maize, cotton with a major focus on fruit and vegetable, during the next six years.
Fruit and vegetable cultivation was a viable and remunerative alternative to existing crops. Kinnow was the principal fruit crop and potato was the most important vegetable crop in the state. He mentioned the fruit and vegetable annual production was around five million tonnes in the state.
He added time has now changed from old agricultural marketing approach to new business model through the application of advance technology and modern business concepts with ultimate aim to get remunerative price and to compete the produce in world market.
He emphasized that the procurement of perishables like fruits and vegetables by government agencies was extremely difficult and Private Public Partnership (PPP) model was one of the solutions to ensure the marketing of these commodities in an efficient and result oriented manner. The government of India has proposed a draft model legislation on “Agricultural Produce Marketing (Development & Regulation) Act 2003”, which provides for establishment of private markets/yards, direct purchase centres, consumer farmer markets for direct sale of produce and promotion of PPP in the management and development of agriculture markets in the country for which Punjab was already going ahead to amend existing legislation accordingly.
The conference was attended by senior officials of Punjab Government besides the Chairmen and Managing Directors and CEO’s of various wholesale markets of Europe and Asia.