Patna: The agriculture department has come up with a scheme that entails setting up rural mandis (markets) with all basic amenities to free fruit and vegetable cultivators from the clutches of middlemen.
Under the scheme, individuals or groups have to set up the market and government would provide half of the input cost as subsidy to those going for it. The development assumes significance as farmers produce 37,44,012 metric tonnes of different fruits in Bihar by undertaking its cultivation over 2,53,435 hectares of land. Similarly, Bihar produces 21,23,795 metric tonnes of green vegetables every year by undertaking its cultivation over 8,26,853 hectares of land.
Timely marketing of these items is a must for economic gains of the farmers as the products have a short shelf-life.
“Absence of sufficient number of market places and lack of organised marketing facilities force farmers to sell their produce to local traders of middlemen at throwaway prices. Availability of a proper market at the local level would free them from clutches of such elements,” agriculture minister Prem Kumar said.
He said under the rural mandi scheme, those setting up markets would have to invest around Rs 25 lakh for setting up of a market over 1 acre of land. Half of the invested amount would be given back to such people by the agriculture department as subsidy.
Sharing details of the project, an official of the department said such a market place would have around 20 pucca shops and a platform which would be used for auctioning the vegetables and fruits. Also, the market should have basic amenities like toilets, etc for the convenience of the farmers and those coming here to purchase their products.
“Normally, farmers don’t find proper market in rural areas and there is lack of an organised system using which they could sell their products. Availability of market place at the local level would provide them a very good platform as once the market would start functioning properly purchasers from other places too would come and thus farmers would get good price for their products,” added the official.
He said those going to set up such markets could also avail the benefit of another scheme of the department which entails investment of Rs 13 lakh for setting up solar-based cold rooms for storing perishable items like vegetables and fruits. Half of the investment is paid back to the investors in form of subsidy. Such cold rooms can store up to 5 lakh metric tonnes of perishable items. This would work as an added advantage for farmers.
Commenting on the initiative of the department, Vijay Kumar, a farmer from the Banjariya area of East Champaran district, said: “It looks good on paper and also in intention but availability of land for setting up such markets would be a big issue. Also banks in Bihar are reluctant to provide loans for such projects.”
A senior official of the agriculture department conceded the points raised by this farmer and said: “While government cannot do much on the land front, it would definitely take up the cause of those farmers and entrepreneurs who would face problem in getting bank loans for such projects. The government is committed to ameliorate the condition of the farmers and loan related issues would be raised at the appropriate platform so that bankers could mend their ways.”