farmers harvesting

Procurement of various crops from farmers at a fair price by the government is an integral part of the farm and food system of India. This can be reformed in various ways—reducing costs while improving income of farmers and overall food security.

When various crops are being harvested in a village, the government should procure a part of the staple food crops right there in the village at a fair and just price. This procurement should be enough to meet the needs of various staple foods by the public distribution system and nutrition schemes ( ICDS or anganwadi, mid-day meals, sabla scheme for adolescent girls etc. ) of the village community.  The purchase should be somewhat in excess of exact need to provide for an  emergency stock right within the village.

Small farmers should  get priority. A higher premium payment should be made for healthy food grown using organic/natural methods and avoiding dangerous chemicals etc. The payment to farmers at a fair price should be made immediately. As a wide diversity of staple food crops will be purchased this will lead to the farmers being encouraged to grow diversity of food crops in mixed farming systems.

Nutrition schemes need not just one or two time purchase but also continuing year round purchase of milk, milk products, vegetables, fruits, eggs etc. Hence at the time of two main harvests there will be heavy procurement, but much smaller procurement will continue throughout the year, through the agency of a government procurement representative in the village, which can be a self-help group of women working at a low margin for the benefit of the entire village.

This will help to ensure good quality , high nutrition food for nutrition schemes and public distribution system as farmers are likely to be more conscious of food safety and quality while meeting the needs of their own village.  Farmers, particularly small farmers will be saved the bother to rush to mandis immediately after harvesting. Some cash they receive right in the village will enable farmers to sell their remaining crop in a more relaxed way.

Storages will be created in the village with government help and there will be storage also for any sudden need or emergency. This arrangement is also much in accordance with the concept of lowering food miles , or the concept that food consumption should be close to food production whenever possible, avoiding unnecessary transport costs and the use of fossil fuels associated with this. Higher costs of centralized storage will also be avoided in this scheme.

This scheme inevitably leads to several food processing activities starting right within the village. This also is very good and can lead the wider shift to village-level processing of food and other crops ( such as cotton) much along Gandhian lines.

This will be very good for the village, but in addition this will be good from the point of view of reducing costs of the government as well. They will not have to arrange for transport of food to the village.

As far as the remaining crop is concerned, some of this can be purchased later by the government for meeting urban needs and buffer stock needs, and some can be sold elsewhere. In case of bumper surplus crop, the government can also purchase some food for sending food free to famine affected parts of the world.

The concepts of regional balance in farm development, prioritization of mixed farming systems for meeting local staple food needs, avoiding monocultures, self-reliance of rural  communities, eco-friendly low cost farming are all integral to this thinking of reforms in the procurement sector.

Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist and author. He has documented the efforts and struggles of several leading social and ecological movements in India, with a special emphasis on various Gandhian movements, in many of his books and articles.


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One Comment

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