The Ministry of Agriculture, in March 2011, released guidelines for spending Rs 300 crore in implementing an urban Vegetable Initiative aimed at providing India’s middle classes more locally grown vegetables. Nine months on, SPR’s Sourjya Bhowmick does a status check on how much progress has been made in this interesting initiative.When launched then, the Agriculture Ministry defined the objective as being one to ‘set in motion a virtuous cycle of production and income for farmers and assured supply for consumers’.
The programme was launched in urban centres, which have a population of 1 Million. Efforts outlined included organising vegetable growers into associations, figuring the processing and sorting to post-harvest management. SPR Foundation filed a Right To Information (RTI) petition seeking details regarding the progress of the Vegetable Initiative and the money spent for the last 6-7 months, i.e. from inception till now. The response from the Department of Agriculture and Co-operation is mentioned below:Progress of Vegetable Initiative:

A) Baseline survey initiated in 28 States.

B) Work on formation of cluster and Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) initiated in all 28 states.

C) Market Aggregator has initiated in 11 states.

Expenditure incurred (till now):

A) Out of Rs 300 crore, an amount of Rs 154 crore has been released to 28 States. During the initial phase, till September, 2011, expenditure is mainly on survey, 'planting material development’ and formation of FPO’s.

B) Presently there is no proposal to increase the expenditure over and above Rs 300 crore.

Exceeding Budgets

Looking back at the Agriculture Ministry’s documents, they say 25% of total allocations 'must be utilised for baseline survey, promotion of Farmers Association, tie up with financial institutions, post-harvest management, storage, transport and marketing infrastructure.’

The Ministry’s response to us on the other hand seems to suggest that more than 50% has already been spent on just baseline surveys, formation of Farmer Producer Organization and planting material development. That would mean storage, transport and tie ups with financial institutions would have to be squeezed into Rs 154 crores, whereas, it that should have been included in 25% of the total amount.

The remaining Rs 146 crore is to be incurred on components like production of seedlings, area expansion of vegetables, protected cultivation, organic farming, marketing and human resource development, apart from the other factors that should have been catered to by now. This would, at least in our reading of it, be a stretch.