Shimla: Having failed to move the Delhi government over doing away of commissions being charged in Azadpur fruit and vegetable market from farmers, the Himachal agriculture marketing board has moved court seeking intervention to get the law implemented.
Talking to the media, Narinder Bragta, horticulture minister said that despite a law having been enacted to do away with charging of commissions from apple producers and other farmers, fruit merchants in Delhi were continuing to do and the Himachal marketing board has had to move court over the issue.
Last month the court has served notice to Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee, Delhi (APMC), seeking a reply to our petition, he said.
The minister said that despite Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit assurance in a meeting with horticulture minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttrakhand and Himachal, the commission issue has not been settled. “we have been forced to move court,” he said, adding that an out of court settlement could still be made.
Bragta stated that 8 percent commissions charged from apple growers worth crores of rupees each year was illegally being collected and the Delhi government was not intervening to stop it. No state, in north India, besides Delhi was charging commissions from farmers, he added.
Apple production down to 40 percent
The minister disclosed that about 60 lakh boxes had been marketed so far this season, over 25 percent of which had been sold in local fruit markets.
Local markets of Shimla, Solan, Parwanoo, Rohru, Narkanda, Rampur, Kullu and others have been doing brisk trading this season. Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is to inaugurate a Rs 3.5 crore new fruit marketing yard in Shimla on Thursday, he said.
Production for the year was expected to be just about 40 percent of last year. Against a production of about 2.65 crore boxes in 2008, the horticulture department expects a production of a little over 1 crore boxes.
Bad weather starting with no snow in the winter and a weak monsoon had lowered much of the productivity for the year, he said.
Hail storms were also responsible for wrecking havoc on fruit crops and the government had floated global tenders to experiment with hail cannons on a pilot basis so as to contain crop damages. Hail guns using acoustic technology were extensively being used in Italy, Spain, France, Austria and other countries, reducing losses.
To protect farmers’ vagaries of weather, the government had succeeded in getting a crop insurance scheme started for fruit. Mangoes and apples would be covered under a pilot insurance project, starting from December by Crop Insurance of India, said Bragta. Fifty percent of the premium would be borne by the government, he added.
Rs 56 crore orchard rejuvenation project on the cards
The horticulture minister said that yields on orchards were falling and were nowhere compared to those achieved by many apple producing countries.
Most plantations had reached senility causing low productivity and an Rs 56 crore project had been put before the central agricultural minister for funding re-plantation with better and high yielding plant material. Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, in principal agreed to fund the project that would cover about 10,000 hectares of orchard lands.
HPMC in the Doldrums
Holding the previous congress government for neglect of HPMC, the government owned fruit processing company, Bragta said that the Virbhadra government bowed out of power in December, 2007 leaving HPMC struggling to survive with an accumulated loss of Rs 37 crore.
Saying that plant and machinery of HPMC set up in the early 1980’s had gone old, which rendered cost of producing 1 kg of apple concentrate at Rs 70 uncompetitive, compared to what China was dumping in the country at Rs 40 per Kg.
“We have approached Anand Sharma, union minister for commerce and industry to impose anti-dumping duties on Chinese apple juice concentrate raising it from 33 percent to 73 percent to keep out industries afloat,” said Bragta.
Photo By: Amit Kanwar