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Cabinet likely to discuss Operation Green to aid farmers during price fluctuations

The Cabinet is likely to consider Wednesday a proposal to launch a new scheme 'Operation Green' with a corpus of Rs 500 crore to aid farmers in times of erratic price fluctuation in tomatoes, onions, and potatoes, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said Tuesday.

Another cabinet proposal to set up a non-banking financial company (NBFC) with an initial corpus of Rs 2,000 crore to meet credit needs of the food processing sector is expected to be taken up in the next week, she said.

"We are seeking cabinet approval for two schemes. I feel the TOP (tomatoes, onions, and potatoes) scheme may be taken up in the tomorrow's cabinet meeting. The NBFC proposal may come up next week," Badal said on the sidelines of a CII event.

The Operation Green or the TOP Scheme is a simple scheme, announced in this year's Budget, will be implemented on a pilot basis for two years after the Cabinet nod, she said.

Elaborating further, Badal while addressing the event said that the TOP scheme will focus only on three produce tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. Three clusters for each product have already been identified.

The clusters will be linked directly to the markets. The state governments will be roped in. The subsidy will be given for setting up of a storage facility near the consumption centers, she said.

The idea is to move the product to a consumption base during glut and before the prices fall and affect farmers income, she added.

The Operation Greens aims to promote farmer producers organizations, agri-logistics, processing facilities, and professional management.

With regard to the proposed NBFC, the minister said, "We are in the final stage of the proposal and it will come most probably in next cabinet meeting".

"We will roll out our own financial institution which will not only lend to the food processing sector but will also work in different ways in capacity building, in risk assessment and sensitizing the banks."

The proposed NBFC will be set up with an initial corpus of Rs 2,000 crore and the government will invest Rs 400 crore in it, she said, adding that partners will be roped in through the bidding process.

Asserting that the NDA government has focused a lot on food processing sector, the minister quoting the industry sources said that the level of food wastage has come down by up to 8 percent on account of several steps taken over last four years.

Mega food parks, backward and forward linkages, and clusters are being created under the Rs 6,000 crore Pradhan Mantri SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) Yojana, she said.

Already 15 mega food parks have been set up and are operational. About 280 cold chains are also in place and 60 percent of them are functioning. 50 more cold chains are expected to be created, the minister said.

"When our food security is under threat, that's when the cold chain and the storage facilities play a crucial role to ensure not only prices stay under control but there is enough food supply despite the erratic climate change," Badal added.



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