The TOP Solution – For tomatoes, onions, potatoes, there must be price or income assurance for farmers | 18th March 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the performance of the Operation Greens scheme in tomatoes, onions and potatoes (TOP) and offers some suggestions for the same.


  • GS3: Storage, Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints;
  • Essay
  • Prelims


  • In 2018, the Union Government launched Operation Greens scheme in tomatoes, onions and potatoes (TOP).
  • It had three-fold objectives: 
    • develop a value chain for reducing extreme price fluctuations in the three basic vegetables:
    • enhancing farmers income and
    • improving their share of the consumer rupee.
  • Taking cues from the present situation (a significant difference between wholesale and retail markets), it is reasonable to conclude that the scheme has fallen short of its intended objectives.

What is the Operation Greens scheme?

  • Operation Greens scheme was launched by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) in November 2018.
  • The scheme has two components:
    • Long Term Strategy i.e. Value Chain Development Projects
    • Short Term Strategy i.e. Price Stabilization Measures through grant of transportation/storage subsidy.
  • The scope of short term measures originally applicable to Tomato, Onion and Potato crops were expanded to 41 notified fruits & vegetables w.e.f. June 2020 as a part of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Package.

Why has the scheme fallen short to deliver its objectives? – Misplaced focus

  • The scheme has put great focus on building the storage or processing capacity. But the problem in TOPS, really, is not with the lack of storage or processing capacity.
  • UP alone has some 2,406 cold stores with an aggregate capacity of 14.71 million tonnes (mt) out of India’s total 8,186 and 37.43 mt, respectively.
  • The maximum cold stores are concentrated in UP’s potato belt stretching from Mathura-Agra to Farrukhabad-Kannauj.
  • In onion, too, Maharashtra’s growers have built enough “kandha chawls” — naturally-ventilated on-farm structures to prevent moisture ingress and sprouting — that allows them to store the bulbs for 4-6 months and make staggered sales.

Way Forward:

  • Providing income assurance along with infrastructure:
    • While investments in farm-gate, agri-logistics and storage-cum-processing infrastructure need to be encouraged, it must be accompanied by some kind of price or income assurance for farmers.
  • Crop diversification:
    • The future for Indian agriculture lies in crop diversification, which will spur greater consumption of foods incorporating proteins (pulses, milk, eggs and meat) and micro-nutrients (fruits and vegetables), instead of only calories and carbohydrates.
  • Price Deficiency Payment:
    • It is suggested by the NITI Aayog.
    • Under Price Deficiency Payment, farmers are proposed to be compensated for the difference between the government-announced MSPs for select crops and their actual market prices.
    • The key benefit from the price deficiency payment is that it will reduce the need for the government to actually procure food crops, transport and store them and then dispose of them under PDS. The difference between the support and market prices can instead simply be paid in cash to the farmer.

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