Budget 2018: New bottoms-up mechanism for farm-gate marketing likely

The Budget for 2018-19 may announce haats and organic hubs in 1,000 village clusters across the country.

Modelled on Harihar Haath in Jagdalpur district of Chhattisgarh, these markets will enable villagers to sell their produce directly to consumers, bypassing middlemen, thereby helping them realise a good price for their produce. 

Started as a pilot project in 2017, Harihar Haath is a unique bottoms-up approach to farm marketing. It is a consortium of four farmer-producer companies, five cooperatives, and 13 women self-help groups. It has been taking great strides to create a risk-free space for farmers.

The farmers collectively purchase goods from growers and sell them at rates lower than prevailing market prices. Most of the farmers are women, drawn from self-help groups under the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana of the rural development ministry.

The state and district administrations provide them space for selling their produce. With monthly sales of over Rs 200,000 and profits of over Rs 50,000, Harihar Haath handles 250 customer footfalls per day, and sells 1.5 tonnes of produce daily.

“We want the Harihar Haath model to be replicated in many more places across the country,” an official said.

These clusters are part of the 5,000-odd ones already identified by the Mission Antodaya programme. The mission, which aims to rid 50,000 gram panchayats of poverty in 1,000 days by converging all schemes, was announced in the Budget for 2017-18 by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. 

It is a state-level initiative for rural transformation to make a difference based on measurable outcomes to the lives of 10 million households in 5,000 rural clusters. The gram panchayats chosen possess a high level of social capital and have the ability to implement rapid rural transformation for poverty elimination.

The mission encourages partnerships with a network of professionals, institutions and enterprises to accelerate the transformation of rural livelihoods. Self-help groups are enablers due to their social capital and their proven capacity for social mobilisation.

The government has started the process of ranking gram panchayats and identifying their basic needs and economic standards so that targeted interventions can be made. 

The sorting of 1,000 clusters out of the 5,000 identified will help in creating additional livelihood opportunities in villages.  The clusters, yet to be identified, are ones that have a strong agricultural base and where farmers will be encouraged to grow and sell produce free of pesticide and chemicals.

Women farmers and self-help groups along with farmer producer companies will form the backbone of this infrastructure.

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