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Replicating success of Operation Flood is easier said than done

Horticultural marketing in India: trying to be on TOP of Operation Greens

The Indian government has stated it is committed to Operation Greens; an initiative focusing on the organised marketing of tomatoes, onions and potatoes (the so-called TOP vegetables) by effectively connecting farmers with consumers. The initiative had centre stage among the proposals of the latest Union Budget. explains how an initiative of these proportions, however, has its challenges.

The first is size: India’s production of potatoes in 2016-17 was estimated at 48.61 million tonnes, with 22.43 mt for onions and 20.71 mt for tomatoes. 

The second is range: There are so many varieties of the above produce, grown in different climatic conditions and in different seasons, making marketing intervention all that more complex.

The third is technology: In horticultural produce, viable technology options for long-term storage, transport, and processing are still being developed or fine-tuned. The energy intensity of available technologies, especially with rising fuel prices, poses additional challenges.

The fourth is markets: the ready market seamlessly connecting producers to consumers for TOP – whether processed or otherwise – is, at present, very small in relation to total production. This market has to be developed through a viable business model. Such development, going by the author’s personal experience in marketing dehydrated onions, is both time and cost consuming.

The fifth is institutional: there does not seem to be any institution today that can implement Operation Greens similar to what the National Dairy Development Board for milk did in Operation Flood. Should a complete new institution be set up?

The sixth is funding: The budget provides ₹ 50 million (€ 620.000) for Operation Greens. The question is: How is this money going to be spent? The Finance Minister’s speech suggests that Operation Greens would promote farmer producers organisations/companies, agri-logistics and processing facilities. But then there’s the risk of spreading resources too thinly across components and states, rather than having a focused mission scaleable over space and time.

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