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Fostering a Vegetable Revolution in Goa

Vegetable prices have gone up 25 per cent in the state since April. Though vegetable prices increase in summer months routinely, the increase this year is more owing to short supply from Belgavi. The reason is traders from Delhi, Maharashtra and other parts of Karnataka are procuring vegetables from Belgavi, lifting the best vegetable produce paying higher prices, while traders sourcing for Goa are left with lower quality and lesser quantity. Though the supply of vegetables could improve with the onset of monsoon, the prices of vegetables would continue to be dictated by market forces. The Indian Meteorological Department has forecast normal to above normal monsoon but a lot will depend on nature as to whether the rainfall would normal or not.
The Goans cannot afford to wait till the conditions improve in Karnataka to get their vegetable supplies and would have to look for alternatives. A good number of Goan farmers grow vegetables which are unique to Goa. Though some others grow vegetables that are grown elsewhere the production of such vegetables in limited and there is need to expand the area under commercial vegetable cultivation. After all, this is not the first time that the prices of vegetables have seen steep hike nor will this be the last. The state is heavily dependent on import of vegetables from the neighbouring state, which of late has been having a running feud over the issue of diversion of water from the Mhadei basin. The cordial relationship that has existed ever since Goa became part of India following the Liberation is likely to sour between the two states if either of them refuses to accept the decision of the central water tribunal hearing the dispute. Goa must prepare for that kind of eventuality. Expansion of vegetable cultivation would be an important part of maintaining not only an essential supply but also building up the state’s self-respect.
Besides, farmers in Karnataka and elsewhere grow vegetables on commercial scale despite the fact that they receive much lesser rainfall. Why can’t the farmers from the state take up commercial farming of vegetables as Goa receives much higher rainfall? The government can help the farmers in conservation of water by taking various steps for rain water harvesting. To woo the farmers toward vegetable growing, the government needs to carry out soil testing and suggest to the farmers which vegetables could be grown in a particular piece of land. It is time that the state government draws a policy for agriculture and comes out with a plan to increase not only cultivation of paddy but also of cash crops so as to make agriculture sustainable and also help its growth. The government can also use the opportunity to attract youth to vegetable cultivation by offering incentives. Besides, since vegetables are cash crops the youth will get good returns within a few months. The success of some in such a venture could prompt others to follow suit. The state which has been an importer of vegetables for decades together could soon be turned into an exporter, which would be beneficial to the state and its people as it would prompt economic growth.
It is time that the state authorities and farmers look toward growing vegetables on a greater scale not only to meet the needs of the state population but also with an aim to export them to other states and countries. The agriculture department and horticulture corporation of the state have a role to play in convincing farmers to opt for vegetable production on mass scale and all necessary help should be provided to those intending to take up growing vegetables. As vegetables are a cash crop with very high returns especially if the products are exported, the farmers can easily break even and turn vegetable farming into profitable venture. Large areas, where farmers used to grow paddy have been left barren as paddy cultivation was no more a profitable venture. These fallow lands could be used to grow vegetables. The state has to come forward with schemes and policy to provide incentives to farmers to cultivate vegetables. The horticulture corporation already has a scheme to procure locally grown vegetables from farmers at decent rates and a similar scheme could also be mooted to procure commercially grown vegetables, which will benefit the farmers as well as horticulture corporation. Procuring vegetables from local farmers would not only be easier but it will also help the authorities save money spent on transportation of vegetables from Belgaum. It is time that an action plan was drawn to ensure steady supply of vegetables and ensure Goans do not fall prey to market forces.

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