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Making Quality Greens Available, And Cheap

The Goa State Horticulture Development Corporation (GSHDC) plans to set up air-conditioned supermarkets to sell vegetables, fruits and other farm produce at Panaji, Mapusa, Margao, Vasco, Ponda and Curchorem. These will be the first of their kind in the state. The first supermarket is to come up at Altinho in Panaji in about three months’ time. The supermarkets will sell local, Indian and imported vegetables and fruits at reasonable prices. This may not have been part of the original mandate of GSHDC but innovation is welcome as it will provide people a large outlet away from retailers who set high prices, for example of exotic vegetables. The GSHDC has been supplying vegetables to the people at rates lower than the prevailing market rates at its outlets across the state on ‘no profit no loss’ basis after vegetable prices shot through the ceiling five years ago. These outlets must continue to operate even when supermarkets are opened.
The proposed super markets should provide better service. The practice of queue system at the outlets involving picking up vegetables, weighing them as per requirements and then paying is very time consuming. At the proposed supermarkets the GSHDC should keep packed vegetables and fruits in various quantities and allow the customer to pick them up according to their requirements. A number of payment counters should be set up so that customers need not have to wait for their turn in long queues. Secondly, in the existing practice, a few people who enter the outlet first pick the best of the produce from the baskets and others have to be content with whatever is left over. Rather than continuing the present practice, the GSHDC should have quality fresh vegetables and fruits classified in different categories and the charge different prices as per the category. This will help all sections of the society as the people will be able to buy according to their choice and purse. Commodities sold at the higher range could give the GSHDC better returns which could then be invested in enhancing its portfolio.
Meanwhile, however, with the prices of vegetables skyrocketing, the corporation would have to redouble its efforts to provide vegetables to consumers at reasonable rates at the existing outlets. The prices of green chillies, French beans, cauliflower, etc, which are imported from neighbouring states, have increased tremendously over the past few days and the upward trend in the prices is expected to continue further till the monsoon arrives and new vegetable produce comes to the market. With drought conditions prevailing in many parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, from where the vegetables come to Goa, the corporation would have to look beyond the sources for procurement of vegetables in order to meet the local demand. The corporation could face trying times till July end, when the monsoon is expected to arrive and provide relief, with the new produce coming into the market. How the corporation will tide over the situation and procure farm produce from outside the state remains to be seen. Given the fact that the neighbouring states have been hit by vagaries of nature frequently, the corporation should seriously raise the scale of its mandated duty to encourage more and more local farmers to take up horticultural production, using the advantage that the state receives much better rainfall compared to neighbours. Horticultural produce fetches better prices than agriculture produce and its propagation would help farmers earn more.
While the GSHDC, which also implements a scheme to sell locally procured farm produce from Goan farmers at GSHDC outlets, succeeded in involving 1,173 local farm producers in procuring and supplying vegetables and fruits grown by them as well as exporting to the neighbouring states it failed to achieve similar success in selling Goa-grown flowers because of alleged negative role played by the middlemen. GSHDC growth in the state has been widespread; it sells 10 subsidised vegetables through its 852 vegetable outlets and 350 fruit outlets. It also has 13 cold carts operating in the interior parts of the state. GSHDC role is expected to widen with their post-harvest facilities, ripening chambers, cold storage facilities and mushroom production units coming up. With its expanded network the GSHDC will be able to create employment and self-employment opportunities for a good number of people. However, as it expands its operations, the GSHDC must set up systems for quality control. Any failure on this count could erode popular trust.

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